Friday, February 29, 2008

Personal Growth

I did it - I called 26 running publications in 2 days. What an appropriate number that is. I also sent an email follow-up, so could that count as .2 and bring me up to 26.2?! The anxiety and excitement of it all WAS reminiscent of my marathon!

The feedback I got on my book (press releases and copies of the book went out to them last week) was mixed, but encouraging . . . leading me to the next item on my ever-growing list of things to do. We have another batch of books to send to influential folks next week, which will again require follow-up calls. AND I have emails to send to people who requested follow-ups that way. This experience of making contacts is helping grow my confidence in spreading the word of my book over the phone. I'm reaching beyond my comfort zone and finding that it DOES provide positive results.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Family Time

My mother-in-law is visiting from Pittsburgh this week - and my brother-in-law was able to come up from CA for the weekend to visit. We didn't let the kiddos know too far in advance (the night before about the arrival of "Unk" and on the way to the airport about the arrival of "Yia Yia") because Big Brother spins himself into an excited boy ball and has a hard time eating/sleeping/staying calm until the person arrives. The delay of sharing the information worked well. Little Sister is too young to get herself worked up, and she served as a wonderful secret keeper when we'd discuss plans (brother, of course, was never within ear shot).
It is always great to have visitors. I am an only child, so I bask in the energy of family gatherings - observing the sibling interactions and learning more about my husband through stories of when he was growing-up as the oldest of four kids. We've had fantastic weather for a good week-long stretch, so that only helped make the weekend and the start of the week even more wonderful. Our adventures took us OUTSIDE (hooray!) to transplant some bushes in the yard, to wander around Molbak's (a local nursery filled with glorious plants and garden goodies), and to wash the layers of dirt off our cars. It felt so good to be outside that Little Sister meandered around the yard until she couldn't hold her eyes open any longer - and she fell asleep in her uncle's lap. Priceless!
Not sure what adventures the remainder of Yia Yia's visit will hold, but I do know that we will get outside to enjoy the warmth and sunshine as much as possible. I'm holding down the fort while the kids nap now - Yia Yia is out storing up as much sun as she can to get herself through the rest of the brutal snowy winter back in The Burgh. She can't get enough of our blue skies and temperatures over 30 (and they've actually been as high as the 60s!).
Even if my husband has gone for his run today (even I did a quick 2 miles on the treadmill this morning), I might see about asking him to join me for a quickie again when he gets home from work. It is too beautiful a day to not be outside for a run! I think it might be time for me to make the transition from treadmill to trail now that the weather is consistently better (I won't say that too loudly, for fear we'll be slammed with grey skies again). However, this means that I'll be running with the jogger again while Big Brother is at school in the mornings, so I'll have to refigure my daily routine. It should be worthwhile, though - and just the change I need to get serious about a 10K this spring.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Relaxing the Toes

I've been focusing on my running form for a few months now. I've improved my foot strike, my posture is strong and overall I'm finding that it is easier to get into a good groove and pace now that my form is neater. I was celebrating these aspects this morning on the treadmill when it dawned on me that now that I have some good form habits in place it is time for me to face one of my more sticky habits - my tendency to curl my toes!
I used to carry my stress in my jaw. That led to severe TMJ years of orthodonture and relaxation techniques to keep tension out of my jaw. When things get challenging, I do still clench my jaw, but not nearly as often as my teen and early adult years. Also, if I notice that I'm doing it, I'm able to stop. When I stopped placing my stress in my jaw, I simply relocated it to my neck and shoulders. Yoga has helped ease the tension here and I find that the more I run, the less stress settles into my body. And so . . . with every discovery of how I deal with stress I find a solution . . . and the stress relocates - down my body. Now, it seems, stress has made a comfy home in my TOES!  Maybe this will be the end of the line and stress will no longer find comfort in my body - hey, I can dream, can't I?
If I let my mind wander as I run and it gets stuck in a challenging thought, my toes curl under. As this is a rather recent development (a month or two that I've really been aware of it), I have no clue how long my toes are tightly tucked before I notice them. AGH - just thinking about this makes my toes curl - I had to consciously relax them just NOW! I'll have to come up with a gentle mantra when I run - "Re-lax toes . . . gen-tle steps . . . re-lax pig-gies!"
Funny thing is that my daughter does the same thing with her toes - and she's only 12 months old!  Maybe I've been curling my toes longer than I realize and it isn't stress related!
Hmmmm . . . genetics are a whole different challenge . . .

