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Running in the Snow: Half-marathon #6 (Part 2)

See Part 1 here

Saturday night I probably got five hours of sleep. Maybe six. Sunday (race day) I woke up around 3:30am and was awake for a while. This is normal for me the night before a race. I’m always paranoid I’m going to oversleep (plus there’s my insomnia, but whatever). Fortunately, I had slept well Friday night, which is really the key for me.

I was up for good by 5:15am and out the door at 6:10am with all my gear, plus some overnight oatmeal to eat on the way. A cup of coffee was already down the hatch.

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The view out the kitchen window. It definitely screams, “Run a half-marathon!” (No?)

This was the first race I’ve ever done where I didn’t have to drive at all. I was picked up and shuttled to the race and back door-to-door. Thanks again to the fabulous ladies who invited me to come along! We had an uneventful drive up to Ft. Collins. In fact, the farther north we got, the more obvious it became that the snow was lighter up there. That was reassuring.

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On the way!

Parking presented a bit of a challenge. I’m not sure if the original parking plans the race had didn’t quite work out or if there were more people than expected, but we ended up in the lot to the old drive-in movie theater, about 0.75 miles from the race start. The extra distance wasn’t the factor — the huge mud puddles were! Our shoes were wet and gloppy the second we got out of the car. So much for starting with dry feet.

We slogged our way to the start and headed to gear check. I was still wearing my ski pants and just really didn’t want to go through the work of taking them off (there was nowhere to sit and with all the mud, well, it just wasn’t going to happen), so I kept them on. I had never run in¬†double pants layers before, but I figured I could ditch the ski pants partway through the race, whenever I was ready for a rest. I actually felt perfectly dressed with them on from a temperature perspective.

We hit up the porta potties (always a necessity) and then huddled at the start. They had delayed the race just a bit, probably because of the parking situation and weather, which worked out well for us or we would’ve been a bit rushed. In the end we waited maybe 20 minutes? Not bad.

The race was small enough that there weren’t waves. We just all massed together and more or less lined up next to the appropriate pacers. I like races like that; simple and no one is edging you aside to try to get to the front of a corral. It’s all chip timed anyway — what’s the rush!?

We started out slowly and it felt so good to get moving and generating some heat. It wasn’t actually that cold (it was 34 degrees) and the wind wasn’t really blowing, so the race conditions were actually pretty nice all things considered. Snow was lightly falling and the landscape all around us was blanketed in white; it was quite pretty.

Right away there’s a big hill. I knew that was the case and yet it still surprised me; it just kept going and going! We ran the first part and then walked the rest. No sense in developing jello legs at mile 1!

I had originally planned to lollygag my way through the race. I figured it would be my slowest half to date given the hills and weather. But a couple of miles in (after finally cresting the first big hill) I decided I’d pick up the pace a little. The hills were the wrinkle; the second one peaked at mile 5. I walked most of it and used the opportunity to eat some pretzels. Despite having eaten my oatmeal and part of a bar before starting, I was already hungry and envisioning scrambled eggs and hashbrowns.

Of course, the best picture of me from the race is the one where I’m walking and eating!

To make up for walking, I jammed down the backsides of the hills. The only problem is that my bladder is not what it once was, especially when running fast downhill! Good times.

The scenery in the first half of the race was pretty. I really wanted to take some pictures but I was afraid I’d drop my phone. The first few miles were right next to the reservoir and then miles 5 and 6 were alongside snow-covered fields dotted with horses and houses/barns and big old trees.

Photo credits: https://erinbibeauphotography.smugmug.com/Sports/Horsetooth-Half-Marathon

By the halfway point I was starting to feel tired and wondered if maybe my speeding up had been a bad idea. It’s not like I was running fast, but I still had 6.55 miles to go! And I was at the base of hill #3. I walked most of it and ate my shot blocks. (It was much easier to fuel while walking; my hands were too cold even with gloves on to navigate my waist pack while running.)

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I still had my ski pants on and honestly had no intention of taking them off. They may have looked funny, but I wasn’t too hot and they weren’t chafing or anything, so I just carried on. (See, doing something new on race day doesn’t always come back to bite you!) I hadn’t even stripped off my jacket. I was obviously warmer than when I started, but I really was layered quite well (for me).

I coasted decently until mile 9 or 10. By then my legs felt really stiff and I had to start playing some mental games to keep going without slowing down. By this point the course had intersected with the same course as the Colorado Marathon half I had done a few years ago, so it was familiar to me. That was both good and bad because I knew exactly how far I had to go.

I think the reason my legs were so spent (besides the hills) was the concrete. I did a lot of training runs this spring on trails and, while I got the necessary distance in, it didn’t quite train my legs the same way. Pounding on pavement and concrete is harsh on the body.

With two miles left I felt like I wanted to collapse. Every step I took was like a hammer driving my legs up into my hips. I really hadn’t expected to feel so beaten up, so it was tough mentally. By this point my cheap Target watch had died (well, it wasn’t dead, but the stopwatch had gotten stuck) and my phone was in my waist pack (I would’ve expended way too much energy to get it out), so I had no idea what pace I was running at. For all I knew it was an 11:30 min/mile. Regardless, I had to slow down.

