Friday, December 30, 2011

Homemade with Love

This Christmas marked the third year of a new family tradition - making homemade gifts for each other. I'll admit - this was my idea but it was a little hard to sell to everyone initially. To me, Christmas should be about being thankful for each other, not the stuff we give each other.

This tradition has now become our most favorite part of Christmas. Each year the gifts are meaningful, creative, fun, and are truly made with love. Mimi and I tend to decide early on what we are making and are typically done early. Conversely, Tim waits until the ideas come to him, even if they don't come until Christmas Eve. Jack needs some assistance coming up with ideas - they just don't come naturally to him. This year, I stood with him in the craft store trying to figure out what to make for Tim. He had decided on a diorama project where he could build a mountain, put a jeep in it, throw two little goats in there to honor Tim's childhood pets, and then finish it off with a tent. Cute...made up of all the things Tim likes but I wasn't sure what he would do with it. When I suggested that he make something more useful he immediately responded with, "None of my gifts have ever been useful. Why start now?" It really made me chuckle.

We now start each Christmas morning in our bed, with everyone bringing in their homemade gifts for each other. Just to give you an idea of the type of gifts we have made, the first year Tim made Jack a "shooting range" in the basement for his airsoft guns. He used a big cardboard box to make the backstop and then bought targets with little critters on them. He hung those up and built a little shelf for his safety glasses. Jack loved it! Last year, Mimi had Tim take her to a paint your own pottery place and handpainted a beautiful platter with a fish on it for me. She remembered I had seen something similar in a magazine that I loved. It is truly beautiful. One year, Jack made Mimi a frame hotglued with little pigs all over it. He then inserted a picture of the two of them from one of our camping trips over the summer. The first year, I painted Tim's childhood desk Fenway Green and then shellacked the Red Sox logo on it for Jack. I love tradition....I love that Tim had that desk in his room as a child and now Jack has it, but it has been updated into something that reflects his personality and tastes.

This year, the gifts were as amazing as always. For Mimi, Jack painted a sign for Ivy's bunny cage. It is painted green, says "Ivy" in pink and it has pink and green ribbons tied on each side. He made Tim a Camping Koozie - it's orange (because it is one of the Hopkinton Hiller colors) with camping stickers all over it. For me, he took a piece of drftwood that Tim found on the beach this summer and he made a jewelry hangar out of it. He took some sticks from the yard, spray painted them pink & green, and then Tim helped him drill holes for the sticks which I can now hang my jewelry off of. Must to his own surprise, everything he made is very useful!

Mimi remembered that I wanted a Christmas tree in my room so she made me a little tree made out of green sea glass. It was topped off with a little starfish glued to a toothpick. She also made me a bunny ornament out of shells. She used a large scallop shell for the face, mussel shells for the ears, snail shells for the eyes, and a tiny scallop shell for the nose. She called her grandmother at the beginning of December to ask if she could find some mussel shells on her beach. Tim's Mom went out and dug some up, cooked them to open them, cleaned them, and then hand delivered them. It truly was a family effort for that gift! For Tim, she found a jar in the pantry that I haven't been using and hot glued a jeep patch and ribbon on it. She then painted the top with a jeep grill and wrote the word Jeep...it is now his jeep savings jar. Just what he needs...more jeeps and jeep parts. Mimi made Jack a "list book". I have to admit, he got his love of lists from me. We find all kinds of lists he makes all over the house...football teams that he loves, the colleges he might want to go to, things he wants for his birthday. You name it, he makes a list out of it. She took an unused composition notebook we had, covered it in camo paper, and then finished it with stickers of things Jack loves. Now he can keep all his lists in one place...and it will be a great thing to look back on one day when he is older!

Tim made me a Blog Log, which is a notebook, bedazzled with stickers, that I can take with my anywhere to keep track of my blog ideas. Using an old bookcase, he turned it into a "gun case" for Jack's air soft guns and the new paintball gun he got for Christmas. For Mimi, he spray painted an old planter pink and then used stickers to spell out Ivy's name. Now her treats, leash, and blanket can go in one spot on top of her cage. For someone that waits until the last minute when the ideas come to him, he did very good!

A few years ago, the kids came up with this character "Jerry" on one of our long car/camping trips. This is what traveling for 13 hours a day in a car will do to you. The first homemade gift year I made a Jerry "doll" which the kids thought was hysterical. This year I brought Jerry on each camping trip with us and took pictures of him...which they found more embarrasing than hysterical. Little did they know how much he came out when they weren't looking. For Jack this year, I made a Snapfish book of Jerry and his adventures in the summer of 2011. There were pictures of him next to Jack sleeping, at the waterpark, having a beer with Tim, and he even came out at Busch Gardens in Virginia. For Mimi, I knit a scarf to go with her new jacket. As usual, I was down to the wire on my knitting project, finishing just a few days before Christmas. This year one of my projects was to organize my office, which for some reason, became the place to stash everything that didn't have a home. After months of purging and organizing, it is now one of my favorite rooms in the house because it is filled with the things I love. Although I call it "my" office, it is actually half Tim's as well. I put up shelving that displays all his jeep memorabilia. While organizing, I came across a giant folder of all his antique jeep literature. For his homemade gift, I bought an artist portfolio and then organized all his literature, by year and jeep type.

I love that everyone spends time thinking through a personal gift. I love seeing the pride on the kids faces when you open the gift they made for you. I also love seeing the surprise on everyone's face when they open their gift. You truly can never imagine what the gift is going to be, but you know no matter what it is you will love it.

This year I started a log of what we have made each other over the years. I hope we continue this tradition forever, and it will be so fun to look back at what we made each other over the years.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Random Acts of Smiling

A few weeks ago I noticed a cat hanging out under a car near where the train pulls into South Station. At first I felt sad for the cat. What kind of life is that for a cat? Living on the side of the train tracks, hanging out under a car for warmth, and having to scavenge for food. Each morning I found myself looking for the cat and most mornings he was there. Then one day he wasn't there anymore.

This week two new cats appeared. A rough looking grey guy and a black and white fluff ball. Suddenly the black and white cat looked straight at me and it took my breath away. It looked EXACTLY like my cat Gracie that died a few years ago, after 14 long years. I found myself smiling back at the cat and I said hi to Gracie in my head. Each day this week I have seen Gracie and her pal Smokey (yes, I have named them) and I catch myself smiling.

On Monday on the train, I was feveriously working on my finishing my homemade gift for Mimi, a scarf, and was completely absorbed in the pattern. Out of the corner of my eye I could see my seat mate looking over at me. My first reaction was "Oh great...another train freak." I started packing up my scarf and getting ready to get out when the older gentlemen leaned over and said "Working on a Christmas gift?" I laughed and asked "Is it that obvious?" He gave a chuckle and went on to explain that his wife was a knitter. She had retired three years ago and the knitting store where she attends knitting circle asked if she would start teaching classes. He said "It doesn't pay much but she does it because she loves to share her passion with others." The train pulled and we both told each other to have a good day. I found myself smiling the whole time I walked to work.

I try to work from home one day a week, if my schedule allows. And if my meeting schedule works out, I try to zip out and pick up the kids from school. Each and every time I do, I see Mimi's eyes searching for my car. And then her face breaks into this shy little grin when she sees me. Jack always comes out later than her and gives me a little wave. Every single time I pick them up it is the same and I absolutely love it. I just find myself smiling all the way home. How many more years will I have of this? I'll take it for every second I can get it.

Mimi recently performed in her winter concert...it's probably the 6th concert we have been too in the last few years and we never see her. She is petite and ends up getting placed behind taller kids. After every concert she asks "How did I look up there?" and we always tell her she looked great, despite having never seen her. During the last concert the band was getting ready to play and it was quiet. Suddenly you hear a little voice from the audience that says "Whyz it so quiet Mama?" How can you not smile at that? The little teeny voice, all the kids giggling...so cute.

It's a silly little thing...just smiling at the random moments in life but you'll be surprised how much brighter it makes your day. When was the last time you caught yourself smiling at something random? If it's been awhile you should slow down and relish the little moments in life.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and I already have my next blog post planned out. Each year we make a homemade gift for each other and they are always the highlight of my Christmas. I can't wait to tell you what the gifts are this year! That is, assuming they are finished...Jack and Tim are still "working on" theirs...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a Pink and Green Christmas....

This year I had the incredible opportunity to go to the Kentucky Derby (thanks again, Jill!) and it totally made my entire year. Imagine my complete surprise when I had yet another opportunity of a lifetime fall into my lap...twice in one year. Last week I got up at 4 am, flew to Pennsylvania, and was able to attend the...wait, you better sit...I was able to attend the Lilly Pulitzer warehouse sale and reap incredible savings on everything pink and green that I love. It was silly stupid crazy good.

How did I get this opportunity you ask? Let's just say that I have a friend who knows someone who knows someone. Did I know she had this connection when I first met her? Not a clue. Did it make me love her even more when I did find out? In the words of Sarah Palin "You Betcha!" Seriously, what are the chances that I have a friend that has a connection to Lilly Pulitzer??!! Hold on....let me just dab my eyes a minute...

I wish I could have taken pictures of what happened but I couldn't waste a minute doing anything other than grabbing things off of rounders and hoarding them in my bag. Oh, the bag. Let me back up. When we got there, they gave us a shopping bag that literally stretched from my shoulder to the floor. I should have known right then this was going to be dangerous to my wallet. Later I found out it was dangerous to my health when the bag I slung over my shoulder starting cutting off my blood supply.

With bag in hand, the doors opened, and obviously experienced ladies, clad in adorable pink sweaters and tassled loafers, ran like bats out of hell toward the "sample" wall. This is where they have incredible deals on clothes that were on mannequins in the store and windows. Women were whipping through racks in 2 seconds flat...pulling clothes off the racks and shoving them in their bags. I didn't see one thing in my size but got so caught up in the frenzy that I just tossed things in my bag. At one point, I found myself putting size 2T kids shorts in my bag...for myself. What can I say? It was a cute pattern.