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

8 Years . . . Woah!

Today my husband and I are celebrating our 8th Anniversary . . . and it leaves me with the contradictory questions: Where did the time go? AND . . . We've only been married for 8 years???  Funny how that works - it is the trick time likes to play on us all. And, yes, if I could go back in time, I WOULD marry this man all over again.  He's a definite keeper.
To celebrate the day, we're going for a run together this afternoon after we drop off the kids for an overnight at my parents' house. Our daughter flaps her arms and legs whenever we pull in their driveway and our son asked recently when he could spend 10 nights in a row there . . . so I don't think we'll be missed by the kids in the least bit.  All four of us are spoiled by this arrangement!!!
It has been ages since our last run together, so we will certainly enjoy it. And, the sunny day we're having here (the 4th in a row - shhhh . . . don't tell anyone, I don't want to ruin the trend!) reminds me very much of the sunny North Carolina day we had for our wedding those 8 years ago.
We'll cap off the evening with dinner at a new restaurant not too far from here. I'll post about it if we give our approval!
And now . . . back to work so I can calm my mind and hopefully be less disjointed with my thoughts!  The sunlight pouring through picture window next to me really has me distracted today.

Monday, February 18, 2008

It's Monday!

There's been no question in my mind what day of the week today is. It's been clear from the moment the day started - today is MONDAY - ugh!
- 2 minutes into my run this morning (which I was hoping to do quietly without even music or a TV) my son woke up (6:35AM!)
- at the grocery store my daughter pulled the entire loaf of French Bread out of its bag and tried to eat it at the check-out
- at the same said moment my son was trying to climb out of the cart (this one has a car cab for a front & a traditional basket - he was in the cab) for the hundreth time
- my parents had to re-do the packaging for the review books we're mailing to 35 running publications 3 or 4 times for a handful of reasons (but it is done now - whew!)
- my daughter's afternoon nap was only 35 minutes (should be AT least an hour!)
BUT . . . the sun has been shining and so I'm able to dust off the frustrations and learn from them:
- I'll just have to get up earlier tomorrow (gulp!)
- I'll only grocery shop with ONE child in tow (President's Day threw that off for me today . . . but next time I'll just delay the trip!)
- This was the first batch of reviews to go out, so now we have an accurate picture of what the process entails and what needs to be included in each package
- daughter is taking a second afternoon nap now after a few trips down the hill and back (for someone who has only been walking for a few months, it is QUITE a good workout!)
- son is at his first ice skating lesson with super hero Dad, so I'm posting my blog early!
And . . . it is after 5, the sun hasn't yet set and the windows are open for a fresh breeze to blow away the stale winter air in the house, so the day can't be a manic Monday anymore!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine Run

Well, I didn't get up early to run yesterday. But, I did run - hooray!

The morning was filled with Valentine's Day preparations for my son's pre-school party. I had to ready his allergy-free cupcake (no egg, dairy or nuts) so he could have a special treat while his classmates enjoyed traditional cupcakes. We had to pop two batches of air popped popcorn to take as a snack to share with the class (Little Sister decided she should have popcorn for breakfast . . . well, why not, it is filled with healthy fiber!). We had to pack the valentines that he signed (all 19 of them - not bad for a 3 1/2 year old!!).

Here's tolerant Albus with his doting boy.

The afternoon was filled with excited tales of the special crafts the kids did at school, what treats everyone got to enjoy, and the THRILL of a bag filled with valentines! He sat on the couch and poured out the bag's contents onto his lap, just bathing in the wonder of so many notes of love. We sat and deciphered the signatures, one card at a time, truly soaking-in each card, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over each one. They are a brilliant mix of handmade and store-bought/hand-signed cards. Then there was the challenge of keeping the frilly, shiny, cards out of the hands and mouth of the curious little one!

