Eight was a Magic Number

When I was pregnant, someone told me that every age would be my favorite. Once I survived the infant stage, I have to say this person was correct. (I did not love having a baby. Every time someone told me, “Enjoy every moment; you’ll miss this when they’re old,” I felt like a terrible mother. I didn’t love every moment of having a baby; it was difficult and lonely.

I loved four, five, six, and seven. Eight was my favorite. There are many reasons I wish I could stop time and keep Liam eight forever. These are the strongest reasons I love having an eight-year-old:

Liam laughing hysterically the first time he read one of Willy Wonka’s Oompa-Loompa songs

He can express his feelings. He can tell me what’s wrong and whether he wants an apple or a yogurt. During our twice daily walks with Banjo, he tells me about his days, things he does with his friends at school, how he feels about his teachers, and asks questions about just about anything. He is getting really good at keeping a conversation going, which is a skill I know will take him far in life.

He can do things on his own. He gets his clothes ready and gets himself dressed. He can make an English muffin, pancakes, or a PB&J. He showers completely on his own and brushes his own teeth.  The fact that he is more independent is a huge help, especially in the morning. Last week, he cooked the family French toast for breakfast. He even set and cleared the table! I love seeing how proud he is of himself when he is able to do things on his own.

He has a good heart. I hope this one doesn’t change. Liam loves knowing that others are okay and takes care of people. If a classmate is out of school, he wants to know they’re okay. When his godmother gave him money for Christmas, the only thing he wanted to do with it was to donate it to the Food Bank. He realizes he is fortunate in a lot of ways and wants to help those who aren’t as lucky.

When we went to New York City, we climbed the crown of the Statue of Liberty and saw The Lion King on Broadway. Liam’s favorite part of the trip? Feeding pigeons in Battery Park.

He believes the world is good. I know this will falter at times, but he still believes that everyone is a friend who deserves a chance. He assumes best intentions in everyone he meets.

      

His problems are still pretty easy to fix. He’s really good about telling us things that are going on in his life. Most of his worries and concerns are pretty easy to address. When something is bothering him, we can usually talk through it in a short amount of time. I know that, as he gets older, his worries will not be so easily squished.

Yesterday, Liam turned nine. As we let him plan his day, we started at IHOP. In the parking lot, he began to cry because he did not want to turn nine. I hope that he is always so happy with his life that he doesn’t want anything to change.

What I Learned After (almost) a Month of Streaking

Last month, I decided to join my November Project tribe for a month of streaking. Each day, we would run a minimum of one mile, tracking on Strava to keep us honest. It seemed like a good idea- I like the accountability, especially during the holidays. I cannot remember the last time I didn’t gain five pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year then struggle to lose it in January.

The first few days were easy. I usually walk the dog for three-quarters of a mile each evening. It seemed easy enough to change into running clothes and go an extra block or so to complete the mile. Then Mike went to Tennessee for a week, leaving me with Liam and Banjo. During these days, I had Liam scoot along with me. Yes, he could have run, but I wanted to keep a faster pace.

Here are my takeaways after thirty-one days of running daily:

  1. You can make time if you want. One of the days Mike was gone, I had a faculty meeting after school and didn’t get home until 4:30 and had to get Liam to his Christmas concert by 6:30. I still managed to get in my mile! I snuck out after opening gifts on Christmas and ran a mile and a half.
  2. A mile is a short enough distance to run without having to wash your hair. The need to shower and wash my long hair often keeps me from running because it adds an extra hour to the time needed, making longer runs impossible in the morning.  (Mike leaves for work at 6:15 and we are out of the house by 6:40; if I were to run in the morning, I would need to get up at 4:30. Yes, I know it is technically not impossible, I just don’t want to do that since I already go to bed before 9:00 to wake up by 5:30.)  Because the weather was supposed to be terrible that afternoon, I was able to get the mile in before work. I pulled my hair up and took a quick shower. I also ran my mile one night after going to the hair salon. I didn’t pull it up or wear a hat, and it still looked salon good the following morning.

