Friday, January 16, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!
2014 was quite a whirlwind year for my family.  The most important lesson I learned last year was that I have a limit.  Really, I do.  I ran smack up against that limit early in 2014, and the rest of the year was basically a process of evaluating our life and making sustainable decisions for the future.

So far, so good.  We all seem to be really excited about 2015, and I think that’s largely because we are in a much more settled place.  We’re still extremely busy- I find myself regularly battling our schedule just to carve out time for, well, sleep- but most of what we’re doing is actually possible.  In the past, I’ve fallen prey to believing that anything is possible if I just worked hard enough.  Here’s a beautiful thought to start your new year:

EVERYthing is not possible.

Yes, all you Type-A Positive Thinking People, it’s true.  At some point, especially when you have seven people dependent on you and only you, you find out that there’s an end to possible.  But, there’s hope.  A lot of wonderful things can happen within the realm of possible.  The next year or two will bring more changes for our family, but I’m hoping that my newfound appreciation for limits will make our transitions less disruptive and more peaceful.

We kicked off the new year by trying something new.  My kids had never tried fondue, so I pulled out the skewers and we all had some fun on New Year’s Eve. 

And Austin, for the second year in a row, stayed up till midnight.  I don’t know where that little guy gets so much energy!  He’s the life of the party.

Speaking of new things, I have a new email address: bainsteradventure(at)gmail(dot)com.  Drop me a line. I love to hear from people even though I have an abysmal track record of answering emails (see “extremely busy” above).   

Here's to a blessed 2015!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rock n Roll San Antonio Half- Part 2

So...I did it.  I finished.

Here's the glass-half-empty version:  No one wants to have the absolute worst long run of the entire training cycle take place on race day.  And that's exactly what happened to me.  Glass-half-full version:  I finished the race.  I posted a solid mid-pack time- 60% of the racers finished after I did- and I learned a lot.

And here's the long version:

After all of the chaos leading up to the race, things started to fall in place on Saturday.  My coach said he'd drive me to the race.  My aunt and uncle would get me home.  My sister agreed to babysit.  My neighbor (an all-around wonderful person AND runner) offered back-up for every single one of these things.

I started feeling extremely anxious before bed on Saturday, but I managed to sleep fairly well.  I got up, marveled at how little I needed for a running-only race (no helmet, goggles, bike, 3 pairs of shoes?), got ready, ate, whispered good-bye to my sleepy sister, and got to the carpool place on time.

We got downtown in plenty of time, stretched, and jogged around for about a mile.  (No, I would not have DREAMED of jogging, even at a slow pace, before a race if my coach hadn't been there.)  I felt great.  My legs were fresh, my stomach wasn't revolting against me, and the weather was PERFECT.  This was going to be a beautiful race.  Ah, the naive idealism of a first-timer.

My coach wished me luck, reminded me not to go out too fast and to watch my form at the end when I got tired.  I headed back to my corral to wait for the start.  It was here that I made my first mistake.  I don't remember what I told the Team that my estimated finish time was but I definitely ended up in a slower corral.  As we edged toward the starting line (Corral 16 started about 25 minutes after the first group), I started to get really hungry.  I had eaten about 3 1/2 hours before, so this might indeed have been actual hunger, but I chalked it up to nerves and ignored it.  When our group got close to the announcer, he commented that now he was seeing the corrals where "running knew no body type."  Brilliant.  Thanks for the encouragement.

For the first mile, LOTS of people were walking already.  The walk-run phenomena is firmly entrenched in distance running.  It works well for many people, but I'm not one of them, and I find pacing around walk-runners very difficult.  There were some supporters along the way, and it was interesting to see the different groups.  Some dressed up and had funny signs ("This is a lot of work for a free banana," "You are NOT almost there"), while others shouted encouragement and tried to high-five people, and then there was Team Daphne.  They looked exceptionally displeased to be there.  I imagine when she finally went past that they shouted something like, "It's your fault we had to get up early on a Sunday morning!  Run by yourself next time!"  The pastor of First Baptist had the encouragement thing down and his voice really carried.  I could have used a recorded loop of him for the rest of the race.

