Saturday, September 10, 2016

Summer Snapshots, Part 2

One of biggest things to happen this summer was Mom's first ever trip away from the kiddos.  I wanted to see my Mutti (maternal grandmother) who was in Tennessee visiting from Germany.  I had hoped that somehow we could all go, but after the three hour car trip to the beach, I was ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE that a two day road trip was a seriously bad idea.  (Not to put all the blame on Austin, but that little pistol is just too young to be in the car with other humans for long periods of time.)

My sister Sara (see above) volunteered to babysit, and I flew up to visit and had a great time reconnecting, not just with Mutti, but with my aunt Marina and uncle Ken and the cousins.  It was a very refreshing time and those two nights away did me a world of good.  I think it was the first time I had just "chilled out" in four years.  ("Chilling out" is not one of my strengths, and my present circumstances would make it difficult even if it were something I did well.

There was soooo much good food and fellowship, and especially food.  Good thing I managed a run in beautiful Tennessee to burn off some of the delicious calories.

While I was there, we reminisced about some of the trips we had taken in the past, including one to Yugoslavia.  
When we were all much younger.
Left to right: Angie, Marina's friend; Aimee; Marina; Mutti, Anna
And I guess it was cold.
 This, of course, led us to discuss FOOD, and when I got back home, I ordered some Ajvar sauce and made Cevapcici.  Not quite as good as on the Yugoslavia trip, but still pretty tasty.  And I ate the Ajvar on eggs for the rest of the week.

(This, by the way, led to a general flurry of ethnically-inspired meals, much to the kids' delight.  They're pretty adventurous eaters and full-time working Mom's meals tend to be pretty basic.  "What's for dinner?"  "Food.  Let's eat.")

There were also a few injuries and illnesses...

...which were cured by stitches, medicine, and post-doctor Frosty consumption.

Austin also tangled a comb in my hair while I was playing a card game with the older kids.  Letting him play with my hair SEEMED like a good way to keep him occupied.  Never again.  It took me 15 minutes to untangle it.

In July, we did the Texas Too Hot race at the Boerne Lake.  Nathan won the 5K, but I decided to do the 15K which was, much like the "letting Austin near my hair with a comb" incident, a very stupid decision.  It should have been called the Texas Too Hot, Humid, Hilly, and Horrible.  It was crazy.  The 15K course was sadistic and I'll never do it again, although now I at least have a great story about the race that I'll never do again.

Finally, we finished off the summer with OLYMPICS.  And that led to many nights of this...

Hope your summer was wonderful and that everyone is starting off the school year strong!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Summer Snapshots, Part 1

Well, it's the official "last weekend of summer."  Of course, school started here two weeks ago, so that seems a bit of a misnomer at the moment, but it's still a great excuse to post a few random notes about our summer adventures.

We kept it low-key, with as much outdoor time as possible.  I struggled with some light-sensitive headaches which sometimes kept us all inside, but we still managed quite a bit of active fun in the sun.

I finished off the last school year by running a 10K with my sister (her first!) and watching lots of soccer.

Aimee and Sara

Carsten and Random Opponent

There were school awards.

Megan and BFF Kinslee

And...we bought a new car!  I was a little nervous about the downsize, but I have not once regretted the decision.  I love being able to park wherever and I am so thrilled to be back in a Honda.

There were chess games over breakfast.

And swimming.  Lots of swimming.  Austin learned to jump off the diving board and he spent many happy hours doing just that.

Austin demonstrating proper goggle wear.  "They need to push down my ears, Mom."

We explored nature.

Boys looking at something very interesting.

 And we went to the beach!

Which child did NOT understand the point of the picture?

The three sand castle building kiddos.

Sunrise walk.  Note absence of teenagers.

Have a great week!  More summer adventure recaps to come.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Stefan (and Every Runner)

Stefan is six.  And if you've been following this blog for awhile, you know that endurance activities aren't necessarily his natural forte.  Because he has to wear shoes.  He hates shoes.  And pain and suffering and discomfort.

But, at the San Antonio Road Runners Fun Run (free!!) at McAllister Park recently, he ran a total of FOUR miles.  That's a long way for a person with little legs.

The event is basically three runs- an 800 m., a 1 mile, and a 2.5 mile (sometimes 3- it depends).  Anyone who completes all three gets a little trophy.  Stefan wanted that trophy.

I took all of the kids, and I had figured that I'd be spectating with Stefan and Austin after they ran the 100 m. kids' run.  But being around a bunch of runners is motivating even to tiny tots!  I ended up running the 800 with Austin and then, Stefan was convinced that he was going to run the 2.5 mile race for the trophy.

