Monday, May 31, 2010

Two Heads Are Better Than One

This past week was our son Daniel's birthday, and this weekend was the long-awaited birthday party. I'd mentioned to him sometime in March or so that we might think about inviting some friends over, and have subsequently been asked on a weekly basis to calculate the number of days remaining until the party. Yes, it was quite an anticipated event, with the extra excitement of a dinosaur theme and a visit from Grandma Jan thrown in for good measure.

And, as many kids' birthday parties seem to be, this started out as a simple idea that got more complicated as time went on. Now, I am not implying that we had an extravagant party or anything; there were no ponies or bouncy houses or ice sculptures. Just that, as these kinds of things go, it's hard to pick just two or three friends to invite knowing we're leaving out others. And once you buy the dinosaur plates you might as well get the matching cups and invitations. And, well, if our friends are bringing Daniel presents the least we can do is make up some games and send them home with some party favors. We were happy to do these things, but they turn a little get-together into a formal event, and while this seemed like a fine idea two months ago our family's recent health surprises (see previous two posts) put a kink in my advance planning.

And so my mother arrived on Thursday to find me miserably sick, Kyle tired and stuffed up as well, Eva in need of extra attention, and our house not exactly dirty but certainly not clean. Now, like many women, usually I have a love/hate relationship with visits from my mother. On the one hand, she brings too many toys, fruit snacks, and cereal I would never buy. She buys restaurant food for every meal and lies to the kids to get compliance (like telling Eva her nose will fall off if she picks it instead of just saying it's bad manners). On the other hand, she is great with the kids, and they LOVE to play with her. I do like doing things with her and talking to her in the evenings, and she is a good sport about going along with whatever stuff we've got planned for the week. She is as generous with Kyle and me as she is with the kids, and after all who doesn't enjoy getting out of cooking for a few days?

This week, though, a visit from my mom was just what the doctor ordered. She had good ideas for things to put in the goody bags for the party, bought me cold medicine and a patio umbrella, gave the kids the extra attention they needed, and let Kyle and me use her convertible to go out to eat without the kids Saturday night. I was more than happy to just order out all weekend, and to have extra help preparing for the party.

The other major thing that my mom did was design and help make the cake. Daniel had mentioned when we first started planning the party that he really wanted a dinosaur cake. So my mother went on a search for something that would be doable, but also really cool for Daniel. She happened to be taking a cake decorating class this winter and spring, so she arrived this weekend with a fully stocked arsenal of cake decorating supplies and knowledge. When I first saw the design for the cake I was a little intimidated: I had never made a 3D cake before, and I wasn't sure about all the little frosting stars and something that required a dowel rod. But she said she could do it and I agreed that the cake might be achievable with her help.

So Friday afternoon we baked the cakes, and after the kids went to bed Friday night we began assembling and frosting this thing. It really was easy enough, though it was time-consuming and the three batches of buttercream frosting made a big greasy mess all over the kitchen. Finally, at 1:00 in the morning the cake was complete. We dyed and toasted some coconut for "grass" to put around it, put it up where the kids couldn't mess with it, and took some pictures. We'd had some problems getting the head to stay together, but had finally gotten enough frosting to stick everything together fairly well. We crossed our fingers and went to get ready for bed.

Somehow, though, while I was brushing my teeth, I had a feeling that we were not home free. I only noticed it when I looked at the cake through the lens of the camera, but it seemed like the neck was pulling away a bit. I prayed that God would let the cake stay together until the party, then chastised myself for praying for something so completely frivolous. I revised it as a prayer for appropriate perspective on a silly dinosaur cake. Which was good, because when I finished brushing my teeth and went in to shut the lights off, the head had come completely unattached, fallen down, and broken into several pieces on the coconut grass. I went downstairs to tell my mom, and after examining the cake and bellyaching for a few minutes we decided to just go to bed and redo the head in the morning.

