Monday, January 31, 2011

week 3: check

Liesel joined us for our weekend run; if only we could do that more often!  The temp was 20 degrees which felt so comfortable compared to 1 degree.  We were all hot and sweaty when we got back.  We ran from my mom's again and enjoyed breakfast together after.  The hot coffee and bagels were calling my name throughout the whole run. 

I found it amazing that Liesel ran with us in the morning, spent the afternoon swimming with us at the UMaine rec center, and then went to bed in Utah that night.  Another wonderful visit over.  Sniff, sniff, sniff.

Things are so busy this week here that the only way I'm going to have a good training week is if we indeed get hit with this storm that everyone is talking about and we get some swimming and school cancellations.  To be totally honest, I'm feeling incredibly overwhelmed.  I need to give myself permission to skip a week of training but that will just be one more thing that is stressing me out. 

C'mon, big old storm.

The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

mother and daughters.

My sister Liesel has been here this week from Utah, and we've been squeezing in every possible minute with her.   As you can see, my mom is looking fantastic.  We made her come outside in the snow for some photos.  The Brand women, together again, and in the winter!

My kids are so into their Aunt Liesel that they've gone a little crazy this week, overstimulated with love I guess, and so they have been a little on the wild side. Reed just about did a flip when Aunt Liesel asked what he wanted for his upcoming birthday.  What he wanted was to go shopping to pick out a birthday present.  Deal!
This is Reed in Spiderman heaven.
He took a long time checking out all the options before he decided on a robot arm toy that he can pick up objects or poke his sister with, and a talking Transformer robot.  All very much boy toys.  He left so so happy.

Skyler has been in a funk all weekend, crying over the slightest thing, and when she fell asleep in the car this morning, I figured she is fighting something or not feeling well, or just overstimulated with love. 

Instead of going swimming with Reed and Daddy, she chose more snuggle time with Liesel. 
Speaking of birthday shopping, when my sister came off the plane,  (and it was -20 degrees), I was really (vocally) admiring her down jacket.  And lucky me... she and my mom got me my own for my birthday.  This jacket is the warmest jacket ever made and even though this is so ridiculous to admit, I have lived in Maine for 10 years without a really warm jacket.  Bring on the arctic blasts! 

And what do you know? It's snowing again! 

Friday, January 28, 2011

What's for Dinner?

The fact that I'm writing a "what's for dinner" post means that I feel like I am breathing again and that our lives are back under some control.  After a few weeks of hardly having any groceries and coming home only to sleep or change clothes, it feels very good to be settling back into normal life.

My mom continues to do very well in recovery, but it is a slow process and we have to remind each other to think of her healing with a long view and not day to day.  We are all blown away by the outpouring of love throughout her surgery and the week following.  She has received countless cards, calls, visits, deliveries, flowers, food, on and on.  We all feel buoyed up by the love around us, so thank you to everyone.  We are still awaiting an appointment with an oncologist to confirm whether she will need further treatments for her cancer, but we have reason to be cautiously optimistic that she is through the worst of it.

Here is a recipe for Cottage Cheese Pie via Suzanne via The Vegetarian Times.  I'm really into making two of whatever I cook these days so that I have one in the freezer.  Last night I was able to come home and pop this from the freezer to the oven and have a nice hot dinner in no time.  I served it with a salad and some chicken sausage.

Cottage Cheese Pie (with mashed potatoes and veggies). 

side note:  I will eat and love anything in a pie crust.

First, press 1 pie crust into a pie pan: (bought or homemade) and cook for 15 minutes at 350.

Then, combine in a bowl:
2 cups hot mashed potatoes
2 cups cottage cheese
3/4 cup greek yogurt
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 onion, diced
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1/2 cup diced broccoli
1 tsp salt
 black pepper

Stir it all together and pour it into the pre-cooked pie crust.

Melt 2 tbs of butter and pour over the top of the pie before baking.

Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours.

When it's this cold and snowy outside (we've had negative temps all week), comfort food helps to keep us warm.  It's not even February, is it.  Yikes.  Stay warm!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sam the hero.

Earlier this school year, our godson Killian wrote a report for his 5th grade class about heroes.

Some of Killian's heroes included Abraham Lincoln, Eli Manning, Jon Lester, Shel Silverstein, and, my personal favorite, Harriet Tubman.

But the featured hero is Sam, whom he calls "Uncle Sam."  Can you guess what my favorite line is?

Sam intimidating the competition at the big Harvard meet.
Uncle Sam is my hero because he has a lot of medals for swimming plus he is nice, fun, and cool. I don't know how he does it but he can always win 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. He is amazing. I love him more than anything. He has 20 medals for swimming. It is fun and cool that he might coach me all the time if I join his team. So, I am saying that he is fun and he has 2 kids and a dog. I have known him since I was two. He is really my godfather or my favorite uncle. I love having a man who can swim 7 miles. Having someone like him in my life makes my life fun. He is also an English teacher. For the Broncos. He is ranked in the top 10 in the country. He has swam 3 miles in rough ocean waters. He is amazing. He barely lost to a race with a kayak at our camp 2 summers ago. He swims almost every single day. He is an amazing athlete. Some day I want all his skills for my own. He has the skills that no one else would.

