Monday, October 21, 2013

Race Report: MDI Half Marathon. When mama got her groove back.

This summer when we realized that the beautiful and famous MDI Marathon was adding a Half Marathon to the event, Hillary and I decided we wanted to run it. I can't pass up an opportunity to run on MDI (Mount Desert Island, or "the island" or one of the top ten prettiest places on earth).  Signing up kept me honest with getting in longer runs, plus, it just gave me something to look forward to because I love this event (I've run it twice as a relay).

And then, the forecast called for cold and rain.  And then, there was a pretty important Red Sox game on Saturday night which was going to keep me up late,  and we were having friends over to watch it, so I was now looking at running this race in poor conditions and on little sleep.  My attitude was:  oh well.

We all sat down to some Butternut Squash Chickpea Coconut Curry (recipe coming) for the pre-race/ pre-game meal.  And, in case you didn't hear, the Sox won after a nail-biter of a game.  It was a late night but totally worth it.

Sunday morning came very early, and it was indeed raining.  While we drove to the island,  I promised Hillary it would be pretty anyway, because there are so many awesome ocean views along this course.

Lo and behold, the rain stopped within minutes of the start. 

quick start line selfie before we took off.

Sunday's race marked my second race this season where the forecast called for rain, and it turned out to be just plain beautiful.  If you want to custom order race-day conditions, you ask for partly cloudy with a slight breeze, bursts of sunshine,  and 55 degrees.  And that is what MDI delivered.    And it marks the second race this season where I was prepared to feel awful, and I felt fantastic.  I didn't get a lot of sleep, but I got enough.  I ate well and hydrated well and had zero pressure or nerves. 

My actual race report is short and sweet.  I felt, for the first time in a long while, in love with running again.  I ran at a steady, even pace the whole race.  I reveled in the views of the ocean and the stunning fall foliage, thanked volunteers at every water stop, and felt completely in control of my body.  My legs felt good, even on the hills.  It was such a freaking miracle to have this gift of a day, because I haven't been writing about it much, but I have been in a major rut with running.  I can't get in as many runs anymore, and so when I do, it often feels hard and slow, and I usually slog more than run.  I sort of thought I was done feeling good about running. I am so relieved.  I don't think I've ever felt better in a race.  Ever.

On Sunday, these things happened:
-  I lost track of the miles, and didn't know that I had crossed the half way point of the race, and then was suddenly and pleasantly surprised to find out I was more than 2 miles past the half way point.  THIS NEVER HAPPENS.
-  I kept asking myself:  "Is there anything you'd rather be doing?"  And I kept answering:  "Nope!"  And I wasn't desperate for the end at all.  I was enjoying every step.  I even thought:  I could keep going and going! THIS NEVER HAPPENS.
-  I felt so good during miles 9-13 that I made a game out of passing people.  I would get up behind someone and then as soon as we were pretty much even, I would take ten quick steps and cruise ahead.  THIS HAS NEVER EVER HAPPENED.
- This race is very hilly.  You are either climbing up or going down for almost every single step of the race.  I was running along thinking:  "I love hills."   And it wasn't a sick twisted way to trick myself.  I actually enjoyed the hills.  They were fun and made the course interesting.  NEVER HAPPENS. 

Hillary snapped this one along the course.  

So basically what I did on Sunday was have 13.1 miles of a runners high.  Thank you to whatever is responsible for that.  Also wonderful to see so many friends out on the course: Jen, Amy, Karl, Karyn, Jennifer and Carrie. 

Tim was shooting the race for his story when I crossed the finish line.  He took this photo off of the screen. I finished in 2:17.23, which is 8 minutes off my PR but was about 5 minutes faster than I expected to run on this course. 

Thanks to Hillary for being her typical upbeat and cheerful self and such a joy to do a race with.  Running her second half marathon, she set a PR of 6 minutes.  So awesome. 

And to Tim for being there as soon as I stepped across the finish line.

