Sunday, March 31, 2013


Gimme an 'R'!  Gimme an 'A'!  Gimme a 'C'!  Gimme an 'E'!  Now put 'em all together and re-CAP!  Re-CAP!  Woooooooo! Insert high jumps, splits, and pom-pom shaking here.

Race #10- 26.2 With Donna (a.k.a. The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer, a.k.a., The Donna) Marathon Relay, February 17, 2013
             Feelings and Numbness (If you don't have time to read two recaps of the same race, read my sister's, linked right there ^.  It's way good.  Really.)

You know, it's Spring like this that makes me recycle.  Maybe all those warnings about global warming are actually intended for us and not for our great-great-grandchildren.  All I know for sure is that I almost never complain about the weather, but I am so sick and tired of the cold, lately, that it seems all I do now is whine every time I go outside before 10:00 a.m.  (Yeah, the race was technically still during the winter, but it was a really cold winter for Florida.)
March 25, 2013, in Virginia.  Photo courtesy of Megan Connelly, used without permission.
And racing in the cold?  Well, it's not so bad.  But waiting outside to race in the cold?  Miserable.  Well, mostly.  Sorta.  Okay, if it hadn't been for my sis...  As it was, we got to wait together for her to begin her third marathon and me to lead off our relay team.

The Donna is held in Jacksonville, FL, which happens to be where my in-laws live.  Instead of paying for a hotel room, we were able to stay at my sis-in-law's apartment (thank you!), and were able to leave the children with them while Husband and I joined some friends from the running group for dinner (thanks!).  After the nightmarish time the night before my first half-marathon, it seemed wise to make every effort to get Baby to sleep comfortably.  To that end, we made a trip to Buy Buy Baby and purchased a special mattress that fits inside the pack-n-play, and an extra soft sheet made of the same material as her regular crib sheet.  Mom-in-law kindly laundered the new sheet (gracias!), and we set up the portable bed with crossed fingers. I rocked Baby to sleep, just like at home, held my breath, and laid her down.  She didn't wake up immediately!  About an hour later, I was ready for bed, too, and that's when she woke up.  Twice, I rocked her back to sleep, but both times she woke up as soon as I laid her in bed.  I resigned myself to another sleepless night, and laid down on the couch with her on my chest.  Husband covered us with a cozy blanket (merci beaucoup!), and I only woke up every hour or so when various body parts had fallen asleep and were numb.  As often happens, my discomfort was a blessing in disguise.  I had received a new phone from sis-in-law the day before (ever so grateful!) and did not set the alarm correctly.  I happened to wake up only 2 minutes after it should have gone off, and was able to get ready on time.  I left her apartment just before 5, with a full 4 hours of sleep in me, and zero caffeine.

As instructed by the brochure and website, my sis and I were at the start line 2 hours early, at 5:30 a.m.  The temperature was at the higher end of what had been predicted, and was just above freezing when we arrived.  Kim was the second runner on my relay team, and had also arrived extra early to board a shuttle bus to her exchange point.  We had a few minutes together near the gear check trucks, where there were several warming table/lantern/canopy things.  We then did our necessary in the too-cold-to-smell-bad port-o-lets, bid farewell to Kim, and made our way to the really wonderful Runner's Village, where we were offered free Dunkin' Donuts coffee, bagels, fruit, muffins, granola bars, juice, water, and admission into a giant, heated tent.  Again, my sis and I followed the instructions we had been given, and made our way out of the warmth, away from the coffee, and into our starting corral at 6:30.
The reflective stuff really works, eh?
Our race bibs were color coded by predicted finishing time, with the slower people in the corrals further from the start line.  When my sis registered for the marathon, she hadn't yet run that distance, so she predicted her finishing time to be much slower than it actually would end up being.  As a relay team, we were expecting to finish with the fasties, and so were given yellow (corral #1) bibs.  It was clear to us that she should have registered as a yellow, so we didn't feel bad at all about sneaking her into the yellow corral.  (And we would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for that pesky security guard!  More on that in a bit.)

Unfortunately for us, many many other runners did not follow the instructions.  Or something.  I don't know exactly why, but there were thousands of people still stuck in traffic when the race was supposed to start at 7:30.  And still, at 7:45.  They delayed the start time until 8:00, which I'm sure was best for the majority of the racers.  It's just hard to wrap a frozen brain around rational thoughts like that one.  My goodness, was it ever cold!
Still smiling = Before the first delay announcement.
Finally, the race began.  As the announcer was counting down to "GO", a very-serious-about-her-volunteer-work security guard stepped in front of my blue bibbed sister and told her to get out of line and go back to the blue corral.  She was brave and smart enough to refuse, and only had to endure 4 seconds of the security lady's nasty look before we crossed the starting line.

Just 8 days earlier, I had kept an average of 8:10/mile for 3.1 miles, so I was feeling really confident in my ability to do the same, or close to it, for my 6 mile leg of the marathon relay.  I may have said this before, but it bears repeating.  Confidence doesn't do the work for you.  Nor do happy thoughts, encouraging signs, or energetic crowds.  All of those things are helpful boosters, but make no mistake- in order to run fast, you have to run.  Fast.  This task is much easier to complete when your toes feel like toes, rather than large chunks of ice weighing down your shoes.  My first mile time was 8:41, and I still felt totally frozen.  My sis and I ran together for a couple of minutes between miles 1 & 2, but then she took off, and I wouldn't see her again until the finish line.  My second mile time was 8:45, and everything except my toes had thawed out.  The sun was shining, there were people cheering, I heard music playing, saw lots of pink balloons, streamers, and signs, and I was truly glad to be running for such an important cause.  Mile number three was 8:43, but the cold weather was about to take its toll.  I had recently learned that I experienced much less knee pain when I was running with proper posture and concentrating on where my feet were landing.  I had also figured out in my last race how helpful it was to breathe deeply.  Problem was, I still couldn't feel my feet to know where they were landing. I was also hunching over, bracing myself against the wind and cold.  And, each time I tried to breathe deeply (I couldn't close my eyes in this race, there were way too many people around), my lungs would burn and I'd start coughing.  I don't know how to spit, and when I take deep breaths in cold weather, I always feel like I need to.  Then, I feel like I'm choking or gagging, and it's not the greatest.  Mile 4 was slower than the previous 3, at 9:10.  Just after the 4th mile marker, my knee started screaming, and I couldn't ignore it.  I slowed to a walk for much of the 5th mile, and clocked it at 10:04.  My last mile was slightly easier.  My knee was still really hurting, but the crowds of cheering people were even more plentiful than they had been.  I saw a pair of women displaying their years of cancer survival on signs pinned to their backs.  I saw strangers holding signs thanking the runners for helping fight against breast cancer.  I thought about my mom, having been so brave through chemo and radiation and sickness and pain and hair loss and fear, and was grateful, as always, that she had beat breast cancer.  Finally, I heard someone shout my bib number just before I saw Kim, waiting to take the baton from me, and I was done!  My 6th mile time was 9:30, for a total of 54:something.

