On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.

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When the Hamster Greets You at the Door…

Something is amiss when a hamster is waiting to greet  you at the door. That’s a dog’s job, and we don’t have a dog; however, 5 ounces of black and white hamster greeted us yesterday when we arrived home from a visit to the grandparents. Apparently Pepper had escaped from her cage while we were away this weekend, and apparently she likes S–or misses her regular feedings–enough to wait for her rescue.

Pepper bears a surprising resemblance to this tapir but weighs considerably less.

Pepper’s markings are quite similar to this tapir, but she weighs considerably less and does not spray urine when she is upset.

The girls and I spent the weekend with my parents in Norfolk. It was so nice to spend time with them last weekend that we decided to do it again, but this time we drove and they hosted. On Saturday afternoon, we visited the Virginia Zoo.

These guys also escaped from their cage. They followed me home, too.

These guys also escaped from their cage. They followed me home, too.

The zoo has changed considerably from when I was a little girl; however, we wandered through Asia, Africa, Australia, and North America in a little less than two hours.

Here are 2 of my favorite orangutans.

Here are 2 of my favorite orangutans.

A visit to see the animals is always a good way to spend a sunny afternoon–especially when you’re anticipating 4+ hours in the car with three girls who can never sync their bladders.

Everyone loves the adorable meerkats.

Everyone loves the adorable meerkats.

Wandering around at a relaxed pace is also a nice way to work out the kinks after an 8-mile run. Yesterday was my first good run of the week. By good, I mean it was the first run where I didn’t think about quitting and walking home every quarter of a mile. This week I learned that 1 hilly, slushy trail run + 1 session of intervals + 1 workout heavy on lunges and squats + donating 1 pint of blood = 0 motivation x 2 tired, achy legs.

As nice as it is to spend time with my parents and practice man-to-man defense with the girls, it’s good also to be back home in my own bed. The sun is shining, the temperature is stuck over 60°, and Ryan just called from afar. Life feels pretty nice today.

Don't you want to run  out and get a red panda of your own?!

Don’t you want to run out and get a red panda of your own?!


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The Week in Review

I have writer’s block. I start to write about a topic and then lose interest or get distracted after a paragraph or so. There are all sorts of small people reasons for my distractions. For instance, we don’t have house guests often, but we’ve had 3 sets of overnight visitors for the past 2 weekends. If I tell you that I’ve changed more sheets in the past month than I typically do, you might figure out that I don’t change the kids’ sheets every week. Oops, my secret is out.

Speaking of house guests, we survived our first slumber party for G’s 11th birthday. I have officially switched my position on owning a home with a basement. I have decided that yes, a basement sounds like a lovely idea. Especially if my children want to have future slumber parties.

My father stayed with us the night after the slumber party. He and I got up during an unpleasant downpour last Sunday morning so that we could run the Lower Potomac River 10 Miler together. This year we actually ran through the Potomac River. Okay, that’s not true. It just felt like we did. The course had to be rerouted minutes before it was scheduled to start, and we had to run through about 6 inches of water–twice–near the course turn-around. On the plus side, I earned a new 10-mile PR. I finished in 1:21:51 and ran four sub-8 miles. That was the good part of last weekend.

The not-so-good part was the lesson I learned about resting my body after a hard run. After Ragnar, I took a very easy week and only ran 3 short runs of 4 miles each. I took 3 rest days and my legs felt fine before Sunday. My right knee wasn’t feeling fine, so I kept taking ibuprofen and icing it. The day after the 10-miler, my right knee was definitely puffy, and I had some trouble bending it. I decided not to run so that it could heal.

So what does a mother runner do when she cannot run? On Tuesday, she goes to CCR, the Cardio Core Resistance class that she’s been taking for 2 years. She wonders why every lower body exercise pairing include lunges, steps, or squats. Her instructor gives her ab exercises to do in place of legs. On Wednesday, her abs are killing her, and the stairs become her enemy. She finds an orthopedist who is taking her insurance and new patients and desperately schedules the first-available appointment, even though she has already booked a dental appointment for the same day in a different county. She also increases her ice time and decides that a calming Body Flow class will recharge her mood. She goes to Body Flow and can’t bend her body into child’s pose or half lotus or a dozen other poses. She isn’t feeling recharged. By Friday she is downright grumpy and moody. She needs an endorphin rush, but her knee is still swollen. On her sixth day of not running, she decides to follow the C of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) before heading out to coach a soccer game. On Day 8, she calls the orthopedist’s office and asks to be added to the cancellation list.

In short, this mother runner learned her lesson. I violated the rule that says for each mile you race, take off 1 day before your next hard run or race. I raced 15 miles during Ragnar DC and raced another 10 just 8 days later. Now I get the reasoning behind the rule. I also got to see the orthopedist today! After a set of x-rays and exam, she pronounced that my injury was due to overuse. I told my sister that I felt like the little girl who cried wolf.