Killian and Beckett proudly wearing masters swimming tattoos a la Uncle Sammy.

Sam's competitive swim season has started again and he made a great come-back at a local master's meet this weekend.  He's hoping to continue to make us, and especially Killian, very proud.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Week two: check (sort of)

Greetings from Sunday afternoon.  My mom continues to do well, and while she is very sore, she is feeling comfortable at home and was happy to have uninterrupted sleep last night.  We were successful in maneuvering a hair washing this morning which was a big boost for morale.

I have grades done for two out of five classes and I don't feel quite as stressed about it now that I'm almost half way there.  

Today some of my mom's friends came over to sit with her, and my friend Jen took my kids for an "AWESOME" play date at her house, so I had 2 hours to run and go to the grocery store. Jen did crafts with the kids and they made cookies and valentines, which Reed calls "Februaries."  They had such a good time.

I was happy to get my long run in after all, 9 miles on the treadmill.  My biggest hurdle was boredom, especially since my ipod died at mile 2.6.  I tried to focus on "running away" all of the crap from this week.  There was no way I was running outside today when it was well below zero with a wind-chill warning.  No thank you!  Considering the way this week went, I'm happy to have only missed one 3 mile run.  I'll call that a "check."

Speaking of running and (incessantly) talking about running, this video gave me a big laugh because it is just so true.  I feel exactly like this guy does.  Especially when he says:  "I do have a life!"  I don't know how you non-runners put up with people like us.

Hope everyone is staying warm!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

meanwhile, on the home front...

Skyler and Reed collided during some exuberant play in the hallway.  Reed has a shiner and Skyler a lump on the forehead. 

I'm fighting a cold, and the situation obviously isn't great for getting my runs in this week anyway, so week 2 is kind of a wash.  Besides, tomorrow's forecast calls for -17 degrees.  Ouch.  If I do anything, it will be sneaking in some miles on the treadmill at some point.

My mom decided to check out of the hospital this afternoon after all.  She didn't get much sleep last night with all the beeps and nurses poking her, so when the Dr. said it was up to her, she said:  take me home!  She is feeling good, but very sore.   We walked the halls even further this morning and her pace is picking up.  She declined my offer to check her pace on my Garmin, but at least I did think to offer.

I'm going back to the hospital to get her in a bit. We've been brainstorming some clever ways we can wash her hair at home without getting the rest of her wet.  Should be interesting!  I miss my babies so we are all sleeping over there together tonight.

Tomorrow my sister flies in from Utah, and though I wish the circumstances were different, I can't wait to see her and we feel so lucky to get in an extra visit.  I haven't seen her in the WINTER in many years, which means I don't even know her winter wardrobe!  I can't wait to check out all her cute sweaters and boots and steal them.  I guess that's not exactly the point of her visit, huh.

Hoping the transfer goes smoothly and will update again tomorrow.  xoxo

Friday, January 21, 2011

mom update

I'm sitting next to my mom, where I've been all day (grading papers!) while it snows and snows and snows out there.  A snowday today was a great gift in the midst of all of this.

The good news is that she looks great, her color is back today, and she has been up a few times with minimal dizziness.  We walked the halls together to check out the snow storm that is raging outside.  She is unimpressed with the hospital food, but other than that, she's getting great care and considering the 5 hours of anesthesia and major surgery, she's doing great.

She's hoarse from the breathing tube, but pain is undercontrol and she had no nausea which is amazing.   She said she feels like she got hit by a truck, to which Dr. Clarke responded:  "Yeah, I was driving that truck."
looking pretty damn good.
She has even been funny:
"How do they take the brocolli flavor out of brocolli?"
"Dr. Clarke will keep us abreast of the situation"  (no pun intended).

I'm going to brave the snowy roads and head home in a bit so she gets some sleep.   We think she may stay here tomorrow night too and then we'll be at her house.

She has read every comment and every email and feels very loved.  Much love to all of you!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

surgery updates (updated again)

I'll keep this page updated today.

12:00 noon:  I'm in the waiting room and my friends Christine and Jen are with me.

My mom has been taken for pre-op stuff, injection of the dye for the lymph node biopsy, and some pre-surgery scans.  I will be able to stay with her for the next hour or so before surgery, which is supposed to start at 1:00.  She is in good spirits and surprisingly calm.    Thank you for all of your wonderful messages.

They are right on schedule.  The doctors just took her in and then the surgeon came out into the waiting room one more time to reassure me that she is in good hands, about which I am very confident.
She has a prayer shawl given by a dear friend wrapped around her feet and she's off.  Jen is still with me.  The surgery is supposed to take 5 hours.

