a golden birthday

Today my baby girl – the oldest of my three children – is 7 YEARS OLD.

And I can’t believe it.

She is more wonderful than words can describe.  So beautiful and sweet and smart and caring and creative.  Seeing her smile, hearing her sing, watching her light up — just brings immeasurable joy into my heart.

The day Abby was born changed my life forever.  In the most magnificent ways.  I remember holding her for the first time.  I will never forget it.  My baby girl … she just fit into my arms so perfectly.  She was just so meant to be.  She just mattered SO VERY MUCH from the second she came into my life.

She simply took my breath away.  I could never have imagined a life so beautiful.  The world changed in every single possible way from that very moment.  And it just keeps getting better.

new

She was the cutest little baby.  Full of smiles and curiosity.  And the best company – chatty and silly and fun.

Right around her 2nd birthday I had read an article in a parenting magazine that talked about fun ways to celebrate your kids birthdays.  One idea I absolutely LOVED – in the night while your child is sleeping, FILL her room with balloons.  When she wakes in the morning the magic will begin.  There was no question that this would become a tradition for my family.  Abby’s excitement on her 2nd birthday was contagious and so special.  We have since done this for every single one of our kids birthdays every year.

birthday balloon magic, age 2

At the end of the day we set the balloons free in the sky (if they have enough helium in them), and watch them float away.  This makes me think of all the endless possibilities my child’s life holds.

THE SKY IS THE LIMIT.

age 2, getting ready to release the balloons with Daddy

I LOVE birthdays.  I always have.  My own mother always made a big deal out of them when my sisters and I were growing up.  Birthdays are hands down my favorite days of the year.  When I became a mother – my passion for birthdays pretty much skyrocketed and I am so excited and happy and emotional and GRATEFUL on these days.  They are without a doubt the most special days of the year for me.  Have I told you I love birthdays?
 
We have a family breakfast on birthday morning – banana chocolate chip muffins are everyone’s favorite (and perfect for a candle as luck would have it).  The birthday kid sits at the head of the table and has the special red plate all day.  I decorate the kitchen with birthday lights, banners, streamers and a glittered number I make out of cardboard and hang overhead.

This year Abby’s birthday is extra special – because she is 7 on the 7th.  This means it is her GOLDEN BIRTHDAY – when her age is the same as the day of her birthday.  So I glittered the 7 gold, and wrapped all her presents in gold paper.

the birthday breakfast table
golden gifts

Seven is my number.  The number has always held significance for me even long before I ever had children.  My husband’s birthday is the 7th, Abby’s is the 7th, Will’s is the 27th, my dad’s is the 7th, my mom’s is the 27th, my niece’s is the 7th … my name has 7 letters, Abby and Will’s full names each have 7 letters (this was not planned), the list goes on and on.  So today as my daughter is turning 7 on the 7th I just can’t help but feel an extra sense of joy.  It is just SO much fun.

seven – it suits her

Last night at bedtime she told me she was nervous to turn 7, that she wanted to stay 6 for at least a little while longer.  She was afraid it would feel really different and said that she doesn’t feel ready to grow up, but also that she DOES.  She was excited to turn a year older, but also sad about it at the same time.

I really understand how she feels.  Sometimes I just want to freeze time, to slow it down.  The moments are passing by so quickly that it can be overwhelming at times.  But it amazes me that as much as we change, we also stay the same.

My baby girl at age 7 is truly just as sweet and sensitive and kind (if not more so) as she was when she was two.  I am enjoying her so very much and could not be more thankful to be so blessed to be her mother.

This morning when she woke up she came to me and crawled in bed beside me.  Her warm soft body still fitting perfectly into my arms.   I wished her a happy birthday and she snuggled up closer to me, silent.  I asked her what she was thinking and she replied “I’m just really happy Mama.”  And then I thought my heart would expand right out of me.  As tears welled up in my eyes I hugged her and kissed her head and told her that I am too.  I am happy because she is.  That is all I ever want.  For my child to be happy.

Happy 7th Birthday, sweetest Abby Ann.  I love you!

