Friday, August 30, 2013

The Private School Choice, Liberal Guilt, and the Truth about Gifted Children (hint: they exist)

The importance of nap time 
So, this hit Slate yesterday. Many of you have already read it. If you haven't, please do. We'll wait.

Ready? Good.

First, I'd like to point out that the writer, Allison Benedikt, does have children. Three of them.

A little research turns up the fact that just eight months ago, Mrs. Benedikt admitted to paying so much for preschool that they are unable to pay into their retirement accounts. $5000 per month seems pretty damn steep for preschool. If we want to talk about liberal guilt, maybe she should consider the fact that either of those is an option for her at all. A great many people, the very people whose children suffer when I remove my child from the public school system, according to Benedikt, can neither afford retirement savings or preschool. Perhaps she should tend her kids at home. I'm sure they'll be fine.

Please, spare us the hypocrisy.

Obviously, I'm taking this article rather personally. That's because my husband and I recently struggled with this very issue, and after years of debating it, we finally decided to live with our liberal guilt and do what's best for our child.

That doesn't make me a bad person. It makes me a good parent.

I take her article even more personally because she called out parents of gifted children in particular. And this is where I'm taking a stand.

This blog used to be about infertility, which is an elephant in the room in so many peoples' lives. But the really hard thing is speaking up about infertility. It feels too personal. It feels shameful. Which is why several years ago, I decided to break out of that and tell the world that I'm infertile! Gasp! Choke! Gag! It's part of my life, and I shouldn't have to hide it so that other people are always nice and comfortable with their own fertility.

Well guess what? The one child I managed to have is GIFTED. That's right, folks. He's straight up brilliant, the kind of scary brilliant that makes you look at the test scores and go "what the hell are we going to do?" He's the kind of gifted that the adults in his life need to be aware of in order to cope with him, and you damn sure need to be aware of it if you're going to be in charge of him, his education, and his well being for more than an hour.

I'm sick of hiding it. I'm sick of having to hide it so that other people don't feel bad. I'm sick of this attitude in our country where your needs are only legit if you are failing. I'm sick of this attitude in our country... well, as Benedikt put it
"Oh, but she’s gifted? Well, then, she’ll really be fine."
The fact is, gifted children are also special needs students. That shouldn't be reserved for those at the opposite end of the cognitive spectrum. Both ends of the spectrum actually have a lot in common in that they have unique educational and emotional needs that must be addressed in order for them to thrive. 

I agree with Benedikt on a couple things: It is the responsibility of every adult in this country to ensure that every child in this country thrives. I actually think that it's the responsibility of every adult on the planet to ensure that every child on the planet thrives. And, I agree that public education is a necessary system. I agree that it will take an enormous amount of active, public buy-in to fix the public education system. But, unlike Benedikt, my child spent years in the public education system and I finally had to do what is best for him and get him the hell out of there. Because he wasn't fine. After exhausting all other options, getting him out was the only way we could help him to be fine.

For years, we watched our child struggle in the public school system. We talked to his teachers, his principal, his counselor, and time and again were told that he was fine by pure proxy of being gifted. My son exhibited stress behaviors at school that we never saw at home. Things like eating the collars off his shirts and nervous nose picking until it became seriously infected. By the end of every weekend, he would be relaxed again, but the middle of every week those behaviors would return.

We were involved in the school. As Benedikt suggests parents should do, we put all our energy into helping the school thrive. We purchased materials for the classroom every time we went to Target. We begged his teacher to let us help in any way possible. We begged the school for resources. We begged the school district to support our school, our teacher, our son and help them help him. At every turn, we were told he'll be fine. 

Our son languished in a public school system where the teachers are so busy with children who don't get to eat except at school that the kids who are ahead and are safe are largely ignored. Our son chewed his clothes and infected his nose because he was pushed to the side and ignored every day. He was never challenged. He was never engaged. He was constantly told (by actions, not so much words) that he was fine, and he needed to stay out of the way so the rest of the class could learn.

At the height of his struggle, he told us that sometimes the teacher went days without ever speaking directly to him.

Here's the hard truth behind all this: She is a really good teacher, and it is a really good school. It's the public education system that really sucks.

And here's the flip side to the buy-in argument: By removing my child from that school, they are that much more capable to care for the children they have. By not having to worry about my son's needs, we've made room for them to better care for another child's needs.

