Friday, June 17, 2016

Judgment Night

From about age 18 months until about age 4 ½, Maya would run without warning. No matter what. You could be holding her hand, carrying her on your hip, even when up on your shoulders, I swear: She’d shimmy out and dash out into who-knows-what in seconds flat.

One of the most humiliating was when she was about 2. We were in Aquababies, a parent-child swim class, at our local gym. I LOVE our gym. But it’s important to note that outside the locker room, most of the walls are glass, even the exterior walls. Currently, there’s a good 25 feet between the changing area of the locker rooms and the outside, glass-walled world. But back when Maya was in her sprint-or-die phase, the locker rooms were under construction. So there was approximately 3 feet between nakedness and glass walls.

Clearly, you can imagine what happens next.

Following Aquababies every week, I would do everything I could to change both me and my toddler out of our swimsuits and into clothing as quickly as possible. But one week, Maya, being the evil-child-genius that she is, chose the exact moment that I had just peeled off my wet swimsuit and was fumbling to get dry undies up my still-damp legs, to run her hiney out of the locker room and into the world of glass walls. And for about 2 seconds, I’m left considering two terrible fates: First, the instinctual response: Run out of the locker room with undies still between your knees, in all your naked glory, into a sea of glass walls, to retrieve your precious child. Never mind all the people you’ll uncomfortably make eye contact with at the gym for the next 6 months who will undoubtedly know what your bum looks like....

Or second, you quickly hike up your undies and throw something on, anything, and run after your babe with your arse covered. By this point, though, Maya is probably already outside, hailing a cab down Foster Ave.

Somehow, I was lucky enough for option 3. The moment Maya decided to run out, a fully clothed woman I had never met looked at me and my nakedness and immediately ran after Maya. She brought her back less than a minute later, as I tried to put something over my lady parts.

It takes a village, y’all.

So why do I mention all this? Because the parental “decisions” we all make every day are often less black-and-white than people — especially nameless, faceless people on social media — think. Those who don’t procreate are so often the first to critique parenting styles.

Considering Maya’s previous penchant for running toward danger, I’m both grateful and amazed nothing terrible ever happened. But something very well could have. Maya was that kid. And I am soooo that parent who looks at her phone for a second while in my child’s presence, or who strikes up a quick “hey, how are you?” conversation with another parent, requiring me to take my eye off my kids for less than 10 seconds. It’s not easy. And yes, in the words of Hyman Roth, “this is the business we have chosen,” so we’re not supposed to complain. But as any parent will tell you, before you have kids, you have no idea. You think you’ve got everything under control. And don’t.

Monday, October 05, 2015

MMM - January 2015

When I look back at all the playlists I created for Maya over the past year, my January mix was kind of a dud. There were a few songs she already liked that I included, but otherwise it was kind of boring and not much to her liking.

But alas, here goes (and listen along on Spotify):

Celebration - Kool & The Gang
This was about the time Maya starting requesting specific songs for her monthly CD. "Celebration" was one of those. She performed this song for her winter program at her preschool and wanted to hear it over and over, much to my dismay. It's like being trapped in a wedding reception.

Winter Winds - Mumford & Sons
I thought I'd play off the winter theme with this song. Plus, it's got a banjo, and I hold out hope that the girls will eventually learn to love the instrument and play Nashville as an act someday. But alas, she's just not that into it.

One and One Makes Two - Johnny Cash
Fortunately, she does like this style of Americana. And anything that involves simple math is a win in Maya's book.

Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen
I loved this song when I was a kid. I have a vivid memory of listening to this song while running around and around my parents' oval coffee table. This, and Billy Joel's "For the Longest Time." I've since lost my liking for the piano man, but I still dig The Boss from time to time. Maya did end up liking this song, but it's not one of her favorites.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke & The Pearly Chorus (Mary Poppins soundtrack)
After receiving Mary Poppins for Christmas, the girls quickly took a liking to this song. Easy win for me.

