Monday, August 24, 2009

Beyond Mommy turns one

Yesterday was my blog's first birthday. I can't believe no one sent a card. {snif}

While some months passed pitifully by with little to no contribution on my part to the blogosphere, I maintained a respectable average of 10 posts per month over the past year. This statistic is aided significantly by the fact that I conquered NaBloPoMo last November, posting 30 times in 30 days. To celebrate my "paper" anniversary, won't you join me in reminiscing over some highlights of the past year here at Beyond Mommy?

I believe I have successfully abided by my original predictive description: "a collection of my random musings, minimally restrained opinions, and at least somewhat funny tidbits of my life." For the first few months blogging was fun and novel, but I was also learning what to write and how to make it interesting. I had a lot of fun describing the various circumstances surrounding acquiring my eight peircings. Since the topic was suggested by a reader, I felt like interest was pre-existing, and I started getting a feel for turning historical details into entertainment. That kind of creative writing is still my favorite aspect of blogging, which is why I loved Flashback Fridays. It's hard to choose favorite flashbacks because I always enjoy them so much, but if you missed Scantily Clad Teens in Distress or What Happens in Vegas... you should definitely check them out. Plus there was the time my mom tried to bring a steak knife on a plane and that night we watched a movie with a stranger in our rocking chair. Hopefully with more time available this fall, Flashback Friday can make a grand re-appearance.

Sometimes I don't even have to reach into the past to tell great stories, since some of my favorites were freshly recounted right after they occurred. I wrote quite a bit about running this past year, since I started back at it right about the same time I started blogging. But the best stories actually came from my experience walking the Champoeg Half Marathon last fall. Also in the first month I lamented the price of the zoo and my book idea being written by somebody else. But my over-scheduled life soon reclaimed the time I spent blogging, and last October I only posted once, which prompted the foray into November's great daily blogging attempt, which I sincerely enjoyed.

Some of my NaBloPoMo posts outshine others in the creativity and usefulness departments, but there were 30 of them any way you look at it. I did wax a bit political (a bit late), introduced several parenting themes, including an ongoing potty training discussion, and made some very embarrassing confessions. I am pleased with this tribute to my parents as well as this one to my own budding parenting skills. I loved the experience of NaBloPoMo, and since my bubble was burst upon learning that there is no official National Blog Posting Month, I've decided to take on the challenge in 11-month intervals. So this year I'll be typing into the wee hours of the night in October. I'm counting on a new month providing new topics. Stay tuned!

I kept up a good momentum in December, trying a little controversy (not the best idea it turns out), and a rant or two. I also painfully learned the cruel reality that people can be horribly mean.

Not even ten days into the new year I admitted to sneaking a free movie and explained how I was fired from a job for being too nice. At least the potty training experience was a success.

February brought another favorite Flashback about flirting on the slopes, as well as my induction to the world of facebook. There's so much more I want to write about facebook and my subsequent experiences since jumping on that bandwagon. Maybe someday. We learned 25 random things about me, which was a lot of fun to write actually, as well as why I stopped reading and then why I started again, and why I'm not a real runner. It was a lot to learn in one month.

In March and April I got bogged down a bit in trying to keep up with weekly recaps of American Idol. A fun gig if I were being paid, but a little too much pressure since I wasn't. I did really appreciate the comments from readers who said they liked my articles better than actually watching the show, or that my writing made them want to watch the show so they would have an educated opinion too. That was nice. Maybe it could be attributed to The Funk (later temporarily cured by some purple hair), but I got a little belligerent about some English-language usage and hideous baby naming trends.

I haven't been able to post much in the last three months, but at least we got such gems as a giant turd and the disappearing dinner.

Thanks for reading my blog. In my second year I hope to maintain a more consistent schedule of bringing you the entertainment and inspiration you crave. Or something like that.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Not my #1 parenting moment

From my vantage point on the shady park bench I noticed the unmistakable half-squat stance indicating that Madelyn needed to use the bathroom. My eyes scanned one end of the park to the other and noticed no free-standing restroom facilities. In small, neighborhood parks where we might be the only family present, I haven't hesitated to take Madelyn nonchalantly beside a tree or large rock and allow her to relieve herself as nature intended. Sometimes I even bring our tiny portable IKEA potty seat when I know there won't be a bathroom at a park. But I hadn't brought that seat today, and we happened to be at this large city park to check out a summer youth program, meaning we were not the only people here by a long shot.

My daughter has developed respectable bladder control in her 8 months of being potty trained, so I wasn't especially worried about an accident. I approached one of the volunteers in the craft area to inquire of the whereabouts of the nearest restroom. Through various hand gestures and descriptive directions, I realized we'd be hiking to the library at the end of the field and across a parking lot. I turned to gather up Madelyn and her friend who I was babysitting, and noticed that Madelyn was now modeling a full-squat variation on the pee-pee dance.

Because she was facing me, a moment passed before I realized that Madelyn's pants were around her ankles; her squat not intended for orifice constriction, but release.

