Life is Sticky. Life is Sweet.

Life is Sticky. Life is Sweet.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

In Which Amy Laments Writer's Block

Writer's block sucks.

Okay, that's an oversimplification.

Writer's block blows.

See 2nd statement.

If I was more eloquent and verbose, I would throw around statements like:

Writer's block is abominable, odious and contemptible. (thank you,

I don't know how many of my massive amounts of readers know, but I write short stories. I always have. Mom says that she can't remember a time that I didn't have a pencil and paper in my hand. If I dig deep enough, I can probably find all my old journals, dating back to elementary school, when I would write pages about ponies and unicorns and princesses and ghosts and knights and so on ad naseum. Back then--even then, I should say--I was insanely dramatic, noting that all my stories were written by Amethyst Kathleen Vanessa Marie DiLonardo (I had about 3 more middle names, but I can't remember them now).

I never had a problem coming up with stories then. Of course, I stuck to what I "knew": princesses and unicorns. It was always some brave princess besting some stupid boy and talking to her unicorn (who could speak too, of course. had you any doubt?) about how stupid boys were and how she was so glad she didn't have to go to school. Look, elementary school was hard: I hadn't grown into my Italian nose yet and Billy Clay (yeah, I name-dropped him) started calling me Gonzo. Unfortunately, the name stuck. And, for that reason, my princess aways had a Irish, turned-up button nose.

When I hit high school, the stories got darker and more angsty. I was in the throes of teenagerhood, where everything is a trauma and life and death hung in the balance of whether Marc Sheehan (yeah, I name-dropped again) would say hi to me in the hallway or not. Princesses were replaced by teenage girls so confident, you'd think she'd never popped a zit during lunch period and watched in horror as it poured blood down her chin as the realization that "Oh, sweet bloody baby Jesus! I have 3 more periods to go!" meant that she had to walk around with a peice of toilet paper stuck to her chin to stop the flow.

But then sometime after high school (maybe in the Daria years)
, I stopped writing as much. Who knows why? I suddenly had a life, a boyfriend, and a bf who's idea of fun was driving into NYC for a hot dog from the vendor in front of the Met and then driving home again. Can you blame me for not writing?

I do have a few stories saved on my USB stick. I'll open one up every once and a while and write for hours and hours and hours until I'm exhausted or until my fingers cramp up whichever comes first. Then I won't touch the story again for months (no, seriously, months) because I've exhausted my idea store and everything's out of stock and on back-order.

That was fine when I was "doodling" along on my own, writing for myself and my own sense of humor. But then I was invited to Blog with a Friend (it sounds like a Jennifer Aniston rom-com, doesn't it?) and I was all for it.

"Woo-HOO!!" I thought. "Now I can show everyone how funny I am!"


Most of the time, I find myself staring at the empty blog post page, the stark white blankness of it and blinking cursor just fucking taunting me to write something simple but clever, acerbic but nice, and with depth and meaning. Have you read Cara's posts? Pearls of delightfully storytelling just rolls off her fingertips like . . . pearls (g-d you, writer's block!). And just share with you that I'm not alone in my thinking this, I share this anecdote:

Flinging myself over Mom's picnic table, I moaned, "Cara's posts are so much better than mine. Have you read her new one? About the taking her boys to the water park? I laughed my ass off. I don't even laugh my ass off over my own posts."

Looking up at Mom for some warm, Donna Reed-type encouragement, I was (not-so) shocked to see Mom making the face I like to call the "How the hell do I lie to my daughter about how brilliant of a blogger she is when I don't laugh at her posts nearly as much as I laugh at her friends'?" face. She couldn't even rearrange her features fast enough to cover it up. So I stared in anguish with a dawning understanding that Mom doesn't think I'm the funniest lady next to Tina Fey and she stammered out:

"Well, she's a teacher. She's used to producing more than you are. She's in a different mindset."

Knife, meet back.

(In my defense, I do know how to produce, in my own way. I wrote a 12 page paper on the three types of plague for my A&P class last semester in an hour. So there.)

Surprisingly enough, my next blog post after that conversation (
Damn Right it Was a Good Day) so sparse, limp and pathetic, I could almost call it impotent.

I figured to get some bloggy inspiration, I'd read some blogs written by people I either really like or who I think are really funny. I chose:

Motherhood Uncensored (as the title explains, it's one woman's more than candid examination of her life with a pilot husband and 3-going-on-4 kids)

The Raucous Royals (all about epically naughty royals and the cool shit they didn't teach us in history class)

Wil Wheaton in Exile (written by my first geek crush, Wil Wheaton, it's a daily study of his life as a husband, father, writer, gaming geek, and struggling/working actor)

Trying to Survive (my nearly-bff Sarah's blog on living in MOFN, PA with 3 kids and a near-husband)

So I read. And read. And read. Boy, did it make me depressed. I mean, they were all such good writers.

"C'mon, Aim," I said to myself last night around 2.30 am when I finally finished reading 4 years' worth of archived Wil Wheaton-penned blog entries. "Excluding Sarah, these are all published authors."

