Summer Reading For Rebels.

Guilty Confession: I don’t hate the library, per se, but I might believe that the library hates me.

Our branch is always crowded and loud and I struggle mightily to find the books we’re looking for. I used to try and do the right, the expected, the moral thing, and take my children to the library regularly. But then I realized that we could just go to the Scholastic Warehouse Sale twice a year, stock up on books for super cheap, and never have to enter the doors of the place that so overwhelms me.

…Except for the summertime, when my kids absolutely expect to participate in the Summer Reading Program.

Okay maybe I do hate the library. Or actually maybe it’s my own laziness.

Summer Reading Programs are great. Really. But oh my goodness they’re so much work with the app changing every year and the tracking type changing and also papers that you have to bring in and you have to come every week or it doesn’t count and the suspicious looks that the librarian gives me if Ali reads too many pages.

The last couple of summers we’ve started out with good intentions, but it doesn’t take long for us to fall off the radar of those weekly check-in visits and then sometime in October the kids say “Hey, whatever happened to our Summer Reading? Do we have any more rewards we can get?”

(Okay clearly it’s my fault and not the library’s. But you gotta work with what you got.)

So this year I decided to do my own Summer Reading Program.

No Libraries Needed!

Less Paperwork!!

No Suspicious Librarians!!!

No App Passwords that you don’t remember from last year, only to find out that they’re using a new app!

AND the kids are responsible for all their own paperwork and no one will complain about their handwriting!!

It’s going swimmingly well, so I decided to share it here, with the thought that some of you may already find yourself flagging in your library visits and needing a new way to motivate your poor libraryless children.

It’s simple, it’s been quite motivating, and it’s given the kids some summer structure, which is something they’re always craving.

Here were my steps in implementation:

1. I suspended allowance for the summer – they normally get $5 a week.

2. I replaced it with Mom’s Summer Reading Program, giving them the opportunity to earn up to $10 a week.

3. I made a simple tracking spreadsheet that included…

A. What they had to accomplish every day to earn their alotted iPad time (this doesn’t really have to do with Summer Reading but ya gotta stay on top of chores somehow)

B. The tracking area for their books and pages read.

4. I explained the system to them:

A. Ali, 12 years old and about to go into 7th grade, gets $1 for every 50 pages she reads, with a max of $10 a week. BUT rollover pages are allowed, and I encouraged getting ahead for weeks like when we’re on vacation and they’ll read less, or when they’re going to day camp and will be too exhausted to read.

Do It Yourself Summer Reading Form

B. Noah, 8 years old and about to go into 3rd grade, gets $1 for every 25 pages he reads, with a max of $10 a week, and rollover allowed.

Do It Yourself Summer Reading Form2

C. Every Monday morning, they present their Reading Logs to me for me to check their math and pay out their totals. So far, they’ve each gotten $10 every week.

It’s that simple. But they’re OBSESSED with it. And reading a ton. And keeping up with their own paperwork. And not begging me to take them to the library constantly. And have yet to tell me that they’re bored.

(And Noah can be reading as many books at once as he wants without having to finish the books to get his summer reading credit. The kid has a short book attention span.)

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So if you’d like our Summer Reading Log to enact your own Personal Summer Reading Program, click here to download it and give it a try. 

How to Race Like a Jerk.

1. Give Pro Tips to Random Runners. They LOVE it.

Chris and I discovered several races ago that, although I like running with him quite a bit on normal days, I like running quite alone for half marathons. Besides the fact that I run more positively when alone (I always feel like I’m trying to keep up when running with others, but push myself to be faster when alone), there’s something so fulfilling to my introvert’s soul to be surrounded by people, yet be under zero obligation to interact with any of them. Every now and then I’ll chat for a second with another runner, but I spend most of my 13.1 miles silent.

We had a half marathon in our city earlier this year. It is a relatively big one, so I was enjoying immensely the droves of people surrounding me, all who expected nothing of me. I was pushing myself a bit – I’d had a PR (personal record – fastest personal running time) the day before at the 5K, and foolishly thought that I could have two back-to-back PR days. But my legs hadn’t recovered from their fastest pace ever the day before, and I was working hard. 

I’m a heavy breather while running anyway – I noticed this a while back. It’s fine. I don’t care. I might sound like I’m dying but I’m successfully getting oxygen into my lungs so I just go with it.

The stranger at mile two who came up over my left shoulder, however, did not feel the same.

He was a guy in his fifties, a guy I wasn’t aware existed until, as he was coming up behind me, began speaking rather loudly into my ear – something I never appreciate in any context of life.

“You need to save your breath. This is just the first hill, you know.”

What the…did someone order me a personal coach? This is the worst gift delivery ever.

“I’m just a heavy breather. I’m fine.” 

I sped up to try and shake this dude who had enough energy for his own race and to mansplain mine. 

It didn’t work.

“This course has rolling hills for the next several miles. Lots of ups and downs. You really need to pace your breathing.”

SERIOUSLY DUDE THERE’S ENOUGH OXYGEN IN THE WORLD FOR ME TO HEAVY BREATHE AND MAKE IT THROUGH THIS RACE.