I looked across the warehouse and women were running like crazy to the other side of the room. I felt like I must be missing something so I ran too...dragging my bag filled with toddler shorts and tiny mannequin clothes. I ran into a rack with shorts and skirts in my size and it was seriously like Christmas. I thought I would cry. All my favorite prints at an affordable prices?! I had to pinch myself.

Almost an hour passed before I ran into my friend. She was holding up a flat "board" in one of my favorite prints. "Did you see these?" she asked. I had no idea what it was but Mama wanted some. Turns out they were coolers! I just ran away from her in mid sentence to throw one in my bag. I turned to find a woman throwing 3 in her bag and then she turned to me with crazed eyes and said "What are these?!" Oh. My.

I bumped into my friend again and she showed me an incredibly adorable pair of pink and green ruffled flip flops that she found. But before she could tell me where she found them my eyes were wandering. She looked at me and said "You aren't even paying attention..." She followed my eyes and we both sprinted for ruffled pashimas in every color in the Lilly rainbow. I grabbed bubble gum pink...she grabbed ocean blue. Insert sigh. Just thinking about it again makes me feel giddy all over again.

We literaly dragged our bags into the dressing room to start the trying on process. I'm not sure what I expected but you know how when you go to the hospital and you can't stop yourself from looking in the rooms and when you do look, you see things you wish you had never seen...well, the dressing room was like that. About 50 women had dropped trow and were standing in their bras, and in way too many cases, granny pants. You didn't want to look but there was nowhere to rest your eyes without seeing something you wish you hadn't. Listen, I know they were thinking the same thing about me but it was just like when you give birth. You don't want the doctor and nurse to see your lady parts birthing a creature, but when the moment comes, you just don't care. So, I did what everyone else did. I just stripped down and started trying on my goodies. It took 45 minutes to get to the bottom of the bag.

That's when round 2 began. I put my toddler shorts back and began to scour the warehouse again. It was like being at a completely different store! I filled my bag with things I had completely missed the first time around and hit the dressing room for the second time. Three hours later we found ourselves doing our final sort of what we had to have while hearing the warning that it was time to head to the registers before the doors closed. This warning, however, threw us into a final frenzy and we began grabbing things that we just couldn't leave without....scarves, sweaters, pashimas...in the bag they went and through the register they rang.

As we laid out all our treasures and gazed lovingly at all our goodies later that night, we all agreed that there wasn't anything we bought that we didn't love and there was nothing that we regretted buying. This situation had a high probability of that happening so I was very proud of us for really sticking to our guns. I think it was more a matter of sticking to a budget that wouldn't bankrupt us, but let's not get technical.

Kentucky Derby...Lilly Pulitzer warehouse sale....what's next?? I can't wait to see what 2012 brings!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thoughts of Thanks and Giving

It was Thanksgiving Eve and the driveway to our house in upstate New York was ablaze with candles, showing our friends and family the way to our house nestled in the woods. When they stepped inside, the fire was roaring and all kinds of food was at the ready...just waiting for them, no matter what time they arrived.

On Thanksgiving morning, we took a long walk in the woods before coming back to prepare food, play football outside, and then hunker down for a night of food, fun, and laughter. Insert sound of screeching brakes! Hold up! That's not at all how our Thanksgiving went but for some reason that is the fantasy I have in my head of how it should go. And for the record, we don't have a house in upstate New York..or a second house anywhere for that matter.

For some reason, Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday. I want it to be...I love the romantic notion of it. But I feel like we should be going to some magical location to enjoy the holiday. I like traditions...but we haven't settled on one for Thanksgiving so we do something different each year. Don't get me wrong...each year is always fun and I'm not sure why I can't embrace the adventure of Thanksgiving like I embrace our camping adventures.

I think it is mainly because what Tim and I want to do for Thanksgiving and what the kids want are two different things. We like to be home with just us or a small group. We like to talk walks, read, have a fire, not watch or yell at any sports throughout the day...and certainly not throughout dinner. Now that I'm writing this it sounds like we should be subscribing to AARP magazine and be hitting the hay at 4 pm.

The kids, on the other hand, want to get together with friends and family with as much loudness and chaos as possible. They want to run in and out all day, Jack wants football to be on all day...just as all kids should want the day to go. Because we can't reconcile all of our wishes, we do something different each year..trying to find that one magical thing that works for all of us.

One of my favorite years was just two years ago. We decided to just stay home with the four of us. In the morning we took a long walk in the woods. When we got back, Jack and Tim played football in the yard for a bit while Mimi and I cooked up a storm. We were lounging in our "comfy clothes"/pj's but before dinner we made a rule that it didn't matter what you wore on the bottom, but you had to look good on the top. A Thanksgiving outfit mullet, if you will.

Jack had just discovered cologne and came down wearing fleece pj bottoms, a dress shirt, his hair was styled with gel, and he was wearing about a half a bottle of cologne. Mimi came down in her pj bottoms, nice shirt and sweater, her pearls, and had her hair in a "fancy" hairstyle. Tim and I were dressed similarily with pj bottoms and nice outfits on the top. I had my pearls on, of course. It was hysterical.

I had moved the kitchen table into the living room in front of the fire, we shut off all the lights, and ate by candle and firelight. Afterwards we played games, read, and then slipped into triptophane comas early. It was one of our favorite Thanksgiving memories....although I don't think any of us wanted to try and repeat it because it never would have been as fun as that day.

This year we attempted to go camping with our friends but we didn't want to travel more than 10 hours (given that typically means a 12 hour camper ride + holiday travel). We couldn't find a place that was rated well, was warm enough to wear shorts, an that was open. We had a planning session one night and searched for hours. We were all so disappointed.

In the end we decided to get together with them and Tim's brother + family. We all did our own thing in the morning. For us that meant watching the parade, doing some cooking, then going for a long bike ride. We raced home, took showers, and headed to our friend's house. In the end we ended up having post dinner cocktails in the camper...in the driveway...so for a moment we did feel like we were camping. It was a really fun night...filled with lots of laughs and wine, great food, and great friends. Even the kids had fun running around playing with both their friends and their cousins. It was such a relaxing day, yet filled with the things we all wanted to do.

In the end, Thanksgiving is all about taking a conscious moment to be thankful for all that you have..and I don't mean the quantity of things you have, but rather the quality of life you have created for yourselves. And it's about creating those quality moments with the people you care for that become the memories you carry with you. It really doesn't matter where you do that...at your grandmother's, at your faux house in the woods, or at home. It just matters that you take the time to make memories that matter. Thanks to Christian & Lyn for having two Thanksgivings (they had to do it all over again the next day with Lyn's family!) And thank you Peter and Karen for hosting such a fun night!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Update On My Train Friends

I guess Doug was offended that I said he had no ambition in life and he moved away. I literally haven't seen him since my post.

Last week I saw Bjorn for the first time in a few weeks. I caught someone coming up behind me at a high rate of speed....it was him, but he wasn't wearing his usual black. He was in stonewashed jeans. Hey, Sprockets, put the stonewash down and back away slowly. No one is going to get hurt if you just do as I say.

Disheveled Guy is still running late for the train every day. I think the conductor just waits for him now and he has caught on because now he just walks down the stairs as if he hasn't a care in the world.

I also have some new friends now. There's Richie Cunningham...a fresh faced man boy with brown hair instead of red. He started showing up in the middle of the summer....fresh from his college gradudation. He had all new suits, shirts, and shoes. He has a brand new messenger bag/briefcase that doesn't appear to have anything in it because when the train rumbles by it blows in the breeze. His mother drops him off every morning. I think it is sweet...I suspect he does not.

Then there is Itsy Bitsy Spider Couple. Oh. My. God. They are so goofy. They are clearly in that honeymoon stage of love where everything the other one says is adorable and charming. He had brown hair but has an enormous, red bushy beard. She is a round-ish lady with a short cropped bob that is usually soaking wet like she just got out of the shower. She always looks like she got dressed in the dark and never thought to look in the mirror before she left. They walk very close to each other all the way to the station...so much so that they constantly bump into each other. That's all fine and good. I had no issue with them until the Itsy Bitsy Spider came out. Once they are on the platform he whispers sweet nothings in her ear and then the spider crawls up her back, onto her shoulders, and right into her ear. Sometimes the spider grabs her nose. They both giggle. And I cringe. People! Keep the goofy spider bit at home, would you? And it's not once in awhile. It's almost daily. The other day the train was approaching and he took out the spider and pretended to chug along like the train. (Insert me vomiting). Stop it. Stop it. Stop it! Take the spider hands out one more time and I'm going to kill the spider...okay, buddy?!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Strangers Aren't Always Scary

Today I was on an older train that has seats that face each other. They have two-seaters without enough room for people to actually sit across from each other without mashing knees. You are also forced to keep all your stuff on your lap because there is no room on the floor for your stuff...because you are busy playing footsies and kneesies with a stranger. Whoever came up with this design brainchild should be forced to sit with 4 people in these seats for over an hour.

What typically happens is that two people sit opposite each other, one on the left side of their seat with the other on the right side of their seat. Inevitably, a third person comes along and sits next to one of you, causing the single person to sit with their legs wedged in between. It's completely awkward and a much too personal way to spend your morning with strangers when you are barely awake.

Today I was the middle "guy" and it worked out fine. I was opposite two women who were about my relative height...it can get challenging when a larger man tries to be your menage-a-train-seat-pal. We were all absorbed in our books and it worked out fine. When we got to South Station I noticed the girl across from me was reading "The Book Thief", which I loved. I'm not one to start conversations with strangers but I couldn't resist because her nose was literally almost touching the book. She was clearly absorbed in it so I asked "Don't you just love that book?" She said she did and then she rattled off a bunch of books that she loved and asked if I had read them. "Sarah's Key?" Very sad book but loved it. "Hunger Games series?" Read all three. Didn't think I would like sci-fi but I read all three in 2 weeks. "Unbroken?" I told her it was our next book club pick and I would be reading it next. We were totally into sharing books that we loved and she said "My husband says I'm a book nerd." I told her there was nothing better than a good book..other than sharing the good books with other people. She agreed, we told each other to have a great day, and off we went.