 

Selfie I sent my hairdresser after I promised I wouldn’t ruin her blowout running

 

3. My body craves the movement. Of course, there were a few days in which I procrastinated, but I enjoyed getting out there and proving I could do it.

4. Running is mind over matter. Well, I already knew this, but the challenge reinforced it.

5. I CAN RUN A SUB-TEN-MINUTE MILE!!!!!  That has been my goal for years. As a former fat kid, the Presidential Physical Fitness test was my nemesis.  To make matters worse, my maiden name started with an “A,” forcing me to go first. The rest of my class struggled to watch my feeble attempts at situps or pull-ups. The standard ten-minute mile forever eluded me. It is nice to know that I am in better shape than I was in 1989.

6. I know my body. Notice the title says “almost.” I caught a terrible case of bronchitis, leading to two trips the doctor, rounds of antibiotics and Prednisone, and even a nebulizer breathing treatment. During the worst days, I knew better than to try and run, but I still made myself go out and walk for a mile. The cold, fresh hair helped my lungs and I felt like I was staying with the challenge.

If I had not caught bronchitis, I would have kept up my mile a day habit. Now that I have pretty much recovered, I’d like to start it up again. After a month of running every day, going a week with nothing seems weird. I am excited to see if I can maintain those faster speeds on longer runs and PR in my next half -marathon in May. Yet again, I am thankful for stepping out of my comfort zone and challenging myself. Also, I managed to not gain my usual five pounds of holiday weight! While this challenge was not about weight, that was a nice bonus!

2019 Goals

Teachers enjoy two “new year” beginnings, one in January and one in September. So far, I have done a nice job maintaining several of my school year resolutions.  I have been going to bed early and getting lots of sleep. I have been meal planning.  I pick up the house a little bit each day and have been doing a good job of keeping up with laundry, avoiding the need to spend most of Saturday morning cleaning.

Where I am slacking is when it comes to working out. I have not gone for a single run after school.  The main reason for this is being in a new school with a new curriculum.  Because I stay at school a lot later than I did last year, I head home to pick up Liam and avoid spending even more on after-school care than we already do. Liam has promised to start running with Banjo and me in the afternoon. While the runs aren’t long or fast, they include bonding and watching Liam set goals.

This start to the new year has me thinking about my goals. I have my students email weekly goals.  When they ask why they need to email me their goals and create a plan to reach them, I explain that a goal without a plan is nothing more than a wish. Sharing them makes them real.

When I first decided to sign up for a half-marathon, my husband told everyone. I was not as excited to share the goal, mostly for fear I would fail and everyone would know. Once everyone knew I was planning to run two half- marathons in 2018, I had to make sure I was able to achieve this goal.

Setting these goals makes me think a lot about what I want to achieve next year.

So here, in random order, are my 2019 goals:

Run a thirty-five minute 5K.  I just finished reading Deena Kastor’s Let Your Mind Run. She talks about her goal of running a fifteen minute 5K. I’m focusing on my own goals. Cutting a minute off of my 5K PR would put me in the thirty-five-minute range. I would be happy with that.

*In the time between my first draft of this and when I got back to editing it, I shaved forty seconds off my 5K, putting me at 35:59. Next goal is to make it to 34:59!

Cut a minute and a half off my half-marathon PR: I know that isn’t a lot over 13.1 miles, but it would put me in a 12:29 pace. For some reason, dropping down a ten-second increment sounds likes an awesome goal!

 

Do a handstand: I’ve been able to do a headstand for a  few years and want to transition to a full headstand. I think a lot of it is mind over matter; I need to get over my fear and make it happen.

The Best Terrible Race of my Life

This weekend, I ran the Newport Half Marathon. A few days before the race, my friend Kerri sent me a text saying that she was thinking about running the half. I sent her this clip from How I Met Your Mother in which Barney decides to run the NYC Marathon. My favorite line is when he says, “You don’t train for a marathon, you just do it.” She was convinced and decided to register hours before the deadline.

