My online journal.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday morning, I think

AAUUGHH golly where has time gone? We've had an unusually eventful summer -- I made the Minnesota RollerGirls and am now an Atomic Bombshell; Lucy's swimming has really taken off (her late-teenage teacher said yesterday that her front- and back-crawl was probably stronger than his -- she, amazingly, remembers to kick; but the elementary backstroke is her arch-nemesis); both kids have, incredibly, been able to keep practicing piano with a minimum of crying (none of it from me); Joel and Ellen and my mom all did the St. Paul Triathlon last weekend; and there's more exciting stuff to come!

Lucy is having a birthday party next week, and she just came up to me and said "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NEXT WEEK! YOU'D BETTER TELL DADDY!" She was really surprised that he and I had already spoken about it. Ha!

Last night I was helping Eddie with piano (and let me tell you, adjusting to the different approaches to practicing required by my two very-different children is VERY TAXING) and he was working on a very-simplified "Ode to Joy" and he started bawling (of course) and he cried "I don't like this because Beethoven wrote it and I CAN'T PLAY IT!"

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Saturday morning

Hey there! Joel's playing softball in Duluth so I'm home with the kids this weekend. It makes for a very weird summer weekend: no schedule and very low expectations.

Yesterday (Friday) I had to go get some new cushions for my skate trucks. As the kids and I were tooling along 94 through downtown St. Paul on the way to Derby4All, I felt a loose thread on my tank top. I pulled it a little, then a little more -- and the spaghetti strap came completely detached from the fabric, exposing my entire left side. WHOA! Hauled the minivan off at the Dale exit and found Primp, a "cheap-chic" boutique I'd been eyeing for a while. It was busy, but the kids were angels and I found a fix for my wardrobe malfunction. As we were getting back in the car, both kids gently let me know that they really liked one of the other items I'd tried on -- a little ruffly cotton dress. I'm guessing it's not the last time I'll get fashion advice from them. They were so sincere and sweet about it -- "Momma, I wish you bought that pretty dress" -- that we jumped back out of the van and went back to get the dress. The saleslady told the kids they were hired. And I treated them to cinnamon rolls from Bars Bakery next door. Yummalicious.

Nothing like a little retail therapy to lift the mood! I've been feeling absolutely nauseated about the upcoming MNRG draft -- now that we're down to the final week of boot camp, it's the same feeling as the week before tryouts. The feeling that things are changing -- changing from something good, which is always scary.

Speaking of change, I cleaned out the garage on Thursday and WOW did that feel good! It wasn't a total disaster, but things had been strewn about and disorganized, and that needed to be rectified. I took a huge load of books and VHS tapes to Half Price Books, where they actually gave me $20 for the lot. And I found a diary that I kept for a short time in 1997-99. I read through it last night and it was a good reminder of how discontented and unsettled I'd been my last year of college. And how grateful I need to be now, for how truly happy I am with my current lot.

Last night I took the kids to Lake Elmo for picnic dinner (broaster chicken, watermelon, and the kids' respective favorite veggies: red bell pepper for Eddie; cherry tomatoes from our garden for Lu) and swimming. I love swimming with my kids -- Lucy is such a fish and Eddie is so silly -- and floating in the water felt lovely on my various derby-related aches and pains. As we were packing up, the Lucy and Ed were helping each other and and I overheard a nearby dad say to his kids: "Look, he's helping his sister instead of fighting with her. It is possible!" A proud mama moment for me.

Today's plan: clean up the house, then skating at the Oval (free), afternoon bowling (free coupons), dinner at Culver's (also heavily-couponed), and then up to see Ashland's production of Cats. Sounds like a perfect Saturday to me! When does Joel come home again?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's hot. And derby.

Joel and I are enjoying the most spectacularly hot week EVER (heat index supposed to be at 122 F today, I think? Dew points nearing the mid-80s?) in footloose and fancy-free fashion -- because my parents have the kids!

I'm guessing my folks are going crazy, because it's not much cooler in Chicago, and a mega heat wave is just as bad as below-zero when it comes to kids getting stir-crazy from being inside all day. But me? Living in the lap of luxury, particularly thanks to our new window-unit air conditioner in our upstairs bedroom. I can't believe we lived here for almost 10 years without it -- it is soooo nice and cozy up there now.

Joel and I caught an unbearably-hot Twins game on Monday (a makeup of an April 22 rainout, to which Jean and I wore SNOWPANTS). Then we met up with some derby friends for a bev or two. Tuesday I had to finish the August issue of the Forum (done!) and today I was supposed to volunteer to take some church kids to the pool, but the oppressive weather cancelled the trip. So I think Jean and I are going to catch lunch and a movie.

Last night I had a bootcamp practice. We aren't working off-skates anymore, and strangely I actually miss it. I carpool with 3 or 4 other gals from the east side (one of them is an MNRG veteran -- they're invited to join bootcamp for the free workout and to help us train), and we got there early enough that I could've done the PEP warmup, but I just got distracted and didn't do it. As we then started our skating warmup, my feet let me know they were cranky about my omission. I don't get cramps, exactly, but my feet feel kind of like those cheapo glowsticks that you have to bend and snap to get them to work. The tendons (or something) feel like they need to be cracked a bit to give them the pliability I need to skate the way I want to.