Before I chatted with her I was in the Monday Morning Funk and although I love my job, I was not looking forward to working, after having a fun weekend. I found myself smiling when I got off the train and thought to myself "That was a nice way to start the day". Just a silly 3 minute encounter with a stranger that has similar interests was enough to lift my day.

Sometimes I can't help myself when I see a stranger wearing a pair of shoes or article of clothing that I love and I will go up to the person and just say "Love your shoes!" or "Great coat!" My kids are horrified when I do this when we are together but I always tell them "Believe me, it lifts your day when someone says something nice to you." They don't get it yet, but someday they will. I know when someone stops me and says they like something I am wearing, it makes me feel good.

Morale of the story: Take a risk once in awhile and start a conversation with someone. It may make your day, make theirs, or both.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Almond Joys and Shooting Stars

Mimi and I were laying in bed recently, chatting before she went to sleep. We were talking about what we loved about being Girlie Girls. I told her I loved my friends and it's important to me to make time for them. I told her she should always make her friends a priority because girlfriends are what makes your heart happy. Being with girlfriends is a time to be yourself, Little Kelly if you will. Not a Mom, or a Wife, or anything else...just yourself. I explained to Mimi that it is so important to always find time to just be yourself, otherwise it is hard to play all the other roles in life that you have to.

Just two weeks ago, we went to Nantucket with 2 other couples for our annual Dark & Stormy Weekend, to not only be alone as couples but also have Girlie Girl time...and I suppose Boyie Boy time too. We arrived on the island, checked into our Inn, and immediately regressed to 12 years old. One couple hadn't arrived yet so we went into their room and stole the candy the Innkeepers had left for them, Almond Joys (we had stale Hershey kisses in our rooms), and at the last minute, decided not to turn their heat up to 100. We headed off to lunch at Lola Burger, which was yummy. We had always wanted to go and just decided to do it. Why not...we were right there afterall. Only on Nantucket can you find $20 burgers. What makes a burger so incredibly good that it is worth $20? We aren't sure, actually, but at least we can say we tried the burgers there...and they were very good.

We picked up our Jeep (of course) and immediately rode out to the beach. If we had our kids with us, they would have complained the whole time..."It's too windy...why are we at the beach when we can't swim...when are we leaving?" But we didn't have any of that. Instead we searched for beach treasures while overlooking Tuckernuck Island, sipping beers, enjoying just being ourselves. The girls walked together and chatted. The guys stayed behind and probably talked about inappropriate things. And then we had great laughs as friends.

Couple #3 arrived shortly thereafter, we picked them up, and headed out to Cisco Brewery. Last year, at this time when we were there, we had a Weekend at Bernie's experience. There was a guy, who looked just like Bernie, who was dead in a chair. We took pictures of ourselves with him until his wife came up to us and said he was not actually dead, but rather an ER doctor and had been on call for 48 hours and needed a nap. Oh. Sorry. This year, while we played left, right, center and tried some Pumple Drumpkin (can you say that 5 times fast after a few beers?). we met a newlywed couple from Philly and their new friends from Central Mass...otherwise known as Metrowest because they lived in the next town over from us. Jeepers...(Timmy, like the jeep reference?)...you should know what county you live in, people. The next few hours are fuzzy at best. We went back to the Inn, had some apps and too much wine, and got changed for dinner. Was it an hour...or several hours? Does it matter? We laughed a lot and left for dinner ready for fun.

We started out the next day with a nice long walk on the beach. Correction. The boys started out the day with one leg on the jeep bumper, drinking coffee, and talking about boy stuff. The girls went for a nice long walk on the beach, collecting beach treasures, and talking about everything from broken dishwashers to our dreams for the future (enjoying the Island Life on Nantucket). Suddenly it was time for lunch, which was yummy at Centre Street Bistro, and then we went on a Jeep Rescue, led by Timmy of course. Then we were off to the beach again to hunt for treasures and watch the sunset. We took silly pictures of each other, laughed so hard that our old bladders were ready to tinkle, and toasted to many more weekends like this...just being us.

For dinner we went out to celebrate my friend's Cori's birthday at Black Eyed Susan's, which was very good. We drank too much wine, acted well below our ages (Timmy ordered his Caseser salad with a lisp...and I almost spit my wine out on him across the table), and then headed off to dance. What's better than a dance party? A dance party with videos! We busted out some classic moves to songs and videos by the likes of Chaka Khan, Rob Base, and Alicia Keyes. At one point I was found on the dance floor, not dancing, with my mouth hanging open, just watching the videos. I felt like I was in 8th grade again, watching MTV. It was awesome!

On the way home, we someone got on the topic of shooting stars and I confessed I had never seen one. Am I the only one that has never seen one?! So, we immediately went to the beach, led by our friend Scott, to try and find one. We stopped, first, to hit the loo (this will be a key factor later in the story) and then headed right for the beach. Cue up the shooting star. Literally, the second we laid down, we saw one! What are the chances?! We decided to really push our luck and wait for another one but after almost falling asleep on the beach, we decided to go home. Not before taking a turn on the swings tho....to see who could swing higher. Swings just totally transport you back to being a kid again. Take advantage of the swings when you can.

We were all melancholy the next morning....sad to see the weekend come to a close but very happy to have had such fun. I felt recharged though and ready to face the week and all the adult challenges and opportunities that were ahead of me.

When I got home, Mimi asked what we did. I said, "We laughed a lot, danced, watched the sunset on the beach, and played on the swings." She was quiet for a minute and then said "You always have fun with your friends." I hope she realized that no matter what age you are, you can still act like a kid and have fun. You are never too old to let loose and take time for yourself. And if you find yourself saying that you don't have time to spend with your friends, it's obvious that it is exactly what you need to do.

Oh, Those Babies...

Practically everyone in my office was sick last week. Some people had a full blown cold, while others had bad sore throats and the chills. On Day 3 of the epidemic, I woke up with a bad sore throat that persisted for 3 days. I knew it was only a matter of time before someone in my house got sick too. We made it all the way through the weekend, with delusions that everyone had escaped The Sickness. On Monday morning when I went to wake up Jack he was already awake...had been for a few hours, because he had a horrible stomach ache and sore throat.

Usually when my kids are sick, they come in during the middle of the night, stand close to my face and say things like "Mom, I feel like I'm going to throw up." I've never understood why they just don't go into the bathroom and throw up. Why must they announce it to me and then barely make it to the bathroom. This usually leaves me cleaning up vomit at 2 in the morning...which usually makes me vomit. Timmy usually sleeps through the whole thing and is surprised to find out when he wakes up in the morning that anyone has been sick.

Since Jack hadn't come in, and didn't need to throw up, I was completely taken off guard that he was sick. He was as hot as my electric blanket...and yes, I am using it already. I gave him an Advil and tucked him right back into bed. I happened to be working from home so I was a little giddy with the prospect of having a sick child at home. I know...sick thought, right?

I love a sick kid. Not one that is sick with a life threatening disease or some crazy scary sickness, like the time Mimi got some crazy virus in her eye, was rushed to a hospital in Boston, and almost needed brain surgery. No, not that kind of sick. And not the diarrhea, throwing up kind of sick. That just makes me want to be sick. I also don't like the little kid I'm-Sick-So-I'm-Going-To-Cry-All-Day-Sick.

But I do like the kind of sick where your child just wants to curl up with you and snuggle...and have you rub their heads...and have you make them toast with the crust cut off, loaded up with butter. I like to dote on them, heap blankets on them, and kiss them often on their hot little foreheads. I love that I make them feel better just because I am their Mom. No offense or nothin', but Dads just don't make the cut here. Kids want their Moms when they are sick. And Moms want their kids to want them. It's how we all roll.

Tim and I have always talked about having more kids, but we have never been in agreement at the same time. Our deal was we would have to agree we wanted another baby at the same time for at least 6 months. It's never happened. As a result, we are crazy for babies. Seriously goo-goo for babies. Put one in front of us and we talk in high pitched voices and fight over who gets to hold the baby. This usually results in the baby frantically looking for its mother and squirming to get away from us. Lucky for us our families are still cranking out little Goo Goo Babies so we get our fix on a regular basis. I understand why people have Duggar-size families. Ok, wait. I didn't mean that. I understand why people have up to 6 kids or so...not 19. They want that baby fix. And when those babies grow older and independent, the only time they get that little snuggle baby fix is when they are sick...so then they have another... which gives them the fix they need for a few more years.

I could never have had more than 2 kids. The reason we have never agreed on having another at the same time is God's Way. He knows I am a Virgo...he's kinda responsible for that. I need order, I don't like chaos. Multiple kids = chaos. There are only 4 of us in the house and by Wednesday, the disorder of our lives is enough to give me hives when I come through the door after work. Oh, and this week we moved the bunny inside and there is hay all over my floors again. AAAAHHH!!! Another reason I won't ever make it on a farm....

Anyways, I digress. Back to my sick boy. I was a little disappointed when he got up on Wednesday feeling better and went back to school. He's a pretty affectionate kid but he has gone back to not needing me. Just the night before, I rubbed his forehead for half an hour. I can't get near his head now...because it has a headset on it and it's playing some shoot em' up video game.

Secretly I am hoping Mimi goes down like a ton of bricks any day now. Then I'll have someone else to dote on, snuggle with, make toast for, and get my little sick kid fix. They grow up so quick, don't they?
Every day this week I have been eagerly looking forward to my train time because I am reading a book I really like. It's yet another book about a city girl who moved to the country to start a farm, and the realities of that hard life. This one is called "Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep & Enough Wool to Save the Planet" by Catherine Friend. In this book I got an education on the history of sheep herding, an understanding of sheep behavior, and learned the benefits of wool. That was all wrapped up with the common theme of You-Are-Crazy-To-Live-This-Lifestyle-On-A-Farm. Okay, okay, I'm beginning to get the message....living on a farm isn't about petting baby animals and making a yummy homegrown salad for dinner every day.

So, I get on the train and about 4 seats in there is a giant piece of luggage in the aisle. So big in fact, that you have to hoist it out of your way to get past it. The girl sitting in the 3-seater obviously doesn't understand the rules. You need to lug that giant piece o'luggage into the seat next to you. Not only will people be able to get past you, but then you won't have to sit with any crazies. In hindsight, this was probably one of the single biggest life lessons this girl learned today.