I was not well prepared and dropped the ball on a few last-minute needs, such as drinking a lot of water the night before and getting to bed early. Mike ordered tickets to see Christina Aguilera the night before the race.  Because he had to work the following morning, we decided to only stay for a few songs. Even though we left early, we still didn’t get home until almost eleven. I had to be out of the house by 5:15 the following morning. The show was amazing! I’m sorry that we couldn’t stay for the entire set.

In case you’ve ever wondered what Easton’s Beach looks like before sunrise.

The next morning, I woke up an was out the door on time.  Liam woke up with me to wish me good luck. He asked if I was excited to run thirteen miles. When I said I was more excited for when it was it was over. “Why do you pay money to do something that sometimes sucks?”

“To prove myself that I can.”

That’s why this race represented: proving I can set and achieve a goal.

   

I rode the shuttles to the starting line and found my friends a few minutes later. We chatted for a bit and lined up for the race. The first few miles went by pretty easily. The scenery was beautiful as we ran around the island. About mile five, my left leg started to hurt. When Mike and I lived in the apartment, I broke my foot. It usually aches a little bit on the first cool, damp day of the season. Race day was the day it decided to ache. I tried to avoid it by changing how I landed; that caused other parts of my leg and foot to ache. Around mile six, I accidentally paused my apple watch, making it difficult for me to track distance and pace for the rest of the race. By mile ten, I told my friend to go ahead. I texted Mike and tried to keep my mind off the pain. As I reached Bellevue Ave’s Forty Steps, I was in tears. I had to catch myself to avoid going from simply hyperventilating to full-on panic attack.  I couldn’t breathe.  Every step ached.  Mike asked me if there was a first aid station or someplace to stop. I knew the injury was simply an old one showing its face and there was nothing they could do to help me.  Most importantly, I didn’t work this hard to only make it to mile ten. I relied on all of my “this run sucks” tricks.  I listened to my favorite music.  I reduced my interval timer. I pulled up Pokemon Go on my phone to divert my attention. I felt weak and alone. I questioned why I thought I could do this.

I sobbed for almost a half mile, then had an epiphany: I was going to finish this race. I set a goal to complete two half-marathons in 2018 and didn’t work this hard to quit at mile ten.

I finished at 2:55:35, ten minutes slower than my first half but still under my original three-hour goal.

I celebrated with my friends. We posted pictures on Facebook, sharing Kerri’s last-minute decision to run the race.

Post race Mac & Cheese!
Still smiling after the race (and I had no idea that my headband had moved)

 

Before the race, I ordered two sneaker tags for Kristin and me to celebrate our achievement. I gave the two of them to my friends and placed an order for one for myself. The Etsy shop owner sent me another one at no charge. I love that races bring out the best in people.

 

Running has taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to.

Running has provided an amazing set of friends. I am doubly blessed to have an amazing group of yoga buddies and running buddies.

Running provides an excellent example for Liam. He sees me struggle and work hard. He runs with me and together we celebrate his victories. He’s set a goal of running a ten-minute mile.

I’m not sure what the future holds when it comes to long-term running goals. I sometimes considered putting my name in the lottery for the New York City Marathon. However, when I think about how exhausted I was at the end of this half, the thought of that being the halfway point and doing another thirteen miles seems impossible. That being said, I may let fate decide if I am meant to run a full marathon.

The Race I Needed

This view makes it worth waking up at 5am!

During my first round of BRG, my goal was to run the Gaspee Days 5k in under forty minutes. I managed to finish in 39:11, keeping a 12:39 pace. Less than a year later, I completed my first half marathon in 244:59, which averaged to a 12:36 pace. I was beyond proud of this. That same pace I struggled to maintain for 3.1 miles was kept for another ten miles.

This summer’s plan was to train for a second half. It did not go as planned. It was a hotter than usual summer. I hurt my knee, putting a damper on the best intentions. When I did go out for my long runs, my pace was slower than before I began running. During last week’s 11.3 mile run, my pace was 14:59. Fear of being unable to complete the long runs prevented me from pushing myself. I struggled to determine whether this slip was physical, mental, or both.