The private school choice isn't an easy decision for every body. But I can have buy-in to the public education system even if my family doesn't participate directly. I participate by paying taxes. I participate by voting for candidates that I think/hope/pray will better fund our schools and better provide for our children. I participate through volunteering, and donating, and doing what I do for a living. Do I think I should run for school board if my child isn't in the public school system? No, I don't. I do believe that the people who make direct decisions for that system should be participating in it, and not have opted out. But I do still have a stake in the well-being of our public education system because I have a stake in the future of our country and our planet. I didn't give up my stake in the public education system just because I did the right thing for my own child. I can do the right thing for my child and still do my best for other children as well.

What Benedikt has yet to experience as a parent is the great many ways our public education system doesn't work and the great many ways a child can suffer in that system. I won't be surprised if, in five years or so, she writes another article about how sometimes parents have to swallow their liberal guilt and do what's best for their own children. I won't judge. I'll pat her on the back, pass her a drink, and welcome her to the ranks of bad people and parents doing the best for their kids with what they have.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Still in the Game!

So, it's been WEEKS and my legs still hurt a LOT. I can't run, they often hurt just when I'm sitting around. Yeah, that finish line is looking a long way off...

But, I still run as often as I can, even though there is terrible searing pain. And I aqua jog a few times a week. It does seem that my lungs and endurance are improving. So, when the time came last week to sign my re-commitment contract, I decided to go for it. I'll limp across the damn finish line and it'll take me eight whole hours, and I'll be proud as hell. Because it's been a long damn journey and I'M JUST GETTING STARTED.

LUCKY YOU! You can benefit from my pain! This week only, 10% of Kelly's Kids sales when you enter PARTY #14831 using this link: will support my Team in Training fundraiser! Obviously, this fundraiser is meant to be. Because only YOU can help your son look dapper and help usher in a new era of better-dressed men.

Don't forget, enter Party #14831 at checkout!  Thank you!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Diagnosis: Three Strikes, I'm Out

cat meme i iz no run

I don't think I've been this excited to go to the doctor since I was pregnant with my son. Today was the day for my appointment with the sports chiropractor. He's great. I'm a mess.

Yes, I have shin splints. He thinks I might have tiny stress fractures but we really won't know for a couple weeks until we see how I heal (tiny fractures don't show up on Xray). So far, I am healing, I'm better than I was a week ago, so it might not be quite that bad.

On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is stress fractures, he says I'm at least a 9.

So what happened?

I already had old shin splints from my short bout with the track team in high school. They healed up poorly and most likely formed a good deal of scar tissue where the muscle meets the bone. We'll deal with that scar tissue once I'm healed from this bout. Strike 1.

Then, a couple weeks ago, I dramatically increased my weekly distance. Strike 2.

This last one won't come as much of a surprise to those who know me personally. My muscles are really, really tight. All the time. I'm intense like that. Strike 3.

The therapy is a little intense, but it certainly could be worse. After pushing all over my legs to figure out where it hurts and how badly, he did a bunch of muscle massage work that involved a lot of his thumb going deep into my tissue. It hurt, but I've experienced worse pain. There was a lot of foot flexion (is that a word? I decree that it is now). There was a lot of sucking air through my teeth, which my husband will tell you I do so often I could put it down as a hobby, though in this case it was because I'm trying to be tough, not because I was being judgey (which is also now a word, so there). He showed me how to roll my muscles with a special tool and told me to do that three times a day. Then he put electricity through one of my legs (the left is little worse than the right) and heat therapy on both my legs. We do it all again in a week.

Then he said that I'm not allowed to run for two more weeks.

Shit. I've already been out for a week. I'm a beginner level runner, I can't afford three weeks of not running and still have a chance at the finish line. He pointed out that if I run, it will get much worse, and I'll be out for eight weeks and won't see that finish line until the next Team in Training season. Shit.

I can't run. I can't walk. I can't even do yoga. YOGA is too much impact for my legs right now. YOGA!

For the next two weeks, I have to limit impact on my legs as much as possible. Because impact can cause a fracture. I can get a freaking fracture just by walking around. Shit.

