Saturday Special

We were getting a little disconnected as a family. Maybe not just a little. Jane actually dissolved into tears of frustration recently when trying to explain why it bothered her so much that we hadn’t woken her up from the couch when we got home.

“Don’t we eat dinner together as a family anymore?”

We actually had done that just a couple of days earlier but without her. As a high-schooler with a boyfriend, she’s home less than she used to be. But in her defense, she was home that particular evening and I had fixed myself a salad without waking her or her sleeping brother. “Fend for yourself” was becoming the norm.

The next night, we played games late into the night with friends and didn’t arrive home until after midnight. Needless to say, our Saturday got a late start. I eventually marveled that even the dog hadn’t stirred by 10:30 and went to rouse my clan as my husband set out to prepare a brunch feast.

When I woke Daryl and said, “Come on, Daryl! It’s lunchtime!” he asked how it could possibly be lunchtime. “What about breakfast?”

“Dude,” I said, “it’s 10:40. We slept through breakfast!”

We had a bumpy start through meal prep and consumption. Jane wanted to spend time with Hal but Hal didn’t want to share his drawing pad or his colored pencils. Daryl had woken in a sour mood and didn’t like having to hand wash some dishes, although he chose that task over making waffles.

After lunch though, all three kids sat down with their respective pads of paper at the dining room table and used Jane’s gel pens to draw or color. Jane asked if I wanted to join them but I declined. “I have too much I need to do,” I said.

But when I reached my room with the laundry hamper, I spied my grown-up coloring book. Sensing something special was happening, I grabbed it and joined the kids. Jane was playing music on a bluetooth speaker and everyone colored quietly and talked and laughed and complimented each other’s art.

Eventually, Daddy joined us at the table as he sorted the mail. Knowing that I really did have work to do, I put my book aside and began sorting papers as well. When Daryl tired of coloring, he started going through books on his shelves that he didn’t want anymore. He’d bring them to the table and we’d all make decisions on them together.

“We aren’t getting rid of any books! Mrs. Smith says you can’t have too many books,” Hal stated confidently.

“Mrs. Smith has never been to our house.”

It was wonderful. “We should do this on Saturdays more often,” Jane said. I agreed.

Later in the afternoon, she and her Dad left to take care of some shopping. I asked Hal if he wanted to go for a walk. He was very behind on his miles for a Kids’ Marathon the boys are participating in and the treadmill gets boring.

Soon, the two of us were walking the 3.2 mile loop that my husband and I run when we want a “short” run. Hal likes to talk and prattled away as we walked. He pointed out slyly that he was still in his pajamas. I suggested that maybe long flannel pants weren’t the best choice for walking on a warm Spring day.

We talked about the dogs we saw, the trash along the way, the sky, the trees, the grass, people’s yards, the cars going by, the bear he thought he might have seen in the woods.

“There aren’t bears here,” I said.

“Well, I saw something move in there!”

“I’m sure there was something there but it wasn’t a bear.”

“Maybe a squirrel,” he said.

“Or a cat.”

“A cat?! What would a cat be doing in the woods?”

I shrugged. “Exploring. Hunting mice. Or birds.”

“Do cats eat birds?” he asked.

“Yes. Or at least, they like to kill birds.”

The walk was long but there was a nice breeze and clouds blocked the sun most of the way. We passed by some pigs in pens. There was too much in the way for us to see them but we could sure smell them! Hal decided he was glad he didn’t live near them.

We talked about a car that was covered with a tarp but also under a carport. We discussed various reasons the car owner might do that. We peeked at a pond in the distance and discussed the “private property” sign on the fence and what it meant. We studied the trees that had grown up under the power lines and had their tops cut off. We remarked on all the ant mounds and how large some of them were.

“Why did God invent ants anyway?” he asked.

“Well,” I said. “They are very good at breaking up the soil so plants can grow.”

“We don’t need ants to do that! We can do that ourselves,” he said.

I pointed out a large field of tall grass at one point. The wind was blowing the grass in big lazy waves. “It looks like a big grass sea!” he said with delight.

We passed by a house that had some dilapidated out buildings. “Do chickens live in there?” he asked.

“It looks like chickens may have lived in there before,” I said. “But it looks too rundown now. I don’t think it’s in use.”

“Look!” he said as we passed by the end of the building. “That part is really falling apart! It looks like it got hit by a tornado or maybe a hurricane or something!”

“I think it’s just the passage of time. They didn’t make repairs over time and now it’s falling apart. Look over there,” I said, pointing to an even more unstable structure behind it. “That one’s really old.”

“I bet a tornado came through a really long time ago. Like in the old days. Back in 1977.”

“Hey!” I said. “I was three years old in 1977! Those aren’t the old days!”

He looked shocked. “Wow! You were three in 1977! Hey, Hannah told me the other day that her favorite number is three and that’s how old you were way back in 1937!”

Seventy seven!”

That started a game of “back in the old days, forward in the futurative days.” Hal would pretend he was an old man and say things like “back in the old days when I was three, we had a nice building for the chickens but back in… oops, I mean, forward in the futurative days when I was 52, it was worn down.”