Speaking of my sister, we had a lovely weekend with her family. Her two boys are ridiculously cute. O, who is 5, is best buddies with my H, and they LOVE spending time with each other. G, who is 3, has turned into quite the instigator. He knows how to bother his big brother O in ways that remind me of growing up with my siblings. (Except that I never got in trouble for petting my brother’s hair after bedtime so that he couldn’t fall asleep. We preferred to touch each other and cross the invisible borders of the car backseat.) He also defies his mother by asserting his love for our surviving hamster Oreo. One of our conversations went like this:

G: “Aunt Laura, I want to see that boy.” He points to the hamster cage.
Me: “Do you mean Oreo? The hamster?”
G: “Yes, the hamster. He is cute.”
Me: “Yes, he is cute. He is watching you.”
G: “I want to hold him. He is funny.”
Me: “Yes, he is cute and funny.”

If you’re still reading, you may be wondering what my original topic was. Distraction. Writer’s block. Sometimes the best way to conquer those monsters is to simply write something. It doesn’t have to be brilliant. It just has to happen. And if you’re still with me, I’ll leave you with a little distraction for you. It’s a video montage of my Ragnar experience. Another Mother Runner sent 2 teams of mother runners. Team Dimity is sporting the light pink tutus, and Team Sarah is in the dark pink. One of my talented teammates is the voice behind the pictures. You can find me in a pink tutu. I’m wearing number 493.

By the way, I’m going for a run tomorrow.

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A Sad Day for a Good Hamster

I’ve written before about S’s beloved hamster Brownie. He was the hamster who mistakenly thought he was a dog and acted like one: He begged to be picked up from his cage, happily went wherever the girls toted him, and loved to snuggle under the covers–often when this writer had no idea he was in bed. He never bit or hissed. All in all, he was probably the world’s nicest hamster–unless you’re my sister Martha and have an intense dislike of rodents.

So yesterday was a sad day. It started with S notifying me that Brownie was very cold. Yes, he was. She snuggled him but just couldn’t get him warm. H brought him food, and he ignored it all. (That’s atypical hamster behavior since hamster means hoarder.) The day progressed, and his breathing slowed. S spent hours holding him wrapped up in a kitchen towel for warmth.


S and her beloved Brownie

In the meantime, the girls screamed for Ryan at 15 minute intervals to check Brownie’s vital signs. This is one of those jobs that no one tells you is going to be yours before you become a dad. Ryan dutifully checked for breathing and leg movement each time.

This morning we woke up to find that Brownie was no longer with us. S bravely asked if she could wrap him up and put him in a box for burial. G wants to decorate a gravestone. All of them want to know when we can bring home the next hamster, and they spent time debating the merits of two dwarf hamsters versus one Syrian hamster.

In case you’re interested, they’ve decided on another Syrian. Despite their tears, their little hearts have the capacity to love another animal, and for that this mom is very glad.

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A Day in the Life…of a Hamster

Due to popular request, I’ve decided to explain what life is like for our ridiculously spoiled hamsters…from Brownie’s point of view.

12 AM: Start my workout. Must run a 5k tonight. Training for Hamster Invitationals.

12:22 AM: Need a drink and a nap. So tired.

12:59 AM: Hungry again. Where did I leave my stash of sunflower seeds? Why do they always bring me these alfalfa sticks? I’d rather eat my shavings.

1:05: More running. My Nemesis is on his wheel, too. Must. Run. Faster.

1:32 AM: That’s enough running. I wonder if I climb up these bars, could I push the top off? Maybe the Curly Girl forgot to lock the cage.

1:33 AM: Darn. She locked it. Maybe I’ll just shake the bars for a while. Or maybe I’ll take a nap.

4:45 AM: Can’t believe I slept this long! Must hurry before the Alpha Male turns on the lights. Stuff my left cheek, slurp some water, and take my last run. Nemesis appears to be asleep.

5:00 AM:  Dang! He woke up early! Maybe I can fall asleep before he notices I’m awake. Too late! On second thought, maybe Alpha will make me some eggs. Look cute so he’ll pick me up.

5:01 AM: It worked! Ha ha, Nemesis, I’m cuter than you, and I’m getting eggs.

5:02 AM: No eggs. Look uninterested.

5:03 AM: Back to my nest. Figure I have 2 hours until Small Noisy People bother me.

7:01 AM: Oh no, the Noisy People are walking around upstairs. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5….

7:02 AM: Good thing I wasn’t asleep. Favorite Noisy Person is taking me somewhere. Maybe she’ll feed me? Nope. I wonder whose bed I’m in….

7:19 AM: Why is the Tall Lady screaming at me?! It’s not like I pooped in her bed.

7:20 AM: Back to the nest.

7:30 AM: I’m in the ball. Must get into the pantry!

7:40 AM: Must sleep. After I eat some more.


How cute am I?


5:45 PM: That was a great sleep! Stretch for a minute and shoot Nemesis a withering look. Oh good, my Favorite Noisy Person is in the room. Pick me up! Pick me up!

5:51 PM: Munch on a 6-inch spear of cucumber until Tall Lady takes it away from me and yells at my Favorite Person for taking the family’s dinner. Am I not family, too?

5:55 PM: Oooh, I’m getting weighed tonight. I wonder if I’ve put on any muscle lately. Yes! 174 grams. I am way buffer than Nemesis.

9 PM: Guess I’ll get up for the night. On second thought, I’ll just get some water and take another nap.

9:15 PM: Nemesis is on his wheel. Can’t he see I need my sleep?

11 PM: Need to get my miles in. Schedule says intervals, but I’m feeling more like a long slow run.

11:30 PM: Great workout. Need to refuel with some protein. Where did I stash those seeds? Yes! A sunflower!