I managed to find Husband, MIL, and Baby really easily where they had parked a block away from the relay exchange point.  I let Baby munch on my medal for a bit, then nursed her in the warm car.  Not sure where her obsession with medals might have come from...
Baby and her Papa
Aunt Jenn
Big Brother
...those things don't run in families, do they?

I had Husband drop me off at the finish line area, left my jacket in the car (but remembered my mylar blanket, at least!), and waited for my teammates and sissy to finish.  The Finisher's Village was pretty awesome.  I got a free massage and some hot soup while I was waiting, and later took advantage of the free beer and samples of energy popsicles.  The only problem was that the FV was around a few corners and about 1/4 mile away from the actual finish line.  There was a huge screen set up so that family members could (supposedly) see their loved ones cross the line, but it was impossible to tell who I was looking at.  I couldn't even make out bib numbers or genders from the view on the screen.  I talked to Kim, who was with my brother-in-law and her husband (2 of our 3 other teammates) and learned that Jenn was on pace to meet her goal of finishing under 3:39:59.  I walked closer to the finish line, and was stopped by (can you even believe it?) the same way-too-self-important security guard from earlier.  She informed me that the area needed to be kept clear for the runners, and I would have to go the other direction.  I rolled my eyes as politely as possible, and stepped behind her.  She turned around and gestured for me to keep walking.  I did, until she turned back around.  I sneaked past her a few minutes later, and stood quietly, not blocking anyone's path or even standing close to anyone finishing the race.  She approached me again, and told me that I wasn't allowed to be there, or anywhere near there.
"I just need to see my sister cross the finish line!  She'll be here any minute!"
"You can see from the sidewalk back there."
"No, I can't see from there!"
"Well, you can't be here.  You have to keep moving."
Again, she followed me until I was safely away from any possibility of seeing the most proud and momentous accomplishment my sister had ever made.  At last, my brother-in-law and other teammates arrived, and I learned that there really is safety in numbers.  Nobody stopped us as we walked to the finish line.  After just a few minutes, when the clock had already struck 3:39:00, she came into view.  And, well, now I'm crying again.
Please enjoy this awkwardly posed picture while I grab a tissue.
She did it.  She qualified to run the Boston Marathon.  She has secured a spot for herself in a race that you have to earn your way into.  There is something so amazing, so inspiring, so phenomenal, about seeing someone accomplish a goal like that.  Add in the fact that I was watching my dear sister, oldest friend- someone who I had seen run her first marathon, and her second, who had inspired me to run and changed my life for the better, whom I knew had trained for months, and worked so hard, and well, now I'm crying again.

At some point, our last relay team member crossed the finish line, too.  My eyes were too full of tears to see, but we ended up in 11th place out of nearly 200 teams.  We had some pictures taken, shared some stories, complained about the cold (by this time, it was in the mid-40s), and I burst into tears several more times.  Eventually, I walked the mile to the shuttle bus that would take me back to where I had parked at the start line, and was able to compose myself a bit before I got behind the wheel to return to the rest of my family.  I cried again as I described her amazing finish to Husband and the in-laws, limped around on my still-sore knee, had some lunch, and home we went.

Result: Me- 6 miles in 54:xx
Bad Case de Runz (our actual team name)- 3:41:29
Jenn- 3:39:38 BQ BQ BQ BQ!

I'll repeat my advice for you today, in case you didn't see it earlier.  Check out my sister's blog.  You won't be sorry!  Oh, and you might want to grab a tissue.

Do you recycle, or can I blame you for the cold temperatures?

Been inspired, lately?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Dozen Months & 6 Years

I'm proud, relieved, and too tired to think of another descriptive word to say that both of my children's birthday parties are over for the year, and were quite successful.  I know many parents go a little overboard when it comes to their children's parties, especially when it is birthday numero uno.  Husband and I kinda did the opposite.  In mid-February, I started a list of invitees for Baby's first party.  After a few minutes of writing, I stopped and counted- 42.  As much as I enjoy the number 42, the thought of feeding 42 people, making 42 people comfortable, entertaining 42 people, and hearing 42 voices in our small house was more than a little daunting.  We decided to reduce the number of invitees by less than half, and ended up with 11 guests.  2 friends of mine did amazing Minnie Mouse themed parties for their 1-yr-old girls, I've seen princess themed parties, Sesame Street, Hello Kitty, Strawberry Shortcake, farm animals...I chose balloons. Baby likes balloons.  I was only a teensy bit embarrassed to say "balloons" when people asked what theme I had chosen for her party.

"Bah?  Bah?"
"Yes!  Balloons!"
"Bah?  Bah?"
"Yes!  Baby!  Bunny!  Birthday!  Ball!  She's so brilliant."
On, I had seen a really cute wreath made of balloons, and a hair barrette, too.  Instead of ordering those items, though, I decided to make them mycheapskateself.  The wreath turned out okay.  Not photograph-and-blogworthy, but I think most people knew it was a decoration made with balloons.  After finishing the wreath, though, I decided Baby wouldn't care to wear a balloon-decorated barrette.

