We are all Patriots.

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Yesterday was Patriots’ Day, a holiday celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine (formerly part of Massachusetts) to commemorate the Battle of Lexington and Concord which occurred on April 19, 1775, and was the first battle of the Revolutionary War.  It has an infamous attachment to its name now, as yesterday’s explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon have been declared the “Patriots’ Day Bombings.”  Most of the country had no idea before yesterday that it was Patriots’ Day (I know I didn’t), or that it was the day of the Boston Marathon (for some reason, I had always assumed it was run on a Sunday but knew it was this weekend.)  I consider myself a runner with only one marathon under my belt, and I know others who maybe log 2-3 miles at a time who call themselves runners.  It doesn’t matter how far you go – just so long as you’re out there: day in and day out; early and late; sun, rain, wind, or snow; uphill and down – in my book, you’re a runner for taking the time and making the effort to just run.

I read a great post “What it Means to be a Runner” which nearly encapsulates my thoughts about yesterday, and I feel like I’ve been grasping since hearing about this for the words to say.  I can’t just post a recipe and pretend that nothing happened.  On the other hand, I know that no one directly affected by this tragedy is ever going to read my words, so it really is just for myself that I want to express a bit of my mind today before moving on to something a bit gentler in the form of some comfort food tomorrow.  (By the way, here’s a GREAT article about the restaurants in Boston which have been so giving of their food, seats, electricity, water, and wi-fi since the bombings: Boston Eateries Show the Real Meaning of Comfort Food.)

Mainly I’ve been pondering the sport of running, and how interconnected all runners seem to feel.  I remember when I first started playing the bagpipes, how amazed I was to discover an entire WORLD of piping in which people still won gold medals as adults and spent careers just playing the bagpipes.  I guess no one is surprised to hear that a violinist can earn a living by playing with a symphony, teaching lessons, and picking up gigs on the side.  But bagpipes?  There’s this whole clan of people out there breathing and eating the bagpipes, who wake up and go to sleep singing tunes in their heads (“tunes,” people, not “songs” — took me a few years before pipers stopped making fun of me for accidentally calling them “songs.”)  It’s the same way with running – there’s an underground tribe of folks who love, and live for, running.  Until the 1970s, not many people just ran for the fun of it, and the fitness cat had yet to be let out of the bag.  People were running road races all over

the world, but the non-runners didn’t really notice.  Big city marathons were scarce and small (the Boston Marathon didn’t even award cash prizes until 1986), much less, marathons for which people would dish out money for huge entry fees, plane tickets, and hotels.  Fast forward a bit, and it’s as if “everyone” is running 5Ks and 10Ks, half-marathons have burst onto the scene as the most popular race distance, and marathons appear to be more within the average runner’s reach.  Running seems to be everywhere lately.  I used to mock runners as they apparently struggled up the Ford Island Bridge near my home in Hawaii thinking, “Why would anyone willingly suffer like that?”  A few years later, I, too, had been bitten by the running bug.

So perhaps you’re one who doesn’t run.  Or you don’t live in Boston.  The Boston Marathon wasn’t on your radar because you hadn’t pored over the recent issue of Runner’s World chock full of Boston Marathon features getting everyone all pumped up for the big day.  Then something explodes, and the first thought you have is, “Why the Boston Marathon? What’s the significance?”  My guess, if this was indeed a foreign terrorist’s act, was that it was Patriot’s Day – and the biggest crowds on Patriot’s Day will be in Boston at the Marathon (or at the Baseball stadium – but I am sure security is much tighter there, since locking down 26.2 miles when no threat is suspected is undoable.)  As a runner, I really felt sick to my stomach when I heard the news, putting myself in the shoes of those at the finish, both the spectators cheering on loved ones and those striving for a personal record their first time at the Boston Marathon.  Realistically, though, most people don’t run, they don’t love a runner, or running is something that literally never affects their daily lives.  There’s an amazing feeling that came with finishing my first marathon, with seeing my family along the way (dragged along by my husband and my friend Christine through cold, rainy weather in Washington, DC), and with running together with tens of thousands of people doing it for a cause, doing it for a “PR”, doing it for a “BQ” time (a Boston Qualifying time), or just doing it because they know they can.  I found this quote today which aptly describes the marathon experience:  “Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself you can learn in 26.2 miles.”

If you’ve cheered someone through a marathon,  you’ll understand this one, attributed to Kathrine Switzer (called the “Marathon Woman,” in 1967 Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to officially enter and run the event. From her website: “[Switzer’s] entry [into the Boston Marathon] created an uproar and worldwide notoriety when a race official tried to forcibly remove her from the competition.”):

       “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”

      There’s just something about that 26.2 miles that particularly inspires.  And the Boston 26.2 is the pinnacle of the marathon race year; its screaming crowds of spectators are world-renowned, with the Red Sox game even starting just after 11am in order to enlist the support of baseball fans as the ballpark empties after the (assumed) win.  I know this definitely leaves a scar on America, on Boston, on the Marathon, and on runners everywhere.  Hopefully it will be one that reminds us of our strength, and brings new resolve and stamina to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

one of my running buddies...Claire sprinting to the finish!

one of my running buddies…Claire sprinting to the finish!

Gabriel was ready to cheer me on wearing his "Be Bold" hat

Gabriel was ready to cheer me on wearing his “Be Bold” hat

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Just past the finish line. The Iwo Jima Monument

Just past the finish line. The Iwo Jima Monument

about to cross the finish line

about to cross the finish line

26.2 miles. Mission Accomplished.

26.2 miles. Mission Accomplished.

Using a headlamp to cook potatoes and sausage must mean….

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No, we’re not camping. And the power hasn’t gone out, either.  Rather, my children were running around spying on me and John and trying to sneak up on us, wearing dark cloaks and little blue and red LED lights on their fingers as I was making the quiches for Sunday (and the freezer.) So much was accomplished here today (Saturday – 6 minutes until Sunday right now actually) and yesterday that I can hardly remember everything we did.  We were all pretty happy to finish up the toy room:

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Toy room...ahhhhh

Toy room…ahhhhh

I do recall that I didn’t get up until 10am (score!) and then had morning devotions with the children over my daily breakfast protein shake, nursed Daniel again and put him back down for a nap.  I know I sorted and started the laundry some time in there; I then got things ready for making fried eggs and English muffins (John cut up the turkey kielbasa and got it frying on the stove, I buttered the muffins to broil them in the toaster oven,  I washed the cast iron pan that we always used for eggs, along with the new heart-shaped egg cooking devices, I started cooking the eggs, and then John took it all over.)  Breakfast was just hitting the table as I stepped out the door for an experimental run.  3.6 miles later I felt well enough, but as the day has worn on my foot has told me otherwise.  Guess it’s still a little too early for running.  Back to the bike!  It doesn’t feel much worse than it did earlier in the month, but it is definitely more painful than it has been over this last week.  I just started stretching my foot in the way prescribed in a book I ordered online.  I will report back about its efficacy. 🙂

how the living room is looking - not finished, but getting there.

how the living room is looking – not finished, but getting there.

Sunday afternoon now, and I am relaxing after lunch before evening church.  I feel so behind on blogging because I still haven’t posted pictures of the homeschooling trip to Patriot’s Point on Friday and several other things, but I have an excuse – I’m working on a few photo projects that have a deadline of December 10, and then there is everything getting done in the house.  So, just a quick rundown of what has been going on here before I get back to continuing the goings on. 🙂  Yesterday after the run I showered and fed Daniel (showering is something I consider “work” when I wash my hair – which only happens once a week – because then I have to blow it dry for it to be manageable all week, so this probably took an hour all told), then I made myself some of those yummy eggs and English muffins, and more laundry loads were switched and Christmas boxes were brought in by John.  He also put up a curtain rod in our living room and brought in the tree (a fake one from years back) from the garage.  Next was practicing the bagpipes for a little while and preparing dinner (some delicious black bean soup I made in November and then froze which I had thawed out as well as a salad; recipe nonexistent because I forgot to write down the amounts.  I guess you’ll have to wait!) before we all sat down for devotions and a short Christmas movie – Ice Age Mammoth Christmas.  Somewhere in the day I organized another two bookshelves and all the colored pencils, crayons, markers, and other writing implements and also cleared off 3-4 flat surfaces in preparation for covering them in Christmas decor (This time tomorrow the house won’t know what hit it.)  After the little ones were in bed, Patience, Gabriel, and I went out front to do a bit of work.  They took turns riding Gabriel’s bike down to the middle of our cul-de-sac which is full of stones to gather a bag of rocks to use as weights.  The Poinsettias and two fake Christmas trees out front had been tipping over in the wind occasionally, so we weighted down the bases of them all.  I also spent a good hour spreading the branches on the trees since we bought them last week so they had that nice shiny, new box-shaped look.  Not a desirable appearance for a Christmas tree.