And so, about an hour before the party, we fashioned a different head (one that did NOT stand up) out of a store-bought angel food cake and covered it in a tub of premade Wilton frosting. Mom was dyeing and piping that frosting on like the Cake Boss himself. And in the end, I think it looked better than the original. We had a fun party, and Daniel has claimed the head as his own special piece of cake leftovers.

So Grandma Jan saved the day, for the cake and also for our tired little family. Thanks, Mom! We love you!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rash Thinking

My last post was about our daughter Eva's trip to the hospital, and our family's general not-healthiness last week. This post is not entirely about that, though I'm afraid things around here have only gotten worse.

Eva woke up yesterday morning with a rash from head to toe (I took these pictures this morning at breakfast, and they really don't do it much justice). We spent the morning getting her new cast put on and the afternoon at the family doctor for the ear infection follow-up and rash inspection. The medical opinion is that the rash is due to a virus, and that the same virus has caused the wheezy breathing and cough that Daniel had last week, and that Eva, Kyle, and I all have this week. In Eva's case, though, the doctors got a good listen to her lungs and started talking pneumonia. She is quite a mess; between the bright purple cast, the bright red rash, and the Darth Vader breathing we certainly turned some heads at Daniel's preschool drop-off this morning.

In the long term, I'm sure Eva is going to be fine. She, of course, is totally unfazed by all of this. She may look and sound sick, but is not acting the part at all. She has revived the monkey crawl from her younger days, and is destroying our house at, well, roughly the rate of any other two year-old on steroids. We had to rent a nebulizer to give her breathing treatments, and even for these she sits cheerfully in her booster seat, looking around while the steam puffs out of her little mask.

What really is going to be hurt the most by these recent happenings is the way I think of myself as a mother. Last night I was giving Polka-Dot-Eva a sponge bath and thinking to myself, "Now, how did I let all of this happen again?" This morning it was difficult to miss the moms and teachers at Daniel's school visibly cringing at the sight of Eva. Yesterday at the doctor's office and pharmacy Daniel (tired, I think, of seeing Eva get all the attention) made himself such a bratty nuisance that I could barely have a conversation with the doctor and pharmacist. I think it's easy to allow myself to think that I can always control what happens to my family, or the way my children behave, and to even take credit for them when they're being good.

Along with this comes a pressure (from myself) to uphold a certain imaginary parenting standard. And we are NOT meeting it this week. Last night Kyle was drinking the Blue Death-flavored nighttime cough medicine right out of the bottle. We are both tired, phlegm-y, and "itchy" (Daniel's word for "achy"). I have done zero housework this week, despite the fact that I am not teaching right now and my mother is coming to visit later this week. Daniel's birthday is the day after tomorrow, and we have not bought him a present yet. But nobody seems as upset about this as I am.

I had planned to spend the day today making birthday cookies for Daniel to take to school tomorrow, but the recipe (from my friend Jennifer for literally the BEST cutout cookies in the universe) requires lots of time to make, chill, roll, cutout, bake, and frost the cookies. Sometime late this morning it occurred to me that I could just buy some cookies at the store. Though I could feel the relief just at the THOUGHT of not spending my whole day on this project, I went back and forth about it for a full hour or so. Why? Do I think Daniel's teacher will think I'm a better mother for sending homemade cookies? Do I think Daniel will care, so long as there is a quarter-inch of frosting on his cookie?

I think the bottom line is that somehow I've fooled myself into thinking that store-bought cookies would be fine for other mothers, but that I should just do BETTER. That somehow, saving my kids from red dye number five and high-fructose corn syrup means that I love them more than if I don't. That having a cleaner house makes me a better person, and that I really must be the perfect from-scratch cook and mother and housekeeper. And now I sound like the latest flavor-of-the-month author on what's wrong with modern mothers (and NOBODY wants to hear about that again).