We passed the Alamo at mile one.  Mile one.  Why the race is arranged so that the most inspiring view comes at mile one I can't begin to fathom.  For the next couple of miles, I stuck pretty close to a 10 minute pace.  I finally realized that if I didn't kick it into gear and leave the group I was running around behind, I was going to just meander all the way to the finish.  But I found that easier said than done.  I'm not a big group person, and 25,000 runners certainly meets my definition of a big group.  The distraction was killing me, but I did manage to break free and I passed the 4:40 full marathon pacer (no idea if they were on pace or not) and left that group behind.

Miles 5 to 8 were hilly.  Ordinarily, I think I could have managed that without a problem, but, again, the runners around me were wildly inconsistent with their paces.  Some- many- were walking up the hills, and I found myself starting to do the same.  I had to fight the urge constantly.  I started to pick it up again on the downhills around the 7.5 mile mark, but right at the 8 mile point, I started to feel really chilled.  I realized I was shivering and covered in goosebumps.  Those around me were sweating freely, so it wasn't a change in the weather.  I had been drinking along the way, but I started to wonder if I needed electrolytes.  I decided to make a bathroom stop, but after waiting in line for a full minute without the line moving at all, I abandoned that idea and went to go get some Gatorade at the aid station.

Except there was no Gatorade at mile 8.  Or mile 9.  Or mile 10.  I was definitely starting to come apart at that point.  At mile 11, I finally found Gatorade.  It tasted like the absolute best stuff on earth- I think it was mixed double-strength.  My shivering stopped and the numbness I had had went away as well.  I saw a friend and neighbor volunteering and she shouted encouragement.  But speed, unfortunately, didn't return.  The full marathoners split off just after that, and suddenly, everything became deadly silent.  We were running along an ugly stretch of road by the railroad tracks (a lot of the course was actually very un-picturesque) and everyone stopped talking.  There were no bands, no spectators.  (Side note:  There weren't really very many bands along the route.  And some were playing slow music.  A couple were good, others were off-key, but did get points for substituting runner lyrics.)  We all just shuffled along toward the finish.

When we finally got to the finish line, I sprinted and passed about 25 people.  Not because I thought it would make a difference to my time.  Not because I needed to beat those people.  Just because I needed to be DONE.  And Gatorade.  I really needed to find Gatorade.  (I never, ever, ever drink Gatorade.  But I definitely needed it.)  People kept handing me stuff- a medal, water, chips (didn't take those), chocolate milk, containers of peaches (didn't take those either) and all I kept asking was, "Where is the Gatorade?"  I finally located it, couldn't figure out how to get it open- how many seals does one bottle need?- and went in search of a blanket or something because I was shivering in earnest now.  They had mylar blankets further down the chute and since my arms were full of all my "stuff"  (I have no idea why the race coordinators didn't think to offer some sort of bag or trick-or-treat bucket to put all that junk in), the volunteer had to wrap the thing around me.

I shuffled over to the Team in Training tent to wait for my cousin to finish the full marathon.  I had a text from my aunt saying he was exactly on pace.  The Team in Training volunteer offered me a taco- NO, thank you- and even his sweatshirt.  I sipped my Gatorade and tried to figure out what had happened.

I finished in 2:25.  That's...not bad, but not what I trained for, either.  I should have been able to finish in 2:10 to 2:15.  My splits- every single one of them- were slower than anything I had done in training, even on a bad day.

I made my way back over to the finishing chute to watch the other runners shuffle around trying to manage their handfuls of "stuff."  I found it hilarious that, when a runner would drop a bag of chips, he would look down at the ground in despair as if he had just dropped them into a 100 foot ravine instead of right on top of his shoes.  Reaching down that far just wasn't possible for people who had poured all of their effort into racing.  One man- quite the gentleman- reached down to grab a chip bag for an older lady.  He got stuck about halfway back up and sort of swayed back and forth for a moment before sloooooowly rising.  He should have gotten a medal just for that.

My cousin finished in 4:02- crushing his previous PR- and looked great at the end.

I got delivered back to my van and continued to ponder my race as I drove home.  About 5 minutes from my house, it finally hit me:  The Zone.  That was the problem.  I never went into The Zone.