And, as a person who's been writing since she could hold a pencil and form complete sentences, that just bummed me out even more.

ps: And just to prove I'm suffering a case of EPIC WRITER'S BLOCK, I walked away from this post to rinse dishes and load Washie for 45 minutes and think of what the hell I was going to write next.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Guilt Free

After dropping the kids at summer camp, I spent most of Tuesday morning at the dealership where we purchased our car. There was a recall issue which needed to be taken care of. And additionally, our 'smart key' had stopped working.

A few weeks ago, it became a little temperamental. Locking, unlocking, opening and closing whenever it felt like it. With two kids in tow, in crowded parking lots, this was a problem.

The huz suspiciously asked if I had been slipping the key in my sports bra during my runs-- implying that this was my fault.

"No", I answered innocently. But we probably both knew that I was lying.

Because I am alone when working out or racing, all of my possessions are locked in the van and the key is usually stuffed into my sports bra for safe keeping. Unfortunately, swimming in boob sweat isn't exactly the the definition of safe keeping. Bill had informed me that replacement of the key was probably not covered under the warranty and that it would cost something like $200 to replace.

So I was sitting in the waiting room at the car dealership. Drinking bad coffee, flipping through Golfers Digest and realizing that Nick Jr. has a way better morning lineup than ABC. I was preparing to shoulder the responsibility for this screw up. For this two hundred dollar screw up. I should have tied it to my shoes or in the drawstring of my shorts or stored it in some fancy running fanny pack. But now it was too late.

All I could do was try to think of a similar screw up by the huz. To ease my guilt. To make things feel a little more even. I was sure that there was something. He had to have broken something expensive around here. But what? Think, think, think....

Unfortunately, all I could think of was the time he had volunteered to go ahead early and hold our place at the town's Memorial Day Parade. Working with whatever was in the van, he used my yoga mat. He laid my yoga mat down on the dirty sidewalk and the kids trampled it for two hours. Yes, that showed some poor judgement. And yes, that was pretty annoying. But ultimately, nothing was destroyed.

Nice baseball chair.

Then there was the pumpkin carving incident of 2008. But again, nothing destroyed-- just a little scarring. Fear of closed spaces, fear of pumpkins, Halloween, that sort of thing.
This was a bad, bad idea.

There was also the time I sent him to get Will a haircut before our vacation. After explicitly explaining the 'short on the sides, longer on the top' summer cut I had wanted, my baby came home with a super short crew cut. Poor judgement? Check. Pretty annoying? Check. But again, nothing destroyed.

Bald, but still cute.

Ultimately, the service manager put my guilt to rest. He rescued me from the waiting room with the service slip which indicated that no money was owed. The official word was that the key 'had a short in it' and it was covered under the warranty. So we got a brand new spanking new one.

Soon I'll be heading to a running store to get me one of those fancy running belts. In the meantime, I've been stuffing this bad boy in my bra.


It's the master key that pulls out of the valet key. In two words: sharp and unpleasant. In two other words: guilt free.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Damn Right it Was a Good Day

Today could be a really, really bad day. For many reasons.

No money, honey.

Too hot to function.

Midterms (Little known exam fact: Flop sweat stains ditto paper).

Instead, it's turning out to be a good day. For one reason.

Lizzie, showing off her dance moves.

I just wanted to mark that fact.

As you were.

Monday, July 26, 2010


We live next door to a nice couple. They are around our age and in a similar stage of their lives. We are friendly neighbors, but not exactly friends. We wave and make small conversations when doing yard work or bringing in the garbage cans. When I hear a car door slam, I curiously look out the window to see what they're up to. I imagine that they do the same.

Five years ago, we were married young couples about to have our first babies. The curb outside of our homes was lined with crushed cardboard boxes that once held cribs and strollers and car seats. Our cars would come and go, as we were often out to dinner or the movies-- taking the advice of our friends and soaking up our last days of freedom.

After what seems like the shortest summer ever, we each brought home our baby boys.

In the months that followed, you could easily tell which room was the nursery in both of our houses by the soft glow of light that seemed to emanate, off and on, all night long. Instead of dinners out, there was a lot of take-out and delivery. Instead of the movie theater, there was television on the couch. On the chance meetings that we’d have upon arriving or leaving our homes, we’d commiserate about the challenges of raising a newborn. The sleep deprivation, the breastfeeding, the diapers, the laundry, the change in our lifestyles.

Two and a half years later, Bill and I were expecting our second baby. “Wow...”, our neighbors said, looking surprised. They were fine with one baby. Relieved that the ‘baby stage’ was over. Happy to have more independence. Confident that they could give their only son plenty of attention. Certain that, with one child, they would always have enough time and money and energy.

It sounded reasonable and I didn’t judge them. I was happy to be adding to our family and giving Will a sibling.

In August of 2008, we brought home our second baby and I was lucky enough to be able to afford an entire year of maternity leave.