After a short warmup (made even shorter for me because I went to help set up some chairs for LJ, a bootcamper-cum-Deb who broke her leg in 2 places a couple weeks ago), we started with 30-60-90 squats. Yup, STARTED with them. I know I've mentioned these before, but they are absolutely my least-favorite drill. We sprint for a short amount of time (30 seconds? maybe less) and then squat (while still rolling) for 30 seconds. Then sprint, then squat-roll (but you can't move your feet, so when you roll to a stop, you stop) for 60 seconds. Then sprint, then 90 seconds. It is absolutely brutal (as evidenced by the super-crappy squat form we all have by the middle of the 60-second squat). It burns my thighs and usually makes my tailbone ache (though last night it was just the thighs).

The other thing I hate about this drill is that I have lousy bearings in my wheels, and when they tell us to squat, I quickly slow to a stop and everyone rolls right past me. I HATE BEING ROLLED PAST. Also the longer you can roll, the easier it is to shift your weight to ease some of the pressure on your leg-and-back muscles. Once you're stopped, you are stuck.

OK anyway, one crummy drill down. Next we repeated a drill we had done last week: 2 skaters line up on the jammer line, then sprint around the first turn, trying to do a crossover right at the apex (I am totally using terms that mean nothing to you, I can tell by the look in your eyebrows. Let me try to find a diagram).
Then you have to try to stop between the jammer and pivot lines (or, where they would be) on the opposite side of the track.

Now, I can totally do crossovers. I even learned a trick (thanks Wet Spot!) for when we skate as many laps as we can in 2 minutes (or when we skate 25 laps as quickly as we can -- basically the same drill, just measured differently) -- crossing over EXACTLY at the top and bottom of the track, to get the most efficiency out of the diamond.

(The "diamond" is the middle oval in that picture -- it's the most efficient, circular way to skate around the track)
But crossing over right at the apex? Another story.(The apex is about where the "15"s appear in the above picture. It's the spot where, if you're finishing going around the turn, your momentum takes you tangentially off the inside edge. Did I mention roller derby is run by nerds?)

For one, going with another girl means we're both fighting for that inside edge. And for two, JUST as I start to get some decent speed, we're at the turn and I have to scramble to keep my feet, and then there's no way I can get back to the inside line. But I guess that's why they're having us work on it -- it's hard.

So, we only went through that drill twice. I was still feeling like I wasn't getting it -- two crummy drills down.

Next, I think we went back to doing sternum hits. These, I feel OK doing -- when we did them last week (using blocking pads) all the trainers told me I was hitting well. Of course, doing them on a live person/teammate/friend/fellow mama whose children I do not want to leave motherless; that's a different story. I was paired with Jo Mauler, who was a Deb and is a fantastic skater and athlete. She is the one I am always gunning for -- can I keep up with her on the sprints? Can I start faster than she can? So it was good to be paired with her. Unfortunately for me on this drill, her body is even bonier than mine. We hit each other a bunch of times -- she nailed me in the chin, and I managed to knock her on her butt. It felt OK, but not as good as hitting the pads.

Then we worked on spread-eagles. THESE are my Achilles heel. See this picture?

Now imagine it rolling -- on skates. It's an effective trick of agility, to be able to sneak through people at this surprising angle; it's even more effective if you can then stick your bum out and bump somebody with it.
But there are problems:
1. Skates have wheels that can only roll forward or backward. Sooooo unless your feet are turned-out exactly 180 degrees, you are TOAST.
2. I can remember being 5 years old and not being able to turn my feet this way
3. I've been dancing for over 20 years now, lamenting my lack of turnout
4. Improving one's turnout, in ballet, takes a ton of careful practice, stretching, and training. It needs to come from the hip, not just the knees or feet. Forcing it risks injury.
5. Derby people just do it.

I actually have more points -- like, when we do 2nd-position plies in ballet (which is essentially what these are), teachers are very careful to never have us go too far down. And don't stick your butt out. ANYWAY! I am boring myself. Trust me when I tell you it is crazy hard. I wound up spinning myself around and falling down WAY more than I prefer... that said! I did actually get a couple pieces of awesome advice (feet farther apart; weight on one skate more than the other). It doesn't mean I'm EVER going to use it in a game, but it's nice to make progress.

So it was a semi-frustrating practice for me. And as the draft nears, tensions are bubbling a bit. With so few spots, and new transfers appearing every week, we can't help but try to gauge where we each stack up in comparison. And this is the blessing and curse of roller derby: there is no one "ideal" type. Big and tall is awesome, but can be a pitfall. Fast is great, but speed alone (without agility and stability) is worthless. Having a mind for the game is a fantastic asset, but not if you can't make your body do what it needs to. Having experience is awesome, but it might make someone harder to train. So it's definitely a "whole-package" deal, but who knows what pieces carry more weight?

Regardless, this continues to be an absolutely life-changing experience. At the moment, I absolutely have to shower.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Back in MN

Hi there, quick welcome home note to myself. I told a couple of my cousins that I'd try harder to blog... so here I am!

And when was I speaking with my cousins, you may ask? Why, at the 37th annual Ryan Family Picnic, of course! Held every summer in Chicagoland, this was the first year without our beloved Nana, who died in May at the age of 95.

