Food, Zombies, and Choices

When I was in 7th grade, my dad approached me with an offer I couldn’t refuse. “Hey, Meg,” he says to me. “How would you like to earn $1 a day for eating?” A whole dollar, you say? For doing something I’m going to do already? Let me think about it…sure!

There was, of course, a catch. Dad laid out a “nutrition plan” that seemed mighty restrictive to my adolescent eyes. I can’t precisely recall the particulars, but its basic goals were the elimination of “junk” food, sugar, and excessive snacking. For example, I remember that tacos for dinner were fine and dandy, but nachos made from Velveeta “cheese” were off limits. Milk with school lunch was fine, but chocolate milk wasn’t. Things like that. And of course, it should go without saying that pop, candy, desserts, and pretty much any other food with “sugar” or “corn syrup” as the #1 ingredient was a no-no.

Dad asked me to keep track of the foods I was eating. For any day that I managed to stick to the plan, I’d earn myself a dollar. Any slip-up, be it in the form of Mom’s impossible-to-resist sugar cookies, nachos at a basketball game, or even a single jelly bean, would deprive me of the green. Now, there are probably many teenagers who would ignore the rules and see how long they cold trick dumb ol’ Dad out of a dollar, but I wasn’t one of those kids. Perhaps it’s the first-born’s overdeveloped sense of guilt, perhaps I’m just that honest, or perhaps I never labored under the delusion that Dad was dumb enough to fall for something like that, but I took the deal and never tried to trick him.

In a month, I think I’d earned a total of $8.

Now, the point of Dad’s little experiment wasn’t weight loss. I think he was trying to help me be more conscious about what I was eating. It’s something I find myself thinking a lot about now that my metabolism is turning and I can no longer eat massive quantities of anything with nary a negative consequence.

Why is making the “right” choices so dang hard? Is it just me? I hope it’s not just me. In case it’s not just me, I’d like to share a couple of problems I’ve encountered.

Problem #1: Focusing on What’s “Best”

When I still lived in South Carolina, I was trying to figure out a way to lose the final stubborn pounds of “grad school weight.” Marathon training had gotten me halfway there, but then I plateaued. “Ah-ha,” I said to myself. “Maybe if I start eating RIGHT.”

On a quest to discover the best possible foods to eat, I took to the Internet. And went a little crazy. There are seemingly endless possibilities for the “right” way to eat, and they all have impassioned followers who are more than happy to present their arguments for what you should be eating and what is probably killing you. Very frequently, the theories contradict one another.

Now, theoretically, dietary diversity makes sense. Different foods are going to work for different people, and we should all be able to live happily and eat healthily…even if our definitions of “healthy” vary. In practice, however, the process of discovering what’s “best” for you can be immensely frustrating.

There’s the diet that lauds protein and vilifies carbohydrates. There are the diets that tell us to go back to our eating roots — whether this means eating like a caveman or a biblical patriarch. There are the diets that say human beings weren’t meant to consume animal products for various medical or ethical or ecological reasons. There’s the low-fat diet and the diet that claims that the right kind of fat is critically important and over-processed foods are what’s causing most medical issues. And on and on.

And then there’s the statistics. Oh, the statistics. If you send me a link to stats claiming that a certain food is bad for you, I’ll trump it with stats showing that same food is good for you. Don’t tempt me. I can do it. Just the other day, I was trying to decide what to do with some rainbow chard. “Can I make a smoothie with it?” I wondered. Off I went to the Internet, and the very first result for “chard smoothie” was a recipe for “the best green smoothie ever.” The link right underneath it, however, was to an article called, “Green Smoothies Can Have a Devastating Effect on Your Health.” Yes indeed. “Devastating.” The explanation is that many leafy greens are high in oxalates and can cause kidney stones. Cheery.

Now, obviously the rule of Internet research is not to believe everything you read. At a certain point, however, the contradicting opinions and statistics and theories can be overwhelming. When I focus too much on the BEST way to eat, I wind up not caring at all. “Aw, screw it. Next stop, hamburger and fries! Bring on the ice cream! And where are my jelly beans?”

Solution #1: Better…It’s Better than Best!

So, forget finding the BEST way to eat. Forget looking for “super foods.” (That term really bugs me for some reason.) What’s more sustainable for me (especially given the “what’s the best?” black hole I fall into otherwise) is eating BETTER. Water is better than pop. Green smoothie is better than a donut. Grilled is better than fried.

These are the types of choices that you don’t need a degree in nutrition to confidently make. Unless, of course, you are suffering from the second problem…

Problem #2: Food Zombie

I am a food zombie. This is only way I can think to explain my apparently natural inclination to consume massive amounts of sugar without realizing it. It goes like this: I’m sitting at my desk, editing a document. I get hungry and realize I haven’t eaten anything for breakfast. There happens to be a jar of candy nearby, so I chow down on a handful of sugar until the feeling of hunger subsides. Never mind that I know better. Never mind that all I have to do is walk upstairs to the kitchen and find some of that “better” food I was just lecturing about. Nope. I’m a zombie, and zombies don’t think.

