Sunrise, Sunset

I have this tendency to group periods of time in a way that I’m sure is related to confirmation bias, but even being aware of that doesn’t stop me from doing it.  2013 set itself up to be a terrible year and it didn’t disappoint.  Which is strange because many longstanding challenges were conquered and I am immensely grateful for the fortune my family has had especially as E outgrew certain allergens and had a fantastic first half of kindergarten.  I, who have struggled with depression on and off my entire life, finally realized I could not go it alone and went on anti-depressants in tandem with therapy.  Now, I’ve read the suggestion that people prone to blogging engage themes of “needing space” or “trying to find peace” because their overworking tendencies are what make them sit down and add something to their to-do list (say, a blog) at a time when they should be cutting away at demands on their time.  I feel strongly though that when I was frantically searching for answers in our pre-diagnosis food allergy days and colic days, the voices of other regular people on social media were so helpful that a way to say thank you was to pay it forward and share our coping strategies.

Even as we endeavor to support others (the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference had such an amazing vibe last year) I even find myself explaining to clients in my legal practice that a certain amount of self-care is crucial to our ability to continue supporting others in our families and communities.  I haven’t by any means figured anything out but that is the path I’m on for myself at the moment.

I had a rough summer of training for the Hoover Dam Half Marathon – I kept having minor injuries to grapple with, culminating in the fall with crashing my bike on the River Mountains Loop Trail.  I was going downhill, trying to gain on my pace so that I could make up for a slow hill climb on a group ride.  When I ride in the Red Rock area there are hills but the roads are fairly straight so that I don’t have to maneuver when I’m going faster speeds.  The River Mountains Loop Trail may be 10 feet wide and paved but I panicked on a downhill curve and, with my shoes still clipped into the pedals I didn’t attempt to brake, I didn’t attempt to un-clip or simply navigate to attempt to stay on the trail – I headed into the rocks to stop myself (yes, what was I thinking?!) and crashed.  I was hurt and ashamed.  I couldn’t run for a while and couldn’t rest on my left side without shooting pain.  Worst of all, I kept thinking that I jeopardized my ability to care for my family – I could have been injured worse, for example.

It has been a long slow process to regain trust in myself since that October crash.  My long run before the crash was 8 miles but my weekly mileage dropped off sharply for runs so that when I stood at the starting line for the Hoover Dam Half Marathon in December I had adjusted my goals to simply finishing the race instead of besting my prior time on the Red Rock Half (though I did hope that my recent paces would be indicative of my capacity to finish in less time than I feared).  I also, unrelated to the crash but certainly an aspect of my mounting feeling that I was a failure, stopped adhering to a vegan diet – returning to vegetarian choices and re-introducing the now safe for my daughter egg and milk products into my own selections.

I ran a good mental race, I can say that much, and felt great coming into mile 7.  The run starts at Boulder Beach by Lake Mead and goes uphill into the Railroad Tunnels – turning around for the return trip after some awful switchbacks that loop runners over the top of the Hoover Dam parking garage for a quick peek at the Dam.  Calico Racing runs a wonderful race but I was the one that came up lacking.  I think that by running the switchbacks (I like to use downhills to make up for lost time) and not training enough on rocky trail terrain I contributed to the pain in my knee that cropped up around the 7 mile mark.

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Much of the next few miles back through the tunnels I galloped to favor my twisted knee – my husband texted that he and the kids were nearby enjoying the fish in the lake and would head to the finish line in a bit. . .I was nowhere near where I’d envisioned being at that point in the race.  This was the return trip I’d been looking forward to – yes there were hills but there were also downhills and when I’d headed up them I fantasized about the downhill returns, chipping away at my average pace on my Garmin GPS device.

As I came past an aid station by the parking lot for the Six Tunnels trail, a fellow runner, Julie, remarked that she had seen me limping and wanted to offer me some “KT tape” to help.  She unzipped her fanny pack and started looking for it.  All I could keep thinking was “she is losing minutes on her time to stop for me” and I kept saying I appreciated the offer but she should really keep going.  She didn’t, though.  She stayed and helped tape my knee.  The stabilization from the tape made my knee feel better and I started running in normal form again.  Later I would learn that I needed to rub the tape to activate the adhesive so after a mile or two it started to peel off (something that hasn’t happened since I purchased my own pack of the product) and the pain returned.  At this point I was getting to the double digit mile markers and gave up on looking at my time and instead focused on my kids.  They needed me to take them to school and the library and to play with them – I could not and would not do some sort of lasting injury to myself for the sake of a finishing time.

