Monday, November 07, 2016

Halloween 2016

We started Halloween weekend with a trip to Cape Cod. After my dissatisfying time at the Akron Marathon, I signed up for the Cape Cod Half Marathon for redemption. I put in a few solid weeks of training post-marathon, didn't bother with much of a taper (since it didn't seem to do me any favors for Akron), and went out and hammered the half in 1:22:39. I planned to run between 6:15-6:20 pace and did exactly that with 6:18s. It was good enough for third place, so I get $300 (if it ever comes in the mail!). After the race, Bruce and Phoebe wanted to go biking on a nearby trail so I put in a few more miles to cool down.
 Driving back from the Cape, we stopped at a cranberry bog. We have lived in Massachusetts for more than a decade and somehow still hadn't been to a bog. So we changed that: we stopped at this awesome little family-owned bog and took a brief tour, learned about the cranberry vines and how they grow, then checked out the cool equipment they sort it on. The kids got to try it out (above, sorting berries on a conveyor belt). We took some cranberries home and put them in an apple pie. Those little berries are tart, but they sure go well with sweet stuff. Yum.
After our cranberry bog experience, we went home and went to the church Halloween party. Phoebe was a skeleton, Oliver was Mr. Incredible, and Bruce was an obscure Jedi from Star Wars. Nobody had strong opinions about what they wanted to be for Halloween, so they raided the dress-up box and this is what they came up with.
 Phoebe found some vampire teeth at the trunk-or-treat to complete the look.
 On the real Halloween (Monday), we packed in a bunch of activities after school. We visited the fire station to get glow sticks and candy.
Then we went to Phoebe's school Halloween party at the park. The weather was fantastic so we stayed for a long time and played games, got more candy, and painted pumpkins.
After the school party, we came home and grabbed some dinner before heading out for trick-or-treating. We went to a nearby neighborhood and stopped by a senior center where a few elderly residents lined up their wheelchairs in the lobby and handed out candy in a sort-of buffet line. The place was decked out with decorations and the kids agreed it was their favorite stop of the night. By the end of the night, the kids got their weight in candy. Bruce ate a bit, then gave me the rest to donate to a food pantry. Phoebe ate a bunch of hers and is still eating it bit by bit. Oliver ate all the KitKats out of his pile and now just likes to count it and sort it, but not eat it.

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Middle school isn't so bad after all

 I was initially worried about Bruce entering middle school this year, but he is thriving. He recently had some art put on display at the Children's Museum, so we went to the opening reception to get a look at it for ourselves. His is the flamingo print.
 It was perhaps the funnest art reception ever because we got to play in all the exhibits too.
We had a blast playing there on a Friday night. Thankfully I packed this kid's pajamas; he fell asleep on the bus ride home!
Bruce joined the cross country team. I didn't want to force him into it, but was more than happy when the gym teacher encouraged him to join the team. It wasn't really legit cross country: they ran 1-1.3 miles twice a week on a small flat grassy field behind the school. They had one meet at the end of their short season where they competed against the other three middle schools in the district. Bruce's school team was the largest and they won handily. Bruce ran the just-over-a-mile race in a bit over 10 minutes and finished in the back of the pack, but was happy that he improved his time throughout the season.
While other parents chatted and walked their dogs, we were the most experienced cheer section out there for sure. We had our cowbells, drum, a sign, and lots of high-fives to give.

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Queen P turns seven

Phoebe started out her birthday by getting her front tooth pulled. It has been wiggling for weeks and Phoebe said it was going to fall out on her birthday. I think when one of her teeth fell out last Christmas Day, she thought it was pretty awesome. So the tooth came out - with a little help from Scott.
 Gross. Phoebe was so proud of her bloody nasty mouth. I don't think I looked when I took this picture. Ewww.
Phoebe had her birthday all planned out (for a long time). We started out with cheap-o Lucky Charms for breakfast. And milk sipped through a straw that fit nicely into her newly gapped teeth.
We had crepes for lunch. Phoebe's had about a gallon of Nutella on it and a bunch of powdered sugar and coconut flakes and raspberries. So sugar for breakfast and sugar for lunch. Thankfully, Phoebe requested mexicali chopped salad for a healthier dinner. After a good serving of veggies and fruit, it was back to sugar though...
Ginger chocolate cake and an ice cream cake that Grandma Raymond sent! Yummmm. Phoebe got a few presents, but the biggest gift was two pet hermit crabs. She named them Digger and Maxi. They were so traumatized from the ride home from the pet store (or something?) that they dug holes and stayed in them for a few days, so she didn't actually see them on her birthday. Several days later they made an appearance before digging themselves underground again. She put a picture of herself next to their cage and talks to them in hopes they'll warm up to her someday.
I had a parent-teacher conference with her first-grade teacher last week. The teacher said Phoebe is strong academically, but is so overly enthusiastic that it can be a disruption. Yep, no surprises there. She also said Phoebe is particularly good at helping out some of the tougher kids in class. Her kindergarten teacher made this same comment last year: Phoebe is inclusive and knows how to talk to kids with behavioral problems. Proud mom moment there. Maybe she will turn out ok after all.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