Solution #2: Use Your Brain

Zombies eat brains. Food zombies just need to use the brain they already have. When I make conscious choices about what I eat, I’m more likely to eat oatmeal for breakfast. I’m more likely to drink water. I’m more likely to snack on fresh fruit or veggies. I’m more likely to make better choices in general when I wake up and pay attention to what I’m eating.

This isn’t to say that I’ve got it all figured out, or even that I consistently put “make better choices…don’t be a zombie” into practice. But I try, and knowing that I have LilRunr to be an example for is going to motivate me to keep trying in the future.

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Balance

I started this blog in 2008. When it began, I had two goals: to post at least once a week, and to avoid focusing too much on myself. I hoped to strike a balance between personal posts and more generally informative/entertaining ones. I didn’t want to be repetitive, and I couldn’t imagine my own training would be of much interest to anyone else.

In that first year, I wrote some of my favorite posts: the t-shirt post, the list of things to do for runners, and the intro to running mind games, just to name a few. Later on, I wrote several incredibly detailed posts (with maps and pictures) about the development of Greenville, SC’s first rail trail. I receive traffic and positive comments about those to this day, and I’m proud to have contributed something helpful to fellow runners.

Then, marathon training happened. The balance shifted, and the majority of the posts became about what I was up to week-by-week. This was in part due to the fact that readers had requested more posts about my own training, but to be honest it was also partly due to laziness. It’s easier to recap that weekend’s long run than it is to come up with an interesting, running-related topic, research it if necessary, and write a corresponding article. And since many of my readers were either training for, planning to train for, or already addicted to marathons, so it was a topic that was well-received.

Without the Adventure of Marathonning to spice it up, however, I’ve grown bored of the “training log” type posts. They’re repetitive. They’re dull. When I’m on the undisciplined, slacker side of my usual “training-racing-resting-oops slacking-remotivating” cycle, they’re even annoying. The Internet doesn’t need any more whining.

I feel like I’ve lost the balance. In 2014, I’ll be trying to get it back. If you’re still reading this blog (all 5 of you), you will see some changes…hopefully for the better.

 

Oregon Trip, Part 1: Prefontaine Classic

At the end of May, we took the trip of a lifetime. It’s been in the works for awhile — almost every summer, we’d talk about finally taking a trip to Oregon. The thing is, Oregon is an awfully long way from Kansas…and an even longer way from South Carolina, when we lived there. With distance comes expense, with distance comes greater travel considerations, and so there were always reasons not to go.

This year, we decided, was the year. Traveling with a toddler may not seem ideal, sure, but LilRunr is an easygoing and easy-to-please dude who has proven to be an excellent traveler. Planning for this trip actually began in 2012, as we began scouting housing options and ticket prices. We were trying to basically take two vacations in one — spending 4 days in Eugene and then spending 4 more somewhere on the Oregon coast. There were weeks when it seemed like it wasn’t going to come together — when plane ticket prices increased dramatically for no apparent reason, or when our first, second, and third choices for vacation rentals fell through.

Then, it all came together. Plane tickets to Portland — check. Rental car to take us through the rest of the state — check. Hotels in Portland and Eugene — check. Tickets to the Prefontaine Classic — check. Super awesome beachfront condo rental — CHECK. (That one gets special treatment via all caps because it is RIDICULOUSLY difficult to find a vacation rental that will accept a toddler.)

Wow. Just wow. Take ANY ONE ASPECT of that trip, and it was an incredible vacation. Combine them all together, and it’s something that I’m having trouble summarizing in blog form…which explains why this post is just being published NOW, months after our trip.

So, let’s just take things one at a time. First up — our trip to Eugene.

We flew into Portland on a Wednesday, then drove to Eugene on a Thursday. The drive was easy and quick, at just under two hours. The only snafu we encountered was that the kid’s bike trailer Scott had intended to rent (and that we had called to make reservations for weeks in advance, only to be told that reservations weren’t necessary) had already been rented. This was more than a little aggravating, because we had intended to go for some family bike rides/runs and had left our jogging stroller at home because we thought that we had access to a trailer. Argh! By the end of the day, however, everything had been worked out and the trailer was ours.

Scott and I quickly decided that there was a rule in Eugene: when you’re in Tracktown USA, you’d better be running. He badgered me (in a loving way, of course) until I finally put on some running clothes for an evening run on Pre’s Trail.

Me, running the trails.

Me, running the trails.

 

Eugene is a fabulous place to run. The weather was in the 60s, there are paved and unpaved trails everywhere, there’s beautiful scenery. I spent so much time running around and gawking that I realized I couldn’t remember which turns I had taken to end up at the football stadium.