I'm totally absorbed in my book but vaguely hear a woman behind me say to Luggage Girl, "Thanks for saving the seat for me!" Naturally, I assume they know each other and go back to reading as the girl's "friend" climbs over the luggage, the girl, and the seat to get inside. It's not long into the ride when I become annoyed that Luggage Girl's friend is incredibly loud, which is distracting me from reading how the young ram on the farm, a teenager if you will, got loose and impregnated half the herd at the wrong time of year, meaning that 12 sheep would have lambs (singles, twins, and triplets) in the dead of winter instead of the spring. Oh the calamaties of farming! (It really was a disaster.)

The train conductor starts coming closer and I heard Luggage Girl's friend say "Hey, how are you?! Can I get a hug?" She stands up and tries to make a move for the conductor over Luggage Girl and the giant suitcase. Huh. Kinda weird. When he ignores her she says "Oh, I get it...you don't want to lose your job...I understand. Okay then!" I assume they hook up from time to time and he doesn't want everyone to know.

I go back to reading until I hear, "I used to take pictures of statues. I love them. Then I showed my friend the pictures of the statues and I'm not positive but I'm pretty sure she told the guy who owns the store down the street because now he has a calendar with statues in it. He stole my idea." Pause. "I don't take pictures of statues anymore. Now I'm going to make baskets. Womens love fragrances. Especially passion fruit. I'm going to put a bunch of passion fruit smelly things in a basket and sell it to people. I will sell them for Christmas."

"I live in Worcester. I love the train station there...and all those stairs. Have you seen the movie Titanic? I think the stairs in the boat were actually the stairs of the Worcester train station. I'm almost positive." Hold. Up. The Worcester train station stairs were the model for the stairs in the Titanic? The model wasn't the actual Titanic?

"I just had a dentist appointment. I have to go every 6 months because my teeth are yellow because I smoke. Then my gums started bleeding like crazy and got very swollen. There was a lot of blood. I went home and gargled with Epsom Salt." And by the way, should you be putting Epsom Salt in your mouth?!

It was at this point I realized that Luggage Girl had not spoken a word. Suddenly there were a few more clues that they weren't actually friends. Like "So, where are you from?" Luggage Girl replies that she is from Germany, with her obvious broken English. The good news is that Luggage Girl probably really doesn't understand most of what Cra-Zee Girl is saying. Until she says "Oh, Germany! I love Germany! It's so beautiful."

Luggage Girl asks "Have you been there before?" to which Cra-Zee Girl says "No". She then quickly rambles on with "German accents are so beautiful. They are very similar to English accents." . Hold. Up. Right. Now. The-Cup-O'Tea Accent is nothing like the Guttenstadt accent. Nothing.

Wait for it. "I am bi-polar. I take medication." There we go. Thankfully that is her problem. Don't get me wrong...I am sorry she is bi-polar. I really am. But I am also really thankful that she is a diagnosed Cra-Zee...rather than just some freak riding the rails. Because, quite frankly, there are enough of those already.

"Today has been a nice day because I have someone to talk to." Correction, you are talking AT someone who doesn't speak English. "I am very friendly but not everyone is as friendly as me. Talking to people helps me pass the time. I love the train." But does the train love you? That's what you should be asking yourself."

"I like pasta a lot. All kinds of pasta. Angel hair. Linguine. Elbows. Thin spaghetti." Okay, WE GET IT! You like pasta. "I like sauce too. I also like tuna fish sandwiches. And I like fruit. I really like to eat. It's what I do. I also like dairy. Cheeses. Milk. Yogurt. All kinds of dairy." Hey, Rainman, enough.

"I'm almost 50." Luggage Girl pipes up with "Wow, really?" You really shouldn't encourage her. "My hips hurt though. I do alot of bending." Leave it. Just leave that one alone.

"My cat is waiting for me at home. Her name is Angel. She rips up all my curtains and furniture though." Ah, shouldn't her name be Devil? But wait, there is more, "She looks German. She is reddish and looks like a fox." No, you didn't. German people look like red foxes? Oh, please stop. No, there's more. "She has very clean teeth." Apparently she doesn't smoke.

Phew...my stop is next! Cra-Zee Girl looks out the window and says "I love these mountains." What mountains do you see in Ashland?? "I just love how the mountains are in nature." Perhaps, you can take your Germany foxxy kitty and live in the mountains....

As I got up to leave I wanted to apologize to Luggage Girl for this experience. She had no idea what she was getting into when she got off the plan, but she handled it quite well. I would have probably gotten up and pretended it was my stop, but gone into another cab. But then again, she did have that big piece of luggage to contend with.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jeep Hoarding

Last year, Tim bought Mimi her first car. A 1960- something preppy yellow Jeepster. Mimi was 11 at the time. Yes, that's right....5 years before she was due to get her license. It was "an incredible deal". Last month, Tim rolled in with Jack's first car...I mean, Jeep...a black 80-something Jeep Renegade with royal blue stripes. Jack is 13 but Tim "couldn't pass it up". I'm no dummy. My husband is a jeep hoarder and I know it. These two new additions have joined "our family" of a 1950 something jeep wagon, a 1957? CJ 7, and a 2009 Jeep 4-door. Oh, I should mention I drive a GMC Arcadia. Let's just take a moment to count....that's 6 cars and only 2 drivers....for the next 3 years.

Is my dream car a Jeep? Nope. I would love a 1970's bug....preferably light blue with white walls and a black top, although honestly I would take any color. What's cuter than that? But, when you fall in love, you often find that suddenly the things your spouse loves inevitably becomes part of your life....like Jeeps. I can spot one in an overgrown backyard going 60 mph down an unknown road. I've gained some skills over the years. While on a weekend visit to Nantucket this summer, home of the coolest old Jeeps, Mimi & Tim walked ahead of Jack and I and I heard her utter the words "Tell me about the history of the Jeep, Daddy...". She ended up with a few treats that weekend....she also has gained some impressive skills over the years.

But, I'm not looking for treats....I'm looking for space in my garage....to park my car. I'm looking to only have the same amount of cars as licensed drivers in my house. Don't get me wrong....it's great to have a hobby and a passion. And in all honesty, if all I have to deal with is Tim being crazy for Jeeps, I have it easy. And I will give Timmy credit for planning ahead for his kids. But for the love of God, Timmy, stop bringing the Jeeps home.

I thought this was the end of the blog but Tim came home tonight weaving the story of the new "treasure" he found that would be perfect "for us". I'm not kidding. I heard him trying to convince Mimi it was the car for her. Uhhhmmm...she already has a car, remember?!

Friday, September 23, 2011

How Happy Are You?

I love to read - I love nothing more than finding that book that I can't put down and want to read at any free moment, including when I am stirring dinner on the stove. I love being transported to another place and living within that realm until I turn the last page.

I particularily like to write down quotes that catch my eye. They could be quotes to lift you up when feeling down, quotes that make me laugh, and quotes that make me stop and think. Don't tell Mimi but I am compiling my favorite quotes into a book that I will give her when she graduates high school and is ready to start her journey discovering her authentic, independent self.

I am the one at bookgroup that selects books focused on finding your true self. I wouldn't call them self-help books because they are stories within themselves rather than a step by step guide to improving yourself. For instance, I pick books like The Alchemist, a story of a boy on a personal quest to find the meaning of life or Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, which is just a compilation of observations by one very funny, keenly observant woman that I totally identified with. After reading Amy's book, I assigned "homework" which was to bring your favorite passage to share with the group. Since then, many people have been writing down their favorite quotes to share with each other and spark conversation. I love that part of bookgroup. I love hearing what had an impact on each person. By listening to what has meaning to your friend, you just gain a little more perspective on them, which is always so fascinating and interesting to me.

A few months ago I was in Target on my weekly shopping trip and happened to wander by the book section where a bright blue and yellow book caught my eye. It only took me half a minute to put it right in my cart. I couldn't wait to get home and start "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. The explanation on the back cover sounded just like my own personal experiement to find Little Kelly, although she actually made it her job for a year. "The days are long, but the years are short." and "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." It was like she was my twin, feeling exactly what I had been feeling when I decided to take my sabbatical.

When I got home I hesitated to start it. What if the back cover was the best part of the book? You know how that happens sometimes...kind of how I felt when I picked up Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl. The author claimed to be a preppy girl who moved to a farm with her family. Turns out she was a girl from Jersey that moved to a farm. Two ENTIRELY different things. It was a total buzz kill. So, I had reader's anxiety when I started reading The Happiness Project but Gretchen did not disappoint. I'm looking at my book now....I have so many pages folded over with great quotes, aha moments, and funny quips that it will fill pages in Mimi's quote book. I picked this book for our bookgroup in November and I just wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes/thoughts with you in hopes of sparking your mind to think about your own happiness.

In the begining, Gretchen says that is is happy, just not as happy as she should be. "I have such a good life. I want to appreciate it more - and live up to it better." I hear ya, sister!

Gretchen does a lot of research on happiness for this book and she comes across a Buddhist quote that I think is so true: "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." I had spent years living this chaotic, busy work life and I felt I couldn't get off the spinning merry go round but when I decided enough was enough and walked away, I opened my eyes to so many important experiences and lessons that literally changed my view on life. I'm sure many of those experiences and lessons presented themselves to me before but I just wasn't ready for them then. I know many people today who respond with "I'm so busy!" when you ask how they are. I just want to hand them this book and tell them to stop being consumed by life and actually start living it.

Our lives are so busy and we are scheduled up to the minute trying to fit it all in. Our lists don't include things like "Do something unfamiliar" or "Get ready for the unexpected" but as Gretchen explains "We seek to control our lives, but the unfamiliar and the unexpected are important sources of happiness." That immediately made me think of the time we went camping in PA (see my blog post Holy Antrastophy)and I had a choice of whether to wash dishes or be present with my kids and catch fireflies. It was so unexpected to find 1,000 fireflies flying everywhere...how could you not take advantage of that moment? When I did, not only did I have fun with my kids but I felt like a little kid again. More importantly, I had an aha moment with myself...that I was routinely passing by opportunities to live in the moment. Now I find myself saying things like "Let's just do it!" or "Let's drive down this road and see what we find!" and I'm never disappointed. I now know that an important part of my happiness depends on being adventerous and exploring the unknown and unfamiliar to see where it takes me. For years I didn't feel I had time for that. It makes me sad to think that now.