"Crap," I thought as I raced beside her, scanning the area for parents' eyes wide with shock and disdain. Kneeling in front of her, I urgently and firmly told Madelyn that we need to go pee in toilets and not on the ground, hearing the words laden with the weight of hypocrisy. While practically rolling my eyes at myself for creating such ridiculous confusion, I quickly leaned over her backside for a status evaluation. Scrutinizing the damp ground, no definite puddle was recognizable--perhaps I wasn't too late and could pull up her pants and whisk her to the socially appropriate facility.

I suddenly realized why there was no puddle, and the reality of the situation suddenly struck me. That was no pee-pee dance. It was a poo-poo dance. I've never facilitated a #2 outside, so I was surprised that she would drop her pants to do so right in the middle of a crowded park. But sometimes you just gotta go, and she knows she shouldn't do it in her pants.

This situation held the potential to be high on my embarrassment scale, so I swiftly helped Madelyn down onto her bum in the grass. My glimpse was enough to establish full awareness that we were past the point of no return, but I hoped to at least cover our shame until a reasonable solution could be determined. As far as unexpected ghastly disasters go, I was relatively prepared. From inside my purse I retrieved the small Ziploc bag that I'd stuffed all of our snack trash into. I attempted to use this little baggie in the way I would scoop dog poop to
pick up the two brown turds on the grass between Madelyn's legs. But my foolish attempt to keep the trash contained as well as scoop poop backfired and, well, let's just say it wasn't the most sanitary of methods. I also happened to have a few hand wipes in my purse, which not only rescued my fingers, but also worked nicely as bum wipes in a pinch. Hopefully anybody who noticed me wiping my daughter's cute little crack didn't put "two and two" together.

I tried to look casual dropping my bag of poop in the trash can. Nobody in the vicinity appeared the least bit concerned with what had just transpired, and as I furtively examined nearby faces, I grew more confident that the debacle had gone unnoticed. Of course there may have been some very understanding mothers who simply turned away to allow me to b
e mortified in peace while they simply chuckled on the inside. That's what I would have done as a witness, anyway.

I let the oblivious little girls under my care play for just a few minutes longer. When the thought of being without hand sanitizer became too much to bear, we all hurried to the car where retrieving it from its handy place in the glove compartment became first priority.

How far did you read before appreciating the pun in the title?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Burn baby, burn

I wouldn't have fathomed it possible, but after nearly a year of consistent training as a wannabe runner, I've experienced little in the way of improvement. Actually, that's not entirely true. As it turns out, I seem to have actually gotten worse. I finished my first 5k last fall in around 27 minutes, but the one I did last Thursday took over 30. Never mind that it was 90 degrees outside and I had two killer sideaches. Alright, fine, I should be proud of the fact that when I started, my major goal was to run a 5-mile race and it took me 8 weeks of training to be able to do it, whereas now, having finished a half marathon and training for another one, I can step out for a 5-miler any day of the week. But for some reason I don't seem to be able to get any faster and running in general isn't much more comfortable.

I don't want this to become a pathetic pity party, so I'll spare you my personal frustrations with consistently being the last of all my friends to cross the finish line. I won't bore you with my theories of running for weight management vs. speed and their relative caloric requirements. The fact is that most of the time, running is still really hard for me. Today I want to pose a query: what if running were actually fun? I believe I may have discovered my answer.

While searching for the next half marathon for me to work toward (I love this website), I came across an event that piqued my curiosity. The Tillamook Burn was described as a 6-mile "Adventure Run," complete with rivers, "mountain-man made" creations along the course, and lung-busting hills. To top it off, camping at the event was free, so I was sold. I just knew that my running comrades would agree that this could be a super-fun girlfriends' weekend. Unfortunately, when I posed the idea, not one of them wanted to/was able to commit. So instead I enlisted my good friend Sarah's husband, Eddie, who has been running for a few months (and is already ridiculously fast). Sarah planned to come along and enjoy the festivities, cheering us across the finish line. Then a sort of tragedy struck when Eddie injured his foot early in the week, and was in no condtition to run. He wasn't interested in going without being able to compete, but Sarah wasn't willing to give up the getaway we'd been planning. So a girls' weekend was born! Don't tell Eddie, but I think we had more fun without him.

Sarah enjoys a salmon burger and fresh Trader Joe's salad at our little camp set-up after a few hours shopping the Nike Factory Store in Lincoln City.
It's clear that these X-Dog Events are not just about running a race. The camping part is a great bonus, plus there was a group campfire/party Saturday night. Sarah and I brought ingredients and roasting sticks for s'mores, so I created social openings by offering them to the strangers around the fire. Most people thought that was pretty fun and were very appreciative. To the three guys who awkwardly refused my offer I wish to say, "Lighten up. Not every girl is trying to get in your pants. It's just a marshmallow. I am married."
As the party progressed, the "Hullagan's" hula-hoop stage opened up. Can't say that I've ever witnessed clothing-optional hula hooping. Among the interesting strip-teases was one bold gentleman who strutted his "stuff" right up there without a speck of clothing to hide his shame. I found it hilarious, as you can just imagine the effect rhythmic hip-swaying would have on a naked--ahem-man.
"Naked Brad" does the hula (I heard someone refer to him this way, and later realized it wasn't just the hula hoop--I saw him taking down his tent the next morning in the nude. Naked is his lifestyle.)

