Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ain't nothing going to break my stride. Nobody's going to slow me down

In January I started the Couch to 5K running program, which takes non-runners (ME) and turns them into runners (ME NOW). It's broken into nine weeks, gradually increasing the amount of running until you're able to run 30 minutes -- without stopping.

The program initially appealed to me because it started off somewhat slowly. Running one minute at a time, off and on for 20 minutes seemed a lot more doable than simply hitting the road to see how far I could run on my own.

Before I ventured out for my first training session, I thought about potential obstacles and wondered how the heck I was going to be able to run and time myself at the same time. I'm a card-carrying member of the Klutz Klub, so I could just imagine running into a tree or tripping on a tiny crack in the sidewalk while trying to constantly eye the minutes on my watch.

Google is my friend, and when I searched for "Couch to 5K podcasts," I was happily surprised to see that my pal Nicole had created a set of podcasts just for Couch to 5K! Nicole and I bonded over our love of music a few years ago, and I knew her podcasts wouldn't let me down. I downloaded the podcasts and appreciated the Darth-Vader-meets-Cookie-Monster countdown of "5...4....3...2....1.....ZERO" between each walking/running interval. I knew a lot of the tracks she'd chosen and could appreciate some of the new ones I hadn't heard. I also like Suz's podcasts.

I'm almost done with Week 8, with four more runs until I've completed the entire program.

I can now run 28 minutes without a single stop. Seriously.

I have a course I like to run in my neighborhood, and I've done a few runs on the nearby beach path. I mapped my last run and calculated that I had run nearly 2.9 miles. Jigga what?!? I'm the girl who had to take that stupid "test" in high school PE over and over again because I couldn't run a mile under 10 minutes. My math on the above shows that I'm running at a little less than 10 minutes per mile.

While the program as it's designed definitely works, I wish I could say it were easy peasy. More than anything it's an exercise in mind over matter. And if I can do it, anyone can. The podcasts are a tremendous help, and I've found ways to keep my mind occupied when I think my body is telling me to quit. I admire the gorgeous houses in our neighborhood while I run and jokingly tell myself, "If you lose all the weight you're hoping to, you'll end up in a house like that some day." You know, 'cuz only skinny people get big, modern houses. I look forward to seeing the house with the HUGE Elvis shrine in the front window, complete with ceramic busts of him and shirts that say "Before Elvis, there was NOTHING." That's when I tell myself, "Those are the kinds of houses they give to non-active people."

When I feel like my body just can't take another step -- but I know it can -- I think about people who would kill to be able to run, like the woman I saw wheeling by in her electric wheelchair. And I think about how becoming more active lessens my risk factors for diseases like colon cancer, which run in my family.

I will say that it has taken me more than eight weeks to get where I am now. You're supposed to do three runs over a 7-day period, but there were some weeks where I spread the runs out over nine days. And there were times when I skipped an entire week between runs because of Em's illness/my illness/getting situated with our new daycare & Brent's work schedule.

I really should've completed the program a few weeks ago, but it's ok - it's still doable on a spread out schedule.

I try to schedule a run over the weekend when Brent is home to watch Em, and another while Em is at daycare. (She's there 2-3 days a week.) On days I have to take Em with me, I use my previously-loved-but-still-in-great-shape jogging stroller I got for a smokin' deal. I did a lot of research and decided on the Bob Ironman, which is a fixed-wheel jogging stroller --makes for a smoother ride for Em and a smoother push for me. I'm still getting used to running with it since it changes my running form a bit, but I like it so far. Em also loves it. When she's not giggling in it, she's having fun pointing out birds and dogs.

I still can't believe I've made it as far as I have. While I haven't been shy about posting my results via Twitter and Facebook, I held off posting about it here because I wanted to get to a point where there was no turning back. There have only been a couple runs where I walked more than I should, and I gave myself a do-over and repeated the session the next day.

It's safe to say I'm there now. I haven't signed up for one yet, but I'm going to do a 5K in the next few months. I might even try Couch to 10K!

"You are on the road & now you pray you will last. The road behind you was rocky but now you are feeling cocky. You look at me & you will see your past. Is that the reason you are running so fast?" - Ain't Nothing Gonna Slow Me Down, Matthew Wilder

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Em's big break

Em's big photo shoot was two weeks ago, and I swear this post took longer to write than the shoot itself. Sheesh.

Over the previous weekend Em's agent sent us the details for the shoot -- when, where and what to bring, including some clothing options for Em to supplement the wardrobe they'd have on hand for the kiddos.

Our calltime (that's official showbiz lingo for "the time you show up," in case you were wondering) was 1 p.m. We arrived just as the previous group of kidlets was finishing up. I wasn't sure how many kids would be at the shoot, although I know there were a few others picked from Em's agency. It appeared as though they scheduled kids in groups of four.

