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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2 vs. 3 syllables

We inherited a second fish tank from Sandi's sister and we put it up in the girls' room to house some of our baby fish (9 out of about 30 survived- good thing human moms have better odds than that).

Sandi said last night that we need to get an algae eater for the tank.  Ella calls it an allergy eater.  So Sandi explained to her that Maya has an all-er-gy to cats but that what we need for the tank is an al-gae eater.

Ella thought for a moment about this and then said, "So...Maya's allergic to allergy eaters too?"

Monday, April 25, 2011

saying goodbye

Just in case I haven't cried enough about the loss of our cat to a wonderful home that is sub par only because it is not our home, here is a snapshot of Ella saying goodbye.


For obvious reasons of preserving my self-image, there are no photos of my tearful goodbye.

I am seriously struggling with this loss. I know Coconut is with a couple who will love him like we did, that he will be in the country and can kill and maim in all the ways he likes, that he will have a larger dog to dominate and frighten.  I know that (hopefully) I won't have to worry about Maya getting air into her lungs on a semi-annual basis. 

Yet...I can't stop thinking about Ella and Coconut playing on the playset last year, him walking tightrope style across the railing of the walking bridge and her frolicking alongside him, cooing and praising him.  I'm either a bigger softy than I thought or I am anthropomorphizing him to a painful degree, but all I can think is "what does he think happened? Does he wonder why he isn't with us anymore?"

I lay in bed at night and think, my cat is living at someone else's house.  I have never lost a pet that was still alive and it feels, frankly, a bit like torture.  To me he is a perfect cat, the kind of cat that even anti-cat people adored, and he always felt like a reward to all the complicated rescue dogs and cats over the years. 

After putting the girls to an early and tired bed last night, I came downstairs to a puddle of dog urine and I wanted to scream about the unfairness of losing a perfect cat and keeping the ornery, spiteful dog (who peed and pooped in the house twice more today).  A broken hearted person should never, under any circumstance, clean up dog urine.  Frankly, I think Ella is handling this way better than I am and I am left wondering when this will stop being so painful.  When she cried in my arms last night, after the let down of Easter and the sleepover, I stroked her head and assured her that in a few days it would feel easier and then in a week even better, that the heart has an amazing ability to heal from loss. 

Now, if I could only take my own advice.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

sleepovers, easter bunnies and no shortage of candy

Sandi and I had our niece (Michaela- age 8) and nephew (Braeden- age 2) overnight last night.  It was so much fun, a lot of shuffling of bags and seat belts and car doors, an excessive amount of food prep and kitchen clean up, and a wonderful reminder that we live in Maine so that we can be so close to our family (even though, often lately, Maine's politics suck and we've thought not seriously about moving).

We committed to the "tire 'em out" plan of events which started with some intense running up and down and all around our house (I am SO not used to the age anymore where a child dumps the contents of a box or drawer just because it is fun) and a small lag in patience on my part, followed by open swim at the indoor pool and then rollerskating.

You heard me right.

At Christmas and Easter the Bridge Alliance (a local group whose mission it is to bridge the gay community with straight allies through fun events) holds a themed event for kids featuring the appropriate holiday celebrity.  They are always super fun (and free!) and who can say no to rolling around on 4 inch wheels?

Maya and Braeden were initially unsure about the Easter Bunny.

But, our friend Katie makes an adorable Easter Bunny and was hard to resist for long.
It didn't hurt that she had toys AND candy.
I laced up my skates and took the big girls out on the incredibly slippery roller rink floor that I believe to be lined with invisible banana peels.  It was a comedy show in and of itself just watching the girls, arms flailing, feet skidding to and fro, go landing in a wild pile on their bottoms. 

They were both initially frustrated with the massive gap between their ability and those whizzing past them but they showed a good 75% improvement over the course of an hour.  By the end, each could skate with just one sweaty hand in mine, several feet away from the safety of the rail. 