2:31:  According to the message board in the waiting room, my mom's "surgery has started."  I ate lunch with Jen.  Suzanne is coming next.  I'm am well taken care of.   I'm super sleepy after not sleeping last night.  Thought I was going to leave and go running, but that's not going to happen today.

4:18:  Still waiting!  Suzanne and Amy are here.  (Without me knowing, my friends planned to stagger visits all day so I would not be alone).    How many research papers have I graded?  none.  But that's okay!
If you want to see a photo of my mom on her way into surgery, click here.

5:24:  The screen just switched to "surgery complete."  Waiting for Dr. Clarke to come and see me.

5:40:  Dr. Clarke said the surgery went really well and that my mom is waking up and I'll get to see her in a few minutes.  Everything went well, and the one lymph node that they looked at in a "frozen section"  showed up negative for cancer.  This is not a guarantee, as we need to wait for the pathology from next week, but he said he was "very encouraged" and that everything looks really good.  He kept saying "the cancer is gone now."  That we will take!  I'm going to see her now!  Thank you everyone!

7:35:  We are settled in her room now and she's sleeping.  She's pretty groggy but is also making sense when she talks (I'm kind of bummed... I wanted to tell her all the funny things she said).  She spoke briefly on the phone with her sister Ann, who asked her how she was, and she said:  "Well, I'm boob-less."  True!  I'll stay for a while and then go home to see my family whom I haven't seen all day. 

I owe enormous thanks to Christine, Jen, Amy and Suzanne who did not leave me alone all day.  I finally got my appetite back and just ate the greatest salad ever that Christine brought me, and I am hoping for a good night sleep tonight.  Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

action time

After weeks of testing, waiting, more biopsies, more waiting, more results, we have a first step plan for attacking my mom's breast cancer.  At first, we were choosing between several options for surgery, but further tests revealed that it really wasn't a choice after all.  Tomorrow my mom will undergo a bilateral mastectomy.  

It is midterm week at my school and grades are all due, so I will be sitting in the waiting room tomorrow with (literally) boxes full of student work and trying to stay focused enough to keep up with grading.  I will try to get on the blog to update when surgery is over and when I know she is awake and doing okay.  Thank you in advance for all of your positive thoughts and prayers. 

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this poem. My friend Erica sent this to me to pass on to my mom.

It's so good it brought me to tears, which, let's be honest, is not that hard to do these days.  The poet is Irish and the title means "blessing."  For my mama.

By John O'Donohue

On the day when
The weight deadens on your shouders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The gray window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colors,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the church of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First Marathon: Brooke's Story

There is something cathartic about writing the post-marathon blog post.  I have been through this twice before, so I knew that a part of letting the whole experience sink in is writing it out.  I laughed when I saw that Brooke sent me her post at 2:34 in the morning.  I get that.  You just have to get the whole story down before it feels real.

As I told you earlier, I was receiving texts on Sunday morning while Brooke was running her marathon.  It was so exciting, and I was cheering out loud when I saw how well she was doing and telling anyone around me who would listen about my friend Brooke.  When she crossed the finish line and I got that final text, it was freezing cold and snowy in Maine and my kids were hanging all over me, but in spirit, I was in that 70 degree Arizona sun cheering for my friend.

Grab your tissues!  Here is Brooke's amazing race report.

Brooke's Story:  PF Chang's Phoenix Rock n' Roll Marathon

This has been such an amazing journey, it will be hard to capture all my feelings about it in one post.  But here it goes.

On Saturday, the day before the marathon, I traveled 2 hours from my home in Prescott down to Phoenix with my family.  I was really starting to buzz and feel my nerves on the way down.  I received countless texts and phone calls from well-wishers which made it feel seriously real.  My sister Abby had flown in the night before from San Francisco and we were to meet her at the hotel.  Around 1:30pm we arrived at the hotel and I ran inside to check in.  While at the front desk Abby came up behind me and gave me a huge embrace.  There was someone behind her, too close to be a stranger.  Upon further inspection I recognized the person as my sister, Ashleigh, who had flown in from Denver to surprise me with her 6-month old, Gus!!!  My sunglasses went flying and I was in utter shock.  I forgot where I was.  It was pure elation.  I am told I pushed Abby out of the way and tackled Ashleigh for a hug.  To myself I mused that I would now have to finish this marathon since they flew in special.

Ashleigh is holding Emmy on the left and Abby is holding Gus on right
Once united we all went to Chili's for a late, light lunch.  I split a Cobb salad with Luke.  I had been a little nervous about going out to eat since I rarely do it and I did not want to have any weird stomach issues during the race.  After lunch we went back to the hotel, met up with my friend, Amy, and then joined the others for dinner at California Pizza Kitchen.  Amy and Antonella joined me in the marathon and Jodi would be running her first half.  Here we are post dinner:

Me, Antonella, Jodi and Amy

Dinner: I had 3 pieces of delicious CPK pizza.  It tasted so good!  It was a bit chaotic with all the kids and Abby discovered just how "energetic" Johanna is. Notice she is not in these group table shots because she is probably elsewhere in the restaurant rounding up Jo for the 20th time.

