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Most Improved

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For those of you who I know via Facebook, me finishing the race yesterday is as much of a relief for you as it is for me. (I use RunKeeper to update Facebook of all of my training runs. With comments such as, “Got home from today’s run and realized my shirt was on backwards!”) For everyone else: Here’s the story. Every Memorial Day our city hosts a big 10K. It’s on several running lists nationwide as it has this NOTORIOUS hill in the middle that I have driven up before, and it scared the crap out of me: IN A CAR. Every year that I’ve run the 5K I think about running the 10K and chicken out. I decided this was the year to do it.

Here is the RunKeeper graph showing my pace mixed with the elevation (in green) – do you see the hill? YES. You can’t miss it. Want to know something? I RAN UP THAT HILL.

A few weeks ago my boot camp coach made us run a different hill in town and that gave me the confidence to run the one yesterday. And you know what? Totally not a big deal compared to boot camp. And it was the one time in the race I was passing people! Heh. Most people walk the hill. I ran it. And then I walked through the water breaks. Because I still can’t drink water while running without A) Choking or B) Missing my mouth entirely. So, yeah. I ran THE HILL, but I walked at 3 different water tables. I like the juxtaposition of those two facts. It fits me.

And my TIME. That time has my pace a few seconds UNDER a 10-minute mile. That is faster than ANY of my 5+ mile training runs. I ran my 6-mile race FASTER than my 5-mile training runs and my race had a HILL in it. A HILL. A BIG SCARY HILL.

Can you feel my pride?

Beyond that…my best 5K time is 32:30. So My 10K time was at a faster pace than my best (and recent) 5K time. When I tell people boot camp has made me faster – THIS is what I’m talking about.

And the picture above. That picture was taken the last time I ran the Cotton Row (the 5K of course) but it might as well be a pre-boot camp picture from September. I basically had the same body and the same fitness level before I started boot camp. I’ve lost 15+ pounds on the scale and probably traded out another 5-10lbs of fat for muscle, if you analyze my measurements. This body is MUCH more fit and getting very lean but most of all? This body is proud. It’s not been easy at all. I always dreamed of being able to look back and say: At THIS MOMENT when I made THIS CHANGE or did THIS THING I lost weight and became fit. Unfortunately, that works for some people, but not for most of us. It started with boot camp, but it was months into boot camp before I lost any weight because I still was battling emotional eating. Hell…I’m still battling it…which is why the weight is coming of so slowly. But still…every month I’m a pound or two or five in the right direction.

And I’m PROUD. I crossed that finish-line yesterday and wanted to collapse because I pushed it so hard towards the end. And I finished 4 whole minutes UNDER my goal time. (My boot camp coach predicted 1:03, he was damn close.) I RAN THE HILL. I kept saying that over and over yesterday because – time, weight, muscles aside – the change in my body and mind that pushed me to run the hill that 90% of the runners walk? THAT is the change that makes me the most proud. I didn’t doubt myself. I didn’t say, “I can’t do that.” I said, “Let’s make this hill my BEEYATCH.” And I did.

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Happy. And Not A Sociopath.

Laughing

As one of my children gets closer and closer to the ADULT DECISIONS phase of his life (college, career, etc) I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want for my kids. How do I want to guide him? Advise him? What lessons do I want him to learn that I felt were important along my path?

At first I just thought I want my kids to be HAPPY wherever life leads them. But – you know – homicidal maniacs and egocentric douchebags are probably happy. SO…I want my kids to be HAPPY and KIND. That’s it. I want them to look at their life as an adult and be happy. And I want them to be kind.

But right now all anyone talks about is AP classes and GPAs. Actually, if I’m honest, parents talk about this type of thing forever. Honors programs. Advanced classes. This starts in elementary school. (SIDENOTE: If your kid does not get put in whatever honors program your school offers? But his friends do? Brace yourself. THIS IS A TOUGH PHASE.) For some kids? School and testing comes easy. The straight As are never a struggle. But there are a lot of kids like E who work their butts off for that B. And sometimes don’t get it. Has he still chosen to take honors classes periodically? Yes. He worked double-time in middle school to get into an honors English class several students declined. The guidance counselor pointed out OVER and OVER that many of the kids that got put in it opted OUT of it…so was I sure he wanted to opt IN? He did. And he loved it. So, do I encourage him to take the advanced classes? ONLY IF HE WANTS TO.

As long as I feel like he’s being challenged and that he’s having to work for his grades, I’m not going to stress about As versus Bs or AP versus Standard. Maybe if you’re a 4.0+ student trying to compete for top scholarships at top schools, then yeah. But there’s nothing wrong with being a 3.0 student competing for partial scholarships at state schools. THAT’S WHAT I DID. And you know what? I’m happy. And kind. And the things that have caused me anxiety in my adult life? Have nothing to do with academics or career choices. They have to do with my body/health and my relationships. Which would be the same if I was a high-powered attorney or a preschool teacher.

Nikki starts Kindergarten in the Fall. Maybe school will come easy for her. It came easy for Donnie, but he didn’t really apply himself due to his stance as the Guy In The Band. School came easier for me than it does for E, but I went to a small school, so we didn’t have a lot of advanced programs. We both went to state schools and are happy with the careers that led us to. Did we have scholarships? Yes. And we both lost them. Did we take out tons of loans? Yes. We’re still paying on them. But…are we happy? YES.

Should E take that AP History class in the Fall? Eh. I don’t know. I have kinda encouraged him NOT to because I feel like this year about killed him and next year his extracurricular performances almost DOUBLE. But he might do it anyway. Because it might make him happy.