     

With one week to go until the half, I know I will finish. I know I will not PR, but I know I will be able to complete the race. Today was the Ocean Road 10k, which was perfectly timed for my tapering before the Newport Half. Set on Ocean Road in Narragansett, the race provides beautiful views!

Because even my shorter runs have been slow, I went into today with low expectations. It was a beautiful morning surrounding my some of my favorite people in the world. We have different strategies for tackling races; mine involves intervals.

My realistic goal was to complete the 10k in under an hour and a half- my times have been so slow that I would have been happy to keep a thirteen-minute-mile pace. Not only did I finish the race in an hour and eighteen minutes, I almost managed negative splits! (Mile four had some hills that slowed me down.)

The views were amazing. The crowd was positive and inspiring. I had some of my favorite people cheering for each other. It is hard to believe that I have only been a part of this running community for less than two years; I am beyond grateful to the people who support me, encourage me, and inspire me. They have convinced me that I can conquer goals that I never would have considered for myself.  I love surrounding myself with people who celebrate the successes of others. I cannot wait to see how what the years ahead of us hold!

Has Anyone Seen my Motivation?

Here I am, less than one month from my next half-marathon, and I have not run more than six and a half miles to train for it. There have been quite a few reasons for this:

  • It was unusually hot this summer. We had several heat waves and several stretches of days with heat indexes over 100. I just couldn’t run in the heat.
  • I’m nursing my knee. I went to the doctor in May and could not find the cause of the pain. Acupuncture helped, but I haven’t made it there in almost a month. I’m so nervous about further damaging my knee that I haven’t gone out as much. And when I do go out, I am not pushing myself as hard as I should out of fear of further injury. I am slower than ever.
  • Time Time Time  Summer is always busy. The new school year has me putting in multiple twelve-hour days each week.  I bring my running clothes with me with the intention of changing and getting to 6:00 running club, but I have been staying past 6 and, when I leave, my brain and body are much.

These may seem like valid reasons, but they do not change that fact that, four weeks from now, I will be running thirteen miles. I hoped to shave five minutes off of my first time. I hoped to be a little thinner and a little stronger.  I have gained weight instead of losing it. I’ve almost finished LIIFT 4, so I’d like to think I am a little stronger.

So I have four weeks to prepare for this half. I will head out Wednesday for a ten-mile run.  At this point, I am no longer concerned with beating my previous time; I am determined to complete a goal I set for myself- to run two half marathons in a year!

 

How Mayim Bialik Made Me Cry

While I was upstairs getting dressed, I took a moment to myself to mindlessly scroll Facebook. Liam was downstairs playing and I thought I had a few minutes. Mayim Bialik’s site, Grok Nation, featured a video of her explaining her expectation versus reality regarding how many children she would have.  When she was younger, she imagined giving birth to enough children to create her own football team. Once she had two sons, she realized that was what she could handle. As Mayim spoke, she was on the verge of tears as she explained that, even though she knew it was the right choice for her, she needed to mourn the future she originally planned for herself.

     

Her honesty and her confession made me think of my own plan for having children. When I was younger, I always imagined having two children. It just seemed like the thing to do. I have a sister and (usually) enjoyed having someone to play with and to understand when different things were happening in our lives. She helped me through various times when my mother was sick. When it came to planning my future, I never thought about anything other than having two children.

Fast forward to adulthood. I met Mike, who was adamant that he only wanted one child. We agreed to discuss it again after becoming parents. The months after Liam was born were some of the most difficult of our lives. At four weeks old, we flew Liam to Florida to meet and say goodbye to my mother, who held on long enough to meet her grandson. Two weeks later, we drove to Maine to say goodbye to Mike’s grandmother. We came home to two feet of water in our basement. Our friends all but abandoned us after Liam was born. Liam suffered from terrible colic, eventually taking baby Pepcid to relieve the symptoms. The first few months after Liam was born were some of the most rewarding yet difficult months of my life.

     

When Liam was almost a year old, we revisited the topic of more children. When he was a year old, we decided we were happy as a family of three.