Thanks to MDI for the gorgeous show of color, and to the MDI Marathon folks for putting on such a stellar, well-organized, feel good event.   We are totally going back next year, and there has even been talk of doing the full.  But that might just be the race high talking.  Either way, I'm back. 

Here is Tim's story about the marathon that aired on the news tonight. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

how I bit my tongue: lessons in parenting

Reed started campaigning for a guitar and guitar lessons this summer.  I'm not sure how he got the idea, but if you know Reed, once he gets an idea, the idea becomes its own little universe that we all inhabit.  He was tireless in making sure we all knew that learning guitar was the idea of the year. 

So, finally, the day arrived.

While I was sitting in the waiting area during his first lesson,  I had two parenting revelations about myself.

First of all, in setting up the lessons, I had resisted a bad habit I've picked up of explaining and offering disclaimers for Reed.  If I'm about to bring Reed to someone's house who hasn't met him, I usually say something along the lines of:  "Just so you know, he's a little, um, wild,"  or "spirited," or "hyper."  All true.  One night at home we were talking about how quiet it was without the kids there.  I said something about how Reed can be a little loud.  Ellis said it isn't that Reed is actually loud in volume, it is that his whole being is loud.  He fills a room.  He makes his presence known.  He touches and hugs a lot.  He often falls out of his chair at dinner, and when we laugh, he does it again.  Reed is the kid in 1st grade who sits with "the heavy turtle," a plush turtle stuffed with heavy beads, on his lap during circle time.  The teacher is literally trying to anchor him to the floor. 

I admit that Reed can sometimes be a tad tiring, and one of my tenderest spots as a mom is a fear that he is "too much" for others.  But I had succeeded in consciously not saying anything about how "excitable" or "wiggly" Reed is to his guitar teacher before the first lesson.

Instead, I sat in the waiting area, on the other side of a thin wooden door of the guitar studio, and listened to Reed handling himself perfectly with this new adult.  You know that old story/ urban legend about the new teacher who inherits the kindergarten class of kids who are known to be unruly and academically behind, but the new teacher is told they are brilliant and gifted, and so he treats them as such, and the kids respond accordingly?  Well, I didn't go so far as to tell this teacher that Reed is a picture of good behavior and focus, but by not labeling him ahead of time, I had essentially allowed Reed to make his own first impression.  The teacher spoke to Reed as if he were a mature and smart kid ready to learn to play guitar.  And he was cooperative, attentive, and well behaved.  In other words, he was a mature and smart kid ready to learn to play guitar.

The second revelation I had is that I often answer questions for Reed, or at least attempt to translate for him when he talks to other adults.  Sometimes Reed makes obscure references to things he thinks everyone knows about, and I sometimes chime in and explain what he means.  I was so aware, sitting on the other side of the door at guitar, that I couldn't answer for him.  Because what kind of awkward mom move would that be to shout answers through the door?  Thank goodness I resisted.

The teacher asked him the musical background of his family.  I held my breath and listened.  He answered that his sister "plays the piano," that "we have a piano in our home," and that his "Omom, which means grandmother, plays something that looks like a giant violin."  A cello?  "Yes, a cello.  That's it.  My grandmother plays the cello."  He even knew that he needed to explain that Omom means grandmother.

I was impressed.  Next, the teacher asked him what kind of music he likes to listen to.  I immediately thought:  he doesn't know how to explain that.  I wanted to shout:  "He likes pop tunes and boy bands! He likes Taylor Swift!  He likes to sing from the bathtub:  "We will never ever ever ever get back together!'" 

He said:  "Well, my favorite song is 'You Don't Know You're Beautiful' and I like the band "Big Time Rush" and I like all the songs in "Teen Beach Movie."  Wow.  Pretty good, Reed.  I thought, surely the guitar teacher didn't know what he's talking about, as this movie is all the rage, but only with the 6-9 year old set.  Next thing I heard was the teacher clicking on his computer and then, I heard the opening rifs to the "Teen Beach Movie" song that we have on repeat in the car.  "This one?"  Reed said:  "YES!"  He was thrilled.  His guitar teacher was understanding and speaking his language.