Wait…football stadium? WHERE AM I? Scott had told me which streets to take back to the hotel after I crossed the river, but I could no longer remember their names. Oh, drat. This is when a sense of direction would come in handy and NOW THE SUN IS SETTING oh gosh I might get eaten by a bear. After staring at the trail map conveniently placed for dummies like me, I eventually realized that (1) all I needed to do was run across the bridge, take a left, and follow the road back to our hotel and (2) the iPhone attached to my arm could also provide turn-by-turn directions. Crisis averted.

The next morning, Scott woke early and went for a bike ride, spotting several famous runners out doing their pre-race workouts.

The great Mo Farrah, out for a run.

The great Mo Farah, out for a run.

 

When he got back, we loaded up LilRunr in the bike trailer (along with his water, crackers, stuffed animal, two toy trains, and a blanket…the kid travels light, ha!) and headed out for my 2nd run of the vacation. We learned that the pros don’t sleep in as late as I do (we had the trail mostly to ourselves) and that LilRunr will fall asleep in the bike trailer every. single. time he’s in it.

LilRunr riding in style (he's probably already asleep by this point).

LilRunr riding in style (he’s probably already asleep by this point).

Scott likes this photo...it's ME passing an OREGON DUCK. Only time that's going to happen, I can tell you!

Scott likes this photo…it’s ME passing an OREGON DUCK. Only time that’s going to happen, I can tell you!

Tracktown USA sign we saw on our run.

Tracktown USA sign we saw on our run.

 

We returned to the hotel, and Scott decided to take the whole “when in Eugene, exercise” thing to extremes by immediately heading out for a run. That makes 3 workouts in one morning for anyone who’s counting. LilRunr and I decided to spend some time in the indoor pool. It was FREEZING cold, but the little guy had fun splashing me in the face. Awesome.

Brr. The things I do to make that kid happy. So cold!

Brr. The things I do to make that kid happy. So cold!

 

When Scott returned from his third workout of the morning, it was time to get cleaned up and find some fuel. We opted for the Original Pancake House, where Scott saw Allison Felix. (I caught a glimpse of her back as she was leaving…Scott is way better at celebrity runner spotting than I am.) 

The rest of the day was a bit lazy. We spent some time at the hotel where — miracle of miracles — LilRunr actually took a lengthy nap. This was great for us, as we intended to keep the child up past his bedtime and watch “Distance Night” at Hayward Field.

Hours before the meet was scheduled to start, we got antsy and made the 1/2 mile walk to the track. Wow. There’s something about a track — any track — that instantly transports me back to my days of competing. The fact that the track we were ogling was the famous Oregon track only made things that much more exciting. We made an entire circuit of the stadium, watching athletes warm up and doing the tourist thing of buying up multiple “Prefontaine Classic” t-shirts.

Outside Hayward Field.

Outside Hayward Field.

A cute little boy enjoying a track meet. What's not to like?

A cute little boy enjoying a track meet. What’s not to like?

Little boy, his mama, and a nearly empty stadium. (This is still an hour or so before the meet started.)

Little boy, his mama, and a nearly empty stadium. (This is still an hour or so before the meet started.) And his shirt says “Gold Medalist in Training,” if anyone is wondering. 🙂

Pre Classic sign.

Pre Classic sign.

The great thing about Distance Night is that there was no assigned seating and a half-empty stadium. This is maybe bad for the sport of distance running, but it’s handy for parents of a toddler. LilRunr enjoyed exploring our nearly empty row of seats and could be as wiggly and restless as his little heart desired without annoying anyone.

We went to the track that first night unsure how long we’d be able to stay before LilRunr got tired, cranky, and ready for bed. “Well,” we said to ourselves, “at least it’s the free night! We’ll just stay as long as we can.” The toddler lived up to his easygoing reputation by doing just fine. We were able to stay through the 10k, and Scott and LilRunr were even trackside for a victory lap high five. (Which, of course, I did not record in any kind of decent manner because I am a terrible photographer.)

You can JUST BARELY see the 10k winner about to give Scott a high five. I have mad photography skills.

You can JUST BARELY see the 10k winner about to give Scott a high five. I have mad photography skills.

 

The next day passed in about the same manner — bike ride, run, track meet. The main difference was that on Saturday, the meet was sold out and started at 12:00pm. LilRunr’s naptime. The child, bless his sweet heart, went so far in accommodating us as to TAKE AN EARLY NAP. This is unprecedented.

LilRunr and I taking a running break.

LilRunr and I taking a running break.

Off we went to the track once more. We had tickets on the home stretch, at roughly the 40m mark of the 100m dash. To my complete and utter surprise, LilRunr was happy to sit (mostly) still in a crowded stadium for over two hours, sometimes watching the action (he particularly enjoyed the triple jump and pole vault),  sometimes playing games on my phone, and sometimes eating Red Vines, the candy currency with which we bought his silence and continued good behavior.

It looks like he wants to punch something, but I promise the child is just eating candy. Wait. Is that worse?

It looks like he wants to punch something, but I promise the child is just eating candy. Wait. Is that worse?

Nom nom nom...