Usually, when I run, the first mile is really tough.  I feel awkward, off-pace, and it takes all of my willpower to keep going.  Then, it gradually starts to feel a little smoother.  Around the 2.5 mile point, I find my pace, and by mile 4, I'm in The Zone.  At mile 6, I feel like I can run forever.  Miles 4 to 10 are where I post my fastest times, and there are times where I forget I'm running.  I was prepared to have to push through the last 5K of the race, but I wasn't prepared to have every...single...mile...feel like the first mile.  I'm a solitary runner and I just couldn't find my pace with all of the people around (I've never done a big race before), and I didn't have the mental toughness to push myself through.  I now know why so many run with headphones. Listening to music is the only way I can even imagine that I could have shut out all of the people around me.

But...I did it!  And, yes, I'll probably be stupid enough to do it again.  Because I have to try the headphone thing.  And bring my own electrolytes.  And start in a faster corral.  And...

Thank you again to all of the people who supported me in this!  You're the best.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rock n Roll San Antonio Half- Part 1

For me, the most difficult part of the race is not the months of training, the miles of running, the refueling, the hydrating, or the racing.  No, it's getting to the start line that's tough.  This time, getting there deserves its own post.

I, of course, signed on with Team in Training for this race.  I'm thankful for all that they do to combat blood cancers and the San Antonio chapter is probably a fun bunch. I say "probably" because I made it to a grand total of...ZERO...practices.  Yep.  Not a single one.  I didn't make it to the get-togethers, the send-off dinner, the team-building-social-let's-have-fun stuff either.  So, I was a little out of the loop.  Not their fault at all- just the product of me having, oh, I don't know, seven kids, perhaps?  They tried, they really did, but my life simply can't accommodate other people's schedules right now, so I trained on my own and tried to keep up with the email communication as much as possible.

At any rate, because the team handled the registration, I was a little unclear on exactly how that impacted the "normal" pre-race stuff, especially packet pick-up.  I got an email saying that, if I couldn't make it to any of the team events, I could pick up my bag of "stuff" at the office.  Great.  Perfect.  On Friday morning, I sent my older kids off to school, packed up my two younger ones, and made the trek to San Antonio to get my "stuff."  Stress level on a 1 to 10 scale: 3.

When I got to the office, I grabbed the bag with my name on it and strapped Stefan and Austin back into their carseats.  And then, I looked at the stuff in the bag.  It became immediately apparent that this bag, while it contained a few snazzy items, did not, in fact, contain a race packet.  That meant a trip to downtown San Antonio.  I was already halfway there, but...packet pickup didn't start for about 3 hours.  Three hours.  Short enough to be tempting, but too much time to kill with two little guys in tow.  Plus, I had a ton of stuff to do at home.  I decided that I would just have to wait till sometime later.  Stress level: 5, edging toward 6

As I sat in the parking lot, processing all of that in my mind, I realized I had gotten a text.  It was my babysitter for race morning.  "I'm so sorry, but I have the flu and I can't babysit on Sunday."  Stress level:  8

I took a deep breath, drove home and focused on being as productive as possible, working on lesson planning and grading, while frantically trying to find another sitter and work out a ride downtown for Sunday morning.  Apparently, lots of runners get hotel rooms near the start line.  Smart.  And not possible for me.

At some point during the day, I decided that it would be better to just take the five younger boys downtown (Megan would be at gymnastics and Nathan still in school) right after school and get packet pickup out of the way.  We could leave just after 3 and be back just before 5.

We actually left at 3:30 and I started to worry about getting caught in rush hour traffic on the way back, but I forged ahead.  We got downtown, and that's when the fun started.  There was a time that I spent a decent amount of time in downtown San Antonio- Bryan actually worked there sometimes- but I had never been to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center where packet pick-up was.  When I read "convention center," I pictured something like the Alamo Dome or Freeman Coliseum- big building, big parking lot.  What I actually found, after inching my way through the terrible downtown traffic, was a sidewalk-locked building with a tiny parking lot.  The sign in front of it said, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here."  (It may actually have said, "Parking by permit only," but the words had an identical effect.)  Stress level: 15

And so I began to drive around...and around.  I passed parking garages, most full, all with 3 foot height clearances- or 6 feet or 7 feet- it was all the same to my high top van.  I passed above ground lots that I had parked in in the past, but then I'd been driving a snazzy, maneuverable Acura, not a clunky, full-size Behemoth.  I started to pray and then I saw it- a space!  An open lot with a space that would allow me to back out.  I wasn't entirely sure I could circumnavigate the lot to get back out, but I decided to take a leap (drive) of faith.

