Chris Knight, where are you when I need you (or why I’m being forced into a life of fitness whether I like it or not)

9-19-2013 2-20-51 PMReal Genius is one of the most quotable movies to come out the 80s one of my favorite involve’s Professor Jerry Hathaway asking Val Kilmer’s character Chris Knight, “Do you still run?” to which Chris replies, “Only when chased.”

This is my go to answer about anything exercise or fitness related. And I get asked do I run or ride  A LOT. I am surrounded by runners, bikers, and, triathloners. (Also I judge those people of if they get that reference or not – what can I say 80 geek)

But back to the point. I am surrounded by runners. EVERYONE RUNS. Not just runs, the run till they drop. All around me people are injuried and in need of physical therapy and yet they don’t seem to relate this to all that running.

The 26.2 marathon sticker people – those are the wimps. There’s a guy at work who spent a week this summer in the Marathon des Sables which covers 150 miles of Moroccan desert while carrying his food and supplies on this back. For Fun. No one was chasing him! He finished in something like the top 1/3.

If you don’t have a 50 you’re barely cool, it better have been a kick ass trail run through some serious shit and up three mountains. If you want real cred you need the 100. I have a sign over my desk that says “Only When Chased.” It is my mantra – my high ground. If I don’t complete, you cannot win.

If the don’t run they bike, we have bike lanes and this town is ugly with 40 year old men and women with bad knees and Tour De France fantasies. (Florida is flat people!) They all do crazy things like rides that traverse the state and back and forth and take whole weekends or weeks to complete. Railroads are paved over to make rail trails…  Do I ride? Only when chased. I own the t-shirt.

This year my oldest child out of the blue (or not so blue considering all these influences) decided she wanted to try a youth triathlon. Triathlon? She’s never even run a Fun Run? No 5K, nothing. Straight to triathlon? OK. I’m game. Let’s see how long this lasts I think. You are your mother’s daughter I say…

She loved it. She finished and immediately asked for a better bike. For next time. Ughh.

Shit. I’m starting to feel chased.

I get her the better bike (she needed a bigger bike, better just happened because I found a good deal on Craigslist). And her little sister not to be outdone promptly sheds the training wheels she’s been clinging to for 8 years… Mama can I triathlon too now?

Shit. Is that someone breathing down my neck?

Because a middle schooler can be allowed to ride off for 5 or 6 miles or run for a couple  miles and come back as long as I have a notion of the route. I have no problem with that. But an eight year old? My eight year old who’s not that street savy yet? Who I still have to yell at in parking lots to watch for cars…  Even my Free Range senses are tested with that one at least until she gets her wheels under her a little more. Her four mile route on the bike is a little much for me to be okay with by herself or with her sister alone just yet – bad side walks and one very busy major intersection are in play no matter what.

So now I’m biking  – granted it’s 8 year old triathlon training lengths, and I never even have to shift a gear while she pedals like a little mad Chihuahua still but – biking. No one is chasing me.

At least her runs are short enough she can loop the immediate neighborhood and I’m good with that being done alone.

My only consolation is we stay on the side walk and I can still refuse to wear a helmet because we don’t ride that fast. We just look like a family out for a stroll after dinner. I wear mom capris rather than athletic wear on purpose. I will not dress the part.

That little fact is all that is keeping me from a table full of crow at this point.

I’m in denial.

I’m being chased.

Mile Stones: Biking to a friends house after school

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See those two, as we speak they are supposedly doing math homework that “would be so much easier if we worked on it together”….

Yeah, I know, I remember that one too. 🙂 Those were the days.

Truth is today has nothing to do with homework and everything to do with growing up.

Puddin’ strapped on her helmet and rode over to a school friend’s house who doesn’t live that close after she got home on the bus. Out of the neighborhood and across a fairly large and crowded intersection full of impatient minivans driven by distracted moms late for soccer/ballet/football/cheerleading.

This kid regular trains for her races by doing 6-10 miles at a time but this two miles.. probably the significant she’s ever done.

With that two miles, she broke the neighborhood barrier and left to go out on her own to a friend’s house with instructions to start heading back home by 6:30 or when the other family was ready for dinner, which ever came first.

One more taste of precious independence.