I focused on the runners in front of me and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I wished I had music to motivate me. I tried to sing a song in my head, but that lasted for about a minute. I would pass people and then they would pass me back. It was mentally and physically challenging. I thought about all the people I know who can’t run and that helped my perspective, a little.

With about a half mile left, someone on the sidelines yelled, “Just one more turn — don’t leave anything out there!” Man, I had nothing left; I was on fumes.

I could hear the cheering at the finish line before I turned the corner. And then I saw the end. It was like nirvana! I dug deep and sped up just a tad. My net time ended up being 2:17:00. Amazingly, even with walking the hills, that time ranks right in the middle of my other half-marathons. Apparently I am a very steady 2:15-2:20 half-marathoner, regardless of terrain and weather. (San Antonio was my one exception. Gah, will I ever run that fast again?!)

 

The post-finish area wasn’t particularly well arranged. The booths were a bit too close to the finish line and the walkway was a bit narrow for the volume of people. Runners didn’t really have space to spread out. I feel like lots of races get this part wrong. We’ve just run 13.1 miles; we cannot simply stop cold! We have to keep going a bit to stretch out our muscles.

I pretty immediately found one of the women who had started with us; she finished in just under two hours — impressive! So we stood together and I attempted to stretch while waiting for the others to finish. I was so stiff I could hardly move, but I knew I had to. Of course, as my body started cooling down and the sweat started congealing I started to freeze. I had gotten my gear check bag, but there was nowhere to change.ūüė¶

Once the other ladies finished we grabbed some post-race food. They were very appropriately serving hot soup; it really hit the spot. There was free beer, too, but it didn’t sound good at all, so we skipped that.

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All in all I’m glad I ended up doing the race. I don’t think I’d do it again, but that’s mostly because I like to try new races.

After I got home later that afternoon I really just wanted to relax. Of course, the girls hadn’t seen me all day and wanted to play. They were doing melty beads (in their swimsuits) in the dining room and guess who ended up picking up all the beads that got kicked all over? Yeah, the one with the super sore legs.

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Then Shelby had a huge fit because she couldn’t go swimming. (Chris had told her he’d take her, but I got home a little too late to really make it work.) So we had a big lesson in dealing with disappointment. Needless to say, my dream of relaxing by a fire didn’t come true, but I was really glad I had cleaned the house the day before so I didn’t have to deal with it!

Ss drawing

Now it’s time to figure out my next race! (Update: I’ve already done that. It’s the Grand Teton half! I also registered for the GoldenLeaf half in September. I think I’ve ticked the box on scenic races!)

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Running in the Snow: Half-marathon #6! (Part 1)

If you’ve ever lived in Colorado, befriended anyone who has or, well, followed someone on social media who lives here, you know that springtime brings crazy weather. One day will be 70 degrees and sunny and the next 30 and snowing. That’s pretty much the tale of my sixth half-marathon. The week leading up to the race was gorgeous, warm and sunny. By Sunday (race day) wet, heavy snow had blanketed the ground and was still coming down.

And so I almost chickened out. I mean, when you look at the weather forecast and they’re predicting a major storm the likes of the one that prevented you¬†from flying home from Georgia as scheduled just a few weeks ago (yeah, still need to do a blog post about my trip to see Kara), you panic a little.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve run in snow before. I’ve run in cold before. I definitely have the gear. But if I’m being honest, I choose to simply postpone runs a day or two until the weather changes. Because usually I can. And somehow this whole winter of training virtually all of my runs were in good weather. (Even the icy death march.)

So I wasn’t mentally prepared for 13.1 miles in the snow. The whole point of the race was to have fun (yes, I realize how oxymoronic that is). Running the whole thing in the snow just did not sound like a jolly good time.

Naturally, I posted about this on Facebook in my running group and solicited advice from others who were signed up for the race. Were they still going to do it? Bail?

Well, Colorado runners are pretty hard core. The elements? Do. not. phase them. Snow? Rain? Wind? Bring it. So I was mostly persuaded to do the race as planned; plus, I connected with some of the other women who were planning to run and they offered to let me carpool with them. (Thanks, ladies!)

But I still had a bit of a wait-and-see attitude.¬†If it was the whopper meteorologists were predicting, I’d bail. If the storm was no big deal, I’d run.

I watched the snow fall all day on Saturday. And I did everything I could to stay busy and not think about the weather and the race. I cleaned, I did 945 loads of laundry (and even put it away — I mean, who does that?!) and I cooked a bit. Snow still coming down. But! It didn’t really start accumulating until late in the afternoon (because it had been warm just the day before).

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I think maybe this tree has bit the dust; it recovers a little less well with each storm.

I finally made the decision to go no matter what late in the afternoon, so I ran out to Roadrunner Sports for some Clif shot blocks (leave it to me to be out of fuel — I should just change the name of this blog to running on empty, ha!). Then I hemmed and hawed about what to wear. I needed race gear and post-race gear. I didn’t want to overheat, but I also didn’t want to be cold or too wet. It was a conundrum.