Gretchen came up with a list of 12 personal commandments to becoming happier. One of them was "Buy Some Happiness" which was focused on how she spent money. She realized "It's easy to make the mistake of thinking that if you have something that you love or there's something you want, you'll be happier with more." I think many of us fall into this trap. Some people love shopping and clothes and we all have those friends who have clothes still sitting in their closet with the tags on them. Perhaps they got a rush from buying or shopping...it's not really about buying the perfect item, but rather just buying something. Then they end up with no space in their closet and find themselves packing bags for Goodwill each season. I have to say, I do disagree with this point a little...I don't think you can ever have too much pink and green...but I will admit, you need to wear it in moderation. Anyways, I just loved that quote because it truly makes you think about just limiting yourself to those things you love and treasuring those items rather than buying more of them. More doesn't equal happier. Well, unless you are my husband. Then yes, more old crusty jeeps do equal happiness...

One of my favorite quotes in this book is now one of my personal truths to live by: "The things that go wrong often make the best memories." We try so hard to make things go right in our lives and when they go wrong you have two options: You can obsess over what went wrong and be unhappy or you can roll with it, laugh about it, and learn from it. I used to choose the former but now I choose the latter every day. It truly makes you feel less stressed and you find so many silver linings in experiences when you choose to look for them.

Perhaps my favorite quote comes at the end of the book: "When I made the effort to reach out for them, I found that the ruby slippers had been on my feet all along." Gretchen was not unhappy when she started this personal experiment but it took a conscious effort to recognize what made her happy in her life to make her see that being happier every day was right in front of her the whole time. I think finding happiness every day just requires a few key tools: Your eyes - keep them open. Your sense of humor - don't ever lose it. Your glass - keep it half empty, not half full and Your heart - Keep that open too.

Well, I hope you are on your way out the door or getting online right now to buy The Happiness Project. I'd love to hear what you think about it after you read it. I signed up online to get a happiness quote each day from www.happinessproject.com. The other day the quote was "All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking." which, for me, is so true. Whenever I need to figure something out or something is bothering me, I go for a walk and for some reason, the answer I am searching for always shows up. I added this one to my Mimi quote book as well.



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

WWW.Hamsterballsforkids.com

Is it a bad sign that the emergency room doctor at my local hospital recognized Jack and I? And not because we live in the same town or have a mutual friend....it's because I'm the mother of a boy that should live in a bubble. I believe our reintroduction went something like this: "I haven't seen you for a few months....when you were in for stitches right? Let me see how they look....oh, I did good! How have you been?" OMG....really?

The weekend was going well...we were into the second half of Jack's soccer game when he collided with someone and went down on his left arm. Being the experienced parents of Twig Boy, we could tell the minute he fell it wasn't good. Without a word, Tim went across the field and packed up Jack's stuff while Mimi and I packed up the chairs and got the car ready. All without a word. We know the drill. We also have a "system" down now...Tim goes to the hospital when there is an injury with blood that needs stitches. Like the time his front teeth that had just finished coming in, were whacked out with a line drive to the mouth. Boy, can the mouth bleed. Timmy! Or the time he hit his head on the corner of the granite countertop and he needed staples in his head...Timmy! Or even the time he slid across the front lawn making a diving catch and a wood chip split open his knee requiring 10 stitches and a leg brace....Timmy! And yes, I did say a wood chip. Seriously, put this boy in a room with a paper clip for 15 minutes and he'll need stitches.

I handle broken bones. Diving catch on the front lawn...broken arm and 7 weeks in a cast....Kelly! Or how about when I got a call when he was away on a school trip for a week. He made it to the second to last day...I thought we were home free...but no, he fell off a rock and broke two bones in his wrist. Kelly! And now this. His third broken bone in 6 years...apparently, we are on the two year plan.

What I didn't count on was that they would place us in a waiting room right behind the intake desk. Didn't anyone tell the patients that I don't do blood? We are waiting to go in for an xray and this is what I hear:

"Can I help you?"
"I have a little cut"
"A little cut?! Your finger is basically amputated!"

"Come right back here so we can take care of this"
The man's friend says "I have the tip of his finger in this bag"

"Why don't we put this cloth over it so we don't have to look at it?"
"Why is his finger black?"
"Because his finger is dead"
I thought for sure I was going to pass out...while Jack was craning his neck to see the finger in the bag.

I am going to put a pair of ear plugs in my car to take in with me next time....and yes, I am admitting there will be a next time. Unless I am finally able to find a life size hamster ball to keep my boy in.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Meet My Train Friends

I've been taking the train for 9 months now and I've made some friends. I see them every day and can tell if I am early or late, depending on who is on the platform when I get there. They are there rain or shine, except this summer when a lot of them took vacations. The funny thing is I have never spoken to any of my new friends. In fact, they don't know we are "friends". They are just the people that I see every day and have caught my attention for one reason or another. And oddly, I feel comfort when I see them...and I wonder where they are when they aren't there. Let me tell you about Bjorn, Doug, Designer Girl, The Other Lynne, Mini Van Vinny, BMW Hiker, Disheveled Guy, and the Love Bugs.

Did you ever see the skit Sprockets on SNL where Mike Meyers wears all skin tight black clothing and is a hyper loon? Well, Bjorn reminds me of Sprockets...mainly because he wears tight black jeans, a black leather jacket, funky glasses, and all too often he wears a turtle neck...often black, often in the summer. He looks like he is Swedish, hence the name Bjorn. I would be so disappointed if I heard him speak with a thick Boston accent. He always walks super fast...even when he is early. He walks so fast to the same exact spot on the platform every morning and then stops so abruptly it is jarring. Clearly you can see why I would notice him.

I'm not sure why I noticed Doug...he is not particularily memorable. He is probably in his late 20's but is starting to lose his hair. He is pale, wears the same "outfit" every day...jeans and a short sleeve polo shirt...usually navy blue or another bland-ish color, and sneakers. He is devoid of any emotion although once in awhile I see him give a slight smirk to one of this text messages. He seems like the kind of guy that just can't get a break...we all have friends or family members like Doug. All the girls he likes probably like his outgoing, fun friend. He doesn't love his job, he probably does something boring, and doesn't really care much about it. But then again, he doesn't try to get a better job..he just thinks "I won't get it anyways". He is just going through the motions and wondering why he keeps getting the short end of the stick. He seems like a really nice guy though and I just want to tell him that he should start living life, not just let it happen to him.

Designer Girl is a very thin, young, snappy dressing artist. Well, at least I think she is an artist of some kind because she always has a portfolio case with her that seems too heavy for her little body to carry. Her style is "urban fun"...very artistic. I think I am waiting for the portolio to drag her down one day....and I would love to see what is inside.

Lynne and I have been friends for years...we worked together at Fidelity and remained friends as she and her husband left Massachusetts to embark on a new life first in Florida and now in North Carolina. We make it a point to get together at least once a year when she comes back to visit family and we always laugh hysterically over the silliest of memories. I do miss having her here but now I get to see her every day...except now she has red hair. Lynne has beautiful skin, the perfect hair do, and is always very "put together". My Red Head Friend Lynne could be her twin. It's eerie actually. Her hair style is exactly the same, her skin is just as nice, and she obviously spends a lot of time on her outfits. My guess is she works at Wellesley College...probably in some administration role. She carries a bag that says "Touching Art is Bad. Being Touched by Art is Good." She was missing for most of the summer...she must have summers off or something. I started seeing her again for the first time a week ago when school was back in session and I felt better.

I literally park in the same spot every day I go to the train. I back in as all the experienced commuters do. I'm not sure why I park there....I guess because I am a creature of habit and regularity is comfortable to me. Once when I arrived someone was in my spot and I was really offended. Ah, hello...that's my spot. It's a good thing I never found out who it was because I would have given them the stink eye for the rest of their commuter life. I'm not the only one who has their own spot....My friend Vinny also does...just 4 cars over from me. He used to be Volvo Vinny but he just got a new car so now he is Mini Van Vinny. Regardless of what he drives, he just looks like a Vinny.

BMW Hiker also has his spot diagionally across from me. He is always there before me and he is always backed in. He looks like a guy who loves nature. He probably jogs 5 miles every morning, recycles almost everything he touches, and loves to hike. He has a small backpack that looks like something he could sip water out of on one of his hikes. He can probably get lost in the wild for two weeks and will know how to survive on leaves and a thin stream of water he finds by following the sun. He seems like a nice guy...very quiet nature about him. He is like a compass to me...I know he will always be there when I get to the train and he has a very calming demeanor to him.

Dishelved Guy is just the opposite. He wouldn't last 10 minutes in the wild. In fact, he can't last the ride to the train without coming undone. He is a very large guy....about 6'5...and I would use the words "big teddy bear" to describe him. He has a bad back...I can tell this because he walks like he pooped in his pants and he is afraid it's going to fall out if he makes a false move. His shirt is always coming out of his pants in the back, his tie is often just thrown around his neck, not tied yet, and he usually forgets his coffee in the car. He only seems to remember it when he hears the train coming and then he runs precariously to the car and back, trying not to let the package in his pants fall out. Every time he gets out of his car I want to yell "Get your coffee!" He is married and I imagine he has 4rambunctious boys who climb all over him, yet he doesn't even notice them climbing him like a wall. He always arrives at the last possible minute and is sweaty by the time he gets on the train. He is preictable and fun to watch.

And then there is my favorite couple. I don't see them in the morning, but rather at the end of the day. The wife takes the train with me, although I only see her getting off. Her husband, who drives a red bug, picks her up every day. I would guess they are in their 60's. I like to watch her when she first sees him in the parking lot. Her face lights up and she gives him a little wave, and then she looks down like she is a little shy. He beams every time he sees her. It is the cutest thing to watch. Every day. They are clearly in love and it's the little things, a shy smile or a little wave, that makes their day complete. No matter what kind of day I have had, I always find myself smiling. Thanks for that, Love Bugs. It always makes my day too.