So I ran with him.  In jeans.  Not my smartest clothing choice ever, but it won't be a mistake that I repeat.  The sacrifices we make for our children!

The race was very hard for him.  He'd already run over 1.5 miles that morning in the other races, and he started out tired (but motivated).  He kept a running commentary (Stefan is a talker!) throughout the race, and everything he said has been said (or thought) by every runner in every race.

At the start: This is great!  I'm going to get a trophy.  I'm chasing the [lead] guy on that bike.  Is that a deer?  It's pretty out here.

A little farther:  This is hard.  I think I should walk.  

I CAN'T do this.  That little girl just passed me.  I am last.  Well, second to last because you're behind me, Mom.

Is that lady behind me?  I'm not last!  I'm going to run.  

She passed me!  I'm not doing this anymore.  Carry me.  [I told him runners don't get carried.]  Then just leave me here.

Did your watch buzz?  How fast am I going?  That's so slow!  I'm terrible and I'm slow!  I am NOT good at running.


Do they have a trophy for second to last?

Is that the end?   No, it's not the end.  Why did I sign up for this one?

It's the finish line.  I can't make it.  It's too far.

I am never doing this again.

Where's my trophy?

This trophy is cool.  I did it!  When I do this next time, will they give me another trophy?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

New Year Reflection

The start of a new year always puts me in a reflective mood.  I like to look back on the past year and think about the changes and evaluate what went well and what didn't.  I like to look forward and set goals for the next year.  And I didn't want to let the year slip away without sharing at least a few of those reflections here.

2015 was a year of change for our family.  Change has, of course, defined our family for many years, and the 3 1/2 years since Bryan died have brought massive transformation.  I think, though, that the change of 2015 was unique in that it represents our family getting settled into what will be our new normal.

The Lord has been gracious in allowing us to make our changes somewhat slowly: first a move, then mom working part-time, then the kids going to public school, and, now, mom working full-time.  Each step has been challenging at first and then more manageable as time went on.  (The only step, ironically, that ended up being extremely easy was the kids transitioning from homeschooling to public school.  They did great from day one.  They love it and they're thriving.  This was the step that I was most concerned about, but I suppose I had forgotten that children are far more resilient and open to change than we adults are.)

Now that I'm working full-time, my children are growing in independence and maturity in some beautiful ways.  It's not always easy- in fact, it's extraordinarily difficult.  Raising seven children alone is a full-time job all by itself.  I really do have two full-time jobs at this season in my life.  But now, I don't just tell my kids that they're an indispensable part of our family team- they really are.  If anyone fails to pull his weight, everything crashes.  They are beginning to see that life takes work and that leisure is a welcome reward for that work.

We still have a long way to go.  There are a lot of areas in which we can, and indeed, must, improve in the coming years.  But life has taken on a new dimension, a new direction.  The Bain family isn't living in  a state of transition anymore.  We are, believe it or not, settled into our new life.  The years to come will bring many more changes, I know, and I look forward to seeing what the Lord has in store for us in the future.  But for now, we're where we ought to be, and although life is exhausting, it's good.

As we feel more established as a family, I hope to share more here about grief, loss, suffering, and moving on; about single parenting; about family identity; about approaching life as a mission and a calling.

Thank you for your faithfulness in reading my scribblings, however sporadic they might be.  May your lives see many blessings and much growth in the coming year.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Shiner Half Marathon!

Reasons to Race:

1.  Racing gives you a goal- something to aim for.

2.  Racing encourages you to train consistently.

3.  Racing helps you see what kind of progress you're making in training.

4.  You already paid for the race.

Reasons I Ran This Race:

1.  Racing gives me a goal- something to aim for.

2.  Racing encourages me to train consistently.

3.  Racing helps me see what kind of progress I'm making in training.

4.  I had already paid for the race.

Yep, I signed up for the Shiner Half Marathon this summer when triathlon training was going well, and I couldn't wait to see how that would translate into my half marathon time.  Then, I started working full time and, though I tried to stay active, my "training" was more like a few little runs a week.

I considered bailing, but I had already PAID FOR IT.  I just couldn't waste the money.  So, for four weeks before the race, I ran pretty consistently.  Yes, an entire four weeks.  And during that time, I even skipped one of the long runs.  Not exactly a stellar training plan, but Coach Mark gave me a little guidance, and he was pretty confident that I'd survive, so I decided to trust his judgment and charge ahead.

The little town of Shiner, Texas, is known for its scenic hills, picturesque downtown, and famous half marathon.  And maybe beer.  This race is capped at the population of Shiner- something like 2046 this year- and it sells out REALLY quickly.  (Another reason not to let the opportunity to run pass me by even though I was unprepared for it!) The smaller group appealed to me.  The huge crowd at my first half marathon made for a tough and unpleasant race for me.  Fewer racers sounded good!