She’ll be 12 next month and the way I see it, I’ve 6 years to get her ready to take her passport and walk out that door fully capable of roaming the planet on her own.

I fully intend to get her there on time, one two-mile bike ride at a time.

Middle School

wpid-972123_10153160297445215_848467249_n.jpgMiddle. School.

I almost feel as if that’s all I really need to say. Worse years of most people’s life and for kid it’s starting… now.

Middle School.

I’m something of a Free Range parent. I believe that it’s my job as a parent to produce children who are ready willing and able to take care of themselves by the time they graduate from high school. That we are on that journey to readiness with every baby step we take today and tomorrow and the next day. (Insert long story of how I left home at 18 and never looked back blah blah blah)

Anyway, Middle. School.

Turns out that the choice to go to our designated middle school was a bit of a Free Range decision. We sit just 100 yards shy of the border for the actual geographically closest middle school and instead are boundried for one that is 5 times farther away. This freaks people out.

Those measures are as the crow flies.. as the car drives it takes about the same amount of time to reach either. This is caused by the face that a major interstate highway that runs right beside the middle school as well. So the while the route to closer school is less than 1.5 miles with red lights and traffic, it takes the same 10 minutes that covering the 6 miles on the highway does.

Still – it freaks suburban people out that their kids are going to go to school in some one else’s neighborhood other than their own.

I don’t mean it’s a bad neighborhood, We are not talking inner city busing, not even close. I’m talking about the fact that they are going to school on the other side of the mall and a golf course.  Because that is what is between here and there. A upscale mall, and a members only golf course and accompanying houses. Seriously.

Still there are vague horror stories that no one can validate or speak to that this school is “rough.”  Rough? They don’t even let the kids go to the lockers at the same times because they are afraid the top row kids will drop a book on the bottom row kids?

Insert rights-of-passage diatribe.

Rough? I’ve seen no evidence of it so far. But still half of Puddin’s fifth grade class was shipped off to private or magnet schools – which are in the inner city of the nation’s highest crime ridden downtowns – rather than go to this school on the other side of the flipping mall and golf course.  Half!

My next door neighbor while agreeing to the common sense of the argument above is still refusing to let her kid ride the bus. The bus might be rough. Rough? It has two other stops before us, both of which are one street away and right between us and the elementary school they just completed – meaning every kid on that bus went to the same elementary school with them in the last 3 years. It’s our neighbors kids! Did these formerly just-like-our-kids children convert to thugs in the last 2 to 3 years? Rough!

Ughh..

Anyway. Middle School I’ve decided is mostly made of up of parents projecting their own fears and worries on to their children. If we tell them it’s going to awful, and rough, and socially hard they will believe us. If we hand them a book called “The Worst Years of my Life” how can we be surprised when they expect them to be the worst years of their lives? (Transparency moment – my kid owns that book although she has not read it)

So I’ve decided that Middle School is no big deal. That’s how we are playing it.

In fact, it’s awesome. A place of new beginnings. The first opportunity, of many, in life she’ll have to redefine herself on her own terms. A place to meet new people and expand her world and boundaries. Where sports will be played and dances will be danced. Sure there might be mean girls but there will also be cute boys, and good friends, and school newspapers, and technology classes and science labs. So much more likelihood for cool things than lame if you only look for it to be that way.

So we’re putting that out there – we love Middle School. We are excited about Middle School.

Middle School is going to Rock!

Literary Rites Of Passage

I bought Puddin’ some summer reading books for a graduation present this week. Yes, books. I’m on a simplify and add more value to our lives kick, and expensive gadget presents are out – books are in. More on that later.

This week, in addition to all the festive graduation stuff, they also watched “THE VIDEO” – yes, that video. The one where girls watch a different one than the boys.

So one obvious choice was this one…

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I’ve actually been a little surprised “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” has not come up along the way  because it was the must read book of my 5th grade experience.  But I’ve found that Judy Blume (at least our school) has become a casualty of Harry Potter, Wimpy Kid, and 39 Clues. If it’s not a series that Scholastic can push at the book fair then it doesn’t get attention.  Judy’s must read books from my childhood have sadly been overshadowed and over looked.

