Lately Ava, who is 5, has been very interested in working out as a family. We have started to practice some yoga, she has a tiny 2 pound weight, has really started to love running, and I love it. I’m so proud of her and happy to see that through both mine and Jeff’s example she is beginning to understand the importance of being healthy and making good choices for her well-being.
What I am even more happy about is that she has an understanding that working out is to help make us strong and not skinny. That eating balanced meals and having diets full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein is to fuel our bodies, not lose weight. And as proud of her as I am, I have to say that I am very proud of myself for this as well, because for a long time this was not the case for me.
For as long as I can remember, I was always worried about being fat. I had body-image issues that caused me to have low self confidence and there was not a day that went by that I wasn’t worried about gaining weight or was beating myself up over it. I grew up in a time where this was pretty common, and having a mother with an eating disorder, it was very close to home. As a swimmer and runner I saw many teammates struggle as well. Weight was a huge issue all around me and it was way more important than it should have been. For lack of a better word, it was normal for girls who were thin to complain about being fat. My mom, family and friends told me I was beautiful all the time. But this came from me; I was always so hard on myself and when you are constantly putting yourself down, you start to believe it.
A horrible cycle of binge eating and excessive exercise was something I dealt with for a long time, all the way up to college. I was consumed by it and although I looked like I was in fantastic shape, it was probably the most unhealthy I had ever been. I was eating and exercising to be thin, not strong and was obsessive about it.
Even into my mid to late twenties I struggled. I went to the gym for hours, secretly keeping journals of my workouts, food, everything. I would even take days off from work if I knew it was the only way I could work out that day. Through it all, however, I really had no idea this was a problem.
Fast forward to the year I turned 30. Jeff and I were married, and I was ready to be a mom. When Ava was born, it was like she saved me. None of that mattered as much anymore. I still worked out, usually by running with her in the stroller, but my reasons changed. I wanted her to see her mom making good choices. I wanted to make sure that she would never struggle with any of the things that I had. I never wanted her to see me stay home because all of my clothes made me look fat, which happened many times in my life. I had to consciously step back and understand that she would learn from my actions. It wouldn’t matter how many times I told her she was beautiful, if she saw her mother putting herself down that’s what she would do too.
So we never talk about working out to lose weight or even maintain weight. Even after my son was born, I never alluded to the baby weight or put myself down in front of her, no matter how badly I wanted to get back in shape. Yes, I felt that way, it’s completely natural after a woman has a baby. But she didn’t need to hear that. In her eyes my body was amazing for bringing her baby brother into this world. And you know what? She is right.
We as moms don’t give ourselves enough credit for that. Our bodies can do incredible things and we put them through so much. We need to be proud of what they are capable of and respect them for that. As a teacher and coach to middle and high school girls it breaks my heart to hear their comments and know some will struggle with these issues. We need to break this cycle and keep striving to teach our girls (and boys) that being strong is far more important than skinny. That being comfortable in your own skin and believing in yourself are the keys to being successful.
I allow Ava to call the shots when it comes to our workouts. I’m lucky she is still cool with the stroller for runs, so when she wants to head out I bring it along so she can hop in and out when she wants. I never force her to workout, I let her know what I am going to do and if she wants to join, great. If not, great. We live a mostly healthy, and organic lifestyle when it comes to food, but are always up for the occasional treat. We might explain that something isn’t the most healthy or suggest a healthier alternative, but I make sure I never tell her something she eats will make her fat. Or call something fattening. It’s always “unhealthy”. Fat just doesn’t exist in our vocabulary.
I won’t say that I don’t still struggle with some of the issues I’ve had. And maybe I always will. It may not make sense to anyone else, but I can honestly say that she has taught me so much about being self confident and self accepting. I learn how to just go about my life without concern of judgement or worry about what someone thinks of me or my weight. Funny how much we learn from our children. She doesn’t know that she could worry about these things. I hope to keep it that way.
I wanted to share some of my favorite pictures of Ava and I running and practicing yoga together. These moments are so incredible to me, and I’d like to think to her too.
So tacos are pretty simple, and who doesn’t love the traditional beef tacos we all had growing up? Little fact about me: I did not eat meat (other than seafood) for many years. When I was pregnant with Ava, I craved steak and red meat like crazy, but as silly as it sounds was afraid to eat it in case my body had a strange reaction. So when she was about 4 months old, and the craving was still there (along with issues with iron levels) I bit the bullet…or steak in this case and started eating red meat again. Still no birds, but now we eat meat at least one night a week.
Over the past few months Jeff and I have been making a tradition of “Taco Tuesday” and have some form of tacos, fajitas, or nachos each week. When it comes to the seasoning for taco meat, I am not a huge fan of all of the added preservatives, but they’re just so good! So one night we decided to try and come up with our own. The kids aren’t into tacos so we were able to make it with some spice too. I also use a version of this recipe with my students but we tone it down a bit.
Again, I don’t measure everything so these are all estimates, but you can adjust according to your own preferences. If you don’t care for something, leave it out!
Basically I just mix all of these in a small ramekin:
2-3 TBSP Chili Powder (this is the “bulk” of the recipe for us)
Then a dash, pinch, or shake of each of the following:
Crushed red pepper flakes
(Sea salt and black pepper to taste-depends on my mood if I add them)
I usually use a very lean, all natural ground beef and just brown it in a large skillet over medium heat.
Drain beef, return to heat
Add seasoning mix, and 1/4-1/2 cups water, depending on amount of meat
Simmer for a few minutes and enjoy!
You may need to adjust the amounts depending on how much beef you use, I usually make 1 or 2 lbs so we have leftovers for taco salads or nachos later in the week or for lunches.