I could not have been there without the help of my sweet husband, Luke.

Happy sisters together.

After dinner we went back to the hotel and were in our rooms by 7:30pm.  Unfortunately, Johanna was completely wired so my big plans of an early and orderly bedtime were out the window.  Emmy went down around 8:30pm and we quietly talked with Amy in our room for a while.  I laid out my racing clothes and gear.  Then I tried it on and laid it out again.  I was the last one awake trying to make sure everything was ready for the early morning.  Besides having myself ready I had to make sure the girls had their clothes out, the breast milk was thawed and the room was mostly ready for check out.  I requested a 4:30am wake-up call and also set my phone alarm.  Wouldn't want to sleep in on marathon morning!  I finally laid down at 10pm.  Shockingly, I was falling asleep very easily and just about to drift off to dreamland when Emmy cried out at 10:17pm.  Ah well, this is the trouble with training for a marathon when your babies are still so small and needing you.  I was up a lot that night with her, but when I slept I slept deeply.  At 4:20am Emmy woke up to nurse and she was just about to fall back asleep when the stupid wake up call came in.  Dammit!  She cried while I showered and then I took her to Amy's room to eat breakfast.  I had one piece of toast, a banana slathered with peanut butter and I sipped on a water bottle of Accelerade until the start of the race.  Ashleigh and Abby came to the hotel to take over baby duties with Luke and to wish me luck.

We were so lucky to have Luke drop us off at the starting line instead of having to leave an hour earlier to catch the dreaded shuttle.  We still had to walk about 1/2 mile to the starting line, but that was good for the nerves and body.  We had to pee so we waited in the port-o-potty lines.  Luckily, I was able to go number 2 (sorry, but this is a marathon account, and all marathoners worry about this) at the hotel that morning.  But, I went again just for good measure.  Then we went to our corral and had about 35 minutes to wait.  We took pictures and were giddy and I fussed about my shoe laces obsessively for about 25 minutes straight.  It was cold, about 40 degrees, at the starting line.  The sun came up with about 5 minutes to go so we shed our warm layer and were ready.  We sang the national anthem and we were off!

We all ran together for the first 3 miles and we all stopped to pee together around mile 2.5.  It was so exciting with all the bands and all the people!  We went out slow and lots of people passed us, but we kept saying that was okay and we would pass them later.  Amy injured her knee about a month ago, but had already paid and was going to run with us as far as she could.  The last time she ran, two weeks ago, the farthest she could run was 6 miles.  She was already feeling pain.  Antonella went ahead around mile 3.  We saw a guy pass us and on the back of his T-shirt it read, "old guy pass with compassion."  You could interpret that both ways and we got a laugh out of it.

I was feeling great and then at mile 4 my Achilles started to hurt.  It was such a bummer to have it start to hurt so early on.  This was the one wildcard for me that I was fretting about.  I wasn't able to do my training long runs of 18 and 20 miles due to this injury.  The password for my email account even went from an uplifting "runpfin5" (Run PF In  5 Hours) to a somber "finishpf" because of the uncertainty of me healing.  But, I no longer had to save myself for anything.  This was it!  So I just tucked the pain away and at about mile 5.5 said aloud, "positive vibrations, mon" to myself and that was it.

At mile 5 I ate half a Lara Bar.  I stepped over the 10k mark at 1:07, about 3 minutes slower than goal pace.  When Amy slowed to a walk to take a gel I kept running.  I felt great and that feeling continued until mile 8.  My legs started to feel heavy and tired and that was crazy!  That never happened this early into a run.  I refused to resign myself to just having a bad running day so I pushed through.  Up until about mile 10 we were in downtown Phoenix, traveling through lots of neighborhoods and a there were cheerleaders almost every mile, along with a live band.  At mile 10 we ran on an overpass and it was the first time I contemplated putting my iPod on.  At mile 11 there was a lady who was saying over and over, "you should be so proud of yourselves".  That made me smile broadly.  A little while later I felt a little depleted so I ate the rest of my Lara Bar and put on my iPod.  The first song to come on was Blind Melon's "No Rain".  That made me feel euphoric and gave me a real boost for the next few miles.  I was so happy when I crossed over the half marathon mark at 2:21, I had caught up and was at goal pace.  Knowing that a few of my friends were receiving my updates was so motivating and I highly recommend it.