The picnic was hot but lovely. Eddie had a freakout when "his" helium balloon took off for the heavens. He was terrified it was going to go out to outer space, and later insisted that all balloons be destroyed in order to prevent this from ever. Happening. Again. It was his own personal balloon holocaust, and I'm still trying to figure it out.

Joel and I left the kids with my folks, and are going to really enjoy the quiet for the next four days. I'm going to start by going to roller derby practice this evening, then Joel's going to go to work in the morning and... oh that's right, so am I, editing the August issue of the Forum. Later in the week, I'm also going to get my eyebrows waxed. Whoa, too much excitement. Oh-- we're also catching a Twins game and I'm going to volunteer at church. Yep, it's a thrill-a-minute around here.

Last week the kids finished their session of swim lessons -- Lucy passed into the next level and Eddie *almost* did. :) Eddie also started piano last week, and I think it's good that he's with Grandma this week to encourage the practicing. It took me 9 months to get Lucy into the practicing rhythm (which is not bad -- I took for 5 years and never enjoyed it), and I can't get inside Eddie's head like I can with Lulu.

OK better go find a COOL outfit to wear to practice. The airco will not be on at the Roy, and it's 90 and muggy. Urgh.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Roller derby update

Well I made it through tryouts (on June 12 and I realize that was weeks ago; don't judge me) and into bootcamp for the Minnesota Rollergirls (MNRG).

About 40-45 women tried out on June 12. Tryouts were 3-ish hours of skating skills and drills and tests-of-endurance, and it was difficult and awesome, often at the same time. Of the 40+, fourteen were chosen for boot camp. So it's definitely an honor to have been chosen.

Bootcamp is 8 weeks of 2-hour, 3-night-per-week practices. At the end (August 10), the four MNRG home teams (the Rockits, Dagger Dolls, Atomic Bombshells, and Garda Belts) draft whomever they wish, to fill holes in their respective rosters.

Typically the teams will choose from the boot campers; however, they also have the option to choose skaters transferring from other roller derby leagues.

Last year they drafted ... oh cripes I'm not sure. 14 or 16 maybe? This year: probably 8. Well, they have promised us no fewer than 8. Plus, there are 5 hopeful transfers who are coming in with more derby experience under their belts than we bootcampers. So of this year's 14 bootcampers, in a worst-case scenario, they'll take 3 of us. THREE. This is an enormous bummer, especially since 12 of us bootcampers have been on the Debu-Taunts rec league and have been skating together weekly (or more!) since last July.

But one can hope! And one can definitely have an awesome time practicing 3x per week, and get oneself in the verybest shape of one's life. And one can learn VOLUMES from the All-Stars and vets and refs who are helping train us.

So I'm keeping my chin up -- there's nothing else to be done, truly. Bootcamp is wild and wonderful -- we are in week 4 (holy cats -- is that possible? Already? Wow!) and they kill us with plyo (jumping exercises) and core (situps and pushups in zillions of permutations) and we are starting to work on pack skating (working together) and hitting. It's fantastic to be able to share this time with so many other exceptional skaters and athletes. It's exciting. And sweaty.

And right now, I need to go to bed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ending the school year with a bang (and a drill or two)

Last day of school! Last day of school!

Today was the kids' last day. I think St. Paul is the only school district in the country that hasn't been out since last week. I think it's nice to end in the middle of the week -- makes a Tuesday seem like a Friday.

It's been an emotional and exciting week for all of us here in Gronauland. Lucy had her Kindergarten graduation last Friday. Many tears were shed as her cohort of 15 said goodbye to the teacher most of them had had for two years.

Golly, we love Ms. Kristie! She gave a lovely tear-jerking little talk about the class, and then as they got their "diplomas," Kristie announced what each child said he or she wanted to be when they grew up. Lucy said "a teacher." We watched a little slide show of the year, followed by cookies and juice. It was small and simple and touching and perfect.

Lucy's graduation dress (yay Valu Thrift!)

She REALLY wanted to wear my hat, but chickened out.

Our big brand-new first grader!

And here are a couple pics from her piano recital the weekend before:

Ms. Mary, a sweet and patient woman.

I did 2 duets with Lucy, and she played one piece on her own. Piano has been a struggle this year -- Lucy hasn't really enjoyed it, and it's been really hard making time to practice. But she enjoyed performing (surprise, surprise) and has been working much harder and more diligently on it the last couple of weeks, and we're all (by which I mean "I am") starting to get more disciplined about her practicing.

Also, we've been assembling a playset:
This is the kind of project that would take one full weekend if you had 2-4 grownups working all daylight hours. We, unfortunately, do not have that kind of free time, but we spent large chunks of 2 weekends putting this thing together. The picture above shows maybe 20% completion. It's now probably 90% completed (even the monster slide is fully assembled but just needs its bolts tightened and the whole thing needs to be attached to the fort) but finishing that last 10% is going to be tricky. The kids already are enjoying the swings and I'm excited to have people over when it's less of a safety hazard.

Oh golly there's so much more! But I have to go get the kids from the bus. I hope to find time in the next couple of days to let y'all know about roller derby tryouts. In the meantime, bon soir!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Wednesday night

Stink! I SWORE I was going to write more as tryouts approached. Well, I'm a bit of a failure because tryouts are in 4 days. I suppose now is as good a time as any to do some processing. But first: what the devil have we been up to around here?

