Action Time

After weeks of testing, waiting, more biopsies, more waiting, more results, we have a first step plan for attacking my mom’s breast cancer.  At first, we were choosing between several options for surgery, but further tests revealed that it really wasn’t a choice after all.  Tomorrow my mom will undergo a bilateral mastectomy.

It is midterm week at my school and grades are all due, so I will be sitting in the waiting room tomorrow with (literally) boxes full of student work and trying to stay focused enough to keep up with grading.  I will try to get on the blog to update when surgery is over and when I know she is awake and doing okay.  Thank you in advance for all of your positive thoughts and prayers.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this poem. My friend Erica sent this to me to pass on to my mom.

It’s so good it brought me to tears, which, let’s be honest, is not that hard to do these days.  The poet is Irish and the title means “blessing.”  For my mama.

On the day when
The weight deadens on your shouders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The gray window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colors,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the church of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.

What’s for Dinner? And Dessert!?

I know I should be more ambitious than this since it is summer, and I will have some more interesting dinners coming soon.  In the meantime, this is actually my very favorite kind of meal:  Baked sweet potato, baked beans, and a huge pile of crispy kale.  Holy fiber.  Delicious and easy.  (Scroll to the bottom of this post where there is more info about the power of kale).


I have never actually made Strawberry Shortcake before.  Not sure why.  But after we picked up these babies at the farm, plus the fact that we are going strawberry picking on Friday so there are many more on the way, I wanted to try it out.

Reed wanted to help, but I wanted to get the dough done without him and then have him help me cut out the biscuits (I used a glass which worked fine).  I told him I had to look up the recipe and to come back in a few minutes.  He offered to write out the directions for me, and went off to find a marker.

Thanks, bud!  That looks very complex!
After dinner last night, I gave each kid a plate that looked like this:

Skyler said she wanted me to “scrape the whipped cream off” and Reed just wanted a biscuit beause the whole thing was “too messy.”  Oh brother.  Well, I enjoyed every bite.  The super sweet strawberries and the warm biscuit and the fresh whipped cream?  Seconds, please.

I used this recipe from Bon Appetit, but added 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger and 1 tsp. lemon zest to the dough, which I recommend.

*If you forgot how to make crispy kale, or are ready to try, just rough chop some kale, spray with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese and bake for 12 minutes at 400 degrees.  Sam doesn’t like kale (darn!) so when we get some, I eat the whole head in one sitting.  It’s so good.

If you are still not conivinced, read this:
“Kale absolutely rich and abundant in calcium, lutein, iron, and Vitamins A, C, and K. Kale has seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli and ten times more lutein. Kale is rich in Vitamin C not to mention the much needed fiber so lacking in the daily diet of processed food eating Americans. The “Icing on the Kale” are the natural occurring all important phytochemicals sulforaphane and indoles which research suggests may protect against cancer. Let’s not forget the all important antioxidant Vitamin E.

The naturally rich sulfur content of kale deserves a bit more discussion. Science has discovered that sulforaphane, helps boost the body’s detoxification enzymes, possibly by altering gene expression. This is turn is purported to help clear carcinogenic substances in a timely manner. Sulforaphane is formed when cruciferous vegetables like kale are chopped or chewed. This somehow triggers the liver to produce enzymes that detoxify cancer causing chemicals, of which we all are exposed on daily basis. A recently new study in the Journal of Nutrition (2004) demonstrates that sulforaphane helps stop breast cancer cell proliferation.”  (source)

CFC: Day 2

First, some business:

Don’t miss the photography giveaway from yesterday over here.

Also, the first newsletter for Sparrow Magazine went out today.  If you didn’t get the newsletter, please add your email to the mailing list right on the magazine’s website.

I have some funny Reedisms coming soon, so for those of you who could care less about all of this food, stay tuned!

Okay, onto day 2 of the Clean Food Challenge:
For the sake of commiserating with some of my fellow CFCers who are not having the easiest time, I thought about telling you that I had a really hard day today, but I’m actually still feeling good.