Nom nom nom…

Our little family at one of the most famous tracks there is.

Our little family at one of the most famous tracks there is.

I had the impression that we were surrounded by friends — crazy nuts who happily paid money to come watch a track meet and loved the sport. The boys behind us were distance junkies. They knew the stats and season bests for just about every distance runner.  The crowd in general was enthusiastic about every performance. The announcers were knowledgeable and WAY less annoying than their TV counterparts.

My favorite performance of the day would have to be the high schooler Mary Cain running the 800m. It is completely unreal that a 16-year-old can hang with some of the best middle distance runners in the world. I am simply in awe of her talent, and her sweet enthusiasm in the post-race interview was endearing. The rest of the distance races were awesome, too, and it was incredibly refreshing to be able to watch an ENTIRE 5000m without commercial interruption.

Women's 100m dash.

Women’s 100m dash.

Dibaba on a victory lap. She's amazing.

Dibaba on a victory lap. She’s amazing.

Men's 100m dash.

Men’s 100m dash.

Mary Cain in lane 2 in the 800m. Simply amazing talent.

Mary Cain in lane 2 in the 800m. So darn talented.

Ashton Eaton and fiancee (whose name I should remember, but always forget. Sorry, chica.)

Ashton Eaton and fiancee (whose name I should remember, but always forget. Sorry, chica.)

Lots of big names in the men's 5k.

Lots of big names in the men’s 5k.

Nick Symmonds getting ready to race. He retweeted a photo of mine once, so I feel like I'm a super fan. Scott always has to remind me that everyone knows who is and likes him.

Nick Symmonds getting ready to race. He retweeted a photo of mine once, so I feel like I’m a super fan. Scott always has to remind me that everyone knows who is and likes him. FINE. Lol.

Scott was in charge of taking pictures, while I alternated between watching the meet and keeping LilRunr occupied. After the meet, we took a seriously tired little boy to Tracktown Pizza. He slept through most of the meal, then woke up grumpy. Before long, it was back to the hotel for our last night in Eugene.

Oh, little buddy. It was a long day for you, wasn't it?

Oh, little buddy. It was a long day for you, wasn’t it?

Boy, do I love Eugene. It helps that the weather was gorgeous all four days we were there, but I think I’d love it even when it rains. Maybe someday we’ll be able to make a return trip. It’s a special place, but after 4 days of track fan fun, the time had come for us to move on to the second half of our vacation.

Next up, the Oregon Coast!

A Story of Perseverance, and Dream-Following, and Generally Just Extremely Motivational Stuff

No. This has nothing to do with running. (I think we’ve all pretty much accepted that the blog stopped being about running when I (1) moved away from Greenville and stopped being affiliated with a track club and (2) had a baby.)

No, it’s not even a post about our trip to Oregon THREE WEEKS AGO, which was specifically planned around running and a really awesome track meet and I should totally get my act together and find words to describe it. (Short version: Oregon is awesome and so is Eugene and fast people are fast.)

This really IS a story of perseverance and the importance of following your dreams (even the silly ones), and here’s why:

The day we returned from Oregon, we turned on the local news to a very big and very welcome surprise. The “Wheelmobile” was coming to Kansas City for Wheel of Fortune auditions. Now for many people, this wouldn’t be an exciting announcement. For me, however, it seemed like…destiny.

I watch Wheel of Fortune almost every day. I like words, I like puzzles, I like word puzzles. It’s a match made in heaven. LilRunr has become a fan of the show because of his mama’s obsession, and these days enjoys calling out letters to help the contestants, clapping when they solve a puzzle, and saying “almost!” if they attempt to solve the puzzle but fail.

Want to buy a vowel, LilRunr?

Want to buy a vowel, LilRunr?

At some point last year, Scott said to me, “you should really try to get on this show. What does it even take?” Good question! I went to the website and found an application, along with a disclaimer that they receive MILLIONS of applications every year and it is very, very unlikely to get a call back. I filled out the application anyway. A few months later, I saw a place where you could submit an application VIDEO to improve your chances. I wrote a moving and persuasive speech about why I would be a fabulous contestant and submitted a video.

The best chance of getting on the show, according to the website, is to attend a “Wheelmobile” event. These two-day events give hundreds of people a chance to actually play a demo round of the game onstage. All I needed was the Wheelmobile to make a stop in Kansas City.

So I waited. And waited. And waited. And then…with that announcement on the news, we knew: THE OPPORTUNITY HAD ARRIVED. I had to go. Never mind that it would take up most of the weekend. Never mind that the forecast for the outdoor event was hot, humid, and unpleasant. I. Had. To. Go.

On Saturday, I arrived at the Kansas City Power & Light District just before 1:00pm. I headed up to the top tier to get in line, and walked ALL THE WAY AROUND the upper level, down three flights of stairs, out of the “KC Live” venue that was hosting the event, and two blocks down the street before I found the end of the line. Holy cow. It turns out that I’m not the only Wheel of Fortune fan in Kansas City!