The final verdict was:

Race gear

  • My trusty Adidas boot cut pants from 1993 (okay, they’re not really that old, but almost!)
  • A body-hugging dri-fit tank (to trap my body heat)
  • A long-sleeved tech top
  • My lightweight wind breaker (not water resistant, unfortunately, but the more weather-appropriate jacket would’ve made me too hot)
  • My Thorlos (I’ve tried other socks and these are just meant for me)
  • Gloves, my ear/headband and running hat
  • Shoes (duh!) — I just ordered replacement Nike Air Zoom Structure 18s a few weeks ago and made sure to break them in adequately
  • My Camelback waist pack, full of some Nuun hydration (I finally jumped on that bandwagon) and packed with my ID, some cash, chapstick, pretzels and the shot blocks.

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Post-race gear

  • Yoga pants
  • A clean sports bra, underwear and socks
  • A long-sleeved shirt
  • My “heavier” running jacket
  • Extra gloves
  • Extra shoes (my old Nikes)
  • Fuel! Coconut water and a pb+j

I briefly considered wearing ski goggles over my glasses, until I discovered the goggles were broken. Fortunately, I found my¬†very last pair of disposable contacts¬†(nevermind they’re about three years out of date). Hallelujah! Now I could wear sunglasses to help cut through the glare. Because even with no sun out, snow is bright!

I also threw a pair of lightweight ski pants (like a shell) into my gear check bag. The plan was to wear them from the car to the start and then check them at the last minute. Yes, I felt like I was packing for a trek through the mountains. Somehow I managed to stuff all the post-race stuff into a (large) gear check bag. Woot!

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Laps for Learning

Shelby did her first race! No, it wasn’t a “real” race and she definitely has a lot to learn about pacing, but it was so cute watching her and all the K/1 kids at her school participate in Laps for Learning (a fund-raiser for her school).

The path at the park next to the school had been set up with a start and finish, plus water stations. And then all along the route parents lined up to cheer the kids on. Some of the older kids (4/5 and middle school) came out to cheer, too. It was really festive — pretty much like a grownup race.:) The only thing we were missing was some cowbells, ha!

Shelby did a handful of laps with her classmates and then I jumped in and did a few with her. By that point she was getting tired, so we walked some and jogged some. The important thing is she kept going. She ended up doing 11-3/4 laps! I didn’t measure the distance, but I’d guess it was 2-3 miles? Yay, Shelby!

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Day in the Life: Spring 2016 Edition

I decided to document a weekday this time around, mostly just to capture the way it started!

The Scene:

  • Date: Wednesday, April 6
  • Location: Home (Colorado)
  • Natasha: 3.5 years old
  • Shelby: 6 years old
  • Type of mid-week day: Pretty typical

The Details:

My alarm was set for 6:29am, but why get up then when you could get up an hour earlier? Oh, thank you, Natasha. Here’s how that played out:

N: Mommy, my time clocker went off.
Me, waking up from a dead sleep: Ok, did you go potty?
N: Yes, I’m hungry.
Me: Ok, go get a muffin out of the refrigerator.
N: I don’t want a muffin! I want cereal.
Me, not wanting to get up: Ok, go get dressed and I’ll get up in a minute.

Then I looked at my phone.

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Are you effing kidding me?

I get up and go into Natasha’s room.

Me: Natasha, your time clocker did not go off. You turned it on. Get back in bed.
N: Makes her sad face and starts to cry.
Me: Natasha, is it light out?
N: No. Continues to fake cry.
Me: Stop. If you wake your sister up I will be especially unhappy. Get back in bed. It’s too early to be up.

Gah. You would think by now she would realize I’m not very nice at this hour of the morning. Apparently not, however!

Of course, neither of us went back to sleep. We’re cursed that way. (Can’t fall asleep easily.) My mind started racing with all my work To Dos and how I could fit a workout in during the day and should I just shower and get dressed or put on my workout clothes so I’d be more likely to work out at some point. Yeah, that’s what my mind does once I wake up. It could be 4:30am and I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep either.

IMG_82416:00am: I throw in the towel and decide this will be the day I document for DITL. I mean, with a start like that, why not? So I start typing before I forget how the morning wake-up went down.

6:10am: I don’t get far. N is back in my room telling me it’s light outside. (The very faintest hint of daylight is now visible. Sheesh.)

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6:15am: I know when I’ve lost the battle, so we head downstairs for breakfast.

6:20am-7:05am: I get us cereal, make coffee, check work emails by phone, drink coffee and go put my workout clothes on.Then N watches some TV while I switch out her car seat and vacuum underneath it. Why? (I’m a glutton for punishment, duh!) I’m taking Caden to school (our neighbor and S’s kindergarten friend) and he can’t fit in N’s car seat!

7:05am-7:30am: Natasha comes upstairs to play horse while I wake Shelby up. S is not happy to be up and seems to have forgotten all her big girl words, groaning and pointing at things as if I’m supposed to understand. I try to move her along since Caden will be over soon, but there’s no motivating Shelby; she marches to the beat of her own drum. She does manage to brush her teeth and get dressed by the time he arrives.

While she moans about getting ready, I pack her lunch, foraging through the meager options we have. I mean, we technically have food, but none of it is prepared and ready to throw in a lunch box. I think about throwing a pre-made breakfast sandwich in only to discover they’re all gone. Drat! Sorry, kiddo. Odds and ends today: Yogurt, applesauce, milk, string cheese, carrots with ranch and some leftover pancakes.