I find it amazing how well I respond to setting such strict rules for myself.  I like controlling myself, I guess.  I like that if I have a passing thought about wanting a bagel or some chocolate, I say to myself:  “You can’t have that right now.”  And myself says:  “Oh yeah, right.”  And then I move on.  Makes you wonder what other changes we could make in this manner?  I know it’s not fun to always have rules, but sometimes I just find it to be an easier way of going through the day.  There aren’t as many decisions to make when you are “on plan.”

Here was my food day:

Breakfast:  (same as yesterday)
Oatmeal with blueberries, coffee with coconut milk and agave.

Snack:  Dried Mango
Another snack:  rice cake with almond butter
Another snack:  banana

Lunch:  Huge salad with grated carrots, beets, sunflower seeds, garbanzo beans and cukes, balsamic vinaigrette.

After workout:  Smoothie made with carrot juice, banana, and a mango.

While cooking dinner:  A handful of cashews

Dinner:  Tempeh, onions, broccoli and cashews.  Baked sweet potoato

Dessert:  About 10 strawberries.

Water:  4 bottles, still sipping my last one.

I’ve been trying all day to come up with the right words to explain how differently my body feels when I eat this way.  It started even yesterday.  My whole abdominal area feels differently.  The words that come to mind, though none of them are quite right, are:  open, unrestricted, relaxed, even, clean, comfortable, light.

I don’t feel not good the rest of the time, but I definitely feel better now.  Clearly, it’s hard to describe.  The best benefit that I can see is that my blood sugar is steady and even all day.  No dips.  No valleys.  No sleepies.  No need for coffee in the afternoon, I swear to you.

The only hard part of my day was that I had a hectic day at work finishing everything for the end of the school year, and then rushed out of the building in time to eat my salad in the car before driving to the Y where I met Susan for a run/ swim.  I was starving at lunch, and ate fast, and then the energy of my salad hadn’t caught up to me before we started our workout.  We only needed to run 15 minutes and swim 30 minutes, but I don’t think I felt like I was energized until the last 20 minutes of the swim (we ran first because it was hot today and then getting in the water felt sooo good). Luckily I found my swimming arms by the end and felt strong.  We ran about a mile and half and then swam about 1400 yards.

You know what I DON’T HAVE TO DO tonight?  Pack anyone’s lunch.  Or grade any papers.  Or plan any lessons.  I’m going to watch a movie now.

CFC Blog Roll:

Kelly in Ohio:  Perched to Fly
Sandi and Suzanne in Maine:  Casa De Carver
Brooke in Arizona:  Action Mama
Joanne in Pennsylvania:  Miller Journey
Kirsten in Wisconsin:  From Inside to Outside
Jen in Maine:  Running With The Girls
Maria in Maine:  Swarbles
Kristin in Iowa:  Home Sweet York

Post Race Thoughts and Lessons.

Immediately after returning home from the race, I picked up my kids.  I was riding pretty high still, but it turns out that Skyler and Reed were more interested in telling me about building a tree fort and going roller skating than basking in Mommy’s glory.  Understood.

Nevertheless, we’ll call Sunday night “T3,”  my third and final transition, back into role as mother.

I do a lot of post-race processing and (if it goes well) glowing or (if it goes badly) stewing.  That is why I stayed up late writing my race report after the kids were in bed.  I didn’t want it to all be over.  And I hardly slept at all that night.

I was pretty sore the day after, but some advil, compression sleeves, and a soak in the UMaine hot tub while my kids went swimming on Monday night fixed me right up.  I wasn’t sore at all on Tuesday, just hungry.

I had a wonderful 4 days with my babies.

Some thoughts and lessons after my 70.3 mile journey:

1.  How hard was it?  Triathlon vs. Marathon:
I’ve been asked many times how exhausted I felt at the end, or how it compared to running a full marathon.  Here is what I think.  I would say that I needed to be (and was) in better overall shape to complete the half ironman than I ever was for a marathon.  I needed to come out of the water feeling strong, and I’m proud of how strong I did feel.  I know that swimming with the masters 3 times a week all summer helped me immensely, because in the past when I’ve trained in the pool on my own, I get very bored quickly and tend to think:  “That was about 1000 yards… enough.”  Instead, I swam further and pushed myself harder thanks to swimming with a team.