After church today a couple we just met came over for lunch.  I had made three meat and potato quiches last night so there was plenty of food for spur-of-the-moment guests, and these had the added convenience of being ideally located.  They live just a few streets over, on the base!  He is a student at the Naval Nuclear Power School where John works; they’ve been here a year and have about another 6 months.  We hadn’t met them before because I believe they were out of town the other weeks we had been to church, so it was really nice to get to know people who live so close to us.  Back to resting up and a few computer things while I have my feet up for another half hour.  I hope your weekend has been restful!

So – about the black bean soup recipe.  Can I just tell you that every kid LOVED IT, and Gabriel even went on this long diatribe about how our children’s children all have to be told to eat this soup in the future.  We sprinkled grated cheddar cheese on it and crunched up tortillas chips, along with a bit of fresh cilantro.  Yum!!!!  Unfortunately I really can’t tell you the amounts of seasonings I put in (I can tell you what, just not how much.)  If you want to know the general recipe because you have a hankering for amazing black bean soup, make a comment, and I’ll do my best to reconstruct it.  Otherwise you’ll have to wait until the next time I make it. 🙂

 

Sunday NIGHT now – am I ever going to publish this?  Here’s what we’re up to:

17997_10151548043078626_611958602_n 67692_10151548048503626_3167731_n 382041_10151548043868626_72108429_nWatching “Home Alone” for the first time — lots of laughing; they are mesmerized!!! Kevin from the movie reminds me a lot of Gabriel with his silliness. 🙂  All the kids think the gags are hilarious!!

 

 

HOT NOW!

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Krispy Kreme donuts!  I chose today to post about a few random things having nothing to do with the election because they were things I forgot to include in the epic “marathon” series and because today was just an ordinary day for me since I am an absentee (non)voter and don’t have any tv in the house.  I don’t think we would have been able to get our absentee ballots very easily, having left England in August and not having a permanent address til October 12 (not even knowing that address much more than a week before that.)  We both are registered to vote  in Texas and felt that our votes would not “count” anyway, since we were going to vote the way the state will most likely go.  People say that military absentee votes are unlikely to count anyway, but I don’t know what’s up with that.  All I know is that it will be at least another 6 years before we are in one place and permanently change our address and register to vote in another state.  Until then, I’m pretty sure Texas will be red.

Either way, I forgot to tell you about my FIRST “HOT NOW” KRISPY KREME DONUTS.  I have never had them hot before from a Krispy Kreme store, and we were passing by one the night after the marathon on our way down to Charleston – I sort of begged John to stop but was, in actuality, the driver, so it was more just an affirmation of the acceptability of donuts right then that I needed from him.  Seriously, I at two donuts immediately, back to back, within about three minutes. I’ve never done that before, but they were so amazing.  And, hey, if the day after a marathon isn’t the time you can eat  two donuts, then I guess that time doesn’t exist.  I could not believe how unbelievable delicious they were.  I will have to do that again some time!!

No other pictures for the blog today – but I posted this to facebook this week — it’s my two sons both at 3 months old. Is it just me, or do they look alike!?! I played the “who’s that baby” game with all 6 of my childrens’ 3 month pictures, and it was comical to hear that the kids thought all the babies look just like Daniel 🙂 I’ll have to post a picture of all six of their pictures together…

The other thing I wanted to mention with regards to marathon has to do with perspective.  I used to think running a marathon seemed impossible, an insurmountable task which I would never want to attempt anyway.  Once I became a runner, the marathon distance started to seem more achievable, but still huge.  After reading Born to Run, where distances over 50 and even 100 miles were discussed, a simple 26.2 miles seemed more than within my reach.  Right around that time I also started reading the blogs of other runners.  Most of the blogs I found came from clicking on the links I found on one or two bloggers – sort of like a chain reaction of blogs to read.  I started out my search using “pregnant” and “running” in the google task bar because I was curious about how long into their pregnancies other “normal” runners had taken it.  Sure, I’d heard of that lady delivering a baby a few hours after finishing the Chicago Marathon, but I was looking to see how long regular “mother runners” as they like to call themselves commonly ran into their pregnancies.  I was ecstatic to find ladies running all the way through the due date – lots of them!

 

Well, after reading blogs for a few months, I tired of the ones (no offense if this is you) written by people who were so different from me – who were pregnant with their first child and running, or pregnant with their second and juggling that one baby with running through a pregnancy, or having several kids who are all in school so you get to run after they’re on the bus each day.  I mean, come on, there was a big difference between the lifestyle of those women and my lifestyle as a homeschooling, pregnant mom of 5 (at the time), so I wanted to find practical advice from runners a bit more like me.  I found one lady very similar who hadn’t started running til she already had 6 or so kids and then ran through pregnancies and just had her 9th child, Catey, over at Random Thoughts from the Zoo.  I think her kids go off to school each day – but only half of them, since she still has so many small ones.  So hers was a blog from which I gleaned a lot.  Or Racing with Babes lady who ran up until she was due with baby number 3.  Regardless of finding things in common with some great ladies in the blogoshpere, I consistently find myself drawn to the blogs of those who really drastically overachieve in the world of running.  I am so inspired by their accomplishments!  What this led to, though, is an UNDERESTIMATION of the marathon distance.  From reading blogs like Mile-Posts, and Run Far Girl, and NYC Running Mama, I started to feel like a marathon was not a huge deal.  These women have run so many marathons (over 20 for Dorothy of Mile-Posts) and are younger than me (so by the time they’re 36  they’ll be up to – what – 50 marathons!?!) and have such fast times that I started to expect running 26.2 miles to go pretty smoothly for me.  I didn’t read on their blogs that they did any marathons this soon post-partum, and if that was on purpose, I can see why.  There is something to be said for doing the training – all the training – recommended for a marathon if you’ve never done one before.  Trust the experts and take the months to slowly build up your distance.  If you don’t have those months for some reason, like I didn’t, well, then, don’t expect to have your body thank you for doing something that crazy.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m glad I did it.  As the days pass since October 28, I’m even more thankful that I was able to go up there with my whole family to make the Marine Corps Marathon my first marathon.  Why not next year, you might ask?  Well, I don’t exactly have a good track record for staying un-pregnant for more than a year at a time, so I could quite possibly be “with child” next year in October, and I can pretty confidently say I’ll never run a marathon while pregnant.  And the year after that? Well, I’d most likely be pretty newly post-partum again.  So if I wanted to make the MCM my first marathon – and then move on to more and better things – I felt like the time was now.

 

Since I do live in America, and an election happened today, I suppose I should at least mention it, although everyone has already filled the world with blogs and tweets to overflowing by this point.  Here’s my facebook status from tonight once the race had been “called” – and I think it pretty much sums it up for me:

 

“can i just say ONE little thing about this election to any and all of my fb friends – especially those of you who are overseas and don’t quite understand the political climate over here, and to those who are still going to go on spewing vitriolic words against anyone remotely conservative – HALF OF AMERICA – NAY, MORE THAN HALF – DID NOT VOTE FOR OBAMA.  He may win the electoral college, just like Bush did long ago with the whole popular vote thing, but THIS IS A COUNTRY DIVIDED. I just don’t like it how the rest of the world – because of the way the news outlets portray conservatives – and seemingly 7/8 of the people I know on fb MARGINALIZE conservatives like we’re some fringe impotent group trying to heft our beliefs on the vast majority.  No, this is an open conversation where LITERALLY (look at the numbers people) LITERALLY half of our country thinks one way and half thinks another, and it’s been this way for 16 years.  So please, please, stop treating me like a loony because I disagree with your liberal views.  I think that is officially the ONLY thing I’ve said about this election; thank you for listening.”