More photos because Maine is beautiful

 Here is the cottage we stayed at in Maine. It was a super-old house, built before plumbing was a thing. Two bathrooms were added in more recent years, but you have to sit on the toilet sideways to fit in the bathroom. Awesome. It was great though: it's nice to have a backyard for even just a few days.
We did lots of hiking. The kids did great and we had our best family hiking experience since Oliver was born.
He always had a stick in his hand, often using it as a lightsaber or pointing it like a gun and telling people to put their hands up. It's a little disturbing coming from a three-year-old.

 He does cute things too though: he picked up these leaves and wanted to carry them back for his preschool teachers.
 This is the lake behind the cottage. It was small and shallow, so perfect for the kids.
 Look - there is photographic evidence that I exist!
 Scott took Phoebe out...

...and Oliver too. He seems to have forgotten that last kayaking incident. He was pretty happy.
 We brought the kids' bikes. They love getting a little more freedom than they get on city streets.
 We hiked a place called Step Falls.
 We enjoyed the view from the top, slid down some slick rocks, and headed down.
 On the way down, Oliver tripped and fell. He was running downhill with a stick in his hand and didn't let go of the stick to brace his fall, so face-planted in the dirt and rocks and roots.
We made a few more stops for side-of-the-road waterfalls and such.
Phoebe was pretty stoked that she photo-bombed the boys.

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Fall in New England

 I have some catching up to do.... School started just after Labor Day. Bruce started middle school, Phoebe started first grade, and Oliver started preschool! They are at three different schools with three different schedules, so I spend most of my day picking up and dropping off kids. Bruce said the first week of middle school was boring ("it's all introductions.") and was happy to dig into learning the following week. He is running cross country, playing piano and drums in the jazz band, and working on activities with the Boy Scouts. 
Phoebe thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of summertime, but was happy to get back to school where she sees her friends every day. She says she isn't going to be a firefighter anymore; when you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, there is a different answer almost every day. Some of the recent responses: astronaut, scientist, veterinarian, taekwondo instructor, and preschool teacher. She is taking guitar lessons and learning to play Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." She joined a soccer league (more on that later) and is still passionate about taekwondo. She has a double black stripe belt and is immensely proud of it. I love taekwondo too: it is the one time during the week that I see her focused and serious. It lasts 45 minutes and it is wonderful. I keep waiting for all those skills of patience and respect and whatnot to translate into other areas, but so far not so much. But those 45 minutes! Ahhhhh.
Oliver started half-day preschool! It is a city-run preschool that is free and part of the public schools, so when I enrolled him forever ago I thought we would just try it and see how it goes. It was free, so there was nothing to lose. For the two weeks, he moaned about how he didn't want to go to school while we walked there. When we arrived, he would run in and say goodbye and be just fine. After those first two weeks, he was happy about preschool all the time. He loves his teachers and talks about them constantly. It is a small class with only five kids and two teachers, so it has been a good transition for him. Now that all my kids are in school for at least part of the day, I thought I'd have so much time on my hands. But I've been running most of my mileage while they're at school rather than waking up super early (more sleep = happy mom!), I started volunteering at my neighborhood food pantry, I'm getting back into a more regular routine of writing, and I'm working on a few side projects (a blood drive next week!). Today was classic: I dropped off Oliver, walked to the food pantry and worked for a few hours, walked home and grabbed a sandwich for Oliver and a sandwich for me, ate my sandwich while walking to pick him up, pushed him in the stroller while he ate his sandwich to the pet store, picked up hermit crabs for Phoebe's birthday this weekend, and walked home. I do a lot of walking. I don't have a FitBit, but the mileage on my iPhone's health app usually logs a couple non-running miles. Today it was 4.4 miles walking, 7 miles running.
Scott has been working a lot, so when we get a free weekend we take advantage of it. One weekend we went apple picking (the photo of Oliver above) at a farm near the beach. We picked apples (and Oliver sampled most of them), got cider donuts, and went for a hayride. Then we drove down the street to Crane Beach and played in the sand. The ocean is cold, of course, but that didn't stop the kids from getting in.