The way the Wheelmobile event works is this:

  1. Fill out an application up to one hour before the “show” starts.
  2. Drop completed application in a big box.
  3. The show begins, and they begin drawing names at random. Five people at a time get a chance to go on stage and play a demo round of the show.
  4. The show lasts an hour, and my guess is that they called up between 10 and 12 groups of people in that hour.
  5. Repeat for two other shows that day.
The stage. The first 5 folks alled.

Wheel…of…FORTUNE!

So, this is how I spent my Saturday:

1:00pm — Show up. Look at gigantic crowd of people and decide that I have less than no chance. Fill out application anyway.

1:15pm — Make it through the gigantic line. Put application in box with thousands of other applications.

1:20pm — Walk to Burger King to get into air conditioning. Buy a gigantic glass of Fanta, you know, for hydration purposes.

1:40pm — Go back outside. Find a shady place to sit. Realize it’s where all the smokers are hanging out. Go to second shady spot. Realize it’s completely out of the wind and feels even more sweltering. Go back to Shady Area #1.

1:45pm — Traveling host gets the 2:00pm session kicked off early, and they begin calling names. !!!!

2:30pm — Go back upstairs, stand in line with application for second show.

2:40pm — Put second application in box for 3:30 show.

3:00pm — Show #1 ends. Name has not been called. Learned that if you say in the interview that you like to sing or dance, that you will be asked to demonstrate said skill. Vow not to say I know how to do anything demonstrable in front of a large crowd.

3:05pm — Go to Cosentino’s Market to buy a book to pass the time. Find out that Cosentino’s doesn’t sell books. Boo them quietly while buying a bottle of water to continue hydration efforts.

3:30pm — Show #2 begins. Get a few jolts of adrenaline when other Megans are called onstage. Wish that parents had not given me such a common name.

4:00pm — Fill out application for the third and final show of the day. Become encouraged because there is no line this time around. Text Scott to say, “This is my best chance all day.”

4:30pm — Show #2 ends. Decide that I am starving, and head back to Burger King because it is the cheapest, quickest option at Power & Light. Savor every moment in air conditioning.

5:00pm — Show #3 begins. With each name called, become more and more discouraged. Towards the end of the show, text Scott to say there will probably be 5 more names called, and then that’s it for the day. He texts me back to say that he and LilRunr still think I’m a winner. Aw.

For simply filling out pieces of paper and sitting around, it was an exhausting afternoon. By the time I got home, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go back for more the next day. It felt unfair and selfish to ditch Scott and LilRunr AGAIN, and the whole idea of being picked randomly seemed less realistic all the time. Then, I woke up on Sunday to the news reporting a threat of “strong to severe” storms that afternoon.

Well, phooey. Now it’s seeming unrealistic, unfair, selfish, AND stupid to drive back down to Power & Light to pursue the Wheel of Fortune pipe dream. I mulled that one over all morning, and Scott wisely let my internal battle wage on unchecked. Finally, after lunch, I had a decision:

“I’m going to go,” I told him. He smiled and nodded like he knew what I would decide all along. He probably did. He knows me pretty well.

So, at 1:00pm I was back at Power and Light, prepared to repeat the previous day. This time, I was armed with a book. I figured I’d find a shady corner, read for 5 hours, and go home knowing that I had done everything I could to get an audition.

At 2:00pm, they started calling names. I closed my book to listen, and I wasn’t called in the first group of five. “Yup, it figures,” I thought to myself. I opened the book back up as they started calling names for the second group of five. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I hear:

“Megan N____.”

WHAT? That’s me! Well…maybe. I know there’s at least one other Megan N___ in the Kansas City area. She’s a runner, too. I see her in race results from time to time. Wouldn’t it be sad if I went up there and I wasn’t the Megan N___ called?

I jogged from my out-of-the-way reading spot up to the front. By the time I reached the registration tent, I was shaking a little inside. When I verified that I really was THE Megan they had called, my hands actually began to shake. I felt a little silly for being THIS excited, but come on! This is the dream, people. And after sitting around all afternoon the day before, the impossible — being picked randomly from a big ol’ barrel of names — had happened in the first 5 minutes. I couldn’t believe it.

Volunteers took a quick picture of me and then directed me to sit with the other five people in my group. We talked about the nerves we were feeling and what we’d say when we got onstage. After the group before us had solved their puzzle, we were ushered onstage.

The host interviewed me. To the statement, “tell me about yourself…” I shared that I lived in Olathe, had a husband and a toddler, and liked to run. Then, giddiness took over and I gushed for a minute or two that I couldn’t believe I had been called after being here all day yesterday, and the host congratulated me on getting picked in the second group of the day.

We played the “time is running out” version of the game, where the host spins the wheel and then contestants are allowed to call out one letter and attempt to solve the puzzle. I guessed “R” and “L,” neither of which were in our puzzle. The person after me guessed “E,” and when the vowels filled in I realized too late that the answer to our puzzle was “Debate Team.” The girl after me solved it correctly, and that was it. We exited the stage, received our free t-shirt and water bottle, and I was on my way home.