Like every great mom, I had forgotten all about baking her cake the day before her birthday.  So, I got up early and did a whole bunch of math and guesswork to make her an individual-sized, dairy free, healthy-ish carrot cake with orange glaze.  It tasted a little floury, but wasn't bad, considering.  We had practiced blowing out the candle, although not with an actual flame.  Turns out, that flickering orange guy is really tempting, and she felt she needed to grab it.  Singed a bit, maybe, but she didn't even cry!  I did have to scrape some melted wax off her tiny finger, though.:(

She dug into the cake like she was one of those TV babies.  Both hands were grabbing huge pieces of cake, shoving some into her face and flinging others onto the ground.  Eventually, some of the treat I had worked so hard on made its way into her mouth, at which point she promptly scraped it out, spit several times, and threw the spat-out pieces at me.  Lucky for our guests, my dear Mother-In-Law is an expert at making ice cream cakes, and with the help of my Sister-In-Law, they provided a delicious one that nobody spit or scraped out of their mouth.
Daddy helped her open presents.
She received great, generous, mostly pink gifts, and seemed truly delighted by many of them.  All the guests left with full bellies, and the party was over quickly enough that she didn't even have a screaming, exhausted baby meltdown.

The next day was Sunday, 2 days before our son's actual 6th birthday.  We had decided to throw a surprise party for him about 24 hours before he asked us to throw him a surprise party... despite that, he didn't suspect a thing.

He loves the show Wild Kratts on PBS (it's about wild animal adventures), so that was the theme for his party.  On, I found (and actually purchased) a personalized Wild Kratts cake decoration on edible paper for less than $10!
Add plastic jungle animals, sickeningly overpriced animal print candles, and you've got yourself a pretty amazing cake for  <$20!
I could not justify spending $23 on the personalized Wild Kratts birthday banner, so I decided to make one., I had seen one that I really liked and figured I could copy.  Turns out, I'm better at cutting paper than I am at gluing balloons.

As is my wont, I forgot to take a picture when things looked best; before the streamers ripped and the other balloon bouquet disappeared, and the stuffed wild animals got played with.  
The kids played charades, attacked the zebra pinata like a pride of lions attacking an actual zebra, ate pizza, animal crackers, cheetos, fruit, crackers-n-cheese, blew whistles until every adult was near tears, misused the self-inking stamps to tattoo their bodies, and played at keeping the non-helium balloons in the air by combining perfectly jumping, hitting, and screaming.

He had plenty of help opening his gifts.

The gifts were, again, generous and greatly enjoyed.  The food was (mostly) consumed, the kids got along well with each other, and 6-yr-old had a really super time.  He did ask afterward why we didn't tell him that we were throwing him a surprise party, and seemed a little confused about some of the ways we had tricked him.
"So, did you really go over there to run?"
"No, I went over there to set up the party."
"Why did you tell me you were going to run?"
"Because I didn't want you to know I was setting up the party."
"So you didn't go running at all?"
"Why not?"

Not that most of us have much control over these things, but I do recommend not having your children's birthdays within 3 days of each other.  It makes for a very stressful few days.  I also advise you to be honest with yourself about your crafting abilities when you're trying to be thrifty and use for ideas rather than for purchases.  And, if you need any help cutting paper into very simple shapes, you can count on me!

Has anyone ever surprised you with a party?

Best birthday party theme?  Other than the obvious, "balloons", of course.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why Was 6 Afraid of 7? Because...

Okay, so, I know I said I was going to be too busy to write very much this week, but I'm running out of ways to avoid cleaning the house done with more preparations than I expected, so here I am.  What's that I hear?  Applause?  Don't be embarrassed, I'm excited, too!  

Let's have some more race details, shall we?  The last race I recapped was held in November of 2012, and I didn't race again until early January, 2013.  As much as it bothers my OCT (Obsessive Compulsive Tendencies-I don't have a disorder ["I'm NOT crazy!  My mother had me tested."- Sheldon Cooper]) to skip a race when I've been recapping them in such a nice, ordered-by-date fashion, it seems ridiculous, or rude, even, to re-recap a race.  But, just in case you don't feel like clicking the above link, here's a summary:

Race #7- DeLeon Springs 5k, January 6, 2013
Result: 31:50

Which brings us to...

Race #8- Cure PSP 15k Relay, January 20, 2013

I almost didn't sign up for this race.  I wanted to do the relay, but my super speedy sister was on a super speedy team, and my training buddies had conflicts and couldn't participate.  I really liked the idea of a 3 person relay, though, so I bravely put it out on our running group's facebook page that I was looking for teammates.  I connected with Dawn, who I had seen at the club's Christmas party, but not actually met.

Weird how people didn't come up and introduce themselves to me at the party.
Brian offered to be our third.  He's another running group member that I hadn't met, but he and Dawn are friends.  I came up with our team name, "Faster Than We Look", and I guess, sub-consciously, thought I had contributed enough.

Race day was cold enough for a bonfire near the start line, but not miserably, freezing cold.  I found and introduced myself to Brian and Dawn, and we agreed that Brian would take the first leg, 1-week-since-her-2nd-marathon Dawn would go second, and I would be the anchor-or not.  I always forget whether the "anchor" in a relay is the fastest one or the slowest.  It seems like it would be the slowest one, but when I hear people talk, the context leads me to believe that the anchor is the fast one who goes last.  Anyway... The race course was set up as a 5k, that we would each start and finish in the same spot.  Brian lined up with all the other 5k-only runners and relay first leggers, and they took off.  I wandered around a while, stood by the bonfire for a few minutes, took advantage of there being no line at the port-o-potty, and then just waited.  Dawn and I cheered as Brian came into view and handed her the baton.  After she started running, Brian and I chatted a bit about the course, he got some free beer and warned me about the hand-staining quality of the baton, and I went off for a warm-up run.  I had been having some pain in my left calf which usually seemed to subside once I was a mile or so into my run, and with the cold temperature, I knew my warm-up was important.  Plus, it was nice to have something to do to prepare myself for the race.  When Dawn ran into view, I was ready.  Really, really ready.  Bouncing, pacing, running in place ready.  She passed me the baton, and off I went.

Here's what blows about going last in a small relay race: running alone.  I only saw a handful of people the entire time I was running, which made it really easy to zone out and run like it wasn't a race.  My calf wasn't hurting.  I wasn't too cold or too hot.  The scenery was lovely.  The course was flat.  But, instead of running my fastest or trying my hardest, I just ran.  And, let myself get really bothered by the distance discrepancies between my Garmin and the mile marker signs.  My time would have made me very happy in August, but after all the months of training, and after my near-PR in October, I was hoping for more out of myself.  Unfortunately, hope doesn't take seconds off of race clocks.  Running faster does.