I had (naturally) neglected to bring a stroller.  By this time, we were probably a mile from the convention center.  Fortunately, I ALWAYS keep my BabyErgo in the van (my children have been threatened with eternal grounding if they ever remove it), so I popped Austin on my back, grabbed Stefan and Carsten in a vulcan grip ("Mom!  You're squeezing my hand off!"  Yep.  Keep walking.) and started off with five boys through downtown San Antonio during Friday evening rush hour.  Stress level: 18

I managed, after a few loops of the very large convention center, to find the right entrance to the packet pick-up.  I kept the boys on a tight leash.  (Figuratively speaking.  If they had been selling real kid leashes at the expo, I would have been the first in line.)  We powered past all the samples (no, boys, you may not suck down packets of nothing-but-sugar goo) and finally found an exit.

We made it back to the car and out of the parking lot (they took debit card- yay!) and I realized that my phone was almost dead.  Yikes!  I have a terrible sense of direction to begin with, and we had made quite a few twists and turns to find parking.  I sent up a panicked prayer that my phone would last until I got back on I-10.  "Turn left on Commerce."  (My new directions lady is very perky.)  "Turn right on San Saba."  "Take the left lane to merge onto I 10."  And then my phone shut off.  Dead.  God has a sense of humor.  Stress level: 10

So I had my packet.  Now I just needed a babysitter and a ride.  Oh, and did I mention that the very I-10 that I had just driven on to get downtown was going to be closed all weekend?  Minor detail.  All part of the endurance sport known as "Getting to the Starting Line."  And that sport- at least for this mom- is the toughest one.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

And...Three Months Later

So I originally entitled this "Two Months Later" and then I counted.  Three months!  Where did the time go?  Here's a little of what we've been up to since the last time I checked in....

Back to School

"Back to school" for us this year should really be called "To School for the First Time."  All of five of my school age kids started public school this year!  Four are at our local elementary school (Megan- 6th grade; Evan- 4th; Justin- 3rd; Carsten-1st), and Nathan (7th grade) had the adventure of starting out in middle school.

I made the decision to send them to public school after trying and considering different options.  I sought the Lord's guidance and got advice from wise people.  The fact is, for a single mom with seven children, public school is a blessing.  It's "free," it's local, and an overworked single parent is not an anomaly.

And I'm happy to report that my kiddos aren't just enduring their new schools, they're LOVING them.  They're challenged, but not stressed; busy, but not overwhelmed.  They've made friends who live close enough to play with after school.  Their teachers are loving and encouraging.  Each one of my children has become more independent and responsible and confident.  I get to focus on mothering without the pressure of being teacher and principal and school counselor too.  We feel so blessed to live in a community that can produce high quality schools, because, of course, public schools are just a reflection of the values and standards of the majority of the people in the district.

Both younger boys are in preschool part-time while I work.  Next year, Stefan will start kindergarten and Austin will continue preschool.  I can't believe how quickly my little brood is growing up.

Backpack is slightly smaller than child

Running and Running and Running

I've kept up with my half marathon training.  (I'll be running the San Antonio Rock n Roll Half, Lord willing, THIS WEEKEND- on December 7th.  It's odd to type "Rock n Roll" and "Lord willing" in the same sentence.)  Thank you so much to everyone who supported me in my Leukemia Lymphoma Society Team in Training fundraising quest.  You're the best!

I've enjoyed the training, and the increasing distances haven't been as insurmountable as I'd imagined.  I guess you never know until you try!  I am looking forward to having the race DONE so that I can carve out a little time to get back on my bike.  I love running, but I miss my weekend rides.

Thanksgiving morning run

Chaos and Order

Conquering chaos is an ongoing order of business around here.  I'm working hard at it, and I think I might be making progress.  Of course, perhaps "conquering" is the wrong word.  It might be better to say "managing" or "taming" the chaos.  As long as I'm this outnumbered, chaos will be an ever-present reality.