Lucy had her first piano recital last Saturday. Her teacher, Miss Mary, is an incredibly sweet and patient woman with an adorable South African accent. Lucy likes her but has not enjoyed piano for most of the school year. It's hard to find time to practice (and Mary only asks for 10-15 minutes per day)... and Lucy ALWAYS has something she'd rather be doing... and I'm not always home in the evening to sit with her... and Lucy has had other rehearsals stealing her time... anyway, it has been a struggle.

But just days before the recital, I finally happened to be at a lesson with Lucy and during a natural break in the action, I mentioned to Mary about the difficulty we'd been having, and Mary gently-but-firmly encouraged practicing immediately after school, before any other distractions could jump in. And I realized that our normal after-school routine had been extremely wishy-washy: all snick-snacking and shoe-tossing and backpack-unloading and completely unstructured. So, I thought, we could try some structure. I set a timer when the kids got home and let them know that they should grab something to eat right away, because snacktime was OVER when the buzzer buzzed. And I let Lucy know that at the buzzer, she'd start practicing piano. And you know what? Not a single complaint. They ate, they finished, and she practiced -- at least 15 minutes and sometimes more.

Now, it's only been a week (and we've had to mix it up a bit this week because I've been teaching at the kids' school... more on that later)... but today Lucy even had the forethought to practice BEFORE SCHOOL because she was having a playdate after school. What a kid! She played beautifully (I mean, for a 6-year-old who has been taking piano for only 9 months) at her recital on Saturday, and I'm just so proud of her. She's matured so much in the last few months, and while I mourn the loss of her babyhood, she is truly growing into a lovely young girl.

Eddie had a rough evening tonight. I'm guessing he had a nice morning with Grandpa Books (those two are like peas and carrots), and I think his school day was OK (albeit a little off-kilter; there was an assembly (more on that later)), but Lucy had a playdate after (that Ed wasn't invited to) and then we had to drop Grandpa off at the airport (Eddie says "I miss him already. He's my biggest fan."), then I dragged him to a roller derby store to get my wiggly plate looked at (the housing for my toestop has come unglued -- not a dealbreaker, but will need to be fixed soon). Then we had a loooong drive to McDonald's, then I took him to the Roseville Oval so I could skate a few laps, and he had no playmates and was booooooooored. And, I suspect, quite tired after an exciting week. We've had some unbearable heat here (today was lovely, but the last 2 days have been 100+ degrees) and I think Ed got a bit too hot Monday and is still recovering a bit. Anyway, he calmed down by bedtime and, I might add, passed out almost immediately.

For the last 5 school days I've been teaching a "High School Musical" camp at the kids' school. Every three years, Nokomis does an "Artist in Residence" program for their 4th, 5th, and 6th-graders. The students get to choose between 5 or 6 art programs and then spend 5 days participating in them. Ashland Productions arranged it for me (with only a bit of prodding from me) and I was honored and excited to get to teach at my kids' school.

The kids learned a 10-minute song-and-dance medley, and we played some theatre/acting games to break it up a bit. It was intense. For one, some of the kids didn't follow instructions and accidentally put the HSM camp down as their first choice. Ooops. And... remember that 100+ degree heat I mentioned? Yep, and I was in an upstairs, west-facing classroom with 25 kids and noooo air conditioning. It was brutal.

We made the best of it (and occasionally escaped to the much-cooler gym). And, as always happens, the show totally came together at the end. Over half the kids chose to sing solos, and with the wonder of modern sound amplification, you could actually hear them. At least six different teachers stopped me afterward and said they had been crying the whole performance -- evidently my group had a large number of children with various behavior and/or emotional problems. Some of the kids had NEVER gotten up to speak in front of their classes before... but they did a solo. Some of these kids aren't having much success in math... reading... any of the traditional school subjects... but they shone while performing. Some of the kids came in wanting nothing to do with singing and dancing, but I totally caught them having a good time and actually trying up there. It was a beautiful experience. Nokomis had to cut their music teacher a few years ago, and a bunch of the teachers said this experience was a perfect example of why music is absolutely necessary in school. I was astounded and humbled by the whole thing. It sure wasn't easy -- I came home completely wiped out those first 4 days. But I am so dang proud of those kids. I am so blessed to get to do what I do.

OK right, so I'm trying out for the Minnesota Rollergirls on Sunday. Tryouts start at 2pm and I ought to know by 6 or 6:30 whether I've been selected to attend this summer's boot camp. If I make it to boot camp, then we practice 3 days a week until the draft on August 11. I would be feeling pretty darn confident about the whole thing... except I think there are only 6 spots available. Aaaaannnd there are a couple of the girls on my Debs team with whom I cannot keep up. Aaaaand you never know what kind of transfers or other super-amazing girls might stroll in off the street. Aaaaaaand in some ways it's like a theatre audition -- they might be looking to draft only taller, larger girls (in dance, I am definitely taller and larger. Not so in derby). Or girls under age 30. Or -- God forbid! -- redheads. Anything is possible.

But I'm so grateful for how roller derby has impacted my life already. I am in better shape than ever. I get really sweaty on a regular basis, which makes me so happy (ask Joel). And when I really push myself and dig deep and try something new or hard (or new AND hard), I've had an amazing group of women standing right there, cheering me on until it's time for us to trade places. I've never experienced such support, such positivity, such great motivational mojo. And I've been in wonderful groups of people before. I've had life-changing experiences with awesome people when I was in West Side Story and Joseph. I've loved my softball and volleyball teams, and I'm grateful and fond of the relationships formed during those experiences. But to have 80 women working together encouraging each other, without a single stinker in the bunch... there's nothing like that power.