At around mile 14 someone came up from behind me and grabbed my arm.  It was Antonella and I could not figure out how I could have gotten in front of her.  Apparently she stopped to pee and text her husband at mile 10.  We ran together for a mile and then I stopped because I felt a pebble in my shoe and did not want to risk it.  So, I sat down and took off my shoe and there was nothing in it - so annoying!  Antonella was long gone.  The new shoes I decided to wear were working out fine, but this little snafu bothered me.  I was feeling in the dumps until mile 16.5 when the song "Visions of Johanna" came on my iPod and I melted into tears.  One of the main reasons I ever started this marathon goal was for my girls, to set a good example for them regarding the importance of fitness as a lifestyle.  I took a gel around this point and pulled myself together.

Miles 17-20 were hard.  My legs and hips were really hurting and I had to start making a point to lengthen my stride so my legs could feel a stretch while I ran.  I should say that during the entire marathon I took walking breaks and the second half I also took stop and stretch breaks, especially for my calves and Achilles.  I feel confident that it made a huge difference that I would have felt had I not taken the time.  I also walked through every aid station where I drank at least one cup of Cytomax (up until the last few miles) and one cup of water.  I ate a few gummies to try to give myself a kickstart, but it didn't seem to work.  Then I had a brainstorm.  All the spectators and cheer squads were burning out a bit, they had been cheering the whole time, trying to have the same enthusiasm for 3 hours!  Most of the runners ignored them at this point in the race.  I decided I would take advantage of their services so when I was feeling really low I made a dash to the far right lane and held my hand out for a high five.  There were about 30 cheerleaders in the row and every single one reciprocated my hand slap.  I was one giant smile and when I passed them I looked at my watch and I was at a 9:54 pace.  Amazing!  Human contact - it works!  I used this method several more times during the race with the same effect.

Mile 20 came and I was just barely off my pace, I still had a great chance to hit my goal time finish of 4:45 if I didn't make any stops.  At mile 21.5 I saw my friend's husband and I stopped to talk to him since I thought he might be with my family.  In hindsight this was my downfall.  I spent almost 4 minutes talking with him and it was at the point in the race where when I started running again I felt a little tightened up.  I was really pushing now.  My stomach started to cramp up and it felt like your typical gut rot, which is what I think it was.  By this point I had taken 3 gels, 1 bar, 4 Power Bar gummies and all that disgusting Cytomax.  That's when I decided I would only drink water from that point forward.  I would have eaten my other Lara bar, but I was just so wasted that chewing did not sound like a feasible option.  I will always recommend to people that they eat their bars first, and as long as they can, and rely on their gels last.  It was just too much sugar.  Running through the stomach pain was not fun and I felt nauseous for about a half mile.  Then an angel, talking on her cell phone, was standing on the side of the road holding out an open bag of pretzels.  I grabbed 4 and managed to eat 3.  It was heavenly and did the trick.

By now it was getting hot, maybe 72 degrees and the sun was relentless.  I felt my forehead and it was like sand paper to the touch from all the salt I was sweating out.  More and more people were walking now and it was just a test of mental will power to keep running myself.  I focused on a long stride and I had my arms going in a "wax on, wax off" motion.  It worked and I only allowed myself to walk through the aid stations - water only.  I dumped cups of water over my head and down my shirt.  I tried to pump myself up that I was almost there, the end is near.  I wondered at what point do you turn on the gas for the finish.  I still had some left in the tank, but I didn't want to screw myself.  At mile 24 I realized I was not going to make my goal finish time.  That was a blow, but guess what song was playing on my iPod at that exact moment?  Rolling Stones, "You Can't Always Get What You Want".  It was perfect and I was instantly okay with it.  But, I couldn't just give up because now I had to finish in under 5 hours.  I saw a lady on the side of the road holding up a sign that read, "Fast girls have good times!"  It was awesome and I told her so.

Mile 25 was my absolute lowest point in the marathon.  This came as a total shock to me since you are so close to the finish line.  I thought I'd be jamming for the last mile, but my pace was consistently 11+ minute miles and I felt worked.  So I just kept moving forward.  I kept saying to myself that this is just one moment in time.  This is a privilege and the time is now.  Just one moment in time.

Soon I could smell food and see the turn into the stadium.  When I saw the finish line's giant yellow arch I put my iPod and earphones in my sports bra and went into turbo mode, turbo being 10:15 pace or something like that.   The crowds were huge and the excitement was tangible.  I turned the curve and heard my name yelled out.  I looked to my left and saw Ashleigh, with Gus, taking pictures.  I jumped in the air and did a toe tap and gave her a huge smile.

It was so close.  I crossed the finish line and put my hands up and boom, it was over.  4:51.34.   I was elated.  A volunteer handed me a water and another one put a big, fat medal around my neck, and then I heard my name again from the left.  It was Luke and my sisters, I guess they moved down pretty fast.  When I saw Luke I immediately burst into tears and gave him a huge hug and kiss.  It was emotional and was akin to how I felt when I was holding onto him as I pushed Emmy out on the day of her birth.  So much love.