Fun!  And messy...always messy


Speaking of chaos, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the REAL reasons that the blog has been so quiet.  Here they are, in no particular order:  Cross country (Nathan), soccer (Justin, Carsten, Stefan), gymnastics (Megan), and swim (Evan).  Only Austin was sports-free in September through November.  Unless, of course, sharpie-ing the couch is an athletic endeavor.  He's set a PR there.  We all love the activity, but with so many doing so much, it did make the evenings and weekends a little hectic.  We're all enjoying having a bit of a break.

Top of the podium is a great place to be!

That's a grimace of triumph.

The REAL post-race pic.
That's not a "finisher" medal- it's an actual hard-won medal.

So. many. soccer. games

Friday, August 29, 2014

Team in Training (Finally...)

I've been without internet access in my house for an ENTIRE week!  (Well, other than the 4G on my phone, but still...)  It's like living on a desert island.  Actually, we've been so busy that, other than the nuisance of having to make two trips up the road to the library to get some work done on their computers, I've hardly noticed.  Except for the fact that this post is way past due.  So here goes...

When Bryan was in the hospital, on one of those few blessed days where he was well enough to be himself, his phone rang.  It was the Leukemia Lymphoma Society asking if he'd like to renew his yearly donation to fund blood cancer research.  Bryan laughed.  "Funny you should mention that.  I'm sitting on a hospital bed and I've just been diagnosed with blood cancer."

The lady on the phone offered condolences, encouragement, and a promise to offer whatever help they could.

And they did.

June 6, 2012
Daddy in the hospital with all his little people.
One of the toughest parts of being in the hospital and being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness is the sheer amount of information that you have to sift through.  Bryan's team of doctors was fantastic, and they did exactly what they needed to do: They focused on the clinical side of his care.  The overworked nurses did their best to care for all of the patients on the ward.  But sifting through the treatment options, the new vocabulary, the side effects, the tests, the precautions, the prognosis- that whole process is overwhelming. 

June 18, 2012
Daddy at home with his little sunshine.
 And it wasn't too long ago that the treatment "options" for blood cancers were few and the prognosis was grim.  Organizations like the Leukemia Lymphoma Society by coming alongside patients and their families to educate and support, and by funding research to extend life and search for cures and treatments, have made a tremendous amount of headway in fighting blood cancer.

Shortly after Bryan died, I saw that the Leukemia Lymphoma Society raised money through the Team in Training.  I knew immediately that I wanted to join.  I wanted my kids to see that their are people fighting back against cancer.  That we can use something as devastating as their dad's death to motivate us to do something for others.

In December, Lord willing, I'll be running my first half marathon- the San Antonio Rock n Roll Half- with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society Team in Training.  I need your help, please support me and my kiddos in this quest in Bryan's honor.  Every little donation will help move me closer to the finish line (okay, my legs might have a little to do with that too) and, I pray, will one day conquer leukemia.

June 26, 2012
Still holding on.
You can give by clicking this link.  Thank you to all of you who have already donated, and please forward this to your friends and family.  I'm blessed to have each one of you in my life.

I posted this verse when Bryan had been in the hospital for two weeks, and quite possibly several times since then.  It's become a theme for me.

"They that wait upon the LORD 
shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint."

Isaiah 40:31

Sunday, August 17, 2014

From the Outside Looking In

I was standing in line at the grocery store, and I was reading the fronts of the magazines.  I saw a picture of Kate Gosselin.  "Oh my goodness!" I thought, "I can't believe she's raising all those kids by herself."

And then I laughed.  Out loud.

What was I thinking?  She only has one more child than I do and hers are older than mine!

But that brief moment in the store gave me insight into everyone around me, and for that I'm thankful.  It made me realize that things appear far different from the outside looking in.

It's been two years since Bryan died, and we're doing well.  Our lives have changed dramatically, and will continue to change over the next two years, and the two years after that.  Some of the change has been inevitable, some of it has been the result of my prayerful decisions.  All of it has moved us forward.  One of the biggest challenges we face now is the reaction of others to our situation.