I opted FOR clothing when giving the hula hoop a shot. Cries of "I've never seen a hula hoop move that fast!" were heard. That's a mardi gras mask on my head.

Kristen and Sarah, bright and cheery before the torturous adventure
Since Eddie had to bow out, I adamantly encouraged Sarah to take his place on the run. While I know that Sarah is not a runner, I am also aware that she has been working out consistently for some time now, and figured she could certainly make it through--even if it meant walking for much of it. About three-quarters of a mile into the race--about the time I was trudging up a never-ending vertical climb--I felt intensely guilty for having been so encouraging. Meaning no disrespect to Sarah, I wondered if she might opt to turn around and sit out. After another mile or two, I was sincerely hoping that my friend had done so.
I had no way of knowing in advance the level of intensity and challenge that this course would present. I can't imagine how anybody could actually run most of it. The hills could only be described as mountain climbs, some of them requiring hand-over-hand assistance. Then going down the other side of these hills required grace and balance not to end up rolling head-over-heels on top of the runners below. We ran through creeks, under and over logs, nearly got lost in the woods, and got stung by angry hives of bees.
I finished the 5.81-mile adventure in an hour and 19 minutes. I have no complaints about that time--ridiculously slow for road-running standards--due to the nature of the course. I half-expected to see Sarah relaxing in a camp chair at the finish, having changed her mind early on. But she was nowhere to be found. Which meant that she had not given up soon enough, and was forced to push ahead, as there was no exit from the masochism once you were so far in.
Having now experienced first-hand what she was currently enduring, and knowing my friend has a tendency to twist her ankle, I began to worry. After about 45 minutes of waiting, I decided to go back in and find Sarah. I kept picturing her sitting by the side of the makeshift trail holding her ankle, wondering if anybody was going to come find her.
The further back I walked, the more worried I grew. But I also began to wonder if I was doing the right thing: perhaps Sarah had turned back early, and was just taking a nap in our tent. Or maybe I would find Sarah, but she would be trucking along just fine and be annoyed or embarrassed that I felt the need to look for her. And if either of these situations were the reality, I had no business repeating the obstacle I had just completed. Once was enough. Thankfully, the last mile or so was my favorite part, as it consisted more of interesting obstacles and flat running spots and less of the treacherously steep inclines and kamikaze bees. And I was pleased to take advantage during my rescue effort to photograph some of the terrain so that others might appreciate in some small way how awesome this was.
The end of the course had very minor hills, so this is the best one I could photograph. Imagine much steeper and climbing that way for about a half-mile at a stretch.

One of the refreshing creeks to dash through. Had to be careful of underwater of the many challenges that had me worrying about Sarah's ankles.

We didn't just splash our feet. I'm wading knee-deep.

Two of these aqueducts were probably my favorite obstacle. Especially since I passed a girl in the middle of one. :)

Don't fall in!

I did eventually find Sarah, just as I was seriously wondering if I should go check our tent and then get help if she wasn't there. I think after walking alone through the quiet forest for so long she was startled to hear me call out to her in relief. I was also relieved to learn that she was not mad at me for coming back to find her, rather was incredibly grateful to hear that she was almost out. I let Sarah lead the way back and chatted with her to (hopefully) help distract her from the inevitable discomfort.

Sarah wades into the finisher's chute to get ice, bee sting cream, and a free T-shirt for taking last place

I met this calm and friendly man named Andrew at the campfire, and somehow we ended up in close proximity partway through the race. I told Andrew to pass me if he wanted, since I couldn't possibly go any faster, but he said I was setting a good pace for him to follow (or maybe he enjoyed the view--ha ha). So we ran together for a couple of miles, and I have to say it was a welcome pleasure to have somebody to visit and laugh with between gasps for breath. He also went back in with me to find his slower friend, but they reunited sooner than I did with Sarah. I honestly find it sweet and not creepy that Andrew contacted me through my company's website (since I'd told him what I do) to ask how things turned out with Sarah. And just because he is such a genuinely nice person--and also married--the fact that he looked me up on Facebook and discovered that we have the same birthday (August 22, which is coming right up, hint hint!) is also not creepy. It's fun to have a stalker! Makes me feel young and pretty again.

Showing off my battle wounds: bee stings on my butt and arm

Sarah and I officially survived the Tillamook Burn. It was physically and mentally challenging, but the adventurous aspect and element of surprise made it so exciting! This overshadowed my intense bodily pain, and for me, made it more fun than incessantly pounding the pavement in a straight line. I've already looked up their next events and plan to participate again.


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