Some days were easier than others, but overall I had my hands full. My three-year-old wanted to do elaborate art projects and build Lego models and play hide and seek. My infant wanted to eat and nap for 20 minutes and eat and nap for 20 minutes… and be held constantly. Add to this the ever-present piles of laundry and dishes and scattered piles of toys. Then toss in the fact that I was existing on 3 – 4 solid hours of sleep each night. Liam cried a lot. Will was frustrated with the things we couldn’t do. The house was falling apart. I was exhausted and fat and feeling incompetent.

In the beginning, I remember peering over at my neighbor’s house. In the late evening and early morning hours, the house was completely dark as everyone was getting a full nights sleep. She’d be gardening or sunbathing and her son would be busy playing. Sometimes she’d chase him or they’d be doing some kind of activity together. I’d see them coming and going—with restaurant leftovers or bags from various stores. In particular, she seemed so well-rested and put-together and content.

Over time, the three of us (Liam, Will and I) found a rhythm. Liam started napping more and crying less. Will learned to be a little more independent and patient. I perfected the art of multi-tasking and got used to living with the minor imperfections of a sink full of dishes or an overflowing garbage can. I discovered ways to spend time with each child, complete a little housework and even (on some days) get a shower.

Here we are two years later. It’s a little before 8 am on a Monday and the kids have already been up for almost two hours. At this moment, there is folded laundry on my dining room table and the breakfast dishes are sitting on the countertop. I’ve microwaved my mug of coffee no less than three times and I’m unshowered, wearing yoga pants and an old t-shirt. There are toys everywhere and I’ve already refereed at least twelve disagreements over who gets what chair and what cup and what television show and what action figure. Our plans for today include going absolutely nowhere—art projects on the deck, a swim in the pool and a carpet picnic for lunch.

Here we are two years later and I still have my hands full— but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

August, 2008


Thursday, July 22, 2010


For the last few years, we've purchased season passes to a local water park. Throughout the summer, we've been going for an hour or two before closing, when Bill gets home from work.

During the day, when I'm on my own (translation: outnumbered), we tend to stick closer to home. Small playgrounds, the backyard, playdates, little outings. Situations that are fairly predictable and laid-back.

On Wednesday, however, I decided to mix it up a little and take my kids to said water park solo.

I announced my plans to Bill on Wednesday morning, as he was leaving for work, and asked him where the passes were. He had left them on the counter or in the cabinet or in his bathing suit pocket or in the van or the diaper bag or... You see where this is going, right? It took a little over an hour to find the passes (which were in none of the aforementioned places) and to pack lunch, bathing suits, swim diapers, towels, sunscreen and about a thousand other necessities that need to be gathered and carried in order to sustain two small children in a water park for two hours.

Not to be outdone, the boys were equally as busy.

Busy, busy, busy.

Maybe they were looking for the passes too.
No, probably not.

We cleaned up together (Me: 90%, Them: 10%. No. Scratch that. Me: 110%, Them: -10%) and I got them dressed and fed and slathered in sunscreen. Then I wrestled them into their water shoes and put them where they could do no more harm.

It's the old 'belt your kids in the car with movie and AC while you
lug the double stroller and multiple baggage into the van' trick.

We arrived at the park shortly after and I turned to see...

What?! Dumping toys all over the house is hard work.

Unfortunately, Liam is not a happy camper when woken up from a nap. That detail, combined with the fact that the walk through the parking lot and into the park seemed like seventy freaking miles across the sun, had him whining and crying the entire way. This, however, did not sway the security guards from inspecting very cubic inch of our belongings. (No worries though. Our stroller has many secret compartments for Goldfish, fruit snacks and water. Bwahahaha.)

I must admit though, things did improve once we got settled inside the park.

I gave the kids my 'remember what happened to Nemo speech'-- reminding them to stay close and listen. And then we sang the classic 'Stay. Stay. Stay by your Mom' song-- sung to the tune of the Yo Gabba Gabba classic, "Don't Bite Your Friends". Keeping my eyes on both of them is usually my biggest worry.

The kids were pretty well behaved with the exception of the 3,985 splashes Liam took to the face at the hands of his big brother. I wish that I had taken some pics, but having two arms and two kids in a huge crowd makes the camera work a little complicated. (Also, the lockers cost like a bajillion dollars and so I wasn't bringing my phone or camera into the park.)

The hardest part was probably all of the work entailed with getting out of the house and then getting back in. Handling the logistics of packing and then unpacking on top of supervising the kids is not an easy task. But all in all, it was a good experience. One that I will definitely try again with some minor readjustments... Like setting things out the night before, having Bill load the double stroller before work and getting there a little earlier for better parking.

Also, mentally preparing myself for running into my high school students while in a (gasp) bathing suit. As if that's even possible.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Enter the Awesomeness of the Summer Wedding

Before starting a family, Bill and I used to spend our summers playing tennis, watching movies, reading books and eating out. We were all about soaking up as much relaxation, and air conditioning, as possible.

In the last few years, our summers have changed pretty dramatically. Our laid-back summer vacation has been replaced by a routine that includes, but is not limited to: theme parks, boardwalks, water parks, playgrounds, county fairs, beaches, animated movies, pools, and lots of ice cream shops. While Bill is at work, I'll take the kids solo. When he's home, we go as a family. And while all of these events are packed with 'family fun', they are mainly geared towards providing our kids with some great and memorable summer experiences. Unfortunately, such an action-packed summer often leaves us exhausted and passed out on the couch no more than twenty minutes after the kids have gone to bed.

