Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Home Study Part 2

Today's home study interview was much more casual and quick than last time.  I didn't feel compelled to organize every closet and wipe down the baseboards, and we allowed the kiddos to hang around the house the whole time we were talking.

When Sylvia (our caseworker) arrived, it felt like we were old friends since, of course, we had divulged every detail and secret in our lives to her in the last meeting.   Pumpkin refused to nap through all the excitement, insisting on changing her doll's imaginary poop over and over in front of Sylvia (who found it adorable).  Peanut and Buddy had their video game time and played outside, often interrupting with important tidbits like, "We have 3 billion dollars saved up in Lego Star Wars!" and "Can we have a snack? Or a cupcake? Or a snack?" 

The funniest moment of the day (and perhaps in the history of Sylvia's profession as a Social Worker) was when Buddy came upstairs: "Mom, there's meat.....in the candle downstairs......but I think it could be poop."  Ding, ding, ding! He was right, it was poop.  Peanut had pooped in her diaper, taken it off, and shaken the nuglets into the white PartyLite candle adorning our family room table.  Total awesomeness.

 Thankfully today the questions were much easier: finances, kids' personalities, our marriage relationship,  our discipline method, and our general parenting philosophy. Now we just wait for our study to be processed, which realistically could take a month or two.  Then we will officially be certified, at which point we start waiting for a placement child (which could take another few months).  

We are sooooooo happy to be finished with this part of the process.  Woohoo!!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Home Study Part 1

Holy cow!  That was the most intense 6 hours of my life. I am physically and emotionally exhausted.

Yesterday was our first visit for our adoption home study.  The social worker came to our house and stayed from, no joke, 1 o’clock to 6 o’clock.  And we still have 4 hours left to complete next week.

She was very friendly and professional.  She’s 72, been in the same line of work for 50 years, and said she’s seen “everything!”  More than once she also said, “I’m as liberal as they come!” by which I think she meant both liberal politically (there were a few Bush jabs) and extremely tolerant of different lifestyles.  She also mentioned that the process for adopting out of foster care is much more rigorous than international or kinship adoption.  All the children coming out of foster care are “at-risk” and the case workers want to make sure the family can handle the coming stress. 

She asked a million questions.  5 straight hours worth, actually.  Some obvious, others obscure.

Why do you want to adopt? What’s your neighborhood like? Why do you home school? What’s your typical day?  What are your specific goals for your life?  What are your specific aspirations for your life?  What is your religion?  Would you be willing to drop a Muslim child off at a  Mosque on the weekend?  What are your hobbies?  What kind of support system do you have?  How do you celebrate holidays?  Who in your family has had issues with alcohol? Drugs? The law?  Why do you have a “failure to stop at a stop sign” on your FBI report? (Oops!)  How well and where do your children sleep at night?  Do you like your job? Do you raise your voice when disciplining your children?  Do you ever spank? Etc…..etc…..etc……

To the kids: Do you know your mom and dad are thinking about adopting a brother?  Will you share your toys?  Will you share your time with mom and dad?  What happens if your new brother breaks your favorite toy?  Do you know any kids who don’t look like you do?  What will you think if your new brother looks different than you?   

To the last question Buddy smiled, and said: “That’d be really good if he looked different than me, otherwise Dad and Mom couldn’t tell us apart!”  

We filled out a questionaire on our childhood, family history of drug and alcohol abuse, and our marriage relationship.  Then she did a quick inspection of the home.  We were a little nervous since our house was built in the 50’s and we thought we’d need to update the windows or maybe put a door on the unfinished laundry room.  But the only things we need to do before next time is put a lock on the storage room door, buy some more outlet covers, and write out an emergency evacuation plan.

Our next visit is Tuesday.  We will talk about our parenting philosophy, discipline methods, our marriage relationship, support system,  and about each child, including their health history, personality, likes/dislikes, and any behavioral or learning problems.  Oh, and she’ll inspect our vehicles.  

Exhausting and exciting.  But we are almost done………

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Am I Ready for a Marathon?

I get this question all the time around the beginning of the year (from new and seasoned) runners wondering if they are ready to tackle the infamous 26.2  In fact, I've been asked by three different people just this month!  And although my opinion is just my opinion, it is based on 15 years of running experience combined with advice gleaned from coaches and (more) knowledgeable running folk.  I promise.  

That said, yes, anyone (with training) can finish a marathon.  But there is a difference between "finishing" and "running" a marathon, and this is not just "snobby runner" talk, as my husband calls it.  When you do your first marathon, you want to finish well, avoid injury and burnout, and keep the miserable-factor as low as possible, right? So here is what I generally tell people. 