So, I'm going to rest and hydrate and hope for the best on Sunday. And I'll be honored if I make it, but still delighted just to continue with the Debs for another year if I don't. And I'll let you know, either way!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Thursday afternoon

Tonight are my three final dance classes of the session at Maplewood. It's been a long session -- 14 weeks -- and it culminates in a dress rehearsal tomorrow night (Friday) followed by 2 blessedly brief recitals on Saturday.

This has been such a fun year, getting back into teaching again. Like anything, it gets SO much easier with practice. Just a few short months ago, I had a ginormous class (15 girls age 3-5) and it took every once of energy I had to keep it together. But a little experience goes a long way -- I'm learning how to enforce order right off the bat, which gives me much more leeway to be fun, later. Now I've got a class of 16 girls and -- gasp! -- I actually look forward to teaching it.

I just got back from a 33-minute jog around the neighborhood. I was dreading it, but it felt pretty awesome. My 'hood is a really nice amount of hilly, and quiet enough to be able to stay on city streets but not worry too much about having to break stride to wait for traffic. This was my 3rd run in the Vibrams -- I sure love how my body feels when I run in them (though this might more accurately be attributed to the other regular exercise I've been getting), but 50% of the time they have give me wicked blisters on my arch. (Is that the same thing as an instep? Well, whatever.)

MNRG tryouts are now 1 month and 1 week away. We (the Debu-Taunts) had a good skating practice last Sunday on the concourse at Xcel again. This, of course, means that we didn't get to scrimmage... AGAIN... and it's now been SO long since we've scrimmaged that I would feel incredibly uncomfortable scrimmaging at the moment. Hah! Not that I ever felt comfortable scrimmaging! I cannot begin to describe to you the black hole that forms in my chest and stomach the instant someone says "scrimmage." Look, I just typed it 5 times and I think I need to head to the bathroom.

Wow, I think I really might be allergic to cheese.

Anyway, it was a really good practice. Led by our coachesWe did several warm-up laps, a group-stretch, then broke up into groups to work on skills. We did some whips (for the first time! ever!), which were surprisingly anti-climactic; some pacelines-with-weaving-and-butt-blocking; shopping carts; weaving-around-cones; hockey stops; sprinting relay races (my favorite!); and A Few Minutes of Hell, which basically means you sprint FOREVER until they tell you to stop. This is to help prepare us for tryouts, when they do 10 Minutes of Hell (which I'm guessing is longer than A Few Minutes). On Sunday they mixed it up a bit and had us sprint one lap, then skate one lap as fast as we could without lifting our skates off the floor (also known as "sticky skates"), then go back to sprinting, then back to sticky. I think we did it for 5 minutes. I was feeling OK and I think I kept pace with the fastest group.

Last Wednesday (now over a week ago) I hit Terrors practice again. We did some drills all together with the traveling team (my favorite of which involved fast-feet in place, then dropping to "sprawl" (laying flat on your stomach, usually in the puddle of sweat left behind by the guy in front of you) three times, then getting up and sprinting once around the track). When the traveling team split off, our group (all the girls in attendance, plus undrafted boys) asked Medusa and JukeBoxx (two supertalented MNRG All-Stars) to help us with footwork, so we practiced things like skating only on our front (or back) wheels, and only on our inside (or outside) wheels, etc. (remember, we're on quad skates). I had never tried this stuff before, and it was really fun and challenging -- great for core strength and balance, and good just to test our limits. We also did some backward skating with crossovers, and "spread eagle" (skating sideways, with both feet turned completely out). This last one is a major challenge for me -- my hips, legs, and feet naturally turn in. I fell over many times. Again, always good to stretch those boundaries.

OK, time to set a timer and do a little cleaning-tornado for about 25 minutes. Woo hoo!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Last night Joel and I got a lovely night out with his family -- it was Donna's bday (and John's and her anniversary) on Friday night, so Joel's sister Julie and Kaz invited us over for a really lovely crab-and-steak dinner and then we all went to Jersey Boys together in Minneapolis. It was really wonderful to have an adultish night out. The food was great, and the show was very fun. In the Orpheum lobby I ran into Katie Allen, with whom I'd performed many years ago -- her boyfriend is playing Tommy DeVito, one of the Four Seasons. I'd only met him once, very briefly, but it was fun to have kind of a personal connection to the show.

Today the kids woke us up nice and early to look for their Easter eggs and baskets. It was a blast and they were just so cute. Joel's parents came over and we dressed for church -- Ed choosing the 3-piece suit he wore for Julie & Jeff's wedding exactly 1 year ago. Fortunately when I shortened his pants back then, I made it really easy for myself to let them back out again this morning. Lucy also wore her dress from that wedding.Eddie kept repeating, "Mr. President, may I have a word?"

(Right now Eddie is peeling himself a pink hardboiled egg and he just said, "I'm ALL about Easter. The whole darn thing.")