It was picture time with my medal and then I was guided through to the recovery area where I ate orange slices, an old banana and a fruit cup.  I grabbed some other food and headed out to meet my family.  You will be happy to know that nursing Emmy was not a concern.  She was happy as a clam with Abby, but my boobies were full and she was happy to oblige.  We sat on this curb for about 20 minutes just soaking it all in.

Before we moved onto the grass in the stadium I took off my shoes so I could put my flip flops on and discovered 2 huge blisters, 1 on each foot.  I had no idea they were there and they were like 6th toes!  I hobbled to the field and lanced them myself for some major relief.  My body really stiffened up after I stopped running and my knee joints hurt the most.  Overall, I was in pretty good shape.  We met up with Amy on the field and I gave her a big squeeze and cried some more.  I wondered at what point she had to get a lift to the finish line.  You know what?  That crazy girl finished!  She finished at a respectable 5:17.35!!  We hugged and cried again.  We had a nice hour or so sitting in the sun before we headed into Tempe for a bite to eat.  French fries and a Gyro never tasted so good.

On the way home that night I talked to Luke about all my epiphanies from the day and I think one stands out the most.  We as humans have the power to create these amazing experiences for ourselves.  It's within our power.  I've been sitting around for the better part of 10 years just waiting for things to fall in my lap, watching others reap the rewards that this type of challenge brings.  Of course I have a wonderful family with my husband and two girls, but I haven't spent enough time making things happen.  Endeavors to create a great experience are risky.  They may not always turn out 100% positive, but lessons will be gained and you as a person will flourish.  Being pushed up against a wall can teach you a lot about yourself.  Mental strength is supreme.  I feel that with this type of life training I will be better prepared to confront difficult times.  I have the power to give myself these opportunities for growth.  In my mind it would be such a waste not to take advantage of that privilege.

My sister-in-law, Clara, recently lost her grandmother.  Clara's dad wrote the funeral program and here are some of his words:

"Our dear mother kept a newspaper clipping in her desk drawer for many years regarding the nature of a successful life. She gave this Emerson quote of advice to her children, and she lived it herself.

Simply put: “To succeed is to achieve one’s goal.” However, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1881) said it best when he wrote:
To laugh often and love much;
to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children;
to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to give of one’s self;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived
—this is to have succeeded."

Thank you, Brooke.  You are a warrior! 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

week one: check.

Our long run for our first week of marathon training was 8 miles.  Three of our teammates were tied up with kids or work, but Suzanne, Susan and I decided to go for it outside, even though the forecast called for 10 degrees.  When we woke up it was even colder, and because we drove 15 miles north to start at my mom's house, when we started it was actually 1 degree.  Just one.

I was perfectly dressed for the temps:  two long-sleeve technical shirts, a warm fleece and an (ugly) windbreaker on top, with long underwear and running tights on the bottom, toe warmers in my shoes and hand warmers in my mittens, a hat and a neck gaiter. 

I also made these last-minute ankle warmers out of a pair of knee socks that I cut the feet off of.  Without them, my ankles were bare,  and these beauties enabled me to have no exposed skin and added a little extra warmth. I'm going to go ahead and say that I was "toasty" because honestly I was.  The toe and hand warmers were key.

But running in single-digits is really hard on the lungs (for me).  My breathing was labored and I felt like I had to work extra hard to even hold a pace that was slower than my usual.  Also, my camelbak, which I filled with warm water, was useless before I ever took a sip because the water in the hose froze during mile one and I couldn't get any out of there.

We ran through UMaine campus and back for an even 8.00 miles (thanks, Garmin).  My legs felt great and I'm not sore tonight.  But maybe next weekend it could be a little warmer?

After we returned to my mom's, she had us in for tea and muffins and we sat around and chatted and warmed up.  It was just lovely.

I then rushed home to relieve Sam who was headed way up north with his swim team for a meet. We spent the afternoon at a really fun sledding birthday party at my friend Nancy's house, and then we went back to my mom's for dinner.  The kids were still in sledding gear, so they spent some time climbing up the giant snow mound in my mom's yard.

jumping off!
Yeah, winter! 

I don't think I'm going to bore you with a training report every week for the next 17 weeks until the marathon, but I'll keep you posted from time to time.  Or maybe every week.  We'll see.  So far so good!  (I'll do a yoga video tomorrow so I went ahead and highlighted it).

Friday, January 14, 2011

first marathon: Go Brooke!

My friend Brooke is running her first marathon this weekend, and it has been so much fun to track her training and enthusiasm and nerves throughout the last few months.  It feels very familiar to me, and so charged with energy, all the thought that goes into this very big day.

Brooke and I went to high school in Michigan together and swam on the swim team.  It is again thanks to blogs and facebook that we have been able to stay so connected.

