If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart, I'll stay there forever. Winnie the Pooh

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Seasons

I have a secret to share. I almost need to whisper this because honestly, it breaks my heart to hear anything negative about this topic: Chris and I have decided to try for baby number 4. Yes, you heard me right, 4.

My family is new to Austin. Relatively new. We moved here in April of 2010 and fell in love with the town almost instantly. Then, summer arrived. One day I walked outside and my breath was taken away. I complained to my friend, "How do you people breathe here?!" The humidity and heat were brutal, not to mention the man-eating mosquitos that seemed to mostly dine on poor Max and me. I'd take my three Lovlies outside to play and we'd last about 20 minutes before raising the white flag and surrendering to the cool retreat of the air conditioned house. Fall, winter and spring came around and we were back to enjoying all the goodness that Austin has to offer. Then, summer 2011. It was a doosey. We had record setting tempertures. Something like over 100 days of 100 degree heat. And that blasted humidity. Again, I wondered, why did we move here?!

But here's the thing. Seasons come and go. I knew that the heat and humidity wouldn't last forever. And here we are, a few days before Christmas, and we are enjoying cool temperatures (and NO mosquitos, Texas' state bird?!).

I know some friends and family will think we are crazy. Strangers (and maybe even people near and dear to my heart) will surely judge me when they see me with my three kiddos and (hopefully soon to be) pregnant with a 4th. What they will wonder and maybe even ask: You have a 5 year old and 2 year old twins?! How can you handle a 4th?!

What I hope to say to them but may never have the nerve: Seasons. Because like that brutal summer, the hardest parts in life don't last forever.

I remember my firstborn, Claire, waking up one night when she was about 2 months old and not wanting to go back to sleep. I rocked. I swayed. I sang. I fed her and changed her. But nothing would make her go back to sleep. And yet I knew not to wish her baby stage away. I knew it wouldn't last forever. And sure enough, she went back to sleeping through the night. Now she is a kindergarten student. Yes, that time passed by more quickly than I could have imagined possible.

A few years later, my sweet twins were born. I'll never forget the month of September 2009. Wanting to exclusively breast feed, I started nursing them from day 1 in the hospital. I thought we had a good thing going because from May through August, they were awesome nursers and sleepers. September came around, and they started waking up every.single.hour. for the entire month to nurse. I couldn't hand over the night time duty to Chris because of my committment to breastfeed. I remember being afraid to fall asleep because I knew, without fail, the moment I fell asleep, a sweet cry would be waking me to nurse them. A whole month. Every.single.hour.

On September 21st, my birthday, I sat in the kitchen and started crying. My mom was visiting and I whispered, almost scared to admit: "Mom, I think I'm depressed." My mom hugged me and answered, "No, mija. You aren't depressed. You are just tired." Moms are so very wise. Sure enough, about a week and a half later, they started sleeping again. The foggy feeling of depression lifted and I was able to enjoy being a mom again. And as strange as it sounds, even then, even in that dark, sleepless month, I didn't wish them to be older. Because I could see my walking, talking 3 year old and I knew, I just knew, I'd blink and Madeline and Max would be out of the baby stage. I blinked. And they are now 2 1/2 years old.

I remember hearing the words 'physically delayed' to describe my son Max when he was 17 months old. Going through physical therapy and hoping and praying that my non-walking boy would become a walker tested my strength as a mom. Even then, I didn't wish those days away. A hard time, most definitely. But today, as I chased my son through the Children's Museum, that tough season was just a distant memory. A blip. One we overcame together.

Chris and I have talked this out. Prayed it out. Waited it out. He was hoping we would be 'done' after the twins were born and yet, his heart has changed. He's always been wonderful about letting me have some 'me time' on the weekend. Whether it's to shop, get a pedicure or go for a run. But his policy has always been to 'hunker down'. He and the three Lovlies stay home while I'm away for an hour or two. A few weeks ago I was heading out to shop for some Christmas presents. As I was leaving, he shouted, "Hey, take my car and leave the van for me....in case I want to take the kids out". And that's when I knew. Chris' tough season of handling all three kids on his own out in public was over.

So when people wonder and judge us about our decision to have a 4th child, I hope I'm strong and confident in my answer: we love our 3 children dearly. We care for them with every ounce of love imaginable. Adding a 4th is right for us. Our family. You may not want a 4th child, but please, don't judge me for completing ours. We'll get through any tough seasons life has to offer and try to enjoy all the sweet moments in between. photo by Kay Harmon Photography

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dear Santa

If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart, I'll stay there forever. Winnie the Pooh

When I was growing up, one of my favorite things about Christmas were the traditions we had. It was a given that we would end up at my Grandma's house on Christmas Eve. All the cousins tucked away into various rooms, pretending to sleep, as we waited for the grownups to come back from Midnight Mass. We would be wearing the new pajamas Grandma gave us and finally drift off to sleep. Finally, around 1am, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and parents would gently wake us up, saying "Santa has come!". We would rush out to the living room to see hundreds of presents (there were over 20 of us kids). I remember looking into Grandma's kind eyes and I just knew her heart was happy having us all in her home.

Grandma is now 88 years old. She doesn't have the memories of our traditions because she has dementia. When I look into her eyes, I see and remember the Grandma I had growing up. She doesn't see me. Because my grandma can't remember me. When she sees me now, she'll grasp my hand tightly and whisper, "Mija, take me with you". In my heart I know she doesn't want to go away with a stranger, which is how she sees me, her granddaughter. I know she is hoping I can take her to wherever it is she will finally remember and see someone or something familiar.But I remember after opening our presents how each family would make the drive home to sleep for a few hours. And then we'd wake up and drive back to Grandma's house. Because we wanted to be there. Because it was our tradition to be with the ones we loved most on Christmas.

Traditions. They are precious memories tucked into my heart. A snapshot in time of favorite moments. I'm trying to provide these for my own children. Though we are far away from family, our own little family is creating memories to cherish. I fear that some day, my mind will begin to fade, just like Grandma's. My wish is that my children will have these moments tucked into their hearts: memories of our own Christmas traditions.

I have a snapshot in my heart of one of our traditions: my family attending the Zilker Tree Lighting Ceremony. The first Sunday in December, the city lights the tree and that was our advent calendar activity for the day. I told the kids about it in the morning and all day they kept asking if it was time to see the Christmas Tree. It rained all day and when Madeline and Max woke from their naps, the first thing they said was "Go see Christmas Tree!" I warned them that it was cold and raining outside but that didn't seem to be so much as a warning to them but a promise of "really, we might get wet!?" So off we went, our picnic dinner packed and plans changed to eat it in the car instead of outside. As we stood under the band's tent, listening to the beautiful songs being sung by the choir, I hope to never forget these images:

Snapshot: Sweet Claire spinning the umbrella round and round while dancing to the music. Madeline, my delicate one, snuggled against me, her little red nose pressed against my cheek. My boys: Chris holding Max while they laughed as Max threw his head back to catch raindrops on his face.

Snapshot: When the tree was finally lit, the look of awe in three little children's eyes. As we walked away from the tree to go back to the car, all three of them kept turning their heads back. So Chris and I paused, huddled closely and we just stood, snuggled together to show them the tree one last time.

Snapshot: After buckling three soggy kiddos into their car seats and covering them with warm blankets, I told them I had a treat. I gave them their thermoses and a graham cracker. I hope to never forget the look in their eyes as they realized it wasn't water or milk, but hot chocolate they were drinking.

Precious memories. Our family traditions.

And so, just as I had Claire write her letter to Santa, I too would like to write one. I ask for one thing:

Dear Santa,

Please. Please let me remember.

Love,
Nicole

Photo by Kay Harmon Photography

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

24 Thanks

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice. ~Meister Eckhart

November is a time when we pause to give thanks for things big and little in our lives. I'm thankful for these things and so much more....

1. The sweet way Madeline whispers when she gets shy. If you listen carefully you'll hear her whisper "knock knock". She wants to tell you a joke.