I was sure to let my sister know that I did not, in fact, beat her daughter up, but rather had taken her roller skating.

The best part?  When I was congratulating them on their hard work and improvement my niece said to me, "It is because you helped me so much that I could get better at it." 

And, no, in case you are having nightmarish images of Maya on rollerskates, she and Braeden stayed in sneakers and played with the big bunny.

When you double your money in the kid department, your kitchen becomes a revolving door with customers arriving for more before you've hardly cleaned up from their last visit. 
In case the candy they got from the Easter Bunny at the roller rink AND the eggs from this morning's egg hunt (as well as the Easter baskets and second egg hunt awaiting them at my sister's house this afternoon) wasn't enough...we made Belgium waffles for breakfast. 

Yes, the Carver's were on a sugar binge today.


Every Easter, no matter how we strive to avoid it, there is always some heinous acts committed on confectionery bunnies.

The big kids, down to the business of combing over their loot.
For reasons I cannot completely articulate, I love this picture of Maya.  Something about the placement of the egg in the photo smacks of Maya to me.  Her new expression, one she used on Braeden often when she felt he wasn't speaking at a desirable decibel:  "Talk it louder!"
These two have adored each other since the beginning.  Michaela, always a little older and wiser, has always doted on Ella, showing her the ropes and encouraging her along.  Sandi's mom, Patti, said when we found out Braeden was coming along, "It's a good thing.  Now Maya will have a playmate.  Because we all know Ella was never going to share Michaela."
And, even though she also adores Michaela, Maya's heart belongs to Braeden.
Easter is not a religious holiday in our house.  But by religious I guess I should qualify that and say that no doctrines play a role in our Easter day. For us it is a celebration of spring, of new life, of family, of love, of chocolate and, often, of pretty dresses.  In our house, we could build a whole religion around pretty dresses.

Yet in every way, hearing the gleeful squeal of children in the strengthening April sun as they run in the yard, witnessing their change from last year so that they discover eggs hidden in spots that would have been too difficult just one year ago, having family with whom you can hug and laugh and tease and plan fun future adventures,  having Sandi home for a few hours this morning because one of her co-workers worked 4 hours of her shift out of the goodness of her heart, hearing Michaela ask me 3 times if she was really and truly spending the night just to make sure it was for real since she has had her bag packed by the door waiting for weeks...this is the spirit that moves my life, the current that gives it shape and meaning and texture and color.

Monday, April 18, 2011

tough call

We have decided to find a new home for Coconut.

Sniff.  Sniff.

It was going well.  Maya was off her allergy medicine (we felt we could only keep him if it meant not medicating her as a result) and she had stopped coughing.  We were training him to keep to certain areas (namely on a washable blanket instead of all over the couch) and out of Maya's room. 

Then the other night we woke up to the sound of a dog barking in her room.

Except it wasn't a dog. 

Three am found Sandi and Maya and I huddled in the humid steam of the bathroom with the shower on full blast trying to open her up.  We did nebulizers, inhaled steroid, Vick's and even Ibuprofen to try to get her so that she could breath and rest well. 

It worked, but the decision was suddenly, irrevocably made.  Maya is too allergic to felines to co-habitat with them.

So we are in the market for a new home for our beloved, perfect cat.  (Ok, he climbs on the screens to tell you he wants to come in and he gets on the table when we leave food unattended for a second, but other than that...)   He is not yet two,  healthy as can be, social, loving but not too needy- in  a lot of ways more like a dog than a cat.  We love him and want so much for him to go to a person or family who feel the same about him.

And yes, this is just breaking my heart.  I seriously love this cat.

And, no, we haven't told Ella and that will break it even further.  We are waiting until we know where he is going (hopefully to someone we know and where we can visit him sometimes) and then Sandi will break the news to her. 

I simply cannot do it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

springy

First picnic of spring and Ella has already learned party tricks in the Crazy Creek.



