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This past weekend I volunteered at the Queens 10K in Flushing Meadows Park. I really didn’t need to volunteer as I have decided to defer my entry for this years marathon for next and will have a guaranteed spot.
I didn’t want to go because it requires that I have to get up at 5:30 a.m.. But I had told a friend I would go and so I went and it was the best running thing I have done since maybe ever.
I had lost the reasons why I run.
I’ve been meandering through training plans, making false goals, spacing out through runs. Grasping at anything to remind me why in the heck I run. I started the RW run streak. I have been enjoying the challenge of running everyday and the comradery with some others in the neighborhood who have joined in, I have especially enjoyed watching the newer runners or those returning to running begin to really enjoy themselves. But my own running has felt, empty, pointless, lackluster.
Last year I had the marathon it was the centerpiece of every workout, every strength training session, every running related thing was for the marathon. This year I came in uncertain and then became certain that I wouldn’t be running the marathon and this made me a little unhinged. That, and I was battling some serious mental burnout, both running related and otherwise.
But it wasn’t just the marathon thing. I could easily find another thing to train for, another goal to achieve. I just felt flat. Uninspired.
As I mentioned, I volunteered at the Queens 10K. I was lucky enough to get assigned to Course Marshall. Basically I stood from about 8:30-10:00 making sure nobody fell out on the course, and cheering on the runners. Now, I should mention I take cheering fairly seriously. Every runner deserves to be cheered for…every. single. one. And for that matter the last runner should be cheered for just as loudly and as enthusiastically as the first. Because nothing pisses me off more than running in a race and seeing the course marshall, checking their phones, doing the limp wrist lazy clap, or better yet just standing there slack jawed. doing. nothing.
So with that said I was set on super spazz and was a high fiving machine!
What a cure for indifference. Just watching the runners, lifted up the runner in me. And cheering for them and seeing that it clearly lifted them up during a tough part of the race, well it was gift from God. And that might sound a bit extreme but I have been very close in recent weeks to throwing in the towel. Thinking maybe I would try crossfit, or yoga (again) or Tri’s! But this solidified for me that I am doing what I need to do and what I love to do. Exactly what I needed when I needed it. And if that wasn’t enough I met Cynthia.
“When you see the flashing lights you’ll know that your shift is almost over…” That is what our team leader said before he assigned us to our posts. The runners became more and more spaced out…until finally there were the flashing lights of the car that closes the course. Before that car there was Cynthia. And she was awesome.
Face in full makeup and dressed in a Tutu, she was the last runner. I had the pleasure of joining her for her run/walk for about a half a mile. She was in fantastic spirits. She said being caught in the morning traffic made her late for the race and that got in her head a little and she admitted she hadn’t anticipated being the LAST one but that she would finish. When a very attractive, shirtless runner with a mane of dreadlocks offered some words of encouragement saying he would be waiting for her at the finish, she joked about how it was definitely inspiration enough to make her pick up the pace.
She was funny and determined, she wasn’t beating herself up or regretting anything. She was just getting it done the best she could and in that way she is a stronger runner than me. Seeing the training run splits of fellow runners on Facebook is often enough to send me into a self deprecating tail spin. “Why aren’t I that fast” “What am I doing wrong” Maybe I should try XYZ” Cynthia did me the great service of showing me how to not care about what isn’t important. She was there to finish and have a good time. She had some goals and she met them good enough. Enough. It was enough. At the end of the race we hugged and she said she had a great time and that she would definitely do it again next year. Next year would be her redemption run. But by the way she said it and just her way of being I could tell it wasn’t the “out to prove something” redemption or the “poor me I have to save face” redemption. She seemed to simply want to improve on what she had already achieved. I would run with Cynthia any day. She obviously has this running thing way more figured out than I do.
I always tell people it shouldn’t matter if you are last. And I mean it. It really shouldn’t matter and more importantly it shouldn’t matter to you, you just shouldn’t care. But none of the other crap matters either. Not your friends splits, or the PR that you missed or the workout that was too hard for you to complete. At the end of the day it is all about trying your best. Just try your best.
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For the Project based part of our homeschooling, Fin and Alice have been focusing on Birds of Prey (BoP). I guess you could say we officially started the project back in September but Fin has long interested in Birds of Prey and Alice kind of jumped in with backyard birds after we began.
How did we start:
I began the year asking the kids what they wanted to learn. Alice said princesses and sheep. Finley said Birds of Prey and Robotics.