I wonder what my nickname is? They don't know I camp but I hope they call me Preppy Girl. Afterall, I have yet to see anyone else with a popped collar or whales on their flip flops at the train platform.








Monday, August 29, 2011

Birthday Guidelines

Last Thursday was my birthday. Well, Thursday was the actual day...but technically it was my birthday week. I like to really embrace my big day by celebrating with everyone I can during the month of August.

There are a few things I think that no one should have to do on their birthday. You shouldn't have to clean up cat throw up...especially within the first hour of being up. Maybe they think it is a nice present, but it really isn't. You shouldn't have to clean the rabbit cage. At all. That is not a gift. You shouldn't have to have a cold sore on your birthday. That's just not right. You shouldn't have to work on your birthday. I think all companies should give their employees the day off and refuse to let them work on their big day. You shouldn't have to get up early on your birthday...unless you want to. I had to get up early because I had to work. That is doubly bad.

You should go out for dinner on your birthday. You should let others wait on you and cook for you because you spend the other 364 days of the year waiting on others. At least "us ladies" usually do. All your family and friends should call you, email you, and text you saying "Happy Birthday!" and "Enjoy your day!" Your father should call you, no matter how old you are, and sing Happy Birthday to you, just like he has for years.

You should get great presents...and I don't mean big presents.You should get things you were hoping for along with some great little surprises like a 2-year Lilly Pulitzer agenda book, a watercolor book, a new Lilly koozie (you should always have a koozie in your purse at parties...why not look great while enjoying a beer?), and some adorable pink jewelry.

You should make time to celebrate your birthday weekend with your friends... especially, camping with friends. You should camp in one of your favorite places, like the Outer Cape. You should wear Lilly on your birthday...or at least wear pink and green. You should pop your collar. You should start your celebrating early so you can laugh as much as possible. You should be able to poke fun at your friends, and especially at yourself, and all have a good laugh at each other's expense. That is the sign of a great friendship...and can be cause to tinkle in your pants because you laugh so hard. You should eat and drink whatever you want on your birthday weekend...like nachos and Pomtini's. You should sing out loud while riding in a jeep. You should stay up late and dance.

You probably shouldn't celebrate for 9 hours straight...Let's just say I can't go back to the Beachcomber this year. Good thing it is the end of the season. You shouldn't have to deal with "a lady" named Irene coming to your birthday weekend. That can result in your celebration ending early and that's not very fun. I am broken up with Irene.

You should continue your birthday weekend with your friends on Sunday morning, after driving home Saturday night to beat Irene. You shouldn't let a little Hurricane dampen your fun. You should fully embrace whatever adventure comes your way during your big birthday week and have fun with it....because your birthday only comes once a year...and you are worth it!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Embracing Braces

Mimi got braces last week and even though she was experiencing physical discomfort, I think I was in more pain emotionally.

When Jack got braces a year ago, I didn't have a problem with it. It was clear his teeth were going to need some intervention and getting braces was the obvious answer. There was a twinge of sadness when I first saw him because he looked different to me but I think the transition went smoother because he immediately accepted them and never complained.

Then along came Sad Sack Sally...she would turn on the water works when braces were even mentioned and say things like "I'm going to look so bad". Of course as a mother, you don't want your child to feel badly about themselves (especially girls)and you want to do anything to ease their sadness so I began to have second thoughts. And honestly, she has a beautiful smile. The overbite she has is endearing now but I kept thinking that someday when she looked like a rabbit in her wedding photo, she would yell at me and say "Why didn't you make me get braces like Jack?!" I couldn't have that weighing on me so reluctantly I made the appointment for her braces.

I had visions of chickening out once we got there. About 5 years ago, Mimi got really sick and the doctor had to give her massive doses of anti-biotics to help fight off her illness. When she called in two nurses to help I knew it wasn't going to be good. When they pulled out two horse size needles and asked me to hold her down with the TWO other nurses, I almost took her and ran. The entire time she screamed "Why are you letting them do this to me?!" If she had said that to me at the dentist, I knew I wouldn't be able to go through with it.

So, I did what every mother in this situation would do...I had Tim take her to the appointment. She and Tim are a great combination...he just takes it stride and placates her. Me? I try to put it in perspective like "You have 90 something more years to live...what 2 years out of all that time? You'll look back and won't even remember this!" Of course, that's not what a kid wants to hear. So, off they went with Tim promising to send me a picture when they were done.

When I got the text, I couldn't look at the picture for about an hour. Finally I did and although it brought tears to my eyes, I was very proud of her color choice for bands...pink and green. That's my preppy girl!

The next day, Tim's cousin Kelly said to Mimi "You look all grown up with your braces." It was in that moment that I realized what my issue really was. It wasn't so much that she would be in pain, or that she was sad about how she would look, or that she thought we were being cruel to her. It was really all about me losing my little girl. .

I guess I expect Jack to grow up. He's my first born...he's blazing the trail for my journey as a parent and all the things we need to go through together. And even though she is just a year and two weeks younger than him, she is still my little girl and watching her grow up is hard because that phase of my life and hers will never be the same. Sure, I knew she was officially a tween and that she was starting on that path to maturity but when your child begins to physically look older, the reality just smacks you in the face.

Soon she won't want to hold my hand anymore, she won't want to snuggle in bed and watch tv with me, and she won't want to do a sleep over when Tim is away...all the little endearing things that you take for granted will feel too babyish to your kids someday. All these things are a normal part of life, I know that. It's just hard when you actually have to face them.

I have two friends whose oldest kids are going off to college in just a few weeks and they are facing a similar experience - albeit a different phase of life...an arguably a lot tougher. Honestly, if I can't handle braces, how will I ever send my kids off to college?! I will be in the fetal position for weeks. Literally.

I know it all works out in the end and each of these experiences makes us as a parent, and our kids, who we all are today. I'm just sayin'...it's not easy.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Holy Hotness!

I'm not sure why it surprised me that when we went South for vacation it was at least 100 degrees...every day. And believe me, I am one that loves the heat. I'm not into ac...I like natural breezes, I like a good hot day, I love the summer. On the flip side, I don't like the feeling of walking into an oven when I open the door at 8am. I don't like feeling like I'm in a perpetual pre-menapausal sweat. I also don't like sweating in places that shouldn't sweat but Virginia did that to me.

At the end of every summer we go out to dinner and I write down the top 3 places that everyone wants to explore the next year. Virginia happened to be on all of our lists for this year. I did my usual research...months of looking at camping review websites, requesting tourism brochures, and getting input from friends, family, and even strangers on the location.

I know I have picked a good campground when Una and Lou have been there. These are my friend Ann's parents. Ann has camped since she was a kid with her family and we first met her parents when they were camped out in her driveway, up for a visit. We got a tour of their RV and picked their brains about everything camping related. We discovered they were a treasure trove of information. Soon thereafter we learned they would be camping at Fort Wilderness in Disney at the same time as us, a few years ago during April vacation. This campground is HUGE and on day 3 when we returned from the park there they were diagionally across from us! That night we shared a glass of wine, swapped tips (okay, we just soaked in all they had to say), and sent pictures of of the four of us to Ann saying "Wish you were here!"

Recently Ann (and Adam's) son graduated high school and we had the opportunity to chat with Una and Lou again as well as tour their incredibly fancy new RV (granite counter tops, island in the kitchen, and double bowl glass sinks in the master bath). We soon discovered we would be camping together again...this time at Beth Page Resort in Urbanna, VA. They pick the nicest campgrounds so I knew we had done alright when I heard they would be going there as well. As a side note, Ann and I tend to only talk in accents...typically our faux English accent. Ann's aunt is from London so she has been able to hone her accent. Imagine my surpirse when I learned that Aunt Marie from London would be visiting and be along for the ride to VA!

Let me go back to our trip for a second...we arrived on Sunday...after a 12 hour ride. Turns out we had come the farthest distance and everyone was taking note we had come "all the way from Massachusetts!" The ride was pretty uneventful (thankfully)...although we always get to a certain point after too many hours on the road when we start looking for some excitement. Like when we saw the crazy motorcycle driver that had a Batman type jacket on and was steering with only one hand and dragging one foot just above the road while he drove at about 70 mph. We find ourselves saying things like "Wouldn't it be cool to see him wipe out and see how that jacket holds up?" Of course we caveat it with things like "But he would be fine in the end..." and "But we don't want him to wipe out close to us so we run him over...that wouldn't be fun." Driving for an entire day, especially when it is 100 degrees out, will do this to you.

The campground had a boardwalk you could fish off of, a pond with a gazebo to jump off of, a trampoline in the middle of the pond, 4 pools, a water park (I'm not kidding - there were 3 different slides), a marina, 3 crabbing piers, a great mini golf course, and an ice cream parlor. There wasn't anything we didn't have, quite honestly. Turns out at this campground EVERYONE had a golf cart. First of all, you needed one because it was a big place and you would self combust if you walked more than 20 feet in the heat. But more than that, they were obviously status symbols. One guy had a golf cart that was a convertible corvette. These were serious golf carts. The kids immediately wanted to rent one. Last year I read a travel tip that you should save $1 in loose change for everyone in your family during the year and it will add up as money you can spend on your annual trip. I wasn't good about saving $4 a day in change but we had saved just over $100. We had a family vote and decided to use that money to rent a golf cart for a few days. Honestly, Mimi didn't want to spend any of it. She still has money saved that her great grandmother Memere had given her when she was a baby. She's a saver....at least one of us is!

Day 1 - Williamsburg: It was about 45 minutes away and 98 degrees that day but we were game. We had a picnic when we got there and then decided to walk through the path from the visitor center to the historic area (we looked like we had gone to a water park in between). On the way, we encountered the "toy barn" where Colonial ladies showed the kids a few games. One was called Bilbo...this wooden eye hand coordination game. Ask me to break it out the next time you come over...it's a great challenge! After sweating out of every possible pore, we then headed back to the campground with the intent of going to the pool. But as soon as we got back, it started to thunder and lightening so instead we hunkered down in the camper and played games. Mimi taught us BS (and also what BS stands for...), we played Boggle, Trouble, and then we taught the kids Rummy...our camping favorite. In between downpours we made stuffed shells and garlic bread on the grill....a new menu idea that worked out great!