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When I made the final turn I saw my daughter and my son and my husband.  My daughter ran towards me and my son soon followed.  The three of us ran across the finish line, smiling, hand in hand.  I loved that moment.  My husband had predicted that I would hurt myself based on under-training and I had failed to prove him wrong but aside from limping for a week or two I was okay.  I wanted to write my customary race recap post but I was still feeling that I hadn’t figured out what I could take from my experience.

Chip Time: 2:54:50.7   
Gun Time:  2:55:44.9     
Pace:  13:21/M
Finish Line: Hand in hand with my children

I knew I’d write about it eventually – especially because I wanted to say thank you again to Julie for stopping to help me and to encourage me.  She and I chatted after the race when I stopped her to say thank you and she instructed me on home care for my knee.  “Ice and heat,” she said.  People involved in outdoors activities are some of the nicest people.  I am humbled when someone shows me kindness and this was no exception.

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On one of my training runs I came upon a fellow morning runner and we paced each other for several miles, chatting the whole way.  She invited me to run with her and a friend and since then I’ve met them three times a week (they run almost every day though) for runs.  Running with someone motivates me to get up and out there in a way training for a big race only sometimes did.  On the off days I ride my bike on the trainer or on the trail.  Which leads me to regaining some confidence on my bike – I still clutch my brakes on downhills that are curvy but yesterday I rode the River Mountains Loop trail of about 34 miles successfully (albeit slowly).

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I have a long way to go to putting the right mileage in for my fitness goals this year (there’s a 40 mile bike race I’d like to do, I also bought some triathlon clothing on clearance at REI that I’ve been using on runs and on on my bike trainer with a mind to attempting a sprint tri in October) and I have regained weight I had lost in my drive to lose weight before my 30th birthday last year.  It comes down to personal discipline but also not trying to prove myself to anyone but, well, myself.  Added benefits of course are friendship and connecting with my spouse about something other than the day to day management of the house or our respectively high stress careers.

On the subject of goals, I am trying to take on new pro bono cases as others have wrapped up, put in more time in my daughter’s classroom, get my son ready for pre-school in the fall, and to just keep being outside.  I was brought to my lowest multiple times in 2013 (sorry to be vague but let’s just say I cried a lot more than I had in prior years) and when I thought things were better I’d crash (literally sometimes, mostly figuratively) all over again.  What I learned was that I have a wonderful support network and that there is a lot of good in people.  I also learned to let go of trying to impress people whose admiration are unattainable.

There’s a song that I’ve loved for a long time by Amanda Palmer called “Trout Heart Replica” (NSFW link to the lyrics) and one of the lines is: “[…] and when the wizard gets to me i’m asking for a smaller heart.”  I would listen to the song at various times, especially on runs, and I’d think “yes, that is what I need, a smaller heart” – not in a humblebrag way of saying I have a big heart or anything, but that I wasn’t sure how to stop feeling hurt.  I am in control of my reactions, I would think, if I let everything break my heart then I won’t be a good mother for my children, etc.  2013 was the year that broke my spirit but now I know that I made it through and I will figure out a way to make it through.  I can face my fears of being alone, of falling down, of not making the right decisions as I head into 31 because I have made it this far.  I wanted to ask for a smaller heart when what I was finding was my courage.

Growing up is hard, I worry for my children and their heartbreaks that I can’t protect them from, but as long as I can be there for them I hope I can be part of their support network to remind them that they are not alone and they can face what lies ahead.

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Happy 2014, everyone.  May the year bring you good things and the support you need to face the rough spots.

Food Allergy Friendly Family Meal Ideas

On a whim, I looked at my meal logging on My Fitness Pal to see how what we really eat compares to the food options I’ve blogged about and thought I’d share!  The meals we return to again and again have ingredients that are versatile so we keep them on hand and many of them are what we call our own version of “fast food.”  Not all the links below are to recipes on this site, some are on other sites or are linked to products we buy for convenience.

As with any food option, please make sure they suit your comfort level.  I, for example, will buy things for our family that are in a shared facility with, say, eggs or soy, but not tree nuts or peanuts.  Recently E has grown out of her milk allergy and we’re working on some other food challenges but aside from feeding the kids yogurt and or cheese, I haven’t gone back to dairy.  I always told myself that I’d go back in a heartbeat but then as the months wore on I realized that my excuse for eating dairy in the face of animal cruelty implications was that it would be “too hard” to stop.  When I stopped eating dairy for my daughter’s sake I realized a vegan (versus a vegetarian) diet involved many more flavors and options than I thought.