You are ready to run a marathon if........

1) You have a good base.
You've been running consistently for 6-12 months averaging 20-30 miles/week.  You are comfortable running 4-6 miles, to the point where it feels second nature.  And about 1/3 of your running is outside on pavement, since likely, your marathon will take place on pavement and you're legs and feet need to be ready for the pounding.  Starting with a strong base and strong legs decreases your risk of injury and burnout while preparing your body for the long, hard training runs.

2) You're doing it for the right reasons.
You love to run and want to go longer.  You've always wanted to do a marathon.  You want to prove that you can mentally and physically tackle 26.2.  These are all great reasons to run a marathon, losing weight is not.  In fact, many runners actually GAIN weight during marathon training (I did!).  You'll have to eat lots of calories and carbs to keep up with all those miles, as well as recovery foods (like chocolate milk) and pre-run fuel like bars and oatmeal.  Your body will NEED fuel!  If weight loss is your goal, I recommend training for a half marathon or shorter distance.

3) You have training & race experience.

You wouldn't ski a black your first day ever on a ski mountain, so why would you run a marathon without ever toeing a starting line?  I usually suggest making your way up the race ladder from 5K to 10K to half marathon to marathon.  There's something that comes with the experience of following a training plan, dealing with pre-race jitters, and learning how to avoid going out too fast when the gun goes off.  Also, you'll get a good idea of pacing and finishing strong.  
Once you have one (or even better, two) solid half marathons under your belt, then I'd sign up for the 26.2 of your choice.  Or, if you're determined to run your first marathon in 2012, sign up for a spring Half and a fall Full to give your body plenty of time to build a base and work up to the distance.

4) You have time to train and a supportive community.
Marathon training is intense.  You'll need to carve out time to run 3-5 times/week, including one long run of 1-3 hours.  You'll also likely have some cross-training and strength-training days mixed in, as well.  You'll want to make sure your husband/wife, kids, and family members are on-board and supportive of your plans. Is your husband willing to hang with the kids while you're out on the trails every Saturday for most of the morning?  Will your friends mind if you can't hang out late on Friday nights because you have to get up at 6:00am to fit in your run?  Do you have people to run with you, cheer for you, and give you advice as you tackle this new adventure?  Or even better, do you have a friend or family member who wants to do the marathon with you? 

So you've determined you're ready.  Now what?

1) Register for a race- they fill up fast! Ask for suggestions from friends who have a few marathons under their belts.  Do you want a big or small race? Destination or close to home?  Spring or fall?

2) Invest in a good pair of shoes, a supportive bra, and a fuel belt to carry all the nutrition and water you'll need for those fun 3 hour runs.  

3) Select a good training plan that works for you.  Hal Higdon is a good resource, as is Runner's World.  I usually recommend plans that don't increase your long run mileage every week: 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, etc.   Instead, look for a plan where you increase for 2-3 weeks and recover for a week at a shorter distance : 10, 12, 8, 12, 14, 10, etc.  Or a long run every 10 days, rather than every 7 days.  Also look for plans that allow you to incorporate cross-training a few days a week.  And the best bit of advice I have to offer?  On your rest days, rest. 

Now, for those of you who've done a marathon before, 
and are wondering if you're ready to do it again, 

I like the saying.......
"When you've forgotten your last marathon, you're ready for your next"

Happy Running!!!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fav Races for 2012

As 2012 gets started, I know a lot of folks out there have race goals on their resolution lists- 

  • first marathon 
  • first triathlon 
  • first race
  • try something new
  • qualify for Boston
  • set a new PR
So, in hopes of encouraging you to accomplish these goals, I compiled a list of.....

-Please note: this is entirely my own opinion-

May 6th, 2012, Ft. Collins

The Colorado Marathon refers to itself as "the fastest and most scenic marathon in Colorado."  I couldn't agree more! The winding course travels through the gorgeous Poudre Canyon on the way to Ft. Collins. On one side of the road is fast-flowing river overshadowed by tall, steep cliffs, and on the other side of the road are more tall, steep cliffs.  For a mountain girl who loves running in nature, this marathon beats anything urban Denver has to offer! The Marathon is well-organized, small (caps at 1,000 runners), and almost entirely downhill (but still a Boston Qualifier!) If you were lucky enough to get in for 2012 (both the full and half have already sold out) you will not be sorry.  And for those of you who missed out for this year, get it on the calendar for 2013!!!