How it progressed: Alice’s projects seem to be pretty short. We talked about the fact that there are real princesses and where they live. We also discussed what real royal jewels look like especially tiaras. We spoke about what makes a real princess a princess and discussed royal lineage a little. Regarding sheep we read some books from the library books about sheep, Read one of my favorite books, Charlie Needs a Cloak, discussed how there are different kinds of sheep and they live different places and produce different kinds of wool. She seemed really interested in the wool to yarn process. So we talked about carding and spinning the wool etc. What I have noticed with A is that when I specifically ask her about what she wants to learn, she only is interested in the subject for a day or so and usually doesn’t revisit it or stay marinating with it for very long. Since then she has kind of happened on projects, like sewing, an she continually comes back to it weekly. With Fin, we started the year splitting our project time about 50-50 between Birds of Prey and Robotics. But I could tell right away that the robotics just didn’t hold the same interest for Fin as Birds of Prey. Eventually the robotics thing fell to the waist side and BoP became the focus of all of our project time. We had the very good fortune to discover a couple good BoP bird cams.
Dick Pritchett Eagle Cam:
We were lucky enough to start watching the Eagles right before they laid a clutch of eggs. We’ve been able to observe them eating, building the nest to prepare for the arrive of the eggs and even how they react when threatened.
Alessondra’s OKC Great Horned Owl Cam
Again we got really lucky! We discovered this cam right after the Owl had laid 3 owlet eggs! So far we have been able to observe the eggs hatching, the catches of the day, and the feeding of the owlets.
These cams have become the spine of our BoP Project. We check them several times a day and discuss all kinds of things. The cams have also led to Alice’s interest in backyard birds so we usually spend some time observing birds via the cornell university bird cams. It was nice to see Alice take to this project with so much gusto! She began watching the cams and drawing the birds and decided that she wanted to write and illustrate her own bird book. She burned bright and fast and the bird book project lasted about a week and a half before her interest started to decline.
Fin’s interest however has stayed pretty much the same. He is still very interested but he doesn’t produce a lot of physical expressions of his interest. I have to constantly check myself because I have a difficult time not thinking of this behavior as lazy. I know he has the information in there…I just have a difficult time easing him into ways to express them and providing him with the tools to make his learning more active. But I am working on it. Besides the cams we have spent a far amount of time bird watching, we know that there are a couple of Red-tailed hawks in our neighborhood so we have been trying to find them when we are out in the neighborhood, the kids got to attend an event called RaptorFest where they got to get up close to all kinds of BoP, we dissected an owl pellet and tried to identify the bones, we have measured the size of next on our carpet with masking tape and compared the sizes of a hummingbirds next to an eagles next and so on. We’ve used our birdcam and our bird books to help us ID birds when we didn’t know what they were and have corresponded with the experts over at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology via Twitter to get clarity when we weren’t sure. We’ve read so many good books, I will have to do a posting on them eventually but quickly this one was excellent, especially because the Eagles we were observing had laid eggs. This one about Pale Male was good for us being it is about Red Tailed Hawks living here in NYC. Since we recently discovered Alessodra’s Great Horned Owl cam we’ve been reading this one and this one.
Where are we now:
I would say we are still going strong with the all the bird projects. As I mentioned I have a difficult time figuring out how to encourage Finley to create a physical expression of what he has learned. He doesn’t take to art without a lot of convincing and he has a difficult time writing. Not with expressing expressing what he wants to write but I do believe he becomes overwhelmed with the physicality of writing and thinking of what to write and processing all of the “rules” of writing like capitalization, commas etc. Alice is in and out of many things but she still comes back to the birds at least once a week. She is definitely more interested in the observation than the nitty gritty details, so it has been nice to start off at her level and then when me and Fin start to dig deeper she is happy enough to begin something new or hangout and listen.
As if I know! We will just keep digging deep until we feel we have finished. I have noticed that Fin is somewhat less eager to check the cams. But I think if I can engage him with the goal of a making something then we will be on to another phase of this project. I was had planed on including photos of what they have done thus far but this post is getting long! The next post will include photos of what they have created.
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So after one running post I think I am an expert right!