 

So yes, I gave it away, I’m a conservative.  I think the fact that I have 6 kids probably already clued you in, but if not, now you know. 🙂  I didn’t have high hopes for the election, but I am SO READY to stop seeing all the political opinions on facebook.  People say the rudest things – stuff they would never say to you face to face but which they feel comfortable saying to the “general public” of facebook.  So let’s all move on and keep living as friends and neighbors, trying to work together for better communities.  Hope you have a great Wednesday! Hoping for my first run in a few days tomorrow when John comes home for lunch.  Hopefully some day soon I’ll have a really great feeling run!

Surprise!

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This has something to do with the surprise…what is it??

So I promised a small surprise in today’s post, but first I must correct a few “discrepancies” pointed out to me by my husband found in yesterday’s post.

Apparently in my beat-down-by-the-marathon stupor I was unable to absorb all the details given to me by Christine and John about their day in DC.  Just Daniel was on the floor of the train in all his poopie glory.  And the man didn’t threaten to call the police on John – the man was, in fact, a policeman, and threatened to arrest him if he carried Greer on the escalator in the stroller.  So John had to take her out and carry her and the stroller separately, which is what he did again later.  I had thought it was someone giving him a hard time for trying to drive the stroller onto the escalator with Greer sitting in it, which is his usual modus operandi.  And that, instead of disobeying the man by driving her in the stroller, he picked the whole thing up and carried it with her in it.  But I guess when he tried to do that the police officer went off on him.  Last thing to correct is that John didn’t see Gabriel making the Lego “I love you” sign — instead, Gabriel came up to him and told him that he was making me a sign and that it was a secret.  This makes Gabriel appear at his cutest.  Even better. 🙂

I should update you on our eating over the last week — I don’t remember much of it but the tacos stand out in my mind – with my homemade seasoning and a mix of ground turkey and ground beef (Watching Biggest Loser just may be starting to affect my food choices a bit…) – and the rest of the homemade salsa.  I’ve got a bunch more tomatoes and jalapenos from the bag of food from an organic farm that I get each week (a sort of grab-bag of in-season veg), so more salsa is on the way, and I promise to make a report of the recipe this time. 🙂  We also had rotisserie chickens from Whole Foods one night because I had run over there for a few things and they were on sale – which led to homemade chicken soup last night using fresh corn on the cob (also from the organic veg bag – boiled up some mystery greens in with the stock from the bag, too).  I’ve been having 1-2 shakes a day as well because the idea of a chocolate-coffee frozen concoction is just taking over my life right now.  Depending on the time of day (is it replacing a meal, is it a snack, or do I really not need any extra calories right now) I build my shake in different ways.  Always the base is ice (in England I always had some overripe frozen bananas on hand which eliminated the need for ice and added enough sweetness for the whole shake) with enough milk — mostly almond with a little rice milk, and then if I want some extra (healthy) fat and calories, I throw in a bit of coconut milk — to cover the ice.  I will toss in between 1/4 and a whole scoop of protein powder, or just a handful of almonds (I put some pecans in yesterday with my pumpkin spice shake) for some staying power, and then the decaf instant coffee and cocoa powder (not all the time) and sweetener.  With the pumpkin, I am using pumpkin butter which already has sugar in it, with other flavors, I have a few coffee syrups which obviously have sugar – like Gingerbread or Caramel, etc – and I’ll use about a teaspoon.  If it’s just a mocha (cocoa and coffee), I’ll put in a little Agave nectar.  I never put in enough to make it sweet enough for me – so I supplement it with Stevia as well just to get it to “perfection” without the extra 60-100 calories of a real sweetener that it would have taken.  All these shakes are kind of overshadowing the other things I’ve eaten because they are so yummy. 🙂  I know I also had several salmon-salad sandwiches on my signature cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread.  Can’t get enough of that combination!!

We worked on rearranging boxes in the house yesterday and today, and a few bookshelves, and things are looking much better.  Probably ten boxes were unpacked, so we’re still working on putting all that stuff away, but we are well on the way to “acceptable” from our three-week stop in “liveable.”  We’re still quite a distance from “comfortably cute and wonderful”, but I am so thankful for this house and our happy furnishings, no matter how many boxes surround us, especially when I think of all the people in the Northeast.  I think what makes it so hard for people right now is that 1)The people in New England don’t usually have this kind of a catastrophe in the back of their minds like those in the Southeast and on the Gulf Coast tend to do.  It’s more like something out of a summer blockbuster – New York City being flooded, the Jersey Shore being washed away – and it’s really hard to fathom that this has really happened up there.  Consequently, they were completely unprepared for such colossal damages. 2)Winter is upon us, and they don’t have much time to rebuild before New England will be experiencing colder temperatures.  Shelter and clothing for those who lost it all is an even more dire need than it might be if this had happened in, say, July.

So I feel a little lame writing about what we’re cooking and the boxes we’re unpacking, etc, when there are so many people who’ve lost their homes, and some even their loved ones.  Hopefully if you’re reading, you won’t mind a short diversion from the tragedies on the news and the election coverage everywhere else. 🙂  I also snuck in my first run post-marathon on Saturday – just 3.16 miles and nothing to write home about.  It was a comfortable pace, and nothing was sore, although it seemed a bit hard to keep going after about fifteen minutes, so I think my legs are still recovering.

A few things found in the boxes this weekend…tea party anyone? 🙂

So here’s the surprise I kept promising….

AFTER! Patience wanted short hair again because brushing it is always so much of a challenge…the rest of the pictures will be before – then after. 🙂

Claire – before – and she looks like she’s wearing lipstick, but it’s chapped lips that she’s been licking too much. 😦

Greer’s was the first one — and all the girls loved it and begged for the same!

Liesl’s working on losing that top front tooth…

So there you go – now you’ll still recognize us if you run into the girls and me some time this week.  It has been so cute watching them all frolic around the house with their little bobs.  Greer especially.  Super cute. 🙂

Part two of the “marathon” story of the Marathon…

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I’ll see if I can be any briefer today than I was yesterday, and perhaps that way we’ll make it to the finish line – perhaps even to bed that night!! (But it was a really long day, so we’ll see…)

The howitzer was fired at 7:55am for the official start.

I was pretty far back at this point, having stayed behind to pump some milk (on a sidewalk near a highway entrance ramp, starting to cry as I felt sorry for myself for needing to pump while the wind whipped at my nursing cover and I hunched over trying to keep myself covered…then the two Marine Corps Ospreys flew over, and I remembered again while I was there, was thankful that I had my healthy baby, that I could nurse him, that I was able to pump, and that I have a husband happy be a father to his children) before handing my bag over to Brent, our friend from the USS Pasadena, who turned in my bag and his wife Carole’s bag over at the bag check.  I meandered up to the crowd which wasn’t even shuffling forward (a few minutes after the start we were all standing still — big crowd!) and happily found a place in the dense crowd to shed my trashbag and pants while staying warm in the mass of human bodies.  Here’s a picture of the start, taken by MarathonFoto:

Obviously it was crowded at the start, but for about the first 12 miles it was still pretty packed!  It’s funny to me how when you watch people running a marathon, for the most part it looks like a river of people out for a casual jog, lots of them walking.  I’ll tell you what – when I walked here and there or was jogging super slow – every step hurt, and that was just about all I could manage.  In the past I’d always assumed people were just “taking it easy” when the appeared to be moving so slowly, but really, a lot of us were working as hard as we could! 🙂

I thoroughly enjoyed the first ten miles – and I mean smiling-ear-to-ear-feeling-like-a-jackrabbit type of enjoyment – because of the crowds of cheering onlookers, the gorgeous scenery, the camaraderie of the runners, and the pleasant weather.  It had been threatening rain all morning, but the clouds began to thin around 8am, and it was just a grey, cool day with bits of sunshine sprinkled throughout — perfect for running.

This was somewhere in the middle of the race, regardless of how “finish line-ish” it looks 🙂

I was careful to keep a slow and steady pace for the first 1-2 miles, about 12 minutes per mile so I could warm up a bit.  For the next 8-10 miles I ran between 9:30 and 10:30 min/mile, just comfortably pushing myself when I felt really good and relaxing here and there.  I figured that no matter what, the last miles were going to be really rough since I had only gone 16 miles previously, and my body had really started hurting around 14 miles.  So I might as well run the first half of it having as much fun as possible!  There was even a small pipe band to cheer me on as we entered Georgetown.  The leaves in Arlington would have astonished me with their beauty had we not driven that road the night before on our way to the Run to Honor dinner.  It was seriously the most lovely day.