April 15th, 2012, Littleton

Personally, I've run the Platte River Half for the last 3 years in a row and I keep coming back! The race starts in downtown Littleton and ends in downtown Denver, following the Platte River Trail to the Buckhorn Exchange restaurant.  The course traverses through scenic parks, across long bridges, and past a few golf courses- although you do also have to pass the Waste Management dump and run along the side of I-25 for a bit, but hey, this is the city, right?  The race caps at 3,000 runners, but sections them off into two different heats to minimize the crowding.  Since it's one of the first Half Marathon's of the racing season, you never really know what you'll get weather wise.  One year it was hot and sunny, and the next year they were plowing the trail on race morning and everyone was donning full snow gear.  The after party is great- burgers and beer, chocolate and burritos- and then you get a one-way ticket on the RTD back to downtown Littleton.  In my opinion, it's a great way to spend a Sunday morning in the springtime.

June 23rd, 2012 Loveland

Unfortunately along the front range, Olympic triathlons are few and far between.  However, the fact that the Lake to Lake has been going strong since 2011 should attest to the awesomeness of this race! The swim is 1500M in Lake Loveland and follows the three sides of a rectangle (which is nice because it minimizes the water traffic and turbulance of an out and back course).  The run is 6.2 Miles around the lake and surrounding neighbors and very flat (bonus!).  But the real reason people keep signing up for this tri is the bike- a 30 mile loop out toward Horsetooth Reservoir, up and down the hilly reservoir road, and back on lots (and lots) of rollers.  The talent that comes out for this triathlon is also amazing.  Not only will you see a large chunk of very competitive athletes (it's a qualifier race so the talent shows up!) but you'll also see some amazing disabled athletes, including a local man who pulls a boy (every year) through the race.  On the swim the disabled boy rides in a raft, on the bike he is in a bike trailer, and on the run he is pushed in a jogger.  Everything about this race- the elites, the disabled athletes, and the views- is inspiring. 

August 26th, 2012 Ft. Collins
1/2 Mile Swim, 12.2 Mile Mtn. Bike, 8K Run

 Xterra enthusiasts like to say, "Once you go off-road, you'll never go back."  In my experience, off-road was crazy tough and something I will probably only put myself through once a year. And as far as Xterra's go, this is the only one I've found that's convenient to the Denverite crowd.   But regardless of it's slim competition, I still believe it is one of the best.  Put on by Without Limits Productions (a proven tri company that also puts on Outdoor Divas and Oktoberfest), the swim takes place in Horsetooth Reservoir just outside of Ft. Collins.  The mountain bike course alternates annually between an uphill loop, crazy climbing type of loop and a beginner friendly, meadow-riding type of loop.  Most people are friendly (as long as you avoid the elite-crowd) and the course is fun.  After a 12 miles on your mountain bike, you get to climb straight up the side of a mountain for the run.  Honestly, I'm pretty hard-core and I thought it was insane.  But on the positive end of things, you get to come back down the steep mountain slope and finish with an awesome slip n' slide across the finish line.  I was dirty, tired, and my feet were bleeding, but I was smiling.  And that's Xterra in a nutshell.
August 12th, 2012 Longmont
1/2 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, 5K Run

As far as all-women triathlons go, I'm not a fan of the crazy-crowded, everybody-hugging-everybody type of races.  I prefer a smaller race, where I can actually pass slower bikers/runners without killing myself (or them!).  And that's why I love Diva's.  Sure it's all women, but it's still competitive.  Everyone is friendly, but they still try to beat you.  And the race caps at 550 people!  The last couple of years I've driven up to the race with some awesome friends and we've all had a great time.  Oh! And the course is fast!  Bonus, right?


Summer Open: May 19th, 2012 Longmont
Oktoberfest: September 23rd, 2012 Longmont
1/2 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, 5K Run

Both of these triathlons take place on the same course as Outdoor Diva's and are put on by the same company, Without Limits Productions.  The swim is in Longmont Reservoir (about an hour drive from south Denver) and the bike is a 3 loop closed-to-traffic course.  In past years, I've averaged between 22-24mph on the bike- so it's fast! The run is out and back on a dirt road with only one hill.  The nice thing is, even though you have to run up the hill on your way out (around the 1 mile mark), you finish the 5K by cruising down the same hill, plus a short flat, and into the finish line.  Don't hold me to this last statement, but I'm pretty sure 8/8 of the triathletes I know that have done this course, have PR'd on this course.  Just saying.