Our team came in 10th, with the respectable total of 1:26:58.  I met new friends, got a nice long-sleeved tech shirt, free beer, and anchored our team.  Or didn't.  Whatever.

Result: 27:57*

Race #9- Healthy Groovin' At The Grove 5k, February 9, 2013

It should be clear by now that I run races fairly often.  Not as often as some, but I certainly know my way around a registration form.  Several months before this race, I decided that it would be My Race.  The timing was right for me to run a fast 5k, and even though I didn't know the course, I knew the area fairly well and was sure there were no surprise Piers of Doom or bridges or even large hills.  The race was also a fundraiser for my nephew's school, so I was happy to register and pay for it.

Race morning was cold.  I type those words waaaayyyy too often for someone who lives in Florida.  It was in the 40s, though- that's cold for everyone, right?  We (Husband, 5 y.o., Baby, my dad and I) arrived with plenty of time to zip tie our chips to our shoes, shiver together, and then for my racer dad and I to warm up a bit around the parking lot of the school.  I had been having knee pain, this time, and was worried that it would slow me down.  However, I had been to a great yoga class just the Thursday before, and felt pretty limber.  At the start line, I talked to a couple of running group friends whom I knew usually ran at about my pace.  Once we started running, I decided to just try to keep their backs in my sight.  The first mile went by faster than I expected.  I looked at my watch and saw the number 7 in the first spot, and actually said, "Holy Shit!" out loud.  I don't curse, generally.  I find it unnecessary, unladylike, and a bad habit.  But sometimes, when I'm racing...  Anyway, my next thought was, "I can't run this fast!", followed by, "I am running this fast!  I'm just going to keep running like this until I have to have to slow down."  Mile 2 was about 20 seconds slower than mile 1, and I started to feel tired.  The sun was shining, the breeze was lovely, and I thought about what a lovely treat it was to be running on such a beautiful day.  I closed my eyes and breathed, deeply.  After that, every time I started to feel like I wanted to slow down, I closed my eyes and took deep breaths like I was in yoga class instead.  I was able to keep the backs of my running group friends in sight, and the math I was doing in my head was pretty darn exciting.

When I saw the clock at the finish line, and realized my math had been correct, I zoned out in a different way.  It was as if I was in a movie- people clapping, silently, my body moving in slow motion, but also as fast as I could sprint, I may have heard some very typical triumphant soundtrack music playing in my head...  I've never experienced anything like it.

I also won "Most Fashionable", according to the race director.  I'll take it.
'Specially 'cause it's the ONLY time someone will call me 'fashionable'.
Second place for my age group, personal record by more than a minute.  Yes, thank you!  Oh, and all three of my running friends whose backs I was concentrating on also set PRs.

Result: 25:24

Remember: less hoping, more running.  Less cursing, more deep breathing.  And, if you can't be the fastest, at least be the one person in purple when everyone else is in orange.

When is the last time you surprised yourself?

Figured out the title?

*Course distance, according to everyone I talked to, was actually over 3.2 miles.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Cake on the Brain

Candles, too.  Pinatas.  Goody bags.  Decorations,  Gift wrap.  Sandwich trays.  Silly string.  See, my daughter, son, husband and sister-in-law all celebrate their birthdays* within 8 days of each other.  I've tried to talk 5 y.o. into moving his celebration to October, with me, but no luck so far.  The next 8 days are going to be pretty (*&^%$#) busy, so you'll have to wait for the first more high-quality, captivating posts.  In the meantime, maybe someone should explain to Mr. Target how sales are supposed to work.

Just out of sight?  A three-pack of $10 gift cards, all for only $30!
  Today, I remind you to use your head while shopping.  Don't be one of the dummies who gets fooled by fancy words like "value" or "sale".

Have you snagged any good deals lately?

*Celebrate because they are the actual birthdays.  Crazy, no?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wisdom and Weirdness

A wise teacher once said, "Do or do not, there is no try", so it is with that in mind that I give you this more-chock-full-of-advice-post-than-any-of-my-previous-advice-posts.  As always, the advice I share can be taken or left according to your own personal whims, but I recommend the taking.  They say that you learn something new every day, while I add that some days are like the month or so just before taking the SAT or GRE, with so many lessons being crammed into your head that it feels like you must never have known anything before, and that your brain is withering under the weight of all you've newly learned.  Lately, I've had a lot of those pre-standardized test days.

DO: Pay attention to sale tags.  I almost stormed out of Michael's today, thinking that the paper I desperately wanted and had not found anywhere else was $20, when I saw just in time that it was actually on sale for $12.  I'm planning to make a banner for 5 y.o.'s birthday party (it's a surprise-ssshhh!), and didn't want to pay so much for something that will be thrown away after he "awwww!"s over it.

DO NOT: Judge the lady outside of Michael's, holding a sc-uh-reaming toddler in a bear hug for almost the entire time you're in the store.  Yes, it looks bad.  Yes, it sounds bad.  No, it isn't how I would handle a screaming toddler.  But, I remembered that I had no idea what that child was like.  Maybe he has mental, emotional, or physical problems.  Maybe he would have been screaming just as loudly, but also running into traffic, if he hadn't been held so tightly.  Maybe the lady doing the holding is a renowned child psychiatrist who knows way more than me about the handling of temper tantrums.  Maybe they were both getting paid handsomely to perform a social experiment.  Judging others, especially strangers in snippet situations like that one, is simply not a good idea.

DO: Feel free to judge the people who literally haven't the money for their groceries, but smoke cigarettes as soon as they step outside.  Dirty clothes- no judgement.  Shoeless, school-aged kid in tow during school hours- no judgement.  Tattoos- no judgement.  "There was no balance on that gift card.  Do you have another way to pay?"  "No."- no judgement.  "Do you want to put some of the food back and just buy whatever you really need?"  "No."- no judgement.  The grocery cart full of Ribeye steaks, fudgesicles, ice cream, and soda- a smidgen of judgement (just enough for me to decide against buying their groceries for them).  Seeing both adults light cigarettes on the way to their car- bang the gavel, the verdict is in: Bad.  Gross.  Shameful.

DO NOT: Pay chain grocery store prices for lower quality, imported produce.  Instead, maybe become a patron of your local produce market, or visit the weekly Farmer's Market nearby.  Buying locally grown fruits and vegetables helps the environment, your health, and your local and personal economy.  Grocery store price: $3.99/lb for red bell peppers.
Farmer's market price: $1 for 3.