Since Cinco de Mayo is next week, we will be having “Taco Thursday” instead of Tuesday. We love any reason to celebrate and get the family together, and when tacos are involved it’s always great!
Here are some pics from our Cinco fun last year. I also made sombrero cookies and cactus cupcakes, and of course we had a pinata!
This past weekend we were once again on the road for Jeff’s series against Marist College. This was the first time I visited this area, so during the week as I planned out packing and driving, I also looked into what there was to do near the campus. I decided to only take Ava on this trip and make somewhat of a girl’s weekend out of it…sometimes I sense that she needs some “big girl” time, and since her little bro is totally in that “terrible two” buggy little brother stage, she deserved some Mommy and Daddy time. It was only about a 2 hour drive up to the hotel, and we headed up Friday evening picking up the head coach’s wife and daughter, (LA and K) on the way and got in around 9pm.
We were staying in Fishkill, which is about 20 minutes away from the campus. Of course one of the first things I check to see if the hotel has is a gym. For the first time in I don’t know how long they did not! So having done some research I found that in between the hotel and the campus there was the Walkway over the Hudson which was part of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail. It looked really neat, and a great place that I could run with the stroller.
So Saturday morning Ava and I got up, had some breakfast and went to check it out. As we drove down the road, we saw a bridge up ahead. I told Ava I thought that was the bridge we would be running over and she said “no way!”. It looked old, narrow and rickety and I was also a little apprehensive. We drove to a parking lot and found the stairs leading up to the bridge. When we got to the top, we had a pleasant surprise! It was absolutely beautiful. The bridge itself was very clean, wider than it appeared and the view was unbelievable. We had gotten there fairly early and pretty much had the whole bridge to ourselves.
The bridge alone is about 1.3 miles long and crosses over the Hudson River. We stopped a couple times to check out the view and take some pictures, and Ava ran with me for more than half of it. Once we crossed, she climbed into the stroller and we headed down the paved trail for another 4 miles.
Along the way we saw so many beautiful spots, lots of rocky cliffs, trees, old trains and buildings. About 2.5 miles from the bridge there was about a half mile stretch with fitness equipment you could do different exercises on. We saw a few bikers and walkers along the way, and even running tour group, which was pretty cool. For the most part it was empty and very peaceful. And definitely way better than a hotel treadmill! If you are ever out in that area, I highly recommend checking it out.
After our fantastic run (10 miles for me, about 1.5 for her) we headed back to the hotel to get ready for some baseball. Jeff’s team had a double header that day and the weather was great. It’s funny, Ava never seems like she is paying attention to the games but definitely takes an interest in what’s going on. They won the first game but lost the second. After the game, Ava ran over and jumped up on the fence and said to Jeff, “Daddy, you lost! But you won the first one. And you still have the third one tomorrow so it’s ok.” Our little motivational coach in the making!
Saturday night was our usual fun filled dinner out with the coaches, LA, and K. There was a Charlie Browns right across from the hotel so that was the easiest choice. After dinner, I overheard a sweet conversation between Ava and Jeff as I got ready for bed:
JB: “Ava, do you like these baseball weekends?”
A: “Yes I do!”
JB: “What do you like about them the most?”
A: “I love watching my dad!”
So my heart melted and I probably even teared up a little. Sometimes I worry that we do too much with the kids and being on the road. They stay up later, meals can be a little interesting, and they’re often more tired than usual on Monday mornings. But that right there helped remind me why we do it. I love sharing these great days with not only Jeff but with our kids. They see incredible places. They watch their daddy do what he loves. And they are exposed to so many things along the way.
We slept a little later on Sunday morning and then after a quick breakfast I was able to give Ava some promised pool time. She is such a little fish!
So here’s a confession. I was a competitive swimmer for pretty much my whole childhood. I was even a college swimmer. I have been a varsity swim coach for over ten years and absolutely love the sport. And I also was an ocean lifeguard for 14 years, only stopping when I had kids. I swim laps once in a while still, and wish I did more. BUT I have always hated hanging out in pools. Like recreational swimming. I never wanted to go to someone’s house and go in the pool and really don’t spend much time floating around in the ocean. Unless I’m working out, I am not a huge fan. Being splashed is torture to me. But for Ava, I do it. She loves it and I love watching her in the pool. So we swam for an hour, and I had a lot of fun with her.
On Saturday I had pointed out the bridge to LA and K and they had the same reaction Ava and I had about not wanting to go over it. I convinced them it was way better when you were up there and they would not regret trying it out. Sunday morning we packed up and all headed out to run, and planned on just going straight to the game from there. It was pretty much right across the street. We parked and walked up and we all ran separately. Ava stayed in the stroller the whole time, which was good because Sunday is clearly the busy day for the trail. There were so many people, some tours, and they were setting up for a Parkinson’s walk as well. But it was still a great run.
It’s funny, every trip we go on it seems there is some milestone, even a small one that happens and when I think back I remember the trip and the first time Ava did this, or Nolan said that. This past weekend Ava finally mastered chewing gum. Funny, but she has grown up so much through these seasons and I can still picture her learning to walk down hotel hallways and batting cages.
After a great win, we left the field and headed home, getting back just in time to meet my sister for dinner and be reunited with the little man. Then we unpacked and were back to business as usual. After school Monday I asked Ava if she was tired and she said yes. But it is totally worth it, and just meant an earlier bedtime.
“Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.”
This past weekend I ran my second half marathon of 2016 in Asbury Park, NJ. Asbury Park has really done a lot to clean up the town and it has become one of our favorite places to visit that is close to home. The boardwalk has a great vibe with a cool historic feel, and the main street has great restaurants and shops. It’s always a great spot for a run, so I was excited to run a half there.