Olympic: August 18th, 2012 Aurora
 1500 m Swim, 40K bike, 10K run
Sprint: August 19th, 2012 Aurora
500 m swim, 12 mile bike, 5K run

I think more people would be attracted to triathlons if it wasn't for the scary factor of the open water swim.  I remember when I signed up for my first triathlon, experienced racers did not hesitate to tell me all the horror stories of the water: "You'll get swum over, kicked in the head, and feel like you're drowning.  You'll want to stop and cry and quit, but you can't because you're in the middle of a freaking lake!" or something similar to that.  Of course you can opt for a pool swim triathlon, a great option to help you gain some confidence and race experience. But the truth is, and I'm sure this will make some folks mad, but real  triathlons take place in lakes and oceans.  Not pools.  I'm sorry, but it's true.

That said, there is another option beside the crazy-free-for-all wave-start.  At the Rattlesnake triathlon (Sprint and Olympic), racers line up in single file and enter the water one at a time, with about 10 seconds between each swimmer.  When it's your turn, you simply start your swim alone and at your own pace.  Sure you'll probably get passed by a swimmer or two, or pass a swimmer or two, but compared to the alternative, you'll be in much calmer waters.  

The Rattlesnake triathlons take place at Aurora Reservoir.  The bike course follows rolling hills and the run follows a low-to-moderately hilly bike bath around the reservoir.  And if you're feeling really ambitious, they offer the Back-to-Back option: compete in the Olympic distance on Saturday and come back for the Sprint distance on Sunday.  Oh, the fun never stops!

 September 9th, 2012 Aurora
1.2 Mile Swim, 56 Mile Bike, 13.1 Mile Run

Even though there are very few (like, only 2) half ironman triathlons in the state of Colorado, I still pick Harvest Moon as my fav.  They are reasonably priced ($135 for an entry, vs. $250 for the "other guy"), late in the season (giving you plenty of time to ramp up to the distance), limited to 600 people, and fun.  The crowd varies from elite to newbie with everything inbetween, and the race even offers an aquabike and relay category.  The bike is tough, with lots of the rolling hills that Aurora Res. is famous for, followed by a low-to-moderately hilly run around Aurora Reservoir.  But the best part? You finish by slip 'n sliding across the finish line! No one can take themselves too seriously on a slip 'n slide, am I right?

Littleton, CO    Date: TBD

Alright, alright, I'm totally partial on this one.  But it really is a great race with a fun, local feel. You get everybody from elite runners, to seasoned athletes, to the new runner crowd Plus, my personal favorite, is all the kids that come out to run (or walk) their first 5K.  The course is beautiful as it follows the Highline Canal and Lee Gulch trails around Old-town Littleton.   And not very many races take place on the Highline Canal since it's very hard to get approval.   Plus, the cause it great! All money raised (every penny!) goes to the Justice Project and their work with human trafficking victims.  But again, this is all my own personal opinion:)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

We rang in the new year last night with a house full of hyper kiddos (5 total), some party poppers, sparkling watermelon flavored juice, some PS3 action, and a movie about an orphaned Polar Bear.  

I was watching my friend's two kids for her since she had to ring in the new year at work.  I know I got the better end of that deal.

Pumpkin passed out first at around 10pm (WAY past her usual bedtime) and we lost the boys to slumber at 10:30. But the girls were obviously new year's enthusiasts because they actually made it until 12:15am.  

And I'm sure, like most parents across the world this morning, I had hopes of children who would sleep in. But instead I was awakened by Peanut poking me at 6:15am and asking for a movie.  

"Are you kidding me?!?!" I asked.  I went downstairs and found all the kids sitting on the couch, wide awake.  The boys had woke up at 6am and decided to sneak downstairs to wake up the girls.  Happy New Year to me. 

Two cups of coffee and "Despicable Me" later, I'm in a much better mood.  And hoping that today's start of 2012 is not indicative of what the rest of the year holds.  

In the midst of my frustrations with my children this morning, I remembered a poem I read on the side of a tea box once.  Today I will be printing this poem out and posting it in my kitchen.  I think this will be one of my resolutions for 2012.

If I Had My Child to Raise Over Again 
by Diane Loomans

If I had my child to raise all over again,
I'd finger-paint more, and point the fingers less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I would care to know less and know to care more.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites. 
I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.

I'd do more hugging and less tugging.
I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.
I'd teach less about the love of power, 
And more about the power of love.

Happy New Years!