12 March 2014

Ocean's Run and Running by the Ocean

Two days after my most recent half marathon -- the Ocean's Run from South Kingstown town beach -- I was still lurching around like Frankenstein's monster. But I knew Running While Mommy was planning to run today and while I couldn't join RWM in person I decided to join her in spirit. I hoped a short run would shake out my legs a bit and relieve some of the aching but it didn't really.

I ran fast (for me) in Sunday's half marathon and I'm proud of myself. My previous half was two hours and fifteen minutes; I was hoping to be faster than that and I was, in two hours and eight minutes. Mike and Muffin joined me early in the morning and my mom had joined them by the time I finished. After all the cold weather long runs RWM and I had done with some other friends, the weather on Sunday was almost shockingly warm once we got moving. It was still chilly, though, with the ocean breeze. While I ditched my mittens the first time I saw Mike and Muffin, I'm glad I kept my hat. Every time I warmed up a bit I'd turn a corner and the wind would hit me, freezing me again.

So, that's one more race behind me. I'm trying to decide which races to do next with my shrinking amount of time in the US. I'm shopping around for a treadmill to take with us to Mali. I signed up for the Spring Bootie Buster Challenge to keep me on track while the craziness of spring cleaning and summer packing gets under way.

24 February 2014

We're Moving to Mali

The title about sums it up.

Our plans have changed from what we thought would be happening last year at this time. But we're happy with the change. I've been tired of the United States for a few months now. I'm certainly done with winter. Muffin asks every day if we're moving back to India. If we're going to Pakistan. If we're going to Chad. If we're going to Mali. She hasn't been in one place for so long without getting on a plane and traveling somewhere (although that changed las week when we went on vacation); she assumes every morning we are waking up early and going to the airport. My aunt told Muffin she has itchy feet and Muffin agreed, although in the sense that her feet are literally itchy because of her winter dry skin.

We haven't even unpacked all the boxes from India yet and my project for the next few months is to decide what goes to Mali and what doesn't. I've already got lists for consumables, for our suitcases, for the air shipment, and for the boat shipment, based on two overseas moves already and on the basic nonavailability of so much stuff in Africa (Mali may have slightly more to offer than Burundi, but I'm not taking any chances).

I've started speaking French to Muffin. We're hoping to enroll her in a preschool program that will prepare her for full-immersion French kindergarden. She doesn't seem to remember any Telegu or Hindi but she is taking to the French very well.

She is so certain that we still live in Hyderabad. I think there's a lot about Mali that will be familiar to her and make her feel at home.

Mike has been working in various African places the last few weeks. He said landing in Africa felt like being home again.

We all have itchy feet that are ready to be back in Africa.

23 February 2014

It's About Time

I do have a lot to say, it just hasn't been blogging time lately. It's been writing in other places time and training for a half marathon time and preparing for our next assignment time and taking Muffin on a week-long Florida road trip time. Updates and photos to come in the near future.

06 January 2014

Time to Clean Up

Last year was a year of change, transitioning from India to the United States. This is going to be my year of cleaning and purging while we stay put in one house for a while. I got a good start during the packing and unpacking last summer and fall but now that the holidays are over it's time to get back on that project.

I went through my stash fabrics and I used this tutorial for a tree skirt for the Christmas tree, this one for a scrap skirt for Muffin (photo to come once I've completed the whole outfit), and this one for a Lego bag. I have a couple winter clothes projects planned, for which I had to buy some new fabric, but once they're done it's back to the stash for spring and summer sewing.

I've put a number of books up on PaperBackSwap.com and have resisted the urge to use all my new credits to receive a bunch of replacement books.

I've been cleaning out my closet. On Friday I put a ton of clothes up on Freecycle.com and by the end of the day half of it had been picked up. Anything that's not picked up by the time Muffin goes back to school on Tuesday will go into one of the many donation bins that we pass on the drive between home and school.

I gave a little TLC to the vacuum cleaner that was put into storage in 2008 and not used since then. The filters are supposed to be washable, but they weren't washed before going into storage (whoops!) and they are beyond washing now. Black and Decker no longer makes them but still has some for sale on their site so in lieu of buying a new vacuum I bought new filters so I can delay a vacuum impulse purchase and research a good one.

I realized that now that I'm driving around in winter with a kid in the car, I really should get things checked out in a timely manner because I really, really don't want to break down in bad weather with my little companion. On that note the car is going into the mechanic shop again today.