Next the guitar teacher asked:  "Can you read?" and I heard Reed say:  "I read pretty well, but some words are hard for me."

Clearly, he was doing fine without me. 

Aw, bud.  Your shoes are on the wrong feet.  I mean:  I love you.  You're perfect.
It turns out, Reed is totally calm and focused for the duration of his guitar lessons.  It turns out, he is totally capable of conversing with adults without my help.  

This might just be one of those truly classic parenting moments, me realizing that my baby is growing up and doesn't need me as much as I think he does.  I don't need to speak for him or apologize for him.  I'm proud of the little person he is, and have learned that I don't want him to be any other way than how he is. After all, he is thriving in first grade and hardly even needs help with his homework.  He has a ton of friends and his teacher describes him as a "great kid."

On Tuesdays when Skyler is at piano lessons, Reed and I sit and talk in a nearby cafe, and every-other week, I let him get a whoopie pie. I adore this time with him.  When he's alone away from an audience whom he feels he must impress, he is so calm and fun to be around.  He tells me stories about school, or asks me questions about the world's biggest roller coasters, or when I think maybe he could get an electric guitar, and I listen.
I always say that the best gift my dad gave to me growing up is that he was the world's best listener.  He would let me go on and on, talking about my world and would only ask questions to encourage me or validate me, never speak over me or for me.   

That thin wooden door to the guitar studio has been good for me.  It is forcing me to sit back and observe my little one thriving in the world, to give up a little bit of control.   And when the door opens and he comes out of his guitar lesson, he is so smiley and proud and happy, and once we are out the front door, the wiggling begins again.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

fall hikes, shooting arrows, and college, obviously.

Ah, a long weekend.

So much time for all the things we needed: downtime, fall splendor, soccer, baseball, archery, and a college visit.

And guess what?  I took a few pictures.

“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
― L.M. Montgomery,

Watch out Tim, Skyler's got you.  Watch out Skyler, Tim has a coffee mug. 

Skyler played soccer against her good friend Bella.  
After this picture, she said she felt like Romeo and Juliet. 

Ashley came for support and gave Skyler a post-game chat.  
They lost by a lot, but she doesn't take it too hard. 

 Sunday was so beautiful.  We spent all day outside, and I got to catch up with Suz and Ange, too.  This gaggle of kids has been doing outdoorsy stuff together since they were infants. 

What a day.  I can still feel the sunshine on my shoulders.  And every once in a while I need to publicly gush about these friends and how amazing they are.  I'm so lucky. 

How did we end up shooting arrows this weekend?  Well, Reed has an obsession with bows and arrows, and has for a long time, and Skyler has heard him talk about it so much that she pretty much does too.   I learned archery a few years ago and totally loved it, and I wanted them to have a chance to try.  Two of my colleagues at the high school came in on the holiday morning to teach Skyler and Reed how to shoot. They loved it so much, and paid such good and careful attention to the directions. 

look at that intensity. 

Neither of them actually hit the pumpkin, but they came so close over and over again.  They were only a little bummed when the only one to hit the pumpkin was MOMMY.  

To round out our awesome weekend, I took the kids to see Hillary at school.  Bates College is one of those ridiculously scenic New Englandy Liberal Arts Schools, and I wanted the kids to see it in all its fall glory.

 I was struck by seeing Skyler sitting on Hillary's bed in her dorm room.  In 10 years, this will be her. 
They were both amazed at all the choices of food in the Commons.  I was impressed by how beautiful all the spaces are. 

When we were walking around, I kept looking longingly at all the students with backpacks heading to the library.  I told Hillary that what would make me really happy is if I could stay for the evening and write a paper, a long, complicated research paper that involved multiple sources and good books and highlighters.  And then I could get that post-paper feeling when you turn something complicated and unwieldy into something clear and coherent, and you print it and walk out of the library with it in your backpack, after it has gotten cool and dark and the leaves are crunching under your feet on the path back to your dorm.  Have I romanticized college? Nope.  That's what it was really like for me.