The kids rounded out their day with Valentine's Day excitement at my parents' house. That allowed my husband and I to have a night to ourselves, which we kick-started with turns on the treadmill. We had planned to get outside for a run together, but by the time I had the kids settled at my parents' and he got home from work, there wasn't enough daylight left. STILL, we both got to run AND my run was nearly twice as long as it is if I run in the morning. Hooray! And then we enjoyed take-out from our favorite little restaurant in town (okay, it is tied for favorite with a Mediterranean Restaurant - Zanzania - we'll eat there next week!) Pho Saigon.

Ready to go on her sleepover - her bag is packed!

Though Little Sister is not feeling her best (off and on fever, a bit of a runny nose, two lower teeth threating to break through), it was still a nice day overall and I have some sweet pictures that give a happy-all-over feel - ah, there's just nothing like living excitement of holidays through children's eyes!

A sweet sibling moment.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sleep or a Run????

I'm sure this is the burning question for many parents of young children. It has been my question of the week. Twice this week I have opted to forego a run and sleep for an additional 20-30 minutes. My eyelids and part of my brain (the part that regulates patience, particularly) think this is an excellent choice. The other part of my brain and the rest of my body are sad that they lost out on 2 runs.
Our son has been fighting some sort of bug - mild compared to the ear infections and sinus goop that plagued our house off and on ALL fall and early winter - so he's struggled with falling asleep. While this shouldn't seem like a real sleep squelcher for the parents, it is. When the kiddos go to bed my husband retreats to his computer to work on his on-line graduate class while I plant myself in front of my own computer to finalize things on my to-do list that didn't get accomplished during nap times (which is often MANY items long). We TRY to finish up our work by 9 to relax and hold uninterrupted conversations, but this week we haven't rendevoued until closer to 10 each night . . . not good for the necessary unwinding period before bed. This has put us in bed closer to 11 instead of the targeted 10, making it all the more difficult to pry myself out of bed at 6 to get in a run before said son wakes (anywhere between 6 and 7:30 these days).
Insert drama from Little Sister. The same lovely little bug that has encrusted her brother's nose and made him a bit of a stinker behaviorally is interrupting her sleep now. She faught sleep last night (usually all you have to do is put her in her bed and she goes to sleep - YES, I know this is a treasured blessing!!!) and then was up for an hour at 3AM. I held my breath when I finally had her asleep and dared to put her back in her crib. Thank goodness she settled in before I passed out!  :)  My mom will confirm that in high school I somehow developed the habit of holding my breath when I get nervous. Not a healthy habit - I don't recommend it.  I have never passed out, but have had long periods of light headedness . . . you'd think after over a decade I would have acquired a different coping mechanism!  Hmmm . . . I think I got a bit off topic here, sorry . . . I need more sleep!
So, between getting to bed late and the hour interlude in the wee hours of the morning, the 6AM alarm just couldn't rouse this mama. I didn't even realize my husband had left for work this morning until I peeked at the clock (6:45AM) and realized that if I wanted a shower before both kids were up, I had better grab one immediately. Indeed that was a wise choice, for as I was rinsing the shampoo out of my hair I was greeted by my son's chorus, "Good morning!  Mama, where are you? Where's Dad? Did he leave for work already? Am I going to school today? Hello!"  And no sooner did I towel off than Little Sister started in on her sweet wake-up cooing, apparently unaware that she had caused us both to miss an hour of sleep.  Ah . . . the resiliance of kids!
Little sleep or a good helping of sleep - no matter the dose tonight, I'm resigning myself to a 6AM wake-up to start my Valentine's Day with a run. It is time for my eyelids to take a backseat to the rest of my neglected physique - and for me to take care of my HEART on this holiday of hearts - and even energizing me so I can enjoy a date with my husband at the end of the day!  There - I've talked myself into it.  Tomorrow I run.
And now . . . I have 7 more minutes to complete my tasks for the day so I can get to bed on time to put the plan into action.
Have a great Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Runners, Runners EVERYWHERE!