My Kind of Town - Frank Sinatra
Always attempting to ensure the girls appreciate their Chicago upbringing, I blend Chicago propaganda into their entertainment diets. Not sure if this one stuck though. Maya liked the concept of a song about her hometown, but it was a little too slow for her tastes.

Rarotonga - Cafe Tacuba
Because we went to Mexico in January, I continued prepping the girls for the trip with some local music. They pretty much said no bueno.

William's Doll - Marlo Thomas & Alan Alda (Free To Be...You And Me soundtrack)
Another easy win. Maya already knew and liked this song, so it was a simple way to extend my anti-gender-bias education to the car.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Judy Garland (The Wizard of Oz soundtrack)
After the atrocity of Maya's love for "Legends of Oz," I needed to balance out this crappy sequel with some mandated viewings of the original. Thankfully, the girls enjoyed it and this song.

Married Life - Michael Giacchino (Up soundtrack)
Pixar can do no wrong. The girls love this track, and sometimes in the car, the song even had a surprising calming effect. But as an adult, just try to listen to it without tearing up a bit.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Tough Mudder: Race No. 11

Of all the races I’ve done in 2015, this is the only one I fully, hard core, trained for. And for good reason: Tough Mudder is a 10-mile mud and obstacle course run. Most of the obstacles require some serious upper body and core strength, which I seriously lack.

My training began in March when I joined a local Cross Fit gym to prepare. In addition, I started eating paleo almost exclusively, and Chris and I both gave up drinking about 6 weeks before the race.

At the height of my training, I was sometimes working out twice a day, and I definitely started to notice a difference in my overall fitness and endurance. I have no doubt this is why I ran my fastest 5K a few weeks before Mudder. That said, for all the work I was putting in and all the food I wasn’t, I didn’t lose much weight. My already fairly toned shoulders gone even more toned, but my jiggly middle didn’t change at all, which was really discouraging. But that’s another post for another day.

As for the race itself, all that prep definitely helped, but a lot of Mudder is mental. Sliding into a bath of ice water doesn't require upper body strength. But that obstacle (Arctic Enema) was the one I feared the most, and it was one of the "toughest" for me. Going under, your lungs contract from the shocking cold, and you have no air. It's terrifying, I'm not gonna lie.

I'd go through each obstacle one-by-one, but that would be pretty boring. A lot of the race this year was in a river, so what I remember most about the race was wading through waist-deep water for miles. There were a a few I couldn't complete, but those were the ones most other people couldn't do either (Balls Out, Funky Monkey). But I did conquer Everest, which still amazes me.

Shawshanked was another one that was pretty tough and I'm amazed I did it. You climb up a tunnel and drop out the end into water. It sounds easy, but the tunnel is slippery and already caked in mud from other people. There's a rope inside to help you, but that's also slippery and caked in mud. There was a minute inside I didn't think I could make it, but someone else was already behind me so I had to keep pushing forward.

Overall, the best part of Tough Mudder was doing with it Chris. It was just the two of us, and although the race requires teamwork, strategy and support, we never argued or got upset. Considering we've been together for 13 years and we still argue about whether or not he's driving erratically (he always is), it's amazing we got through it drama-free.



Race Summary

Race name: Tough Mudder
2015 Challenge Race No.: 11
Location: Richmond Hunting Club, Richmond, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: Tough Mudder
Beneficiary: Wounded Warrior Project
Cost: $170
Distance: 10 miles
Best parts of the race:
- Physical demand
- Camaraderie
- Organization

Worst part:
- Location. The site itself is perfect for this race, but it's a two-hour drive from Chicago. In fact, the parking lot for this event is technically in Wisconsin. 

Following events:

JPMorgan Corporate Challenge, May 21 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Soldier Field 10 Mile, May 23 @ Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
North Shore Classic Half Marathon & 5K, May 31, Highland Park, IL

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

MMM - December 2014

Like some many grand plans I have, and then never follow through on, I was soooo going to blog about my monthly Maya mix CDs. And now it’s September and I’m planning Maya’s 6th birthday CD, and I’ve written how many posts? One.