And also, I’ve done this race three times. I know the hills. 

I still hadn’t seen this guy’s face, but I had a vivid mental image.

Will+Ferrell+Anchorman+2+Films+NYC+saAb7UClAXXl

I really thought Mr. Mansplainer would fuel me on with rage and indignation to speed up to a pace where I could absolutely smoke him (he was, after all, behind me and my heavy breathing until just a few seconds ago), but somehow he (or my PR from the prior day) made me slow down quite a bit for those next two miles.

Which only made me feel even more irritated at his unrequested coaching.

At least I had something to think about for a few miles.

2. Assume that You are THE Most Important Participant and Act Accordingly.

I never saw Mansplainer again (then again I would only recognize him from his heavy talking in my ear…someone should tell him to save his energy for the rolling hills,) but his performance of arsishness got significantly outdone towards the end of the course.

This particular marathon is a double loop course. Which means us half marathoners are finishing up as the whole marathoners have to start all over again. Which also means that I always get lapped by the lead whole marathoner a couple miles before I finish my half (meaning that he’s approaching the end of his second lap, 26.2 miles, as I’m approaching the end of my first and only lap, 13.1 miles.) Because wow people can run fast.

This year I was super proud of myself. He usually catches me 2-3 miles from my finish. But this year, I made it all the way to less than a mile from the finish line before I heard the sirens approaching. I always get excited about this because much like swimming, you cannot fathom how fast a fast runner is on television. You must experience it. You must feel his thirty-foot long stride in perfect rhythmic pounding shriek past you at a speed you didn’t even know was possible by a non-furry mammal to truly appreciate an elite runner. 

I prepared myself for excitement and paid attention to the lanes to make sure I didn’t get in the way. They’d already separated the full and half marathoners with cones down the middle of the street – we each got a full car lane to continue our race. I got to the far side of my half marathon side of the street. 

The two motorcycle cops came by, sirening and loudspeakering that the winner was coming through and everyone needed to move over. The police SUV and the news crew SUV were not far behind. 

Except that…there were three full marathoners (who were just finishing their first lap) that took exception to this well-known practice.

They began yelling at the motorcycle cops.

“This is our marathon too!! We’re not moving!!”

 Now let me remind you. This dude has just run twice as far as them in the same amount of time, is a feat of humanity and is about to win a freaking race.

But they aren’t having it.

The motorcycle cop megaphoned right at them. “Move out of the way! Winner coming through!”

They got screamy. 

“WE HAVE NOWHERE TO GO!! THIS IS OUR MARATHON TOO!! WE! ARE! NOT! MOVING!!”

There was an easily accessible and completely empty sidewalk to their left. And there was my lane, which I was gladly willing to share, to the right. But they had “nowhere” to go.

A race official on a bike reached them. He started screaming at them.

They screamed back.

The news crew and police SUV were nipping their heels. I could feel the lead runner’s Olympian footfalls closing in.

But they would. Not. Move.

The lead runner went around the two SUVs and around the immovable runners. The news crew, whose job it is to live-broadcast the winner finishing this race, swerved into my lane. I moved over further to allow him room.

The police SUV just kept going forward. Nipping those runner’s heels. And was never able to get by them, that I saw.

If only Mansplainer could have been there at that moment, to run up behind them and talk loudly into their ear. 

“You need to save your energy. This is just the first lap, you know. There are a lot of rolling hills in the next few miles, and if you use up all your energy turning and screaming like that, you’re never going to make it.”

3. Write Exposé on Other Misbehaving Runners and Mock them Mercilessly.

uh….oops.

The Definition of Mild Soreness.

“You might feel some mild soreness for the rest of the day. Resume your normal activities tomorrow.”

That’s what I was told on Wednesday, after having my Endoscopy with multiple biopsies and double dilation of my throat. Before the procedure, I wasn’t told anything – I just assumed that surely such a procedure would make me sore and planned accordingly for “mild soreness.”

I did not, however, plan for such extreme throat and chest pain as to leave me speechless, breathless, and trying all the old labor positions to find some relief for pain.

(Note: I’ve had a tonsillectomy,  well known as the most painful surgery for an adult on the planet, and found it to be not as bad as I’d been told. So when I say this pain was bad, know I’m saying it was worse than my tonsillectomy and bordering on Noah’s adventurous labor and delivery.)

Apparently they left an extra special amount of air in my stomach, air that they were supposed to suck out when they finished the procedure. Somebody forgot to suck on that straw. So I had an intensely bursting chest full of air – that pain was a 9.

And then there was my throat, which felt like it had been ravaged by killer wasps, and was burning and swollen beyond belief – to the point that I could not swallow my own spit, let alone water or medicine. I did attempt to swallow half a lortab, but it got stuck in my throat and just had to dissolve there.

Furthermore, due to the extreme swelling and narrowing of my throat (ironic since I had this procedure because my throat was too narrow and I choked a lot), the air trapped in my chest could not find any way out. I could feel giant painful bubbles make their way up, knock heavily on the door, then turn around and go back down, elbowing and grumbling as they reversed course. Every time I felt one of those bubbles approaching the doorbell, I braced myself for the worst pain of all.