I joined a gang... of other moms who are training for the same half marathon that I am in March. Once the kiddos are all back in school we hope to start running together again. I need that. My lungs are all dusty from the cleaning. I need fresh air on a regular basis but without motivation I won't go outside when it's cold.

Right now it feels like my full-time job is to get ready for the next move and whether I'm cleaning out my closet or getting the car fixed, everything contributes to that goal. We don't even know when the move will be or where it will be to but it is always looming. I'm still unpacking boxes from the last move. I'm making trips to the dumpster every day. I'm spending time in various stores trying to decipher the best storage solutions for things like all my stash fabrics and sewing supplies so it's more organized for the next move. I'm reducing clothing and toys and books. We put every single DVD and CD into sleeves in binders and threw out all the plastic cases, reducing our next move by several boxes and pounds.

It's going to be a long, cold winter and I resolve to put my indoor time to good use. 

11 November 2013

Are You Up for Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge 2013?

For the third year in a row I'm participating in the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge at Run to the Finish. This year is going to be tough. Last year I contended with a combination of Indian and American holidays between October and January. This year I'm back in the United States after five holiday seasons overseas and I fully intend to indulge in all the treats I've missed. I signed up early, before Halloween, to get me thinking about staying on track through the eating extravaganza. It's cold here and I'll need the motivation for getting outside for a run. Also it will be too easy to eat comfort food on cold winter nights. Adding veggies to those foods will help keep me healthy.

I've already started preparing. I've unpacked and/or replaced all the parts of my blender for smoothies and purées. I'm freezing a lot of foods for healthy convenience dinners on those nights when I'm too tired or when it's been more important to be outside playing with Muffin rather than inside chopping veggies. I started freezing summertime blueberries and tomatoes months ago. I'm making double batches of snacks and meals when I have the time so I can put the extra in the freezer. When I made lasagna last week I made two and put one in the freezer. I used a mixture of half ricotta cheese and half tofu. To jazz up jarred tomato sauce and sneak in extra veggies, I sautéed red peppers and garlic to mix into the sauce and on top of the middle sauce layer I added a layer of sliced tomatoes. 

Mike leaves today for Washington, D.C., before heading overseas and we don't know when we'll see him again. It could be this weekend. It could be Thanksgiving. It could be in January or February. It's going to be stressful and I'd be prone to hibernating if I didn't have to take Muffin to school every day. But, since she is in school, I have several hours a day to myself and I plan on making the most of them. I want to stay happy and healthy so I can care for Muffin and take care of myself.

The Challenge is more fun with friends! If you decide to join please refer to my blog or to my Twitter handle, @StephanieSD. Then tell your friends about the Challenge, too! I'm not in training for anything. I don't plan on running a marathon ever; I'm quite happy with the half marathon. But the Challenge is fun. There's an online community of support. You earn points for any amount of working out and bonus points for other activities such as cleaning the house or playing outside. You also earn points for eating enough fruits and veggies. I wasn't expecting to win anything last year but I ended up winning a nice Asics long-sleeved zip-up shirt that I've already worn several times over the last few days of chilly weather. So, just by putting forth a little effort, you could win a fabulous prize, too!

The Challenge starts on November 17, so get a move on!

06 November 2013

Unpacking All Those Books

We are slowly but surely getting our household effects unpacked. We are down to half a dozen boxes of books that we do not have enough shelf space for. So we have to decide which go on shelves, which stay in boxes in hopes that our next home has more space, and which books we really have to get rid of now because we are unlikely to read them again. It hurts to get rid of books but I realized that books are meant to be read, not sit in boxes gathering dust.

So I dusted off my PaperBackSwap account. At PaperBackSwap, you list books that you want to get rid of. Someone says they want your book. You pack it up and pay for media mail shipping. When they receive your book you get a credit. With that credit you can request a book from someone else and they pay the shipping to send it to you. 

While we were overseas, I ordered a few books through the site because we had an American mailing address that our mail was forwarded through. I couldn't swap any books back from overseas, though, because the shipping takes too long. I got in the habit of bringing a few books back to the United States with me to post and send so I could have credits for requesting books once I was back overseas. 

Over the last few days I've listed fifty books and twenty of them have been requested so far. I have a big trip to the post office planned for Friday. (You can print postage from home and drop the package in any mailbox if it weighs less than thirteen ounces.) I updated my wish list and am waiting for a few books once my credits are approved, but mostly I'll be using the service to send cheap paperbacks to Mike while he's overseas. He can trade them or leave them behind for others to read. Fresh reading material for almost free is always a good thing, especially in a place where there's very little local entertainment.