7:30am-8:05am: Nicole drops Caden off and takes Natasha with her; she’s going to drop the little girls (Mackenzie and N) off on her way to work. Shelby goes into show-off mode (she’s doing this more lately in front of other kids and it drives me nuts; I’m hoping it’s a phase) and I have to talk her down a peg and help her find her manners.

Caden is super sweet and quiet while S bandies about doing what I’m not sure. Sort of eating breakfast, I guess. I ask him about his spring break (he took a trip out of state) and I pull out a map of the U.S. and the kids start pointing out all the states they know. Then they ask where I’ve been and I start showing them. I’ve been to more than I realized!

I try to hurry Shelby along so we can leave on time but she brings Caden upstairs to show him something in her room. I swear, getting her out of the house each morning is a chore! She’s so distractable.

8:05am-8:30am: I take the big kids to school. On the one hand I love that I can “shove” them out the door (I don’t have to park and walk them in), but it’s also a little unnerving. I worry about them paying attention to other cars — not that they have to do anything other than walk on the sidewalk, but still.

8:30am-8:45am: Coffee, round two! And second breakfast. Because I’ve been awake for three hours already.

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8:45am-3:30pm: Work. I have several hours’ worth of phone calls, including one with someone in Chile and one with someone in the UK. I also spend time designing and building cards for a face-to-face activity that will be conducted in two different Asia Pacific countries.

Most of what I usually build is for online deployment, so this is a bit different and has a relatively tight deadline. (I’m in corporate learning and development, which for me involves a lot of content development and digital design. I get to work with people all over; it’s pretty fun! Oh, and my job is remote.)

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I take breaks here and there, including long enough to make lunch and chat with Chris a bit. (He also works from home, but we don’t necessarily talk much during the day; one of us is often on a call or in the thick of something.)

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3:30pm-4:00pm: I put a bookmark in work, knowing I’ll be back at the laptop later in the evening. I’m antsy to get a workout in before I have to pick S up from show choir at 4:20pm. (School ends at 3:20pm and on Wednesdays she has an after-school activity.) I do about 25 minutes of a Bikini Body Mommy workout using the adjustable kettleball I “bought” with work points. I love that I finally have some heavier weight to lift. I do the workout twice through, with a few modifications, and then stretch.

4:00pm-4:20pm: I take a shower, throw on the first outfit I see and wrap a towel around my head. I head to the kitchen to throw some partially thawed ground turkey in the crockpot; it’s the only way it’s going to get cooked in time for dinner. I need a post-workout snack and S will want something, too, so I make a quick smoothie out of frozen berries, plain yogurt, spinach, apple juice and water. I pull the towel off my head and run a brush through my hair, then I’m out the door to get S, running late because I tried to pack too much in for the amount of time I had (typical).

4:20pm-5:10pm: I get S (they got out late, so it didn’t seem like I was late — phew!) and we head to the post office. My grandmother’s 95th birthday is Friday and we’re at the 11th hour to get something in the mail.

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S wants to help, so I let her key in a lot of the information (we use the automated system) and then write a note on the outside of the priority envelope. In addition to the cards the girls made, I tried to put in a piece of artwork from each of them. S has a conniption fit about me trying to give away the big teddy bear she made at school. I tried to explain it was like sending a hug through the mail (there’s actually a really cute story about this); she doesn’t care – she wants to keep it. Fine.

While we’re waiting our turn in line she tells me about how she got a bloody nose at show choir (she’s been getting them fairly frequently for the last few months — not sure why), only she didn’t have a tissue, so she had to suck it up through her nose and swallow it down and it was kind of gross. The man in front of us kind of gave a sideways glance with a smirk.

5:10pm-6:10pm: We head home. S watches some TV, Chris goes to get N and I do some more work.

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6:10pm-6:30pm: I boil some pasta (no spaghetti noodles to be found, so rotini it is) and mix pasta sauce into the ground turkey. Voila, spaghetti!

6:30pm-6:50pm: We sit down to dinner and call my mom; it’s her birthday! The girls actually talk to her (usually they have little patience for the phone and scatter quickly, especially since my parents don’t have an iPhone, so no FaceTime/video). In fact, I convince them to sing to her, so S belts out happy birthday and then the girls each sing one of their spring program songs. It’s pretty adorable. I let the girls have ice cream for dessert, in part because they ate a good dinner and in part because it’s my mom’s birthday.

6:50pm-7:30pm: I really don’t remember what happened (truth)! The girls probably watched TV and I probably cleaned up the kitchen, checked Facebook, did a little bit of work and started warning S that the TV was going off so she could do homework.

7:30pm-7:50pm: Homework time. It’s late and it needs to get done. Surprisingly, there’s only some whining and resistance — less than normal. While S is laying in the walkway (because where else would you do homework?) I notice that the sky looks pretty cool. I’ve missed the best part of the sunset, but I run out to catch the very end.

I try to do some work while S does her homework; it’s only moderately successful. N announces that she’s hungry (naturally, as it’s almost bedtime), so she makes some jelly on bread.

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7:50pm-8:10pm: Bath time for S. She wants one by herself, which means N will get one the next night (too late to try tonight). I attempt to work some.

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8:10pm-8:40pm: Pajamas, tooth brushing, general resistance to bedtime, silliness, stories and lights out, in a nutshell. S read to us, which was super cute, but then she didn’t want to stop.