So, after we arrived, we settled into the waiting area of the photographer's studio where the shoot was being held. I made small talk with the two other moms while our kiddos played with the toys in the waiting area. Then a woman came out to check Em in -- collect her work permit and the voucher from Em's agency. The client fills in the voucher with the start/end time as Em was to get paid for each hour she was there, and we submit it to Em's agency so the client can be billed accordingly. Then Em's agency takes their cut of the fees, deposits 15% into Em's Coogan account and sends the rest to us. (CA law requires all child "talent" must have a Coogan account, which only the child can access when they turn 18. It's designed to protect them from spend-happy parents, although in our case *all* of Em's remaining earnings are going into her college fund.)

Shortly after Em was checked in, the wardrobe gal came out to see what we had brought for Em. She chose an outfit and then took the outfit to make sure it'd work with the outfit she had for the "model mom." It came back approved.

We waited a while longer while another kid got prepped and took her turn in the studio area with the photographer. Then it was my turn to get Em dressed and ready.

I realized after the shoot that the kids' calltimes were grouped by similar appearance to the model moms they had scheduled. I was excited to see what kind of "mom" they'd pair with Em. She shares some of my features, but her fair skin and lighter hair throws people off. In fact, I recently overheard some elderly ladies say to one another after seeing Em and I, "She must look like her father." (And I don't think she was being polite.) Gee, thanks.

They called us back into the studio, where a "wrangler" was ready and waiting with balloon animals, stickers, bubbles and other tricks in his toolbelt. I held Em while he had her bursting with giggles from all his wild antics. Em's model mom introduced herself, and she was exactly what most people probably envision Em's mom to look like -- a younger Nicole Kidman. Reddish hair, peaches and cream skin. It was quite a nice pairing, if I do say so. She was also quite pleasant, which is not unlike Em's real mom. Heh.

Having no idea what to expect, I relied on the cues from the photographer and other staff. When they gave me the OK to pass Em to the model mom, I did and backed away. I think they snapped a couple of good pics before her face started to crumble into a meltdown similar to the Easter Bunny Visit of 2010. The photographer encouraged me to go get Em, and then we took a break while the wrangler cheered up Em.

I tried to get Em more comfortable with the model mom because Em's recent bought of separation anxiety has less to do with being around strangers (she loves interacting with everyone) and more about being held by them and separated from me. Em blew the model mom kisses and they took turns pointing out each others' noses. The photographer started to take more pics while the wrangler ran up and placed teeny tiny stickers in Em's tiny hands. Those distracted her enough to get her to smile for some good pics before she started to panic again. The photographer also suggested I stand next to Em, behind part of the set, to help with Em's comfort level.

Em got more antsy, so they gave her another break while they brought in another kid. I got along fairly well with another mom there, whose son had done a few other jobs prior to this one. She felt comfortable venting to me about the shoot -- about how long they had us wait, about how fast kids lose their attention span after the novelty of a new place wears off, about how no one can really control a baby/toddler, etc. She was in the studio during Em's shoot as they were prepping her son to go next, and she noted how frustrated she was that the photographer was distracted when Em was super engaged with the wrangler's antics and that the photographer should've been capturing more of Em's happiness on film. I was too preoccupied to notice, but she could be right. My hope is that they got some usable stuff.

I think the photographer/brand managers realized that the model moms and the kids needed more time to play before their shoots, so by the time we were done they had started introducing them before they got in front of the camera. In an ironic move, Em was cheerfully waving and blowing kisses to her model mom as we all headed out.

All in all, I think it was an interesting experience. If I were a full-time working mom, the effort wouldn't have been worth the pay. (Print jobs like these don't pay much, although something is better than nothing in Em's college fund.) Since my time is flexible as I work part-time from home and make my own schedule, it wasn't bad. Also, Brent and I agreed from the start of this that we would only do this "modeling" thing until Em was old enough to know what's going on (instead of just thinking silly people are wanting her to smile for pictures). The shoot was like a lot of our playdates with other toddlers where they play nearby but not with each other and the moms chitchat. Playdates have also been known to include a meltdown or two from Em, so really, minimal difference here.

The mom I mentioned previously said that clients overbook these shoots, which makes total sense but hadn't occurred to me until she mentioned it. Whether it's on product packaging, a website, a print ad or a catalog, I'd love if Em's pics are used somewhere.

As much as I'd love to share the name of the brand that hired Em, I'd hate for them to stumble across this post in case it somehow impacts their photo decisions. (I know, I'm crazy, but still...) I will say that it's a big brand with various baby/toddler products. I've regularly purchased its products at Babies R Us and Target. It recently acquired another product line, which is what the photo shoot was for.

Em's agent will check in with the brand in a couple of months to see if her pics made the cut. If they do, I'll be happy to share the results with you here!