We hit church, then came home to do an outdoor egg hunt and eat brunch. I made a crockpot egg bake, some crockpot cheesy potatoes, some fruit, and Jane Peterson's sour cream coffee cake, and everything turned out swell.

After lunch I got a nice 20-minute nap out in the sun on the deck (until a bug flew into my ear). At 2pm it was time for my derby team's Easter Wall-Sit. Wherever we were at 2pm we were supposed to "sit" on a wall (back flat against the wall, knees bent at 90 degrees) and hold it as long as we could. I about died after 4 min, 30 seconds -- a couple gals were in the 10-minute range and one said she made 22 minutes! Jean came over and assured me that there are many ways to cheat at a wall sit... but I suspect I probably just stink at it.

This is at about 3:30 in (Lucy started bawling after 10 seconds, then came back on & off for a bit):

After the Gronaus left, Jean and Joel and I took the kids up to Lake Phalen -- Joel took the kids to the playground and Jean and I ran the 3.1-mile loop in about 28 minutes. It was only my second run in the Vibrams and I *think* I love them... I had none of the blister issues from the first run, and I felt fantastic the whole time. It helped that it was 60 degrees and sunny for the first time since September.

We practiced our cartwheels, answered several questions about my shoes, and mocked the bicyclist who complained about us jogging in the bike lane. (I was, like, You're not from this neighborhood, are you?) And now I'm chanking on a salad (I ended my no-desserts Lenten fast by eating many, many sugary things and now my tummy is feeling unfortunate) and threatening to throw the kids in the bathtub. Perfect ending ot a very happy Easter!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The hills are alive!

Eddie and Joel got to watch about 10 minutes of Lucy's Sound of Music rehearsal tonight. Did I mention Lucy is in the The Sound of Music? Omigosh I don't think I did! OK Lucy is playing Gretl in a local community production. Oh here! I forget this isn't a facebook post and I can be verbose. It's up in White Bear Lake, through Lakeshore Players. Yes, WBL is a haul (25 minutes one way) -- though there are parents driving from the Highland neighborhood and Cottage Grove (each an extra 15 minutes) so I am not complaining.

I'm also not complaining because the rest of the cast is totally outstanding. They have double-cast the seven Von Trapp children so Lucy is in 8 of the 16 shows. (She is in the "Trapp" or "T" cast if you are looking to buy tickets.) Of the 13 other kids in the show, I'd worked with all but 3 or 4 and even those I'd heard good things about. Also one of my absolute favorite singers (and a very cool mom), Peggy Sutherland, is playing Maria. Lucy's first show is April 30! Can't wait!

Anyway! So Joel and Eddie got to watch the last 10 minutes of rehearsal, and as Lucy sang her solo last line of "So Long, Farewell..." Eddie jumped all over Joel and stage-whispered "That's MY SISTER!!!" He's so proud of her. Love it.


I had a pretty good derby practice on Sunday. We were on the concourse of the Xcel Energy Center, which is cool to get to skate in, but not an awesome practice space. We can't scrimmage there, but we do "stations" where three coaches each set up spots and we divide up and rotate. We did sprinting, stopping, falling, and turning relay races with Betty LaRude... Pacelines (skating fast in a long line) and shopping-carts (one skater pushing 2 girls in front of her), and sticky-skates (skating without taking your wheels off the floor) with Lydia Punch... and fast-feet and weaving drills with Wet Spot (our lone male, who cleans up spilt beer and water at the MNRG bouts; plus he runs the t-shirt cannon and knows gobs about gear).

On Wednesday I went to Terrors practice. The Twin Cities Terrors are our local men's derby league (they are sometimes referred to as MMRD -- Minnesota Mens Roller Derby). They practice at the "Terrordome," AKA the Minnesota National Guard Armory in St. Paul. They -- most generously -- open their practice to anybody in skating gear with $5. Sometimes we can practice with the guys the whole time, and sometimes they are prepping for a bout and we skate on the side (usually with the guys who have not yet been drafted to a team), but no matter what it's an amazing workout and learning experience.

Terrors practice is never the same place twice, which this variety-lovin' girl thinks is awesome. We've done 30-lap pacelines at nearly a full sprint... then done sprinting/turning/stopping drills. We practice going clockwise (typical derby direction is going counter-clockwise around the track, and once you've been building that muscle memory for a while, it's strange and scary going the "wrong way.") We've scrimmaged... then played roller-freeze-tag (which COMPLETELY ROCKS). We get to learn from other skaters who have different teaching styles and different ways of explaining things. I'm not self-motivated enough to enjoy skating at the rinks very much, so Terrors practice is kind of a perfect fit for me. Oh, except news flash: Boys smell dreadful.

Friday, April 15, 2011

MNRG Tryouts: 1 month and 29 days to go

Hey there! I'm going to be trying out for the Minnesota Rollergirls (MNRG) on Sunday, June 12 -- and in the next almost-2-months I'd like to use this forum to document my training and prep for tryouts.

Background: last July I signed up for the recreation-and-training league of MNRG: the Debu-Taunts ("Debs" or DTs). I'd only ever been to one roller derby bout, but I knew I could skate OK, and after eschewing sport in favor of theatre/dance for the past 20 years, I was looking for a new athletic endeavor. DTs practice once a week, on Sunday nights, and I try to get in at least one other skate each week, so I'll let you know how those progress.