8:45pm-10:20pm: I settle in upstairs to work. Of course, 15 minutes later Natasha gets out of bed to poop. One of the girls always gets up for something, usually N. I work until my eyelids are super droopy.

10:20-10:30pm: Bedtime prep and lights out! Earplugs, Ambien and an episode of The Good Wife (I’m finally on season 5). I don’t make it very far before I’m fast asleep.

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And that’s a wrap on a weekday DITL for us. Tomorrow, we’ll get up and do it all again.

Dear Shelby: Happy Sixth Birthday!

Fishtail braidDear Shelby,

Happy Easter Birthday! (Yes, this is a little late. At least it’s still March!) Your birthday fell on a Friday, so you got to celebrate at school. I volunteered in your classroom that morning, your class sang happy birthday to you at lunch and you shared cookies around at snack. All in all, a good day!

You opened one present the night before your birthday, one the morning of and the rest after school. You basically got either clothes (yay because you’ve outgrown a lot of yours) or horse toys. You loved the horse toys. The problem was, so did your sister. She was insanely jealous and could not contain her emotions. She wanted to play with all your new things (despite having gotten her a present of her own in an attempt to help the situation). As they were new, you did not want to share -and we didn’t make you. A girl should be allowed to enjoy her presents on her birthday. But man, it was ugly listening to Natasha scream and throw a fit every time you opened a present (and then pretty much for the next several days as you played with them)!

That night we were supposed to go for hibachi for dinner (your choice – you can thank Thatcher and the Hickmans for exposing you to it first), but your sister was melting down, so we decided to postpone for a night. That meant Aunt Nan and Uncle KC got to join us! They visited that weekend and you and Natasha had a grand time playing with them.

With KC and Nan

As we were getting ready for hibachi the following transpired:

You: Natasha, do you know what hibachi is?
N: What’s fibachi?
You: Not fibachi. Hibachi!
N: Hibachi?You: Yeah, it’s where they squirt ketchup in your face!

The things you remember. Ha! Your eyes were bigger than your stomach, but you ate well: your salad, some soup, some sushi (you asked for “that roll with stuff stuffed inside”) and some of your shrimp hibachi dinner, plus ice cream (duh!).

Ice cream at hibachi

And now, onto some tidbits about you now that you’re a big six year old.

Things you love:

  • Sugar/treats
  • Going to gymnastics
  • Reading
  • Playing outside
  • The monkey bars

Things you don’t like:

  • Having to get to school on time (gah, the morning is often so stressful — for me, anyway)
  • Getting ready to go anywhere (on time)
  • Doing homework (OMG this is dreadful most nights — what could take 5-10 minutes sometimes takes 45, with full-on screaming, door slamming, and “I hate you!”)
  • Going to bed (see below)
  • Cleaning/picking up your messes at home (so. much. screaming.)
  • Turning the TV off
  • Anything we want you to do that you don’t want to do

Things you do that amaze us:

  • Behave like an angel for other people and act like a crazy person¬†for us (not always, but often enough)
  • Read! You couldn’t read at all at the beginning of the school year. Now you can read chapter books, with help. (Not the full books, mind you, but parts of them.)
  • Pour your own milk, from the gallon jug

On your relationship with your sister:

You guys play really well together 85 percent of the time. It was a long haul getting to this point, but now you have a built-in playmate. You are definitely the leader (ahem, boss); fortunately, Natasha often goes along with you. One day that will change, so be prepared!

You guys tend to rotate through phases. You’re definitely still into playing horses, but you also play mom-kid and princess; you play with Play-doh; you make all sorts of creations out of random craft materials. Basically, you’re experts at destroying the house in 0.2 seconds.

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Things you’re learning:

  • To ride a bike with no training wheels (hopefully you’ll get that down this spring)
  • To swim well (without looking like you’re drowning)
  • To do a cartwheel
  • That life isn’t fair (ha!)

 

Foods you like: 

  • King crab (hands down one of your favorites)
  • Almost all breakfast foods
  • Fruit
  • Pizza
  • Peanut butter

All in all you’re a decent eater. You’ll generally at least try things. And if¬† your daddy is eating something? You definitely want it.

Favorite clothes:

Still dresses and leggings — and sometimes skirts. Recently you randomly insisted on wearing leggings and a t-shirt; I’m not sure where that came from. (You’re firmly in a 6/6x; your 5T clothes are too small.)

You love beautiful shoes, but they never last long. You even manage to wear through your tennis shoes quickly. You also love boots during the winter. (You wear a size 11.)

On school:

You seem to like school pretty well. (I have lots to say about school, but I’ll save that for another post. I’ve been meaning to write it for months; maybe I’ll actually do it before kindergarten¬†ends.) You like your teacher (I don’t particularly) and you mostly get along with everyone. There’s one girl that you have a very hard time with; the two of you are like oil and water. You’ve been very upset off and on for months now about her (major crying and screaming fits). You claim that she follows you around and won’t let you play with other kids; you do not like playing with her (generally). We’ve been trying to equip you to handle it because solving the situation for you won’t set you up for success. Unfortunately, the issue¬†seems to persist. Since we’re not at school with you we don’t truly know what that issue is beyond what you tell us. I did not expect this level of drama in kindergarten.