A couple ran up to me at one point and said, “We went to Bellefonte!”  I had no idea about what they were talking…it was my shirt!  I had pinned the names of my two friends killed at the Pentagon on 9/11 onto the back of my shirt — LT Jonas Panik and LT Darin Pontell.  Turns out these two had gone to High School with Jonas.  They thanked me for running to honor him, and I felt ready to run 20 more miles.  I must admit to feeling a little guilty around mile 8 thinking about how much fun I was having while John and Christine may have been struggling back at the hotel.  John called around 8:15am while I was still waiting to move over the starting line looking for Daniel’s diapers.  They packed up the kids (of course in their matching clothes), Greer’s Pack ‘n Play, Daniel’s Moses bed, the stroller, the signs, and the other bags for the day into the van and drove out to the New Carrolton Metro Station.  Onto the train they went, arriving a bit later at the Smithsonian stop on the Mall in DC.

In the Metro station (this and a few other pictures are from Christine)

Gabriel was ready to cheer me on wearing his “Be Bold” hat

Walking along – John with Greer on his shoulders – trying to catch me by a certain mile marker

A few people called me just after mile 11 — my brother’s wife Robin, John’s sister Alisa, and my parents – and that helped spur me on, but I was starting to hurt!  Mostly it was just my feet at this point.  Then I ran through something I will not soon forget.  The group “Run to Remember” was standing along the road, dozens of people about 2 feet apart, stretching for perhaps half a mile.  Each person held an American flag up, pointing it out towards the road a bit.  In the ground were placed signs every few feet as well, and on each sign was a picture of someone in uniform.  And under each picture was the date that person was killed in action, along with the person’s age.  It was a powerful moment for everyone who ran past.

Finally, around mile 15, I ran into John, Christine, and the children.  By this time I had walked through one of the water stops in order to eat my last “Chocolate #9” gel, and I had even needed to stretch for a few minutes on the grass because of tightness in my legs.  I was slowing down a lot, and only seeing them soon (we had talked on the phone, so I knew where to expect them) kept me running.

Smiling through the pain 🙂

I saw the family again a few miles later, and they were having a rough time of it.  Although the weather was perfect for running, it was a bit chilly for the kids, and they were tired of walking.  They had stopped for hot dogs and chips, and they weren’t really having what could be described as a “fun” day.  I told them just to head to the finish (still probably 8-9 miles for me, so probably another 90 minutes away) to hang out somewhere comfortable and not to worry about catching me anywhere else.  I began to question myself for having signed up for this marathon.  Maybe I wouldn’t be able to finish after all.  Maybe the whole weekend with the family there had been a bad idea.  Maybe, just maybe, I had made a mistake.  I started to cry a bit as I contemplated my failures in planning and mothering and all the ways the weekend had already not gone according to plan (Why was I doing this again?  Suddenly the joking signs that people held up like “Worst Parade Ever” and “This seemed like a good idea when you signed up” began to really resonate with me.)  Around this point, two men ran up to talk to me saying, “We were Devora’s friends.  We were so sad to hear about Darin.”  It took me a second to register that they were speaking of LT Darin Pontell’s widow, Devora.  Tears came again as I thanked them for stopping me to say hello, and I ran on.  Here are a few pictures from MarathonFoto that are obviously at points when “the going got tough” while this one was struggling to be tough enough to “get going:”

 

Around mile 20.5 my iphone battery died, so I had to switch to my backup music – the ipod nano I had clipped on before the race along with plug-in headphones (I had been using my bluetooth headset with the iphone) that were stuffed into my skirt pocket.  I was so thankful for my playlist at this point because it was rough-going.  Any time I stopped to walk (through a food or water stop, or the time I needed to get a rock out of my shoe or when I used the porta potties), walking was painful.  Getting back to a slow jog hurt as well, but once I was moving, the “running” form was more comfortable for me than walking.  We crossed into Crystal City via a bridge at mile 21 or 22.  There was a water stop right near the mile 24 Dunkin Donut Munchkin stop, but to my tired eyes, the two stops seemed to be one and the same.  Alas, I was so disappointed that I was not to the Munchkins yet.  For those next two miles through Crystal City, a place filled with happy spectators, I literally ran for donuts.  I told myself I could walk again once I got to the Dunkin Donuts stop.  That was a great stop, and my last one, and I ate 3 munchkins faster than I’ve ever eaten a Munchkin.  I wolfed those things down like it was the last food I’d ever see.  I was hungry, thirsty, tired from lack of sleep and running 24 miles, and mentally exhausted, and I’ll tell you what – a donut was just the thing for me.  Someone was thinking when they contracted Dunkin Donuts for Mile 24.  About half a mile later, another man ran up to me to say that he knew of both Darin and Jonas because he worked at the Pentagon.  At this precise moment, we rounded a bend and were able to see the United States Air Force Memorial in the distance, and I kept on running.

Since my phone had died I had no way of contacting John to let him know how much my pace had slowed and that I was going to be much later than expected at the finish line.  Thankfully, at around mile 25, I ran into a friend from the Naval Academy who was there to cheer me on, Heather Hess.  She and John had been texting back and forth trying to find me (She had missed me at another spot), and  she knew the course well from having run it twice while at the Naval Academy.  Seeing her about a mile out from the finish was wonderful, and it kept me going.  She ran alongside me even though she is seven months pregnant, and eventually she just walked since my “jog” was so slow by this point. 🙂

Heather walking alongside me, catching me up on the last 15 years of her life and easily distracting me from the pain.

She sacrificed her vanity and wore that Naval Academy issued running suit jacket just so that I would be able to spot her (and it worked, too!)  Heather told me the finish line was up a hill so we couldn’t see it, but that it was less than a mile away.  She texted John to let him know where I was, and about 1/4 mile from the finish I saw John and Daniel (who was strapped to John’s chest.)  John passed off his cellphone to me so that I would be able to contact him (via Christine’s phone) once I was through the finish area.  The MarathonFoto people even got a picture of the phone handoff:

You can just barely see his phone in my left hand. 🙂

Immediately following this picture, I ran faster up the hill towards the finish, and “sprinted” (a relative term by this time) towards this:

Just past the finish line. The Iwo Jima Monument

I was indescribably happy and felt so blessed to be crossing the finish line at last.  No one could get close enough in the crowd for me to see anyone cheering me on as I crossed, so it was just me and the Marine (who’s name happened to be Armstrong) putting the medal around my neck, in some sort of strange vacuum where it seemed like time had stopped.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re pretty much in constant motion for 5 hours and 55 minutes and then suddenly come to a complete stop.  Yes, you read that right. 5:55.   I had hoped for 4:55, and it took me an entire hour past that time to complete the marathon.  Going on my half marathon time for the day, I would have finished before the five hour mark, but my body was just not in shape enough to handle all 26 miles with the same strength as the first 13, so we just slowed it waaaaaaay down. 🙂

about to cross the finish line

26.2 miles. Mission Accomplished.

So that’s it.  All that’s left to describe is the aftermath. 🙂  I think I will save that for another post, along with my contemplations on the marathon distance. 🙂

 

 

 

Marine Corps Marathon Recap

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Freezing before the race

Oh my goodness! Where to start!?!  I am going to begin back in January of 2012, just so that by the time we all make it to the Marathon together you will be as excited as me.  I’ll try to be as brief as possible.  Good plan?