Actually I have been asked this question a lot in the last couple of weeks. It’s freezing here in NYC, I mean cold, cold. I am from Ohio and think New Yorkers are kind of wimps about the cold, but seriously lately it is what I like to call Ohio cold. I made a resolution to train year round this year. Besides not wanting to lose all my fitness from the marathon. I’ve realized if there is ever a time when I need to exercise, it is the winter. The lack of sunlight and being in lock down with two kids all day doesn’t do wonders for my mental state so running is about survival in the winter months. Here is a little list of what I wear on really cold days. This is what I would usually wear when its 12 degrees and below. And one should note that when the weather says it is 10 degrees usually the weather reports that it can actually feels like negative something or other.
To make things easy I will start with what I wore today.
Time: About 7:00 am
Weather: According to weather.com it was about 21 degrees but it they also said that it feels like 12 degrees. Sunny.
Type of run: 3 mile, Easy run
Head + Neck:
Fleece, reflective winter hat and Marmot Fleece neck warmer:
Some kind of glove (usually I just grab a pair of crappy ones, if it is really cold I wear two pairs of crappy ones)
Underarmour Coldgear Frosty Tights they’ve been discontinued but these are a good alternative:
Smartwool Running Socks
I have tried to provide a link to the products if they are still around and haven’t been discontinued. Usually if you do a search you can find a good alternative. The most important items for me have been, the wool socks, a decent hat and the fleece neck warmer. I find that even if I go out a little underdressed these two items make the biggest difference. I have on occasion, layered another shirt on top the compression shirt, sometimes I regret it and sometimes it is fine. The only way to know what works for you and what doesn’t is to keep running in all kinds of weather.
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I have’t written about my running on the blog. Well, I haven’t really kept up with blogging…but when I have I haven’t mentioned the fact that I run or that I was training for the NYC marathon.
Part of the reasons I never mentioned it as I always wanted this to be a a blog mainly focused on our homeschool life. Another reason I never mentioned it was because I was afraid. Afraid that I wasn’t actually a real “runner” but some kind of poser runner. Afraid that people would ask about my splits and I would be too embarrassed to talk about them. And really afraid that I would say that I was training for the 2013 NYCM and it for some reason wouldn’t happen. Last year I trained and due to the horrific hurricane Sandy the marathon was cancelled as it should have been. But it took me a little bit to get over the fact that I had trained for months and I would have no marathon, add in the absolutely insane and angry reaction to runners by some of the public and it wasn’t something I felt like chatting about. But this is 2013. There was a New York City Marathon and I ran it.
Almost two weeks later and it is kind of like it never happened. The city has already forgotten and moved on to bigger and better things. Our family life is slowly getting back to where it was before I decided to split myself between training, family, part-time work, and homeschooling. I am thankful for finally sleeping in and not having to run for 3+ hours on the weekends. But every time I catch a glimpse of my medal or see photos posted online by friends I get a little buzz. I freaking ran the NYC Marathon. I ran it, every borough, every damn mile. That is me in those photos not a poser runner. That. is. me. It just doesn’t feel real.
The race had its challenges and I won’t go into a full recap but let it be known that it was without question the WORST race I have ever run. I cramped at mile 17 and had to stop and stretch about every half a mile, one of my friends who I was running with fell on the Queensborobridge and got banged up pretty badly. But we all stuck together until the park where we split. From there it wasn’t about pride being forever it was about it just having to be over. I just felt like it HAD to end. We had run a full hour longer than we expected. With the fall, my cramps and having to go to medical at mile 20, we were seriously off pace. Once we split I put my head down and just powered through until the end not because some no guts no glory BS but because I was done. Done. done and I wanted it to be over. Leading up to the race I was emotional. The city was an absolute buzz, I had poured all I had into my training and I expected to cross the finish line a mess of tears. But I didn’t in fact I just kind of finished. I was happy but mostly because it was over. Now looking back I get a little flutter. But not because of the race but because of the entire process that led up to the race. The twenty weeks of training. The ridiculous analysis of what I was eating, the going to bed early, the overwhelming commitment. I was so pissed the following day about the race I didn’t even want to look at my medal. I was mad that my time wasn’t faster. I was mad about whatever choice I had made up to the race that caused me to cramp. I was mad that I couldn’t figure out what caused of the cramping. And I was really mad that my time didn’t make the cut to get into the NY Times. As mad as I was I got over it pretty quickly when I thought about why I run. That medal isn’t for a race that happens on one day in November. That medal is for every race I ran up until then that got me to the start. What was I complaining about! I am 40 years old and I finished my first marathon. I ran with the most fantastic women. I smiled and high-five-d and hugged my way across an amazing city. I said I would do something and I did it and when the time is right I cannot wait to do it again.