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Dr. Seuss day at school

As for the academics themselves, you’re at the top of the charts. You’re rocking first grade math and are basically reading at a first grade level now. You’re nearing the end of the sight word lists¬†for first grade! I actually don’t put too much stock in what level you’re at, though,¬†as it all feels a little arbitrary. What’s more important to your daddy and me is that you like to learn and you especially love reading. It’s been so fun watching you unlock a whole new world. I think you’re going to be the kid under the covers reading with a flashlight after we tuck you into bed.

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S at school with Avery, Luca and Henry

On going to bed:

Speaking of going to bed, you don’t like to. Basically, nothing has changed there. You still¬†throw a fit and stall like it’s your profession — I think because you’re afraid the fun will end and you’ll miss out on something. (FOMO is very real for you.) Again, I have news for you: All that usually happens after you go to bed is dishes, laundry, making lunch. It’s pretty boring. You don’t seem to believe me.

You’ve managed to push out your bedtime until almost¬†9pm. Even when we start earlier it doesn’t mean you go to bed any sooner. You just whine more, lay in the hall longer, stare at yourself in the mirror and generally lament having to go to bed. Then you complain that you can’t find your pajamas or your favorite book. Basically, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. Just when we think we’ve seen every stall tactic out there you whip out a new one. Oy.

But you always want hugs and kisses from both of us before going to sleep, even when you’ve gotten really worked up and yelled mean things (especially at me). You still sleep with a bed FULL of stuffed animals. Your must-haves include Piggly, Cousin Piggly and your puppy dog pillow — oh, and Nurtle. You also love to fall asleep with my old iPod Nano on, set to the Shelby playlist (featuring Norah Jones and other soothing songs).

About a month ago you decided you’re afraid of the dark and so now sleep with your dresser light on. I don’t know how in the world you can do that, but so long as you sleep, I don’t care!

Friends:

You still play some with the friends you’ve had for years, but we tend to see them less and less, both because of the distance (many live 30 minutes away) and the fact that you’re all in different schools, making new friends: Austin, Addy, Dhru, Noah and little Sofia. Of your new school friends you really love Chloe. You had a play date at her house back in February when you were off school for the day and her mom (Amy) told me the funniest story when she dropped you back off at home:

Amy popped her head in to ask you girls what you’d like from Wendy’s for lunch. You asked her, “What’s Wendy’s?” I just laughed when she told me; we don’t really get fast food much (just Chick-Fil-A here and there really). She was floored that you didn’t know what it was, so she asked you what you normally eat. Your response? “Oh, you know, like king crab.” Hahahaha! She didn’t know whether to believe you or not.

You seem to play with a wide range of kids at school. I’m not sure which are friends and which are more just acquaintances at this point, but they include: Caden, Kylie, Kyla, Henry, Luca, Avery, Ruby, and Addison, among others.

Height and weight:

Not sure – about 45+ lbs. You’ve got your physical in a few weeks, so we’ll find out then.

Incidentally, you still fit into your five-point harness in the car and are perfectly comfortable in it!

Booster seat

As always, I know there’s loads more I’m forgetting, but I want to post this before too much more time marches on! Your daddy and I love you lots and lots and are always so proud of you and everything you’re learning.

Xoxoxo,
Mommy

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How to Not Plan Well for a Birthday Party and Still Have It Turn Out Well

To go straight to all the photos, click here. (But then you’ll miss all the back story!)

I kind of wish we could ban birthday parties. I know, that makes me sound so Scrooge, but they tend to be a lot of work or a lot of money — or both. We’ve hosted them at our house to try to keep the cost down, but then you clean and pick up twice, plus shop for and prep food and drinks.

Georgia - hibachi S and TWe’ve also had them offsite and, while that’s much easier, it’s not exactly cheap (unless you’re only inviting a few kids). So last year when Shelby turned five we just skipped the birthday party. I took her to Georgia to see Thatcher. It was spendy because of the plane tickets, but there was really nothing to coordinate and nothing to prep or clean up. It was great!

However, I had guilt about not actually giving S a party. And that guilt? It stuck around for a year. I didn’t even realize it until it came time to think about her sixth birthday. Then in early February I started brainstorming ideas with S after I saw a blog post about an arts and crafts birthday party at Michael’s. I thought that could be doable until I looked; all their packages were very girl or boy themed, which would never work because S wanted girls and boys. (Why do places segregate kids like that? S had tossed out ideas like a ballet party and a princess party, but we nixed them for the obvious reason that they would basically exclude boys.) Unfortunately, nothing really jumped out during our brainstorming as a certain “yes, let’s do that!” other than a horse party.

I halfheartedly called a few places that do horseback riding parties. None called me back. They were all pretty pricey anyway and included only a very small group of kids, so I didn’t push it, although I did take the girls over to a local “ranch” that has ponies and horses to see if it might work. Leia and Sofia joined us there and, while we managed to have a little fun, I decided it was not the place for an outdoor party in mid-March in Colorado. Plus, I wasn’t impressed for the cost. So I dropped the horse idea and snoozed the calendar reminder to plan a birthday party and time marched on.

Eventually we were just two weeks away from Shelby’s birthday, still with nothing planned. Urgency finally kicked in and I called the rec center about a gymnastics party and an ice skating party; there were no spaces for weeks to come. Shoot.I checked another gym place near us; all booked. I considered taking a small group of kids to see a play; the weekend tickets were all sold out.