To see my books and request them from me, click here. I think you can request from me as a friend without signing up for the site. If you do decide to join, please use the referral button:

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.

If you're ordering through the pouch, they ask you to include an apartment number with the address. I used Apt. #1 and never had a problem. I have not tried sending to DPO/APO addresses yet. If someone else has, please let me know if it works.

Sure, sometimes you need the convenience of dropping off a box of books at the recycling center or library. But sometimes it's nice to get those books directly into the hands of someone who wants them, then get a few reward books for yourself.

How to R2-D2

This year for Halloween we had a three year old who wanted to be R2-D2, accompanied by a Princess Leia mommy and a Han Solo daddy. Leia and Han seemed easy. Buy, borrow, or steal appropriate clothing and get a fairly popular wig. R2 was going to be more of a challenge because I wanted something more charming than store bought. I searched Google Images and pinned to Pinterest. I came up with a plan:

We spent an afternoon at a craft store trying to find just the right materials: foam, felt, glue, and something to craft the headpiece from. For the headpiece we ended up with a plastic army helmet glued to the inside of a salad bowl, both from a dollar store.

We crafted.

I bought a full Princess Leia costume, complete with hair-buns wig and ended up hating everything about it. So I Freecycled it and started from scratch, changing my concept to Hoth Leia. White yoga pants on sale for $5 and a beautiful white vest and snow boots that I'll wear this winter anyway paired with a long-hair wig that my mom helped braid. Han had to buy a henley shirt and black vest, supplying his own pants and boots. We bought $5 blasters and decided to keep them fake looking by not painting them black.

Star Wars family complete!

This was Muffin's first Halloween in the United States so we had to go the extra mile for her. Although, she's only three so the extra mile didn't have to be too far. We drove to a nearby neighborhood where a friend of ours was having a small party. We trick-or-treated at about five houses then went to our friend's for pizza and "grown-up" treats. Muffin ate too much candy but she didn't have school the next day so we could have a later night than usual and manage her the next day without too much difficulty. (Friday night she slept for twelve hours.)

I'm going to skip over Thanksgiving this year -- dinner is at my aunt's house and Mike most likely won't be home for it anyway -- and jump right into Muffin's First U.S. Christmas.

02 October 2013

Rock 'n' Roll Providence Half Marathon

Well, I did it. With so little training, I decided to show up on the morning of the Rock 'n' Roll Providence Half Marathon to see what would happen. I was going to take it slow and easy. I planned on walk breaks. I toed the line, I started an easy shuffle. And before I knew it, mile after mile was ticking by and miles four through eight were each done at a ten-minute pace without me even thinking about it. I'd told Mike to expect me to finish in two-and-a-half to three hours but I texted him after mile seven, then at miles ten and eleven with my progress.

Mike and Muffin made it just in time to see me finish in two hours and fifteen minutes.

I felt fine during the run. I kept telling myself to slow down and take it easy. I told myself to enjoy the sights and the music, and I did enjoy those things. I smiled at some of the signs and spectators along the way. I stopped to use the bathroom. I stopped to drink some Gatorade. I stopped to take a few snapshots. I kept thinking of all my laps around KBR Park in Hyderabad and all my early mornings running before the heat of the day set in. I didn't want those laps and hours to go to waste. I didn't get to run the two half marathons I'd trained for in Hyderabad but even though I may have lost the physical training from those runs, the mental training was still with me. I thought of getting to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and about being in labor for nearly thirty hours. Running a half marathon was way, way easier than those things.

I've been paying for it since I crossed the line, however. I've hardly been able to walk and Tylenol has been my best friend. Bed time last night was the first time since Sunday that I fell asleep pain-free.

There is a movement among people who want to run a marathon to use a "training-free" training plan. If you want to run that one race and never run again, I say, sure, why not, but you're not doing yourself any favors by not giving yourself an inkling of how much pain you'll be in afterward. I wouldn't recommend anything like it unless you really know your body well. I knew I could do the distance; I've done it before at walking and at running paces. I had an idea of how much it was going to hurt afterward and I knew when to back off to make sure I didn't get injured along the way. I would not recommend this no-training strategy to someone who has never done long-distance running or racing before.