Last January, John and I read Born to Run by Christopher McDougal.  If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it because of the interesting stories in it, and for the engaging “sports writer” style of the prose narrative.  That’s what it is — a truly enthralling story, punctuated with colorful biographies of the key actors who he weaves through the plot.  Each mini-biography pushes you to read the book faster, as they interrupt the plotline.  My dad, an avid reader, picked it up on my recommendation, even though he is not into running.  He enjoyed the story, albeit not as much as I did. 🙂 (The author’s style started to annoy him eventually.)  ANYWAY, I said to John while reading it, “Don’t worry, honey, it’s not like I’m going to want to run marathons or anything.”  But then, something changed.  I got lost on a run in England one Saturday and ended up logging nearly 12 miles.  I was about 3 months pregnant at the time, and the run hadn’t been difficult for me.  This drove me to look for a Half Marathon for which I could register that wouldn’t be too far along in my pregnancy and was on a Saturday pretty close to home.  That left: March 24 (6 months pregnant) at Dorney Lake (the place where they did the Olympic rowing right near Windsor Castle and Eton College.)  I set this as a goal and registered, and essentially it served to motivate me to keep running as much as possible while pregnant.  I decided to sign up for another, shorter race about a month farther along – a 10K (7 months pregnant) at the end of April.  During the months that followed I started to appreciate my ability to continue running more and more (I had to stop at 16 weeks gestation with baby number 5 due to some complications) and just before the Half Marathon I decided that if I could run 13 miles 6 months pregnant, I could certainly run 26 any other time.  I REALLY WANTED the Marine Corps Marathon to be my first marathon, and I knew the registration filled up waaaaay in advance.  At this point we knew we’d be leaving England in the summer, but we had no idea where we would be heading.  I just hoped it was the East Coast so we would be close enough for the Marathon!  The MCM had always been on my mind since being a midshipman at the Naval Academy and seeing one or two people walking the halls in their coveted MCM race shirts (always a distinctive mock turtleneck.)  Back then, I thought a marathon was impossible, and that it was undesirable.  Why would I want to torture myself??

I looked at a calendar and thought that a Tuesday was a strange day for a marathon (I was looking at the date for 2011’s MCM – October 30 – but in the year 2012.)  Still, I set my alarm for the signup day to make sure I’d be ready to go since I was bunches of timezones away and didn’t want to miss it.  When the day came, I signed up right away, and the registration filled up after 17 hours!  I can’t remember what clued me in to the fact that the marathon was on October 28 – a Sunday – but some time in the next few hours I realized I had just signed up to run on a Sunday.  This may seem like no big deal to most of you, but to me, someone who had just informed my pipe band that I would not be participating with them – the only Pipe Band invited – at the Closing Ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics because they were on a Sunday (turns out I had baby Daniel too late to have been able to participate anyway), this was almost a deal breaker.

That’s my fun group of friends from the Redding (UK) Scottish Pipe Band at the Olympics in London.  They came on during “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” with the famous Eric Idle from Monty Python fame.

I had to really think and pray about whether or not these two things were the same to me.  I realize that everyone has different convictions about what it looks like to walk in faith — some are not Christians, and even among different Christian denominations, and within particular churches, people disagree on what people “should” or “should not” be doing if they are followers of Christ.  (I was reminded of this again concerning Halloween when discussions sprung up on Facebook about whether or not to go trick-or-treating.  With the liberty we find in Christ, a personal walk with God can have a myriad of different appearances.)  In my family, we feel a conviction that we should be “keeping the Lord’s Day holy” – which to us may mean something different than what it means to others.  We try to make it a day set apart to honoring God, worshiping Him at home and in church, and refraining from other labors and activities.  For the most part this means we try not to eat out on Sundays, and we attempt to spend the time between our morning and evening church services resting or doing things related to our faith.  Sometimes this will even include walks outside or fellowship with friends and family over boardgames or meals.  We try not to be legalistic in the ways that we live out our convictions, so of course we make exceptions when we deem them appropriate.  Other times, we just fall short of our own expectations and do things on Sundays that we really think we shouldn’t be doing — but we don’t beat ourselves up about it.  So running a marathon once – the Marine Corps Marathon is ALWAYS on a Sunday – could be something for which I would make an exception, but why?  Ever heard of the movie Chariots of Fire? (of course you have.)  It’s the story of Eric Liddell, who refused to run in one of the Olympic races (for which he was favored to win) because his heat was on a Sunday, but then won Gold instead in a different race (the 400 metres) a few days later.  If I am going to willingly do something that I normally would not do on the Lord’s Day, I need to have what I feel is an acceptable reason.  Here’s an example: I just delivered a baby. It’s Sunday, and there’s nothing ready to eat in the house for when we return from church. We are too wiped out to even go to someone else’s house for lunch but just need to get home to eat and rest.  Sure, I could have planned better, but my cart fell in a ditch (tongue-in-cheek way of saying that the situation is a bit beyond my control.)  In this case, we would just hit some drive-thru on the way home.   You get the point.  Okay, so I had to ask myself – is the MCM any different to me than the Olympics?

A memorable image from the movie – and the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, incidentally, if you happened to see the skit with Roan Atkinson 🙂

The answer is, undoubtedly, yes.  The Marine Corps Marathon is different from other marathons for the same reasons it is different from the Olympics, from professional football, etc, etc.  In my mind, those other things are about glorifying athletes, glorifying sport in and of itself, and honoring those sporting events (not necessarily a bad thing.)  There is nothing wrong with those aspects of professional athletics and such, so long as the events are not on Sunday if  it is your conviction that Sunday is a day set apart to honoring God.   I pay homage to my favorite entertainers by paying money to see them in concert, or I give in to my love of running by signing up for races, or I exercise my musical talents (along with a love of Guinness) by playing the bagpipes in a local pub, and in so doing I dedicate time and energy on a regular basis to things that are for my own enjoyment, things that don’t have anything really to do with God.  I just don’t commonly do these things on Sundays.  And I completely understand that I differ from most people in my convictions on this matter, so I am only talking about this as it pertains to me.

 

You may not know this, but the Marine Corps Marathon is the largest Marathon in the country, probably in the world, that does not give prize money.  Yet, year after year, professional runners (ie those who compete for the top spots and earn prize money when they win races) run the MCM because of what it stands for – honoring those who serve our country, those who have died or been permanently injured serving our country, and the families of servicemembers everywhere.  The event is run by the US Marine Corps, and every runner there knows that the Marines they see lining the roads make great sacrifices in the course of their careers.  Multiple groups formed to raise money for charities benefitting families and soldiers alike are represented.  Others simply remember the fallen without contributing any funds to a cause, and they wear shirts and put up signs to remind everyone around that freedom isn’t free.  I decided that if there was a way I could run the Marathon in honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our great Nation, then I would be honoring God as well.  That’s when I found “Run to Honor,” a group headed by other Naval Academy graduates in order to remember our classmates who have fallen since 9/11/2001.  At the dinner with Run to Honor the night before the race, I was presented with a hat given by the parents of Major Megan McClung, the first female Marine officer killed in the Iraq war, who died when her Humvee struck an IED.  The front of the hat says, “Be Bold,” as Megan’s motto in her Public Affairs Officer position in the USMC was “Be Bold, Be Brief, Be Gone.”  Kara, who heads up Run to Honor and was a classmate of Megan’s at the US Naval Academy, chose to give me the hat because she felt it was a bold move to attempt to run a marathon three months post-partum, while raising 6 kids all nine and under (nursing one of them), and moving across the globe (essentially, her words.)  It didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me at the time – I mean, it’s just 26 miles.  (I say this jokingly now, because it was so much harder than I had anticipated!)  Megan’s parents also give an award every year to the final finisher at the Marine Corps Marathon.  Here’s a brief summary, taken from the website about the Megan McClung Memorial Run in Washington State, of Megan’s commitment to her love of running (and swimming, and biking…): “Major McClung was an avid marathon runner and tri-athlete.  As a tri-athlete, she competed in seven Ironman distance triathalons.  Her accomplishments include winning the First Military Female award in Kona in 2000 and placing second the next year.  She organized the first Marine Corps Marathon (Forward) in Iraq to coincide with the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon and served as the Race Director.  Despite running with an injury, she placed second among the female runners.”

At the Expo and the Marathon, I saw many other similar groups – like Run to Remember, Wounded Warriors Fund, TAPS, and the Semper Fi Society.  At this particular marathon, in this amazing location, weaving through our Nation’s landmarks and its people’s tributes to those who have died in America’s wars  (Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Wall, The 9/11 Monument, the WWII Monument to name a few), I couldn’t help but remember those who serve and to thank God with every step for my freedom, for this country, for those who keep us free, and for a God who has blessed me in so many ways.