So here I was, for hours, a spit spitting, doubled over, full of unwanted air, in horrific pain mess of a human.

I texted Chris at 12:30 and told him of my extreme pain (he’d dropped me off at home after the procedure and had gone to work, as I was only supposed to experience a little discomfort.) I told him I couldn’t talk to call the doctor. I needed him to do it.

He called, he left a message. He got irate and called again, then left another message. He got more irate and called and pressed all the buttons until he got the wrong human, explained my emergency situation to her, and she promised to contact the right human for him and tell her to call. Three hours in, no one had called back and he was sure his wife was dying.

So he called back, got the wrong human again, and said “I’m bringing my wife back right now.” 

“Um, hold on sir. Let me see if I can get Right Human on the phone.”

She found Right Human.

Right Human told him in no uncertain terms that you can’t go back. If you have a problem, go to the ER. Once you leave the Endoscopy center, you are dead to them. (Which was nearly true in my case.)

So my steamingly furious husband came and got me and took me to the ER.

We got to the waiting room, noting the four police cars surrounding it (comforting), and entered into a quiet place of moroseness.

One lady was holding her chest to make sure the front desk realized she was having chest pains.

Another woman had a big nasty looking bandage covering up part of her leg, but not the entirety of the purple swelling.

They shortly wheeled a wheelchair from the back with a hoarsely, phlegmily, and continuously hacking woman in it – and parked it directly across from me.

The Chest Pain woman’s husband inquired as to how long it would be.

“Well, they have an emergency back there, so it may be a while.”

The entire room murmured at the same time… “Of course they do because this is the…emergency room.”

An officer came through the door. His hat said SBI – assumably State Bureau of Investigation. He had a gun on his hip and rubber gloves and an empty paper sack in his hands. She nodded him back.

I whispered to Chris between air bubbles, “What do you think he’s going to put in the sack??”

“A gun? A hand? Lunch?”

They came to get Chest Pains lady. She tried to stand up.

“Do you need a wheelchair?”

“Well yes, I’ve been having chest pains for two hours.”

“Oh. Hmm. I’m not sure if we have one available.”

Phlegmy lady offered, “You can have mine, honey.”

She hacked a few more times and removed herself to the chair six inches away from me. I wouldn’t have sat in her wheelchair without a thorough Lysol dousing, but Chest Pains Lady must have been desperate because she gladly plopped in her sweet new ride, a late model Germ10x 4WD. I could feel the phlegm definitely reaching my airspace now.

Chris whispered, “I’m sorry. I know this is miserable. But it was our only option.”

They called me back to triage. Asked me what was going on. I explained that I couldn’t even swallow my own spit. The observant nurse chuckled and said “Sounds like exactly what you went in to get help for.” 

Pithy.

We walked down the hallway. SBI Guy was headed back our way – except that now, his sack was decidedly not empty. The room on the end of the hall was being guarded by three policemen. But I was still processing what all could be housed inside that paper sack.

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At least it wasn’t dripping. 

They put me in a room. I got all the usual visits. Questions. Repeating of my information to half a dozen people. Finally, their biggest shot of morphine mixed with Zofran, because morphine and I don’t get along. Then a CT scan to make sure I hadn’t had a perforation that allowed air into my chest cavity. They wheeled me and my gurney out of the scan room, down a hallway, and into a dark, abandoned hallway and put on the brakes. 

“They’ll come back and get you when they’re ready for you.”

I hope the police are guarding that doorway well. 

The morphine was really starting to kick in and the room definitely had an eerie horror movie glow. The lights were surely flickering. I expected the paper bag to come tip-toeing toward me at any minute, a dismembered thumb looking for its body.

A few minutes and/or a morphine nightmare nap later, someone was asking me, “Do you belong in the ER?”

“Yes.”

“Then I’ll get you back to your room.”

Thankfully, it wasn’t the murdurous criminal posing as a nurse. 

Epilogue:

…I didn’t have a perforation. I stayed in significant pain for the next 72 hours. My doctor said that my throat was the narrowest ever, and was narrow all the way down (the pain taught me how long esophoguses actually are), so he’d had to use some heavy duty tools on me. (Read: It’s all my fault. #ThroatShaming) 

…My diagnosis is EoE, an allergic sensitivity that creates a rigid and constantly narrowing throat due to food allergies that I didn’t know I have. So now I get to do food allergy testing and eliminate all the things from my diet. 

…After I finally quit hurting, I of course got an infection from all the medications he put me on post-procedure. Ironically, as that happened on Sunday, I called the office, got the after-hours answering service, and they guaranteed me a callback from a *doctor* within 20 minutes. If only Wednesday’s issues had been after hours, they might have actually called us back.

…It is now Monday, 6 days post-procedure, and I am starting to feel nearly normal. Which means it’s time to get my back pricked with 80 allergens to see what my problem is.

…And finally, somebody always asks if they should or says they feel guilty for doing so, so let me clarify: if there is anything humorously worthwhile in this post, please laugh. It makes it have some value, and makes me happy.