"You have how many kids?"

"Seven.  Six boys.  One girl."

"Wow!  Are you going to have more?" (or, alternatively...) "What does your husband do?"

"I'm a widow."

And then, the reaction.  Best: "I'm sorry."  Okay: "Oh."  Worst: Anything longer than the first two.

Because I get it.  It's sad.  Seven kids.  No dad.  Cue the violins.  No one would choose something like this.  But, it's our LIFE, and quite honestly, we spend most of our time happy, or at the very least "normal."  There are tears, but they're usually of the "he destroyed my six day Lego project" type.  Life goes on, and especially with growing and active children, grief just can't stay around for long.

As the two year anniversary of Bryan's death approached, I did a little investigative work with my kids.  Did they want to "do something" to remember the date?  Ummm, no.  Turns out we are not a memorializing family.

We do remember Bryan, of course.  He comes up in conversations all the time.  But we rarely talk about the sad stuff.  We remember things he said, things he did.  The kids are particularly fond of the things that make them laugh.  They want their memories of their dad to be happy, and I'm okay with that.  More than okay, actually.  I know that it's exactly what Bryan would have wanted.

Bryan was all about moving forward.  He was, actually, all about careening forward at break-neck speed and actively looking for ways to reach out to others.  He wanted to squeeze every drop he could out of life, and he never let pain or grief stop him.  He figured that death demonstrated that life was short, and that the departed would be honored to know that their loved ones were continuing to embrace life.

And we are embracing life.

But I understand that others don't understand.  When you're on the outside looking in, life looks messy, scary, and sometimes sad.  God gives grace for each moment, though, and with His grace comes joy and strength for the battle.

I want our family to share the blessing of God's provision for us with others.  I want my kids to see that life goes on and that we need to do what we can to serve others.  I want our family to be part of something bigger.

On that note, I've decided, because I believe it will honor Bryan and his embrace life and reach out philosophy, to begin half marathon training with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society Team in Training.  (If you'd like to donate in Bryan's memory to fund research to combat blood cancer, you can click here.)  I'll post more details on what led me to take this leap and on what I'll be doing and why.  Until then, dear friends, embrace life, and remember, things look a lot better from the inside.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Randomness #2

Here are a few random things from the last few weeks:


It is hot, hot, hot.  Swimming is about the only outdoor activity that's possible after noon around here.


Our fridge FINALLY got fixed.  (At least, I think it's fixed.  It's still freezing stuff in the back.  I really hate my GE fridge and dealing with GE.  The repairmen they send are friendly and probably competent, but the company is not endearing itself to me.  Fortunately, I have a second fridge in the garage which incidentally cost less than the repair on the less than two year old GE fridge.)  Anyway...after two weeks of making trips to the garage every time we needed something cold, we finally had an indoor fridge again.

And I saw Justin standing in front of it in the kitchen.

"Justin, what are you doing?"

"I am standing in front of the fridge hoping that something good will magically appear."

"It won't.  Shut the door."  Can't blame a guy for trying.


Last Saturday as I was taking Megan to her gymnastics practice, I saw that the fountain in the town square was FILLED with foam.  After I dropped Megan off, the boys and I headed out to investigate.

It took about two minutes for this to happen.

Yep, he fell in the fountain head first.  After a quick change of clothes for Austin, we headed out to the green belt for some nature exploration.  (When I got the Ergo out for Austin, he said, "Oh, THANK YOU, Mommy!" like I had just given him the best gift in the world.  So cute.)

There were ducklings.

And walls to climb.

 And Austin found two feathers and flapped his arms, "I'm flying!  I'm flying!"

It was a delightful way to spend a Saturday morning.


Austin's rhetoric skills are improving.  Just the other day, he anticipated an argument.

He was playing with a metal stick (yeah, I know, I'm a great mom), and he narrowly missed whacking me in the head with it.  

Just as I was getting ready to launch into a "and this is why you shouldn't play with sticks" lecture, he said, "It's not dange-wus, Mom.  Look! (He pats my head.)  You's head still all better."


Finally, I got running shoe advice from Elvis at the Leukemia Lymphoma Society Team in Training event. More on that exciting development to come...