So here it is, America. My daughter looks like a contagious train wreck and I am taking her to my son's t-ball practice anyway (we'll just keep our distance). We will probably eat take-out tonight for dinner. Tomorrow I will send bought cookies to school because I took a nap today instead of baking. There are large tufts of dog hair on the floor under my dining room table, and the sheets in the guest room are not clean (okay, maybe we'll remedy that one before Thursday, Mom). We will probably be up late the night before Daniel's birthday purchasing and assembling a big-boy bicycle. And at the end of this week, at least we will have plenty of material to have a big, long, laugh at ourselves. And hopefully for everyone else's sake, this will be the last you'll have to read about the Sterup health saga.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Curious Eva Goes to the Hospital

When thinking of a title for this post, I considered many alternatives. First was "Well, I Guess We've Met Our Deductible," then "Sickly Sterups" and "...Had a Great Fall," followed by "Of Course There's a Recall on Children's Tylenol Right Now" and finally "Just Forward Our Paychecks Right to Pfizer." Let's just say we've had a less-than-healthy week, starting with Eva's ear infection and Kyle's allergies (both requiring visits to the doctor on Monday), continuing with Daniel's wicked cough and my equally wicked migraine headache, and culminating in Eva's broken leg yesterday afternoon.

Neither Kyle nor I was in the room when it happened, but we think that Eva climbed on either her stepstool or her toybox to get a book off her shelf and fell (was pushed?) down. Funny that she would get so injured on a short fall that has happened a hundred times before. Kyle came downstairs to find her crying and unable to stand up. I was on my way to Moberly to attend graduation for the community college where I work, and had to make my carpool turn around when Kyle called me.

The thing about having a barely-2-year-old with an injury is that they're not very specific about where exactly it hurts. "Leg hurts" was all we could get out of her, and the doctors couldn't find anywhere that was bruised or swollen, so we had to have 8 X-rays done of her pelvis, hips, legs, and ankles in order to find the problem. As I helped the tech get Eva arranged on the X-ray table, all I could think of was Curious George Goes to the Hospital:

In the next room stood a big table, and a doctor was just putting on a heavy apron. Then he gave the man one just like it. George was curious: Would he get one too? No, he did not.
"You get on that table, George," the doctor said. "I am going to take some X-ray pictures of your insides." He pushed a button and there was a funny noise.

It didn't take long after the X-ray for the doctors to find the problem (lower left leg), measure and apply a splint, and give us our discharge papers. Which was good, because from the second they applied the wet, plaster-y splint, Eva started screaming, "Off! Off! OFF!" As Kyle carried her out, I heard nearly everyone we passed do the "Aww... Poor baby!" face and corresponding noise. If you've not seen a tiny child with a cast on, it IS a fairly pathetic sight:

Since last night, I've had a number of thoughts regarding our little situation, and the first is this:

Yesterday, on the way home from a program at Daniel's preschool, Eva took her shoes off in the car. Daniel pointed out that she had a hole in her sock and suggested we throw it away and put new socks on her. I pointed out that she also had pink punch spilled down the front of her dress, and said that we were just going to ride out the rest of the day with the dirty shirt and holey sock and start again tomorrow. If I'd known that we'd be taking her to the Emergency Room later in the day, and that half the staff of Northeast Regional Medical Center would get a good look at that punch dress and holey sock, I'd have just gone ahead and changed her. I'm sure nobody was judging us, but I'd have felt more confident filling out the DFS form recounting EXACTLY how it was my child broke her leg if she looked like we took better care of her. I guess it's kind of like that motherly admonition to always wear clean underwear in case you're in an accident.

Secondly, this event has reinforced for me what horrible eyewitnesses children are. The first time Kyle asked Daniel what happened, he insisted that he and Eva had been innocently standing on the floor in the middle of the room when she just fell over (hard enough to break her leg). As we pressed him more, and the doctors asked him about it, he wavered back and forth between Eva being on her stool and on her toybox when it happened. Sometimes the fall involved both he and Eva on top of each other, and sometimes it was just her that fell. Either way, let's hope that my children are never the only witnesses to some heinous crime.