People always ask about injuries in roller derby, so I'll probably give you some injury updates as I go. Right now I've got the remainders of a really cute bruise (about 4" in diameter) on my right hip, from falling hard at practice 2 weeks ago. My wristguard took a bite out of my right arm last Sunday, so there's a tablespoon-sized donut-shaped bruise there. My arches each have a blister, from running in my new Vibram shoes 2 days ago. Other than that: pretty healthy.

More later!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Blown away

Here's what I want: a Community Ed class on how to blow-dry your hair. OK -- my hair. I'm embarrassed even to say that it's only been in the past year or so that I am finally beginning to understand how much better hair can look when properly blow-dried. OK -- my hair. Like, it has fullness! Body! It doesn't need to lay limply on my head like overcooked spaghetti! AMAZING!

When I go get my hair cut (which -- OK fine -- I last did 7 months ago), the gal wields her fancy blowdryer with the precision of a surgeon. I get home and try to duplicate her efforts, and I can't even reach parts of my head... and how do you dry the underside without getting knots on top?... and how do you hold the dryer in one hand and a brush in the other? And never mind even attempting to switch hands to get the other side. My hair, in its natural state, is wavy when wet and crazy-frizzy-tangly when semi-dry. It's thick, and there's a lot of it. By the time I get a small section dried, the areas around it have woven themselves into a coarse mesh. When I try to comb out the mesh, my fingers get caught in the knots and I can feel the strands ripping and breaking. My arms fatigue and I start to sweat, which of course makes my hair wet again, and the cycle repeats, and more often than not I wind up chucking it all and pulling up a ponytail... which is how I end up with a pixie cut. Aaargh! It's hard being a girl.

Next week: bras.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday night

Joel's parents came in last night for a little visit. We sat and laughed and ate popcorn and played cards... some of my very favoritest things. Playing games late into the night always reminds me of my later adolescence. Memories stir of my parents and grandparents and sisters and Aunt Jan, playing cards or Pictionary or Dictionary, squealing with laughter: stomachs aching and faces spasming from grinning.

John and Donna brought Toby, Jamie's little shih-tzu doggie. Sweet little guy... but I just don't do dogs. He poops in the house if you leave him alone for more than 3 hours. We knew this ahead of time and I am thankful that poop is easy to clean off a hard floor... but still. Ugh.

We had a really nice visit with the Gronaus -- I do wish they'd come down more often.

AAAIIIEEEE!! Just found the Les Miz 25th anniversary special on PBS... AGAIN. And it happens to be RIGHT AT THE SPOT I LEFT IT last time it was on. Woohoo! It's been playing one one of our six PBS stations on and off for the last couple of weeks. I never, ever get sick of this show. It's brilliant. And I have a new crush on this Iranian guy (Ramin Karimloo) playing Enjolras. I never make it through "One Day More" without weeping.

Had a dryland roller derby practice this afternoon. "Dryland" just means we're not on skates. In summer we have dryland practices to prep us for skating, but now, in winter, it's when we can't have room to skate at our practice venue, the Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Dryland is very important, and usually awesome, but it's a giant bummer when we don't get to skate, and I think everyone was feeling that. We got to talk with Umpire Strikes Back, the MNRG head ref, and he's wonderful, but of course we'd all much rather actually be skating. We did a tiny bit of sprinting (always my favorite), some "plyo" (I don't really know what that means, but we did a few horrendous wall-sits, a bunch of 8-count burpees, line jumping), and then finished up with about 20 minutes of core (pushups, leg lifts, and every kind of sit-up known to man). It was OK. I miss skating.

YESS! My favorite Javert line: "The law is inside out, the world is upside down!" Uh, OK. One of many, many favorites.

Oh oh oh! And a moment of silence for "Bring Him Home."


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturdy early-afternoon

Trying to buy Twins tickets via the internet... on the first day of public sale. Just. Sitting. I've been in an "electronic line" for 20 minutes without moving. The whole thing is very silly and if I didn't want it to be springtime (and thus baseball season) so badly, I probably would chuck the whole thing.

It's a beautiful Saturday here; sunny and warming up nicely. My teaching spring break is officially over -- I taught ballet/tap for 3-4-year-olds this morning, and in about 5 minutes I'm heading out for a Peter Pan musical theatre class for 3-6-year-olds. On days when I'm in even a halfway decent mood, which really is most days, I just love goofing around with the little ones (and getting paid for it!). This morning's class was great -- we started some new dances, which always rejuvenates a looooong session.

Joel is out puttering in the yard, which is still mostly snow-covered but melting quite well in spots. He moved our brown Christmas tree from the front yard, where it toppled during the warm spell a couple weeks ago, to the fire pit, and he finally unearthed the lightup reindeer from the deck. They did not make it through the rough winter so well -- alas.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Neverending 5th birthday

Eddie has been turning 5 for like three weeks. We celebrated with Joel's parents after our vacation...

