Thursday, May 20, 2010

Past Deadline: And You Run Because....

I’ve been running for 10 months. No no…not non-stop. That’s a Forrest Gump thing.

On my planet this includes the three months in the winter when I only ran a handful of times. I figure since I at least thought about it and felt guilty when I didn’t run, it counts for something.


Interestingly (or maybe not), the jury is still out about whether I love running. When my buddy from Calgary accompanied me on my inaugural run last July to get me started on a beginner plan, my goals were 1) fitness and 2) weight loss. Regarding the first goal, I think I’m onto something. Except for the times my body hates me for running, that is.

Many people told me the first few weeks and months are the hardest and oh my. Were they right. I started off afflicted with a Small Angry Muscle in my right calf. As I worked through that some sort of weird foot thing flared up on the left. It disappeared and pain gravitated to my right hip. Eventually these things seem to work themselves through with the right combination of ice, stretching and rest. Oh and ibuprofen. And how could I forget A535? I can tell you Groom-boy definitely prefers the scent-free version when he walks into the house.

If I were easily swayed by pain, I’d probably be back to walking. I might even be a swimmer. Actually, I’d probably be a couch potato. Oh, and I’d have no children, either. Anyway, this is not a column about labour and delivery, although I’m sure a running metaphor could be thrown in there somewhere.

Then there’s that whole weight loss thing. Yeah.

About eight or nine months into my running journey I complained, again, to my Calgary friend about how much weight I’m not losing. She, who is a more experienced runner than I am, laughed.

“Did I not tell you that you don’t lose weight by running?”

There are a bunch of theories floating around about that. One is that the more you run, the more your head tricks you into thinking you can eat. You run, you’re hungry, it’s okay to eat. That doesn’t mean you can eat anything, dummy. (Note to self: Eat more celery with a side of air and water.)

Another theory is that “fat weighs less than muscle” thing. Uh huh. One would think I’d have built all the muscle by now.

Then there’s the whole “you need to cross-train” and “your body gets too used to one type of exercise” thing. Making more frequent and different types of exercise a reality on my little planet is a fairly significant challenge at the moment, though.

Ten months into this adventure, I can run 5 or 6 kilometres non-stop (yes!) without various parts of my body routinely threatening to stage a bloody coup. I feel pretty good about the fit goal.

I still need to work on my eating habits and I know more and different exercise would help with the weight loss, but I’m no longer looking to running to solve my little “it’s bathing suit season – aaaaaaah!” problem.

I have a new goal, and I alluded to it in a column a couple of weeks ago. Goal 3: keeping my head from exploding. For all those times when I had to ice, medicate and slather various limbs in A535, or when I struggled down the street panting and weaving in the heat, or when I stepped on the scale for the umpteenth time and still there was no darned movement, there remained one constant. Nothing clears my addled head like running does.

It may not last overly long, but it’s enough. It’s a happy feeling. It’s energy. It’s kind of bizarre, actually. The endorphins alone are nice, but that feeling of passing another milestone (6K) is good, too. Really good! So that’s why I’m now officially annoyed with myself for not registering for the Kilt Run.

So you may not see me running around town in a kilt, but at least my head is unlikely to explode. I suppose this means I kinda do like the running.

Published in The Perth Courier, May 20/10

Friday, May 14, 2010

Past Deadline: The Battle Against Screen Time

Here’s something awesome – my daughter likes worms!

She also, I discovered one morning this week, likes to draw on the closet door in her bedroom, but that’s another story for another day.

I’m thrilled about Girlchild’s love for worms because it’s one more notch for nature in the battle against screen time. We have an ongoing struggle at our house between indoor and outdoor play. Now that the weather is better (if one discounts the freezing temperatures and frost warnings this week), it is a bit easier to pry the kids outside, but we’ve got far too much screen time going on.

We have no one to blame but ourselves that TV and computer use were established early. Now every time a new report comes along dictating how anything more than a millisecond per day of television viewing before the age of two will cause children’s heads to explode, make them grotesquely obese and turn them into knife-wielding zombies, I throw my hands up in the air.

“It’s too late!” I wail. “I have already ruined the children!”

But it’s not simple to just release kids into the great outdoors anymore. Where we live we have a nice backyard that adjoins Groom-boy’s parents’ backyard, which gives the kids lots of room to play. And that’s great, but sometimes they’re looking for more.

When my brother and I were growing up we lived on a quiet street with a nice backyard and we were really close to the river. When we weren’t riding our bikes throughout the neighbourhood we were exploring fields, woods and the riverbank – building forts and catching hapless frogs, tadpoles, turtles, snakes and fish to take home to show to Mom and Dad before returning them to their habitats.

Our kids aren’t quite old enough for this kind of freedom and the river is too far away. Even if they were, our neighbourhood is bordered by busy streets, which limits some of the bike-riding opportunities, and let’s not forget stranger danger. How far out of sight do I want to let my kids go?