As a mom of two young kiddos it is easy to get caught up in our own little family world and forget about all of the amazing on-goings beyond our home's walls. Sometimes I feel that our lives consist of nothing more than eat, sleep, repeat. Yes, I'm squeezing in work here and there, and I'm getting back into the swing of nearly daily runs (our 7 year old treadmill bit the dust and we had an icy, cold spell during the interlude between treadmill death and the arrival of our new one - leaving me with a week or so without a run).  But I'm truly anticipating the return of Spring-like days when I can REALLY get into the groove with Little Sister in the jogger while Big Brother is at school. But, really, I need to stop with the excuses and lace up those shoes!!!  Anyway . . .
Work has led me to hours and hours of research about running-related things - magazines, races, running clubs, training programs, coaches, youth programs, clothing, blogs . . . you name it, I've read about it! As fun as it is to dream about a snazzy new wardrobe to accompany me on my dive back into the sport I love so much, and as helpful as it is to have plotted races on my calendar as goals to fuel my fitness aspirations, I've been most motivated by other runners' blogs. The list is nearly endless - and their burning passions for running and sharing their experiences are limitless!!! 
If you get a second, take a minute to see what I mean (I am not responsible for any content posted on their blogs, nor am I suggesting that this is a comprehensive list of all the blogs that exist in the running world - this is a mere sampling of what I have discovered in the last week that I think is an exceptional representation of some good running blogging . . . ). Here we go:
Sarah Nixon from Fit Girls shares her insight about marathon training and fundraising here:
Kristin Armstrong, a Contributing Editor at Runner's World, seems to read my mind with some of her postings here:
The Marathon Mama, Kristina Pinto, dishes out inspiration about running and motherhood at:
Non-runner Nancy, a runner in the making, shares her love of the sport and living with a positive attitude at:
Holly, from TX, shares her desires for finishing a marathon after successfully completing several half-marathons on her blog:
I could go on and on and on . . . but see what these gals have to share - and you'll likely find links to other great blogs and articles. Thanks for inspiring me, Ladies!  Oh - and I should mention - I haven't even MET these gals - but that doesn't keep them from sharing words of wisdom with me and the thousands of other readers who enjoy their postings. What an amazing world this is!

Saturday, February 9, 2008


We have a black lab mix named Albus. Yes, his first name comes from the Harry Potter series, but his middle name is Dumblepup because he was the rolly-poliest little ball of fluff when we got him right before Christmas 7 years ago and the name seemed fitting. Though he is clearly a dog and not a wizard, Albus does have magical qualities. He senses when someone is upset and will sit by them to offer comfort. He retrieves us when he hears the kids wake-up if we don't immediately respond. And he knows how to spell - evident by the dancing he does when we spell "dog park," "walk," "run," and "hike" - though he may also be tuned into our shoe choice for all of those outings. :)
Since he's black, he's hard to photograph. In this photo he is yawning as he cozies into the new bed he got from Santa. It is now his favorite place to relax and reduces the temptation to get on the couch!

I sometimes take Albus' powers for granted. But then the kids (or other events) alert me to his importance in our lives. For our daughter, all animals are "Albus". At the age of one, she is enthralled with him and spends big chunks of her day petting him, watching him explore our back yard, or looking for him if he's out of immediate sight. When we're not at home, she's on constant alert for an "Albus" which could be anything from a horse to a squirrel to the little spotted dog that escapes from her yard and wanders the neighborhood regularly. Though we talk about how our Albus is just one member of the larger group "dog" and that dogs are members of the larger kingdom "animalia", she just smiles and points, cheering "Albus!" at any ol' animal. She loves him and she is happy to see any other creature that might be as loving and sweet as her pal at home.