If going to the mall is U.S. consumer culture overload, then running a big race like a Rock 'n' Roll event is the running equivalent. I haven't raced in the United States in a while; the last one I did was a much smaller race, so seeing all the gear and technical running clothes on people who are more casual runners, not elites and not sponsored athletes, was kind of a shock. I have to say people run with way too much freakin' gear. And I saw a lot of evidence that it didn't really help much. Yes, I carried my phone with me with a GPS app running. I run with my phone every single time in case I need to make an emergency phone call. But I don't care about the best tech tees and running skirts. I saw people with Garmin watches, ipods, and water belts -- lots of people with all three -- and they were getting tangled up in their earbud wires; GPSes were beeping with low memories and low batteries; water bottles were popping out of fueling belts when people took off long-sleeved shirts. All those distractions just slow you down, possibly more so than if you just ran without it all. To me, too much stuff only leads to more things that could go wrong. The running isn't that hard; I think people get caught up in the self-imposed difficulties brought on by all the gear. As far as commercial industries go, the running industry is starting to annoy me almost as much as the wedding and baby industries. But that's all I'm going to say about that for now.

I'm going to continue running my own races from now on and not worry about the people around me.

Watching the race was fun and all, but she was really impress
with the free chocolate milk and bananas afterward.

24 September 2013

The Gluten-Free-Free Void

We learned last week that Muffin does not have celiac disease. She has been gluten-free her whole life as a precaution. My brother and I both have celiac disease but neither of us exhibited symptoms and were diagnosed until we were in our twenties. Genetically there was a very good chance the same would be for Muffin. While living in India we could not get Muffin tested accurately; conversations with pediatricians and nutritionists showed that they didn't even know what I was talking about when I said, "gluten free." Once we were back in the United States for good, I made an appointment with her American pediatrician who made arrangements for Muffin's blood screening. She ate gluten for two weeks and never exhibited any symptoms. Three different screenings were performed and not a single antibody was present in any of them, so her pediatrician is confident she doesn't have celiac disease.

I'm relieved that she doesn't have celiac disease. It makes school, parties, and all other times out of the house so much easier. But there's also a void. (I know, another void; see yesterday's post.) I've spent so much time over the last three years worrying about Muffin's diet as well as my own but I hadn't realized it until I suddenly only had to worry about myself again. I've sort of lost my enthusiasm for gluten-free cooking now that I no longer have to nourish a child with it. I don't have to prove that gluten-free alternatives are just as tasty as their glutenous counterparts. She can just eat the gluten foods with Mike now. I feel like I can get by with mediocre food, or just skip most treats altogether, since it's now only me who needs to eat gluten free. I wasn't expecting to feel this way.

23 September 2013


What makes me feel strange as an expat, especially one who has lived in Africa and visited Nairobi, is that there was a higher chance someone I knew was going to be at that mall then at any of the locations of any of the shootings that have happened in the United States recently. To my knowledge no one I knew was there; but I haven't heard much from Nairobi on Facebook. Has the government locked down on Internet usage?

I'm glad it didn't happen at the mall I've been to in Nairobi because I didn't want to have too clear of a picture in my mind of people running through the food court and Nakumatt store; images of those places have jumped to the forefront of my mind in the last twenty-four hours.

When you go into malls in Nairobi, Hyderabad, Bangkok, Singapore, there are security guards and metal detectors. But there's also sort of a vacant stare in the eyes of the security guards. The metal detectors offer a false sense of security. And they can't stop a hand grenade that gets thrown before the bad guys even enter the mall.

Sunny at Fabling said some of the things I've been trying to articulate today. Malls are the safe havens for expats overseas. It's where you may find the most Starbucks-like cup of coffee and Western fashions. It's where you'll see an English-language movie. It's where you'll bump into just about everyone you know on a Sunday afternoon. In the summer it's where you go to escape the heat. In Hyderabad, since the parks were closed during the day, the mall was where I took a Muffin who was just learning to walk so she could wander around; I took her as soon as it opened in the morning before there were too many people and she ran up and down the halls freely. As much as I avoid malls when I'm in the United States, overseas they are the place to be when you feel a little homesick.

I mentioned to Mike yesterday that I'm ready to head back overseas. Life is almost too easy in the United States, not counting the tragedies that have happened here recently and in other parts of the world. I'm trying to relax and enjoy the conveniences of American life. But there's a void. A void that exploding malls isn't going to cure me of. I've been working on this post on and off for several hours, watching the news from Nairobi worsen by the hour. Nairobi was never a place I wanted to live but I enjoyed visiting there; even the terrible airport started to feel homey after so many layovers there. After several months of nonstop living in Burundi, landing in a country where English is spoken is always refreshing. I still want to get back overseas somewhere.



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