Enter the awesomeness of the summer wedding.

The summer wedding is awesome on so many levels. Let me explain. One: it is generally an 'adults only' affair. Which leads to two: five hours of a blissfully open bar. Which leads to three: a hotel room. Which leads to four: an overnight babysitter for the kids.

Now these, of course, are just the obvious advantages. In addition, we have some related awesomeness: a new dress and shoes, slow dancing with the huz, good food (and lots of it), adult conversation and downtime, and really, really, really good sex.

As much as I love changing a fantastic poop diaper or cleaning ravioli out of a onesie, it's nice to get a little break. And as much as I like being bumped awake from a really sound sleep by someone asking me if I'm 'in the mood', it's nice to do things a little more consciously (if you don't count the four Long Island Iced Teas) and romantically.

This past weekend, The Gods smiled upon us and the week of our eight year anniversary coincided with a family wedding in the northern part of the state. I'm tremendously pleased to say we enjoyed all of the advantages described above.

Empire waist and leopard print high heels
as per Stacy and Clinton.

I'm also pleased to say that another one of Bill's cousins is getting married next summer. And because Bill seems to have something like a hundred cousins, we could actually keep this up for a while.

Friday, July 16, 2010


If you had been in Point Pleasant on Thursday evening, we might have run into each other. If you had been searching for a spot in the municipal parking lot, across from the ride park, then it might have been your lucky day.

At a little after six, I rolled up to another minivan and motioned for the driver to roll down the window. He was a dad with a car full of kids. I said, "Hey, I already paid for six hours of parking and I've got to leave. Want my ticket?"

He looked confused. I don't think he really understood the awesome gift that I was offering him. Thirteen dollars worth of awesomeness. He also might have been taken aback by the screams, kicks and wails resonating from the back seat. I smiled, thrust the ticket at him, and kept driving.

This was a first. A milestone. And honesty, I had seen it coming.

A couple weeks ago, my sweet, polite, well-behaved almost-five-year-old began a downward spiral. "Please" and "Thank you" were replaced by "I want it!" and "NOW!". He was yelling and hitting and grabbing. Standing on the furniture, eating like an animal, lying about brushing his teeth and peeing with the seat down. Attempts at reasoning with him fell on deaf ears and he could most likely be found in time out.

As a matter of fact, he mastered the 'time out' maneuver.

He would be engaged in some unlawful activity-- like strangling his little brother or knocking over furniture. A parent would announce a time out and he would silently go to his little chair. No arguing, no crying. He would sit there quietly, waiting to be released. When time was up, he'd be back at it in a matter of minutes. Throwing toys at his little brother or purposely destroying something.

So we elevated to the 'go to bed early' maneuver.

This seemed a little more effective because he hated it so much more. He would head up to his room, crying and pleading for more chances. Promising to 'not be crazy anymore'. But we stayed the course and told each other it was for the best. That this was going to make a difference.

But the next morning, within 10 minutes of waking up, he was chasing poor Liam around the house. Growling and clawing like a wild animal as his little brother fled in terror-- screaming and crying, tripping over his own feet and wailing. All to his big brother's delight.

So, the other night, we elevated to 'go directly to home, do not see fireworks, do not collect any cotton candy'. In other words, we abandoned our plans for rides, games and fireworks because Will simply would not listen. He was torturing his brother, running around, yelling and fighting with some of the other kids we were with. It was unbelievable, really.

Surely, this would make an indelible impression. He would remember this next time.

So here we are. Tonight. At Great Adventure. On the Carousel.

Ahhh... this is more like it. A nice family outing.

But wait. What's this?
Caught in the act! Attacking his little brother.

My poor husband is going to lose it. Really.

So we're staying the course and waiting out what is hopefully a short phase. We're trying to be patient and firm without flipping out. We are drinking heavily. We are hanging in there.

And if all else fails, I believe that an exorcism may be in order.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

You're Never Too Old for Cartoons

I know all of you Peanut Butter & Jelly fans have been enjoying Cara's posts over the past few days, but there's been a nagging little voice in the back of your head, saying, "Hey, where's Amy? Gosh, I miss her gut-busting posts!" So, here's another gut-buster for you.

In the late 90s (circa 1997), I was 20, had been out of high school for two years, and was--for lack of a better term--more than a little directionless. I was messing around at OCC (aka Hooper High or Brick High School Jr.) and barely working at K-Mart. My days were taken up with sleeping as late as possible and scurrying out of the house before Dad came home from work for lunch (some days, I barely made it around the block, going in the opposite direction that Dad came, watching fearfully as Dad's black Toyota approached our driveway in my rear view mirror). Due to my lackadaisical attitude, tensions ran high in the house: Dad would rant about how I wasn't living up to my potential (STILL!!) and Mom would wring her hands and try to appeal to me to "do something."