I’m on a mission to change that and to introduce her The Mother of the Young Adult Literary Genre. Because let’s face it – without Judy, there would be no John Green, no Sarah Dessen, no Cecily von Zeigesar, no Stephanie Meyer.

So we’ll start with Margaret. And after that will move on to Deenie, and Iggie, and Sally J .. 

And we’ll steer clear of “Forever” for a few years.. so she won’t pass a dog-eared copy around her 6th grade class like I did. LOL  (see what happens when mom’s don’t read)

I’d love to see Scholastic do a “Throw Back” themed book fair and feature some of the best loved YA books from the last 30 or 40 years instead of new stuff – wouldn’t that awesome!?!

I mean I’m sure that there were awesome YA novels published in the 80s and 90s that I never heard of since by then I was in high school and college and that whole internet thing hadn’t really caught on yet. But whatever those books are, they are sitting dusty on some library self somewhere, unknown to these kids who only get pushed the latest and greatest it-must-be-a-three-part-series-whether-the-story-holds-up-that-long-or-not from the publishers. (Insert publishers just care about profits these days rant)  I’m looking at you Divergent series, I’m looking at you.

Seriously – when was the last time you saw “A Wrinkle In Time” featured at the book fair? That book alone hooked me on Sci-Fi for years to come. That book changed me in ways only a great book can. It set me on a path of interests that I would never have followed other wise, it made me like science and math and effected choices I made about education and professions.  And let’s face it, as entertaining as Vampire Boarding School Series are – and I admit they are… they just don’t have that kind of effect.

So help me out, what other awesome books for middle-schoolers came out in the 80s and 90s that I don’t know about ..what are some can’t miss it books from the last 30 years that a soon to be 6th grader should be reading?

All Field Trips lead up to this…

The 5th grade field trip to Disney is a rite of passage here in Florida (it happens again as a senior but that is an entirely different story)

It was an amazing day. Seeing these kids go to Disney with 200 of their classmates, children they have known in many cases since Kindergarten. Remembering them as kindergartners… this one cried, that one still ate paste. Now she is taller than me and he looks me in the eye when he speaks finally.

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Even as parents it felt like a milestone, a graduation of sorts.

We are the same parents who have been going to The Zoo and City Hall, and the Symphony for the last 6 years.  Sometimes we don’t even know each other’s name – we’re just Sally’s Mom, or Joey’s Dad. We know each other by hat and sunglasses and hairdo.  But we know each other – because 4 years ago you helped me find the lost kid in my group and 2 years ago I took your group when you started feeling bad in the heat. We are not friends but we know each other, we trust each other. We’ve looked out for each other, we’ve had each other’s back.

And this week we jumped off a cliff and took the whole crew to Disney and sat back and watched them run as pack, only supervising them from a distance and we talked and laughed and reminisced.  I don’t imagine that middle school field trips will be be the same. They won’t need us like they did in elementary school. This particular group of parents won’t come this way again.

So here’s to the Field Trip Parents for the Class of 2020. We made it through six years of Florida sun, community theatre, and snotty museum docents , we kept them alive, unscathed, and awake  through Alligator Farms, Zip Lines, and Peter and the Wolf.  

We always made it home with as many as we left with.

They were all good days. Salute.

Picture of the Day: Getting Her PhD in Little Sister

PIcture of the Day: Getting Her PhD in Little Sister

Yesterday as I’m talking to P about Homework, S walks in and gently touches her older sister the arm. She then smiles and informs us,

“Mr Adam just killed a snake and he let me touch it and I just touch you with the hand that touched it.”

5th Grade

f3ad01c4ebab11e18ce622000a1e880e_7How we got here I have not a clue…

But this week Puddin’ started 5th grade. There has been so much else going on this year that I haven’t really sat down and thought about that until now. 5th Freakin’ grade.

A grade I actually remember details about. Not just who my teacher was or who was in my class but actual details, schoolwork, books I read, boys who were cute, girls who were mean.

5th grade changed everything. 5th grade was the year I sort of geeked out when the rest of the world suddenly became cool.  A girl named Hope literally said to my face that “no one likes you you know” A girl named Jodi literally said to me that my school picture was going to “ruin the class page in the yearbook.”  I remember it as clear as if it were on video tape. I wore glasses, I got braces, and I had no hope of ever getting boobs.