2. A mama's boy. Right now Max thinks I'm the only girl in the world. I like it that way.

3. My quirky Claire. Never a girly-girl; she has a trunk full of dress up gowns and a beautiful doll house that sit untouched. Instead she prefers to pretend she's tiger and will growl at little boys who try to chase her at the playground.

4. My princess. Madeline will ask me to put 10 different clips and bows in her hair while wearing a frilly tu-tu. She'll sit regally in the front of the shopping cart at the grocery store, waiting for people to admire her 'pretties'.

5. Max's eyes. When he was a baby they looked like they had a mind of their own. Big, brown eyes that made people laugh because he always looked surprised. He's grown into those eyes...boy are they beautiful.

6. Chris' work ethic. He works hard. He has long hours. All to provide for his family. I can't thank him enough.

7. Running. The transformation that takes place in my heart and mind once my feet hit the road is indescribable.

8. Claire's Mona Lisa smile. It's precious.

9. Twins. They have made me a better mother. Watching their relationship is a joy. The bond is more than just siblings and I'm thankful they were given each other. The balance is perfectly beautiful.

10. Having a singleton first. HE was right to give me my Claire first. My firecracker who was more challenging than twins. She prepared me for what was to come.

11. Austin, Texas. Our family belongs here.

12. God. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. - 1 John 4:16

13. My parents. They give 150% of their love and time when they are visiting. When they are here, I can admit: I need family. My children are blessed to have them for a Nana and Papa.

14. Memories. My three brothers and sister are thousands of miles apart. We don't get to see each other often but I have so many memories of the joyful times we spent together growing up.

15. A supportive husband. He encourages me to be a better runner, spouse, mother, woman.

16. Music. It's part of the fuel that helps me run short distances fast and energy for hours and hours of long runs.

17. Teachers. My kids have learned from my Dad how to spot Jupiter. I thought it was a bright star. We are all gifted with knowledge and it's wonderful to see it shared.

18. My jogging stroller. It allows me to share my joy of running with Madeline and Max.

19. The Austin Zoo. It's a fun, special place for me to take my kids.

20. Date nights. Because eventually our kids will be grown and it'll be just the two of us. I hope when that day comes we won't have to learn to reconnect because we have been nurturing our relationship all along the way.

21. Family movie nights. Eating pizza in the living room while watching a 'kid movie' equals greasy faces, smiles, peace and harmony.

22. Coffee. Some days it's a luxury. Other days it's a necessity to survive until two unnamed monsters' nap time. Eternally grateful.

23. Forgiveness. I have made and will continue to make mistakes. Some small, some so big I wonder if I can ever be forgiven. Those who love me seem to have an endless supply of forgiveness. For that I'm thankful.

24. Being a mom and a wife. At 23 I decided having kids wasn't for me. Falling in love with the right person and 3 kids later, I'm thankful God's plans are always perfect. I'd be lost without the gift of Motherhood and the companionship of my best friend, my husband.

Kay Harmon Photography


Monday, November 14, 2011

Time to Say Goodbye

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"

Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking
~The Climb



I had high hopes going into Marathon 2. I had one (very hilly) debut marathon under my belt. The San Francisco Marathon was a great experience and so I immediately decided I wasn't a 'one and done' marathoner. San Antonio was a 'guaranteed' PR (personal record) for me. With a 4.17 time for San Francisco, I was confident I'd at least meet and hopefully beat that time with San Antonio. The course was described as fast and easy because it doesn't have many hills.

Runners always have goals. If they say they don't, they are keeping it to themselves. Some will say: I just want to finish. I don't want to have to stop and walk. Others will give a solid time. I wanted to finish San Francisco in 4.30. My 'secret goal' (don't ask a runner her secret goal...it's a secret;)) was 4.15. For San Antonio my first goal was 4.15....second goal was 4.00...and my secret goal? I was hopeful for sub 4. I would have happily taken 3.59.59.

I put in the time with training. I even did a test run of 16 miles at race pace (9 minute mile). I felt good! The week before the marathon I started to get pre-race jitters and added Andrea Bocelli's beautiful song, Time to Say Goodbye to my play list. I don't speak Italian but I took the line "Time To Say Goodbye" personally. It was time to say goodbye to my fear about my upcoming marathon and embrace the fact that I was ready.

I thought I was.

I had some inkling doubt about the weather. If it was a really windy day, that would be the one thing that could slow me down. I didn't even consider the heat. It was supposed to start in the 60s and peak in the high 80s. I didn't realize just how fast that heat would hit me.

Race day came and Chris and I nervously kissed each other good bye just as the gun for our corral went off. We had agreed beforehand not to run together. I was going for a 4 hour finish, he was hoping for 4.45-5. As soon as I started running I felt the humidity weighing heavy on my lungs. But I maintained my pace at the planned 9-9:15 for the first four miles.

I felt o.k.

I realized the course wasn't so much flat as slight inclines that would peak to a flat level and then incline again. No hills that took you to a smooth sailing recovery downhill. I realized I needed to slow down. It was already getting warm.

Mile 5: 10 minutes.

I was feeling weak. I decided to rewrite my goal in my head and hope for a 4.30 finish. At mile 6 I was happy to feel the tap on my shoulder. My friend Adriana was running her first half and it felt good to see a face I recognized. "How are you doing?" My reply was a pretty weak "Not so good". I wished her luck and she took off.

Mile 6: 10 minutes

I just didn't feel right. My legs were dead. But I could push through dead legs. I have in the past.

Mile 7: 9 min. 45 sec.
Mile 8: 9 min. 41 sec.
Mile 9: 9 min. 59 sec.

Mile 10: 10 min. 07 sec. This was the start of 7 long miles running on a country route in direct sun and no crowd support. It was at this mile marker that the half marathoners veered to the left to finish their last 3 miles. 20,000 half marathoners were veering left and 4,000 marathoners were veering right to embrace 16.2 more miles.I knew the next 7 miles were going to be long and lonely.

Mile 11: 11 min. 22 sec. It was here that I realized something was going all wrong. I reflected back on the last 11 miles and realized I never felt great. At some point in any run I usually have some highs of feeling awesome and lows of feeling like it's the hardest thing I've ever done. Up to this point, I knew I never had a high. It frightened me. Something was wrong.

Mile 12: 10 min. 23 sec.

Mile 13: 10 min. 55 sec. I was inspired when I looked over across the road and saw the first marathoner already on his way back. He was at mile 23 in just a little over 2 hours. The other runners and I cheered him as he raced after the pacing truck. And then reality dawned on me: I still had over 2 hours to go.

Mile 14: 11 min. 05 sec.
Mile 15: 10 min. 45 sec.

Mile 16: 11 min. 04 sec. Remember that song I mentioned earlier: Time to Say Goodbye? It came on my play list and that's when I started crying. I had never felt so physically discouraged in my life. I couldn't believe I never felt good. I couldn't believe that I hit my wall so early. Mile 16 and a wall? I still had over 10 miles to go. How many times have I run 16 miles? Countless. And though they weren't always easy, I never in my running life felt like this after only 16 miles. I felt discouraged. Disappointed. Scared. As the words Time to Say Goodbye were sung to me, I realized I needed to say goodbye to this race. If I made it to the finish line, it would be a miracle. The words DNF DNF DNF were echoing over and over in my head. In racing terms, DNF is Did Not Finish. I realized it was a possibility I would be riding the cart back to the start with the other DNFers I saw giving up along the way.

Mile 17: 11 min. 37 sec. Physically I was dealing with some things that have never happened to me before. Runners are not typically grossed out by bodily fluids. I've run by people who have peed themselves, defecated, have blood dripping down their legs from chaffing....I've seen it all. And even though I typically don't use the restroom during a race, I wasn't surprised that I suddenly had to go pee and go pee now! I ran to the nearest porta potty, quickly took of my hydration belt and slung it around my neck. I hovered (I do get grossed out by porta potties) and nothing came out. What?! I felt like I had to go pee so badly! I didn't see that stop as a waste of time, it's not like I was setting a PR this day.