I also felt prepared and well trained for the bike distance, but I think I could go faster.  I want to work on that (see #5 below).  When I got to the run, I wasn’t totally exhausted overall, but rather just had specific places that hurt.  The best I can describe it is that on the run, while I was in pain, I had energy to thank volunteers, cheer on passers-by, chat with Susan once she got to me, and I never ever once thought I would die or not finish.  That is not my experience in a marathon.  I never had one of my typical low-moment super freak outs; I was very calm mentally throughout the race.  In a 26.2 mile run, I have moments of almost near panic that I can’t go on.  Thanks to the 3 distinct stages of this race, I felt focused just on what I was doing at each part, but was thankful for the transitions to let my body do something different.

I guess I’m saying that I think triathlon is a healthier sport than marathoning.  The training felt better, I never got bored or thought the training was tedious, and in the race itself, I had more fun and felt less beat-up at the end of it.

I never thought I’d have to buy one of these stickers for my car.  And yes, they sold them at the expo.  Yikes:

2.  What’s Next? 
Many people have also already asked me what is next.  I tend to ask this too of people whom I know are race-obsessed goal-oriented.  But I’m not quite ready to decide yet.  Kind of like when you have a baby, and people ask you about plans for your next baby before you’ve even left the hospital.

First, I just want to enjoy this baby that I birthed:

And wear this a few times:

But of course, there will be a next goal.  I want to keep swimming (I went this morning and it felt great) and biking and running, and try to maintain my fitness levels over the winter so that I can train anew, because I do believe I’ll do Pumpkinman again next year. I am also looking at all the different possibilities for Ironman 70.3 Races.  This website makes me drool a little.

Other events on my radar for the upcoming year:

Century ride (100 mile bike ride).  Maybe this one.
200-mile Ragnar Relay in Cape Cod with my friend Kristina
Trek Across Maine (3- day, 180-mile bike ride from the west of Maine to the east)
Various half marathons around the state.

Marathon?  Not anytime soon.  Not feeling it right now, anyway.

3.  YOU could do this.

There were men and women of all shapes and sizes doing this race.  If you think you have to fit into some crazy athletic category and have zero body fat, then you are wrong.  Anyone can triathlon.  One of my favorite blogs is Swim Bike Mom, written by a smart and hilarious and totally inspiring mom who also just wrote a book called:  Triathlon for the Every Woman and encourages readers to start as you are, and not wait for your body to be “perfect.”  She is now training for a full Ironman.  Don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind.

In terms of training, it really was not that challenging to get ready for the half-ironman, probably not as hard as you might think.  Granted, I had a good running base after coming off of a spring marathon, but still.  I never made all of the volume recommended by my training plan, but was fairly consistent in getting in equal amounts of swimming, biking, and running each week.  If you can find a good place to swim that works with your schedule, then the rest you can totally get in.

Before I started, I thought 2 workouts a day sounded insane and impossible.  It really isn’t.  If I swam or biked early in the morning, I actually would feel like doing something else by the afternoon.  I had a lot of energy, and felt healthy and strong throughout the training because I was always using different muscles.

Looking back over my 3 months of training, it wasn’t too bad.  July was a typical training month, and you can see below that I still had days off, or sometimes only did a 45-minute workout.  Of course I could have trained harder, but my point is that it’s doable (and fun) to train for this kind of race.  I know:  being a teacher and having the summer mostly off does help.

So here’s my point:  You can do it.  Whatever race or event or distance seems crazy to you right at this moment?  Whatever scares you but also sort of calls your name, even if it’s just a whisper?  You can do that.  You seriously can. 

4.  Triathlons and hot women

If you are my age and have even the slightest fear of getting older, entering your 40s or 50s, you should go watch a triathlon.  The women, particularly in the 40-50 age group are some of the most athletically beautiful, toned, and confident women you’ll ever see.  Period.

The elite men aren’t too shabby either.

5.  I want a new bike.

It won’t happen for a while, but I would like a lighter and faster tri bike.  Sponsors?