Thirdly, I am not sure what a visit to the ER, 8 X-rays, a temporary cast, a couple visits to the orthopedic surgeon, a permanent cast, and whatever other accessories come with that costs, but I'm pretty sure it will be at least as much as our insurance deductible. This will end the debate over what we will spend Kyle's summer school earnings on, but will also free the rest of us up to go to the doctor whenever we need to the rest of the year. It's kind of nice to know I might actually be able to consider seeing someone about my migraines or some funny-looking mole instead of putting it off.

Finally, I have concluded that the author of the helpful ER brochure on fractures does not have children, as it suggests things like "not tampering with the splint or dressings" and "keeping the fracture elevated" while "avoiding unnecessary movement." I am wondering how VERY many times Eva will try to get up and walk, then cry "Leg hurts!" until she's picked up and rearranged, only to get back up immediately to try again.

Let's all pray for a speedy recovery, shall we?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Patrons of The Arts

This month has been a busy one in our house so far. And a surprisingly creative one, too. As I thought about how to summarize all that's been going on in our family recently, the one theme I can find is that we've all been busy creating something or other, or enjoying the fruits of each others' creations. It all started with Eva's birthday...

Several members of our extended family went together to buy a swing set for the kids' birthdays. It came in (literally) hundreds of little pieces, and Kyle, Kyle's mom Barb, and I spent a couple of evenings in the garage brushing water sealant on all the boards.

On a Saturday, my dad and his fiance Karen drove up with my brother, and we had a long day assembling the set. They worked from mid-morning until dark, and ALMOST finished.

Culinary Arts
While everyone was in town we had a nice little family party for Eva's birthday, and Barb and I worked hard the night before making a monkey cake for the occasion.

More Sculpture, Acrobatics
Kyle spent a few nights after school finishing up the swingset, and the kids have had a ball, playing on it any time we have a break from the rain.

Performing Arts
Unfortunately, we have actually had quite a lot of rain, so we've been forced to devise some inside activities to entertain the kids. On Tuesday we went to the circus (see Kyle's blog for more details on that). It was a great time; I think we all had a different favorite act.

We also went to a kids' carnival Saturday that was put on by the local Ambulance District. The weather held out long enough for us to go in the bouncy house, down the big slide, and on the train. There was a clown making balloon animals, and Eva asked for a doggy. That poor dog almost made it all the way home in the backseat with the kids. We knew it was in trouble when Daniel commented that Eva was pulling on the doggy, and that it was starting to look more like a worm.

Mixed Media
The kids have also recently struck up an interest in... we'll call it "card-making." What this really means is getting out lots of paper, crayons, stickers, glue, scissors, markers, and a stapler, and going to town making lots of creations for our family and friends. Daniel is currently very enthralled with the stapler. This afternoon I had to refill it with staples two different times. Seriously, if there is someone out there with some tedious office work, this kid would be all over it.

Vocal Stylings
Finally, our kids have been big into singing lately; especially Eva. In her case, though, there is really only one song that she likes to sing, and it is "Happy Birthday." She sings it over and over, happy birthday to me and Daniel and our dog Bailey. And she sings it in this breathy little voice reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe singing "happy birthday, Mr President..." This morning on the way to church we tried to get her to sing something else, and after saying "No, no, NO!" about our singing, she went right on back to the birthday song.

This evening Daniel was walking around the house singing "Jesus likes the little children; all the children of the world." I've posted about Daniel's and my tendency to mangle song lyrics, and he remains strong in this area.

Hopefully the weather will warm up and dry up soon, so I can work on the art of gardening and the kids can continue in the art of getting dirty. Keep your fingers crossed for us, and in the meantime anyone looking for a little culture is welcome at our house.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Best Mother's Day Ever

Okay, so I've really only been able to celebrate four Mother's Days, but this one was pretty good. Kyle, despite being stricken with terrible allergies lately, worked really hard to give me a great day.