Day 2 - Busch Gardens: Again about 45 minutes away and 102 degrees. Good thing they had water rides! Lots of rides, games, and bad carney food later, we were off again, bound for the campground. Although here is what I learned at the amusement park...I can't fully enjoy the rides when I'm with the kids. I love roller coasters. I love being scared. I love challengeing myself. But not when I am with my kids. I have visions of my children flying off the rides (it doesn't help that an Iraqi vet who had lost his legs had recently died on a roller coaster in NY when he flew out of the ride. He hit the first car and then fell 150 feet to his death..while his wife and kids watched). My kids are as thin as a piece of paper so when faced with the inertia of the ride, they can't hold themselves up very well. Now listen, I know people ride on these things every day and it is extremely unusual for accidents to happen but I turn into a kooky irrational mother when it comes to amusement rides (never mind carney rides). Mimi and I ended up not going on the crazy rides and I did the sign of the cross every time the boys got on a crazy coaster. Yes, I'm a nut. And I'm okay with that. When we got back Tim took the kids to the pool while I cooked dinner (fajitas - another new recipe that worked out great). The kids reported back that the pool had a lily pond feature that you try to run across (but can never make) and it had 4 basketball nets... in the pool. It was like they had won $1Million dollars..the pool was that cool. We had dinner, played more games, and then went to bed early for our "big day".

Day 3 - Ocean Kayaking with Dolphins! I always try to plan a secret surprise...and it usually has to do with animals because the kids love that. Turns out Virginia Beach was 2 hours away..I thought it was much closer when I booked the campground. We were out the door at 7 am and a few hours later we were sitting in kayaks making our way into the ocean. We love to kayak but have never done it in the ocean. It's a bit more rocky, harder to get yourself past the breaker waves, and hard to get back to shore but well worth it when you have dolphins swim up alongside your kayak and look at you..or when they jump out of the water right in front of you. We swam against a pod of dolphins...about 40-50 of them. It was amazing! I had Jack with me and he either forgot to paddle or would only paddle on the left side. We were going against the wind....it was tough. I felt like Arnold Schwatzherneager (sp?). At one point, one "non kayaker" fell out of his kayak and couldn't get back in. You could feel his stress across the ocean. I'm not kidding you when I tell you, we saw 4 dolphins turn around and come back towards him. I swear, they were going to help him...they circled nearby while Tim and the instructor helped him get back in his kayak. It was pretty amazing. But there is nothing like seeing the amazement and excitement in your kids' faces when they see something like this. I felt really lucky to be experiencing it. When we made our way back to shore they tell you to lean back as far as you can, go directly towards the shore, and don't stop paddling. Unfortunately for Jack and I, a girl got in our way and we were broad sided by waves. Jack ended up under the kayak and yelled "Help Me!" as though he were drowning. I told him "Just stand up" as he was only in about 3" on water. Oh vey!

After our tour we stayed on the beach for the day. The water was warm like the Caribbean...my kind of water. It was clear, great boogey boarding, and the beach was pretty empty. We had an amazing day in the Chesapeake Bay area...I highly recommend it! We then took off around 4:00 and explored the rest of Virginia Beach. There was a Boardwalk area and then another area called Sandbridge which is just like Sagamore Beach on the Cape if you have been there. We ate dinner on the Boardwalk and then headed home. It was a long drive home...didn't get home til close to 11 because of the distance but well worth it!

Day 4 - Jack's 13th birthday! AAAAHHHH my son is officially a teenager!! How did that happen??! It seems like just yesterday he was 6..we would hold hands when we walked...and he would snuggle up with me at any given moment. Now he has that long hair...he calls it "flow"....I call it a mop. I have to remind him to kiss me goodnight. He wouldn't be caught dead holding my hand in public. Insert sigh here. In our house, when it is your big day you get to do whatever you want. Here's how Jackie chose to spend his day. We slept in til 9 (since we had to get up every day up to this point early). We rented a golf cart with our loose change money. I made him birthday cake pancakes. Literally. I came across a recipe to mix lemon cake mix with sprinkles and cook them on the grill as pancakes. Then I topped them with icing and more sprinkles. I added his favorite, bacon, and let him chase them with an orange soda at 9:30 am. It was like he hit the lottery. He decided to open 1/2 of his presents and then we hit the pool for a few hours. We came back to the camper for his favorite lunch...hot dogs. Then it was off crabbing. Turns out it was too hot for crabs....we caught only one baby one and sweat our body weight out. We headed back to the pool/water park and then drove around in the golf cart before heading back for Jack's favorite dinner...burgers. Then it was off for mini golf and birthday ice cream. Finally we came back and he opened the rest of his presents. The final gift was 4 tickets to the Yankee/Red Sox game this Friday night. His first Yankee/Red Sox game....he had tears in his eyes. It was a great day.

I should also mention that having a golf cart apparently meant that the kids thought they could drive. Here is what I learned: I will not be able to teach my kids how to drive. Tim is much better suited for that, especially when Mimi was about 2 inches from hitting a street sign. Breathe...breathe.

Can I digress for one more minute? I know this is a super long blog but it's been awhile and I keep thinking of all these things to add in! We recently crashed our friend's family vacation in Nantucket. Their son had recently gotten his permit and on the way back from the beach one day, I was in the car with them when he drove. I so admired Scott's approach to teaching his son how to drive. First, I will just say that I think fathers are much better at being calm with driving instruction. But the way he taught his son made me take note. At each opportunity he would say things like "Now, you are coming up to a stop sign. What I would do in this situation is..." and then he would gently suggest a way to approach the next step. He didn't say thinks like "You need to slow down! You are coming up to a stop sign!" And more importanly he didn't pump his imaginary brake. He made his son feel like it was his choice on how to handle each situation rather than telling him what to do. I walked away from that thinking that is how I wanted to approach things when my kids got their permit...but then Mimi almost impaled us on a street sign so I lost the ability to think calmly.

Two other exciting things happened this day. First, we got to chat with Ann's parents and Aunt Marie from London! After driving through the ENTIRE campground on Wednesday looking for them and coming up empty handed, we were very excited to find them diagionally across from us once again on Thursday. We went by a few times but they weren't out. After mini golfing we stopped by and they were finally out there. It was great to meet Aunt Marie, hear her accent, and chat with our camping buds. Secondly, Tim got to stalk some other people. He had noticed a Rubicon jeep golf cart with a Red Sox logo on it one day and hadn't been able to find it since. After going up and down EVERY street, we "ran" into them. Turns out they were lovely people. Originally from upstate New York but now living in Virginia, they were a couple that had lived in Massachusetts for a period of time and they had noticed our plates. Turns out they wanted to chat with us too and find out where we were from. The man had actually lived in Mass while he was treated for cancer at Dana Farber for a few years and throughout his life had owned several jeeps. We talked to them for about 40 minutes....we loved them. It was a good lesson for the kids on how making conversation with some strangers can be a good thing.

Day 5 - Pool Party! We went to the pool all day. It was so hot that the pool water was warm and you couldn't spend more than 10 minutes out of the water, despite it's temperature. In the afternoon we decided to tour the surrounding area (not much to see, quite honestly) in our air conditioned car. Then back to the pool, dinner, and more games.

Day 6 - more of the same - pool party. We were getting a little tired of the heat so we decided to head out for home and get a few hours on the road. We swam, rode around for the last day in our golf cart, got ice cream, and then headed out for home around 6. We made it to Maryland around midnight and called it a night before heading out early Sunday morning.

I always try to look back on every experience - to learn from it and reflect on it. Here's what I learned from this trip: 1. I miss camping. Turns out we camped 12 times last year...but again, I was on sabbatical. This was our 4th trip this year and the summer feels almost over. I miss the simplicity of life when we camp. I miss exploring new places. I wish I was a travel writer. 2. I am a very self sufficient person but over the years I have come to admit that there are some things my husband is better at that me. Teaching our kids to drive is one of those things. I suck at it and that's ok. 3. Meeting new people is so invigorating. As New Englanders I think we tend to not talk to strangers. But opeing yourself up to people can be very interesting and rewarding. Sometimes you wish you never started the conversation, but more often than not, you are happy that you did. Most importanly..4. Don't forget to be Little Kelly. On the second run down on one of the water park slides, I found myself sticking my tongue out and giggling to myself. Honestly, I'm just a little kid in pig tails with freckles that grew up. I can't believe I am 43...an adult...how did that happen so fast? Just like Jack turned 13 in a blink of an eye, somehow I became an adult in a few short years. When I realized I was having this little kid moment, I didn't pull my tongue back in...I embraced it and let it all hang out. Don't forget to be a little kid once in awhile!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One Year Later

One year ago today I had been on my sabbatical for 3 weeks, the kids had just gotten out of school, and we were on our way to Pennsylvania to camp. We ran out of gas 2 miles from the campground, discovered a field of fireflies, and battled 1,000 ants in our camper (insert gag here). I was already feeling relaxed, having made what ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. I was focused on being present in the moment, reconnecting with my family, and figuring out how to redefine myself without work.

When I went back to work in January I promised myself that I wouldn't slide back into old behaviors. I refused to let work become the focus of my life again, I refused to work constant long hours, and I refused to have to choose succeeding at work over my personal happiness. I knew I was off to a good start with the company I chose to work for because they make work/life balance a priority. Over the last several weeks, I have been reflecting on how well I have incorporated what I learned into my "new" life.

While on a walk with my friend (and sister in law) Lyn recently I had the chance to reflect on one particular lesson I feel I have been able to incorporate into my life. Lyn was exclaiming how hard it was to be present in the moment, when all she can think of is all that she has to do, between work and home. We have all been there before...you drive home and don't even remember actually driving because your mind is going through all the things you need to do when you get there. Or your child is telling you something and you are barely listening because you are chopping veggies for dinner while trying to scroll through your emails to make sure you aren't missing anything after hours. Then you realize they are waiting for you to answer a question you never heard. You can see it in their eyes..."Everything else is more important than me." It is such an awful feeling.