 6.  It’s in my blood now.

Training and completing endurance events is such an important part of my life now.  I don’t know what I would do without it.  Like, I literally don’t know what I’d do with myself.  Would I knit?

And getting medals still does not get old.

7.  Last but not least:  SMILE.

When I imagine myself crossing a finish line, I always imagine I’ll be bursting with joy, hands up in the air.  In this photo, I was incredibly happy, I swear.  I guess I was also just focused on getting the job done, as when this was snapped, I had about 10 steps to go.

You can’t really tell how much joy I get out of this whole process in this photo, but I do.  I love it, and I walked away from this race as I always do:  medal around my neck and thinking:  more, more, more.

CFC: Day Three

Moving right along!  I don’t know exactly why, but this is the easiest time I’ve had doing this cleanse. This is the way we were meant to eat.

It feels so good to be taking such good care of myself.   When I pack my lunches, I feel like I’m giving myself little present each day.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking about foods I CAN’T have right now, but I just change that sentiment in my mind to I CAN.  I CAN have any fruit, veggie, nut, or bean on this planet.  That’s a lot of variety, people.

Breakfast:  Oatmeal, blueberries, maple syrup, coffee with coconut milk.
Orange, mango, apple smoothie.

Snacks at work:  Orange, pear, handful of almonds.

Lunch: pureed squash and Sesame broccoli (leftover from dinner) and
Spinach, carrot, cuke salad with a hard-boiled egg.

Pre-run snack:  Banana with almond butter

Post-run:  Chamomile tea with coconut milk and agave.

Dinner:  I was STARVING after my run so this dinner tasted extra, extra good.

Roasted sweet potatoes, sliced avocado, black and mashed pinto beans mixed with zucchini, onion, mashed sweet potato and fresh salsa, and one egg over medium.    I’m ready for daylight savings time so I don’t have to take dark, crappy photos of my dinners.

Before I set out on my run today, I posed so I could show you my hair cut.  You are not required to cut off all of your hair during the CFC, but it does feel pretty good.

My run felt good even though it was cold out there.  I thought about all the good foods powering me, and wished I had one of those vegetarian running shirts that says “RUNS ON PLANTS.”  Today I had SIXTEEN servings of fruits and vegetables.  I love that.

Keep up the good work, everyone.  I love hearing from you about how it’s going!

Let’s Talk About Skiing.

I have been skiing since I was 7 years old, and I have always loved it, always thought it was one of the purest kinds of fun.  Now when I ski, it is still pure fun,  but it also feels bigger to me.  I just take in the fresh air, the wind, the sunshine, the open views from a place of total gratitude.  I appreciate the fact that because skiing is so expensive, it is a total treat to experience it.   I appreciate my body feeling strong and able as I cruise down the mountain.  I appreciate the fact that my body knows how to ski in such an ingrained way;  my muscles remember how, and even if I only ski a few times a year, I pick it back up instantly and it feels totally natural to me.   I want to shout and sing and hoot and holler at the views.  It also just feels magical to fly down a mountain like that, past the pine trees and aspen trees and breathing the clean air;  it’s a treat for all the senses.   I even love the way the snow smells.    I don’t want to get all spiritual on you, but skiing to me is, well, spiritual.  I feel deeply relaxed, happy, and fulfilled on the mountain.  A full day of exerting my leg muscles like that, wind and sun-kissed cheeks all add up to that satisfying whole-body buzz and a sense of calm.

You know how when you’ve been skiing all day and you lie in bed at night and you still feel your body gliding down the mountain?  Yeah.  Like that.  That’s the stuff.

In other words:  Skiing?  You complete me.

I get to go AGAIN on Friday.

Here are my favorite still shots from our day on the mountain.

mountains make me giddy too.
I can’t get enough of Reed with those goggles.
Liesel and Sam on the way up up up.
Reed looking tough and confident.
apre ski glow
who looks cuter in a helmet?  nobody.
magic carpet ride.
the view:  dumb, boring, and ugly.
“Mom!  Take my picture on the ice couch!”
After I said “no, I won’t carry you,” Uncle Craig said “YES.”
aspens, blue sky, snow, tracks.
Skyler feeling satisfied by the fire pit. That whole-body buzz?  She’s got it.