The run made bib pickup really easy with 3 different options in 3 different towns the week before the race. We were able to pick up our bibs at a nearby Sports Authority, and they gave us a participant coupon to use in the store…so we each bought a new top to complete our race day outfits.
Beth and I headed up to the race which was about a half hour drive from home. Parking was really easy, and the town had waived parking fees until later that afternoon which I thought was great. We parked in a lot and walked down to the convention center where the race would start. It was her first race so I wanted to make sure she knew exactly where the start was and when she should start her watch as she crossed the line.
Before we knew it, the national anthem was playing. I gave her a big hug and we split up based on pace groups. Then we were off. As soon as I started I didn’t feel right. I convinced myself that I would just run to finish and kept a steady pace, working hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the start while everyone raced by me. I really felt as though I was holding back, but as I passed the first mile marker I was surprised to see my first split was under 7:30.
I had a lot of concerns about this race based on my running style and preferences in races. I am always really nervous when a course is described as “flat and fast”. I’m more of a hilly, turn lots of corners girl, which was how the course at my previous half was. I am not a “racer” and really like to do the races for the experience and challenge but can still get competitive! After the first mile I decided to just try and keep that pace or a little slower and see what happened.
The course itself was beautiful. The sun was shining, and the temperature was pretty much perfect. There was definitely some wind, but I always expect that when running on the coast. We ran both on the boardwalk and through neighborhoods in Interlaken, Allenhurst, Deal, Ocean Grove, Bradley Beach and Avon by the Sea, which are all very pretty beach towns so there was plenty to see. There was a long stretch where we ran south and with the wind. I tried really hard to be smart during this part knowing that once we turned to head back to the finish we would be running directly into the wind.
As we looped back around to where the start was around mile 8, I saw my mom, sister, kids and my niece. There are a lot of times I don’t get to see them until the finish since they time out getting to the races based on when I will be done, so I was excited and it gave me a little boost to keep going. The last three miles were tough. The worst part was, I knew I was on pace to PR but my splits were increasing with the wind. There was a point in the race where I thought I would be able to get a sub-140 but I was starting to realize it was not going to be the day for that. But I kept my heart set on a best time either way.
I crossed the line in 140.58, which was almost a full minute faster that DC the month before. Considering how I felt during the race combined with the wind I was really happy with that. As always, the big hugs from Ava and Nolan were my favorite part. As I was holding Nolan and he was still cheering for me, “go mommy, go mommy”. So sweet.
We headed into the expo which was at the convention center and I got my race shirt which I really liked. We walked around a little, and then headed back to the finish to watch Beth finish her first half marathon. When we saw her coming I was so excited for her. I could see how happy and proud she was to get to that point. As I said before, the experiences and challenges are why I run. The best times, medals, and all of that are great, and a welcome reward for all of the hard work, but I really am someone who enjoys the training more than the race. And having been on this journey with her from the beginning it was beyond cool.
We headed back in to get Beth’s shirt, and the results were posted. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had placed second in my age division, which never happens. So we hung around for the awards.
Since we love the area so much, we had planned on making a day out of it. The weather was beautiful and after a long week of not so nice days, being outside felt amazing. We headed to one of my favorite Asbury spots, Porta and sat outside for lunch, and it was a perfect end to a great day.
Overall, I thought the race was great. You can’t beat the location and they raised a lot of money for the Special Olympics of NJ. There were 3 other races going on simultaneously with the half marathon: a 5K which started on the boardwalk (parallel to the half start) and then both a full marathon and marathon relay that started in Seaside Heights. All races finished across the same line, and there were about 4000 runners total who participated. Prior to the race, there were free training plans offered to the participants who were new to races or certain distances which were great too. They even offered certain dates for training runs for the runners.
Post-run picture with Beth
Cutest cheering squad around
There are a lot of times when friends reach out to me and ask if I would recommend races that they are thinking about running. If I was asked about my experience at this race, I would have to say that the things I found disappointing were the lack of bathrooms and small water stops. It seemed as though they did not have enough volunteers for the size of the race. I always seemed to be in a spot where I was almost running alone so I did not have any issues getting water or gatorade but thought that some of the bigger packs of runners I saw as we crossed paths may have. There was one water station that was between the course where we crossed, and they were only able to give water to those running south and I could have used some heading north, around mile 11. The volunteers that were on the course however were great and really encouraging! I think considering there were not any port-a-potties on the course there should have been more available before the start. But overall, I would most likely run this race again, just prepare for my personal spectators to have water for me like I saw a few runners had done.
Today marks 4 years since one of the most surreal days of my life. It was a day when I learned a lot about not only myself but my husband and daughter.
It started out like any other workday. We got up, I got Ava (who was about 18 months old then) ready for Jeff to take her to his mom’s where she would go while we were at work. I then went through my regular routine of rushing around to get myself ready, thinking I have nothing to wear, packing my lunch and rushing out the door.
I don’t remember exactly why that morning was crazier than usual, but as I went to leave I could not find my car key. I searched everywhere, and made quite a mess in the process I’m sure. Finally I gave up and called Jeff to let him know he would need to come get me. We called work and let them know we would be a little late since it was about a 15 minute drive for him to come back. Since I had to wait, I started the dishwasher did a few other odds and ends, and then stood by the door watching for him to pull up.
I had gotten Jeff a kitten for his birthday 2 years before, whom we named Dodger. He was a good cat, but became very needy after Ava came around. While I was waiting for Jeff he was scratching at my leg, meowing and I was kind of blowing him off. He even tried to leave with me when he got back to pick me up. I scooted him back in and rushed to the car. We got to school and went about our day.
After my first classes, I saw I had a missed call from a number I did not know on my cell phone. No voicemail, but service wasn’t great at school so figured it would come up eventually.On my prep period I went to use a computer in the library when one of my friends I was running a marathon relay with that weekend came in to discuss our plan for the day of the race. While we were chatting, I saw over my shoulder Jeff and the school police officer walking toward us.