I had very little time to prepare for the race.  I didn't even manage to leave work on time the evening before!  But I had a babysitter lined up, I picked up some Clif Gels, and called myself ready.  Saturday morning, the two hour drive went by quickly and I felt happy and relaxed.  I figured that I couldn't really be disappointed with my performance.  After all, I knew I was out of shape, so I had no expectations.

The sun came up when I was just a little bit away from Shiner, and I tried to judge the terrain and the weather.  It definitely looked like rain.  Or maybe not.  But maybe so.  And was that a hill?  No, it's not that hilly.  Wait.  Yes, it's definitely going to be hilly.

I had already been warned about the hills.  Shiner is a hilly race.  I knew I hadn't physically prepared myself for hills.  I did precisely zero hill repeats, unless you count the endless flights of stairs I climb at work.  So I told myself that hills were part physical, but a lot more mental.  I planned to be as mentally tough as I could be and hope that would be enough keep me from walking.  And I wasn't going to worry about the rain or the 100% humidity.

As it turns out, the rain should have been the least of my concerns.

Guys, the wind!!!  I haven't ever run in wind like that.  At least not uphill, and not for that long.  But I turned up my music, leaned into it, and kept going.

For the first two miles, I ignored everyone and everything, passed as many people as I could, and tried to find a group running around my pace.  I did seem to manage that, and although I didn't stay with the exact same group by any means, I did stay surrounded by steady runners, and that helped me in my "Don't Walk!" goal.

I'm to the right of the picture.  Messing with my phone.  
Great way to start.

After two miles, I felt focused enough to start looking around and enjoying the course and the other runners.  And the backs of the other runners' shirts especially.  "If you can read this, you didn't train either." "Don't let this 56 year old open-heart surgery survivor beat you."  Mine said, "Are my kids still chasing me?"

Random people running. 
I am apparently really good at avoiding race photographers.

Around mile six, a guy running next to me said, "We have been climbing for six straight miles."  And we pretty much had.  Just a gradual, unrelenting uphill with a couple of actual hills thrown in.  I thought I had heard that it started to gradually descend around the halfway point, and I told him so.   But right about this point, we started climbing a real, actual, serious hill.

And the wind!  It was a solid headwind.  About halfway up, I started to feel like Frodo and his Fellowship buddies, trying to head up Mt. Caradhras with the mountain fighting them every step of the way.  (#geekreference) All the forces of nature were telling us, "Go back!!!  Go back!!!"  Someone later said it felt like running on a treadmill.  But I kept running- not fast, but still not walking.

"Just think!" I told myself.  "This means the entire way back will be downhill with tailwind!"

Except that it wasn't an out and back.  It curved around and the headwind turned into a crosswind.  And that was tough too!  Some of the gusts caused the whole group to take a few steps sideways.

At the seven mile point, I could see the gradual descent beginning, and I pointed that out to the "We're still climbing" guy.  And it was...gravel!  A mile and a half of gravel.  Climbing guy dropped back, but, thanks to my many Cibolo Nature Trail runs, I passed about a dozen runners on that stretch.

Around mile 10, I did a caffeinated gel to help me get through the last three miles.  I was amazed at how great I still felt.  I knew I was working hard- my heart rate certainly told me that.  The hills and the wind were taking everything I had, but I WAS DOING IT!  The scenery was great- fields and hill country- and that made me glad to be out there running, plus the people running around me seemed happy to be there too.

At mile 11, the biggest difference from Shiner and Rock n' Roll became apparent.  At this point at RnR, the course goes through what might as well be the armpit of San Antonio- industrial buildings and parking lots.  But the Shiner course went through a gorgeous park with wide paved paths, and the sun (which had finally decided to come out) sparkling on the river.  It was the kind of place any runner would want to be on a Saturday morning.

And then there was this crazy steep hill at mile 12.  Truly.  Everyone started hiking up it, but at this point, I was so determined to tell Nathan (a true runner) that I hadn't walked, that I forced myself to run up it.

Then it was time to create a completely irrelevant mini race with an unsuspecting runner.  A lady in a blue shirt had been switching places with me for awhile, so I decided she needed to be vanquished.  Yep.  That's what happens at the end of a race.

And I beat her!  Woo hoo!  Success.  Petty?  Yes.  Effective?  Also yes.  Did she have any idea what was happening?  Nope.  Someone else probably defeated me.  (Neon Orange Dude at mile 13.05- I'm looking at you.)