Race Report ~ The Honey Badger Playground Dash 2012

One way that we show people we love them is by taking interest in the things that they are passionate about.  Even if it’s not something we totally “get” – we show our support by encouraging them to make the time for the things that they love, by doing it with them if and when we can (even though there are quite possibly a million other things we might rather be doing), by carving out time in our busy life and making sacrifices to ensure that they are able to engage in the activity they enjoy.  We do this because of our love – because we truly want the ones we love to be happy.  Because that matters to us.  Because they matter to us.

My kids see my husband and I doing this for one another all the time, and they especially see this with regards to my running.  The support my family gives me so that I can run is overwhelming to me at times.  I can’t say it enough – I am beyond grateful.

A few weeks ago I came home from one of my early morning runs and was greeted at the door by my daughter Abby.  She was excited – she had an idea she couldn’t wait to share with me.  Abby was going to put a race together for me and my running buddies (also known as “the honey badgers”).  If you know me and you know the line of women both my husband and I come from, you understand that Abby comes by this type of thing very honestly.  We are all very into organization and we like parties.  It is just who we are.  Abby did not want to waste a second and was ready to roll up her sleeves and start figuring out the details right away.  I stood in the kitchen sweaty and spent from my run, but with a full heart as I watched my little girl pull out the calendar, some paper and some markers.  We chose a date and a time and she made a flyer that I could distribute to my running friends.

The “Honey Badger Playground Dash” was in the works.  Set for May 20th at 11am, the race would start at our house and finish at Abby’s elementary school less than a quarter of a mile away.

the flyer

Abby was VERY into it – the best race director I have ever known.  She thought through all of the details and could not have been more excited when race day arrived.  We had a pretty good turn out – about half the honey badgers and their families, plus me and my family.

Abby at the Start

I was especially excited that my sister Jodi was able to come to the race.  This was her first race post surgery (she had ACL surgery not quite 3 weeks ago) and we were all so thankful and happy to share the experience with her.  Race day excitement was in the air and everyone was ready to do their best on the challenging course.

Before the race began, Will led a group in some stretches…

This looks extremely painful to me.  Chris was a good sport!

And then everyone lined up on the start line for a picture:

After the picture was taken, Robert walked to the finish with Abby and her best friend/co-director Kaitlin (my buddy Chris’s daughter) so they would be ready for the post-race festivities when the runners arrived.  A few minutes later, I received a phone call from Robert that it was time for the runners to go.  I couldn’t believe how quickly the lead runners shot out onto the course.  It was lightening speed.  I pushed Baby Gus in the stroller and hung in the back of the pack with my sister Jodi, Terri and Lisa.

The course went from my street onto the trail which was hilly and twisty.  There were chalk arrows showing us where to go and we were surprised to see some obstacles along the way.  At one point we were instructed to stop and DO A DANCE and then a few yards later we had to JUMP.  My favorite was about halfway through the course when we were read SHAKE YOUR BOOTY.

We came out of the woods and off the trail and it was a straight shot to the SVES playground – the site of the finish line.  Word on the street was that it was a close finish and that all the runners did their best and had a GREAT time.  The shining moment for me was watching my sister come across the Finish.  No crutches.  Just a huge smile and lots of cheering!

The post race festivities were unmatched.  A goody bag for each runner with a Picky Bar and a Blow Pop (what more does a runner need?!?) and plenty of nuun to quench everyone’s thirst.

 
It was the BEST race I have ever run.  The distance was perfect – not too short or too long.  It was easy to get to and there was plenty of parking.  It wasn’t too crowded.  It was a race my whole family, and runners of all levels, could experience and enjoy.  The entry fee was free and you can’t beat that.

I will DEFINITELY run the Honey Badger Playground Dash again.  Next year I hope to run with Gus by my side rather than pushing him in the stroller, but I’m happy to know that this is a stroller-friendly race just in case he’s not ready for that.

The race director did an incredible job!  I am so proud of Abby, and so thankful for her for more reasons than I can possibly list!

It was an event I will never forget.  I don’t think Abby can understand yet how much her doing this meant to me.  She is so caring and sweet and loving.  THAT SMILE on her face — it says it all.  When I see that smile my heart flips and it flops and it feels like it will burst – and I just want to cry because I feel so happy.  Because I feel like I am surely the luckiest mom in the world.

a beautiful day

Saturday morning I was ready to run my fastest ever 5k.  My training and my racing over these past seven weeks gave me every indication that I was ready to break 21 minutes in the 5k.  I had been doing my weekly tempo runs this fast (sometimes faster) week after week.  I knew I could do it.  It would NOT be easy, but it was absolutely within my reach.