I started to panic, especially when I realized we were right up against spring break and kids would probably go out of town. (That’s never been something we’ve needed to consider or plan around.)

The one thing we had solidified was the guest list, which was 20 people long! Why? Well, S is at an in between phase. She still sees enough of her preschool/longtime friends that she wanted to invite them and their siblings. And then on top of that she wanted to invite new kindergarten friends. How do you whittle that down?

Finally I discovered that the cooking program Shelby had been doing after school once a week did in-home birthday parties. She seemed to really enjoy cooking each week and that would be an inclusive-type activity.

Yahtzee! The program could accommodate us. It was more money than I wanted to spend on a birthday party (by a lot when all was said and done — that’s a post for another day), but at least we had a plan, it wouldn’t be too far after her real birthday and it would work well for multiple ages and both boys and girls. I even was able to book our neighborhood clubhouse, which meant we wouldn’t have to clean our house twice, or at all — ha! I felt relieved. (Seriously, when did planning a party get so complicated?)

As we finalized the invites (which affected the total price of the party) S also picked the recipes to make. She chose lemon-blueberry ricotta pancakes with fruit salsa. Breakfast for the win! I think any of the choices would’ve been good; she had about five to pick from.

The night before the party I took S shopping with me; we had to buy the groceries for the recipes, plus disposable plates/cups/plasticware and some decorations. She was off-the-charts excited, which is saying something because she’s always high energy. She wanted to help with every single thing, including checking out and bagging the groceries.

By the end of our trip I was at a point where I couldn’t Shelby anymore. You know those e-card things you see on Facebook that say, “I can’t adult anymore?” Yeah, only substitute Shelby. I felt bad that I was losing my patience, but really, it was exhausting trying to reign her in. After we got home and I got things put away S helped make cupcakes for the kids to decorate. She did most of the work and did a really good job!

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The morning of the party I made a package of turkey bacon and scrambled a dozen eggs. It was my attempt to counterbalance the sugar. Then we finished loading the car and drove over to the clubhouse. The girls and Chris blew up balloons and hung streamers while I set out the ingredients. And then the chefs arrived and took over getting all the food stuff ready. About 15 minutes before the party started S asked, “What if my friends don’t come?!” Ah, anticipation. It’s hard!

In the end the party worked out great. We had 12 kids, including S and N (a couple ended up sick and many were off on spring break). It was a really good size and they fit nicely around two long tables. They started out by decorating chefs hats. Some were quite elaborate! And then the chefs got the kids started making the pancake recipe. One table did the dry ingredients while the other did the wet. Some of the kids were really into it and others not quite so much. But it was great — they could participate as much or little as they wanted.

While the chefs cooked the pancakes they got the kids going on the fruit salsa. Everyone had their own cutting boards and knives (plastic ones, with big serrated teeth). The kids went to town cutting fruit! Even the ones that had initially been on the fence got into it. We talked about which fruits were hard to cut and which were easy, and I asked them what other fruit they would put in a fruit salad if they could pick. After a while the room sounded like a percussion rehearsal; there was so much banging going on! Shelby minced her fruit until it was basically macerated. Other kids cut big pieces. In the end, it all went into a bowl together, so it didn’t matter.

Then the kids got to make butter. Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it butter, but the chefs poured whipping cream and a bit of honey into a mason jar and passed it around, letting all the kids take turns to shake it up. They liked that part. Eventually it more or less solidified, although it wasn’t butter so much as whipped cream. Once all the food got served that was the one thing the kids most wanted more of. Ha! Who would’ve guessed?

After eating we passed out cupcakes and cookies, along with frosting and sprinkles and let the kids decorate to their hearts’ content. We forgot to light candles, so we pulled the kids together toward the end to take a group photo and everyone sang happy birthday then. Had the playground not been covered in snow the kids could’ve burned all that energy off outside but, alas, it had snowed about seven inches the day before and it hadn’t melted yet. Of course, that didn’t stop a few from trying, including my girls.

Cleanup was easy with the chefs’ help and just 30 minutes after the party ended the room was just as we had found it. Amazing! So worth not having it at our house, plus the clubhouse space was perfect for the number of kids and parents we had.

So in the end the party turned out to be a great success, so much so that several parents wanted to know more about the company that ran it. I was so exhausted that I lay down on the couch that afternoon and didn’t move for a good 45 minutes. S opened presents and played.

If I had to do it all again? Well, I’d definitely start planning sooner and actually book something much farther in advance. I’d also take into account spring break and have the party beforehand. I’d also really encourage S to focus on a smaller group of kids. I know it’s hard, but it just makes everything easier (and more affordable) all the way around. I’m not really sure how to make that happen. S is so social and I love that she wants to include everyone. If she had a late spring or summer birthday we could just invite the world and go to a park! But that’s a dicey proposition in mid-March in Colorado. I’ll mull it over between now and next January. And, yes, I’ve already got a reminder set on my calendar to start planning then lest this all happen again.

What kind of birthday parties have you done for your kids? What has worked well and what hasn’t?