One day, after sitting mutely through one of Dad's lunchtime talks (I had overslept and didn't make it to my friend's house in time), I was moping around the house, putting any food I could find into my face and wishing that everyone would just leave me alone. I didn't have class and my shift at the Big Red K didn't start for hours, so I turned on the TV. Now, MTV and I have never been friends, but today I paused just long enough to see this face looking back at me:

I don't care what anyone says. She looks like me as a cartoon.

Holy crap. That looks like me, I thought gleefully.

(Look, a plain, brunette with round black-framed glasses doesn't come along on TV all that much. I'll take a cartoon character.)

Yes, I had discovered Daria. She was sarcastic, had one friend, couldn't wait to get out of high school where everyone was popular/stupid/exactly the same and her family was . . . well, let's just say they were less than perfect. I had found my role model.

Pathetic? Absolutely. What 20-year-old wants to admit that her role model was a cartoon spin-off from Beavis and Butthead? But Daria was hysterical. It skewered high school and portrayed it like I remembered it. Daria's younger sister Quinn was so my sister Beth (in my eyes) that I had a hard time not snickering when Beth would talk, hearing Quinn's voice instead. Mom and Dad were hardly like Daria's parents, but the overly Type A personality mom on the show made me feel better about Dad and his inspirational little "chats" with me about my future.

As time went on, I grew up a little and my enthusiasm for Daria didn't wan. But I got a regular 9 to 5 job and started missing episodes. I met Erick in '98 and began spending all my extra time at his house. I tried to catch episodes during my weekend visits to South Jersey, but Erick didn't like Daria and we were usually so--uh--busy that we didn't watch a lot of TV anyway. And, once Erick and I got married in '99, I didn't even know if Daria was on anymore.

Skip ahead, skip ahead, skip ahead . . .

It's the middle of the night and I'm wide awake. I'm supposed to be doing my homework, but instead I'm watching TV (it's called a "break," Dad & Erick!). In fact, I was watching reruns of That 70s Show on TeenNick (nothing makes you feel older than contemporary shows as reruns. Realizing The Wonder Years was going to be on Nick at Nite after The Andy Griffin Show made me want to buy Geritol and denture cream, but that's another post. lol) Suddenly I saw this face looking back at me:

Yup, she still looks like me.

DARIA!!! She was back!!! Suddenly the fact I had missed the last three seasons of the original run didn't even matter. I was over-the-moon excited. My late teens-early 20s role model was back, better than ever. I was on Amazon faster than white on rice, only to discover that I'd probably have to ask Santa for Daria for Christmas.

In fact, I started my not-so-subtle campaign for the Daria DVDs the next night. Sitting on the couch with Erick, I turned to him and said, "Daria is coming out on DVD. Can you get it for me for Christmas?" I still can't believe he agreed. But that's what marriage is about, humouring your mate and buying them DVDs of cartoons they watched when they were a slacking, 20ish stoner with no motivation.

PS: I'm hoping that Erick knows I'm totally serious about the DVDs. I don't even care if they're my only gift. Daria rules!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Belmar Five Mile Recap

I ran the Belmar Five yesterday morning.

It was my second five-mile race and I'm still like, "Holy crap, I ran five freaking miles!"

I picked up my bib and swag on Thursday night,
but here's a recap of the race day.

5ish am
Liam is up. Crying. Since I've got the race, it's Bill's morning. He works his dada magic and baby is sleeping again.

6ish am
But not for long. Bill resigns himself to heading downstairs with him.

6:50 am
Will throws my bedroom door open. Pounces on my bed holding ginormous piggy bank. Asking if he can take out some money. At some point, and I'm assuming on accident, the bank lands on my head.

7:00 am
My alarm goes off.

7:10 am
I'm dressed. Discover that all of my favorite running socks are in the laundry. Root through hamper, looking for said, dirty socks. Found, but gross. Go with clean pair of socks that don't fit as well.

7:15 am
Race day breakfast consisting of cold cinnamon raisin mini bagel, half of a banana, and some water. Hang with huz and kids for a bit before heading out.

7:30 am
Discover uncharged iPod in glove compartment. Hook it up and hope there's enough time to juice it up. Search through storage compartment for candy. Success in the form of one piece of Banana Laffy Taffy.

7:45 am
Arrive in Belmar. Realize that there is no parking available anywhere near the race. Start backtracking towards Route 35.

8:00 am
Find parking. Nervous about getting to starting line for 8:30 start. Pin number, drink water, grab iPod (half-charge) and go.

8:01 am
Cue pouring rain as I walk twelve blocks to the race. Lots of other runners in the same situation-- getting soaked, jumping puddles, shielding their iPods.

8:20 am
Arrive at the start. Still raining. People standing around are soaked and looking miserable. Considering the value of those expensive running clothes that dry in like five minutes. Also considering going back to my car, buying a newspaper and heading somewhere for a coffee and a hot breakfast. Ultimately decide to stick it out.

8:25 am
Rain slows to a stop. Sun starts to break. Cue nasty humidity and sauna-like conditions. I am completely soaked-- clothes and sneakers drenched, hair dripping. Opposite of awesome.