Here's where choosing your doctor well pays off: he told me that I can, nay SHOULD, run in the deep end of the pool every single day. It will help my legs heal to spend time with no pressure on them at all, and it will help me keep up my training so I don't fall behind. Guess I'll be keeping that gym membership after all. Running in a pool, especially the deep end-- we can't have my fragile freaking legs touching the bottom because the impact could kill me cause a stress fracture-- does look silly, and it doesn't look easy, but it's a hell of a lot better than not crossing the finish line in November.

I'm disappointed that I'm that guy, the one who can't just be awesome. But the Doc says that running is one of the most intense sports, and that this is really just the beginning of my body learning how to do it right. It offers me a way to fix issues before I get really serious injuries. It's my body hazing me. That's fine. I'll do this extra work and have faith, if not confidence, that I'll be all the stronger for it.

Know what would help keep me going? If you took a minute, right now, to donate to my fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Because dealing with this injury is a damn site better than what all those kids are dealing with. I'll take a thumb in my deep tissue over chemo any day.

Will you be strong with me? Will you be strong with all the kids who wish the answer to their health problems was to run in a pool? I know you can. Stand with us and donate now 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Reclaiming the Dawn

I missed running the past five days, so I took the superhero legs out this morning.  1.8 miles, and I ran half a mile of it.

Now I'm sitting sipping coffee with ice packs on my screaming shin splints.  *Sigh* Is it Wednesday yet? 

Maybe tomorrow I'll do yoga on the deck,  because I don't think I should run tomorrow.  These things need to heal or I'll never make it across that finish line. That thought scares me and makes me sad. 3.5 months and I have a loonngg way to go. Getting nervous about it.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Superhero legs

Shin splints are hurting all the time, even just regular daily walking around the house.  I'm bummed that I can't run until I see the Dr (I'm afraid to do more damage). But my sweet guys call them Superhero legs because I'm running for Team in Training :) Can't wait to put this pain behind me!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My first Team meetup and The.Worst.Run.Ever.

Today was my first team run! It was cancelled due to a storm, but then everybody decided to go anyway! I was really excited to finally get to meet everybody! And the storm had cooled the weather a bit! Yay!

It was Remember those shin splints that showed back up a few days ago? Well, I was under the misconception that they were minor. After all, I ran pretty well Tuesday morning! I wore heels on Tuesday and that kind of sucked, but I wore flats today! To take care of my legs in anticipation of tonight's team run! I was okay! Let's do this thing!

I hadn't gone thirty yards before the pain set in and I started thinking I've made a huge mistake. Who the hell am I kidding, thinking I'm gonna run a half-marathon in November? That's November 2013 for Christ's sake! God, I'm an idiot. I can't do this. The thing about shin splints is, if they are so bad you want to die, then you HAVE to stop running. This isn't about toughness. It's about not keeping on until your calve muscles detach fully from your shin bones and crack the bones in the process.

Did you catch that? Shin splints are your muscles DETACHING from your bone and you can get a STRESS FRACTURE from it. Freaking A, man.

I basically walked the whole three miles with short bursts of running occasionally. I stopped to rub my calves A LOT. I held my Mentor back because she was determined not to go on without me (thanks Katie!). I flat out sucked. My legs hurt so bad I would have sat down and wept if I had been alone.

But I wasn't alone, and the Team made good and sure I know it.

First off, Katie the best Mentor ever, straight up refused to leave me. She was concerned that I was having a bad experience (I was), and was determined to help me get through it. Let's be clear: my bad experience had nothing to do with Katie. My shin splints are not her fault.

So I finally made it back, limping most of three miles, and the four (or maybe it was six) mile group was already back. Gawd, I suck. We walked limped up to the group and she promptly announces "We have shin splints!"

I don't think I've seen so many people move so quickly. They gave me so much good information, I had to take out my phone and take notes (another win for the Samsung Note 2 that I was able to do that so easily). I now have more stretches to do that I wasn't already doing, more exercises to do that I didn't know about, I found out that if you suddenly increase your distance and days running that you shouldn't be too shocked to suddenly be in godawful pain and that you SHOULD drink an electrolyte drink before a run on a hot day (not just water) and that losing sodium and electrolytes can add to muscle issues and create pain. I also got a great recommendation for a sports doctor in town, who I will be making an appointment with first thing in the morning.

The fact that I'm going to a sports doctor makes me feel very serious about this whole running project. Which I am. Because I CAN do this. I couldn't do it before, and I can now.

Do you want to know what made a difference?

Team in Training.