There are many reasons for this. Some are quite responsible and others are strictly personal:

I was thirty-three when I had Liam. Having more children at a later age increases the chance of complications for both myself and future babies,

Mike’s job relies on contracts; long-term work is not guaranteed. We do not want to have more children than we can comfortably afford.

Having one child allows me to better balance what I call the “triangle of sanity,” or the management of career, marriage, and motherhood.

Having one child makes it easier for both Mike and I to pursue our interests, partly by having the money to pursue hobbies but also because, when I go for a run or yoga, I am only leaving Mike with one child. When I go for a run after school, I am only paying for one child to attend after-school care. Did I choose to have one child so I can run and practice yoga? No. But having the time and energy to follow those pursuits centers me, making me a better mother, wife, and teacher.

Having one child gives Mike and I more time for each other. More important than the weeks at the beach house, toys, or adventures, Mike and I give Liam two calm parents who have time available for him each day.

Having one child allows me to train for a half marathon, attend yoga twice a week, and enter thirty-seven books into my Goodreads account this year.

This is not an insult or disrespect against anyone with more than one child.  I applaud your time and money management skills. I watch you balance sports practices, birthday parties, and overall needs of multiple children with admiration and respect.

I watched Mayim explain that, while she was content in her decision to stop having more children, she also needed to mourn her original plan.  That line summed up how I feel.  There are times I wholeheartedly wish we had more than one child, simply because that was the original plan.  However, I know that I am meant to be the mama of one child. As I watched, I began to tear up, relieved that someone else understands how I feel.  Before the video finished, I heard my bedroom door open. My first impulse was to sigh, slightly frustrated that I cannot get five minutes alone to get dressed.

“What’s up, Bug?” I asked.

“I just needed to know where my mama is. I love you.”

He Gets It!

This summer, Liam has been joining me on my workouts with the Beginner’s Running Group and November Project. He quickly fell in love with the social aspect of both groups. He’s the first to dish out encouraging words and high-fives. Of course, he loves receiving encouragement as well.

Last week, we headed to Lippitt Park for BRG after spending the weekend on the Cape. Liam played hard all weekend, tubing, swimming, and catching turtles. He was already tired, but I reminded him we committed to attending BRG. It was also ridiculously hot. After a quick warm up, we hit the Boulevard for intervals. I made sure our pace was barely above a jog and took Nuun with us. He found his mantra an repeated it, “There’s no need to lead… There’s no need to lead… There’s no need to lead.”

A few minutes into our run, our friends Kerri and Kristin caught up with us. After explaining they had already gone for a run, they admitted they were walking to their cars but, upon seeing Liam, knew they couldn’t leave him. We made it through the run, even when Liam wanted to give up. Kristin challenged Liam to a race to the finish line, which he gladly accepted.

That night, Liam was getting ready for his shower.

“You know, quitting is a lot harder when your friends are there. If our friends didn’t show up, this kid would have been out of there.”

At that moment, I knew Liam got what this is all about. It’s not about leading the pack. It’s about trying your best and not giving up. It’s about doing things you didn’t think you could accomplish. Most of all, running with a group is about supporting each other. There have been times that I was not at all feeling my run. I ran anyway because my friends were waiting for me. There are times I pushed myself to run farther and faster than I thought I had in me at the time because my friends were by my side. I’d like to think there might have been times when my friends weren’t completely ready or into their run but were able to get through it because I was by their side. Running and working out are about so much more than the actual activity.

Pinterest Princess or Bust?

This sums up my life:

I hate to bake. I hate crafts. Basically, I hate any activity that involves closely following directions. When Mike and I first moved in together, he was amazed at my inability to put together IKEA furniture.