Seriously, though, Spring...I don't think I've EVER been so happy to see you in my life.  Green grass!  Crocuses!  Runs with just long sleeves and capris!  Sidewalk chalk!  Impending mowing!  It feels like a miracle I have never before experienced!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

speedy

When I was about 10 a little girl in the rural town I lived in was hit by a car and died.  She was out playing in her yard and a ventured too close to the road and her life, and her family's life, was changed forever in an instant.  It haunted me.  I am terrified of this with my own kids and hyper vigilant when they are near the road.

I drive too fast.  I confess.  People who drive the speed limit frustrate me and I am always at least 5 miles (or more) over.  In my very biased opinion I don't think I am generally unsafe but whose to say that with the constant distractions, snack handling, dj-ing and refereeing I do in the car (I no longer text unless I'm stopped I will have you know) that I could stop at a moment's notice if a small child were to accidentally make contact with the pavement?

Really my speeding is a symptom of a bigger issue. Namely that I rush around. This is not just because I strive to be punctual (my mother was/is chronically late) but because I like the excitement of hurrying.  As ridiculous as that sounds, it's true. It is not as much fun to go the speed limit, to arrive 10 minutes early instead of just under the gun. I love the feeling of accomplishment (much to Sandi's dismay- this is a point of contention between us) of squeezing the impossible in to a small window of time.  I have friends (you know who you are) who are like this too so I know is not entirely pathological, but it does require some deeper digging into why I would risk an ulcer for a little thrill.  Plus, rushing makes me a teensy bit grouchy and shouldn't be done when it involves others, especially small children.

This morning on the way to school I was trying to avoid the school bus that I could see at the end of my road. I quickly reversed and went the back way down a road parallel to the Main Rd. where the school bus was picking up its cargo.  As I sped over a small hill on the Old County Rd. (the very road I run on and shake my fist at speeding cars) two things happened.  First, I caught a glimpse of Ella's school friend standing at the end of her driveway with her dad waiting for the bus.  Second, I saw the cop. 

I slammed on my breaks and pulled right over.  I was humbled with guilt.   As the cop made his way around, lights flashing, all I could imagine was Ella's friend getting too close to the road as I crested the hill.  The cop came to my window, I handed over my stuff and all but begged him to ticket me.

I got my first speeding ticket of my life.  I was going 12 miles over the speed limit.  As I sat there, seeing my future as a reformed speeder, I watched the kids be picked up by the school bus and I was so ashamed.  I had a car full of kids and here I was speeding a potential death trap down the road. 

I couldn't stop thinking of that little girl that was hit when I was growing up.  I wanted to thank the police man for saving me from my own recklessness, lest a tragedy like that ever occur in my life.

Maybe called the cop "purple man" because he had iridescent purple lensed sunglasses.  Skyler and Ella were complaining about how long it was taking him and wanted me to drive so they wouldn't be late (future hurriers?).  I told them that what I had done was wrong, that I had broken the rules and that the cop was right (and we would wait for him or have my ass hauled to jail...but I didn't say that.) 

I drove away with my $119 ticket thinking that might be money very well spent.

Then I dropped all the kids off, late now despite my desperate need to hurry there in the first place, and went for my mid-week 8 mile run.  For the first time in my life, I ran 8 miles all in the 9 minute/mile range (on hills with a strong head wind!). 

I guess you can call me speedy today.  Except you can't because I'm not going to speed anymore (unless it is on the highway).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

paparazzi

The Bangor Daily News wrote an article about our running group, the Sole Sisters, pronouncing our love for each other for all the world to hear.  It's kind of cool.  

When the day is done, we all really love to run but it's possible we love each other even more.

http://new.bangordailynews.com/2011/04/08/outdoors/bangor’s-sole-sisters-strengthen-their-bond-with-each-run/

Friday, April 8, 2011

fruition

It's hard to talk about a 20 mile run without the assistance of hyperbole, but I will try my best.