In the meantime, you can be on the lookout for this toddler pictured somewhere. It's the outfit they chose for her shoot -- green shirt and jean leggings (aka "jeggings"):
Her modeling outfit

Don't fence me in

"You may laugh because every time I sign my name I put a gold star after it. But it's a metaphor, and metaphors are important. My gold stars are a metaphor for me being a star." - Rachel Barry, Glee

Thursday, April 08, 2010

It had to be you*

It had to be you, it had to be you

I wandered around, and finally found

The somebody who could make me be true

Could make me be blue or even be glad
Just to be sad just thinking of you
Some others I've seen might never be mean
Might never be cross or try to be boss
But they wouldn't do


For nobody else gave me the thrill
With all your faults I love you still


It had to be you

It had to be you
It had to be you

Happy 4th anniversary to my hottie hubby! Thank you for everything you do!

*Our wedding dance song

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

365 days later

A year ago my friends unexpectedly lost their 17-month-old daughter, Maddie Spohr.

Their lives were shattered. Our hearts were heavy. Parents and non-parents alike across the interweb were touched by this wide-eyed toddler whose journey through this world was cut too short.

Heather, Mike, their newborn girl Annabel, friends, family and so many, many, many bloggers will ensure that Maddie's legacy lives on. You can, too, through the Friends of Maddie foundation and through the March of Dimes. (I'll be showing my support at this year's March of Dimes' March for Babies on April 24th. I invite my local readers to join Em & I, and readers across the nation to find a local walk. You can also contribute to my sponsorship goal.)

I remember Maddie and think of the Spohrs every day.

Rest in peace, sweet girl.

You are always in our hearts.

"Hold this heart when I go. Sing my song when I go. Sing it loud when I go. Sing it proud when I go." - When I Go, Brett Dennen

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Em's eggs-ellent Easter

Em was too young to get into Easter last year, so we were looking forward to this year's festivities.

The holiday came upon us faster than I expected. We nearly missed the window to see the Easter Bunny, but we managed to squeeze in a trip Friday.

Even though Em is dealing with some separation anxiety, I expected her to do OK with the Easter Bunny given how well she did with Santa. There was a group of six adults in front of us, which I assumed was a group of co-workers given the time of day. While they had their pic taken, Em cheered and clapped for them from her stroller. As her turn approached, she waved and smiled at the Bunny. We got closer and closer, and she was fine.

Then I put her on the Bunny's lap and jumped out of the way.

"Somebunny help me!"

Half a second later, she had an epic meltdown. I told the photographer that it was OK if she got a meltdown pic -- not that I was encouraging it, but I think those types of Bunny/Santa pics are funny. However, the photo above is the only one she snapped. (She's still super cute in her stunned state.)

Saturday morning we took Em to nearby Venice Beach for its annual egg hunt. We stopped at a CVS drugstore in the hopes of picking up a basket for Em to use at the hunt. Brent went in and found a cheap, ugly one for $5, which he wasn't thrilled with but had no other choice...until he approached the cashier to pay for it and saw a small display featuring a cute little basket. He asked if he could purchase that one, and at first she said no because it was the display. Then she noticed that the basket still had a tag on it, which meant she could sell it to Brent, so she did. She said a dozen other people had asked out it, but it hadn't occurred to her to check for a price tag. She even threw in the cute paper grass and plastic eggs from the display at no charge. Oh, and that basket was only $2.99! Score!

Off to the Venice egg hunt! While the hunt was a bit disorganized, I appreciated that it was broken into age groups. Em was with the first group of "3 and under," thankfully avoiding those super-fast 4-year-olds. Heh.

In the basket

She picked up two eggs and put them in her basket.
Found one!

She picked up a third egg and generously put it in the basket of this little girl, who was running around and scooping up eggs like she was on Supermarket Sweep. She just gave Em a confused look, wondering why Em wasn't hoarding them for herself.

All in all, the egg hunt lasted about 30 seconds, given the egg-to-kid ratio. I think Em was more into the other decor.
Hi, bunny!

We were going to try our photo luck with the egg hunt's bunny, but it had to return to lead the hunt for the next age group before we had a chance. Probably for the best, given Em's bunny record.
"Bye, sad bunny!"

Sunday's celebrations started with the 2nd birthday of Clara, the daughter of our pals Cat & Adi. (More on that in a separate post.)
Sweet girls

After Em's nap, we headed over to my in-laws' and did an impromptu egg hunt in their backyard.


Here she is showing off the basket her daddy worked hard for. Also, I *adore* the yoga pants she wore. They're a tad big at the moment, but I'm tempted to go scoop up a pair of the grey ones and maybe some of the other larger sizes for her 'cuz they're so damn cute.
It's PINK!

As you probably heard, there was a fairly large quake nearby on Sunday. We were all in the car on the way to the in-laws', so we didn't feel it. However, my in-laws did, and they watched as their pool sloshed back and forth -- enough to spread water across their deck, over a patch of grass and onto this concrete. (The pool is to the left of what you see in this photo.)
Runneth over

Hope you all had a great weekend!

"I once wanted to become an atheist, but I gave up -- they have no holidays." - Henny Youngman