This is Lucy's "NOT FAIR!" face:

His Superman cake, which I must admit I whipped out of thin air in about 1 hour, PHEW:
My parents came up for a visit, and I didn't get any pictures, because I stink.
His Actual birthday, March 7 (just the 4 of us):
Friends party at Wooddale Fun Zone last night (check out my sweaty son; and how much does Evie look like Carol!?):
I have to say, he has chosen some REALLY cool friends.
I also want to highly recommend Wooddale Fun Zone for kids' bday parties. They have a great deal on Wed nights because they're only open for 2 hours (but really, who needs a party to go longer than that?). The kids got to play in the indoor playground, and skate, and got dinner, dessert, and prizes, and I didn't have to do ANYthing.
The Gronaustein Bears and Too Much Birthday
Just kidding; he's been an absolute darling through the whole convoluted affair.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Just got home from Eddie's fourth and final 5th birthday party -- this was his "school friends" party. We went WAY out on a limb and had it at Wooddale Fun Zone, a skating rink that also has an indoor playground. Eddie had 4 little friends from school, plus the Dalys. It was an excellent deal... SUPER easy... and I think the kids had fun. And I didn't have to cook or clean.

I decided to try to give up sweets/desserts for Lent, and let me tell you that IT'S HARD. Especially when your kid's birthday parties fall in there! I did really well, though, and I have stuck to my rule -- basically, I only eat a dessert my kids have taken and then left unfinished. Fortunately one of Eddie's friends asked me to remove the frosted top of his cupcake SO HE COULD EAT THE BOTTOM. Jackpot. Benjamin, would you care to come over for dessert every night?

The biggest ramification of the no-sweets rule is finding other stuff to eat. I really like to graze, especially when I'm home for the day. Right now it's 9:15pm and I'm making a box of mac-n-cheese because I can't have another cupcake. See? This is not even good for my health. Grr.

Tomorrow's St. Patty's Day and I am THRILLED to get to eat corned beef together as a family. Relaxed family dinners are far too rare around here these days. This week is spring break for all my dance classes, and it could NOT have come at a better time, with Ed's bday party, my newspaper deadline, etc. all landing on this week. It's been a nice week off, and I'll be rejuvenated and ready to start up again on Saturday. And then MY kids' spring break starts, meaning it will be another unusual week next week. I crave change and upheaval, and these 2 weird weeks are good for me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gronau news

Welcome back to me! Things have become a little wild around here. Last summer, with the kids starting school in September, I decided to start working again. I picked up about 8 hours per week teaching kids' dance through Mayer Arts. It was a blast, and manageable, so when Mayer went on maternity leave I picked up 3 more classes per week. Then I got excited about Ashland Productions' ACT program and demanded to direct a show. Then I saw an ad for Editor Wanted for a small community newspaper and thought I might as well apply. I didn't get the job... and then I did.

Meanwhile, way back last summer when I decided to pick up some more work? I also picked up roller derby. I'm playing on a rec league (the "Debu-Taunts") under the umbrelly of the Minnesota RollerGirls (MNRG). I am hoping to try out for real, live MNRG this spring.

So... this has all been amazing and wonderful and scary and stressful and I am JUST so delighted to get to do it all. I'm hoping to write more, if only to document the wild times we're having.

Eddie is in school afternoons this year, so he and I are getting some wonderful time together most mornings. He turned 5 -- FIVE -- last week and got to be "Star of the Week" this week at school. He adores his teacher, Ms. Ione, and wanted to invite her to his birthday party. He's starting to read, with maybe 15 sight-words under his belt. He recently discovered drawing -- not only is he making all the letters and numbers, but he comes home from school every day with 10-15 pages of drawings. Of monsters. And more monsters. And people getting eaten by monsters.

Lucy is also really blossoming. She's gotten mad-tall and not a small amount sassy. She works her way through problems, and I'm so proud of that. She has read (by her count) 11 "chapter books," most of which are the dreaded Junie B. Jones. Lucy will be playing Gretl in a local community production of The Sound of Music this spring -- in fact, she's at a rehearsal as I type. I'm so proud of her for going through the nervewracking audition/callback process, and continuing to review her lines, songs and dances outside of rehearsal. She is SO EXCITED to be on stage. She's still taking piano (about which she is NOT excited).

OK, well, I've got a couple extra minutes -- what else do you want to know about? Let's start with roller derby. I was looking for an athletic challenge outside of co-rec softball and B-league women's volleyball, and going for the occasional jog. My then-really-only-an-acquanitance-but-now-dear-friend Sherry told me (probably in jest, now that I think about it) that I should join her in this new rec/training league roller derby that was just starting up. Sure, I thought -- it was summer and I was itching for new activity -- Joel approved the purchase of new skates; I got great deals on the rest of my gear; I didn't die in the first couplea dryland practices. Anyway, the skating muscle-memory came right back (I'd rollerbladed a handful of times since college, and when I was about 7 I used to skate up-and-down the sidewalk lots), and it was FUN to go fast and fall down.

The rec league started with 40 skaters in September -- we practice once a week for 2 hours. Spring session has 80 skaters and, we hear, a waiting list in the multiple-dozens. That first hour is the scariest hour of my week (and that's including the hour I spend with 3-year-olds in tap shoes). I spend all of Sunday afternoon in the bathroom, in prep for DTs practice. At practice we do endurance drills, falling drills, sprinting drills, starting drills. Hitting drills, blocking drills, partner drills, stopping drills. And we get to play roller derby. No joke, it makes my tummy flip over just thinking about it. But it's awesome. I have never before tested my endurance, my physical fitness, my mental toughess, like this.

Well, would you look at the time! I hope to update more often now -- as sometimes happens, the busier I get, the better I am at actually accomplishing things. Cheers!