DO: Buy something just because it's pretty.  

I <3 Orchids
DO NOT: Pretend you don't recognize the pastor of your church when you see him at the Farmer's Market.  According to everyone I've asked, it's weirder to feign ignorance than to risk him not remembering that you've met before.  I was worried that he'd feel bad for forgetting my name, and I was pretty sure he didn't recognize me in my super-disguise of wearing sunglasses (I tend to think people can't see me behind them, but they always can.  Why don't I remember that?).  In hindsight, I understand that really, nothing bad would have happened if I had simply smiled and said 'hello'.

DO: Use your senses. There's a good reason that spoiled meat smells bad- it's so that we don't eat it.  Also, if you notice a greenish tinge to ground turkey, it's probably safer to assume that it's not your imagination, and continue under the impression that the meat is no good.

DO NOT: Be surprised if you fail to follow the above rule and then hear the words, "Is this meat...different?" when your spouse takes the first bite of the stuffed peppers you toiled over for hours. It's okay to be upset about the GIANT waste of time, money, and effort when you're forced to discard the whole dinner, quickly prepare something different, and still wash the hardest-to-clean baking dish in your kitchen.  Being unhappy about it is expected.  But don't be surprised.

DO: Take yourself on a scrumptious salad adventure.  Romaine lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, pomegranate whatever they ares, avocado, cajun spiced sesame sticks, all tossed in a bit of ranch dressing and drizzled with the best hot sauce.  A salad like that will make your mouth happy, even if the disastrous dinner has made it frowny.

What lessons have you learned, recently?

Monday, March 11, 2013

What I'm Reading II

A while back, I mentioned making this a regular feature.  While my intentions were good, I was having a lot of trouble finding time to read, and was therefore in the same books for much longer than I'm used to.  I have now adopted a reading schedule, which is working out quite well for me.  It looks a little like this:

~4:00 p.m. (or whenever Baby goes down for her afternoon nap)-
Set alarm on phone for 12 minutes.
Read Daytime Book as fast as possible.

~3:00 a.m. (or whenever Baby wakes up to eat in the night)-
Yawn my way through turning on the Kindle.
Read Nighttime Book until my eyes close.

It's hard to read while I'm nursing her if she's not groggy.  She might be part monkey, you see, and enjoys kicking, slapping, and twisting her body around so that I can't hold the book while I'm also holding her.  If I lay the book behind her head on the couch, she arches her back to reach the pages and pull them out of the book (not letting go of her source of food, mind you, while she contorts herself).  If my sense of modesty would allow it, I would post a video or some pictures of her during her feedings, as it really is quite a humorous sight.  But, I'm proud to say that there are no pictures of my bosoms on the whole, wide internet, and I'd like to keep it that way.  
She is as sweet and innocent as she looks in this picture, but she is rarely as still.
Back to the topic at hand, which was neither Baby nor breastfeeding.  Books!

I'm finding myself anxiously awaiting my 12 minutes of reading time since I started The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.  I can't give a true percentage of how far into it I am, since I'm reading the hardcover with actual pages, loaned to me by a friend, but I'm more than halfway through. 

So far, it's wonderful.  It's sad in parts, but not in the way of some tearjerker books that seem to use vocabupuncture (literary acupuncture where the words are needles, poking your tear ducts) to produce bouts of uncontrollable sobbing.  I've also laughed aloud a couple of times, and I've found myself reflecting on it as I go about my day.  I'm having one of those great reading experiences in which I don't want the book to end, but I also can hardly wait to find out what happens.  Reminds me of my first 10k race, in Niagara Falls, where it was so beautiful and running felt so marvelous that I didn't ever want to stop, but I also couldn't wait to finish and see how well I had done. (Ha!  Bet you didn't think I could relate reading to racing!)

My nighttime book is the latest one my book group is reading.  It was chosen by my sister the Boston Qualified marathon runner.  I expect the book will be only slightly less inspirational than it was to see her finish for the cause of fighting breast cancer.  Chrissie Wellington is an elite triathlete, and her story is both interesting and easy(ish) to relate to.  I've read 13% of it so far, before falling asleep on the couch or being able to put Baby back to bed and crawl back under the covers for some real sleep myself.

You may be able to guess today's advice- schedule in some time to do what you enjoy, even if it's only for a few minutes. Some is better than none!

Whatcha reading?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Savoring, Relishing, and Being

Lately, I've noticed a lot of people talking about and posting about the importance of savoring each moment of parenthood, and really enjoying the time we, as parents, get to spend with our children.
Stolen from my friend's facebook timeline.
I found myself ignoring the conversations, and scrolling past the posts on facebook, and for once, it wasn't out of annoyance that I was doing so.  I realized I was able to tune out the advice because I don't need to hear it.  I'm actually pretty stinkin' good at the Being There, Really There (hereafter known as BTRT) part of parenthood, and Husband is, too.  It's really one of those easier said than done things, therefore I have authorized myself to be a giver of advice on the subject.  You can thank me later.

Just in case you weren't struck by the truth of the words in the picture above, let me remind you of how much you, as a parent, mean to your child(ren) when they're small.  Do you ever hear about a husband or wife crying all day at work because they miss their spouse?  No.  You probably don't even hear a wistful sigh from a man, separated for hours on end from the woman whom he chose to devote his life to, vowed to cherish above all others, and loves dearly.  Granted, adults (probably) have better coping mechanisms than children, and are (usually) better at controlling their emotions, and (generally) have an understanding of the world and the fact that 40 hours a week is not forever.  But, separation anxiety and the tears children shed when left by their parents are not solely caused by a lack of adulthood.  As parents, we are our children's world.  Think about that, for a minute (I'll be snacking on some Flipz while you mull).

Relatively speaking, there are not going to be many years in which my children value my opinions over those of their friends and others.  Someday soon, 5 y.o. is going to figure out that I'm not the coolest, smartest, most accomplished mom in the biz', he'll start googling answers to his questions himself, and he'll find it a lot more fun to play with kids his own age than with me or his dad.  It's going to be even worse for me with Baby.  I'm confident that she'll be at least 2 before she figures out that her mommy has zero fashion sense, does the same boring thing with her hair every day, and can't pronounce shoe designers' names.  But, I doubt she'll make it to age 3 before she starts sighing and rolling her eyes at my ignorance.
I knew it!  I knew she was going to get bigger and bigger and that it would be hard to remember her as such a teeny tiny cuddlebug.

"Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'til tomorrow

For babies grow up we've learned to our sorrow.

So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep

I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep."

-Author Unknown

This might seem like a an excuse to let the dust build up, but the truth of the words is undeniable (that's a word?  That's a word!).  When it comes down to the heart of the matter, it is much more important to spend time with your children than to spend time telling your children, "I can't hear you over the vacuum" or "Let me just finish dusting, and I can play with you."  Thankfully, most of us will never have to deal with the heartbreak and devastation of losing a child.  But imagine, just for a second, if the most recent time your child asked you to play was the last time.  And imagine if you chose to wash the dishes, instead.  Makes you wanna barf, no?  

I've adopted a few rules that, I think, help keep my priorities in line.  
  1. Never lie to your children.
Even about Santa.  Even about First Daddy.  Even about going 80 in a 65 mph zone.  Even about really, really disliking the things he/she wants to play.  Pokemon battles with an ultra competitive 5 y.o. are NOT FUN.  In fact, they make me want to scream, and wish that I had a legitimate reason to burn every Pokemon card in our house.  But, I don't.  I simply tell him that I don't enjoy playing when I don't understand the game, and don't care to understand the game, and that I would rather play something different.

    2.  Listen.

If you're too busy to listen, say why, not "uh huh".  And, if you're too busy to listen, figure out why!  Otherwise, our kids will stop talking to us, and we will wonder why, and we will be devastated, and we will call doctors and counselors to figure out why they won't just tell us what is going on in their lives, and it will be awful.  Sometimes, I'm trying to concentrate, or I'm trying to finish a blog post, or I'm trying to get 8 minutes of sleep on the couch, and I don't want to hear anyone talking.  But, when it comes to 5 y.o., I make sure to explain to him that it's hard to think and talk about two different things, that I want to finish what I'm typing, or that I don't want to be interrupted unless it's a 911 emergency, rather than just blowing him off.  What he says is important, and I truly want to hear it.

   3.  BTRT

Remember the screaming, remember the cutenesses, remember the laughter and the grrrrroooo (Baby's version of "vroom" when she's playing with 5 y.o.'s cars-it sounds a lot like Chewbacca) and the things they love and the things they hate and the things they say and the things they do.  The only way to do that is to pay attention.  Be there, in the moment.  Really there.  Take pictures, but not so many that you miss the action.  
Awwww!  She learned to put a hat on her head!
I make up silly games, and nonsensical songs.  Husband plays action figures and hockey and basketball and Pokemon with 5 y.o. (and actually has fun doing it), gently tosses the "Baa" to Baby over and over and over, and we dance to the twang of her musical toys for what seems like hours on end.  

Every night, I rock Baby to sleep and sing her some songs, as I did with 5 y.o. when he was much smaller.  He has no trouble falling asleep, usually, but every once in a while he asks me to sing to him like I sing to Baby, or to rock him.  He should be asleep.  He doesn't need to be rocked, or sung to.  He's a big boy.  But then, I think about what a treat and privilege it is to have a sweet son who wants to be held by me and to hear my singing, and I can't resist.  I think about how I'll feel when he's 20 and can't fit on my lap and will not ever think about wanting me to rock and sing to him.  Then, I let him get out of bed for a minute, wrestle him onto my lap, and ask him what song he wants to hear.  I've never regretted it.

Got any cutenesses to share, past or present?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me!"

Think for a moment about how you came to be friends with your dearest friends.  I may be special in this way (I certainly feel special), but some of my friendships have lasted almost my entire life.  Anna and I don't talk as often as we used to, and we don't write long, loony letters to each other any more, but we ran together recently when I went back to her hometown for a race, and she's very dear to me.  I first laid eyes on her when I was 2 days old and she, 2 months.  During a Baby-Sitter Certification course held at our local library almost 25 years ago, I met Danielle and Lauren, and soon after, Stacey.  A few weeks ago, the 4 of us met for lunch.  They're the kind of friends that you would call for a status update if there was no facebook, and the kind that you never need to tag in those stupid "a true friend is someone who blah blah blah" facebook posts, because you all know that you're true friends already.
It's really saying something that the company was more of a treat than the cheesecake dipped in chocolate/crunchy peanut butter fondue.
Most (all, maybe?) of my other close friends, I met at work.  I love the fact that even though our jobs and lives have changed so much, we still have no shortage of things to talk about, and take every chance we have to get together.
Not the last time we got together, but probably the prettiest.
If someone had told me several years ago that the fellow servers, standing next to me cutting croissants at Hops (for what felt like eternity) would one day stand next to me at my wedding, I would have believed them, been happy about it, and tried to find out who the lucky groom was going to be.  But I would have been surprised, nonetheless.

Maybe it's because I've been blessed to be close to such wonderful people my whole life.  Maybe I'm just socially inept.  Maybe everyone else is the same way.  Whatever the reason, I find making new friends to be very awkward, in most situations.  If you're having an enjoyable conversation with someone, at what point do you stop talking and introduce yourself?  My name is fairly unusual, and is mispronounced almost every single time someone says it for the first time.  Once you introduce yourself, and correct the pronunciation of your name, do you then shake hands?  Go back to talking?  Ask for last names, correct spellings, phone numbers, and email addresses?  I met Kelly (Kelley?  Kelli?) at the Y when our sons were playing T-ball.  Our sons also attend the same school, in different Kindergarten classes, so we see each other most days when we drop off and pick up our boys.  She and I seem to have a lot in common; we talk often, and I think it's safe to say that we like each other.  But I don't even know her last name, and she probably doesn't remember my first name.  I haven't been able to work up the courage to ask her out, even though I think she would be fun at dinner or a movie.

It's easy to have conversations with people in the running group I joined last Spring.  For one thing, we all know that we have running, if nothing else, in common.  For another, it's usually hard to tell who it is that smells the worst after several miles, so nobody has to feel bad about being sweaty and stinky.  Also convenient is the fact that people's names and pictures are on the group's meetup site, so it's a lot harder to forget who you met.  The only awkward moments are those when we see each other showered and clean and dressed like regular people.  I think we've all gotten used to a pattern of double introductions- once in running shorts, and once again in jeans.