Adventures in Running Up and Down Mountains

Right around the beginning of the new year I discovered Moms Run This Town (MRTT). Basically, it’s a group of mom runners who do group runs together just about every weekend. I know, how did I not know about this before? There are actually two local chapters near me and both are active. After running mostly solo for years around the kids’ schedules I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot!

The run I joined last weekend met up in the foothills west of Boulder, so it was a bit of a hike for me, but I managed to arrive early (a rarity for me). The views were breathtakingly gorgeous. It was a super clear morning and you could see out for miles and miles over¬† Boulder and the Front Range below. (The pictures don’t do justice to the view.)

I knew when I got to the trail head that something wasn’t quite right, though. No one else was there and I knew there were 10-15 people meeting up. Even being early I knew I couldn’t be there first one there. In fact, I knew my neighbor (who’s also part of the group) was doing a loop early. Hmm. I decided to drive on to see if there was another entrance where maybe everyone was meeting up.

At the next parking lot there was only one car. I was definitely in the wrong place. Shoot. I headed back to where I had been before. Had I not met Christina there, who had also arrived and been confused, we would’ve missed out on what is surely one of the most epic runs I’ve ever been on.

Walker Ranch elevation

She had a hunch about where the group was, so we hopped in our cars and drove up into the mountains for about 20 more minutes until we finally found everyone. I never would’ve gone that far on my own. I wasn’t even sure exactly where we were¬† — we went through so many switchbacks!

I was pretty sure I was in for more than I had bargained for but boy, I really had no idea. None of us did. You can see the elevation we were at; while there hadn’t been fresh snow in over a week, there was still old stuff on the ground, albeit in pockets. That should’ve been a really good clue about the trail condition.

Keep in mind I was in my regular running shoes; I don’t yet have trail shoes, as this is only the second trail run I’ve done, at least any time recently. And I didn’t have any Yak Trax. No one else who had any put theirs on. Yeah.

So we headed out. All seemed well and good. The trail was mostly single track but it was sunny and the dirt was dry, for a while. Probably about a mile in we started to hit some snow/ice. As we started to climb in elevation we had to stop running and climb carefully so we wouldn’t slip (on the elevation chart this was mile 1.5-2.5; roughly an 11%-12% grade). But we didn’t think too much of it, probably because we were heading up and moving slowly. About 2.5 miles in we finally spit out at another trail head where the trail was again dry and sunny. Woot!

We ran blissfully downhill for a few miles, leaping over branches and rocks and some mud here and there. We stopped to do a nature pee and have a little snack; basically it was gorgeous. And then all of a sudden we hit a switchback that plunged us into shadow and marked the start of a ridiculously steep descent. So steep there were stairs built into the side of the trail, and they were covered in ice (on the elevation map, around mile 4.8; about a 37% grade). Oh and if you slid off the edge you would basically careen off the mountain into the riverbed far below. Because: No hand/guard rails.

So, I sat at the top of the stairs for a good minute or two and wondered if I could actually make it down safely. I considered chickening out and turning around, but I knew then I’d have to navigate down all the snow/ice we had been through previously. Nicht gut either way.

We all ended up scooting down the stairs slowly on our butts. (Brr.) Wise move. Still sketchy. I was so happy to make it to the bottom of the canyon in one piece. Little did I know the hardest part was still to come. After all, what goes down has to eventually go back up (you get the idea). And up we went.

Let’s just say there wasn’t really any running on those uphill portions. It was steep (on the elevation chart, mile 5.0 to 5.4; roughly a 21% grade). We were hiking, basically. But it was all good. We were on dirt, in the sun. The trail leveled out somewhat for a bit but turned muddy as we came under tree cover, so we sloshed around a bit. And then, just like that, it turned to ice — like a skating rink. I fell hard on my butt and actually went sliding. It stunned me more than anything and made me wish I could teleport myself to the end of the run. I was way outside of my comfort zone, literally and figuratively!

Instead, we navigated probably another three-quarters of a mile of the trail covered in ice. It was a pretty steep climb (yeah, about a 22% grade) and with little to hold on between the trees and hardly any non-icy spots to stand on, it was tough going. Occasionally there was room to navigate the edge of the trail where there was some snow, for better footing. But at times I got down almost on all fours just to better balance and reduce the distance I’d fall if I lost my footing.

I did fall again, a couple of times. One was particularly hard; I ripped off the end of two fingernails and bent a third trying to grab something so I wouldn’t slide off the trail. I recovered, but I was shaken.

Eventually we did make our way off the icy trail and back onto dirt. That last three-quarters of a mile or so was glorious! When I finished I felt equal parts queasy and elated. I made a silent vow not to do another crazy trail run until the weather is much warmer — and even then I might stick to more moderate paths. (Ironically this trail is rated as moderate; ha!) I will definitely look at the elevation chart first.

In all we navigated 7.8 miles, and it took just over two hours (not counting stopping time). On a scale of 1-10, I’d say this was an 11 in terms of insanity. That might not’ve been the case for some of the (way) more experienced ladies out there with me, but for me it was nuts.

As you might imagine, I was sore the next day, although interestingly, the achiest part of my body was not my legs or glutes; it was my forearms. They were really pumped, like I had been rock climbing. I guess from catching myself on all those hard falls? Anyway, it took two to three days to work out the kinks, but I’m back to normal now!

What’s the craziest run/hike you’ve been on?