He went through various topics. Like when a DVD just made sound, not pictures. I told him DVDs didn’t exist “in the old days.”

“Well, back in the old days, we just had a radio to listen to but forward in the futurative days, we have television.”

And so on and so on until he ran out of “old days” differences. That’s when he enlisted my help. I’d say the old days line and then he’d give the future one, sometimes restating my old days with his own twist, sometimes keeping it straight.

We compared phones on the wall to iPhones and film cameras to digital. He tried to claim that old days didn’t have cool sports cars like Camaros. I told him they had actually been very popular in the Seventies.

As we walked past a stranger mowing his yard with an obviously old push mower, Hal said, “Back in the old days, we just had a rundown old mower, but forward in the futurative days, we have a nice shiny one.” He pointed to the man. “I got that one from our friend there with the mower.”

I don’t spend a lot of one-on-one time with Hal. I’ve recently started working with him on his cello lessons, sitting and watching and paying full attention to him and his efforts rather than multi-tasking. But when I surprised him by showing up with Daddy at his Spring party the day before, he glanced up at me, showed no interest at all and rushed over to his dad to tell him what he had made. That stung. It stung a lot.

But then I got to spend 45 minutes walking with this wonderful little man we are raising. This quirky, oddball, inquisitive little man. And I was happy.

I honestly can’t say whether I enjoyed the family coloring party or the walk with Hal more. I just feel incredibly fortunate that I got to experience both. I didn’t get the big paper reduction project done that day, and quite frankly, I’m not sure how we’ll stay on schedule with our tidying plans, but I don’t care either.

This was special. And as Jane said, I want it to happen again.

The Six Week Draught

My husband and I had a glorious running day six weeks ago. We left the house early Saturday morning and took off running. We went our usual way but added some on before turning back. We kept pushing and pushing – never stopped, never walked. As Forrest Gump would say, we just ran.

When we returned to a walk as we passed the threshold of our driveway, we gave each other a high five. We had logged over 8 miles in under an hour and a half. My legs were like jelly and kept propelling me forward as if I should keep running. I was fired up. It was glorious.

We fell off the exercise bandwagon the very next day. We didn’t realize it at the time, of course. We skipped running Sunday morning, not that uncommon the day after a big run. But then Monday morning, we didn’t get up early enough to exercise before my husband had to take our daughter to band. I still got on the elliptical – for a paltry 20 minutes.

I skipped the next day, but that didn’t set off any warning bells. Wednesday, I put in 25 minutes on the treadmill. Skipped Thursday too but that’s ok. We’re doing fine, I told myself. Friday morning didn’t work out either but we packed all of our stuff with us to run at my mom’s house the next day.

Of course, we didn’t get to her house until very late. And my husband forgot his C-PAP, which means I didn’t sleep well. And then we realized he’d forgotten his running shoes. That’s ok, I told myself – and him. It’s not like we have to run outside every Saturday.

It would be 8 days after my last short treadmill effort before I’d put in a simple 15 minutes on the elliptical. And then another 6 before getting on the treadmill. I had about a week of working out almost every other day but they were all short. The two Saturdays after the botched attempt at my mom’s house fell by the wayside too. One, we weren’t sure when the sun would come up. I can’t even remember now the excuse for the next one.

Four weeks after the great and mighty eight mile run, my husband had training to go to at 9 am. We decided there wasn’t time to run before, but that’s ok – we’d go Sunday morning. I took the boys to the park and ran around the sidewalk there – about 30 minutes. I could already tell I wasn’t the same person that had run the 8 miles. We cuddled Sunday morning instead of running.

The weekend after that was birthday weekend – we had family in town and lots to do. No running then. By then, the week days had been lost completely to early morning band and our general fatigue and disinterest. The Monday after birthday weekend, I forced myself to dress out for exercise. I got on the treadmill and felt a strong distaste. I did not want to be there. I pulled off a whopping 10 minutes on the elliptical instead before deciding I needed to get ready for work.

“I’m working on presence and motivation,” I told my husband. “I just have to be there. Today was 10 minutes. I’ll try to make tomorrow 15 and then I’ll build from there.”

Well… I got 15 minutes the next day, but by Wednesday, other priorities took over and I was lost to exercise again.

By that Saturday, the six week anniversary of the now legendary mammoth run, I felt that something had been lost. Maybe for good. How would I get my groove back? My husband left early for a meeting out of town. I dragged out of bed about 11:15. The kids were equally lethargic.Surely the laundry was more important than exercise? Surely?

The music I played while doing the laundry gave me some energy. I decided to work out after lunch. I changed into my running clothes and got on the treadmill. I was miserable. I felt like the blank monitor in front of me was mocking me and way, way too close. It felt hot and muggy. I couldn’t imagine running for half an hour like I planned. I urged myself to make 5 minutes.