My Shining Star

Sunday evening, I had just gotten the kids bathed, jammied, fed, and settled after a super fun and long day driving to Portland and back, when I opened Skyler’s homework folder to fill out her snack milk/ lunch form for the week.

6:15 pm: Inside Skyler’s folder, I find a surprise. Skyler is “Shining Star of the Week” this week! “Please prepare a poster with photos of your child and the answers to the attached questions. Please bring your poster in to share on Monday morning!”

6:16: Skyler gets a look of total panic when I ask her about this. I immediately know that we indeed need to make this poster tonight. I tell the kids to get shoes on because we are going to Target.   I turn the oven off.  The roasted squash and asparagus will have to wait.

6:17: Reed has totally perked up at the mention of Target and says: “The thing is, I don’t really have any good coloring books.”

6:18: While the kids get shoes on, I think, first things first, and hop on facebook to explain my predicament because I know that there are other mommies out there who have lived this very moment, the unplanned night-time trip to the store for a project, and I feel the need to muster up some mommy empathy as I kiss my evening to-do list goodbye.

6:20: I find a random thumb drive in my kitchen drawer and start dragging photos of Skyler off of my hard drive onto it. I haven’t printed a photo of my child in years. I tell the kids to cross their fingers that the Target photo machine is actually working.

6:45: While printing photos at the working (yes!) Target photo machine, Reed wanders off and gets lost. I’m about to call for code yellow, which I’m sad to say I’ve done before, when we spot him heading toward us. He cries because he was scared and there are hugs and tears wiped on the way to the craft aisle.

7:00: We are in the checkout line with a Batman coloring book for Reed and with poster board,  colored paper, glittery letter stickers, and fancy star stickers, because dammit, my child is a shining star, yes she is.

7:15: We are home, and Skyler gets right to work arranging sparkly stickers and trimming photos while Reed spreads out on the floor with his new coloring book. I find a shoe box in my closet of photos of her when Skyler was very, very small. I get nostalgic and distracted by how much my baby girl has grown.

7:30: My friend who lives across the street comes over because I had asked her to help me break the bunk beds into 2 twin beds (the kids decided we should do this). So, while Skyler is gluing and cutting, we also start rearranging their bedroom. Skyler tries to move the poster operation upstairs to help with the room rearranging. We I decide this is a bad idea.

7:50:  I help Skyler put the final touches on the poster, and maybe because I had an afternoon cup of coffee, I find myself very excitable about this awesome poster that we just pulled off.

8:00:  Final touches on rearranging the bedroom

8:15:  Stories in bed followed by back scratching.

8:35:  Kids are asleep.

9:00:  House is clean and lunches are packed and mommy has some VERY well roasted veggies and  a glass of Malbec on the couch.  Phew!

Don’t tell anyone we didn’t work on this baby all weekend.

I am proud of myself for… being able to take care of my own fish.
Something I like about myself is… I am funny.
My favorite thing about school is…  Art class.
My goal for the future is…  to be a Vet.

Kate Crabtree, A Photography Giveaway

I am currently eating my first breakfast for the Clean Food Challenge. I realized last night, after eating a lot of food and sweets after my run, that I am really ready for this.  Bring it, CFC.

Meanwhile, it’s time for a great giveaway, and there is a potential prize for you if you are local OR far away from Maine.   Read on:

Kate Crabtree is a photographer and a friend of mine who has recently started her photography business here in Bangor, Maine.  She photographs people and places, landscapes and details, and she has a good eye both for composition and for color.  Here are three of her photos that capture what I love about Maine.

You can see more of her work over here on her website. She also has some beautiful prints in her Etsy shop over here, and even more choices on her facebook page over here.

Kate and I are teaming up this week to bring you a great giveaway.
Here are the details:
The prize is either an 8x 10 print of any one of her photos of your choice.
A free portrait session (a $150 value) for local folks.  Kate does not photograph babies, but she does work with older children or families or couples.  Look through the portraits on her website for an idea of what she does so well.  You could meet Kate in Bangor or she would travel further, but charges for more than 25 miles outside of town.  She photographs outside with natural light, but other plans can be arranged.