My legs felt strong.  I was excited.  I had run this race twice before and though the course changed slightly, I believed with all of my heart that I could handle the added hills (both up and down) and that I would stay strong mentally as well as physically through them.

I woke up on Saturday morning and ran to the race start as a warm up.  My husband packed up the kids in the car and they drove there to meet me.  I LOVE having my family at a race.  Knowing they are there automatically puts a smile on my face and makes me feel more at ease.  I feel like I am not doing this just for me, but instead it is something our whole family can enjoy and take part in.

This was the perfect race for that.  The We’ve Got Your Back 5k in Reston is not just a race for solitary runners.  It is a race for families.  The start/finish area was busy with activities for children (glitter tattoos, crafts, games, and the “Fun Bus” – an old school bus that was painted with bright colors and hollowed out inside to become a mini fitness obstacle course for young children).  My kids had a blast before, during and after the race.

The Fun Bus!

It is also a race for people who have overcome back injuries and chronic back pain.  The cause is close to my heart, supporting spinal health and research.  As a Pilates teacher I work with people who suffer from back pain all the time.  Herniated disks, bulging disks, pinched nerves, SI joint pain, pelvic instability … and so much more.  I myself have dealt with lower back pain since becoming a mother, and I can tell you it is horrible.  There have been times when I have been stuck on the couch with ice wrapped around my back, watching my kids play all around me because moving hurt too much.  It is awful.  Thank goodness my pain has never lasted more than a week or two at a time – but even just one day of it is terrible.  This is why when I found Pilates, I became dedicated to it.  Pilates changed my life and has made me so much more aware of how to best care for my body and especially my spinal health.  It changed my life so much that I wanted to become a teacher, so I could help others.  My sister Jodi had back surgery in 2003 (she had a herniated disk) and as you can imagine she too is very passionate about this cause.  She really wanted to be there on Saturday.  I wanted her to be there too.

This was by far the best I had ever warmed up before a 5k.  I ran two miles at a comfortable pace (mile 1 – 8:33, mile 2 – 8:11) and then I finished with another half mile right around 10k pace (a little slower, averaging 7:11).  When it was time to start the race I felt physically as ready as could be.

But mentally, something was off.  Was it race day nerves?  Maybe.  The fact that there were some seriously fast looking ladies standing at the start near me?  Yes, that got me.  When chicks show up to a local 5k race wearing underwear and compression socks a la Shalane and Kara, well that is a bit intimidating.  Inspiring, sure, yet also intimidating.

The gun went off and the first 3/4 of a mile was straight down a hill.  I knew I was running too fast.  Way too fast.  I glanced at my watch and saw a pace of 5:17 down that hill.  WHAT!?  What am I doing?!  My legs were moving so fast down that hill that I literally felt like I was flying.  This would have been exhilarating and awesome had I not had another two and a half miles to run.  Or had I been planning to run that fast (umm, no).  I came down to the bottom of the hill and turned right onto the trail and the road was flat again, my pace “slowed” to a 5:45.  I was breathing heavily.  My shoulders were tense.  I still felt very much out of control.  I told myself over and over again to run my own race, to slow down, to calm down and to settle in.  I got myself into better place by the time the first mile ended.  It was still way too fast though.  Mile 1 – 6:11.

At the end of the first mile we turned onto a road with steady up hill.  This was good news for me.  It would help me slow down.  I wanted to find my happy pace around a 6:45, but the fact is — I am not happy at a 6:45.  That is still lung-burning pace!  Especially up a hill.  And then we took another turn into an office park which was basically ALL up hill.  I kept fighting up it.  When I looked at my watch at the end of the second mile I saw 7:15.  This was slower than I wanted to be running.  I still had a mile to go, time to make up for it.  I still wanted to break 21 and I could do it.  But I had to believe I could do it and that was the problem at this point.