Mile 18: 11 min. 18 sec.

Mile 19: 13 min. 36 sec. The sudden urge to pee hit me again. 3 more times I stopped to use the porta potty. Only to have ONE drop of brown urine come out. I felt like I had a bladdder infection. I was in serious pain, uhm, down there. It was very painful to have this strong urge to pee, to keep running on what felt like a full bladder only to not be able to go. I was severely dehydrated even though I had been drinking water at every water station including the water I brought with me.

Mile 20: 13 min. 09 sec. At this point I looked around and realized I was seeing something I have never seen before during a race: there were more walkers around me than people running. I was one of them. The high temperature hit 87. I'm sure it was warmer on the black asphalt we were running on. As I limp-ran towards a group of walkers, a guy turned around and saw me approaching. He smiled weakly. He looked really fit but exhausted as he mumbled "It's just too hot, I can't run". I stopped and walked with him for a bit. We talked about how they needed to have water at every mile. We talked about our disappointment in how slow we were going. We talked about how it was amazing to see so many people walking and knew it was something we were forced to do or the alternative: pass out from heat exhaustion. We wished each other luck and I took off in a slow and painful shuffle.

Mile 21: 11 min. 32 sec.

Mile 22: 12 min. 33 sec. By this mile marker I no longer had a time goal. I had a feeling I wouldn't get a DNF but whether my time would be 4.45 or 400 hours, I didn't know. Time didn't matter at this point. I just needed to keep moving in the direction of the finish line. I felt like we were all moving in a crawl.

Mile 23: 12.52
Mile 24: 12.16

Mile 25: 13.33 Another porta potty break. One more drop of brown pee.

Mile 26.2: 10.37 As I ran to the finish line, I felt like I was dragging my heart behind me. The crowd was energetic. Enough to make me smile, but not enough to block out the pain I felt physically and mentally for the last 4 hours and 49 minutes.

I crossed the finish line and grabbed a cold towel. I sat down and draped it over my head so I could cry. This time it wasn't tears of joy. These were tears of frustration, pain, disappointment and relief that my hell was finally over. I saw other runners crossing the finish line with the same look I felt. One woman collapsed into her husband's arms and wept. Her disappointment was palpable. I had to resist the urge to go up to this complete stranger and hug her and say "I know. I know exactly what you are feeling." I just cried silently with her. I looked up to see the guy I had stopped to walk and talk with at mile 20 running in. He gave me a hi-five and said "We survived".

We certainly did.

Sadly, later that evening, I learned our running community lost a runner that day. A 32 year old half-marathoner collapsed after the race. It made me realize I should be eternally grateful to even have crossed the finish line. To still be breathing and here on Earth with my loved ones. My heart goes out to his family.

After this race I wasn't sure if I'd ever do another marathon. The pain I felt during the race from heat exhaustion and dehydration was something I never wanted to experience again. It scared me and made me reconsider my running goals. But a friend shared this quote with me and I realized I have to try again:

"Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb but how well you bounce." ~Vivian Komori

I have a score to settle with marathoning. I'm saying goodbye to the fear the San Antonio Marathon put in me. This runner will be bouncing back.

Monday, November 7, 2011

When you look at me that way...

I know you must sometimes think you're not my priority. But you most defintely are. This was supposed to be written for our 6th anniversary. Life and kids sometimes shuffles things around but I didn't forget you. How could I? You're my better half. The only person on this earth who gets me. The real me. I fell for you the first time you looked at me and as usual, I'm already fumbling my words, so I'll borrow David Gray's song: Please Forgive Me....he said it perfectly:

Please forgive me
If I act a little strange
For I know not what I do
Feels like lightning running through my veins
Every time I look at you

Help me out here
All my words are falling short
And there's so much I want to say
Want to tell you just how good it feels
When you look at me that way

Throw a stone and watch the ripples flow
Moving out across the bay
Like a stone I fall into your eyes
Deep into that mystery

Barbara LeGere Photography
Happy (belated) anniversary. Growing old with you....is all I want to do.

Friday, October 14, 2011

La da da da da

In the caption at the top of my blog I mentioned some of these entries would be 'insignificant'. I have to apologize in advance for this one. You may actually lose brain cells reading it. So if you'd like to save a brain cell or if you have sensitive ears/eyes...don't read this. It's beyond insignificant. It's trash!

Here are the songs that didn't make my San Francisco Marathon race recap. They didn't fit with the style of that blog but *hanging my head in shame* they are most definitely on my running play list.


This David Guetta song makes me laugh every time I listen to it. Be prepared for some serious poetic wooing. I don't know how this guy keeps the ladies away:

She's nothing like a girl you've ever seen before
Nothing you can compare to your neighborhood ho
I'm trying to find the words to describe this girl
Without being disrespectful

The way that booty moving I can't take no more
I have to stop what I'm doing so I can put on my clothes
I'm trying to find the words to describe this girl
Without being disrespectful

Damn Girl
You'se a Sexy Bitch, a sexy bitch, a sexy bitch

Did you read that line?! I'm trying to find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful?! Ha! Nothing you can compare to your neighborhood ho! YOU'SE a Sexy Bitch?! Bwahahahaha! He had me at neighborhood ho. When I've run by the other 30 something moms in my 'hood I may have mumbled 'neighborhood ho' under my breath once or twice.

Some songs have catchy little beats. That's Chris' excuse for listening to Katy Perry. Gwen Stefani makes some catchy little tunes:

Uh huh, this my shit
All the girls stomp your feet like this

A few times I've been around that track
So it's not just gonna happen like that
'Cause I ain't no Hollaback Girl
I ain't no Hollaback Girl

Let me hear you say, this shit is bananas
B A N A N A S
This shit is bananas
B A N A N A S
Again, the shit is bananas
B A N A N A S
This shit is bananas
B A N A N A S


And that's when I turn to the Hottie on the treadmill next to me and snub my nose in the air while heavily panting.... That's right yo', I said BANANAS!

This is one of my favorites. I was doing intervals on the treadmill and had to resist dropping it like it's hot...me falling off the treadmill isn't something I want to do. Ever. I've seen it happen! And I'm certain the person who fell off was running to this song at the time. Instead, I sang along...Love that Fergie!

And I know I'm comin' off just a little bit conceited
And I keep on repeatin' how the boys wanna eat it
But I'm tryin' to tell, that I can't be treated like clientele

Cause they say she delicious(So delicious)
But I ain't promiscuous
And if you was suspicious
All that shit is fictitious

I blow kisses(Mwah)
That puts them boys on rock, rock
And they be linin' down the block
Just to watch what I got
Four, tres, two, uno

My body stay vicious
I be up in the gym
Just workin' on my fitness
He's my witness(Ooh wee)


I think it was after I sang the line about, ahem, clientele, that I noticed the little old man who had been walking on the treadmill next to me with his wife standing next to him, got into an animated discussion (I couldn't hear, I was busy singing ;)) and kept pointing to someone behind me. And then they moved 4 machines down. Oops.

I live in Suburbia. Moms in minivans (hey, I'm one of them), dads taking their kids for a bike ride, the houses all neat looking and complying to the neighborhood HOA rules. Well watch out! When I'm running and listening to this song, I tilt my head back a little and put my gangsta' face on. I think some of my neighbors would shake their heads in judgement if they knew this song was playing in my earphones:

La-da-da-da-dahh
It's the motherfucking D-O-double-G (SNOOP DOGG!)
La-da-da-da-dahh
You know I'm mobbin' with the D.R.E.
(YEAH YEAH YEAH
You know who's back up in this MOTHERFUCKER!)
What what what what?
(So blaze the weed up then!)
Blaze it up, blaze it up!
(Just blaze that shit up nigga, yeah, 'sup Snoop??)