They dug a million holes, buried each other in sand, built castles with moats and dams, and had a blast.
This has been our other recent weekend activity: soccer. Phoebe has been begging to join the youth soccer league and I've been resisting because I feel like we do a lot already. But she kept begging, so I caved and now our Saturday mornings are spent at soccer practice and scrimmages. Phoebe is on the red team, which she was pumped about because it's her favorite color. As it turns out, she is pretty good (I guess being aggressive is a positive thing here). At her first practice, she scored three goals. Each time she scored, she threw her hands up and screamed and did a victory dance. Her team has a tradition of having a "pig pile" at the end of practice; I believe Phoebe started this.
Last weekend was a three-day weekend (Columbus Day or Indigenous People's Day or whatever you want to call it) and Scott had the whole thing off, so once again we took full advantage. We drove to Maine and rented a little cottage on a lake. We kayaked, biked, and hiked in Maine and nearby New Hampshire. The photo above is Bruce biking with me on my run, which he's done a few times. He has biked 10 miles with me and been just fine; he keeps up and usually chatters the entire time, sometimes about the molecular structure of Fritos and sometimes about theoretical war between squirrels and people. He's a great running partner.
The fall foliage was out in full force in Maine.
The kids had a day off school for Yom Kippur, so we drove down to Hartford to see the new temple during its open house. The kids were wild before and after (pictured above), but by some miracle were amazingly reverent and quiet in the temple. Even Oliver held my hand and walked calmly next to me and listened to the tour guide. Afterward, I asked the kids if they felt the spirit. They said they did. I asked where they felt it the most. "The room with the big chandelier that was really quiet," said Phoebe. That would be the celestial room (photos of it and other rooms in the temple here).
And despite all the craziness afterward, here is what Phoebe wrote in water by the fountain: "I (heart) God's House."
 There was a visitor's center after the tour that had this statue of Christ in there. I told the kids to smile so I could take a picture, but they wouldn't listen (except for Bruce, of course).
 But when Oliver gave Jesus a big hug, I thought that was probably a better picture anyway.
 And then Phoebe joined in the hug. Sometimes these kids make my heart explode.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Akron Marathon 2016

 After the Boston Marathon, I started shopping for a fall marathon. I wanted to either run Hartford (good course where I PRed like a decade ago, a 2-hour drive away) or Akron (hometown warm fuzzies, lots of family running, hilly course). I applied to be an elite in the Akron Marathon and when I was accepted, that made the decision for me. I got a free entry and access to lots of nice perks (course previews, indoor bathrooms before the start, locker room afterward, pre-race dinner, personalized fluid stations!), so started training in earnest. I really really really wanted to break three hours. It has been a few years since I've done it, and it's time to do it again. I worked really hard and my workouts indicated that a three-hour marathon was possible, so I went for it. I knew the hills would slow me down a bit, but I still thought I was in the hunt for the sub-3 marathon.

The start was fun. I was next to my big brother, Dave, who was also an elite. We didn't stick together long - off he went. There were lots of women to run with, but I couldn't tell who was running what: there was a marathon, a half-marathon, and a relay all happening at the same time.

The first few miles are flat or downhill, so I clicked off a few quick miles that were faster than the average I was shooting for but it was downhill. Then came uphill after uphill. The hills seemed long - the kind you can look up and see for awhile. When there were downhills on the other side, they seemed steep - not like a nice recovery from the last hill but more like stabbing and braking in the quads. Maybe running the race in reverse would have been better.

I came through the half according to plan in 1:28. However, I planned on still feeling fresh and that just didn't happen. My legs felt heavy and I knew the back half of the course was hillier and harder and running a negative split on it wasn't likely even on a good day. Right around mile 13-14 is a huge mile-plus-long hill that really sapped me. I ran a few crappy miles trying to recover from that, all the while still going over more rolling hills. Around mile 22, a pacer with a sign saying "3:05" ran past. I knew I was way off-pace. I tried hanging with him, but couldn't even manage that. My left calf was screaming and my right quad was tight; I felt off-kilter and the weather was getting a touch warm.

Still, I had told myself before the race I was going to be positive. I even wrote, "I can" and "I will" on my hands to get me through the rough patches (and I sure needed them!). And so I did. I plugged away at the last few miles and made the last few turns into the finishing stadium. I finished in 3:08:45.
I may have made this face a lot over the last few miles. This is what I call "ugly face running."
When I finished, a race official put a lanyard around my neck and told me I was fifth place. I was stoked because I still had no idea where I was place-wise, and the top five finishers got prize money. A few minutes later, however, the official came back and said he had made a mistake and I was actually sixth place! So much for the money.