In the next four months, I could possibly get a call to go to a final round of auditions. Make it past that, and I’d be an actual contestant on the show. To be honest, I’m not sure I like my chances. I don’t have the flashiest personality, so I don’t know that I’ll stand out from the crowd of 300 or so who made it onstage. I do know that my chances are immeasurably better than they were before, and I’m very excited that I took the chance, stuck with it even when it stopped making sense, and made it this far.

Heartbreak & a Pledge

Like so many, I have been stuck in a place of disbelief and horror after hearing of the tragic events at the Boston Marathon on Monday. I wasn’t going to write anything about it, because I wasn’t there personally and so my reaction only echoes thousands of others — shock and heartache at such a senseless act. Grief for the lives lost or changed forever. Hurt for fellow runners — who I call friends simply because they’re part of the great and powerful RUNNING COMMUNITY. My emotions certainly aren’t original, but they are sincere.

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post about “Super Fans,” those people in my life who have made the long, winding road of my distance running career less lonely. What is absolutely breaking my heart, reducing me to tears every time I think about it, is that someone else’s — many someone elses’, in fact — super fans were attacked. They have been horribly injured and some have been lost. I can imagine what their runners are feeling, and as a 4:20:00 marathoner it is all too easy to imagine my greatest super fans eagerly awaiting my finish when the attack occurred, but I know that even the most accurate projection of empathy cannot come close to touching the depth of what they’re going through.

Nevertheless, I hurt for them. So much. And I think, I have to do something, because evil like this cannot pass by without a response, but what can I do? I can keep running, sure, but that’s something I’d do anyway and is at best only a symbolic act. Is there any tangible difference I can make? That’s one of the questions I’ve been wrestling with over the past two days.

I’ve come up with only one thing: the RUNNING COMMUNITY is very real and very special. There is an atmosphere of hope and exhilaration and triumph at a race like the Boston Marathon. I’ve never experienced anything else like it, and it’s something I’d like LilRunr to enjoy himself someday.

Here is my pledge — I haven’t been as involved in the running community lately as I used to be, but in honor of Boston I will change that. It starts this weekend, when I will be plastering funny and motivational signs all over the mile of the Olathe Marathon course that passes by my neighborhood and cheering on participants. Going forward, I’ll be on the lookout for other ways to help, whether it’s volunteering at races, gathering up folks for group runs, or anything else that comes my way. Whatever small part I can play in sustaining the spirit of running, I will do it.

All Aboard for the Not-So-Terrible Twos!

This weekend, we celebrated LilRunr’s upcoming birthday. His SECOND birthday. Insert standard motherly comment about disbelief over time flying HERE.

Yes, it’s hard to believe that my baby is two. In a “wow, wasn’t I *just* staring into this newborn’s eyes, hoping that I’d be able to figure this mothering thing out?” kind of way. In a “I love that now there’s a little boy running through my house, making friends with the most timid cat in the universe and making messes” way. Most decidedly NOT in a “oh mercy, the terrible twos are upon us!” way.

The thing is, I don’t really believe the twos are terrible. Oh, I see the less than good things. I’m not blind. He’s mastered the pout. The, collapsing facedown on the floor and kicking his feet while wailing bit. The, turning himself into a two-ton weight in order to passively resist being taken places he doesn’t want to go trick. The crocodile tears. The general drama. This isn’t mommy denial — I am aware that he isn’t always a perfect angel, and that he does have the capacity to annoy others…even me.

It’s just that I’m fascinated by the little person he’s becoming. This year, I’ll get to help him master new and important skills. I’ll get to watch him discover his imagination and explore. I’ll get to carry on more and more complex conversations with the lad, hearing what he’s thinking and how he feels. What are a few tantrums and annoyances in the face of this kind of behavior:

  • His favorite phrase right now is “thank you.” He’s figured out when a “thank you” is appropriate, and he LOVES showing his gratitude. At 4:00 this morning, I had to drag myself out of bed in response to the repeated calls of “Mama!” I found the boy in a puddle (12 hours of dryness, eh, Pampers?) and got dry sheets and jammies on the bed and the boy in an efficient and (miraculously given the hour) cheerful manner. His response? “Tank tu, mama.” Heart melting. 
  • When he really wants to tell you something, he’ll run up to you, grab your hand (if you’re standing) or put a hand on your knee (if you’re sitting) and get his face as close to yours as possible. There is an earnestness and a desire to be understood that is just precious and melts my heart every time. Right now, he normally wants to tell us something that he hears or sees, such as, “mama, clock!” or “byebye, airplane.” I adore his need to share experiences with us. I hope that never, ever changes.
  • His favorite game is “ready, set, go.” He and his daddy will race back and forth in the hallway all day long. We should possibly have a “no running in the house” rule, but it brings him so much joy and it tires him out before bedtime, so I don’t really care. He’ll also play “ready, set, go” with the cat, who is a somewhat unwilling participant. When she gets tired of running, she’ll stop and make him pet her, while he leans down to look into her eyes and say, “go, kitty! Go! Pwees?” He has found that the sincere eye contact thing has no effect on felines.
  • He loves to “talk” on the phone, and just about anything can be used to place “calls” to Grandma, Mama, or Kiki (a character from a Disney show). His conversations are always the same, and they go something like this: “Reen (ring). Hewwo? Hi. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Ok, BYE!”
  • He’s started making up songs for us at dinner time. It is adorable and falls into the “how much fun it is to watch his imagination develop” category.