 

So now I have you caught up on why I was so super-motivated to run this Marathon.  Plans began – hotel reservations, a plane ticket for Christine to join us in DC, and a training plan to begin on August XX (the date depended entirely on when I would deliver Daniel and how healthy I would be during and after the delivery) including figuring out when and where to run since we would be spending August 14- September 12 on the road.  I knew I couldn’t train for as long as is recommended since I only had about 10 weeks from my first run post-partum until the marathon, but part of my motivation for running until I was three days overdue with Daniel was thinking that all the running while pregnant was part of my training for the MCM.  Since my first run on my last day living in England, each and every run has mattered.  I have barely been able to squeeze in 4 runs a week (and I had to take a week off due to a sore calf muscle); I only progressed as far as one three-hour run, which was only 16 miles for me (most marathoners get up to a 20 or 22 mile run a few weeks before a marathon.)  By this past weekend, the training had come to an end, and I spent Saturday night in the hotel room packing up for the big day.  I needed to pack a bag for John to bring to the race in case it rained the whole time (dry socks and running shoes, long sleeves and running tights in case I became chilled) and also for afterwards – jeans, long sleeves, dry underwear – because we would be away from the rest of our stuff for a while.  Then we packed up the things John, Christine, and the kids would need the next day as they attempted to watch the marathon, and finally we put all our other belongings in the van.  That night didn’t go quite as planned – since I didn’t fall asleep til after midnight, and Greer woke up coughing a little past 2am.  After medicating her, I tried to sleep a bit more, and then John started coughing.  Next it was the Halloween partygoers in the hallway, and the final sound to prevent my sleep was my alarm at 4:45am.  Oh well.  Apparently plenty of other runners lose sleep the night before races.  I quickly pumped some milk for Daniel and readied myself, then I woke up John who was driving me over to the DC Armory to catch the Metro.  I was at the Pentagon by 6:15am, walking out into the chilly, drizzly morning to join 30,000 other runners.  As I lamented my shoddy night’s sleep to the Facebook world on my iphone, an amputee with one of those “flex-foot Cheetah blades”  walked by me.  Humbled, I began thanking God for the first time that day for my wonderful life – and my thankfulness continued to overflow throughout the many, many long hours on the course.

I saw many people running with “TAPS” during the race — they could be seen all wearing red singlets with pictures of the people whom they honored by running on their backs. Spectators cheered as they passed, but I’m thinking most of the runners did what I did – cried. And running while crying is not easy!

Around 6:45am or so I met up with Brent and Carole Shrader (Carole was running the MCM for her first time, but she has done several other marathons.  She finished in 4:13 and some change.), and I was glad to finally have someone with whom I could talk.  Carole shared a Clif bar with me since I was starving and hadn’t brought any suitable pre-race food.  It was pretty cold, and I was beginning to second-guess my apparel, but in reality, my trashbag and throw away pants kept me warm enough until the start, and I didn’t regret my short sleeves or lack of gloves at any other point in the day.

With Carole before the race

A picture I took at the start – the starting line is the orange thing way off in the distance.

That’s it for now – I’ll have to give you more details about the race itself in another post, since this one is so long already!  Check back in tomorrow to find out how John, Christine, and the kids fared. 🙂

 

A Capital Time

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Friday was a day in which we visited two capitals – Washington, DC, and Annapolis, MD!  We left Annapolis Friday night with full tummies – thank you Adam’s Ribs!!!!!  I had a salad with shrimp (and a she-crab soup I didn’t really like) as well as 3-4 ribs from someone’s plate.  The kids scarfed their ribs down, and John probably ate 3/4 of a rack of ribs by himself.  We can’t come to the Annapolis area without a trip to Adam’s Ribs (They catered our rehearsal dinner as well the night before our wedding.)  John says that Greer (who turned two just a few months ago) probably ate half a rack by herself.  They were a big hit!

We started out Friday morning in Roanoke Rapids, NC, where I ran my last three miles on a treadmill at the Holiday Inn while John had breakfast with all six kids by himself in the hotel lobby.  After a quick shower we were on the road in plenty of time to pick up Christine at the airport at 3:30pm in Baltimore.  Unfortunately, at our fuel stop just north of the Virginia border, I remembered that I had left the freezer pack with the extra milk for Daniel in the fridge back at the hotel.  So, back we went, and by the time we hit DC it was already 3:15pm, so there was quite a bit of traffic.

Leaves on the beautiful drive

I was a bit frustrated that the GPS had us going right through DC (but perhaps the big loop around the city would have taken longer); however, seeing a few of the sites along the marathon route was pretty exciting:
We didn’t end up at BWI Airport until around 4:50pm, which didn’t really ruin any plans but was just annoying because of the stop and go traffic.  At least I remembered it before it was too late to go back!  Marathon success depends a bit on having extra milk for him.  Once we retrieved Christine from the curb, we were on our way to show off our Alma Mater.  None of the children have been there since Patience was 6 months old and John’s submarine was the “touring” ship for Homecoming one year.  (I just recalled another trip to Annapolis when we lived in Maine and popped down to see the Naval Academy Spring Musical – a Gilbert and Sullivan one – but I don’t think the kids went over there since we arrived in the late afternoon and took them over to the babysitter’s house straightaway.)
Fun times were had by all as the children stared wide-eyed at the huge buildings and beautiful campus.  They particularly loved Dahlgren Hall, where John and I used to go on “dates” for pizza and ice skating when we were midshipmen and couldn’t leave the Yard during the week. 🙂  Christine was enamored of the campus as well, and the place was made a little more magical by the presence of many strange people clad in odd costumes.

Driving over the Severn River into Annapolis

Naval Academy N* on the Water Tower

The outside of Dahlgren Hall, built in 1901 (I think that’s what the sign said) – this is where we could go for pizza or subs, to study, or to ice skate on nights when we couldn’t leave the campus.

Looking over at the Chapel dome

The roof inside Dahlgren Hall

Hanging inside Dahlgren

Tecumseh, the statue we painted before every home football game

Kiddos with Christine

Looking down Stribling Walk

The front of Bancroft Hall, our dormitory

the kids standing by a mock-up of one of the rooms (my room never looked like this because they were remodeling the building while I was there.)

Right inside Bancroft Hall – “The Rotunda”

The kids and John walking into Memorial Hall (also inside Bancroft Hall)

Running to Honor tomorrow – LT Darin Pontell, my company-mate and classmate, killed 9/11/01 at the Pentagon

Also LT Jonas Panik, my teammate on the Powerlifting Team, another victim of 9/11

Apparently this weekend there will be many oddities as the Naval Academy’s organist performs his annual Halloween Concert on the grandiose pipe organ in the Chapel.  This annual production began my junior or senior year and has grown annually, now incorporating special effects, costumes, and plenty of antics.  I have never been to the concert (It was sold out by the time I noticed that it was going on this weekend.)  but I’m sure it would be memorable — We don’t celebrate Halloween in our family, but the concert is just famous “eerie” organ music, and the organist (Monty Maxwell) is one of the country’s best — things from “Phantom of hte Opera,” Toccata and Fugue, and things from a few Requiems.  One of these days —
Saw this hilarious picture  and thought I’d share it:
I hope you have been having a good weekend! 🙂  We plan on braving a hurricane, dragging 6 kids around Washington, DC, and running a marathon.  Sounds like we’ll be pretty busy!!

Resting up for the weekend! (Thanks to a little help from my *new* friends!)

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That’s Gabriel and Daniel, lying on my pillow yesterday morning looking super cute and fun, which is what they are. 🙂