I finished in my usual state: hypothermic and zombie-like. I sat down for a few minutes to catch my breath, drank lots and lots of water, and then hobbled to the locker room where there were showers and food. After a hot shower, I felt much better.

I also got to meet Meb Keflezighi, one of my heroes (pictured at the top of this post along with Dave). He's an Olympian in the marathon, still nailing amazing times at age 41, has a couple of kids that he admits to loving more than running, and seems to be a well-rounded human being. I'd briefly met him the night before at the elite pasta party, but only to get an autograph and picture with him. He was in the locker room and few people were in there, so I got to tell him that he is my hero. I also babbled about how awesome he is because he finishes races that most elites wouldn't finish and I totally admire that about him. It probably didn't sound too great that I was pointing out his epic failures, so I added, "That's a compliment" at the end of my ramble.

Dave and I wandered out of the stadium and met up with our family fan posse for more cheering and snacking. My brother, Dan, and sister, Janis, ran the full marathon as well. My sister, Marissa, and her husband, Tevita, ran the half marathon. We celebrated with ice cream, then headed home for a more legit dinner and hangout with family and friends.

All in all, I'm glad I went and I do want to run Akron again - but next time I'll add long uphills and steep downhills to my training and I'll take it easier at the start. I'm not sure when the next time will be: I turn 35 in two months and am feeling like I only have a few more shots at PRing in the marathon before I need to accept the fact that I'm aging and be happy with that. Translation: my next few marathons will be on flat and fast courses!

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Running, running and more running

I spent the summer training for the Akron Marathon and got very creative in doing so. Most of the time I ran early in the morning before Scott left for work. But when he started leaving at 6 a.m. instead of 6:45, I got creative. There were some really early mornings (I think 3:45 was my earliest wake up call), a few late nights, running on a track while the kids watched a DVD on the bleachers, running with Oliver in the jogging stroller and Bruce and Phoebe on bikes, getting a sitter for a few kid-free miles, running a 3.5-mile loop to stay within a mile of home while carrying my phone because Scott was on call and would have to leave if the pager went off. If it doesn't kill me, it will make me stronger, right?

I raced the New Hampshire 10-miler at the end of August. It was a USATF-New England Grand Prix race so was well-attended. It was hot and there were some big hills. I still had a solid finish, but felt like the hills got the best of me. I finished 15th woman with a time of 1:05:10.

Nine days later on Labor Day, I ran the Cape Ann 25K. This race is notoriously hilly, so I paced myself well and worked on my form on the hills and put in a more even effort on the hills. I felt really good even in the later miles and caught a few people, but finished in 4th place - just out of the prize money - with a 1:40:11. Still, I was happy that I'd run a 6:27 pace over a hilly 25K. I was hoping it was a good sign for the Akron Marathon.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Goodbye Summer

 Upon returning from Colorado, we had about three weeks left of summer vacation. We worked hard on our summer bucket list by picking blueberries (above)...
 ...visiting our favorite parks...
 ...and traveling to the best ice cream spots.
 With friends.

 We attended the Arlington Ward Campout in Sharon, Vermont. Camping is much easier without an infant, so camping solo with three kids is no prob (after this trip, anything is easier). Yes, it helps to be surrounded by all of my favorite people, pack all of my favorite junk food, and have perfect weather.
 Morning selfie!
 We attempted a photo...
 ...and went for a hike using M&Ms for bribery. Insects and snacks mix, right?
 We hiked Patriarch Hill. Oliver only rode on my shoulders half the time (that's an improvement).
 We spent lots of time in the pond. With canoes, kayaks, a floating dock, lots of frogs to catch, and a floating trampoline, there was plenty to keep us happy.
 A few more items on our bucket list: selling lemonade and cookies.
 Sitting in a firetruck.
 Going to Frog Pond on the Boston Common.
 With friends.
 Eating more ice cream.
 Attending a birthday party. This one was pirate-themed.
 Phoebe came out of this covered in tattoos. I washed the tats off her face for church the next day, but her arms/ legs/ neck/ everywhere else were still covered.
 We said goodbye to Domingo the classroom snake and returned him to his home at kindergarten.
 And we went to the Stone Zoo. Whew, summer was wonderful - but exhausting too. I'm ready to hibernate until next summer!