After my 20 miler last Saturday I was feeling my RUNNER'S high when I burst into the door to tell Chris about my pace. Before I could say anything, he snapped, "What took so long!? We have to go! Claire has karate!" I must have been stuck in Dre mode because I responded with a, "Bitch quit talkin'". Oops. I mean, sorry Dear.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Jai Ho! Dios Mio!

What does Slumdog Millionare, "brown" bread and running all have in common? I'll do my best to weave it all together....

We are a 'mixed' family. Chris' mom is Japanese and my mom is Mexican-American. Our dads are gringos (what? they are!). On any given day of the week you'll hear our kids asking for more seaweed for their sushi rice or asking for more of Nana's yummy enchiladas. I love it. Once a lady stopped me when Claire was a baby and asked, What is she? People are curious, still, I love it. Claire has asked me: Why isn't my hair yellow? and What color is my skin? I love explaining our heritage to her. I never wanted them to feel self-conscious about being different, so from the get go I've tried to build their fragile egos to be confident and proud of who they are. I thought I had done a great job, that is, until Claire started kindergarten.

One day she came home wearing a different clip. I found the bow I put in her hair that morning stuffed inconspicuously into the bottom of her backpack. Another day I noticed her favorite meal: sticky rice and tonkatsu hadn't been touched. She asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I made it and the next day that too came home untouched. Finally she confessed: I want white bread. I don't like brown bread.

Let me pause here. My kids have never even had white bread. Claire has a quasi-health nut of a mom (cough cough, quasi because I just confessed to a friend that for the last week every night I've been eating ice cream and M&Ms, don't want her to call me out on that) so I was a bit taken aback when I heard her saying that. Now either Claire is noticing what other kids are eating and wearing and doesn't want to be different or someone is pointing out her differences. I suspect it's a mix of the two.

This has been weighing on my mind and heart. I didn't want her to cave to peer pressure or want to be the same as everyone else, and yet I found myself caving to 3rd party peer pressure when I went to the store on a Thursday night to buy white bread. Pleasantly surprised and relieved when that too came home untouched. Fine. No more PB&Js and no more white bread. And yet still, I have a daughter who is worried about being, well, different.

So Sunday morning I set out for my 19 mile run. The perfect time for me to reflect, think and pray. Yes, it's just a small issue of bread and hair bows now, but what would this issue snowball into when she gets into junior high? High School? I figured I'd have about 3 hours to run this issue out.

Within the first quarter mile of running a song that a friend recommended came on my playlist: Jai Ho by A.R. Rahman, you know, from that great movie Slumdog Millionaire. I have a confession. When it's come on in the past, I've listened to the beginning and then skipped over to the next song. Why? Because it's, well....different. I don't speak Hindi. So I erroneously assumed I wouldn't like the song. It was then I had a moment of clarity. Why not give it a shot. Listen to the whole song and then decide if I liked it or not. So I wasn't even a full mile into the run when the singer didn't so much as chant Jai Ho but sang it. Whooo-eeee, I felt him singing from his heart. It touched me. The next thing I know I'm crying. No, crying would be tears trickling down my face. I was sobbing. I had a hard time catching my breath. (I'm sure I looked like an idiot to the two walkers I passed, chest heaving and sobs wailing from me as I ran like a blubbering fool). I was getting His message. Just because something is different, doesn't mean you can't enjoy or appreciate it's beauty. I swore I heard Spanish lyrics in the song. In a Hindi song? Surely I must be mistaken. And yet when I looked up the lyrics there were indeed a section of Spanish words. I felt like I could see how we are all tied together somehow, by this invisible thread, be it through something as a simple word like Baila! or Jai Ho (which ironically, loosely translates to hallelujah).

My words are getting muddled and I'm afraid I'm not expressing my thoughts as clearly as I should be, so I'll end this blog with the realization that I had during my long run: Be careful of being open to trying new things. Whether it be music, food, whatever...you likely have little eyes watching every move you make. And with that, I finished my run and as soon as I got home I blasted Jai Ho for my whole family to hear. We love dancing and singing to it, try it out, you might too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Treasures

Chris and I had one of our music nights recently. Get your mind out of the gutter, not that kind of night ;). We sit on the back porch while listening to mellow music and talk about life: our kids, our worries, our hopes, our joys and sorrows.

He told me how difficult it is for him to drop Claire off every morning for school. I wasn't quite on the same page because I immediately interrupted him to say I could drop her off if it's an issue for him getting to work on time. I'm sure he'll deny it, but my guy teared up. Ahhhhhh, that kind of difficult. Seeing Claire in her new role as a Kindergarten student, sitting in the cafeteria with her too-big backpack, big girl hair cut and serious face, has made him realize how fast she is growing up and how little time we have left with her as a kid who still thinks her mom and dad are the universe. I've been telling him for quite a while how fast time is going and he didn't quite get it until this past week. While I was sniveling like a baby on her first day of school, he was still a solid rock. But it eventually hit him. It hit him hard and nearly knocked his breath away: Claire is growing up.

It was my turn to be the strong parent. I told him how I have to approach this thing called parenthood. Yes, I miss rocking Claire to sleep as a baby. But now, I get to enjoy cuddling with her in bed as she tells me funny stories or shares with me her worries. Yes, I miss spending my days from beginning to end with her. But now, I truly cherish that quiet time where it's just her and me, doing whatever it may be, while the twins are taking their afternoon nap. Yes, I miss taking Claire for for long walks in the stroller, talking about all the things we would see. But now, I look forward to finding Claire Love Notes; little sticky notes she leaves me all over the house, pictures of the two of us with hearts fluttering above our stick figures. Yes, I miss the mornings where we used to walk Chris out and wave and wave until his car disappeared around the bend, holding hands while we walked back into the house. But now, I get to wave, and Claire and I have a new game where we take turns shouting "LOVE YOU!!!" over and over until we can no longer hear each other (I'm sure our neighbors love that;)).

Chris pointed out that on the weekends, while the twins are sleeping in, Claire likes to cuddle with us in our bed. She won't want to do that in few years, he worried. Yes, but in a few years we'll be able to enjoy her in a new way, I explained. We have to tuck away these special memories The Way Claire Was When and not mourn them but cherish them and look forward to The Way Claire Will Be.

Claire has these little boxes that she tucks her treasures into: shells, flowers, dress up rings. I have my own little box in my heart that I tuck my Claire Treasures into: Claire sleeping in her purple 'coming home' outfit, Claire toddling towards me taking her first steps, Claire trying to blow out her candles at her 'purple party', Claire chasing a duck at the petting zoo, Claire snuggling with me in my bed with her cold feet, Claire's nervous smile on the first day of kindergarten...these are my treasures. And I have plenty of room for the treasures to come.

Treasure: Chris and Claire dancing on Father's Day 2008

Friday, September 2, 2011

Smile and Get a Grip

It's been a bit of a roller coaster for me these last two weeks. My 'baby' girl started kindergarten. I didn't realize how stressed I was about that until I woke up one morning scratching at my face and feeling like my jaw had been punched a few times. Chris told me I had been grinding my teeth all.night.long. I took one look in the mirror and it looked like I had caught the leprosy. (Do people still get that or was it just in Biblical times?). My eczema had flared up. It usually only makes an appearance now due to cold/dry weather. I hadn't seen a stress-flare up since college.

Sigh. Changes.

So, we made it through the first week of Kindergarten. Relatively unscathed (well, except the new and not so improved Leprosy-Me). The following Monday rolls around and I had an appointment at my local running store. It was for a free injury screening with a physical therapist. Free? Sure, why not! My knee had been bugging me for about 3 weeks. Nothing major but just annoying me for my first 1-2 miles out of a run. But I figured I should get it checked out (did I mention it was free?!;)) because I'm not a runner who usually gets any sort of aches or pains. Lucky me.