When my book was illustrated, Nick and I went back and forth for a long time to develop the composition that eventually became the cover. We kept sensing that something was missing and then someone (either my mom or I, I don't recall now) had the idea to include a dog (a black lab, of course) and suddenly it all came together. The magic of Albus - he solved WEEKS of composition turmoil with the wag of his tail.

Now that he is on the cover (and in a couple of illustrations IN the book!), he is generating quite the buzz with readers (okay, mostly family and friends, but a few new customers, too). Somehow Albus' presence on the cover escaped my son, but when he got to the other illustrations he was captivated. "That's Albus!" he shrieked in awe the day our first copies arrived. "There he is AGAIN!" He, of course, pointed out these important details when his teacher shared the book with his pre-school class. The kids all went home and told their parents that they got to read the book about my son's dog. What can you do? This dog IS pretty cool! Maybe when they buy copies of the book and read it a few times they'll realize that there is a BIT more to the book. But, if Albus is what gets them hooked, I'll go with it!

And Albus IS what hooked a buyer today. My mom was on a volkswalk with a friend and met a fellow volkswalker who is a sucker for books with dogs, especially labs. SO, though I'm sure as a woman interested in walking, health and friendship she will enjoy the content of the book, I am glad that Albus could catch her attention with his good looks (thanks to Nick's illustrating skills!) and get her to buy the book so she can eventually enjoy the text. :)

I think I'll repay Albus for his generosity and good spirit (not to mention help with sales!) with a few extra dog treats over the next few weeks. Sales commissions in the form of goodies are right up his ally. And of course, he'll stay balanced with his jaunts in the yard, runs (when the weather turns nice again) and trips to the d-o-g p-a-r-k (shhhhh . . . don't say that out loud!). The dog has magical qualities, but I don't think he can read - whew!

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Symphony!

Today my mom and I took the kids to the Seattle Symphony Tiny Tots program. We are happy season ticket holders to the series of concerts - well worth every penny! My son is Mr. Music - he's been a music makin' kid for as long as we can remember. Our house is FILLED with instruments - guitars, an ukulele, drums of every shape and size (ranging from a real conga and djembe to a Folgers's coffee can w/lid!), harmonicas, piano (upright and a First Act kid-sized grand) shakers, rhythm sticks, a glockenspiel . . . the list goes on. In fact, he's drumming right now on his bongos. Music fills our days.

I hold off on telling him that we have a concert because the anticipation of it drives him into an excited frenzy. I'm afraid if I tell him too far in advance that he'll be too worn out to enjoy the experience, or he won't sleep! Telling him this morning just a few hours before we left was the right amount of time. We talked about what the concert might include (we'd already seen shows with brass and percussion) and his hopes of there being a real conductor there (this kid is SO into music that he WAS a conductor himself for Halloween and actually has a Wagner "action figure" - complete with baton!).

He had the opportunity to hold and play a violin as we waited for the seating time. Little sister was THRILLED to play a xylophone, holding the mallets and grinning up at anyone that passed by. We stepped aside to let other kids explore the instruments and Mr. Music went right into his excited frenzy - hopping around, climbing and dangling off the benches, just being silly. Thankfully this was the right environment for such wiggles and there were other kids around with the same energy! This wait time was just what we needed.

Once the show got started, the wiggles ceased. Both kids' had their eyes glued on the stage, mesmerized by the performers and the string players. Kids throughout the auditorium were bouncing and dancing to the music, clapping their hands and giggling. My two were fixated, nearly motionless. Every so often I caught sight of a sly smile on my son's face or noticed him clapping to the beat or swaying ever so slightly. Little Sister got into the jumping portion of the concert during the "Winter" portion of the Vivaldi-themed show, but otherwise was content to snuggle into her Oma's lap and enjoy the experience while lounging.

The wiggles returned as we exited the concert hall and both kids were eager to inhale the snacks I had waiting for them in the car, but as soon as we got on the highway, all sounds of snacking and excitement over what we saw at the show came to a halt. They both fell asleep - mouths upturned in gentle, happy smiles, heads tilted to the side proving that gravity wins every time.