Jeff is one of the happiest people I know. Super easy going, and definitely always smiling. But there was a look on his face that I had never seen before and I knew right away something was wrong. I immediately thought something happened to Ava and my head started spinning. They both looked at me and then he said, “We have to go. our house is on fire.” The officer offered to drive us but we took his car home to what would be the beginning of something you can never prepare for.
The car ride was strange, it’s hard to explain what it feels like to be driving to your home, not knowing what to expect, who will be there and having no idea where you go from here. I remember telling Jeff that I didn’t use a curling iron or straightener but I had started the dishwasher but couldn’t think of what would have started a fire. I remember saying that I really hoped no one at school would know and that they wouldn’t waste a jeans day on us. I was also praying that none of our neighbors were affected. I was just in a fog but needed to keep talking.
As we pulled onto our street I could see the fire trucks and lots of people standing around. I felt embarrassed and could feel everyone staring at us as we parked and walked up to the scene. There were no flames, and everyone seemed really calm so I started to think it was just a small fire and everything was fine. An officer came up to us and explained what they thought happened…the dishwasher. It started in the kitchen but was mostly smoldering and had been put out. I remember thinking thank goodness, we can just clean up the mess and get a new dishwasher, completely naive!
Another man came over and said he was from the animal control center and let us know that Dodger did not make it. My heart sank. It was at that moment I realized this was a much bigger situation than I realized. Then they said they would take us in, but to be prepared for heavy smoke.
Still in my mind I was picturing just some damage in the kitchen. As soon as we walked through the front door I wanted to lay down. Every inch of our home was black. Nothing was recognizable. I had no idea the extent of damage smoke could do. The windows were all black, you could not see out of them. The windows in the back of the house were smashed and pretty much the entire contents of our kitchen were thrown around the backyard. I just kept following the firemen but my head was spinning. I do however remember seeing a pair of my running shoes that had been right by the front door and kicked them outside thinking they weren’t too damaged.
The absolute worst part was walking into Ava’s room. Everything was so new and precious to me and it was all destroyed. Because my car was there, the firemen thought there may be someone home, and when they saw the baby’s room they really searched so things were strewn about. It hit me at that moment that our lives were going to change, but how lucky we were that we were not home when this happened. That my baby had no idea what was going on and did not have to live through something so scary…and that things could have been so much worse.
So basically every single thing we owned was destroyed, and the house would need to be gutted. The hard part was, it was all right in front of us. I don’t know if this made it worse, but I think for me it did. If everything had burned, I wouldn’t have necessarily remembered all of the little things like Ava’s pretty Easter dress she had worn the weekend before or her baptism gown that was still hanging in her closet.
The next few hours were a complete blur. After we left the house, we went to get Ava from my sister in laws house. I remember pulling up and seeing her standing in the door way looking at us through the glass, smiling with her cousin. I needed to see that smile as a reminder that what we still had was all we needed. My sister in law handed me two pairs of my nieces shoes for Ava to have, and I just thought this is all this little girl has in the world right now and she has no idea! I just wanted to hug her forever. She was my reason to stay strong and positive and my constant reminder of what was really important. Everything can be replaced.
So we took Ava to my parents so we could go out and buy some things we would need. We pulled into the Target parking lot and decided to each take a cart and split up. I headed to the women’s clothing department and Jeff went toward toothpaste and toiletry items. I walked around, and it’s hard to explain my thinking process. I would think, I can get this shirt to go with my black pants. Then I would remember I didn’t have those pants, or any pants for that matter! I thought about the irony of how that very morning I was tossing through my full closet thinking I had nothing to wear! I remember realizing I needed to get something to run the race in that weekend. That I would need shoes. Underwear. Socks. EVERYTHING.
It was probably a half hour later when Jeff met back up with me. Our carts should have been filled. But we both had maybe 3 things in them. It was too much. Too overwhelming. You just don’t know where to start. Texts and face book messages were starting to come in. Do you need anything? Are you ok? What can I do? And everything in between. I just kept saying we are fine! But I was starting to wonder if we were. How do you replace everything? It literally makes me dizzy even thinking about it now. We grabbed just a few things including diapers and baby stuff and decided to try again the next day.
Over the next few days we were overwhelmed with the generosity of our friends, coworkers, families, and even complete strangers. People sent cards, checks, gift cards, baby toys, books, clothes, etc. to our school. I had frequented a consignment shop in town and the owner reached out to me to let me know she had a toddler bed for Ava and a customer had bought her beautiful bedding for it. It really was incredible. My parents took us in and my sister transformed a room that had become kind of a storage closet into a room for Ava. Anything we needed seemed to be done and I feel like we can never repay all of the great things people did for us at this time. We were also very lucky that my uncle had a flood and fire business and led us through the process of insurance and other paperwork. I never would have known where to begin.
Ava took it all in stride. She never once questioned why we had moved into my mom’s house or why we never went home. She never asked for her old toys or books or any of it. I was really impressed with her to just go with the flow at such a young age. She also never asked for Dodger, which I was surprised by, but kind of relieved in a way not to have to explain it to her. We made a huge effort to keep life as “normal” as possible for her, making sure her schedule didn’t change much. She still went to dancing school and swim lessons and life went on.
So I ended up still running the marathon relay a few days later. Running has always been something I have used to de-stress, cope and even find it helps clear my head. I was looking forward to having a day to get away from all the paperwork and to-do lists and be around people who had no idea what I had been through, and have some normalcy. I had not run in a few days but it felt great. I got lost in my thoughts and instead of thinking of all the things we still had to do I just thought about how blessed we were. When I got done, I realized that those sneakers I thought escaped the smoke had not, my legs were black from the soot coming up as I ran. In a way it made me feel even stronger and more determined to stay positive. Hard to explain, but it did.