Yesterday in the bright and sunny promise of a non-snowing April morning I hit the road for 1 of the last 2 really long training runs before the Sugarloaf Marathon on May 15.  (And yes, there is an offensive amount of snow in the woods, but the roads are clear, albeit a bit gravely but I will take gravel underfoot any day over ice.)

I was unable to meet up with my girls for this week's beast of a run, due to scheduling issues on my part, so I decided to do it alone.

Historically, this can either work out fantastically or lead to suffering, loneliness and despair out on the road.

I lucked out with the fantastic.

Four things came together to allow for a truly amazing run for me:

1. I somehow managed to dig myself out of a really dark mental place about running the day before. Since I had had the flu, my running has been labored, my body tired and I've struggled hard through even 5 mile weekday runs.  So I took Wednesday as a rest day and while I massaged 6 people in the dark quiet of my office on Beals Island, I visualized a strong, happy, fulfilling run.

2. Even though my dear friend Amy had made several attempts to find me, driving up and down and all around in search of me, to bring me hydration and sustenance, she could not locate me (she had misread my map ever so slightly).  Covering all my bases, I had the day before asked my friend Vanessa to leave a water bottle out by her road sign which I would pass at mile 16.  She did (along with a note saying, "WHOOO HOOOO! YOU CAN DO IT!" Thank you Vanessa!) Alleviating thirst issues and runner's worry; good move for the future.

3. I came up with a route I liked that, this was the key for me, didn't end at my house.  I always struggle through the dreaded last 2 or 3 miles of a long run that go by each house I run by week after week. I swear I know the potholes, every slight in the road that somehow becomes a hill to my tired legs, every boulder, mailbox and dog along the Main Rd. in Hampden that leads me home.  Instead, I had Sandi pick me up at mile 20.  It was fun to run a new "end" and to text her and tell her to come for me in 20 minutes at that spot.  Talk about dangling a carrot.

4.  I got myself a new audio book which I listened to for nearly 2 1/2 hours (helping me pace myself and not go out too fast) and then some awesome new running music for the end which had me picking up my pace, a tactic I HOPE to apply in the marathon.  Perhaps the better way to state that would be, I'm hoping to maintain a pace in the marathon instead of slowly petering out and crawling to the finish.

Don't get me wrong.  It's not as though running 20 miles wasn't  hard.  Of course it was.  As always there are time boredom sets in, day dreams about a hot shower and stopping the rotation of my legs.  But the real success to a run like this, for me, is in maintaining enough positivity and (forgive me) JOY that it is fun.  And to make it fun all alone without my friends for camaraderie and laughter and self-deprecation?  Even more of a success as far as I'm concerned.

And then I came home and Sandi massaged my exhausted legs (I KNOW....) and enjoyed, to the fullest extent possible, the feeling of overwhelming satisfaction, completion and pride for the rest of the day.  It is this, perhaps as much as anything, that makes me train for marathons.  Yes, it's the space away from home, the staying in good shape, the having something that is just for me.  But, also, when you are a mom who gives so much to the development of two other human beings,  stretches of time can pass when no real sense of attainment or success is felt.  It's hard to feel accomplished at driving, cooking, grocery shopping, folding laundry and refereeing fights.

But when I'm out there on the road for hours, pushing and working and smiling to myself because I'm DOING IT?  Somehow, over and over again, it makes me whole again. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

my kids eat 5 vegetables a day and other lies I tell

Sometimes it seriously stresses me out to feed my kids.

I try everyday to get 5 servings of fruits and vegetables in them but have to confess that sometimes that comes in the form of 100% fruit juice.  We get Ella to at least one vegetable every day but more than that is tough.  Maya is a much better eater, requesting and boisterously consuming broccoli, peas, carrots, corn and even kale on occasion.

But, I am telling you the complete and total truth when I say that our kids now eat and LOVE tofu.


At least prepared this way:

Baked Tofu Sticks
from "Moosewood Restaurant New Classics" cookbook (once again, I love this book.)