I got really good at being present in the moment when time was not an issue. It's so easy to take an hour to play a game and focus on your child when you don't have to whip up a presentation that night, fill out permission slips, empty the dishwasher, and read 100 pages so you can be ready for bookgroup the next night. I knew this would be a challenge again when the demands on my time increased.

There have definitely been moments when I find myself multi-tasking both mentally and physically. You have to when you work. There are only so many hours in the day and typically your to do list is longer than you can ever accomplish in a day. And sadly, things like "put everything down and listen to your children when they talk" and "look in your spouse's eyes when he is talking" just don't make the list. What I discovered is that I will not always be able to be 100% present in the moment when I work. And I'm ok with that because we all have to cut ourselves a little slack.

However, I will share with you what I told Lyn. I am now more conscious when I'm not focusing on the moment. Before I didn't even realize it until it was too late. Now I catch myself in the middle of the moment and I stop chopping those veggies, I stop looking at my email, and I look right in my kid's eyes and have a good conversation. The dinner can wait 10 more minutes and the work can wait til tomorrow (or at least until the kids go to bed). It's hard not to feel overwhelmed by all that we have to do. But we do have a choice to prioritize what is really important to us and what makes us happy. Answering work emails doesn't make me happy. My child's laughter makes me happy. Getting the dinner on the table "on time" might make me happy. But having great dinner conversation with my family makes me happier. I don't want to wake up the next day regretting that I didn't take 1/2 hour to read a book with my kids because I was writing that email that really could have waited until the morning.

There are so many choices we have to make every day. Choose to be present in the moments that make you and those you care about the happiest. The other stuff will fall into place. And some things will fall between the cracks. And the next day you will pick it up and start all over again. And that's okay.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Results Are In...

Well, we did it - Cori and I finished the 5K! Yesterday morning, I woke up at 6:15, not able to sleep anymore...I was feeling a bit nervous. Normally, I just wake up and go running...so waiting around until 8 o'clock, felt like forever. I was also expecting rain, but I awoke to sunny skies, which is always nice, but not when you are running. What more could I do then put on some earrings, find a hat to compliment my outfit, and get going? Might as well look good...at least at the start of the race.

On the way there, we saw people in their race shirts walking everywhere, like ants coming out of the woodwork. When we got to the school where the race started, it was mobbed - over 1,500 people were registered. People were doing warm up runs - clearly these were the "elite" runners. This whole scene was a bit of a shock to my system. We have been running at 5:45 am and barely see anyone on the race route. Now, the entire road was closed down and there were thousands of people around. I got a little more nervous at this point.

We met up with Steph, our trainer, and waited for our other running partner Meena. Unfortunately, she never showed up so the three of us headed over to the starting line. The air was buzzing with excitement! If felt like just a few minutes before we were off! On the way out of the school, there was Tim, Jack, Mimi, and Cori's family...all cheering us on. It felt great! One minute in and this wasn't too bad.

When we rounded the corner, it was an unbelievable sight. The road, for as far as we could see, was filled with people. You couldn't even see the pavement. It was a bit hard to get used to...trying to run around people and find a space for yourself. The first mile wasn't too bad because I was so caught up in the excitement and there was so much to look at. Then we got to "heart break hill". We have been running up it without stopping for a few weeks but this was definitely challenging. People in front of you would just start walking. So, not only was I dodging people left and right, but it was so tempting to stop because others were. But, we kept at it!

I think it was at this point when I realized how darn hot it was. We have been running in the early morning and more often than not, we were tempted to keep our sweatshirts on so this was a challenge. The reality of it smacked us in the face when we saw a runner passed out on the side of the road and an ambulance speeding toward her. Eek! I did not want to end up like that.

With one mile to go, we were back at the school. Our families were there cheering us on once again, and I have to say, it was a real boost for me at that point. I didn't have a lick of spit left in my mouth and I was sweating like crazy. But we were in the home stretch..there was no stopping us now!

Then all of a sudden, we could see the finish line! I was so busy trying to beat Cori that I didn't even see our families standing there. Apparently Cori's husband, Scott, was right at the finish line taking the all important finish line photo so there was no disputing who won but I didn't even see him. Turns out, she beat me..but only by a hair. DARN IT! Although I have to admit, at that point it really didn't matter because I felt like I was going to pass out I was so hot.

On our way to the results board, we ran into our other running partner, Meena, who had in fact finished as well. It felt good to have the whole group together and revel in our collective accomplishment! But what felt even better, was when we saw our results. Cori finished 34:27 and I was 34:28. We ran an 11 minute mile. 8 weeks ago I couldn't even run for 2 minutes. Can you believe it?!

We ran into a friend of Cori's who suggested we run another 5K this coming Wednesday night since we were trained and ready to go. She said they even feed you burgers and beer afterwards. Hhhmm...running for beer...sounds like a plan to me. We quickly said yes. Not only did I just finish a 5K, I actually enjoyed running, and now here I was signing up for another race. Pretty unbelievable.

I must say a HUGE thank you to our trainer Stephanie. She not only got us to finish the race, but she had us looking forward to getting together and running. Now, that is amazing. THANKS, STEPH!!

And I have to thank Cori for motivating me to take the class in the first place. She was right...I always felt great after running, even though it was hard to get out there so early. Cori, thank you for running with me, thank you for picking me up when I didn't want to go running, thank you for not stopping when I felt like walking, and thank you for keeping me laughing the whole time. And thank you for the positive introduction to running. Fine...I'll say it...I actually like running. I will miss catching up with you every other day, chatting about this and that, while watching the sun come up. I feel like we are breaking up - Say it ain't so!

We went out to dinner last night and celebrated with our hubbies. And then today we decided we should spend a little more time reveling in our accomplishment and take off tomorrow...and Tuesday...and skip the 5K on Wednesday. But we did decide to go running Wednesday morning on a new route. We are going to shoot for one more 5K this year...but probably in the fall.

Moral of this story: Keep trying new things. You never know where they will lead!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Running Like A Gazelle

Well, tomorrow is the "big day"....my first 5K. I can't believe just 8 weeks ago I could barely run for 2 minutes straight. I won't be fast tomorrow but I will finish. Jack asked me today, "Do you think you will win?" I told him it wasn't about winning...just finishing was a great accomplishment. As a 12-year old boy who is obsessed with winning all sports, he didn't understand why I wasn't running to win. Someday he will realize that I am winning...just by being able to challenge myself and finish the course is winning for me. Let's be honest...getting up at 5 am 3 days a week also = winning for me.

In the past, when I "had" to run, I just ran like a gazelle, wanting to get it over with as fast as possible. I quickly ran out of steam because I couldn't sustain that pace. Thanks to our awesome trainer Stephanie Morey of Avalon Fitness & Health, I learned that it's all about finding your natural pace and listening to your body when you run. She taught us a great technique...to just put your arms down and relax in the middle of your run. It looks a little silly but I have to say, it has allowed me to get my breathing back under control and just relax. You don't realize how much you tense up as you run.

In all new experiences, I really try to reflect on what I have learned and incorporate that into the future. Upon reflection, here are some things I learned:

1. It's always easier to motivate with others. If it wasn't for the fact that I knew Cori would be waiting either at her house or in my driveway, I would have easily hit the snooze button every day and pulled the covers up a little tighter. In fact, the day I did attempt to "cancel" our running date, Cori said "NO!" and she was in my driveway in about 5 minutes to get me. You need friends like that. Friends that challenge you, don't let you quit, and that you know you can count on.

2. Speaking of friends, when you try new things, you meet really nice people. Our group was really fun. Our instructor Stephanie is in the perfect job...for her. She is naturally postive, motivating, and always in a good mood. What more could you want in a personal trainer? Even when it was raining, she popped out of her car with a big smile and said "Ready guys?!"...and she meant it. And our other running partner, Meena, was equally as happy and positive. I laughed every time I ran behind them...there they were chatting the whole way, with their hands gesturing wildly, laughing away. Seriously, I couldn't talk and run without losing my breath until about 2 weeks ago. I really enjoyed hearing about Meena's childhood in India and listening to Stephanie's tips on how to be healthier...it was always great conversation.

3. When you think you can't do it, you can. Stephanie was great about figuring out where our comfort zone was and pushing us just outside it a little more each time we ran. As hard as something feels at the time, just keep pushing yourself because in the end you will feel so good when you reach a new level. Whether that is learning a new skill or honing an old one - there's nothing like that feeling of having challenged yourself to be better.

4. There are a few songs I find difficult to run to. Such as Chumbawambah's "I get knocked down"..I kept imaging myself tripping and falling so I had to shut that off. "Give's You Hell" by the All American Rejects resulted in me singing "Running makes me feel like hell" so I had to stop that one. It's also hard to run to Neil Diamond...unless you are Cori. In our final leg, she has taken to singing "Sweet Caroline"...out loud. I believe your husband said you shouldn't do that, Cori...

5. I do have that 12-year old boy's competitive spirit in me. By the time we reach the last 1/2 mile, I want it to be over so I have taken to running like that gazelle at the end. Cori tried to outrun me the other day...and it immediately made me run faster. We talked trash to each other the whole way. "I am going to beat you!", "Eat my dust!", and "I don't like you anymore!!" I think we were even...although I'm just saying that...I'm pretty sure I beat her by a hair :) Competetive friendliness is always fun.

6. And finally, I learned that trying new things can really be surprising. I never liked running. I didn't feel like I was good at it, I didn't like feeling out of shape, it was boring...you name it, running was not my friend. But as I said when I started this, I do like a good challenge. And in the end, and Cori, don't read this, I actually kinda like running. Today I even looked up other 5K races that are coming up. And honestly, this was such a positive experience...running with a friend, meeting new people and laughing the whole time...that's very different than self motivating to run each morning by myself..so we'll see what happens but running isn't so bad. Of course, let's see how I feel after tomorrow!

Insert a little prayer here that I don't end up pulling a muscle running out of the parking lot tomorrow...