See? It’s not so terrible.

And now, I present you a bunch of pictures from his birthday party, because I can’t think of any other way to stop talking about this boy we so dearly love.

The cupcake train that his mama was so proud to successfully complete. I'll probably write another post all about that. I'm not even kidding.

The cupcake train that his mama was so proud to successfully complete. I’ll probably write another post all about that. I’m not even kidding.

The birthday boy attempting to escape the excitement. He's not big on crowds, so it's lucky for us that he can't open a door by himself.

The birthday boy attempting to escape the excitement. He’s not big on crowds, so it’s lucky for us that he can’t open a door by himself.

He's not big on getting messy, either, so he wasn't thrilled about the cupcake. Ah, well. At least it was cute.

He’s not big on getting messy, either, so he wasn’t thrilled about the cupcake. Ah, well. At least it was cute.

He was excited about presents, and that was fun for everyone. His favorite was this soccer ball.

He was excited about presents, and that was fun for everyone. His favorite was this soccer ball.

Mama and Dada bought him a rug with roads on it...partly because they knew he'd like it, and partly because they were tired of dragging his railroad activity mat from room to room. :)

Mama and Dada bought him a rug with roads on it…partly because they knew he’d like it, and partly because they were tired of dragging his railroad activity mat from room to room. 🙂

 

Jumping on the road rug to test it out. Because that's what you do. Obviously.

Jumping on the road rug to test it out. Because that’s what you do. Obviously.

 

 

 

Picture Day: Running

LilRunr…running.

LilRunr is running. It is awesome. It is adorable. It is…a little annoying, because most often he’s running to RUN AWAY.

Bath time? Run!

Diaper changing time? Run!

Has taken the remote/iPhone/iPad and doesn’t want to give it back? RUN LIKE THE WIND!

I think the universe has just informed me that even if I fail to get a workout in on my own, I will still and always be a runner. This little guy just doesn’t stop.

LilRunr at 18 months

Our little LilRunr is nearly a year and a half old. WOW. He is SO much fun right now.

I’m not sure if it’s his personality or just his age, but he’s capable of doing many things for himself, which limits frustration and while providing unlimited entertainment for us.Running the vacuum, taking off shoes and clothes, learning to handle a spoon, crashing toy cars together while saying “vroom”…there is a world to explore, and little man is enjoying (almost) every minute.

His understanding of language is EXPLODING right now, which means that he can both execute simple commands and communicate with us. The current word list (although it will be out of date as soon as I hit “publish” because the kid is learning new words all the time!) is:

  • Kitty
  • Mama
  • Dada
  • More
  • All done.
  • Book
  • Ball
  • Moo
  • Woof
  • Shoe
  • Sock
  • Brush
  • Fish
  • Quack
  • Please
  • Apple
  • Water
  • Bottle
  • No
  • Yeah
  • Hey
  • Hi
  • Hello
  • Elmo
  • Blue (as in, the dog from Blue’s Clues…we haven’t quite figured out colors yet)
  • Emma (his cousin…so sweet!)
  • Up
  • Walk
  • Down
  • Pa (Imagine the first syllable in “pacifier”…that’s what he means.)
  • Foot
  • Pot (There’s this book with flower pots…when I said “pot” he repeated it.)
  • Truck (There’s this other book with construction equipment…kiddo loves the dump truck and cement truck.)
  • Toot Toot (He makes this noise when he’s playing with his train.)
  • Vroom (What is it with boys and sound effects?)

What’s really fun is that we’re moving beyond words to more complete sentences and/or requests. For example, the other day I was putting his shoes on so he could go to daycare. He shook his head at me, and I explained that he had to wear shoes to daycare. He waved his hand as if to hold off the white shoes I was attempting to put on his feet, and then pointed at the oh-so-bright red and blue Adidas pair. “Elmo shoes,” he told me.

Elmo shoes? So cute! So awesome! He’s not quite ready to say, “I’d like the red and blue shoes please, mama,” but with his limited speaking vocabulary he strung together two words to let me know EXACTLY what he wanted: the brightly colored “Elmo shoes.”