But 5th grade was also the year I really, truly discovered books. The first chapter of our reading book that year was an excerpt from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  From there I was hooked. It was also the year I discovered Judy Bloom. Iggie and Sally, and Margaret and Deannie,  and then there was Forever. My one small moment of coolness the entire year came when my mother inadvertently let me buy Forever. Being the girl with a book that has kissing and blow jobs will do that for you in 5th grade.

It was also the year I discovered Saturday Night Live. I remember staying up late at night and watching it on my small black & white TV with the sound turned down long after I was supposed to be asleep.  I laughed when Dan called Jane an ignorant slut.  I knew what it meant, and why it was funny in the context in which it was said.  I began my life long crush on Steve Martin and asked for and received  both his comedy albums and then proceeded to memorize every. single. line.  I understood the irony of the Let’s Get Small routine and to this day I can sing Grandma’s song. The thought that Puddin’ would even begin to understand that kind of humor.. impossible.

My brother had graduated high school the year before, and left home. I was latch key before latch key was a thing. I let myself in after school, I fed myself, I did (or didn’t do) my homework on my own. No one considered this strange. After all I was in 5th grade now.

And there is another element. While all that went on, my mother disappeared.  First emotionally, then physically.  It’s something I never talk about, but it happened. And it happened in 5th grade.

I turned into a dorky kid who had her head buried in a book and quoted age inappropriate comedy routines. My mother clearly did not inspect my wardrobe. I became a loner.

5th grade was the year let go of childhood and became a new me. Like The Doctor regenerating, I became a new Melissa in 5th grade. It would happen again at 19 and then again at 27 and if I’m honest it’s happening again right now but that is a story for a different day.

So how is it I am here at 5th grade without seeing it coming once again.

I feel like I should suddenly be in a panic, panic that Puddin’ is standing at the edge of major turning points – in personality, in socialization, in life. Up till now the Mom stuff has for the most part been easy, sometimes exhausting, but mostly easy. Feed her, cloth her, take her to Sunday School – talk about the Golden Rule, make sure she eats breakfast, drinks milk and brushes her teeth.  Kiss boo boos, practice spelling words, learn multiplication tables.

But I’m starting to get the notion that this, this precipice,  is where the real “parenting:” starts. Where the moldable parts of the person who she will be begin to take form. Where the things I do or don’t do as her mother will have ripple effects for years to come.

And it’s the worst possible time for that to start mattering. My head has not been in the game for the last 8 months. I’ve been on auto-pilot. The Thing has been a distraction and while that won’t stop, it’s got to be managed.  Because she’s in 5th grade, The year that changed me. The year that changed everything. And I don’t want a new Puddin’. Not yet anyway. 

I’m on a mission to not let it change her. 5th grade will not take the toll on her that it took on me if I can help it.

And yet I also worry that hyper-vigilance on my part will also cause it’s own consequence.  There is a part of me that knows I have survived the last 8 months in large part due to the strength 5th grade required of me then.  There is a sword and crucible metaphor there that I don’t care to indulge in at the moment but you get the general idea. In 5th grade I learned I was the strongest person I would ever need.

So I walk a line. I watch and try not to hover. Coach and lead but try not to manage. I will let her fall, but I will also dust her off. I let her wear the shirt I’m quite certain will get her made fun of, because she well and truly loves it.  But I will also throw in few Aeropostale and Abercrombie logos because nothing staves off the mean girl fashonista wannabees like a few blatant labels. I will listen to my inner Tina Fey and see the value in a good long rough patch. But I will also make her play Lacrosse and go to Swim Team because team sports, by their very nature, help you learn to fit in. I will find balance.

Because strength like that shouldn’t have to be built in one year. It costs too much that way. And  I won’t require that price of her.

Proof of my growth as a Mom

I consider it proof that I’ve grown as a mom that I was as excited about the Duval Diddy Hip Hop routine as I was about that frilly TuTu.. okay maybe not quite as much but seriously almost.

This solo handstand however; which she totally nailed, set my heart pounding. I knew this was what  she was most nervous over. Was the most worried about. This is what she wanted to go perfectly. It was her moment to shine.

That girl seriously  “repped Duval.”