But then something strange started happening. My mind kept wandering outdoors. I wanted to turn and run out the front door and run down the street on our usual route. But… but… he wasn’t with me. Was it safe? We’d never run outside without the other. I tried to stay put. But when I hit that 5 minute mark, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I stepped off the treadmill and trotted to the door. I called out, “I’ll be back in a bit!” to my daughter and then I was off!

It had been raining for days. It was cold and misty outside. The wind was blowing. It was incredible. Raindrops hit my glasses but I didn’t care. I wondered if my phone, providing the driving electronic cardio music to my ear, would survive if a deluge started before I got back home. I decided it was a risk worth taking. I ran and ran and ran. Not long – not far. Maybe two miles – at the most. But I felt alive.

It’s so easy to fall off bandwagons. It’s quite frankly kind of scary how easy it is to adjust to life without something that had previously been so important to you – kind of like my frequent blogging breaks. But I learned that cool Saturday morning that I truly am a runner. Not just someone who exercises via jogging. I actually enjoy running. Outside. I’m fired up to run again. We shall see if I’m truly and securely seated in the wagon or if I’m just running along beside it, trying to hang on.

Contested Calories

When we started working out daily, with an eye toward going Rim to Rim at Grand Canyon National Park next year, I kept an exercise log that included minutes, miles, and calories burned. I used the calories reported by the treadmill and I was happy.

In January, we added an elliptical to our home gym, to replace the dying, finally dead bicycle. We also added Polar Beat heart monitors, which allowed us to track our heart rate, which in turn helped us see when we needed to push harder and when we needed to let up. But that’s when the trouble started.

You see, the heart rate monitors never showed as many calories burned as the equipment did. At some point, my husband opted to record the monitor’s calories instead of the equipment’s. I soon reluctantly followed suit.

Reluctantly because, at this point, we had also begun using the MyFitnessPal app on our phones to track calorie intake. My 1 pound per week weight loss goal only allowed me 1200 calories a day, which is tough. Impossible – to me anyway. But every calorie burned during exercise was an extra calorie I could consume.

Now, I know. I burn how many calories I burn – it doesn’t matter what either app says, but still. I felt restricted. But I adapted and life went on and I was happy.

Then we ran a 5K a couple of weeks ago. We used our heart rate monitors to track distance, speed, heart rate, calories. (Side note: Thanks to a Samsung Galaxy S4 Android update problem, my phone couldn’t ever sync to GPS so I didn’t get distance and speed – my first attempt to use my monitor for that purpose and I was sorely disappointed. But that’s a different story.)

When I finished the run, I saw that my average heart rate had been up over 160. I hadn’t realized I was pushing that hard. And, glory, glory! I’d burned well over 600 calories! In a half hour workout! Woo-hoo! I rock!

Then my husband deigned to question my calorie burn. He hadn’t burned that many so how could I? I scowled at him. But then I began poking around in the app. There was apparently a personal section that it hadn’t prompted me to fill in, so it was sitting at some default values.

Polar Beat thought I was a bit bigger than I am.

7’9″ tall and 333 pounds, to be exact.

“Think that might report more calories burned than I actually burned?” I asked my husband.

“I would think a 333 pound person getting their heart rate up to 165 for that period of time would most likely burn a lot more calories than you,” he responded.

So I corrected my app’s misunderstanding of my weight and height.

And the next time I exercised, I barely burned 150 calories. But I was tired and unmotivated, maybe it didn’t mean anything.

I’ve been watching it for a week or two now and I can tell you conclusively, someone my size just doesn’t burn very many calories. Which sucks. Because, well, someone my size would sure like to consume more calories than she gets to.

But I’m adjusting and working harder in my workouts and I’m still happy. Being 5’5″ and the healthy weight I’m at is surely better than being as tall as a tree and over 300 pounds, no matter what Polar Beat says.

A Peachy Keen Morning

I had a good time before going to work yesterday morning.  After a satisfying workout where I actually ran (in two 5 minute sessions) and walked quickly while watching a video – a duration and intensity of workout not done by me in nearly 8 months, I showered and prepared for work.

Five year old Hal interrupted me in the act of putting on my socks and shoes for a rousing and humorous hug-a-thon, complete with his little body throwing me repeatedly down on the bed, tight neck hugs, a fun time of head-sitting, me tickling or booty pinching in return, raucous laughter, failed attempts to put on footwear while prone and encumbered, and… joyously sniffing of my shirt.

Yes, Hal delighted in how I smelled.  Well, specifically, he said, how my shirt smelled.  He paused at one point in the antics to sniff my back deliberately and intently.  He told me my shirt smelled good and when I asked him what it smelled like, trying in my mind to imagine how he would describe either the laundry detergent or my deodorant, he said, “Cherries!”

So there you go.  I smelled like cherries yesterday.  He reaffirmed that perception when I came home from work.  Of course, he also referred to the peach he had with dinner as a cherry – he does that often.  So maybe I’m actually a peach?

According to dictionary.com, the fourth and final definition of peach is:

Informal. a person or thing that is especially attractive, liked, or enjoyed.

I’ll take it.  He’s quite the peach of my eye as well.