Over the past 4 years a lot has happened. About 6 months after the fire we moved into a rental by the beach. We absolutely loved living there and thought maybe this was where we would end up. It only lasted a month before Hurricane Sandy hit and that house was also damaged. So back to my parents we went, and decided just to stay there for the remainder of the rebuild. We also came to the conclusion that this was a sign that Ava was meant to be an only child. Too much was going on to even think about having another baby, and we were getting to an age where we wouldn’t be able to have any more kids. Glad Nolan had other ideas about that, what a blessing he is!
Fast forward Christmas 2013…I was about 8 months pregnant and our home was just about ready for us to move back. We took Ava to the house on Christmas morning and surprised her with a brand new big girl room. It was strange to go back with her, she had no memory of what it was like before when her room was still a nursery (we had just transformed her crib into a toddler bed). We moved back in January 2014…about a week before Nolan was born, 3 weeks early. The day he was born we were still buying diapers and necessities and assembling baby furniture. It was a great way to start our lives in our “new” home.
Last month, while away in North Carolina for a baseball trip, the kids and I went to a kid fest that was next door to our hotel. The Greenville Fire Department was there and had some fun activities for the kids, like letting them “drive” the fire truck. Inside, they had a booth and Ava participated in some activities. One thing she got to do was use a phone to make a mock 911 call to the fire department. The girl pretended to be a dispatcher and took her through the questions they would ask if there was a fire emergency. It was strange for me to stand there and watch my now 5 year old try and answer, and realize ironically we had never really discussed what to do if there was an emergency at home like a fire. Here are some of the questions she asked her…
How do you call 911?
What is your address?
Where is the safe place your family meets outside if there is a fire?
How do you get out of your house if there’s a fire?
You would think having gone through this we would have a plan. The 911 call was a great reminder to go over all of this with our kids. Truth is, I don’t think we even had a fire extinguisher in the house before (guess what we got for Christmas the year we moved back). We now are better about changing the smoke detector batteries. As a wedding gift we had received a fire proof safe from a coworker. Seemed unimportant at the time but all of our documents were protected and I would highly recommend going out and getting one if you don’t.
If you take nothing else from this post, I hope it encourages you to talk to your kids about emergencies. I was almost embarrassed that my kid could not answer any of the questions the dispatcher asked, especially after what we had been through. You just never know. I also hope you realize that life really is about the moments and not “stuff”. Live in the moment. Writing this post and looking through pictures I was reminded of all the smiles and adventures we had despite what was going on with our home and what we had lost. We had everything we needed. I am beyond grateful for everyone who helped us rebuild and supported us through those years. We truly are blessed.
So back when Jeff and I were first dating, we went out to eat or got take out a lot. I love to cook, but you know how fun it is to be out and about in a new relationship, and our schedules were busy.
I remember one of the first times I cooked for him I made a pesto, which he liked. He isn’t quite as adventurous with food as I am, but he’s willing to try things. A few weeks later we were out and I mentioned to whoever we were with that I had made pesto, and he did not believe that I had done so from scratch and hadn’t bought the sauce pre-made! Little does he know just how easy it is to make! But I’m okay with him thinking that…
We now eat pesto quite often. Usually over pasta or risotto, and I love it over salmon. I would imagine it would be great on chicken as well, but if you know me then you know I do not eat birds!
Anyway, here’s a quick easy recipe, with a few variations…I don’t really measure when I cook so everything is an approximation…use more or less depending on your preference to consistency and taste!
In a small food processor…combine the following:
1-2 cups fresh basil
1/2 cups pine nuts or walnuts (Jeff doesn’t do walnuts!)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup parmesean cheese
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (I usually cut them into 1/2″ pieces with kitchen shears)
3-5 cloves garlic (or about 1/2 TBSP garlic powder)
Lemon juice to taste (I love it so I squeeze a whole lemon in there!)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Chop in food processor until all ingredients are combined into to smooth paste. If too thick, add more oil.
Personally, although I like the taste of sun-dried tomatoes, I like them pureed in. Jeff prefers them to be just small pieces mixed in after everything else is combined. And if you don’t care for them, the pesto is great without them too.
Sometimes I will make it at the beginning of the week and store it in the fridge to add to dishes like pasta, fish, grilled cheese or even eggs. However, usually I use it right away. My personal favorite is with Salmon…just lay the filets on a foil covered baking dish and cover with the pesto, pop in the oven for 20 minutes at 350. So good!
(I want to first state that I am by no means an expert on running, racing, or half marathons. I just love all of the above, and have completed 8 half marathons to date, all of varied difficulty, location, and size. This post is completely based on my personal experience).
I am beyond excited for this weekends half marathon. It’s definitely my favorite distance to “race”, each one is always a new adventure and challenge and I just really love them! Clearly I have made this known, and due to my “half crazy” enthusiasm I have convinced one of my girlfriends that she would love them too! So now race week is finally here, and her nerves are starting to set in. She’s put in the work and miles, and we have been strength training together since September, so her anxiety is totally stemming from the unknown of a race day. Physically she is definitely ready, but she has wrote down some super cute questions for me along the way and I thought it would be fun to make a post with my answers. (just a note-it’s actually her first race ever, not just her first half marathon!)
So here we go!
Are there bathrooms??? Yes! There will most likely be at least 2 stops where port-a-potties will be available. Although, don’t be completely surprised to see someone veer off the course behind a tree or building!
2. Are there water opportunities like races seen on TV??? Yes. Prior to race day, you will receive a map that will tell you where those stops will be. Sometimes it’s emailed, sometimes it will be with your info at bib pickup, sometimes it will be posted at the start.