If anything jumps out as something you’d like a recipe for, please let me know in the comments.  We were able to start eating corn again this past summer but aside from tortillas, tostadas, or corn itself, many of these options are still corn free.  We also were able to re-introduce tomatoes and grapes in the past year, much to my relief.  You can also check out the What We Eat page for other recipes I’ve posted about.

Baked Potatoes with Mushrooms and Onions

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Bean Burgers on Rice Bread (or Tapioca Dinner Rolls) with Ketchup and other fixings

Brussels Sprouts or Asparagus (roasted) with Mushrooms (we used Portabella Mushroom Caps a few times) and Rice or Quinoa

Cauliflower “Popcorn” with Roasted Vegetables and Wild Rice

Cereal or Granola and Rice Milk

Chickpea UnTuna Salad (here’s a recipe I started with but of course leave out the nuts)

Green Lentils, Rice, and Plain Coconut Milk Yogurt

Grilled Cheese (Daiya) on Rice Bread

Masala Dosas with Coconut Milk Yogurt

Misto alla Griglia with Wild Rice

Nachos with Daiya and Pinto Beans

Pakoras with Quinoa and Vegetables

Persian Lima Bean Rice with Tomato Onion Salad (I make a healthier version of both these days with a lot less oil)

Quinoa and Roasted Asparagus or Corn

Salad (Quinoa with Cilantro Lime Dressing or with Brown Rice Couscous)

Saffron Rice with Beans and Baked Yams

Shepherd’s Pie with Fresh Cranberry Sauce

(Baked) Spaghetti Squash with Marinara Sauce (I’ve cut the oil and sugar in this recipe with great results)

Spinach and Mushroom Risotto

Steamed Vegetables and Rice or Quinoa and Marinara Sauce

Steamed Artichokes with Roasted Onions and Quinoa with Balsamic Vinegar

Sunshine Burgers (or Quinoa Burgers) and Alphatots (or Oven Fries)

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Tabbouli with Falafel and Bean Dip

Tostadas topped with Refried Beans, Guacamole, Salsa, Lettuce, and Tomatoes

Wild Rice (or Quinoa) and Oven Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Vinagarette

What are some of your family’s “fast” dinner options?

The 2012 Vegas Valley Comic Book and Children’s Book Festivals

Last year we attended the Moapa Valley Art Guild Pomegranate Festival (I guess November is festival month in Southern Nevada) but wanted to do something different for 2012.  I signed up in advance for a VIP ticket (the event is free, if you registered early you received a few perks, however) for the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival over at Clark County Library.  The event included panels and tables both inside and outside – it was a beautiful day and the kids and I had fun exploring on the morning of November 3rd.  We headed straight to Ralph’s Alternate Reality Comics Booth and who should walk by but Spider-Man and Iron Man cosplayers (pictured at another table below).  “Spider-Man” gave E and R little plastic spider rings that made their entire week.  Actually, R is still talking about it!  Spidey is one of my favorites so R will have plenty of reading material when he is old enough to be allowed to peruse my comic book boxes.

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The event, though welcoming to kids (a number of free children’s comics were being handed out and E recognized her Owly books at the Top Shelf booth), did not have too much for E and R in the morning (they needed to be home for lunch and naps) so we hit the road for downtown Las Vegas to check out the Vegas Valley Children’s Book Festival!  I had heard friends rave about the event and was not disappointed.  It was strange to drive downtown for something other than work, though.

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My husband and I used to eat lunch near the water feature pictured above. Seeing families enjoying the shade made me hope that someday downtown is a more vibrant place. The economic downturn hit just as the area was getting attention from investors but I’ve read recently that Zappos has made a commitment to improving conditions downtown.

We weren’t able to find parking except at some meters with a one hour limit – not a great amount of time – but even with spending most of our time at the Lowe’s booth (they had free wood crafting kits for kids to hammer away at) and the PBS booth (for puppet making) we still caught a presenter at the storytelling area (she was coaching the audience with the song “Did you feed my cow?”) and came away with an armful of new (and free) books.  We would have loved to stay to see David Shannon but our time was up at that point.  Running into Maggie Verderame of Kids Do Yoga on our way to the car had E so excited so I guess our timing was just right.  R fell asleep in the car while clutching his wooden fire truck.

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I enjoyed seeing the inside of Fifth Street School.  It opened right after E was born but I remember walking to Federal Court and watching the construction work to revitalize it with interest.

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Also, seeing so many families passionate about reading with their children was fantastic.  Anyone who says Las Vegas does not have a lot to offer families with children is simply not looking hard enough.  Add both events to your November calendar for 2013!