Sitting here with my feet up in our newly halfway-unpacked living room….ahhhhhhh!!! Every evening since last Monday night I’ve been on my feet til about 1am unpacking and organizing, with the exception of when I’ve had to nurse to baby.  Even most of my eating has been done standing up while I buzz around the kitchen, and NOW I am giving myself permission to sit. And then sit some more. And then nap. And then maybe sit again.  (This really did happen because before and after the nap today I was sitting to nurse Daniel :))  With the marathon only 5 days away, I am trying to take everyone’s advice to rest my legs and to hydrate.  But let me tell you, my relaxation time this evening was made even more enjoyable possible at all by my two new friends who came over to help unpack today.  They weren’t even really my friends until we chatted while unpacking, since I have only just met them both through the homeschool support email group and the homeschool cooperative.  So basically, these two total strangers came in and started going through all my things while their children, whom I had also never really met, played with mine all over the house and out in the cul-de-sac, almost completely unsupervised, except by one of their older children.  Yes, I feel blessed to have met some wonderful strangers who are no longer quite as strange! 🙂  Sarah came over last Friday and then again today, and with her today came Joell.  Both are teachers at the co-op, and Sarah has a son in class with Patience and Gabriel – in the class that Joell teaches (zoology.)  Needless to say, the children had a great time today with their new little friends and enjoyed the unpacking much more than they would have if I had been on my own occasionally snapping at them for getting in my way. 🙂  Today we made it through several more boxes in the kitchen and most of the book boxes in the living room, enough to enable us to better arrange the living room and really start to “live” in it. 🙂 Double smile face. 🙂  After they left I nursed Daniel again and then was able to nap because John was home a bit early.  I slept from 3:45-6pm.  Seriously.  I know you are jealous now. (Sorry to incite envy in my readers…)  When I finally tore myself out of bed, I was greeted by a cheerful Greer who had – get this – woken up from her nap, pulled down her pants, taken off her nappy, pooped in the little potty, wiped herself, pulled her pants back up, and then come to report to me on her accomplishment.   Folks, if you need a better advertisement for infant potty training, I can’t come up with one.  She turned two on August 30.  Yes, she still wears nappies, but she poops and pees in them just about…well, almost never.  I went through the whole “changing poopy diapers until they’re almost three” thing with Liesl and Gabriel, so I feel your pain if that’s what is going on with you right now.  And PLEASE, don’t feel like an underachiever if your child isn’t trained by two in the conventional way.  (But if your child was trained by age 1 in the conventional way, I give you my permission to certainly feel like an overachiever — I hardly had it done by age 3!)  Infant potty training is such a different animal, that trying to compare a child trained from birth to one who begins training as a toddler is like comparing apples to oranges.  Anyway, I digress….I nursed Daniel again and then made porkchops and garlicky green beans for dinner.  Then John fixed us all some BlueBell Rocky Road ice cream.  And now I’m chilling out with my laptop in my new comfy chair spot (that’s what you call the place where all your things are staged for your comfort — the seat that reclines, the table for your drink, the basket of things necessary for nursing a baby, the lapdesk for your laptop, etc.)  while the children and John fill the room with laughter as they watch “America’s Funniest Videos” on Netflix.  Heaven. 🙂

An update on the last few days since I have been remiss…I DID get in that last 8 mile run this weekend.  It was tough at points since my tummy was a bit upset after my pizza for lunch and naptime (I ran around 6:30pm), but that annoyance came and went, so parts of the run still were enjoyable.  It ended up being around a 10:00 min/mile average pace, and I’m happy to say I only have two more runs before the big day.  Don’t get me wrong – I really do love running – but training for something this involved adds a little more to the mix, causing me to worry about sustaining an injury or getting sick or a myriad of other things that just don’t regularly occur to me.  There is so much money already committed – besides just the race fees, there’s the hotel for three nights, the trip up there (about 12 hours in the van with the kids) and back, the food for three days (also going to a special dinner for Run to Honor), and the fact that Christine (aka supernanny) is flying down from New York to spend the weekend with us.  Add to this that all my fans on facebook and the blog – you know, the cheering masses who follow my life online (all three of you) – will be pulling for me, and there is a lot “riding” on this weekend.  I will be glad when it has come and gone (even though I feel that it is sure to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life) so that I can get back to reality for a bit. 🙂  Let me just tell you about the BEST PART of my 8 mile run this weekend — the protein recovery shake. Oh yes.  It was amazing.  I call it my “Eggnog Latte Frappucino Protein Shake.”  Want to know how to make your own?  Curious about it’s nutritional content? Well read on, my friend….

Here’s what I put into this beauty:

Also, I used about this much ice:

Specific things to know:

1 cup Eggnog

1/2 cup Almond Milk

1/2 tsp cinnamon coffee syrup

2 tsp decaf instant coffee

1 scoop protein powder

about 2 cups crushed ice

Even Greer loved it:

Nutritional information:

Calories: 430

Fat (from the eggnog and protein powder): 10g

Sodium: 375 mg

Potassium: 680 mg

Carbs (mostly all sugars, a little fiber in the Almond milk): 50

Protein: 31 – 1/2  g

Talk about a recovery shake!! It was my whole dinner that night. Yum!

A few final thoughts before I feed Daniel again and get myself to bed…I was reading Hungry Runner Girl’s blog today, and she posted some quotes from a book by Kristin Armstrong called Mile Markers.  I haven’t read it yet, but now I think I will make a beeline to the bookstore (is that a proper use of the colloquialism “beeline?” Is that even how it’s spelled?)  I won’t quote it here, since Janae did such a good job of posting it on her blog, but I will summarize the sentiments — it was a section about the power of GRATITUDE.  The book describes how being thankful for all the blessings in her life has helped her at mile 26 of a marathon and to push through other tough challenges.  How rephrasing “I have to” into “I get to” can revolutionize the way you feel about something.  I am right there with her!! I guess because I’m so fresh off of running until I was 40+ weeks pregnant, and because I watched some of the Paralympics, and because I’ll be running in honor of those who have given their lives in the service of our country this Saturday, I already feel like every run is a gift.  I GET TO RUN not pregnant (yippee!) And when I was pregnant, I was gifted with the ability (two legs, no injuries or pregnancy-related health issues) to continue running through my delivery date.  Every day, I GET TO SERVE my children and my husband.  I think I shared the other day about the lady on Biggest Loser Season 8 (Abby – you can read her story by clicking on her name.) who lost her family in a tragic accident.  I know we shouldn’t dwell on the bad things in life, but I bring it up again just to say that we need to remember every day how incredibly blessed we are.  Every day, I have a body that functions which I can use to run, to hug, to cook, to clean, to drive people places, to speak, to listen.  So many people in this world don’t have the blessing of health!! And that’s just the beginning!  We are also blessed financially to be able to eat every day and to have a nice place to live, a car to get from place to place, and lots of things that are way beyond our basic “needs.”  Beyond that, I am blessed with a husband who supports me fully (never begrudging me the time to enjoy playing my bagpipes or running) and who counts me as a blessing, too.  So – I think that now I am no longer nervous about running my first marathon this weekend.  I GET to go to DC with my wonderful family to run this amazing race.  Every part of the weekend is just icing on the cake of spending time together as a family with our friend Christine as well (ummm…minus the 4-5 hours when I’m running – that will just be time spent with thousands and thousands of runners and spectators!)  And tonight – I have so enjoyed “getting” to blog again! 🙂

Weekly Recipe Recommend – Taco Seasoning

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Man! How is it I’m always so excited to get my stuff when we move somewhere new?? I must forget how overwhelming it is in the intervening months between moves. (Incidentally, I a always thrilled, too, when they take all our stuff away and the whole house is empty again when we move out of places.)  I feel like I have NO time right now to sit down on the computer or anything.  I’ve been up so late every night, and John and I have been working, working, working!  Within reason, of course.  Since I’m nursing Daniel, that’s a time every day when I get to sit to feed him, potty him, and change him.  Sometimes I cuddle him, too. 🙂  Today, I was so blessed to have our first visitors!!! It was a family I met through our homeschool co-op — one of the two families which responded positively to my “bagpipe lessons” advertisement through the homeschool support group emails.  The new friend came over with three daughters and a son (her older son stayed home to babysit the youngest) who were all there to help with the children and the unpacking for about three hours.  It was such a relief to have someone else spurring me on in the kitchen (John’s been working in the living room mostly, since the kitchen is “mine,” and I need to be the one to decide where things go) since I was feeling really bogged down by the lack of space (or was it the overabundance of stuff for the perfectly acceptable amount of space??)  They helped me get through about four or five more boxes.  Which is how many boxes I’ve unpacked since the people delivered the stuff in the last two evenings by myself. (So productivity from the last few days was doubled in just a few hours!!)