 Of all the things we saw, what made the biggest impression on my two was not the stunning campus, the football field, or all the good academic energy.  It was that there are FIFTY kinds of cereal to choose from in the Commons.  Every day.  They could not get their heads around this.

And what is a spectacular fall weekend without late night playoff baseball? At midnight on Sunday night, this happened,

and then this...

and all the world was joyful. (Except all of my beloved Michigan friends).

Game 3 is today at 4:00, in case you wondered.   The kids requested hot dogs and sunflower seeds for dinner while we watch. I said yes. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Clearly, I adore this season. Here's why.

Fall means pumpkins, apple cake, and soup.  It also means college essays are due, and that's what I've been doing.
There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!

There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!


There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!

But there has been so much more!  So here it all is, all at once.

I had a weekend in southern Maine with my beautiful friend Meredith.  We ate Mediterranean food in the Old Port, surfed at Popham Beach, picnicked in the sun while wrapped in towels, shopped at Trader Joe's,  drank great coffees and ate Thai food in Bath.  In other words:  PERFECT WEEKEND.

After an hour in the ocean, I recognized my feet as my own, but could feel nothing other than icy stubs. 

en route to my weekend away, I rendezvoused with Hillary at a pit stop on the highway.  Just enough time for coffee and selfies with my girl. 
Skyler is seriously into soccer this fall.

 Skyler has a lot of fans.  We hope she isn't embarrassed by us.

We got to see our Ashley play soccer for UMaine, and got an autographed team photo after.  Skyler was starry-eyed.
 Reed?  He has been busy too.  He's memorizing the dance moves to Teen Beach Movie. Naturally.

We had another stunning fall adventure day with Meredith and kids, this time to Compass Harbor.  Has this Fall been more amazing than usual?  This one feels especially glorious.

We climbed on rocks and played in the tidal pools.  Reed and Roz continued their well documented courtship.
Later in the park, Roz instructed Reed on make up and jewelry.  He listened carefully.

We hung out on the village green for hours and ate pizza until I dragged my two and their grass-stained, sandy selves into the car to head home in the dark.  

This week, my girl turned NINE years old.
 Skyler continues to shine her light on all of us.  She is artistic and kind.  She is the kid who looks out for the other kid, the littlest one or the one who feels left out.   She is grateful and funny and a perfect mix of shy and outgoing.  I adore her and her ever-growing legs.
 We celebrated in a lot of different ways.  Last week, it was dinner out at the Kobe Steak House with two of her besties, Rose and Bella. 

 When she realized the whole restaurant was going to sing to her while banging drums, she gave me this look.  It said:  "I don't want to be the center of attention!/ I love being the center of attention!"

When I brought pumpkin squares to Girl Scouts, they all sang to her again!
 On her birthday, Tim and my mom and I took her out to breakfast.  At this point, we unveiled the coveted American Girl Doll she's been asking about for a year.  GREAT SUCCESS.
that face!  worth all $110 freaking dollars.

And lastly, family dinner for Skyler.

Skyler is thinking:  "It's still my birthday!"  Reed is thinking:  "I love you, Ellis."

And apple cake with nine candles:
Happy birthday, darling.

But wait.  There's more!

Ellis played football, his team won, and we all hooted and hollered when Ellis made an interception with one hand.   The sun shone bright and warm. 

We went to a beautiful wedding on Branch Lake.  The fall color is ridiculous.
And my date was the most handsome one there.  It's true.  I checked.

Saturday night the Sox played game 2 of the AL East playoffs, but you knew that, RIGHT?  We not only watched, but we decided we'd commit to run a mile for each run they scored.  Considering I had already run 9 miles on Saturday, I was worried the bats would be a-cracking.  We were satisfied with the score... Red Sox 7, Rays 4.  We did all 7 miles on the trails.

So, I ran 16 miles in two days and my legs feel great.  Running in the woods in October in Maine is as good as it gets.

Now, I'm off to school.  The seniors are revising their essays, so we end right back where we started.

I wish you all a warm, colorful fall free of grammatical errors.  xo