What a great show - a twin sister music educator duo leading the 30 minute show with the help of 3 professional musicians. They held the attention of several hundred audience members (most of whom were between the ages of a few weeks old - 5) the entire time and everyone left with smiles. We're looking forward to the next show in April!

Monday, February 4, 2008

My new look

I'm not a girly girl. I'm not really a tomboy, either. I've always sort of walked the line - I enjoy getting dressed up and twirling around in a skirt every now and then (lately just once or twice a year is as frequently as I have occasion to do so), but I'm most at home in a pair of worn jeans, a t-shirt and my face au natural. I enjoy going to the salon to get my hair done, but only visit Shawna for a cut three or four (at the MOST!) times a year. Today was the day for one of those treasured appointments and I was feeling spunky.

My last haircut was in early October. She did a nice, clean cut with some subtle layers that enabled me to grow my hair long with no fuss. This morning my hair was a few inches past my shoulder. Tonight the longest pieces tickle my chin. Big change!

The great thing about haircuts is that hair grows back, and as my husband says, "You're still the same person." But they're also great for feeling refreshed and rejuvinated. It certainly helped that my son squealed "You look NICE!" when I got home and spent his bathtime drenching his hair with water so it could be smooth and flat like mine. Even the little sister smiled and flapped her arms in approval! My husband likes the new look, though less vocal about it, his sparkling eyes and silent nod let me know that the change is a good one.

We'll see how it does when I run, but first impression is that it will be fine with a simple clip to pull back the front pieces out of my eyes. I think I'm going to like this fun, fresh new look. It is a great way to celebrate the launch of We Are Girls Who Love to Run . . . and it literally lightens the load on my shoulders - Shawna must have cut close to a pound of hair off my head!

When I step into my grown-up, working clothes, it will be fun to see my complete transformation - and I might even slip into those fun "girly" outfits more often, just for a twirl!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

First Running Shoes

Well, it is official - my daughter has a pair of running shoes!  Since she's been walking for a whole two months now, I figured it was time (I hope you are sensing the sarcasm here). They are toddler size 5, white with a splash of bluish-purple and pink accents - too cute. I havent even mentioned the best parts yet - they were on clearance and they are elastic, so they don't have to be tied!
There really was something magical about getting those shoes on her little feet. At first she just froze in confusion, only having experienced soft-soled shoes to this point. Then she tested them out, stomping around like Frankenstein. Within minutes she had them figured out and started zipping around, walking so fast that her movements could almost be considered a baby jog. Then we knew we were in trouble because she kept going and going and going. Really. This kid was on fire! She kept darting from one end of the house to the other, as if she was running basketball running drills!  And the cutest part was that she was smiling the whole time. A silly, content grin spread from one cheek to the other. My daughter loves to run.
At this point, her running is a game - running away from me as we play chase, running away from her big brother as he tries to clobber her with a hug, running to burry her face in our black lab's fur (they're best buds!), running to welcome her dad home from work at the end of the day. That is the way it should be - and should remain! Watching her 12 month old self learn how her body moves and reacts to her will is a fascinating experience. I could just sit and watch her all day long - and sometimes I do take some moments just to observe her self-discovery.
I can learn from my daughter and apply her joy and freedom to my own running. It reminds me of the old Friends episode where Phoebe and Rachel go running together in Central Park. Free-spirited Phoebe runs the way kids do when they're playing tag - body loose, hands waving in the air, darting from side to side. Self-conscious Rachel is initally embarrassed by Phoebe's running style and shies away. But THEN she realizes that Phoebe's way is much more fun and might even be more exercise than the controlled, polished performance run Rachel is used to doing.
While I don't think I can run far with my hands over my head (for fear that I'll end up doubled over in laughter and not get anywhere!), I can still draw positive energy from the idea and let my spirit wave its hands as I run. Just thinking of my daughter's little shoes and the delight in her eyes as she learned how to make them work helps me sit a bit taller and lets her joy lighten my step.
Tomorrow's run will be a good one. If you spot me, feel free to wave your arms with me!