First let me tell you what I did NOT do today:
-Work in the yard
-Write psychology lectures

Now let me tell you what I DID do today:
-Ate eggs and cinnamon rolls with coffee for breakfast
-Played outside with the kids in beautiful weather; chatted with the neighbors
-Went shopping by myself for, like, three whole hours this afternoon during nap time
-Went jogging while Kyle made our dinner
-Played Boggle (my favorite game, despite having only beaten Kyle once in ten years)
-Watched two episodes of Arrested Development
-Gave myself a much-needed pedicure
-Wrote this blog post

To top it all off, I got some nice flowers and cards from Kyle and the kids. Daniel's teacher helped him complete a questionnaire about me, which was hilarious (apparently I am 5 years old, my favorite color is black, and my favorite film is some grown-up movie). Before bed, Eva let me trim her nails with NO struggle whatsoever (which is really a miracle worthy of calling the Vatican over). As I tucked Daniel in he said, "I like you, because you're a mom. I love you."

All that equals one satisfying day, and one very lucky mother :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

On Unnatural Childbirth

Four years ago, as I prepared to give birth to our son Daniel, I did what many educated first-time mothers do: I read books on childbirth (and pregnancy and baby care). Lots of them. After reading those books I had a healthy skepticism of what has become the "standard" hospital birth in America. So I made a birth plan, discussed it with my doctor, and prepared myself for the most natural childbirth I thought I could manage short of doing a home birth.

Then about two months before my delivery my doctor unexpectedly left the practice he was in and took several months off work before setting up a new one. I was assigned a new doctor, who was much less on-board with the whole birth-plan idea, and who one day, after I had been dilated past four centimeters for about two weeks, frowned as she listened to my unborn son's heart. She suggested an ultrasound, a non-stress test and some fetal monitoring, then an immediate induction. Nothing super-emergency, but a tired-looking placenta and decelerating heart rate that she didn't want to let go unsupervised over the long Memorial Day weekend. And even though I didn't feel great about the induction, I knew that I would make myself sick for three days wondering if he was wasting away in there, and so I went to the hospital planning to stick to the rest of my birth plan as closely as possible.

After many hours of pitocin-induced contractions, missed meals, and no sleep, I almost kissed the anesthesiologist who put in my epidural. I enjoyed the couple hours of rest I had before all the pushing and pushing that didn't move the baby at all, and then the eventual c-section that finally got that boy out where I could see him. And so I became the poster child for what natural childbirth advocates warn not to do, for the one intervention that leads to another until a full cascade of medical technology was unleashed in my hospital room.

After Daniel's birth I was disappointed. Disappointed that I hadn't followed my plan, that I hadn't boldly refused intervention in favor of a "wait and see" approach like all the books told me I should, and disappointed to have missed what it felt like to actually give birth. Instead I felt like I'd been hit by a truck. But I didn't think too much about it because I had a beautiful, voracious nurser with fabulous APGAR scores and I was just so excited to see him. And that was it; I obsessed over it for a little while afterward, wondering whether something could have been done differently, but in the end I did not feel bitter or sorrowful about Daniel's entry into the world.

Only later did I realize that I was not in The Club. As I met other mothers and talked about birth experiences I started to get a vibe from some women that a person who has a medical birth is foolish or weak or maybe too self-absorbed to have insisted on the very best birth experience for her child. I had several people assume that I must be devastated at the experience of walking out of the hospital with a perfect, healthy child who was born by c-section. I wrote and submitted my birth story for a collection being made by a local nursing support organization, and was stunned to find that it had been placed in the chapter of traumatic births (which included a warning that pregnant women might best avoid reading it until after their deliveries).