While of the subject of water stops…make sure you take advantage of them. Even if I am not thirsty at the first few, I have made a point of taking sips at these anyway. Better to make sure to stay hydrated. I also opt for gatorade or sports drinks offered later in the race to keep blood sugar levels in tact. Some runners prefer to use belts or hand-held water bottles and use whatever mix works best for them. That’s entirely up to you. On super hot days, these are probably your best bet.
When it comes to race etiquette, be aware of your fellow runners at race stops. If you are not going to take water, stay off to the opposite side of where they need to get in order to grab a cup. If you are going to grab one, I usually try and go for the middle of the line of volunteers holding them out, then run past the water table and move to the side as I take a sip. This is especially important if you are going to come to a complete stop for a drink!
3. Are strangers going to speak to me??? This one made me giggle! For the most part, everyone will be focused on their own race. If you run in a pace group, people will be more likely to chat. Some will offer some encouragement as you pass each other, but no one will be offended if you are not looking to make a new best friend along the way. For the most part, I wear headphones and get lost in my thoughts as I run. It’s a personal preference, but every once in a while I will connect with someone who can sense you need a little push. Last year, I was running a trail half marathon and a bug flew to the back of my throat. A man a few yards behind me saw it and sped up to make sure I was okay. It was around mile 10, and it was easily 95 degrees out at that point. I was ready to give up but he talked to me and kept me going until about mile 12. He was doing the full marathon and pulled ahead of me at that point. Never feel obligated to stay with someone during a race. They will understand if you pass them or slow down. Runners are a very supportive community and sometimes that can be a huge lifesaver on a day where you might be struggling. And one day, you’ll pay that forward.
4. I’ve had that “I can’t do 10” feeling, but did it anyway. Do you ever feel that during a race??? Of course! Everyone does. To be completely honest there have been times I have been in the first 3 miles and asking myself why the heck am I doing this??? But having those training runs where you feel like you can’t is where you will pull your determination from. It’s all part of the process. Trust in your training and realize that the tough, bad days are the ones that will lead you to that finish line!
5. How nervous will I be??? As a coach I tell my athletes, if you’re not nervous you’re not prepared. Knowing how much time and work you have put in, my answer is very! And that’s ok. If means you care, it means you have the desire to do it and it means you are excited! As much as I try and tell myself I only do this for fun and for myself, I am nervous every single time. In fact, writing this right now and thinking about Saturday is making me nervous! It’s all part of the process. Embrace it.
6. Will I get lost??? No, race volunteers are amazing people who will make sure you stay on track. Just follow the pack!
7. What if it’s raining and cold??? You run in the rain and cold! Every race is an adventure for many different reasons. They all become a great story to tell. I have ran in all kinds of weather, and as long as you prepare for this (usually I have 3 outfits planned just in case of a change in the weather) you will be fine!
8. What if I’m the last one to cross??? Here’s the thing. Someone has to be last,and although it most likely won’t be you, you are still crossing! Do you know how many people are not crossing the finish line of a half marathon at that moment? How many people think you are crazy for doing it? And most importantly, how many people are completely impressed and proud of you for getting to the point where you are crossing that line. The only person you should be running for is you. So where you cross compared to anyone else should be the least of your concern, just be so proud you did it.
9. What if I can’t make it to the end??? You will! No negative energy. I will make sure you get there, I promise.
Of course, if you are having a serious issue…pain, injury, dehydration, then you should never keep going. You need to listen to your body and know that there will be hundreds of other races and opportunities for you to get your 13.1. It happens to everyone and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Be smart and know your limitations.
Some other advice I have given her this week: Make sure you are eating well, enjoying lots of carbs, and hydrating the week of the run. Know when and where to pick up your bib, the parking situation, and any other odds and ends like bib placement, if there’s a chip that needs to be on your shoe, and particular race rules that slightly vary for each race. Familiarize yourself with the course (unless you like to go in blind like me) and watch the weather. Wind can be a huge factor so pay attention to which direction it’s blowing vs. where you will be running.
There will be trial and error at each race. It took me a while to get over the fact that many people will take off at the start, and I have learned to ignore it. I used to let myself get caught up and then completely freak myself out with my first mile split. Now I hang back and stay at the pace that works for me. And any one will tell you that the most important thing in any race is….HAVE FUN!
Since spring is here I was pretty sure I would not need to wear cold weather gear any longer, but mother nature has been a little moody lately so I’ve had quite a few runs where I’m still layering up. So the timing was great when I was asked by Ama-Sports to test out their athletic head band a few weeks ago. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to accessorize, even on my runs so I was happy to try it out!
There were two designs to choose from and I opted for the flowers, although the paw prints are cute too. The embroidery adds just enough detail and I love the bright green thread color in contrast on the solid black band.
The past few weeks we have had some super windy days, especially by the water. The material is a soft, moisture-wicking fleece that really keeps out the wind but allows air to flow and kept me from over heating. The headband is also snug enough that it kept my hair completely out of my face…and I have a lot of hair so that is usually a huge issue for me! The band itself is a good width, not too overpowering on my forehead but widens around the ears and back of the neck.
The headband has a nice soft seam along the edge that keeps the headband in place but doesn’t itch or irritate my skin. The same seam also lines the ponytail hole in the back of the headband. I have used my fair share of headbands and wraps when I run, and this was the first time I had tried one with a hole for the ponytail. Having super thick heavy hair I wasn’t sure it would work for me but I really liked it. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that even the weight of my ponytail does not cause the headband to fall.
Thinking back, I have not had to adjust the headband at all…and have worn it with no issues using earbuds and wearing sunglasses at the same time.