I loaded the twins up with some snacks (ie bribery lollipops) to keep them occupied while I hopped up on the table in some sort of makeshift exam room/storage room at the running store. The PT was a very nice lady with kind eyes. She poked at my leg a bit, had me lie on my back as she tested the strength in my legs. My right was obviously weaker than my left. She hmmmmed and uhhhhhhed and said she wanted to try 'one more thing'. That one more thing was a tipping point. I think if she never would have done that 'one more thing', I wouldn't be writing about this. I'd be blogging about Claire and kindergarten (I'll get to that next week). But the tipping point happened. She had me try to push against her hand with my knee while on my back. Zap. I felt instant pain in my lower right back.

As she pulled me into a sitting position, the PT with the kind eyes told me she was sorry. It's what she suspected. I have a nerve-disc injury. She was so confident in her diagnosis, I was dumbfounded. Nerves? Disc? Back?!? I felt like I was watching this show from far away. Surely she wasn't diagnosing me!!! with a back injury!!! I shushed the twins as they starting getting antsy for more 'nack'. She had another patient waiting and was gently pushing me out the door as I continued throwing out questions. The last thing I remember asking was I still get to run, right?? She shook her head and with her now sympathetic, kind eyes, said "Oh no...definitely no running".

I was numb. Shocked.

And then it hit me. No running. I started pushing the twins out of the store as the inevitable tears started filling my eyes. My 'tech guy', who sold me my garmin(s) and chats run talk with me every time I come into the store, came jogging over holding a new gadget in his hands. "Hey, Nicole, wai----". He took one look at my face. "What's wrong??" I had to hold back a choked sob as I answered in a whisper, "She said, no running. I can't run". He looked crestfallen for me. "I'm sorry". And I kept walking out of the store. I sat in my car and tried to process what had just happened. My mind couldn't wrap itself around those last words I heard "definitely no running"....

I went to the gym. No running. Fine. I'll work out. I got on the stepper. Put my headphones on and heard the song Clementine:

All that time. Wasted.
I wish I was a little more delicate.

Tears were streaming down my face. And when I heard those words it was too much. I choked back a sob and I felt like I was hyperventilating. I wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Crying. About running. It's just running!!! Yes, it's 'just' running. Had I let it become too much to me? Was all that time I've spent running wasted? Why couldn't I be more delicate? More 'mom-like' and have a normal hobby like scrap booking or cooking. Something that couldn't be taken away from me.

I spent the next two nights tossing and turning. No sleep for me. I prayed. I worried. I prayed some more. Not for my knee. Not for my back. But for God to help me accept what I was told. That it would be OK. And I knew, deep down in my heart, that it would be OK. Life isn't about running. Life is about living and enjoying what I have: my health, my kids, my husband: Barbara LeGere Photography

There would be something else out there for me besides running. Just like the song lyrics in The Climb: keep on moving.....so I did.

But I decided I wasn't going down without a fight. With the encouragement of friends and family, I made an appointment to see an orthopedic sports doctor. He laughed when I ranked my pain a 2 and yet told him I limp the first 1-2 miles of a run. You women sure are tough. A man would rank pain that makes him limp an 8-9. I was so nervous during the exam my palms were sweating. Though I had come to terms with 'no running', I knew it would be a blow to hear it a second time. But, what? What was I hearing? It's not a disc issue?!

On Wednesday, I was diagnosed with something called sacroiliac dysfunction. Dr. S reassured me that not only could I run, I could continue running throughout the physical therapy that I would need to help rehabilitate this condition. If I wasn't married, I would have grabbed him and kissed him right there on the spot. Maybe I'll have to deal with this condition for the rest of my life. Who knows. But I'm going to learn how to manage it: without meds. I'm going to learn how to strengthen myself from the inside out. Like he said, women are tough. If I have to run the rest of my life with a twinge of pain in the back of my knee, I'll gladly do it. I get to run. I'm thankful, I get to run!

My brother shared this song with me called, Smile. Every time I hear it I think of him (my hope is: you start moving, you're too young not to fully enjoy life) and the lyrics remind me of my relationship with running:

Nothing can compare to where
You send me, lets me know that it's okay
Yeah, it's okay

Definitely on a roller coaster these past two weeks. I'm getting off this ride. But no matter what, it's OK.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Identity Crisis?

I have to share a happy moment.

But first, let me back track.

I tend to get lots of comments (well, it feels like lots but I think I hyperfocus on them) about my kids. Not good ones either! Things like:

Why in the world would you have so many kids so close together?

My, my, doesn't someone have lots of kids close in age?

Twins? Better you than me!

You know my favorite, You sure have your hands full!

Another doozy: You must be done. Really?! Thanks for giving me your opinion on my reproductive organs.

I feel like I'm constantly being judged for overpopulating the world. For the record, Mads and Max were surprise twins and are nearly three years younger than Claire (not that any of that should matter to those nosey meanies).

AND YES!!! I do want one more. So sue me!

I could go on, but my blood pressure might rise a little too much.

Ok, but on to my happy moment. I swear, it's in here somewhere!

I was leaving the gym this week and I had the 'we must test our new-found independence' Mads and Max with me. They no longer want to hold my hand! Since our car was parked right in front of the gym and they wouldn't have to walk through the parking lot, I let them go ahead of me as I held the door for another person. And at that moment, Max darted to the street. He stopped before his feet hit the parking lot but I wasn't taking any chances, I scooped him up in a football hold and grabbed Madeline's hand as we walked the rest of the way to my swagger wagon...errr....van.

Phew. Crisis averted. I started buckling them in their carseats when a car pulled up behind me. The window rolled down and a 'cranky' man shouted, "How does it feel?"

Now, a million thoughts ran through my head. Ruh-roh, he must have seen my parenting fail as I grabbed Max from his near-dash-across-the-parking-lot-attempt....and , Oh great, what did I do now? Have one too many kids out in public? Or, was he going to chastise me for being a bad mom and taking my kids to the gym daycare instead of staying home all day singing cumbayah? Yes, all these negative-nelly thoughts ran through my head while I stammered, "Uhhhh, how does what feel?"

Then he turned to his wife and they both smiled big. He replied, "Those are twins, right? I want to know: how does it feel to be a hero? You are a hero of a mom!"

Say it with me now: Awwwwwwwww!!!! That melted my heart. I sometimes have a hard time accepting a compliment. And I really don't think I'm a hero. I'm just a mom. But I appreciated him going out of his way to say something so genuinely kind. One of my friends said she too was sick of hearing the dreaded: "You must have your hands full" comment about her three kids. The one time someone said something nice SHE was the one who said, "Yeah, but my hands are full!" D'oh!!!! So, I caught myself as I started to say, "Well, they are a lot of work (*forehead slap*) BUT they are such a joy. And you know, God doesn't ever give you what you can't handle." The man responded, "Yes, that is true and you are handling them just fine."

And then, MY hero and his wife drove away. I was cheesing it big time. As I looked back in my rear view mirror I told the twins, "That's right. Your mommy is a hero". I adjusted my imaginary cape and then proceeded to back out. Only I wasn't in reverse. So I jumped the curb. Double, D'oh!

Oh, that's right, he said hero, not SUPER hero.



But just in case...I have a cape handy at all times....

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Climb

You turned to me and whispered, "Mommy, I don't want to go".

My faith was shaking
But I, I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

Oh Claire, your faith was shaking. But you were so strong. I leaned over while holding your hand, I looked into your eyes and I whispered back, "You are so brave. You are going to have a great day. Your teacher is so lucky to have you".

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

Strength is what you showed me. I knew in your heart you wanted to turn around and run to me. You wanted to come home and stay with what you know, what is comfortable and familiar. Instead, you gave me one last nervous smile and reached out to your teacher as she led you away from me. My heart broke just a little bit. So proud. So happy. And I instantly missed you, even though you were only a few feet away.

'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Sometimes when I'm running, I don't feel the hard part until about mile 10. Before that, I feel like I'm coasting. But once I hit my 'mountain', it's during that time I have to reach deep down inside and remember who I am.