At the finish line!  With hat in hand.  It blew off and nearly took out a runner behind me,
 so I carried it the rest of the way.

I finished in 2 hours and 10 minutes!  Because of my sporadic training, I was very surprised, especially given the wind and hills.  (This was, ironically, my goal time for Rock n Roll a year ago.  That was a far easier course with absolutely no weather issues, but I was mentally unprepared and therefore spent a lot of time walking.)  That put me 28th out of 112 in my age group.  Better than mid-pack!

Two seconds after finishing.  Selfie time!

I stuck around for about an hour of the after party- the best by far of any of my races.  Must have been the live music.  All in all, this race was the BEST I have done so far.  Well-organized and happy.  Everyone was happy.  And I am SO glad that I went ahead and raced it.

When I got home, the kids patiently listened to my race report, and then Austin took some time to admire my medal.  He does not understand the concept of finisher medals.  "You winned?" "I finished!"  "You winned?"  "I finished."  "No, you winned."

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Stony Paths

“If God sends us on strong paths,
we are provided strong shoes.”
-Corrie Ten Boom

                I love this quote.  It is a comforting reminder of God’s provision when the times get tough.  But the more I walk the strong and stony paths, the more I think there might be something a little lacking in the metaphor.

                If we are provided strong shoes, then we can walk the strong paths confidently from the beginning.  Our feet are protected, and we march into the future knowing that the Lord is giving us the strength and comfort to carry on.

                At the beginning of any difficult path, though, most of us are beset with doubt, fear, and pain.  We walk, but it hurts.  Then, gradually, with time, we find that it hurts a little less.  The stones seem less sharp, and the obstacles seem less daunting.  If we stop and think about it, though, the path hasn’t gotten easier, we’ve just gotten stronger.

                I don’t think it’s because the Lord has given us strong shoes, I think it’s because our bare feet, once tender and unaccustomed to the roughness, have become Hobbit-like, leathery enough to handle the terrain.  God strengthens us gradually in our circumstances.

                Have you ever noticed that two people can react completely differently to very similar situations?  Or that one person will be overwhelmed by a small inconvenience while another can endure great hardship and keep moving?  I’m convinced that it’s largely a result of the toughening process of life.  To those who haven’t encountered many setbacks in life, something small like, say, car trouble, seems like a disaster of epic proportions.  For someone who is accustomed to difficulty, the car trouble is an annoyance, nothing more.

                Life takes practice, and each trial can, if we view it as a lesson, strengthen us and enable us to conquer great challenges, to walk stony paths with tough feet.

“He makes my feet like hinds’ feet,
And sets me upon my high places…
You enlarge my steps under me,
And my feet have not slipped.”

-Psalm 18:33,36

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Just Laugh

Mom's full time job has shaken up the Bain household a little bit.

That is, of course, a dramatic understatement.  It's been crazy.  Any life change will be accompanied by a period of adjustment.  Birth, death, moving, sickness...any major event will usually put our family into survival mode until we learn to resettle.

But in the past, I've always been at home at least part-time to oversee the transition.  I've spent my days figuring out how to "get things back on track," how to "get things under control."  And for the most part, I've managed to get the household running smoothly again pretty quickly.

Now, there's not much control- just lots of broken things and chaos.

Things do, in spite of all that, seem to be moving along and getting into a routine.  We may be adjusting.  Either that, or I've just dramatically lowered my standards.  If you could see the state of my children's bedrooms, you'd assume the latter.

This evening, we watched Cheaper by the Dozen together, and Steve Martin reminded me of something very important: sometimes you need to just laugh.  After all, it's kind of funny.  It would be funnier if I were in the audience instead of one of the main characters, but it's still funny.

When I drive up after 11 hours away and see one of my children chasing down our dog who is in the process of escaping...again, and then, before I can get out of the car, the neighbor boy comes up to me and says, "Mrs. Bain, I'm terribly sorry, but I kicked the soccer ball and it broke the window" - that's funny.

When Austin, after sleeping way too long at the babysitter's, tries to "sneak" downstairs into the pantry at night, thinking no one can see him because he's covered head to toe by his blanket- that's funny.

When Megan suddenly realizes at 9 PM that she is guilty of parental negligence (she has left her home ec "sugar baby" in a cubby at the gym)- that's funny.  (Though not to her- trust me.)

When I go to haul my sleeping four year old out of bed before 6 to get him to the babysitter's, and I find that he has emptied all of his clothes and shoes that were packed for the day out of his backpack, packed it with toys and fallen asleep with it on his back- that's funny.

So I'm trying, in spite of the exhaustion, to just laugh.  One day, this will all be really funny.  I might as well try to enjoy it now.