8:30 am
The race starts. Very crowded-- 2,200 racers. Takes a while to actually get to the official line. Walking/jogging quite a bit throughout the first mile due to the traffic of people.

8:41 am
First mile marker. Annoyed with my 11-minute (clock-time) mile, considering my usual pace for the first mile is about 9 minutes. The thickness of the crowd starts to dissipate and I'm hoping to make up some time. The leaders of the race, who've finished the loop ahead, run by our pack of runners on the opposite side of the road. We all cheer and laugh as they are approaching their third mile.

8:51-ish am
Second mile marker. Crowd not too much of an issue anymore. Feeling good. Lots of cheers and support from people lined up along the sidewalks. Impressive sight as I approach the loop at Silver Lake Lake Como, runners wound around the entire perimeter.

9:01-ish am
Third mile marker as we double past Ocean Avenue again. My wet sneakers and wet, ill-fitting socks are biting me in the ass as I can begin to feel the blisters on the insteps of my feet forming. Feet hurt.

9:12-ish am
Fourth mile marker. Breathing good. Legs good. Feet screaming as I'm pretty sure these blisters are killing me. Tired, but sure that I'll run it out. Some generous Belmar residents have set up 14-foot ladders with hoses, creating optional showers for the runners to run under. Being hot, sweaty and already soaked, I say, "Why not?"

9:22-ish am
Big finish. Lots of spectators cheering along the last 1/4 mile. People handing out medals and flowers to all finishers. Man says, "Water to the right, showers to the left". Belmar Fire Co has set a fire hose and sprinkler in the middle of Ocean Ave for all finishers. Being hot, sweaty and already soaked, I say, again, "Why not?"

9:25-ish am
Grab my complimentary bottle of water, slice of watermelon and orange wedges. Start heading to the car. Realizing that I'm not exactly sure where I parked the car and that I really need a bathroom.

9:40-ish am
Found car thanks to some landmarks. Take a couple poor attempts at self-portrait using cell phone. Slightly embarrassed as people drive by. Settle on a decent photo and delete the rest.

10-ish am
Arrive home to empty (woo-hoo!) house. RUN to bathroom. Get first look at blister damage. Ewww on both of my feet which are pruny and shriveled from being wet for the last two hours. Peel off second skin of soaked clothes. Take cold shower. Take hot shower. Dress and head downstairs as huz and kids are returning. Will asking his usual question, "Did you win!?" Me answering with my usual response, "No, but I did my best and had fun." Will countering with his usual sigh and 4-year-old attempt at an eye-roll.

Final Stats:
Clock Time 51:17.44
Chip Time 50:21.98 (Actual time)
Overall 1418 out of 2182
Gender 487 out of 962
Age 77 out of 134

Friday, July 9, 2010

Adventures in Weed Whacking

As some of you may know, after three years of paying someone to mow our lawn, I have been promoted to resident landscaper this summer. Immediately following my initial foray into landscaping, three things became apparent. First, the joy of taking care of your own property is highly overrated. Second, anything requiring a pull-start is bound to be a major pain in the ass. And third, we would need some additional tools.

Although my first attempt at lawn mowing was mostly a success, there were plenty of tall blades of grass remaining. They were along the fence, beside the legs of the swingset, bordering the flower bed, sprouting along our sad retaining wall. They were torturous-- making all my hard work seem shotty and careless.

And then my husband, in his infinite wisdom and generosity, offered to spring for a weed whacker.

So we went to the store, bought a weed whacker and loaded it into the van.

And then a funny thing happened.

It didn't rain. For like three weeks. And the lawn turned brown. And nothing needed cutting... or whacking. And the huz and I congratulated ourselves on the fact that we hadn't signed a contract with a landscaper this summer. A landscaper who would come, mow basically nothing, and send us a bill.

So the weed whacker sat for weeks, untouched, in the back seat of the van. That is, until Will got the brilliant idea to ride it like a horse every time he got into the vehicle. Soon I grew tired of yelling, "Get off the weed whacker!"-- and then explaining and answering weed whacker questions for like fifteen minutes. So it was time to take it out for a spin on my big, beautiful, brown lawn.

So I got up one morning and chased my kids around the house with toothbrushes, sunscreen, sandals and vitamins. I loaded them into their red wagon, pulled them to camp and headed home to whack.

First I would need the appropriate attire... headband, old t-shirt, old sneakers, husband's old shorts from back in his tennis coaching days. In other words, screaming sexy.

Then I grabbed the new gas container that we had purchased for the gasoline-oil mix.

I was ready to get to work.

But not before doing this for way more time than I care to admit.

And then I was ready to get to work.

But I realized-- after searching through seven jackets, two diaper bags, three purses and almost every possible drawer, that there was absolutely no cash in the house. So instead of buying the gas at the local gas station that is walking distance to our house, I jumped in the car and headed to Wawa to get gas for both the lawn mower and weed whacker.

I pretended like I had done this a million times before-- ordering a couple gallons for each container and standing awkwardly beside the pump. At ninish in the morning, I was surrounded by loads of blue collar hotties in their trucks and vans-- regretting my choice of outfit a little. And when the attendant spilled the gasoline and proceeded to wash it away with wiper fluid, I was like, "Seriously?" And then I drove home, with the AC on full blast and the windows down, gagging on the fumes.