The young man can walk and run and lift one foot off the ground to “jump.” He can climb into and out of his chair, although he’s thankfully not transferring this skill to climbing out of his bed at night. I’m not ready for that battle yet! He can stack blocks and put simple puzzles back together. He loves to color, but after the “crayon on the window” incident we’ve been letting the coloring mostly happen at daycare. We’ve shown him a potty chair and explained what it’s for, but we haven’t actually attempted to use it. I’m going to wait for some sort of cue from him that’s he’s ready. He’s a little young to be making that transition, and I’m in no rush.

We let him “help” around the house. His usual chores are closing doors, throwing trash away, and occasionally dusting. I let him vacuum the floor one day, and you never saw a happier boy.

He’s got a definitely silly streak, and he loves to find ways to make us laugh.

We are going through a phase where he expresses his frustration by hitting things…usually his mama. I don’t care for this one bit, and every time it happens I hold his hands and say, “no sir, we do not hit.” If I can see it coming, I’ll try to distract or redirect him before he can hit.

I’m a lazy mother. Distraction is my best friend.

At the top of his “favorite” things list are those old favs, books and cats. I read Dr. Seuss’s “The Foot Book” at least 6 times a day. Kiddo has it memorized, and knows that the yellow page says “more and more” and will start signing/saying, “more, more, more” when we get there. Guys, I think he might be a genius.

As for cats, in his little world they now mostly live under the couch. Cally has continued to be extremely shy and timid even though she’s now the only cat in the house. When there’s more than one person in the house, she tends to hide under a piece of furniture. LilRunr is attempting to win her affection by bribing her with treats. It just might work…eventually.

That’s my boy. And this is my boy, too:

Hangin’ with his little cousin.

All ready to go go “school” with his big boy hair cut. 🙂

The young man and I at my brother’s wedding. Love his big blue eyes.

Dear NBC

Dear NBC:

The 2012 London Olympics recently concluded, and I’m a little sad. Every day for the nearly two and a half weeks, our family tuned in to NBC’s primetime coverage. We discovered that our toddler is nearly as fascinated by track and field as we are. After a week of mostly ignoring swimming, gymnastics, and beach volleyball, kiddo came alive and began mimicking sprinters, throwers, and distance runners. His shot put “grunt”? Eerily accurate.

With that said, I have a few suggestions for the next time you televise the Olympics:

  • Show more Olympics. The Olympics to commercial ratio is…disappointing. I know it’s too much to ask, but if there’s any way that a distance race could be televised uninterrupted, it’d be a dream come true. The men’s 5k, for example? As you went to commercial break, the eventual winner Mo Farah began making his move. Before the commercial? Last. After the commercial? Fourth and moving up.
  • Show more Olympics. Touching stories of Olympic triumph during the “Olympic Zone”? Meh. Recaps of Olympic triumph from 20 or 30 years ago? Yeah, I’d rather see what’s going on NOW than relive the “Fabulous 7” or whatever they’re called. Any random story whatsoever led by Mary Carillo, the most memorable of which from this Olympics had her reaching into a Scotsman’s sporran — gads. NO. No, no, no. Oh, and do I really need to mention that the hour-long WWII documentary really had no place whatsoever during a sporting event that supposedly brings the whole world together in a spirit of peace and harmony? That’s right, I do. NO ONE WANTS TO WATCH A WWII DOCUMENTARY DURING THE OLYMPICS!
  • Show less Olympics. I mean, c’mon people. I work from home, so I could TECHNICALLY watch events live and no one would be the wiser, but Husband works in Corporate Firewall Land and doesn’t have that luxury. Rather than spoil every single event for him, I opted to wait for things to show on prime time. This meant staying the heck away from Twitter, where the Internet-savvy were alternately rejoicing or griping about various performances. All would have been well, except that I would be unsuspectingly watching the evening news, waiting for the Olympics to come back on, and then out of nowhere would come: “Usain Bolt wins the men’s 100m…was Phelps able to win an event? You’ll find out tonight, but…NO! NOT THIS TIME!” How much money did you spend on the rights to televise these games? Why set aside 4 hours of prime time every night if you’re just going to spoil the whole thing?

Those are my suggestions. Please take it under advisement, or next time I’ll follow the advice of the Internet and watch the Rio games on BBC or Canadian television. I hear they have no commercials, no spoilers, and show events in their entirety.

That’s the dream.

Sincerely,
Megan

This is Love

The other day, Scott noticed a Cheerio on the floor of the garage. I’m pretty sure it ended up there during a car seat clean out, when I managed to gather up all of its brethren and dispose of them outside…that lone straggler somehow ended up on the garage floor. Maybe? I dunno. It’s possible, but there’s really no accounting for all of the random Cheerios, puffs, toys, and other toddler castoffs hanging around our house.

“Look,” Scott says. “There’s a Cheerio on the floor.”

Then, I explain to him that it’s been there for months, and that at this point I’m curious to see how long it takes to disintegrate, be taken by a hungry ant, or be blown away by the wind. It’s not a mess — no, no. It’s a science experiment.

Scott looks at me. He maybe laughs a little. But he — one of the neatest, most organized people I know — leaves the Cheerio be.

That is love.