Brooke lives in Arizona and will be running the Rock n' Roll Marathon in Phoenix this Sunday.  I am VERY excited that she signed me up to receive text message updates during the race, which means that if the system works (the tracking system during my SF marathon sadly did not work), I will receive texts when she crosses over electronic mats at about 4 points on the course and one when she finishes.  I will be thinking so hard about her, so it will be very cool to have a link to how she is doing.

Brooke is the mom to two girls, Johanna age 2 1/2, and Emmy, just 7 months old.  It's AMAZING that she started her training with such a young baby, and that one of the things she is stressed about is where she will find a place to nurse Emmy at the finish line.  That's one powerful mama.

Brooke has been dealing with an achilles injury through much of her training, so we all need to wish her a pain-free 26.2 miles on Sunday.  She will be writing a "first marathon" race report here on my blog next week so you can hear how it went.  Go BROOKE!  May the wind be at your back!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

sassy, snowy, sweet (in that order).

As if Skyler hasn't always been funny and sassy, she's really coming into her own with the witty comments and comebacks lately. Here are three from just this week.

1. While brushing her hair last weekend, I asked her what she wanted for breakfast. She replied: "one order of stop brushing my hair."

2. When she asked me to help her find some tape while I was cooking dinner, and I said I didn't have time that very second, she said: "Why have kids if you don't have time to help them?" (I was speechless).

3. On Wednesday, we had a snow day. School was canceled around 6:00 am, and Sam and I went back to sleep. The kids climbed into bed around 7 and before long they were bouncing and jumping all over us. Reed was singing "The wheels on the bus go round and round." I was still so so tired and wanted more sleep so I was saying to Sam: "please please please can you get up with the kids and let me sleep some more please please please?" And Skyler, without missing a beat, sang this verse: "The mommies on the bus go whine, whine, whine, all around the town."

After I stopped laughing, I went back to sleep until 9:20!!! This is unheard of! I needed the sleep, I guess, and for the rest of the day, we all stayed in pajamas, made popcorn, did puzzles, and watched it snow. We got about a foot of fresh stuff.

We all hung out at home until around 3:30 when I decided to be stubborn and insist on driving to the gym to get my 5 miles in.  The roads were "fine, no problem."  That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

And here, this post changes gears to be about food.

I know some of you wonder what my kids have for dinner when they aren't interested in some of dinners that Sam and I eat.  Here is a very typical Skyler and Reed dinner.  Turkey burgers, pears, carrots, broccoli (and apple sauce for Reed only).  Notice that nothing is touching anything else!

And tonight, after they cleaned their plates, we made a special dessert:  fruit, pudding, granola parfaits.  This was very easy for the kids to help with and is a fairly healthy dessert.

We layered granola and vanilla pudding with strawberries, blueberries and blackberries.  I set everything out and let the kids go to work.  The only thing I did was squeeze the pudding out of a large zip lock bag with a hole cut in the corner.

I'm thinking this will be a fun weekend breakfast with yogurt, too.

We suggest you try it too! 

( I will have more answers about the plan for my mom's treatment next week.  We are still waiting, and still feeling all of the love and concern from so many of you.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

meet the sole sisters

Jen, Amy, Christine, Susan, Emilie, Suzanne
Most of the questions I get regarding the blog have to do with running, how to get started running,  finding the time to train, or ideas for treadmill workouts (because I love treadmills).  Another question I get frequently is how I got hooked up with such a great running group.

This group of 6 has evolved into one of the best parts of my life, so I thought I'd tell you how it all happened and who they are.  Turns out this is kind of a long post. 

A few weeks after Reed was born, my mom and I started taking Skyler to Kindermusik class, where I met both Christine and Amy for the first time.  Christine was very pregnant with her second child Kristian and Amy was very pregnant with her second child Timothy.  They had their boys a few weeks after the class ended.

Here is little Skyler from that class.

While I was busy with infant Reed, Skyler was quickly attaching herself to McKayla, Christine's daughter.  They were instant friends, so Christine and I exchanged numbers with plans to get together, which we did often.

It was around this time that I was just starting to do a run-walk program.  A few months later, Christine and Amy started to walk and then run too, and they soon were joined by Jen, whom they met at the preschool where they were all taking their kids.

Fast forward to the summer of 2009 when I was training for Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco.  Christine, Jen and Amy, with a half marathon under their belts too, had signed up for the MDI marathon on the exact same day as my marathon.  We started doing our long runs together.  I was very aware how lucky I was to have their camaraderie and support to get me through that training.

The four of us completed our first marathons on October 18th, 2009:  I was in San Francisco and they were on MDI in Maine, but our times were ONE MINUTE apart.  How crazy is that?

Meanwhile, I was already running some with my friend Susan, whom I have taught English with at the same high school for ten years.
We were gradually building up to becoming runners at the same time, and we started doing races together here and there.  In the above photo, we had just finished a 5-mile race and it was the first time we had run that far.  We finished that race in 58 minutes and got passed by 60 year olds during the last quarter mile.  True story.