The negative voice started to gain power over me.  Telling me I went out too fast.  That the first mile ruined me.  Why didn’t I take control sooner?  Why was I so foolish?  How did I let this happen!?  I felt like a crazy person trying to push through those negative thoughts.  I just wanted to feel good, to feel happy.  To enjoy myself.  As I turned the corner to go UP that massive hill that I ran down in the beginning of the race, I knew I wasn’t going to break 21 minutes and that it was really quite possible that I wouldn’t even beat 21:18, my current PR.  I was feeling really angry with myself.  I was hating on 5ks.  Mile 3: 7:27.

On the side of the course there was a woman holding up a sign.  It said “YOU LOVE RUNNING!!”  I smiled when I saw it.  She is right.  Nobody is making me do this but ME.  And why am I doing it?  Because I love it. 

I LOVE RUNNING.

That was all I needed.  My final pace for the final stretch was 6:34.  My family was on the side of the road, cheering me into the finish.  This made me smile from the inside out as I approached that finish line.

Official time: 21:40.  I missed my PR by 22 seconds.  What I am PROUD of — I ran this race 3 whole minutes faster than I ran it last year and almost 4 minutes faster than I did the year before.  Also, I was the 9th overall female and third place in my age group.  To be one of the top 10 females in a race like this – where the women who came in first and second finished in less than 18 minutes, and three of the top five overall finishers were women (yay!!!) – well, that is pretty much a dream come true for me.  THAT feels good.

I did not run the 5k race I am capable of.  I know that.  But I did push through some pretty dark thoughts, through moments where I literally felt like stopping and giving up the sport altogether (crazy, I know).  I did not give up.  And while each mile was slower than the last, I learned a TON about myself as a runner and as a person.

After my race was over, it was time for Abby and Will to race.  We had signed them up for the 1 Mile Fun Run and they could not have been more excited.  They had official race numbers, new “fast” running shoes (which Will proudly proclaimed would make him “faster than a car” when he tried them on) and more excitement in their little hearts than I can possibly describe.  The three of us lined up at the start, ready to go.

Thoughts of my 5k quickly melted away, and I was completely swept up in the joy of being with my children – participating in a running event TOGETHER.

three happy runners at the start

The plan was to stick together.  The kids did not want me to leave their side.  Will was even holding onto my leg as we waited for the race to begin.  He was especially nervous about having to run on his own.

So you can imagine my surprise when Will shot off like a dart, literally blazing a trail behind him leaving us in his dust from the start of the race.  I could see him powering up ahead, not relenting, and I was just completely shocked.  Proud.  Bewildered.  Amazed.  He just kept going and I could see his little head bouncing side to side as he ran.  I couldn’t see his face, but I could imagine it.  I knew he was having the time of his life.

I have seen my little boy run before.  He SURGES, and then pulls back and walks or even stops altogether to catch his breath before going full speed again.  The kid doesn’t have a middle ground.  He is either ALL IN, or he is not playing.  (This applies to all areas of his personality – he is the most determined and dedicated little person I have ever known.  It inspires me.  And terrifies me on occasion).

On Saturday, he was ALL IN.  He got caught up in the excitement and he discovered something wonderful about himself.

HE LOVES RUNNING.

Abby was not enjoying the run nearly as much as Will was.  She is very observant of every single thing – the most sensitive person I have ever known in all my life.  I love this about her.  It is one of her sweetest qualities.  She is also a THINKER – has to analyze everything.  And talk about it.  She spoke to me the whole way – giving me every detail about how she was feeling.  Her chest hurt.  Her stomach hurt.  She really needed to stop.  She WANTED to enjoy the race, but, well, WHEN would it be over?  I encouraged her to keep going.  I told her how I understood what she was feeling, that she was doing a great job, that she was the strongest most beautiful runner I had ever seen, and that I was SO proud of her.

About halfway through the mile, she decided it was time for a break.  Robert was on the side of the road cheering with baby Gus so she hopped off and walked with him.  At that point I caught up with Will and ran him to his finish.  He was still racing his little heart out.  The look on his face, now that I could see it, was one of pure joy and solid determination.  It was also a look of surprise.  I ran next to him.  Told him he was amazing.  So strong!  So fast!  He was running up the hill (the same one I had to run up for my finish) and I knew what he was feeling.  Watching my little boy run was INCREDIBLE.  He cracked a smile at the sound of my voice, when I told him I could see the finish.  That he was almost there.