Upon arriving home, I set everything up in the driveway.
Then, right on cue, it started raining.
So I moved everything to the porch.

(And then, of course, it stopped raining.)

I read step one. Like ten times. And I stared at the pieces. And again, I was like, "Seriously?"

So I knew that I had to get down to business. I tossed my cell phone aside and dove into the 24-step "Quick Start" instruction sheet. I installed the shield backwards, then reinstalled it correctly. I installed the handle backwards, then reinstalled it correctly. I pretty much installed everything twice. And then, once everything was put together, I was honestly a little afraid to start it up-- terrified that incorrectly assembled pieces were going to fly up and whack me in the face.

See how you're supposed to crouch over it (scary!) and pull the starter rope 5 times (annoying!)?

I pulled that rope at least thirty times (really annoying!). I am not even kidding. Freaking pull-starts.

But it did eventually start. Having never whacked weeds before, I couldn't believe how loud and awkward this thing was. Pulling the grass out by hand was starting to seem like an easier option.

But I walked around the yard and gave it a try. I kind of learned as I went-- discovering that some kind of eye wear might be a good idea and figuring out just how close you can come to the flower bed before actually beheading the flowers. Also learning that weed whacking the wooden deck will send shards of wood splinters flying into the air.

Before I knew it, the string at the bottom of the weed whacker (which actually spins and cuts the weeds), had almost disappeared. I took this as a sign that I should call it a day and maybe read the complete 50-page manual that came in the box.

And that was my kids-are-at-camp-adventure for the week. Exciting, right? Stay tuned for next week, when I pull the weeds from the cracks in my driveway, sweep the front sidewalk and attempt to vacuum our pop-up pool. Seriously.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pacing Ourselves

On Tuesday, we celebrated Bill's birthday and we ushered in the busy, party-filled four weeks that lie ahead.

All three of these guys have summer birthdays. We normally celebrate, as a foursome, on the actual day and then we throw a bigger family party on a different date. Add in the fact that Will is old enough for his very own 'kid party' and we've got a pretty big to-do list.

For Tuesday, we (Will, Liam and I) shopped, wrapped, decorated and cooked. We baked up some brownies for Bill to bring to work and we made his favorites (here and here) for dinner. Gifts included some clothes, a premium box of Topps baseball cards and a Wii, which was really more of a family gift. The traditional cake, that Bill requests every year, was a Carvel ice cream cake.

Mmmmm... brownies.

Joint effort.

It was a great night and we're gearing up for a bigger family party next week. Cue the additional cooking, decorating, cleaning, running around, etc...

Oh and speaking of running, ahem...

Tonight we headed to a park for a local running club's race meet-up. Will ran in a couple short races as well as the half-mile, while I ran the 5K.

The kids races were attended by kids of all ages, Will being among the youngest. He did really well in the shorter races.

"The 100-yard Charge"

And then we lined up for the half-mile... letting the kids run in front, while the parents ran behind.
Smallest guy out there.

He took off strong and fast, but about 1/4 of the way through he was struggling. He was red-faced and sweaty and the entire pack had passed us by. He slowed to a walk and started to cry.

He didn't want to be last. He was tired. He couldn't run anymore.

He wanted to turn around and go back. He wanted to quit.

The distance between us and the runners ahead was growing larger and larger.

There was a part of me that wanted to scoop him up and tell him that he had done great. That he had done enough. That it was too hot. That it was too far. That it was okay to stop.

But I jogged alongside him, encouraging him to keep going. Telling him that he could do it. That it was okay to walk, as long as he finished. That it was okay to be last, as long as he didn't quit. That he could do it. (Also, and this is key, that there were ice pops at the finish line.)

It sounds easy, but it's one of the hardest things I've had to do as a parent.

He gathered some energy for short bursts of running with lots more walking and more tears in between. I think it was a total of ten minutes, but it felt like forever.

Once the finish line was in view, things improved significantly. There was an elderly gentleman, who volunteers with the club, positioned at the final turn. He was cheering for Will wildly. Telling him he was doing great. Telling him he was going fast. Telling him to keep going. Telling him he could do it. I love this man. Seriously.

Will was exhausted and broken down. But he pushed and kept going. His face was streaked with sweat and tears, but I could see the corners of his mouth turn upward. He was sort-of-smiling.

Soon, we could hear the voices of Bill and friends and other kind spectators cheering us in. With every step, he held himself a little taller and broadened his stride.

And we finished. And he was smiling.

This is his 'trying NOT to smile eventhough he's wildly proud of himself' face.
He was smiling... notsomuch in this photo and it's the only one I got.
You'll have to take my word for it.

I know that I did the right thing in pushing him to finish. When it was all over, we praised him and told him how proud we were. Telling him how finishing was the most important thing and that there's more to a race than just winning.

And then, to really drive the point home, I came in 65th out of 80 or so in my 5K race a little while later.