I know these sorts of things have been raised before and I don’t want to be a “helicopter parent” hovering over my children and restricting freedoms. Maybe, the key is for us to do more to street proof our kids. I just don’t know.

What I do know for sure is this: the more time kids spend outside, exploring on their own, investigating stuff and problem solving – the better.

And so, even though Girlchild may have wrecked two of her spring dresses because they are splattered with some sort of magical vegetable garden mud with permanent staining power, I’m glad to see her making mud pies.

Despite the mess, I’m glad she, Boychild and two friends endeavoured to dig a giant hole in said as-yet-unplanted garden and, using a donated plastic sheet from a neighbour, filled it up to make a little pond. (Today’s lesson: breeding mosquitoes and West Nile virus.)

I’m also glad (sort of) that I’ve had to retrieve drowned insects and worms out of the washing machine because Girlchild liked them and wanted to keep them as pets, so she put them in her pocket. We’ve since had a little chat about animal husbandry.

I’m thrilled that on a recent rainy day when I dropped her off at school Girlchild ran around the playground picking up worms and showing them to all the girls, who soon got over their “Ewwwww, gross!” squeals and joined her efforts to move them from the pavement to the grass where it was safer.

Boychild, meanwhile, still talks about the time we kept an emaciated toad alive over the winter and released him in the garden the following spring. He loves fish, and he wants to see the spot near his school where I saw a lovely garter snake one day.

I really can’t explain how connections to nature, even small ones, seem to make a difference for kids, but it does. There’s just something about seeing up close how we live with other creatures that seems to get wheels turning.

Now, all I have to do is get rid of the screens, the traffic and the strangers and we’re set!

Published in The Perth Courier, May 13/10

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Past Deadline: Surviving Sibling Warfare

Being a parent takes more patience than I actually have. It’s a bit of a problem, really, but not insurmountable. It just means that I’ll probably have to get wooden teeth before my time thanks to all the gritting.

I may have to get a new tongue from all the times I’ve had to bite it.

Possibly I’ll need a new brain because mine will have exploded.

Ah, well. You get the point.

One thing I won’t need is hearing aids. I figure as my eardrums are blasted into deafness from all the screeching I won’t really want to enhance my hearing. Instead I’ll drift into a silent oblivion as the house falls down around me and loud battles are waged with toy light sabres and, occasionally, fingernails.

Okay. I’m exaggerating. A little.

Let me just say the fact my eight-year-old son and four-year-old daughter fight is not a shock to me. I grew up with a younger brother and bickering, squabbling and occasional nastiness were just part of the whole experience of growing up. The fighting was nicely balanced by all the times we played wonderfully together – which were usually when there was no one else around to play with.

Okay. I’m exaggerating. A little.

Really, though, my brother and I could get on famously when we wanted to. We played elaborate pretend games and marched around in swamps together building forts and investigating turtles, fish, frogs, snakes and the like.

The thing is, though, we were far more sensitive to slights against each other than we would have been with our friends. One wrong look or move or action could spiral quickly into World War III. There would be stomping and fury and even occasionally some assault causing bodily harm. That stopped the day I realized little brother wasn’t so little anymore, and he put me in my place. (From then on I had to resort to inflicting mental anguish. Girls are good at that.)

So, despite the fact I am not surprised to see my own Boychild and Girlchild engaging in sibling warfare, I have to admit it is a bit hard to take. At this point I should probably thank my mother and father for not giving us up for adoption or sending us off to Siberia because sometimes I wonder how they ever put up with it.

The thing is, for all the other frustrating stages of child development you can usually see an end to it, including such exciting times as diapers, potty training, spitting up, late-night feedings, pushing strollers through deep, heavy snow, and so on. With sibling squabbling, though, there’s a good chance it will carry on for years. And years. And years. Hopefully as they get older the times when they get along famously will increase in proportion, but right now there are days that it’s about 50/50 with our little dears.

In the meantime, we do what we can to curb the nastiness. Of course we try to enforce the “hands to yourself” rule, which is most effective when the people involved are within sight, but pretty much useless when they are not. Perhaps the following sounds familiar to those of you who grew up with a sibling or who are parents to some:

Child A: “Squabble! Bicker bicker bicker! Yell! Holler!”

Child B: “Yadda yadda yadda! Shout! Blah blah blah!”


Child A: “SHRIEK! Maaaaaaaaawm! Blank hit me!”

Child B: “Yeah, well she yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah!”

Parent: Mutter mutter mutter. “Both of you! Go to your rooms!” (Checks distance to Siberia on Google Maps.)


At these times, as I grit my teeth, bite my tongue and try to keep my head from popping off my shoulders (sometimes several times a day), I try to look at it from a different perspective: nostalgia. The “ah, this reminds me of the good old days when I was a kid at home” isn’t really doing it for me, though.

Maybe that’s why women in their late 30s suddenly take up running. Oh, we say it’s to lose weight, get fit and to avoid having to drive in town during construction season, but that’s malarkey. I really think it’s to keep our heads from exploding.

So far so good.

Published in The Perth Courier, May 6/10