The headband is also fine to machine wash. I let mine air dry…it fits perfectly and not sure if it would cause the fleece to shrink.
If you’d like to check out this headband for yourself, either for running or really just as a cute head wrap to keep those ears warm, you can find their amazon shop here.
For the third weekend in a row we were on the road again…this time down to Greenville, NC for Jeff’s series against East Carolina University. I was excited to finally be able to make it down for this trip, and it was the first time for the kids and I to explore this great little city.
We left after work and started our drive around 230 pm. Between naps, snacks, and some coloring the kids managed pretty well for the close to 10 hour drive. We stopped a few times, once to eat dinner. We got in around midnight and went right to bed, excited to get the trip officially started in the morning.
Jeff’s game was not until 630 the first day, which gave us lots of time to check out the campus and the surrounding town. As usual, our favorite way to explore is by running so the kids got in the stroller and we cruised around. The neighborhood behind our hotel was absolutely beautiful and before I knew it, I had gotten in 10 miles. Felt great to get the legs moving after such a long ride the night before!
Thanks to all of our traveling, I consider myself a great packer. However, there always seems to be one pretty significant item I forget on each trip (my first trip with Ava when she was less than a year old it was diapers…kind of important!). This time is was shoes! Of course I had my Asics to run, but that was it! Meanwhile the kids each had at least 3 pairs in their suitcase. So in our downtime between the run and the game, we got to shop! Since it was a late game, I also took the kids for dinner…although they would have been happy eating popcorn and drinking hot cocoa at the stadium.
Saturday’s game was a 4 o’clock start, so another great day to get out and explore. After breakfast, I headed down to the treadmill since it was raining and got in a great run before Jeff had to leave for the stadium. While we were getting ready for the day, he texted me to let me know there was a kid fest at the convention center, which was about a 2 minute walk from our hotel. Perfect! We headed out and the kids had a lot of fun. There were lots of vendors and activities, from arts and crafts, to “nature walks” to reading stations; with lots of free books to take home, and much more. The Greenville fire department was there as well and had some pretty neat activities, including letting the kids sit in the trucks. They loved it!
By the time we left, we had enough time to hit our new favorite Panera and then we were back at the stadium. Nolan once again had a nap and Ava and I watched. It was a chillier night but still felt great to sit outside for a ballgame. I absolutely love to watch Jeff coach, and Ava is so proud of him and his team. They lost a tough one in the last inning, but still a fun night. It was late by the time we got back to the hotel, so I stayed in with the little ones while Jeff had dinner out with the coaches.
Sunday we started all over again. Breakfast, treadmill, and then packed up so we could head home straight from the game. Nolan fell asleep in the stroller walking from the parking lot to the stadium, which was great because it was freezing so I could just keep him covered and warm. Ava, who “never gets cold” had her first experience using hand warmers in her coat pocket which was the coolest thing ever to her. The stadium was pretty empty due to the weather, so she got lots of attention from “Peedee” the Pirate, ECU’s mascot. He had some fun dance moves and I think they may have high-fived for a half hour straight. These are the memories I love seeing my kids make. She had a huge smile through the whole game and Daddy’s team won! It was the first win this season that she was there for and she was beyond excited. Love it.
Ava is now at the age where she will sit and watch the game. She’s still learning how it all works, so any time the crowd cheers or someone claps, she says, did daddy win? It’s cute, and I love that she is taking an interest and now wants to understand what is going on. Nolan is two, so….I’m sure you can guess how well he will sit through 9 innings. It’s tough because I really do enjoy watching the games but have to make sure they are happy and of course safe from foul balls (something I will never stop being nervous over). However, he won MVP of all 3 games in the series thanks to some pretty impressive naps. A little Thomas and Friends on you tube and the kid was out. Whatever works!
So now began the trip home. Since Nolan decided to sleep the entire 3 1/2 hour game, he was wide awake for the drive! It went way better than I would’ve guessed, and we made it home around 1 am…to some snow.
It can be tough and exhausting going on these trips, constantly packing and unpacking, but I am beyond grateful for the life experiences it gives my family. I’ve always loved the quote, “Collect moments, not things.” The memories and time together we have is so important to me and I wouldn’t change it for anything. My kids have been able to see so many places and the stadiums and campuses are full of history.
We now have a few weeks until our next road trip. I’m hoping all of the unpacking and laundry from the past 3 weeks is done by then…
This past weekend I ran the half marathon race of the Rock n Roll DC series, and I am still in a little bit of shock about how well it went! Coming off a busy winter and kind of just “winging it” with my training runs and mileage, I set my expectations for this race low. Even so, I have always wanted to run a race through our nation’s capitol and the timing of this worked out perfectly. So I signed up a few months ago and was really excited for it.
We headed down on Friday after work. I drove down solo with my kids and we survived! I made sure of course they had lots to do and timed with some solid nap time we had a successful trip. My parents came down in their car with my niece who they were watching for the weekend while my sister and brother in law were at a wedding. We checked into our hotel in Crystal City and headed to the expo on the metro. My son is 2, so naturally he is obsessed with trains right now. It’s easy to say he was on cloud 9 all weekend taking the trains! The metro was perfect for getting to and from both the expo and race…especially with 2 toddlers and a 5 year old in tow.
When we got off the metro, we got in a pretty long line to get into the armory for the expo. Security was pretty tight, but understandable in that area. Once inside, I got my bib and shirt and we had about a half hour to explore the vendors before they were closing. Having done the rock n roll half in Savannah in the fall, my daughter knew right where she wanted to go…the Geico booth! She had made a sign for me at the last race and didn’t get to hold it up at the finish so she was looking forward to trying again for this race. So we couldn’t miss the opportunity. Both kids got a try to “spin and win” and she hit the jackpot…winning me a post race massage and tech shirt! Best kid ever!