M'kay, well, let’s make this two.

The good news is, I did manage to make a new 10-song CD for the girls every month since November (save for the month of June, when Maya spent most of the month at her grandparents). And slowly, I’ve converted her into a fan of some non-Disney-related songs.

Here’s the December 2014 mix:

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Maya had previously shown some interest in this song after watching Mom and Dad's full Wayne’s World reenactment. And despite the nearly 6-minute length, this song continued to hold her attention after multiple listens. Her favorite line? “So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?” Parents of the year, over here.

Happy (from Despicable Me 2) – Pharrell Williams
She already loved this song before I put it on the CD, so that was an easy win. Plus, I must admit I love it, too. So catchy!

Blackbird – The Beatles
My continual attempts to get the kiddos to like The Beatles. Once again, not all that interested. Maya mentioned that her teachers play this song during naptime at school, so I’m probably not winning any brownie points with any song associated with sleep.

Twelve Days of Christmas – John Denver & The Muppets
I immediately regretted putting this song on this CD. It got annoying and repetitive after about two plays. Fortunately, Maya agreed and didn’t really want to listen to this one much.

New – Paul McCartney
As previously mentioned, I have Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 to thank for the girls interest in this song. Whatever it takes.

(I’m Your) Hoochie Coohie Man – Muddy Waters
For my two little born-and-bred Chicagoans, I thought it was only appropriate to begin indoctrinating them into the blues culture. Maya, bless her, pretended to like this to humor Chris and me, but I know she’s not really a fan. But I hold out hope she’ll come around someday.

Daughter – Louden Wainwright III
Children under the age of, say 30, are in full ego, center-of-the-universe mode. It's not their fault; that's just part of growing up. And I'm not above using that to my advantage to get my kids to like different kinds of music. So this song was a hit simply because Maya feels like it's about her.

When I See An Elephant Fly - Jim Carmichael, Cliff Edwards & Hall Johnson Choir (Dumbo soundtrack)
Disney movie. Easy win. I like this song because of the grammatical puns in it ("I've heard a diamond ring, I've seen a front porch swing"). I think it's long overdue for a modern, and perhaps less offensive, makeover, don't you? I could totally see Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros covering this, right?! Or Billy Corgan.

Christmas Time Is Here - Vince Guaraldi (A Charlie Brown Christmas)
This is one of my favorite Christmas songs. Hearing it immediately makes me think of watching snow fall on a quiet, dark night, sitting at my parent's fireplace. All of which is a very strange thing to think about when it's 90 degrees out in early September. but back in December, it made sense of course. Maya liked it, although she really hasn't seen much Charlie Brown. We'll have to fix that this year.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ravenswood Run 5K: Race No. 10

Amazing what a difference a day makes. The Race to Wrigley and Ravenswood Run was my first set of back-to-back races. Saturday’s Race to Wrigley was cold, rainy and, for me, slow. Sunday’s Ravenswood Run was crisp, sunny, and my fastest 5K to date.

This was also the first race of the year both girls participated in – not the full 5K, but shorter kids dashes.

And they were all about it.

This is always one of my favorite races of the year because it’s in my neighborhood, the weather is generally great for running, and it’s relatively small — small enough that I spotted my neighbor Rahm on the sidelines cheering on the runners with his family this year. Yes, that Rahm.

Race Summary

Race name: Ravenswood Run 5K
2015 Challenge Race No.: 10
Location: Ravenswood, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: Fleet Feet Chicago
Beneficiary: Ravenswood Community Services Food Pantry and the Student Health Centers at Lake View and Amundsen high schools.
Cost: $29
Distance: 3.1 miles
Best parts of the race:
- Location
- Size
- Organization
- Easy packet pick-up

Worst part:
- No complaints! Love this race.