Will crossed the finish line of his first real road race mile in 7:57.  They gave him a medal and I wrapped my arms around him.  His heart was beating so fast, I could feel it pounding on his little chest.  Those big brown eyes looked up at me and with a huge smile on his face he said to me “Wow Mommy, I am fast!”  My kid FOUND HIS STRONG.

Mister Will, who has life threatening food allergies and has to inhale steroids every single day of the year for his asthma – RAN A RACE on Saturday.  I think he felt like he could do anything after accomplishing that.  Running is a gift, pure and simple.

Will decided that he is a runner on Saturday.  Yesterday morning he woke up and wanted to take me for a run on Mother’s Day.  We ran 2.5 miles together.  It was one of the sweetest gifts I have ever received.  I will cherish the memory forever and I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to sharing this sport with him over the years to come.

After Will finished his race, we caught up with Robert, Abby and Gus.  They were still walking on the 1 mile course.  Abby was hanging her head.  I approached her and took her hand.  I asked her if she would finish the race with me.  She cried and nodded her head – yes.  We started to jog and she told me she really didn’t want to run, that she couldn’t do it.  I told her she didn’t have to go fast, that she just had to go, to move.  She had come this far and we were together and we could even walk if she wanted to.  My little girl cried the whole way up that hill and across the finish line.  And I held her hand.  I wanted her to know the importance of finishing something that you started.  I knew that if she didn’t finish, she would be sad about it later.

When we crossed the finish line, she smiled as I hugged her.  Later that day do you know what she told me as I tucked her in for bed?  She said “Mommy, you made me feel proud of myself today.”  Until then, I wasn’t sure if I had been too tough on her at the race, if I was caught up in my love for the sport and if maybe I had said the wrong things to motivate her.

All I want is for my children to feel proud of themselves.  To be confident and happy.  For them to feel GOOD about who they are.  I want them to believe in themselves.  To know that they can overcome difficult times – whether it be physical pain, emotional heartache, disappointment, whatever.  Life is full of rough patches.  I want my kids to be raised knowing that they are loved for who they are.  That they are strong enough to endure what comes their way.  That there is joy in persevering when all they feel like doing is shutting down and giving up.

As their mother, there is only so much I can do to protect my children from broken hearts and disappointments.  My first instinct is to want to put them in this little cocoon where I can shield them from anything bad or difficult, protect them from feeling pain or sadness.  To give them anything and everything their little hearts desire.  But I know that this not possible and I also know that it wouldn’t be the best thing for them – AT ALL.  That’s just not how life is.  I would be doing a disservice to them.  Instead, I will do what I can now to teach them to fight.  To teach them to believe in themselves.  To encourage them to follow their hearts.  To help them build their own wings so they can fly.

I am thankful to the sport of running for helping me with this.  This is one of the many ways that running helps me to be the best mother I can be.  It’s not just about what running does for ME and my own peace of mind, my inner balance, my self confidence.  It’s about what my running does for my children.  The example it sets.  They see me doing it and they know it is not easy for me.  They see the dedication.  They see the pain.  And they see the joy.  And this weekend, they not only saw it, but they FELT it for themselves.

I am so proud.  And so very grateful.

catching up a bit

so it has been almost 2 weeks since my last post.  yikes.  life has gotten in the way, i guess!  all things mostly good – my younger sister alissa was here for 10 days with her 20 month old son, miles.  she is my soul mate and we just don’t get much time together since she lives in rochester, ny…so i relished all the time she was here and didn’t spend much time on my computer.  oh and all of us got sick while she was here, so that played a part, too!

i have been running a bit…slowly…but that’s ok by me.  i’m not really running with my usual crew anymore.  they’re all getting ready to run MCM in a few weeks and their mileage and pace are just out of my league right now.  this sunday i am going to have a new running partner – my 5 year old daughter, abby.  she started playing “blast ball” recently (a modified version of tee ball) and we bought her brand new running shoes and running shorts.  she is very proud to have clothes just like mine!  so i told her that on sunday we will go for a mommy/abby run just the two of us.  i cannot wait and neither can she!  i have tonia at racing with babes to thank for the inspiration to do this with abby.  she wrote a post the other day about running with her girls that just made me smile from the inside out and i have really been enjoying reading about her experiences running with her 5 year old.  thanks, tonia!!!!!!

tomorrow my little business sugar cone is going to have a booth at the fairfax fall festival.  i am sooo excited, and completely nervous.  my business partner and dear friend debbie and i have been devoting a lot of time and energy into this little business and tomorrow is a big day for us.  fingers crossed all goes well!

have a great weekend!!