At first this bothered me, this feeling that I was somehow not as good as other mothers who had delivered their children vaginally, or that I should be really sad about Daniel's birth. And I thought maybe I could redeem myself with a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian). But 18 months later, a new obstetrician completed an exam, reviewed my records, and took a good look at the size of my husband. He said that as much as he knew I wanted a VBAC, he was going to have to recommend a repeat c-section. He reasoned that (because of hospital and anesthesiologist policies in our town) an epidural wouldn't be an option, and he feared my chances of another long, hard labor with a c-section on top might be really good. He encouraged me to get a second opinion, but after going home and giving it a good long think, I never did.

In the end, I decided that for me the stress of whether I'd accomplish the VBAC was worse than the c-section. I didn't want to spend the end of my second pregnancy like the end of my first one, thinking and re-thinking all the possible scenarios, rehearsing all the pain-management positions, and lying awake worrying about whether things would go as I wanted them to. Maybe I'm a perfectionist, and can't stand the thought of doing something I'm not sure will turn out just right. Or maybe I'm lazy and can't live with the chance that I might expend a lot of effort for naught. But I think I realized that I cared more about enjoying welcoming my second child into the world instead of making myself sick over it.

And so, two years ago today I woke up early in the morning, drove calmly to the hospital, checked in, and relaxed in bed listening to my husband read the Longfellow poem Evangeline. At the scheduled time I was wheeled into the operating room and my own beautiful Eva was born. There was no agonizing worry, no yelling, no crying (at least not from stress). I was able to meet and give consent to a number of nursing students who wanted to observe a c-section being performed. I felt really peaceful and calm, and recovered so quickly and easily afterward that I was asking to go home the next morning.

I want to be clear that I am not advocating c-section as the ideal birth method. I would love to have had my children naturally, without medications or bright lights or shiny metal instruments. My neighbor Laurie is a doula, and graciously speaks to my Developmental Psych class each semester about the pros and cons of different birth alternatives. I love to watch the videos she brings of the women giving birth, because of the wonderful look on their faces as they push the baby out and realize what they've accomplished. I am also a reasonable person who is persuaded by research that highlights the benefits of natural childbirth for the mother and the baby. But as Laurie points out each semester, there has to be a good fit between the mother's personality and her support system and her birth method. And I have to admit that as much as I wanted natural childbirth to be a good fit for me, it just wasn't. Eva's birth was really positive for me because I was able to admit that to myself and to choose just this one time not make everything a struggle.

I also want to be clear, though, that I was not passive about this situation, either. There were several decisions I made that I think helped me live with the kids' c-section births. This is where I think many of the childbirth books I read fell short; they spent so much time trying to encourage me to avoid a c-section that they dismissed any discussion of how to improve my experience in having one. I argued to carry Eva fully to term instead of going with the traditional 38 or 39-week delivery common to many planned c-sections. I researched available surgeons and made sure to schedule my delivery on a day the one I liked best was in the OR. Additionally, I fought (and I mean FOUGHT-with both kids) to be allowed to have them with me in the recovery room.

On Eva's birthday, as I think about her birth and come to terms with the idea that we probably won't have any more children, I am just now fully realizing my feelings about this whole situation. I don't want to portray myself as being abused by the natural childbirth community; certainly there are times when I was more a victim of my own self-consciousness than anyone else's condemnation. But I would like to add my birth stories to the dialogue, not as an example of what not to do, and not under the heading of traumatic births, but as an encouragement that even when things don't go as you plan them they can still be satisfying or even beautiful.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

(Probably Not) Born to Run

About a month ago, I began jogging. Or maybe I should say returned to jogging after a long hiatus (like, since high school, really). Kyle started it by doing the spring post-season running program with the Truman swim team, and after a few weeks of watching him get regular kid-free time to exercise, I decided I wanted a turn for that, too. So one day I just put on my shoes and took off.