Following events:

Tough Mudder, May 9 @ Richmond Hunting Club, Richmond, IL
JPMorgan Corporate Challenge, May 21 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Soldier Field 10 Mile, May 23 @ Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
North Shore Classic Half Marathon & 5K, May 31, Highland Park, IL

Monday, July 13, 2015

Race to Wrigley 5K: Race No. 9

The Race to Wrigley provided my second opportunity to run with someone else this year. For this one, my sister, a fellow die-hard Cubs fan, joined me. My sis and I also got to hang out a bit before the race with a childhood friend who was also running.

Like my last non-solo race (Shamrock), I paid little attention to my speed and instead chose to chat the majority of the run. Also like the Shamrock, the weather for the Race to Wrigley was not the best. It was rainy and so cold I needed to wear gloves: Understandable in mid-March for Shamrock; not so understandable in late April for a baseball-themed race. But alas, chilly temps and rain are becoming the norm this year in Chicago.

The race itself was a nice route through mostly residential areas near Wrigley. Post-race there was the ubiquitous bananas, beers and giveaways, the most exciting of which were individually packaged steaks from PRE. The line for this giveaway was insanely long, but my sister chose to skip it and instead go straight to the guy transporting the freebies from their truck to their booth. So in addition, to getting our steaks faster, we also got the opportunity to tell our husbands that we brought home meat we got from the back of a truck. #truth

Race Summary:

Race name: Race to Wrigley 5K & 10K
2015 Challenge Race No.: 9
Location: Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: ATI Physical Therapy
Beneficiary: Cubs Charities/Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
Cost: $45
Distance: 3.1 miles
Best part of the race:

Cubs tie-in

Worst parts:
The weather. Not anyone's fault, but it was freakishly cold. 

Next race:

Ravenswood Run 5K, April 26 @ Ravenswood, Chicago, IL

Tough Mudder, May 9 @ Richmond Hunting Club, Richmond, IL
JPMorgan Corporate Challenge, May 21 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Soldier Field 10 Mile, May 23 @ Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
North Shore Classic Half Marathon & 5K, May 31, Highland Park, IL

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Be The Match 5K: Race No. 8

After the massive Shamrock Shuffle, it was nice to go back to a smaller, lakefront race. The Be The Match 5K in early April also provided the first opportunity this race season for the kids to watch in an outdoor environment. We got lucky with some gorgeous Spring weather, and the kids had a blast running around and not standing still for a photo.

Maya also managed to sweet talk an organizer into giving her a dozen helium balloons.

This was also a charity that really struck a chord with me. So much so that I signed up to join the bone marrow donor registry on the spot. You can too! Check out bethematch,org and learn how.

Race Summary:

Race name: Be The Match 5K
2015 Challenge Race No.: 8
Location: Montrose Harbor, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: Be The Match Foundation
Beneficiary: Be The Match Foundation
Cost: $30
Distance: 3.1 miles
Best part of the race:

  • The charity
  • Size of the race. Nice & small!

Worst parts:
No complaints! This was a great race.

Next races:

Race to Wrigley 5K, April 25 @ Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Ravenswood Run 5K, April 26 @ Ravenswood, Chicago, IL

Tough Mudder, May 9 @ Richmond Hunting Club, Richmond, IL
JPMorgan Corporate Challenge, May 21 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Soldier Field 10 Mile, May 23 @ Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
North Shore Classic Half Marathon & 5K, May 31, Highland Park, IL

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Shamrock Shuffle: Race No. 7:

Up until now, I’ve done a lot of smaller races. But if there’s one big, official-start-to-running-season race, it’s the Shamrock Shuffle. This was the third time I’ve done this race, and kind of like childbirth, I blocked out the unpleasant parts of the first two times I ran it. But this year, I’m documenting the unpleasantness, dammit. And like childbirth, I am probably never doing this race again.

Here’s the deal: The run itself is great -- 5 miles through downtown Chicago. Yes, the weather can be dicey in late March, and it’s always crowded. But otherwise, it’s a great race … on race day.

The day before, on the other hand, is a huge pain in the ass. I’m looking at you, packet pick-up.