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking

From birth to now, just like my first few miles, you have been coasting with me right along your side. Today you started Kindergarten. Claire, you've hit your mountain. From here on out, school will bring you lots of ups and downs. My prayer is: you remember who you are. You continue marching to the beat of your own drum. And that no matter what, no matter how tough things get, you always face your battles with a good heart.

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb...

Sweet Claire, I'm proudly watching you as you start your Climb.

Barbara LeGere Photography
Lyrics: The Climb

Friday, August 5, 2011

Is a picture worth a thousand words?

My blogs can get a little....wordy. Chris' eyes tend to glaze over when I ask him to read through a blog. I think he wishes I would use bullet points and cut out all the fluff. So without further ado, I'm cutting out the fluff on this one and going to let the pictures speak for themselves. (Ok ok, I cannot help but put captions, but that's for point of reference! Without them you wouldn't know if I was at mile 5 or 15!)




The day before...Do I look scared? I am!



15 minutes to race time. Yeaaaaaaaah!



I swear, I'm not doing the Phoebe Buffay run! I was just coming out of my signature "peace sign"....Really!!! Golden Gate Bridge, mile 6

Just about half way....


Mile 15? Who cares, I'm flying!!!


Mile 19. Feeling strong.


This photo brings tears to my eyes (not because I look scary, I do!) but because it's a perfect reminder of the pain and mental battle I was fighting. It looks like I'm barely running, the color is gone from my lips and I'm hurting. Bad. Mile 25.


If I close my eyes, will the pain go away? Mile 25 and 2 steps.


It's amazing what seeing the finish line can do. Added some pep to the step, brought my smile back (nevermind that it looks like Chris is dragging me across the finish line) and I was feeling some serious runner's high. 26.2


Happiness hit her like a train on a track....


Finisher.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Marathoning Me...ME?!

I have a confession.
I'm having a love affair.
With running.

I've blogged before that when I hear love songs, I don't always think of Chris (I do sometimes!! ;)), I often think of my children. Well, on this marathon journey, I realized music was a central piece to my relationship with running. Running is like a living, breathing, thing for me. Something I need and crave. Something that has made me laugh, cry, worry, caused me pain, joy and so much more that I cannot put into words.

Running.
My other love.

Music carried me for 26.2 miles. 4 hours and 17 minutes. Some songs would make me think of the friend or family member who suggested it. Other songs would make me smile because they are silly pop songs that mean nothing other than a happy beat. Music is part of the energy that allows me to run for hours. It carried me past Pier 39: the spot Chris and I got engaged, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through Golden Gate Park, up and down the streets of Haight Ashbury, past smiling faces, serious policemen, while passing tired runners and being passed by runners older, younger, bigger and smaller than myself, over rolling hills and hills that felt and looked more like walls.

Miles 1-5
The San Francisco Marathon started a few miles down from Pier 39 on the Embarcadero at 5:30 AM on July 31st. I am not by any means an elite runner, so my wave started closer to 6:15. As my wave of thousands of runners headed across the start line, I felt strong and engergetic. I felt alive. I knew that the months I had spent preparing for this moment were worth it. I was ready.

I ran the first few miles faster than I originally planned. Don't be stupid, I kept telling myself. Starting out too fast could mean the difference between finishing or giving up. So I imagined the invisible string attached to my back that pulls me back when I get a little overzealous...it couldn't slow me down to the planned 10 minute mile but it slowed me down enough to run the race smart. Suddenly I was passing Pier 39 and in front of the giant Ghiradelli sign. Chocoloate to my left and the beautiful ocean, Alcatraz and boaters shouting RUNNNNNNNNNN Runners!!! to my right. It was the perfect time for my favorite song to come on, Dog Days Are Over, and it did.

Happiness, hit her like a train on a track
Coming towards her, stuck still no turning back


Run fast for your mother run fast for your father
Run for your children for your sisters and brothers
Leave all your love and your longing behind
You can't carry it with you if you want to survive


I smiled big. Tears poked my eyes. I clapped my hands to the beat. Oh yes, happiness most definitely hit me.

Miles 6-12
As I started across the Golden Gate Bridge, Have a Little Faith in Me, came on my playlist. Whenever I hear this song I don't think of the "me" as myself, but as that living-breathing thing called Running.

When the road gets dark
and you can no longer see
Just let my love throw a spark
and have a little faith in me

And when the tears you cry
Are all you can believe
Just give these loving arms a try, baby
And have a little faith in me


And so I did. I had faith in running. I knew that no matter what my overall time was, I would be finishing this marathon.

Miles 13-18
Thousands and thousands of us were running. We went through Golden Gate Park and I was feeling GOOD. I felt a twinge of self-doubt as I watched the first group of half-marathoners heading towards their finish line and I was detoured to the right, picking up the second group of half-marathoners, that were just starting their race. They had happy faces, big smiles and fresh legs. How I felt and looked about 2 hours ago. To say I was envious was an understatement. But then U2 joined me:

It's a beautiful day
Sky falls, you feel like
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away

You're on the road
But you've got no destination
You're in the mud
In the maze of her imagination

You love this town
Even if that doesn't ring true
You've been all over
And it's been all over you
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
It's a beautiful day

I stopped feeling sorry for myself and reminded myself, I chose to do this race. Me. I wasn't forced to do it. I don't have to run. I get to run 26.2 miles today. And in that moment my smile came back. I picked up my pace and decided I was going to embrace the next 13.1 miles.

Miles 19-22
The next miles ticked off. One.mile.at.a.time.I started through Haight Ashbury and it was so appropriate that He Reigns came on at that time. Children were lined up on the street with their parents. Bright smiles on their faces with tiny hands stuck out for a hi-five (I happily dished those out! and soaked up their positive energy) while cheering for friends, family and strangers.

When all God's children sing out
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns
All God's people singing
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns


I couldn't help but feel God smiling down on me in that moment. He must look at His children who are running, for whatever their own personal reasons are, and feel happy. A race is all about goodness. It's all about people using their bodies in a healthy way.

Suddenly I realized there was a reason I should have stuck to the original plan. It hit me. Hard. Sheer exhaustion. At mile 22 my right leg nearly gave out and I had to catch myself from falling completely to the ground. A muscle cramp had hit me in both my right quad and right calf almost simultaneously. I had never had that happen before, so I wasn't exactly sure what to do. In past races, I've seen marathoners suddenly fall to the ground, grabbing their leg while writhing in pain. Dear God, please don't let me fall, I prayed. My mind was telling me to walk. My heart was telling me to keep running through the pain. My heart won that battle but I wasn't too exhausted to notice the irony of the lyrics to Little Lion Man playing mockingly in my ears:

But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn't I, my dear?


Had I effed up? Did I run the race too fast? Was my body going to hold out for the last 4 miles?! I didn't know the answers to those questions, so I stopped thinking and just ran. And ran. Suddenly, I saw Chris. It was about mile 24. I smiled and shouted and waved I'm here!!!! Chris jumped over the railing and that's when whatever ounce of mental strength I was holding onto dissolved into nothingness. I could be weak. My man was here. Chris, I can't do it anymore. I can't. Those words I whispered to him, not wanting to discourage any runners around me with my own pain. My own shame. You're almost there. Let's go. And that was all he said. So we ran. I only had two miles to go and yet it felt like those two miles were 200 miles. At one point, I looked over and saw my reflection in a storefront window: I was hunched over and my run was more like the shuffle of an old lady. But I was moving.

Chris pointed up ahead and showed me the finish line was less than half a mile away. I always end my runs with a sprint, and I wasn't going to change anything just because I had been running over 26 miles. So I kicked it up a notch. The course changed into two lanes and signs pointed halfers to the left and full marathoners to the right. I held my head a little higher, pushed my shoulders back and sprinted to the right. Perfect timing for The Good Life to come on:

Oh this has gotta be the good life
This has gotta be the good life
This could really be a good life, good life

Say oh, got this feeling that you can't fight
Like this city is on fire tonight
This could really be a good life
A good, good life


Damn. It is a good life.