5 and loving it

My baby girl turned 5 on Monday!  I can’t believe it.  The past week has been a whirlwind of celebration in our house.  Last Saturday the festivities began when my mom drove me and Abby to New York City for the day.  The drive was easy and quick and it was a beautiful day.  Once we were in the city we headed straight for the American Girl store, which was truly the purpose of our visit.  My mom wanted to get Abby her first American Girl doll.  Abby could not believe her eyes!  It was incredible to see the look in my little girl’s eyes.  She was astonished (her word!) and could not believe how big and beautiful the store (and everything in it) was.  To be honest, I couldn’t either!  It was amazing.  Abby chose the perfect doll, although I don’t know how she could go wrong with any of the choices.  Her very favorite was “Felicity” who is from pre-colonial Williamsburg in 1774.  Felicity is an adventurous and independent girl, just like Abby.  The doll came with a very pretty outfit, a great book and some lovely accessories and my mom also got Abby a movie about Felicity (which I think we have watched 1-2 times a day in the last week).  After the AG store we walked around Rockefeller center a bit so Abby could see a little of NYC before we hit the road to head home.  Abby carried Felicity on her shoulders and was simply astounded at the sights of the city.  I will cherish the memories of that day for all of my life and I’m so very thankful to my mother for such a wonderful gift.  The doll is special, but the memories of that day are priceless.

Monday, June 7th, was her actual birthday.  If you know me you know that I LOVE birthdays, especially my children’s birthdays, and I get very excited about celebrating them.  One of the traditions we started for our kids’ birthdays is the night before their b’day when they are sleeping we sneak into their rooms and fill them with about 20 huge helium-filled balloons in every color of the rainbow.  When they wake in the morning to find balloons filling their room, they are SO EXCITED.  We also hang streamers from their door in their favorite colors (Abby of course gets pink and purple) which they think is hilarious.  So Abby started her morning with TONS of excitement!  Then we headed downstairs for breakfast which was her favorite – banana chocolate chip muffins made by me – with of course a candle in her muffin!  She got the traditional bright red “You Are Special Today” plate (which my mom used in our house when we were growing up – for birthdays, graduations, etc).  Birthday banners, streamers, flower leis, party hats and a giant red glittery “5” (which I made out of cardboard) hanging above her seat all made the morning really fun.  Also, since Abby’s favorite flowers are red roses, we decorated the table with a vase filled with them for her.  As we sat down to have breakfast, before a single present was spied, she cupped her little hands around her mouth and turned to me and whispered “Mama, this is the best birthday ever!”  With that my heart melted and I felt so happy…for me there is really nothing better than knowing your child’s heart is full and she is so happy.  I am so thankful!

The rest of the day was joyous and fun (including a very special visit from Robert’s mom – who drove up from VA Beach to spend a few hours with the birthday girl!) and we topped it off with a wonderfully PINK strawberry birthday cake shared with our amazing family members outside on our deck.  It was awesome!!

So now it is Friday and we have a birthday party planned for Sunday afternoon with all of Abby’s school friends.  I have to say as wonderful as the week has been…I am wiped out and just can’t wait for the party to be over with!  I’m sure it will be fun – we are planning a “gardening party” complete with actual gardening (Robert made a new bed for the kids to plant in!), decorating pots and even cupcakes that look like dirt (with crushed Oreos with chocolate icing and gummy worms on top).  Abby cannot wait and her brother is pretty excited too!  I’m so glad that my kids’ birthdays are several months apart (Will turns 4 on October 27) because I will need to recharge my batteries before getting ready for another celebration!!

Here’s to a happy (and sunny!) weekend ahead.  Goodness knows I will need my long run on Sunday morning to get ready for the party that afternoon!!!