Daniel, pondering the mess

Now it’s ANOTHER day later (wrote this on Saturday).  My goodness, where does the time go!?!  Today I can tell you where a great amount of it went — garage sale shopping!! Fun!! I haven’t been to garage sales in years, and we were looking for a riding toy for Greer and possibly lawn furniture for our back patio, so I wrote down the addresses of about 8 yard sales near our house before I went to bed last night.  This morning I took everyone who was awake – which turned out to be all the kids except Claire – while John slept in.  I didn’t even feed Daniel til 8:45am, so it was a nice late morning for me as well, and we weren’t at the sales til after ten.  That’s okay, though, because all the kids had fun with the dollar I gave each of them, and I found a few neat buys.  Probably spent about $25 total.  We failed on our primary mission, though, so we stopped in to Wal Mart at the end for a little Radio Flyer Scooter for her and a few groceries.
The rest of the day was spent recovering from being out (with my feet up on the couch for a little while), then making tacos for dinner and continuing to organize the kitchen.  I had planned on an 8 mile run, but my legs and feet have been hurting since the movers brought our stuff (from standing on them until the wee hours each night doing the unpacking,) so I decided to rest my legs for one more day.  Yesterday I had a good run – 4.61 miles – before the unpacking help arrived, and then this 8 miles will be my last longer run before the marathon.  I’m not quite sure how to “taper,” but I’m planning on another two runs after the 8 miles – probably each around 3-4 miles.  In case you’re reading this and you know the answer:  The marathon is Sunday, October 28.  Obviously I shouldn’t run on Saturday the 27th.  Should my last run be on Thursday or on Friday?  Right now I’m planning on Thursday but am afraid to go from Thursday to Sunday without shaking out my legs a little, you know?  This marathon stuff is so confusing!! 🙂
I think this officially the longest I’ve gone without posting a blog since I started blogging!! Sunday night now, and at least I have some good status pictures to post!!  Last night I finally finished my kitchen cupboards — counters still to come, so we need to wait to share those pictures until they have been made cute enough for public consumption…You may wonder why this took so long, but I had drawn out a plan of where to put everything, and then of course way more stuff seems to come out of the boxes than I had accounted for in the plan!  Plus, I had just been throwing things in the pantry since we moved in last week, and it was full of boxes, bags, and cans, and then all my tupperwares showed up.  So here’s the finished product:
There’s actually another row which is two tupperware containers thick on the right behind the wall which didn’t make it into the picture.  So that is a lot of stuff crammed into the pantry! 🙂  Here are a few cupboards:

The “baking” cupboard, with spices, baking soda and powder, cocoa, regular flour, chocolate chips, random nut meals and flax seeds, and then all the vinegars and bottled sauces. I think I have about 10 types of vinegar. No joke.

Friday night I made my own taco seasoning for the first time – a huge batch to have it around for a while.  I was tired of having trouble finding taco seasoning without MSG (I’ve never found any, but I also haven’t looked past the regular store brands), and I also would like a seasoning that is less salty than normal.  This one should have more cayenne I think, but it calls for a pinch, so I didn’t know how to really measure it out in bulk.  I think in the future I’ll just add a sprinkle or two to my meat along with this premade mix.  Everyone loved it at dinner tonight! 🙂 I basically did 40 TIMES the recipe.  As a gauge for that, there are 2 Teaspoons of Chili Powder in one recipe.  So that’s 80 Teaspoons of just that one spice.  Here’s the recipe I used:

2 teaspoons hot chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste (optional)
1 pinch red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)

Looking down on the seasoning before I mixed it

I thought this looked too cool to not document it…

It was on Allrecipes here: taco seasoning recipe

Leaving you with Greer, playing at the mall Friday afternoon when we had to run out to pick up some pictures we had taken:

One last thought. I was watching “The Biggest Loser” Season 8 last night on my computer while I worked on the computer, and in the first episode the contestants went around and introduced themselves.  One woman had a 5 year old daughter and a 2 1/2 week old son.  Who were both killed, along with her husband, in a head-on collision in which the other vehicle was driving over 100mph.  Talk about heart-wrenching.  Yes there were a few tears shed during my cupboard organization as I reflected on how blessed I am to have such a wonderful family.  This post sounds like I was complaining about my “situation” – drowning in boxes, kids running around making messes while I’m trying to unpack, constantly needing to make meals and then clean up from them…so I don’t mean to sound that way at all. 🙂 My life is wonderful, every day, all the time.  Even the times that are more are trying than others.  Hope you had a restful Sunday full of joy!

 

Weekly Recipe Recommend: Chicken’s Tacos

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So a chicken taco sounds pretty boring, right? I wasn’t even planning on blogging about it, but then my husband said something like, “These are so yummy.  Too bad you didn’t take a picture for your blog!”  Every time we have them for dinner he is quite free with his praise of the tacos, and they are a little bit original, so I decided to go ahead and call it a “recipe.” 🙂  It was a friend of ours who first served them to us this way, so if he’s reading this I hope he doesn’t think I’m a recipe thief!

There’s not much about the day to pass along – just our normal Thursday going to the homeschool co-op — but there were a few differences that made the day special. 🙂  We started off by stopping at Dunkin Donuts for kolaches and donuts, and of course a decaf iced coffee with a tiny bit of pumpkin spice in it.  Such a late breakfast, and such a big one, keeps us going til around 2:30pm with only a small snack in between as we drive from one place to another.  This was the first day that we had piano lessons in the middle of classes, so I dropped off Gabriel, after his first class, over at the piano teacher’s house for a very successful lesson.  A good day for Gabriel, since they were building a Merry-Go-Round in his KNex class, and the piano teacher decided the book she had ordered for him is too easy, and he needs to move to the next book.  After returning to the co-op to retrieve the girls, we arrived back at the teacher’s house for Patience’s lesson.  It was cute hanging out on the teacher’s front porch because the other four children basically chased each other back and forth for about twenty minutes nonstop.  Where do they find the energy??
After the last period, I was excited to meet another mom from the co-op whose son is interested in bagpipe lessons.  I advertised last night on one of the homeschooling support group websites, and already there have been two responses!  Hopefully I will end up with two or three dedicated students to whom I will be able to reveal the underground world of bagpiping. 🙂  No, I mean, a several students in whom I can instill a love of piping that will last a lifetime.  Playing the bagpipes is something that has brought me, and others, so much joy in a way that is different than other instruments I have played (I also play the flute and the piano.)  I can’t explain why this is — you either love bagpipes, so you don’t need this explained, or you hate bagpipes and could never understand why anyone would want to listen to them, much less devote hours upon hours to learning to play them!!
Then we stopped in to Chick-fil-a again on the way home, so by the time we returned we needed to start dinner.  So here’s what I did! 🙂
First, and you can do this part ahead of time to pull the meat out of the freezer in a baggie on the day you need it, bake the chicken.  I use thighs because of the intense, yummy chicken flavor that adds to the seasonings.  Breasts are good for some things – usually eating on their own as the centerpiece of a meal – but I find that when I have meals where the chicken is going to be diced up (and particularly if you’re going to freeze it to use later) that it seems sort of dried up if it is chicken breast.  Anyway, I just put the chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on, into a baking dish and then season them.  (Sometimes I lift the skin up a bit and season inside but usually I make sure the side with almost no skin on it is face up so it can receive the seasonings.)  I use salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper – to taste.  The kids need it a bit less spicy than we would like it, so John always adds Tabsco sauce to the finished taco.  Bake roughly 45-60 minutes (until juices run clear when poked) at 425 degress F.
Meanwhile, shred your cheese, chop up your tomatoes, wash and chop your cilantro.  When the chicken has cooked, remove the skin, then cut it off the bones and dice it up.  Fill half a flour tortilla with some cheese and some chopped up chicken.  Fold the tortilla over and set aside.  Fill all your tortillas this way until all the ingredients have been used.  Next, we fry them in Olive Oil!  I think this is legitimately the only meal that we “fry”, although every time I make tacos I “soften” the corn tortillas in hot oil as well.  Does that count as frying?  Anyway, John cooked them up for us — he gently lays them into the pan of oil and cooks for about two minutes and then carefully flips them to cook the other side.  They turn out golden brown and sealed shut from the melted cheese.  We quickly open them and stuff them also with the cilantro and tomatoes, but you could add  things like olives, salsa, etc, or even cook them with some onions in with the cheese and chicken as well.  Let me know if you make them this way and enjoy them!!
Now it’s Friday morning, and I snuck in a quick run by getting up at 7, pumping, and bolting out the door just as the baby woke up 🙂  John fed him the bottle so I could run for a bit before Daniel’s 9am doctor’s appointment, for which John would be staying home to watch the children.  It was just a short four miles, but I achieved my goal of making each mile quicker than the last:
Mile 1: 11:06
Mile 2: 10:32
Mile 3: 10:03
Mile 4: 9:50
Everything for Daniel checked out well, and I was back home by 10:15.  I wanted to show you what has become a “catch-all” table in this temporary lodging:
Or has it?  Upon closer inspection strange things are seen, and its true nature is revealed:

An odd assortment…

Hmmm….what could it be?

Apparently, it is one large “Polly shop,” combined with their individual Polly homes.

Polly bookstore

Laptops for sale!