You can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will. Stephen King

Sometimes I can't believe I did it. But I never would have, if I didn't take that first step.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Geriatric Runner...and proud of it!

When I started training for the San Francisco Marathon a little over 13 weeks ago, I hadn't put much thought into what it would take to get from point A (not being able to run a marathon) to point B (being able to pound the pavement for 26.2 miles). It had been a goal bouncing around in my head for the last year, and so one day I told myself, let's do it(you know, as Ton Loc would say). Once those words were spoken, with no hesitation, I looked for the soonest marathon online, found it to be in San Francisco, (because God knows only an idiot would train for a marathon in the middle of the summer in Texas) paid the registration fee and told Chris, I need a plane ticket to California in July. I mean, I enjoy running and realize it is also a challenge but I had no idea what I just signed myself up for.

It didn't dawn on me that I would be training in ungodly weather: 85-100 degrees with 85% humidity. I didn't realize that once I hit anything above 12 miles in the summer, I'd need to leave my house by 5:30am, preferably 5, every.single.Saturday. I didn't realize I'd have to train while on vacation, take my first ice bath to ease some seriously aching feet, dress like a grandma and have a new bedtime of 9pm (what?!). I didn't know that I would one day be running with pepper spray clutched in my hand and that my greatest danger would be moms in minvans! I was surprised to learn that training would give me my very first sympathy foot rub from the hubby. Even having a csection for the twins, which caused my feet to swell like I had elephantitis, wasn't enough to make him touch my feet (aversion much?!). But run 20 miles and even Mr. Tough Guy will have a breaking point of sympathy (a once in a lifetime event, I'm sure) for his dear ol' wifey. I had no idea that most people train with a group. For some reason, running for hours on a Saturday morning isn't appealing to anyone but me. So, I did it. Alone. Or so I thought.

And while doing this, some interesting things happened along the way...some firsts, some downs, some highs, some moments with God...Here they are:

~Britney Spears and Katy Perry have made my playlist. Don't judge. I used to 'tsk tsk' at people who listened to pop blah (still no Lady GaGa on my list!). But you listen up, Til the World Ends and Firework make me a happy runner. And dammit, I'll listen to it if it's going to get me through another hour of running!

~Because of following the marathon guide, I got hit by some serious depression. It tackled me strong and hard. Around week 8. I realized I had only made it to the half way point of the training guide and I was dog tired. It was a combination of waking up 4 times a week to run at 5:00 am while adding more miles each and every week, strength and cross training at the gym 3 days a week, add life (oh, like taking care of 3 kids) and I was feeling it. It was becoming too much. Right around that time, Austin's lovely humidity made an appearance and what I used to love (running!), I was quickly beginning to loathe.

~Because of running, I sprinted right out of Depression's dark and heavy arms. I had an 18 miler up that morning. When I took off for my run that morning, everything fell into place. I hit my 6 mile mark and knew, I had this run. I owned it. I was going to finish and finish strong. There are moments when I'm running and so overwhelmed by the emotions of knowing my body is stronger than I ever imagined it could be, that I tear up. I bet I look like quite the fool on those runs where some tears sneak out. Crying because I'm able to run? Seriously!? Yes, seriously. I can't thank God enough for giving me the ability to do something that is 100% good for my mind and body.

~Every once in a while I'm lucky to get an IRL (in real life) running friend to join me...but more often than not, I'm on my own. Sorta. I joined a running group online, and the support of these women has been my lifeboat. Thanks, Running Mamas. I honestly don't know if I would have stuck it out, without your advice and support.

~I'm a klutz. Running is probably a dangerous sport for me because of my lack of athletic prowess. Who trips on every single run? Me. Who has tripped while at a standstill at a redlight? This girl! Twice.

~And while I'm confessing my dorkiness, let's add the fact that I now run while 1. Wearing a hydration belt (something I swore I'd never do) 2. Eating (hey, you burn 2,000 calories while running and need food!) 3. Rocking the compression socks, see?: (I have to fight the urge to shake my finger and yell, 'Hey kids, get off my lawn' while wearing these bad boys)

4. Wearing sunscreen. Because the difference between me and those 20 something hot runners is that well, I'm not in my 20s. I'm 32 and I've moved past trying to look cute while running (Ok, ok, I did get a pair of pink compression socks, but that's simply because even the white ones are a bit too geriatric for my big race ;)). One morning a 'hot' runner ran past me, looking more like Baywatch with her dark tan, white- bow-chicka-bow-wow tank, makeup carefully applied and smelling like a perfume counter. I on the other hand was more Golden Girls: hydration belt, drenched in sweat and smelling like sunscreen and running stank. And darn proud of it!

It's been quite a journey. It's almost marathon day, and I have to say, even if something stops me from getting to the race, I'll be forever grateful that I decided to give it my best shot. The biggest lesson I learned is that I am most definitely not alone. From the support of family and friends and most of all to the One who is with me on every single run. I'm feeling strong as I bring it in to the homestretch. Bring it, San Fran. This geriatric, klutzy runner is ready for the challenge.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oh the places you will go...

Claire turned 5. Five. FIVE. It's difficult for me to say, to write, to grasp. I still remember the first time I saw her on the ultrasound. Two little legs sticking straight up and sprawled out on her back. Just getting comfy as she likes to say now. I remember feeling her kicks inside my tummy and how on July 4th 2006, I felt myself going into labor and I knew things would never be the same. At the time, I didn't know how my life would change, but my little Firecracker, who burst into our life on July 5th 2006 at 8:00 in the evening, flipped my world upside down and has led the way ever since. I remember as a newborn she would cry endlessly each night and I would sway and dance with her to calm her down. Finally, we'd end up in her room in the rocking chair, and she would fall asleep while I sang her song: I love my Claire Rose, I love you more than you'll ever know.... A song I still sing to her every single night. I remember feeding her cereal for the very first time. How she scrunched up her mouth and stuck her tongue out in protest. I remember her first birthday, dressed in a delicate pink cupcake dress while tasting cake for the first time. I remember her first steps. The look of awe in her eyes as she realized, I can do it! I remember the first time she rode her tricycle. Her dark pig tails waving in the breeze. I remember these things and so much more.
Treasures tucked into my heart.

Claire has a light in her eyes. She's full of fiery spirit. Claire is stubborn and kind. Innocent and sweet. Intense and calm.

Claire has big plans for her life. She wants to be a doctor. She doesn't want to get married or have children. First things first, she starts kindergarten this year. My baby girl. I know these school years are going to fly by and I have to fight the urge to yell at the top of my lungs...SLOW DOWN! This time is going by way too fast!!

Dear Claire, happy birthday, Baby. Enjoy 5 because then comes 6, 7, 8...I am sure Dr. Seuss was thinking of you when he wrote this...or at least, I think of you when I read it:

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!
by Dr. Seuss

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets.
Look’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.

And you may not find any you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town.
It’s opener there in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen, don’t worry.
Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.

You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose?
How much can you win?

And if you go in, should you turn left or right…or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite? Or go around back and sneak in from behind? Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.

No! That’s not for you!Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all. Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be, with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t. Because, sometimes, they won’t.



I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win ‘cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go though your enemies prowl. On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl. Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Monday, May 30, 2011

But Time Went By....

My children are curious beings. They love me fiercely and yet I see them as they take tentative steps away; testing out what the world has to offer. One of Claire's favorite books is The Giving Tree. A story about a boy who grows up and leaves his 'tree'. Claire's eyes would tear up as we would talk about what the line: '...time went by' meant. But I don't want time to go by...I don't want to get old! That's what she used to say. Now she's planning her future: what she'll be, where she'll live. Time certainly does go by. And for that reason, I try to cherish each milestone instead of wishing them on to the next stage. Just yesterday it seems like my sweet twins Madeline and Maxwell were born. And yet, time went by....