I'm a Noob and I'm not in great shape, and I should have known my body better than to go out there today. I should have known a lot of stuff, about electrolytes and special calve stretches, and "rolling" my shins and calve muscles. But I didn't before today, and there's a lot I still don't know.

But these folks are happy to share their knowledge with me. I didn't feel out of place and stupid. I felt like a beginner with an injury and I felt like that wasn't dumb, or my fault. I feel like shin splints can be overcome, with some medical attention and work, and like I can do this.

They weren't kidding when they said Team in Training will get you to the finish line. It was the worst run ever, and I was the weakest person out there, and it was okay. I feel cared for, like this is a safe place to admit that my shins hurt so badly I want to cry.

It was the worst run ever. But it was a wonderful experience.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

TNT Day 6: Screaming in the Rain

shin splints you mean bitch legs - overly manly man
Back-story: I developed shin splints when I ran track (for a brief period) in high school. Never really got over them. Last summer, when I started running, they reared their ugly selves. I learned some stretches, and sometimes Hubs will help with special exercises for them. Mostly I find that I need to ice my legs two or three times a day and take ibuprofen in the morning and at bedtime if I'm going to have any hope of managing the pain when I run.

So, Day 6. I decided, again, that I'd rather run in the rain than in the gym. Might be cancelling that gym membership soon. So I headed out, and the pain started almost immediately. At first, I was able to cope. I stopped at one point and did some gentle stretches, trying to loosen up in the hope that it would help my shins. No luck. By the time I was at two miles, I was near tears. I kept going until mile three, with about a 1 part walking to 3 parts running ratio. At mile three, I stopped running entirely when the pain got so severe that I literally bent at the waist and yelled into the pavement. I limped 7/10 of a mile home, trying not to cry out with every step.

Day 6 stats: 3.72 miles | 70 minutes. Hurting badly.

I'm glad tomorrow is a scheduled rest day. I've spent lots of time sitting and gently stretching and icing today, and tomorrow I'm going to do pretty much the same. I'm going to seek some yoga classes to take on my rest days. Hopefully loosening up will help my body take the stress off my shins (it's helped before). Even if it doesn't work, I need to do something with that gym membership!

If that doesn't work, there's one more option...

Friday, July 5, 2013

TNT 3 & 4 &5: This is not the run you're looking for

Day 3: *Sigh* I promised myself that I will be open and honest about the running. That's not entirely easy, because it's not entirely lovely and good. Day 3 (Wednesday) I did not do my morning run. There were... circumstances... that made me want to stay in bed... and I had to get working extra early on a pressing project... so 5:30 a.m. and I didn't talk on Day 3. Because Tuesday cocktails make a girl need some sleep. 

I didn't make it up in the evening either. Boo hiss, Nicole. 

All is not lost. Friday is supposed to be a rest day because Saturdays will be long runs. But this Saturday is a 3 miler, so I'm going to make up Wednesday's run on Friday, since I don't need to rest ahead of Saturday. 
But I can't make a habit of it. There, I said it out loud, now it's a rule. 

Onto Day 4, which happens to be Fourth of July, which happens to have the crummiest, wettest weather of any Independence Day ever. Because we had nowhere to be (nice!!), Hubs pointed out last night that I didn't have to get up at 5:30 to run. Yay! Only I bet tomorrow will be harder because of it. Building healthy habits and all that. 
It has rained all day. It was raining when I got up and I stood at the front door, sipping coffee, contemplating my options. I couldn't skip again. I could go to the gym nearby and use a treadmill. I hate treadmills. I could drive to a gym further away and run on the indoor track. Too boring. I could run in the rain. 
I hear real runners do it all the time. I hear real runners often really enjoy running in the rain. 

I imagined the reality of the experience would be something like this: 

In reality, it was like this: 

I had my longest, strongest, best run I've had in a long time! Running in light drizzle in summer is pretty great! 

And on my way home, a neighbor friend who is a serious, for-real runner texted me. It read "Just saw you out in the rain! You know that makes you a real runner :)!!"