Ingredients:
1 block of tofu (16 oz)
3 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP rice vinegar
1 garlic glove, pressed
1 1/2 c. bread crumbs (I freeze ends of whole wheat bread, toast them and pulverize them in the food processor)
2 TBSP parsley (optional- I did not use it)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
pinch of cayenne
3 TBSP flour
7-8 TBSP cold water

1. Press the tofu by slicing it into 8, placing it between layered kitchen towels lined with paper towels.  Place a cutting board on top and several cookbooks or heavy pans. Press for at least 30 minutes.  (I tried this recipe without pressing and the tofu was a nightmare to work with.) 

2. Cut the tofu into 24 sticks and arrange in a shallow dish.  Mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar and garlic and drizzle over tofu sticks. Marinate for 30 minutes, turning half-way through.  (You could do this in the morning and leave them, covered, in the refrigerator for the day.)

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly spray a baking sheet.

4. In a shallow bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, parsley, paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and water until smooth.  Dip each marinated tofu stick into the flour mixture and then coat well with the seasoned bread crumbs.  Arrange breaded sticks on the baking sheet so they are not touching and bake for about 30 minutes, until crisp and hot.



Optional dipping sauce:
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 TBSP finely chopped scallions

My girls preferred them with some good 'ol ketchup.

Watching my kids gobble up this wholesome food allows me to rest well at night.  Our kids still might not like casseroles and stir-frys but we are making huge progress.  They love broiled fish, green salad, whole wheat lasagna,  and now baked tofu. 

And, by the way, I have 77 signatures on my chocolate milk petition!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

spa pedicures and other types of punishment

Our girls would love if we would get in the tub with them every night. Sandi often appeases them by letting them wash her feet. There is all sorts of subtext you could read into this, but we will just go with exposing the girls to all sorts of career possibilities.


Not pictured: later that night, along the same thread, we tried to prove Einstein's Law of Relativity, solved for Pi and discussed Murphy's Law, and its manifestations, at length.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

thwarted

I was supposed to run the Mid-Winter Classic 10 mile race in February. 

It was postponed due to snow and high snow banks.  Then it snowed more and they cancelled the postponed date.

I was supposed to run the Eastern States 20 mile race last weekend.

You know how that turned out.

Then this weekend I was to run the Race the Runways Half-Marathon- a 13.1 mile run on the old Navel runways in Brunswick, ME. 

Then we had a massive snowstorm all day Friday which prevented my babysitter (Grandma) from coming up Friday night and sleeping over for my 5 am departure Saturday.  Sandi is working all weekend and I had planned this out ahead 6 weeks ago.  So as not to feel too sorry for myself, I went back to the gym Friday night (after having been there already that morning) and cranked out a sucky 13.1 on the treadmill.

I'm 0 for 3 races in 2011 so far.

I've mostly rolled with the punches of this turn of events, but I have to say I'm a little less cheery about it today.  The kids are after me every second this morning, Ella complaining about going to the gym with me so I can go to spin class.  I find that juggling training, consistently carving out time for hours of exercise a week is vitally necessary for me, yet requires SO much effort and often leaves me feeling selfish and bitchy when my needs are sacrificed before the alter of motherhood that I wonder if it is all worth it.  Sometimes I think, maybe I would be happier if I didn't have to maneuver my schedule to fit this all in.

But then, I am not stupid.  That is like saying, maybe I would be happier without needs. Then I could give to everyone else and I would never have to worry about saving aside enough energy for myself. It would cease this constant balance act of them vs. me. I wouldn't have to feel guilty about the time I take for myself because I simply wouldn't need any.

Yeah, who believes that?  I tried this paradigm of parenting.  It didn't work for me. In fact, I crashed and burned.

I guess that leaves me with training for marathons and running away from my house with the mantra:  I need not feel guilty.

Can anyone tell that Sandi is on a four day stretch?