Literally, the only picture of myself in jeans that I could find.
Last week, my sister/running group officer informed me that an old "friend" of ours from high school had just joined the group, and had already paid her dues and met for a run.  My first thought was, "Well, I guess I'm done with the running group, then", followed by many creative imaginings of ways to avoid this person at every run and every race.
I'll just never make eye contact with her.  I'll tell her I don't remember her at all, and act really surprised when she knows my name.  I'll change my name! 
I tried explaining to Husband how disgusted and upset I was that she had joined the group, and couldn't find the right words.  "Well, see, I just don't like her because... You know, we used to be good friends, but then... I mean, yeah, I think everyone should be a runner, but not her."  

A few days later, I finally remembered why I instantly felt nauseated when I thought of her, and couldn't believe that I had ever forgotten.  During the first few years of high school, she and I, along with each of our older sisters, were almost inseparable.  Sleepovers, parties, shopping trips, hanging out and talking about boys- all of it, we did together.  Then, late in my junior year, she suddenly started avoiding me.  We had always sat together in Marine Biology, but then she moved her seat away from mine.  After a couple of weeks of this confusing behavior, I confronted her one day after school.  I asked if I had made her mad or done something to upset her, although I couldn't imagine what it would have been.  Her response, (with no attempt to break the news gently) "See, the thing is, I just don't like you anymore."  

I won't add a link to the Cee Lo song that starts running through my head when I think of her words that day, because my mom might read this and be very offended by the language.  But you all know what I'm talking about, right?
So, here we are, all grown up.  As surprised as I was that I hadn't remembered her hurtful words right away, I realized that I was also proud that I had forgotten the incident.  I've forgiven her, even though she never apologized.  I may not jump at the chance to interact with her in my daily life, and I don't think you'll ever find me slowing my pace to stay with her during a group run, but I also don't harbor any anger toward her.  I have so much happiness and joy in my life, holding a grudge could only cloud my inner sunshine.  I treasure the friends that I have, and I value their opinions so much, that I feel I can't also care whether or not high school douche likes me or not.  And you know, I think I might just ask Kelly out some time.  What's the worst she could say?

I'm sure you've heard before to forgive and forget, but I'm going to advise you a little differently.  Forget, and then forgive.  Because if you can forget something that wounded you, it means that you've already let go of the anger and resentment that would get in the way of your happiness.  Plus, forgetting is usually the hard part, and it's always better to get that out of the way as soon as possible.  

Would you rather go back to high school for a day, or run a marathon?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Muscles, Mantras, & Miles

Yes, this one is about running.

I'm a girl.  I cry every time I watch "Steel Magnolias."  I can't just throw the Victoria's Secret catalog in the recycling bin without looking through it, even if I'm not buying.  I like wearing terribly uncomfortable high heeled shoes.
Pay no attention to the dust.  I totally wear them.
I can recite "The Princess Bride."  I use body wash, not soap, and I put it on floofy, pretty-colored sponges, not washcloths.  More than once, I have said the words, "I don't know why I'm crying, but..."  And, (not to set my gender back or whatever) I'm not so good at parking my car, especially if it involves backing into a space.  I get choked up if the conversation turns to the last season of "Friends", and cried when Grayson proposed on "Cougar Town" because it reminded me of when Monica and Chandler got engaged.  I enjoy looking at wedding photos, even if I don't know the people in them.  Weird as it may sound, I did not cry during labor or when either of my children were first born.  Maybe exhaustion made it too difficult to summon tears?  Maybe my heart is 2 sizes too small, like that of the Grinch?  Although those theories are plausible(ish), I'm pretty sure I know why I didn't cry.  For one thing, I had the two easiest labor/delivery experiences I've ever heard of.  It's rather sickening, really, how easy childbirth was for me.  The other reason I think I didn't cry is that I already felt so close to my babies.  My mom and sister were in the delivery room when both my children were born, and they both teared up at first meeting.  I remember very clearly the feeling of "Oh, I know you!" as soon as my infant was placed in my arms for the first time.  It didn't seem like I was meeting my babe for the first time, either time, it felt completely natural and normal to finally be holding them.

Several hours after Baby was born, though, the tears started, when my brother-in-law visited us in the hospital and brought a gift from my sister.  Inside the prettily wrapped box was this shirt,
a printout of a registration form in my name for the Women's Half Marathon being held 8 months hence, and a card which I could barely read through my tears.  I'm pretty sure the words "you can do this" were on there somewhere, but the sobbing made my brain kinda mushy and it's hard to remember.  Spoiler alert!  She was right.

Race #6- Women's Half Marathon, November 18, 2012

My sister is smart, especially when it comes to running and racing.  As a birthday gift for her sister-in-law, Kristi-Anne, she registered her for the same race, and convinced another friend of ours, Kim, to make it her first half, too.  While it would be Jenn's fifth(?) half-marathon, me and the Ks could all train together for our first.  Jenn hosted a training plan party for us a couple of weeks after I was cleared to run, post-baby.  We used the Smart Coach system from the Runner's World site, and went home with 4 pages of training to-do calendars.
**Alert!** Alert!  **Alert!**
**You're likely not to care about the next part unless you're planning to train for a long distance race.**

The plan was basically 3 weeks on, 1 week off, with each on week including an easy run early in the week, some progressively harder speedwork in the middle of the week, and a long, slow run on the weekend.  All three of us were running about 10-15 miles/week at that point, and the plan took that into account, along with our individual paces and goals.  During the off week, we still put in some miles, but they were all easier runs.  After a few months, we reevaluated and decided to take 3 weeks off of training.  We had started our plans quite a bit sooner than was necessary, and would be ready (according to the Smart Coach, anyway) to run 13 miles 3 weeks before our race.  So, for a while, we just ran when we wanted to, as fast or as slow as we wanted to, and then started training training again 9 weeks before the race.  (It may have been 12 weeks.  If it matters a whole lot to you, I'll look it up on my calendar and tell you for sure.)  

It was great, training together.  Running with friends is nice any way you look at it, but running with friends toward a mutual goal is hard to beat.  By the end of our training, the Ks had raced a 5k and a 10k slightly faster than I, but we were all pretty even during our distance runs.  After a lot (and I mean a LOT) of discussion, we decided to stick together, and to run with the 2 hour pace group.  