If you choose the portrait session, you would be able to order prints from a gallery of 20 photos.

In order to enter:

Get ready to LIKE!  To win Kate’s prize, you need to LIKE three facebook pages:
One Mom in Maine
Kate Crabtree photography   and
Sparrow Magazine  (Kate will be doing some photos for Sparrow Mag for us!)

Then just leave a comment here telling us you are all liked up, and whether you would like a print OR a portrait sitting.  We will choose one random winner on Friday at 5:00 pm.  Spread the word!

I’m Giving You The Gift of Giving!

Have you ever heard about Donors Choose?  I’m going to tell you about it, and then give two readers the opportunity to donate (free) money to a Donors Choose project.  This is not a request for a donations; I promise.

Donors Choose is a non-profit organization where teachers can request money or materials for their classrooms, and donors (you) can choose where you want to donate, what project you’d like to help fund.  This is a cause near and dear to me as a teacher, and a teacher who often spends my own money on books and other supplies that I need for my students.  I don’t teach in a poor district, and still there is no school money for a lot of the things I would like to buy for my students.  Imagine the constraints of schools in high poverty areas.  Teachers just want to provide books, art supplies, technology and learning programs for their students, and Donors Choose gives them a place to ask for help.

So, if I really wanted to teach a novel that our school couldn’t afford to buy, I might post a request on Donors Choose and someone who wanted to make a donation towards the needs of a classroom might find my needs interesting or compelling and make a donation.  Right now on Donors Choose there are teachers hoping to buy all sorts of things for their students:  An elementary teacher who needs an area rug for an active-play area.  A third grade teacher in a high poverty school in NYC who would love to have a camera and projector to enhance learning in her classroom.  A Maine elementary school teacher would love to purchase class sets of fairy tales for her students.  The lists go on and on, but the site is really user friendly.  You can search for teachers who need help in your state or your town.  If you are interested in art, you can find the teachers who just need some new art supplies.  If you are a book lover, you can search for teachers who would like some new class sets of books.  You can also search for “urgent need” or “high poverty” projects and schools.  You donate whatever you can toward a teacher’s wish.  For instance, a classroom might need a set of books that costs $250, and you donate $25 toward that goal.

The cool thing about this organization is that when you make a donation, you see exactly where your money goes.  You see pictures of the classroom that needs help, and after you make a donation, you get a thank you note from the students and the teacher that you helped.  It’s a feel good situation all around.

With many thanks to my friend Amy, I have two “Giving Cards” for $25 to give away.  Amy made some donations on Donors Choose and they gave her some “Giving Cards” and she gave them to me to give to you.  That’s a lot of giving!

If you leave a comment on this post, you will be in the running.  I’ll choose 2 commenters at random on Thursday and contact you if you won.  The “Giving Cards” are very easy to use.  You will use them like a gift card to make a donation to any classroom project of your choice, and you will receive a thank you note from the kids that you helped out.  Got it?   You’ll be a hero!

What’s for Dinner?

(Sorry for the funky coloring in the photos.  Now that it’s lighter late, I can photograph our dinners in better light.)  This is a simple supper:  roasted sweet potatoes (chopped and tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper and roasted at 400 degrees for 30 minutes), baked tofu (a block of firm tofu cut into cubes, drizzled with soy sauce, and baked at 400 degrees for 30 minutes) and steamed broccoli, all atop chinese noodles.  The sauce is an un-measured mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, garlic, and a pinch of brown sugar.  Toss and eat!

Will your kids eat food like this?  Skyler will eat the broccoli and Reed will eat the sweet potatoes, but neither of them will eat it all mixed together.

I will be posting ideas for simple weeknight dinners once a week.  Here are two to get us started:

Next is a simple, light meal we had last week: Whole wheat wrap with store-bought hummous and taboulli and my new discovery, super-healthy brocolli sprouts.  On the side are roasted potatoes and parsnips that we salted and dipped in ketchup.

I’m always looking for quick meal ideas, so if have any favorites,  send them to me and I’ll try them out.  Happy cooking!