I had wanted to wear something festive for the race since it was the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day. One way I reduce my risk of clots is by running in compression socks. My personal favorite are PROcompression, and I was excited to get a pair of their Shamrock socks for the race! I packed them and was excited to find a great tech shirt at the Baysix USA booth to complete my race day outfit
By the time we got back to the hotel I needed to move after traveling all day. I get worried about blood clots, so I hopped on the treadmill for an easy 15 minutes. Mentally it helped a lot and then we ate dinner right at the hotel.
I got up around 530 for the race and went through my usual routine of coffee, breakfast, and some water…got dressed and headed to the start. I got down to 14th street around 645. The race did a great job with the way the porta-potties were set up and it was a very easy going group of runners waiting in line, which isn’t always the case! While I shivered in line, I saw some people wearing their foil blankets from previous races and planned to keep one on hand from now on…I thought it was a great idea.
I headed down to Corral 3, texted my husband a selfie since he wasn’t able to be there for the first time I’ve ran a half, and then stood and questioned whether I maybe should have warmed up a little or stretched. I have the worst pre-race habits when it comes to warming up! At any rate, the national anthem played, and the two groups ahead of me were off and running…
My corral was welcomed to the start line and after a quick countdown we started our race. I really like observing all of the different styles of racing people have at the beginning. Some sprint right off, some almost walk, and then there’s me. I am in a constant battle with myself to stay calm and not get caught up in all of it. I promised myself I would observe the sights and take it all in. And I really tried, but something takes over and I find watching other runners so interesting.
In the past year, I’ve really come a long way in how I stay within my own pace and have learned not to get caught up in the excitement of the start and people passing me and the competitiveness of it. This race in particular that wasn’t an issue for me. Within the first 3 miles we saw the Washington Monument, White House, Jefferson Memorial, and crossed over the Potomac on the Arlington Memorial Bridge. Right from the beginning I knew this course would be one of my all time favorites.
So within my corral was the first pace group (1:45). Last year I tried out running with a pace group and found that it was not for me. Too much pressure and thinking involved, although I think they are great for those who can use them. I mentally promised myself to stay behind that group since I was pretty sure I would not be beating my PR of 1:43 in this race and was happy to get under 1:50. I planned on keeping them within sight, and if I was feeling good after mile 10 then passing them. Somehow in the welcomed distraction of monuments and an energetic cheering squad as we ran around the base of the bridge, I was passing them right before mile 3. In my mind I was telling myself this was a huge mistake but I really didn’t feel that my pace was too fast so I went for it.
The next few miles seemed almost too easy. The vibe of this race and the other runners was contagious and I felt like I was just cruising along. They were a few steady hills but nothing crazy at that point. I started to think that maybe I was going to be able to have a good time and really found my stride. It was the fastest I had run in a really long time and even though I felt great I was pretty nervous about how my body was going to hold up.
Toward the end of mile 5 we were coming up on the “Blue Mile”. The street was lined with Blue signs that had pictures of members of the military who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It was a powerful tribute and pretty emotional. As we came around the curve we were met with an incredible sight. It was one of the steepest, longest hills I had ever climbed but that was nothing compared to the people standing on the curb, lining the hill each holding a large American flag. They were cheering us on, offering words of encouragement and high fives. To say it was motivating was an understatement. Just awesome, and I will never forget it.
As I mentioned, the hill was a huge challenge. My mile pace increased by almost a minute, and I was having a hard time catching my breath from both increased heart rate, and the emotional impact that mile had on me. I slowed down a little and got water at the next stop. Next thing I know, coming over my left shoulder was that darn 1:45 pacer! NO WAY. Those were the two words I said to myself (or maybe out loud). I had pushed through the first half of the race and had decided at that point to try and PR…and that was the wake up call I needed.
I took off. Like full sprint took off. Right then I knew how badly I wanted to see a new best time at the finish. So I committed to going for it. And then something happened to me that I had never done. I started coaching myself.
I have been a coach for over 10 years. Mostly swimming, but also track for a few seasons. I am constantly trying to say things to my athletes that will inspire them to believe in themselves as much as I believe in them. Then I hope they can be confident enough to believe what I know to be true. This time I was trying to convince myself. It was a little surreal but seemed to be working.
The second half of the race was really challenging. It was really hilly and I was definitely tired. But I felt strong and recovered well after each climb and I have since attested this to adding strength training into my daily routine this year. My body just felt stronger, and I ended up faster on the second half of the race.
As we passed the sign at Mile 13, I was just holding on and was with a few others who seemed to be fighting too. As I climbed the last hill I heard a whistle and someone yell out my name…I waved to my dad and was happy to know my kids were definitely watching mommy finish! I came around and saw the clock…1:43 something…now the math started and I needed to figure out what my chip time was. As I crossed it was turning to 1:44. My husband texted immediately (he had been following along with the real time tracking) and congratulated me. My fingers were frozen but I managed to text back and ask him what the time was…1:41! PR!
I still cannot believe I was able to do so on such a challenging course and in my first half since November but I am so grateful for it. The entire race experience was perfect.
I found my way through the finish, collecting lots of goodies and a foil blanket on my way to find my family. Once we were all together I was so happy to share the moment with my babies.
We headed over the post-race concert area, and my daughter reminded me she won me a massage! It was the first time I had one post race and it was amazing. After a few days since the race, I can say it definitely helped my recovery and look forward to doing that again as part of Team Geico.
I am really appreciative for the whole experience Run Rock and Roll gave my family and I. From the expo to the post race fun, I am looking forward to signing up for future races in this series! (Philly in the fall, anyone?)
This only made me more excited for the rest of the year!Next half is only a month away…