The past two times I did this race, pick-up was at Navy Pier, which is the painiest of pain-in-the-ass locations in Chicago. There is no good way in or out of Navy Pier. In addition, packet pick-up was always located at the farthest, most-eastern point of Navy Pier. So no matter where you get into Navy Pier, you’ve got a good half-mile walk just to get to packet pick-up.

So this year when I saw that pick-up was at McCormick Place, I was optimistic that it would be slightly easier. Because for some reason picking up my packet at the largest convention center in North America seemed like an improvement.

I should note that the Shuffle’s pick-up is actually a race expo. And you can’t pickup your packet anywhere else. No early shoe-store pick up, no race-day pick up. Attending the expo is a requirement.

Here’s the other thing about the Shuffle packet pick-up: They force you not only to attend the expo, but also to weave through all the vendor booths. Twice. On one end of the expo, you pick up half of your packet. Then you are required to go the entire length of the expo, past and through dozens of sponsor tents, to retrieve the second half. Clearly this is by design, as these sponsors paid big bucks to ensure that every runner be exposed to their moisture-wicking socks, electrolyte chews and lactose-free energy shakes. And yes, I realize the funds raised are all for a good cause. But seriously, I will give you $20 to not make me deal with that madness.

Like the expo’s previous location, there is no good way to get in or out of McCormick place. I easily walked 3 miles alone just going to and from the parking garage to the pick up. You may think this sounds like exaggeration, but McCormick Place is a collection of four connected buildings, and just the exhibit hall space alone totals 2.6 million square feet. Sucker’s huge.

But the final reason this was a humongous pain the ass was entirely my own fault: I brought both kids, but not Chris. The only thing worse than attempting to navigate a convention-center race expo is doing so while chasing two preschoolers.  For some reason, I left the house at noon with the girls and thought I drive from Lincoln Square to the McCormick Center, pick up my packet at the expo, then make it back up north to Lincoln Park for Maya’s gymnastics at 3:15.

As a result, I was stressed, frazzled and angry until about 2:45, when I was still at the expo, chasing both kids, and had not yet picked up the second half of my packet. At that point I finally conceded that gymnastics was never going to happen, in fact, no other Saturday activities were going to happen. This was it: Our entire Saturday was going to be devoted to Shuffle packet pickup. Once I finally admitted that ugly truth to myself, I relaxed and let the kids do their thing. We played the sponsors’ games, tried all the samples, took silly pictures. I even had some wine. And we didn’t get home until after 5.

Needless to say, I was exhausted the next day for the actual race. But I ran with my friend Tara, we talked the entire race, paid no attention to our speed, and did brunch after at Meli.

Was the pleasantry of race day enough to make up for the trials of the previous day? Perhaps, but my friends and I can do other races. Shamrock Shuffle, in the immortal words of Taylor Swift, we are never, ever, ever getting back together.


Race Summary:

Race name: Shamrock Shuffle
2015 Challenge Race No.: 7
Location: Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: Bank of America
Beneficiary: Various
Cost: $50
Distance: 5 miles
Best part of the race:
  • Race route and distance
  • Green headband/neck warmer thing included with race packet
Worst parts:
  • See entire rant above.

Next races:

Be the Match 5K, April 11 @ Montrose Harbor, Chicago, IL
Race to Wrigley 5K, April 25 @ Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Ravenswood Run 5K, April 26 @ Ravenswood, Chicago, IL

Tough Mudder, May 9 @ Richmond Hunting Club, Richmond, IL
JPMorgan Corporate Challenge, May 21 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL
Soldier Field 10 Mile, May 23 @ Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
North Shore Classic Half Marathon & 5K, May 31, Highland Park, IL

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Get Lucky 7K & Half Marathon: Race No. 6

This was my second Team Ortho race of the year, and I have to say, they put on some good races. The first was my first race of the year, the Polar Dash. My love for the Get Lucky race goes back to the Polar Dash -- they offered a dual packet pick-up, meaning that when I picked up my packet for the Polar Dash, they also had Get Lucky packets ready for pick up the same day. Two races, one packet pick-up, total win in my book. And as I’ll get to in later posts, I’m getting to the point that packet pick-up can make or break a race for me.