When I was training for my first marathon, Susan was very interested and supportive, and we talked about running a lot at work, but said she was not interested in running a full marathon.  I started to work my magic and made her think otherwise.  *rubs hands together*

It worked.  She is now fully addicted to running and is the fastest runner in our group.

ALSO meanwhile, my friend Suzanne was just getting interested in running and was quickly surprising herself with how far she could run after never thinking of herself as a runner before.

We first met Suzanne and her partner Sandi in our child-birthing class when I was pregnant with Skyler and Suzanne was pregnant with Ella.  We became instant friends and have now basically raised our kids together.

Here she is holding Reed when he was 6 months old.  (and oh my god, look at Reedo)
Sandi and Suzanne are Reed's godmothers, and Sam and I are godparents to their Maya.

So... when Jen, Christine, Amy and I decided to sign up for the Vermont City Marathon, Suzanne and Susan were clearly ready for a marathon, and were very easily convinced to join us.  Everyone met everyone else, we all started running together, and everyone got along famously.

We have, over the year, become much more than a running group.  We do all love running and have the same draw to races and race medals, but we also just love each other and share a bond of friendship. Our running group also includes offers to help when kids are sick, phone calls of concern about injuries, or deliveries of food when times are hard.  I am so incredibly lucky to have them.

After I made the MDI marathon relay video with that song "Hey Soul Sister" at the end, Christine named us Sole Sisters.  We're kind of a big deal.  We even have our own stickers that Christine made us for Christmas.

(I'm going to put it on my car right next to my 26.2 once my car isn't covered with snow, ice, and salt.)

Things you need to know about the Sole Sisters:
Susan:  She is fearless and undaunted by distance and speed.  She sets a mean pace and can STILL talk non-stop while running;  she just gets the job done as if it were no big deal.  All of us in our group have things that make us nervous or that we obsess over about running and races, except Susan.  She just shows up smiling and says:  "Let's go."  We are also all a little jealous that Susan can leave her older kids home alone on long-run mornings. We'll get there someday!

Amy:  She's a machine with an on and off switch.  She sets one pace and can hold it all day.  Amy is totally even-keeled and positive.  At the end of every long run, including the marathons, ask her how she feels and she says:  "Great!"  She also makes amazing home-made jams and is a gifted photographer.  AND, she helps us out by taking Skyler one morning a week.  And she takes pictures of Skyler and her son Nick waiting to get on the bus and sends them to me at work.

Suzanne:  Calling her "the most enthusiastic" sole sister doesn't even touch it.  Suzanne has boundless positive energy.  Whenever she shows up for a long run, the rest of us are usually sleepy and reluctant to start.  Suzanne drives up and starts beeping and waving from a block away, rolls down her window and yells:  "GOOD MORNING, GIRLS!  HOMEMADE BANANA BREAD FRESH FROM THE OVEN!"  She also loves my children as if they were her own, takes Skyler to school 4 mornings a week, and redefines what it means to be a good friend in so many ways.
She does her signature "two-thumbs-up" that we all try to mimic.
Jen:  Jen is the one who plants all of the seeds for running races.  She is famous for emailing us links to races we had never considered and asking:  "who's in?"  She is calm, cool, and collected as a runner, but deep down, she has a mean racing streak and can pull out an impressive pace that surprises everyone, including herself.  She is a strong and dependable athlete who is up for anything,  as well as one of the most generous people I know.  She does things like this:
Rent a giant, carnival-sized bounce house for her back yard and then invite us all over to play:
She also does things like this:  Sends me flowers at work after I had a terrible week.
 Christine:   Christine is so full of personality and so funny, that I can't capture her in writing.  She is a caring social worker who is an expert advice-giver.  From now on, look in the group photos and you'll notice Christine as the one in the always matching outfit, almost always Nike top with coordinating Nike bottoms and matching running shoes (yes, she does have running shoes in different colors to match her outfits).  She is the queen of clean to the point that if Christine is coming over to my house, I clean differently, not because I am afraid of being judged by her, but because I want to make her proud.  Christine and her habits of being so well put together made this race especially funny (but see, under the mud is a coordinated Nike outfit).

I don't want to focus too much on the wardrobe thing, becuase there is so much more to Christine, but I have to share this funny message she sent us this week:

"In order to properly represent ourselves at Sugarloaf I think we should get thinking about color/style of shirt.  Running Warehouse has some Nike shirts in Mega Blue.  I think we'd really stand out in blue. It might be a nice contrast to the surrounding brown and green of the scenic Carrabassett Valley in spring time... And we will match the Sugarloaf Logo!"

And there you have it.  

So, you are welcome to run with us.  You just have to let us coordinate your outfits, bring fresh-baked treats to long runs, love talking while running, not mind hearing details about bathroom stops, and offer to watch our kids if they are sick.

We are planning to run about 6 or 7 races together in 2011.  Watch for our matching outfits!