Here's the thing, though: I stink at running. I always have. In high school I went out for track, mostly because my father did track and field in high school and college and was pretty good at it (actually, maybe I shouldn't talk in the past tense; he is still pole vaulting at 55 in the state Senior Olympic games). He was very excited to see me doing track, and would even take me up to the school on the weekends to practice. But at the first meet I ran the 300-meter low hurdles and was so exhausted that at the last hurdle I stopped, put my hands on the hurdle, and stepped over. I could hear my dad calling, “What are you doing?!” in the stands. And so began my illustrious running career. I ran for 2 seasons in high school, but was never very good and had some serious shin splints, so eventually I quit. I went back to it for a few months at a time, once in graduate school (until my running partner revealed she had an eating disorder and needed to quit) and then again before we had the kids (until heavy Daniel in my belly made jogging VERY uncomfortable), but it never stuck.

Because of jogging's and my sordid past, I spent a few weeks on the fence before deciding to begin my current endeavor with it. Really, I have a number of excuses for not jogging, which include:
1.It hurts. It hurts my lungs, it gives me perma-blisters on the arches of my feet, and leaves me with sore muscles the next day. And I am a giant baby about being uncomfortable.
2.Sometimes it is very hot outside. Or very cold. Or raining, or windy, or the sun is in my eyes. Maybe to avoid the heat I will have to get up very early in the morning.
3.All logical running routes from our house begin with going up a hill. Not a good hill, like one that would allow me to say something like, “Yeah, I've been adding some hills into my workout”, but a slight incline that is just enough to make me feel winded right off the bat and gets me thinking “Wait... why am I doing this?”
4.Well-endowed women with short little legs are not built for running.
5.Sometimes circumstances require that I bring along 2 dogs (who insist on frequent stops to sniff at or pee on stuff) and/or push a double jogging stroller with 65 pounds of kid in it, which intensifies excuse #3.

However, there are a number of things I do enjoy about jogging, which include the following:
1.It is cheap. Free, really, if you don't count the running shoes I would have bought for walking anyway. And I am very thrifty.
2.It is fast. Compared to walking, I can burn WAY more calories and exercise the dogs just as much in far less time. I am also pretty Type A, so this is fairly appealing.
3.It is a good stress-reliever. Since we live near edge of town, there is a nice mix of residential areas and cornfields. It's very wholesome-feeling to run past vast rows of crops, with the sun coming up in the distance, with Polyphonic Spree singing Light and Day on my iPod. Speaking of the iPod...
4. I can listen to whatever music I want. Kyle insists that good running music is angry, but I disagree. My workout playlist is a ridiculous assortment of silly, frequently misogynistic music that Kyle wouldn't tolerate and that I would NEVER play for my kids. That's right; it's okay if the Blackeyed Peas want to know what I'm going to do with all that junk inside that trunk, because in a couple of songs Sir Mix-a-Lot will tell me how much he loves my Oakland booty. I enjoy hearing the Beastie Boys scream “Whaaaaaaaaaaa!” really loud, and I want to hear a chorus of “Zut, alohrs, non! Zut, alohrs, non, non!” at the end of Tangerine Speedo.
5.After all, any jogging route that always begins with a slight uphill always ends with a slight downhill, and if I'm lucky Eva will yell “Whee! Fast, fast, fast!” as we speed down it.

So for now jogging is winning over not-jogging. I am even thinking about entering some formal 5K runs this summer, or that local 8K in August. But I think that's it for me. For now I am going to appreciate my willingness to enjoy doing something I am so not-good at. I have enough stress in my life to add competing with other people or feeling the need to push myself faster and faster. Whereas Kyle likes to come home after a run and calculate his distance, time, and speed, I feel pretty indifferent about my run statistics. So don't look for me to post the data from a Nike sport gadget-thing on facebook anytime soon. But for the record it would look something like this:

Erika Sterup plodded around for 3 miles and some change at a speed barely faster than walking today. She feels pretty good about that.