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We’ve been homeschooling for a while now. We have our groove and if someone asked us what style of homeschooling we align ourselves with I would probably say that we are eclectic homeschoolers. We don’t do Charlotte Mason but we have, we aren’t strictly Traditional but sometimes we do that too. We are mostly Project based but by no means 100%. We have danced to the beat of our own drum and that has suited us very well. I am blessed to have lots of friends with kids my kids age. I hear all the outrage about the common core but didn’t really understand it or want to understand it. I figured it was just going to be another thing that would make me feel bad about being a homeschooler, make me feel like I wasn’t doing enough. On a run the other week I grilled my friend Melida about the common core, she’s a recent graduate and a new ESL teacher here in NYC. I asked what it was and she gave me a good understanding of it…but the one question I had was “does anyone believe in the common core”…are there ANY teachers the buy into what it represents. After our conversation I began to ask others both in education and just regular parents if they believed in the common core or if they knew any educators that believed in the common core…still no one was saying they even remotely liked it. Well, today I met a women that believes in the common core! And she is a homeschooler and a retired public school teacher. I had a bout a 30 minute conversation with this women, she has been homeschooling since 1998 and is now homeschooling her last child, a daughter 10 years old. She said she thinks the common core is great. That it being implemented poorly but that the idea behind it is exactly what we need. The powers that be implemented a similar program when she was still teaching and she supported it then as she does the common core now. I tell this long story not because I am judging her opinion or the method she uses for homeschooling but because it gave me pause in how I think about my homeschooling. I was raised to go against the grain. Conformity was somewhat frowned upon by my parents. So it has been my tendency to find the “alternative” in teaching to find the thing that is at least slightly left of center and make that part of our homeschooling methodology. But listening to this women speak of how well her son was doing after being homeschooled in alignment to the school standards made me question my motives in our homeschooling. She boasted how her son passed all his regency exams with no problem, how he had learn to work around his ADHD and found himself succeeding as a coast guard. She was proud and she should have been. She has been around the homeschooling block and I, though not new to homeschooling, clearly came off as a little green. She made is seem simple. Research the common core, know the standards and shoot to educate above those standards. I know that this is her story, I understand that everyone needs to do what is right for their kids and their family and that this whole homeschooling thing is about individualized education. I know, I know, I know. Ugh. But then there is the self doubt. A bad day, a bad week of homeschooling can make you feel like, well just like it isn’t worth it, and it isn’t working. I can usually brush the feelings off. I know it happens and it especially happens with homeschoolers. But lately I have been struggling a bit. Not with lessons, or getting the kids to do their work but grappling with the feeling of, are they getting enough. Will they know enough. Could they pass the test. I’ve always said before that the test don’t matter and they don’t. I have a pretty good idea that if my kids did have to take a standardized test this year that they wouldn’t pass. Not because they aren’t bright, but because we just haven’t made what they are “supposed” to be learning a focus, our focus has been on what they want to learn. If the test was a test about robotics and falcons, Fin would ace it. But he could not write a 5 paragraph essay on the subject with an intro and a conclusion. According to some local parents this is what will be expected come standardized test time. In my heart of hearts, I really don’t care about the standardized test, I don’t want my kids to care about it or even know about it. But the truth of the matter is they will have to take the stupid tests. My opinion has been, passing or not passing is irrelevant as I don’t buy the relevancy of the test or its content. But this is from where I stand. If what I read is correct then this common core thing could affect college acceptance even potential career options. So is my eclectic nature going to sabotage the future of my kids? My goal in schooling has always been to grow-up do-ers and makers. To teach my kids to love learning, embrace the questions in life and seek the answers with passion. But should I be doing that with one foot in the schools standards box? Is what I want for them going to be enough if the landscape of education and career options becomes as vapid and apathetic as our political system? I want more for them than to be good test takers, but if that is what they might need to be, do I owe it to them to teach them a little of that? My gut tells me I know better than that. That even though the education and occupational landscape may change for them becoming more “standardized”…that there will still be a place somewhere for creativity, for passion and for thirsty learning. That they will be able to find a place where they and their education allows them the opportunity to soar. Fingers crossed.
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Can not stop laughing.
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Finley diving into his project about Atlantis the lost city.