But not to worry, that half-mile and 5K course haven't seen the last of us.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Some Small Summer Victories

One week into vacation and the summer solstice is already working its magic. Maybe it's the beautiful weather or maybe it's the extra long days. Maybe it's the fact that I've got an additional forty hours to my life each week or that my kids can hang out in their pjs past 6:30 am. Who knows? Maybe it's a combination of all of these things. Whatever the reason, we're marking the beginning of the summer with some wins.

Win #1: First, and most importantly, Liam is finally napping. When I went back to work last fall, Liam stopped napping all of a sudden. He would nap well at daycare, but we couldn't get him down on the weekends. After 30-45 minutes of settling him in, he would only sleep independently for about a half-hour. We would have let him 'cry it out' a little, but Will was usually sleeping next door. After contemplating spiking his milk with Ambien, we eventually fell into the habit of letting him nap with Bill or I on the couch. (Big mistake. Huge.)

Getting him on a napping schedule was at the top of my summer list of priorities. Beginning last week, we filled each morning with lots of activity-- playgrounds, farm, beach, pool, trampoline... anything to keep him moving. And each day, by noon, he was practically falling asleep in his lunch.

Win #2: I mowed the lawn. Since Bill is working full-time this summer and the kids are in camp for two mornings, I volunteered to take over our landscaping. I've been mowing, mulching, planting and pruning. It's hard but rewarding work and it was fun for all of like five minutes. Surprisingly, I've finally found a reason to be grateful that we're situated on a tiny tenth of an acre. I'm also thankful that the only things in my life that require a 'pull-start' are lawnmowers and powerwashers. I can think of only only few things in life more frustrating than trying to get one of these things started in the 98 degree heat.
I'm also kind of in love with this drawing that Will made for me.

Win #3: I ran my first five-mile race-- The Firecracker Five, on July 4th. (Note: a 5k = about 3 miles) If you've been reading my posts, you can probably tell that I'm just completely addicted to this running thing. A little over a year ago, I couldn't run for two minutes. TWO! And on Sunday, I ran for fifty. FIVE-O! I've been practicing the five mile run, on and off, since April. On some days, I've run the whole thing strong and on others I'm walking before I get to the fourth mile. I was pretty nervous about this race because there is nothing more disheartening than walking along a race course.

Bill got up with the kids on the morning of the race and I laid in bed trying to decide whether or not to give it a try. I decided, at the very last possible minute, to do it. I threw on my gear, pulled back my hair, brushed my teeth and grabbed a bagel on my way out. It wasn't until the end of the first mile (9 minutes), that I came to the realization that I hadn't drank an ounce of water. It should be noted that it was about 85 degrees and the course was entirely in the sun.

My usual race strategy is to run straight through the course-- skipping the water stops and sprinklers that well-meaning residents point into the streets. However for this run, since I was going for a good finish and not necessarily a good finish time, I changed things up considerably. I stopped at every water break, taking a few sips and walking for about 30 seconds. I ran through the sprinkler stations, which were set up by the local fire department, midway between the water stops. I basically just took it easy and tried to enjoy it. And I did. I actually felt better at this finish line than I have in my last few 5k's. In fact, I was feeling so crazy good, that I ambushed some runners in the parking lot-- blabbering that, "I just finished my first 5-mile race... and can you please take my picture... and here's my sweaty cell phone..."

So here's to long naps. Here's to grass that manages to stay green through this godawful drought. And here's to a few more five-mile runs. While it's said that "good things come in threes", I'm hoping for many more small summer victories.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

I've been running 5k races for one year now.

The Pine Beach 5k was my first race last year and I ran it again this year on Sunday.

I've been saving all of my numbers. I probably have at least twenty or so. These are just the ones that were tacked to the back of the basement door in my kitchen. There are some in the glove compartment, in my nightstand, in pockets of various backpacks. I've been planning to display them on some cool clothesline across our home office-- but that's just another low-priority item on my lengthy to-do list.

Here's a shot from last year's race-- my first one. Finished with a time of 33:19.

And here's a shot from this year's race-- exactly one year later. Finished in 29:34.

Let's do the math, shall we? Four from nine, borrow from the three... there's a three minute, forty-five second differential. Not to mention the 12-inch difference in the length of my shorts. A little confidence can go a long way and a lot can happen in one year. Just think what my progress would have been if I hadn't spent December through February on my couch eating chocolate.

Speaking of one year differences, here is a pic of Will from last summer. He was excited to be husking corn for the first time and he just couldn't wait to help out. Notice how seriously he is taking the job...
And here he is, last year, having his idea of a good time-- being silly and willingly mugging for his momma behind the camera.
Fast forward to tonight, one year later. He wasn't nearly as excited, but I convinced forced him to help out.
And here he is 30 seconds later... or not.
Apparently, husking corn is "not fun". It was just me and Pikachu, who quite honestly wasn't too much help. (I mean, really, he just layed there on his face the whole time.)
Instead, Will was more excited to be practicing his hockey moves...
And here he is, this year, having his idea of a good time-- being annoying and trying to decapitate his little brother.

What a difference a year makes.