Day 5: Short run due to time constraints. Meaning: I overslept because some asshats set off fireworks until 12:30 a.m. It was a hard run, 2.1 miles in 24 minutes. Some walking, but much longer running stretches. It was such a hard run that I actually let out a growl when I finished. yeah. Oh, and my shins are killing me today. Big icepacks for the win. Tomorrow I meet some of my TEAM! Hoping my shins don't hurt then!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

TNT Day 2: Early morning is creepy

So, on Day 1, I fell asleep at 8:30 pm. My family says they miss me. I'm guessing it'll take a couple weeks to adjust to my new daily schedule. I was also ravenously hungry all day yesterday. I packed a lot more fruit in today's lunch bag.

I got up at 5:30 no problem today, probably because I got 9 hours' sleep. 

This morning's run was better than yesterday. I started stronger, and finished stronger. Still a fair amount of walking, but I used one of my 5k training apps to help me run more than walk, and ended up doing two days' workouts. Final distance: 2.5 miles (training schedule says 2-3 today, so I feel okay about it). Final time: 45 minutes. Damn, I have to work on my time! 

Three hours post-run and today my legs feel a bit tired (they didn't yesterday). 

That's all the physical stuff, but it's the mental stuff that makes training so difficult. I find the park that I usually run in rather creepy at 6 am. My mind starts thinking about rapists and how awful it would be to be attacked and how my family may never find out what happened to me, and even if I made it out alive how I wouldn't be able to do anything about it since we're in the middle of a war on my gender, and I should change my run daily so as to avoid being tracked. When my brain wears out that angle, it moves on to the other horrors that are surely lurking in the trees at the early hours. You know, like this:

Thanks to whomever put this image on the Internet. My early-morning brain will get a kick out of torturing me with it.

So I left the park today. The park that I formerly felt so secure in. And I took it to the mean streets of my mini-city inside the larger city. I took it to my friend's neighborhood. And I loved it. I ran all over that neighborhood, up one street and down the other with no mapped route in mind. I saw houses wake up and people leave for work earlier than I ever want to be at work unless it's in my pj's on my couch. My brain stopped torturing me with thoughts of rapists and demon kittens and it even stopped torturing me with thoughts about how I don't have to do this running thing, we could stop at any time, let's quit now, there's still time to grab more sleep if only I would give it up. I won't go so far as to say that I was in the zone, but I at least wasn't being tortured by my own brain. I began to really enjoy my run. I began to push myself. I got a kick out of running past my friend's house and seeing her light go on. I finished strong, and I'm proud of myself. I'm looking forward to what I may find tomorrow. As long as it's not demon kittens or rapists. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

TNT Day 1

Although it ended up being 11 pm before lights out, I still managed to get up at 5:30 am without issue (yay me!). I did enjoy being outside running when the sun came up. I only made it 2.48 miles (goal was 3) because I ran out of time. Being as this was my first run in about two weeks, there was a lot more walking than I would have liked. It was humid, and I was sweaty and slow. I'm pretty sure the whole thing went something like this --->

I didn't like the weird guy at the park. I tried to convince myself that it is perfectly normal to walk your dog at the park at 6 am... but it's not normal for a grown man to climb the playground equipment while watching me run by... I was glad I had pepper spray and actually ended up running with it in my hand. I think I'll be changing up my route often, and am considering teaching a dog to run with me (that's easier than it sounds - it's difficult to maintain a steady pace with a dog stopping to sniff everything).

Another big change and one that my sister-in-law will be happy about: I ate breakfast. I had one hash-brown and one egg. Yay me!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training: Getting my butt kicked to kick cancer's butt

When I think of Leukemia, I think of the children who lose their childhoods to this awful disease. When I think of Lymphoma, I think of my Grandfather who battled cancer for a decade.

The Team in Training experience will be admittedly difficult for me. I'm not a strong runner, and I'm certainly not a morning person. To do this, I'll have to become both. For the next four months, I'll go to bed early (no small feat for a night owl), and drag my sorry self out of bed early (no small feat for a decidedly NOT morning person). I will run a minimum of three miles each morning, except Wednesdays and Saturdays when I will train long distances with my Team. The goal is to raise $1000 and run my first half-marathon, 13.1 miles, in November.

One thing I won't have to change in this process is that I am an advocate for important causes. Finding a cure so that no child loses their childhood to these illnesses is certainly an important cause. Thank you for your support as I embark on what I expect will be a life-changing experience.

Tonight, I'm turning in at the same time my kid goes to bed so I can get up early and get running. It's the first step in working to find a cure so more kids can have more smiles and more days at the beach. So more kids can have the kind of carefree childhood we try to give our son.