Fast forward thirteen years. We have an incredible eight-year-old boy, one we intentionally tried to have in February to time my maternity leave, allowing me to stay home for seven months.  Each February since, we curse ourselves as we try to plan his birthday party. We usually have his party at various indoor facilities throughout the state. Last year his party was at McCoy Stadium. While his parties have always been fun, Liam wanted an outdoor party so we didn’t have to worry about time or how many kids he could invite. We decided to celebrate his eight and a half birthday over the summer. When he asked if he could have a Harry Potter themes party, I jumped at the chance to let him have a party in a theme I really liked (as opposed to last year’s love of Minecraft). Liam and I have been reading the illustrated books together. I love that he loves them. (I’ve stated earlier that I sometimes feel guilty for not sharing his enthusiasm for things he loves, such as Star Wars, Minecraft, and Pokemon.)

I told him that this would only work if he helped me, which he happily obliged. We set off on Pinterest. He started off having much more faith in our abilities that I even had, wanting to make Hogwarts letters to send out to friends.

“We can put wax on them and send them to everyone.”

“I already sent out a Facebook invitation.”

Liam really wanted to give his friends wands. We had recently visited Wynotts Wands in Salem, where Liam chose his wand. He understood that we could not afford to buy each kid a wand. The bulk ones online were either too cheap or too expensive.  Pinterest shared a tutorial for making wands that actually seemed reasonable. We ordered chopsticks, hot glue gunned the ends, then painted them. Liam was happy to help, and the finished products were pretty cool!

We also made golden snitches and chocolate frogs. Liam began asking me to make the chocolate frogs on Monday. Knowing I could not be trusted with that much chocolate in the house, we needed to wait until Friday.

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We made a Quidditch court. Mike was happy to act as our Quidditch coach. The kids had a ball playing.

    

I set up a table for “potion class” containing small cauldrons of baking soda and vinegar. They were about to mix the ingredients in their cauldrons and watch the reaction. Liam used to love doing this trick, but I feared that they would think it was silly or childish. Potion class was a hit!

After potion class was wand class, in which the students needed to keep their balloons in the air.

   

My only real goof-up involved the cake. I assumed I could order a cake from Stop and Shop a week before the party. I was wrong; they no longer carry the cake kit. Walmart does not have Harry Potter cakes, either. After Googling “easy Harry Potter cakes” for a while, I decided to order cupcakes from Stop and Shop and cake decorations from Amazon. It worked out just fine.

After a week of making golden snitches, wands, and Quidditch courts, Mike began calling me his “Pinterest Princess.” While I don’t see myself doing this again, the process wasn’t terrible. I love Liam’s ownership in the planning. I didn’t mind doing the projects with him. I’m also painfully aware that the number of years remaining of planning birthday parties and Liam wanting to spend all of his time with Mike and I are dwindling. I need to make the most of it while I can.

Something Amazing

Guys! I did something horribly amazing- I gained ten pounds in a very short amount of time. It happened so quickly that I didn’t even realize it until I was back to my “Oh no” weight. (Does anyone else have a hierarchy of weights? (Mine are happy, okay, watch it, oh no- do something)

After finishing the half, I continued to eat as though I was still running twenty miles a week. Liam decided he did not want to continue with Laid-Back Fitness. (Nothing happened, he just wanted a break.) Without Liam’s parent discount and the time for me to workout while he is in class, it didn’t make sense for me to continue. I hurt my calf doing speedwork and couldn’t run for over two weeks. It got ridiculously hot. Then we went on vacation for a week, following the mantra “do what you want” for eight days.

My view for a week during our annual trip the beach house.

I was up five pounds the day we went away. When we returned, I was up ten. That is what eight days of eating cinnamon rolls and bacon for breakfast will do. I am not a huge drinker, sometimes going weeks without even having a single adult beverage. While on vacation, Mike and I drank beer each night while sitting outside, listening to the waves, watching the stars, and chatting away. With beer came cheese and crackers and, before we knew it, we were indulging in a day’s worth of calories after Liam went to sleep.

When I returned home, I fearfully crept on the scale, learning I was up five pounds in eight days. Time to get back on track! This week marks the official start to training for my second half marathon. Now that I know I can run thirteen miles, I want to focus on getting stronger and faster.

I’ve worked too hard to only come this far. It’s time to hit the reset button and get back on track.