The race was held in St. Petersburg, where I was born and raised.  My best childhood friend and her sister-in-law, who live in that area, also decided to run it as their first half.  (No, it is not necessary to keep track of sisters and sisters-in-law for this story.)  All of us out-of-towners arrived the day before the race, picked up our best-yet goody bags, spent some time at the fabulous Expo picking up freebies and quietly complaining to each other about the shocking prices on much of the gear, and then all had dinner together at a great Italian restaurant.  After dinner, the husbands and my oldest nephew went out for dessert.  Both Baby and 5 y.o. went to sleep without much trouble while Husband was out with the men.  Then, at about 9:45, Baby woke up.
Not so much this...

...lots of this.
Turns out, Baby doesn't particularly like sleeping in places other than her own bed.  Every time I would sway/rock/bounce/jiggle her to sleep, she would wake up within seconds of being placed in the port-a-crib.  Every time I would sit down or lay in bed while holding her, she would wake up screaming.  5 y.o. is a sound sleeper, but even he woke up around 12:30 a.m.  Finally, she stayed asleep when I laid her down at about 1:30.  I reset my alarm to give myself more sleep, for 4:25 instead of 4:20.   My back was killing me from having walked her around the hotel room for hours, and I wanted to cry from exhaustion and frustration.  I kept repeating the mantra, "It's just a race" over and over in my head, and also kept reminding myself that I had been sleep deprived for the majority of the preceding months, and that my sister-coach had insisted that the sleep the night before the night before the race was more important than that the night before the race.

I hopped on the shuttle from the hotel lobby (with the 2nd place finisher overall, I might add!) and met up with all the friends and sisters and in-laws I knew at the bag drop area.  It was cold- the coldest day since February.  We took our turns in the port-o-potties, and lined up in our corrals.  The Ks and I were together, but the other 3 were significantly faster, and thus in different starting spots.  During the singing of the National Anthem, Kim and I looked at each other, and one of us said, "Seriously?  What are we doing here?  This is crazy!"  It was crazy.  A half-marathon?  Me?  The same girl who, the only time ever cheating in school, cut short her mile run?  The same girl who was still nursing her baby?  The same girl who had HATED running for over 30 years?  Thirteen point one miles.  No *&$#ing way!  But then, someone loud and important said, "GO!" and the only thought in my head was "just run".  

For the first 5 miles, I was able to stay pretty close to the 2 hour pace runner.  For those that don't know, many races use pacers who somehow, magically, run at the exact goal pace of a lot of people, while holding high a big stick with the finishing time printed on it.  After mile 5, and the first of many cobblestone roads, I kinda slowed down for no reason.  I could still see the Ks, who could still see the pacer, but I wasn't even really thinking about how slow fast I was running.  It's a curse, being able to let my mind wander like that during competition.  I saw my family, and got a burst of speed, I saw Kim dance as she rounded the corner where there was a live band, and couldn't help but smile.  Then, we came to the Pier of Doom.  It was so windy, my earbud kept flying out of my ear.  I felt like I was running in place, and would never be done.  I tried to remember the time, as an 8 or 9 year-old, that I had gone to that same pier with Monique and her family and gotten to play the arcade games, but it was not working one bit.  I couldn't stop thinking about the cold and the wind and the fact that I was going so slow.

I kept the Ks in sight for a while longer, but tried to send them mind messages to go on without me.  I didn't want to hold them back, and I couldn't seem to make myself run any faster.  As I approached a lake, I saw my dear childhood friend coming toward me, having already rounded the lake.  I yelled her name, she waved and smiled, and I almost doubled over in pain.  Turns out, yelling her name had made me pull an abdominal muscle.  It felt like a cramp, but would not go away.  I stretched.  I walked.  I rubbed.  I pressed.  I groaned.  I ran.  Then, started the whole cycle over again.  The Ks were waiting for me at the next water stop, just past mile 9.  I told them about my pain, and they gave me some tips.  By mile 10, I had convinced them that they really should go on without me, as I was not going to be able to keep up and didn't want to ruin their races.  

Around mile 10.5, I saw the first place people going past in the other direction, nearing the finish line.  Then, I suddenly slowed to a walk.  I had to actually say the word, "NO!" in order to get myself moving again.  The pain in my abdominal muscles had subsided a bit, and walking wasn't helping it anyway, so there was no reason not to run.  Shortly after, my right knee started hurting.  Bad.  Around that same time, I saw someone holding a sign that read, "Remember Your Why".  Of course, it was supposed to be motivational, but I wanted to stop and think, because no matter how I tried, I couldn't come up with a good reason to be running that many miles.  Baby?  No.  She doesn't care what I do.  5 y.o.?  No.  He already thinks I'm awesome.  Husband?  No.  He loves me no matter what.  Because I love running?  No.  I can run without running a halffreakingmarathon!  Trying to think of a "why" distracted me until my sis, who had finished, like, 6 hours before, ran up to me.  I asked her how her race was, she said I shouldn't be able to talk so well, I told her it was my dumbknee, not my effort that was slowing me down, she said I was almost there, that I could see the finish line, I called her a liar...  Eventually, I could see the finish line.  It sort-of registered that there were a lot of people lining the sidewalks and cheering, and I was sort-of proud for running the whole last mile when I was in so much pain.  Mostly, though, I just wanted to be done.  Kristi-Anne was the first person I recognized once I had crossed, and my first words to her were, "Where's my medal?"
  I got my medal.  I survived.  And it was really, really, really hard.  Anyone who tells you that running a half-marathon is easy is someone who has run marathons or ultra-marathons.  It was way harder than I expected, but also one of the things I am most proud to have accomplished.  And I don't just say that because it's what people say.  I raced 13.1 miles.  I trained for months.  I got 3 hours of sleep the night before.  I pulled a muscle and hurt my knee.  I was the last of my friends to finish.  But, you know, it was just a race. :)

Result: 2:11:38

My advice?  Do what you can, even if you think you can't.  Even if you sound like a crazy, yelling "No!" in the middle of the street, even if you're tired and achy and cold and behind.  You might just surprise yourself, with what you can do.  

Prediction for my 2nd Half-Marathon finishing time?