Today is Madeline's birthday. She turns two. She is still the same baby I met 2 years ago and yet she has added layers of beautiful complexity to her. Madeline is kind, gentle, strong-spirited, curious, smart, a leader in our house....
Dear Madeline, this is for you:

I am thinking it's a sign
That the freckles in our eyes
Are mirror images and when we kiss
They're perfectly aligned

Barbara LeGere Photography

Today is Max's birthday. He also turns two. He is still very much my baby and yet walks around with his funny tough-guy attitude. Max is playful, sensitive, a follower of his big sisters, a tender-hearted boy.
Max, for you:

And I have to speculate
That God Himself did make us
Into corresponding shapes
Like puzzle pieces from the clay
Barbara LeGere Photography

You are both growing so fast. Sometimes a mom's wish is to slow time down (it is my wish on many days), and yet I know the best thing is to encourage you as you grow and watch you soar in this big world of ours. I see the two of you doing amazing things and cannot wait to celebrate each birthday with you both....
For the two of you:

They will see us waving from such great heights
Come down now, they'll say
But everything looks perfect from far away
Come down now but we'll stay

*Lyrics by iron & wine: such great heights

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Happy Runner

I debated whether I should start a whole new blog to document the journey I'm on or include it in Running Into a Wall. Then I re-read the title of my blog and thought back to my first blog entry: it was about my very first half-marathon. And it didn't take too much convincing to go ahead and put it here. Yes, this blog has mostly, ok ok, it has turned into a blog about my kids....but it was always supposed to be about ALL things in my life. And that includes running.

I started running a year or so after Claire was born. Initially, I did it to kick up my weight loss goal a notch. I had been working out faithfully for 6 months (even hired a trainer) but the last 10 pounds weren't budging. I remember walking by a runner at the gym and the little light was flashing that they had been running for 45 minutes on the treadmill. 45 minutes?! What is she, a machine? I thought to myself. How in the world can someone run that long? So I jumped on the treadmill to see what I could do. I couldn't finish one mile. Not even one. I was so out of breath that I had to slow the pace down to a walk. Eventually I finished that first mile and it was in about 14 minutes. Wow.

I remember running in middle school and the girls in my PE class fell into two groups. The walkers and the runners. I chose the running group and we'd push each other to get as fast as a time as possible...I got 6:45. So, how in the world did I go from that, to running a 14 minute mile?!

Life happened. I have never been very physically active. I certainly am not talented in the athletic department. At family reunions we'd gather to play softball or volleyball and I'd get nervous. My cousins were so athletic: sports players. My brothers were always involved in football, basketball, soccer, baseball. And then there was me. I played clarinet in the marching band. Would that help catch a softball or set up a volley? Not likely. So at those reunions I'd do my best not to get hit in the face and as my Uncles would shout, Get out of the way!!!, I did my best to make myself small and invisible during the game.

So fast forward a few years. I had a one year old daughter. I was 10 pounds overweight and I couldn't run a mile without feeling like my lungs were going to crawl out of my throat and collapse onto the treadmill in front of a gym full of strangers. But running is a funny thing. Or maybe it was my personality: once I set a goal it MUST be accomplished. Perhaps it was a combination of both. I found running to be addicting. I would run a few times a week, each time, pushing myself a little bit farther until I could finally run a mile without stopping. Then it was two. And finally a 5k. During that time my speed improved, definitely not winning any races but faster than that initial one mile test run.

From that first 14 minute walk-run I've gone on to run more 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons. I've chiseled away at that mile time to get my fastest mile time of 7:11 and run at a happy pace of 8:45. But here's the thing about running: there is ALWAYS room for improvement. There is always more distance to be added. And because of that, I've set my sight on the San Francisco full marathon. Sometimes people ask me: why? Sometimes I ask the question of myself.

I have a hard time explaining it, the easiest response is to tell someone: Go try it, you'll see! It's something you won't regret doing. But I understand, not everyone wants to run....so I'll try to do my best to answer the why:

Because it feels good
I love running outside. During the week I run pushing the twins but my favorite time to run is my weekend long run. I usually go alone. Sometimes with Chris. I'll lace up my shoes in the early morning while all my babies are still sleeping, sip some coffee and get my music ready. When I step out and find my pace, the feel of the cool air on my face and the newness of the day makes me feel alive. strong. thankful. I run for a few hours and my mind will wander: sometimes it rests on my children, my husband, prayer, sometimes it sings along to the music or just focuses on run-breath-run-breath.

Because I can
When I'm running I can't help but smile. Yes, there are times when my brow is furrowed in concentration, times when I'm grimacing through a sprint or while trying to achieve a personal record in a 5k race, times when my kids, husband, any and everything weigh heavy on my mind. But for the most part, when I'm out there running, I'm reminded that I've been blessed with a healthy heart, lungs, muscles, and legs: the temple God gave me. And it feels so good to be moving while enjoying the beautiful world we were given.

Because it has proven to me my mind and body are stronger than I ever thought possible
There are days when my mind tries to convince me that I'm not strong enough. Not brave enough. Simply not enough to get through a run. Those runs are tough. Just as I used to wonder, people often tell me they can't imagine running for an hour, two hours, three hours and more. But here's something I've learned: If I can do it, anyone can. Remember, I couldn't run a mile without stopping. I realized once I built up a basic fitness level, it really did become mind over matter. Sometimes I'll be an hour into a run and realize I still have an hour or more to go. And that's ok. Because I know I'll get there one step at a time. I've never claimed running is easy. On the contrary, I find it to be a challenge. And I like that.

I'll be seeing you soon, San Francisco.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sparkle and Shine

Claire has been on my mind. Who am I kidding, these kids of mine are always on my mind! It's funny, but pre-kids, when I'd hear a love song, I would think of Chris. Now, I hear a song and it reminds me of the three bright eyed children who have stolen my heart and run away with it.

I heard a song today and it was all about my Claire. Oh yeah, were you wondering why I've had Claire on my mind? It's because lately, Claire has been worrying. A lot. I'd like to blame it on Chris' genes, but if you've read my blogs in the past, you'd know I was a chronic worrier. I've been able to keep it in check with prayer and running. But apparently I passed down the trait to Sweet Claire.

What could a child who isn't even five be worrying about?? At less than five years old, Claire has the world on her shoulders. I wish I could carry that weight for her. It would be so easy for me to hold her burdens, but life doesn't work that way. My Baby has to find her way in this great big world.

Claire worries the kids at school don't want to be friends with her. I look at Claire and the lyrics from the song today dance around in my head. Baby, don't you realize?:

My baby sparkle and shine
Sparkle and shine
Sparkle and shine
And everyone knows she's fine


Claire worries that I don't love her as much as I did before Mads and Max came. Silly Claire. Don't you know? You have this special place in my heart. You fit perfectly into it, my sweet Baby:

She blesses all that she sees
A toss of the hair and a kiss in the breeze
But she don't love no one but me
And I can't believe she's mine

Claire worries that Kindergarten will be too hard. Yes, Claire has trouble counting to 20 sometimes, but any teacher who has Claire in her class will be gifted with a kid who will: sing her heart out in front of the class while playing air guitar, will try her very best without complaint, will say funny things like: exception! and my tummy beeps when I run too much, is brave enough to spar her karate teacher, and doesn't know the concept of being self-conscious and therefore will seem brave beyond her years. Sweet Claire don't you know?:

Shimmering she moves
Sunlight all around her
Even when she's blue
Silver clouds surround her

Claire worried aloud one day: I don't want to get married! I don't want to leave you! Sweet Claire. You'll find your way in this world. Maybe you'll get married. Maybe you won't. I do know, any man would be beyond blessed to call you his wife. But even I don't want to think about that right now. Instead, I want to enjoy you in this moment: as I see you grow, sparkle and shine:

Anywhere she goes
I can only follow
She'll be there I know
When I awake tomorrow



Barbara LeGere Photography
I'm breathless 'cause she's so cool...

*lyrics by Steve Earle, Sparkle and Shine