Like the Polar Dash, this one featured great swag as well: a green & black zip-up hooded fleece. It was actually too warm on race day to wear it, but I put that hoodie to good use training this winter.

The race course was again along the lake front, this time starting at Soldier Field and heading south. The distance -- 7K, or about 4.3 miles -- was a nice warm up for some of the longer runs of the season. And like all the other early season outdoor runs, the race wasn’t too crowded. My only complaint has to do with the race start -- again, like my issues with the Polar Dash. I worked my way up toward the front of the race because I wanted to go for a good time, but some other folks who pushed their way all the way to the front of the start line walked immediately. So, I spent the first 5 minutes running around walkers.

Otherwise, this was a great winter race. And with sunny, mild temps, I felt like a lucky gal.

Race Summary:

Race name: Get Lucky 7K & Half Marathon
2015 Challenge Race No.: 6
Location: Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: Team Ortho
Beneficiary: Team Ortho Foundation
Cost: $50
Distance: 4.34 miles
Best parts of the race:
  • Early packet pick-up, distance, location and swag.
Worst parts:
  • Non-corraled start

Next race:

Shamrock Shuffle 8K, March 29 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL

Be the Match 5K, April 11 @ Montrose Harbor, Chicago, IL
Race to Wrigley 5K, April 25 @ Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Ravenswood Run 5K, April 26 @ Ravenswood, Chicago, IL

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fight For Air Climb: Race No. 5 of 35

After my first stair climb, I was somewhat dreading this climb. My first climb was 80 floors, and I got seriously dizzy throughout. How was I going to handle 180 floors?

Fortunately, the dizziness didn't happen this time around. I'm not sure why, but I have a few theories:

1. Each tower is only a 45-story climb, so the spinning is kept to 8- to 10-minute bursts, followed by 10+ minutes waiting for the elevator back down. 

2. Because the towers have staircases at each end, the organizers flipped the climb rotations. In other words, for the first tower, I made a series of 90 left-hand turns. On the second tower, it was 90 right-hand turns. I think this helped reset my equilibrium a bit. 

3. The staircases are narrower than the Aon center. I thought this would make the spinning/dizziness worse, but the tighter turns actually seemed to help. Or maybe it was all in my head. 

All in all, this climb wasn't too bad. But I'm not sure if I'll do another stair climb. For one, they're expensive. Both this climb and the Step Up For Kids climb required $100+ in donations to be eligible to climb. Yes, it's for charity, but it was still pricey for me. Second, they're kinda boring. I mean, you're trapped in a gray stairwell for the race. They try to liven it up with posters of encouragement along the way, as well as water stops with music. But otherwise, it's pretty monotonous. 

That said, how cool would it be to climb the Sears/Willis Tower, especially considering the race benefits an organization near and dear to my heart? So we'll see...

Race Summary
Race name: Fight for Air Climb
2015 Challenge Race No.: 5
Location: Presidential Towers, Chicago, IL
Organizers/Sponsor: American Lung Association
Beneficiary: American Lung Association
Cost: $25 + $100 required fundraising
Distance: 180 floors (4 towers @ 45 stories each)
Best parts of the race:
- Organization - Unlike my first climb, this race was surprisingly well organized. And they had pre- and post-race snacks!
- Seeing fireman in full gear complete the climb. You can actually smell the smoke on their suits before you even see them. I can't imagine climbing in all that gear. Amazing.
- Seeing this guy, who plays a fireman on TV, but will always be Steve Brady to me.

Worst parts:
- Waiting for the elevators down in each tower.

Following events:

Get Lucky 7K, March 14 @ Jackson Park, Chicago, IL
Shamrock Shuffle 8K, March 29 @ Grant Park, Chicago, IL

Be the Match 5K, April 11 @ Montrose Harbor, Chicago, IL
Race to Wrigley 5K, April 25 @ Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Ravenswood Run 5K, April 26 @ Ravenswood, Chicago, IL