So, you know, I think its all working out okay.

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Divergent

The Last Few Books I’ve Read And Loved

This is one of those books E has been begging me to read for a while now: The Perks of Being A Wallflower. I’ll tell you the honest reason why you should read it, because they’re filming the movie right now and the cast list is AMAZING. Observe: Emma Watson, Nina Dobrev, Paul Rudd, and Mae Whitman. That’s some of my favorite actors right there. But also? The book is probably something all parents of teenagers should read. If you have had a teenager in the last 10+ years or so, they’ve probably read it. I get the impression it went through phases around here of being THE BOOK THAT EVERYONE IN HIGH SCHOOL IS READING RIGHT NOW…so if you have a teenager who reads? They’ve probably read it.

I really like the story and the characters. My only complaint is that it’s written in a “Dear Person, ” format. I have a hard time with gimmicky author tricks like that. Chronological jumps, weird author voices, (Loved The Art Of Racing In the Rain, hated it was told from the perspective of the dog.) or strange narrative formats. I just want to read a story. So the gimmicks get to me, this book was no exception. I am not even sure I would have stuck with it if it wasn’t so important to E that I do so. I also had another complaint, but I’m not sure it mattered and it could spoil the story for you, so I’ll keep it for myself. DEFINITELY read it if your kid has ever read it, and DEFINITELY read it if you like character-driven stories (not plot- or action-driven) that may err on the darker side of the teenage existence. Otherwise? Just wait for the movie.

Oh, MAN. This book is SOOOO GOOD. If you loved Hunger Games you will want to have Dystopian Babies with Divergent. I think the lead character, Tris, could totally kick Katniss’s ASS. I loved her so much more than Katniss and I have a few theories why, but I’m going to reserve those until I read it again. It’s definitely a Dystopian Young Adult, and if you’re sick of those (like I was) you should still read it. IT’S THAT GOOD. Let me tell you why it seemed different, because it allows females to be badasses physically, without every questioning whether they should be in that role. It’s just the way it is. Girls can kick ass too. The end. No discussions, no references to dissent of opinions, not even an attempt to keep girls from fighting boys. OF COURSE THEY FIGHT BOYS. I loved it. And I pink-puffy-heart love Tris too. Even if she could kick my ass.

The thing I don’t love is it looks like it’s part of a Trilogy. Which, I don’t mind series books in theory, but this tendency towards them all being TRILOGIES now makes me a little irritated. If you’re going to do a series, can you make it NOT three books long? I don’t know why this is bugging me but it is. And I’m a bit sick of the cliffhangers too. This one wasn’t awful, you know where the book is going next, but it’s still you left wondering…WHEN IS THE NEXT ONE COMING OUT? And I get frustrated with that. The Harry Potter books only left you “hanging” towards the end of the series. Before that, you wanted the next book, because you wanted the story, but each book had an ending. I get frustrated with the trend to end these series book in a way that makes you growl a little bit. I DO NOT LIKE GROWLING. But, this one wasn’t the worse offender I’ve ever seen, so I’m not going to mark too much against it.

If you’re sick of Dystopian YA books? DON’T READ THIS ONE. It will probably make you roll your eyes. But, if you’re not sick of it and looking from more in the genre (which is how I was after having taken a break for awhile) this is an interesting twist. Basically? Someone decided X amount of years ago that the problems in the world were caused by LOVE. So, they figured out how to do a procedure on kids when they turn 18 to keep them from ever feeling it. That’s the society depicted in this book. It’s totally interesting the way they handle emotions in such a scientific and pragmatic manner. It’s also (of course) about revolt, which I love about Dystopian fictions. There’s always some faction of society that doesn’t agree with the new world order, which is what pulls me to these books in the first place.

HOWEVER…it does have that element of cheesiness you would expect in a book that basically is fighting for the right to love. Which is why – if you’re already a little sick of the Dystopian thing – you should probably avoid this one. BUT — if you’re on a kick like I was? It may be right up your alley!

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SO, have YOU read any good books lately?

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Some New Variations On Old Faves

Cake Poppers

For every birthday party, it seems, someone asks for Cake Poppers. And while I still stand by the Red Velvet/Chocolate combination being my favorite flavor, I do like to try to have fun with the appearance once in awhile. Hobby Lobby sells some great colors of candy coating, but it’s all vanilla. And since it’s a different brand from what I normally use on the cake poppers, it’s a little bit of a different consistency. Thicker and sometimes globbier. (Is that a word? It is now.) But – it makes for pretty treats. I let Nikki and Wes pick their colors. We also dyed the white cake batter before we cooked it so the cake poppers were the same color on the outside as on the inside. THEN…we picked out sprinkles and – BEFORE THE COATING DRIED – we sprinkled each one. The end result was BEAUTIFUL. And if you like vanilla? TASTY. It’s not my favorite flavor so I stuck with the chocolate/red velvet.

He asked for rainbow cupcakes and starsSpeaking of pretty colors…a certain little boy also asked for “Rainbow Cupcakes” which he also wanted to top with his star sprinkles. This turned out to be quite an easy project, albeit quite messy. Any project that dirties SEVEN BOWLS and SEVEN SPOONS is a bit extreme in my book.

All I did was mix normal white cake batter and then divide it “evenly” into 6 bowls. Everyone in town was out of Primary Food Colors (and you have to use the GELS…they color much better) but I made do with some pastel colors and a Neon color pack I found at Hobby Lobby. Without primary colors we had no “red” but the pink worked out just fine. I mixed each color and then just globbed (Another made-up baking term!) a spoonful of each into the cupcake holder. Don’t try to flatten it to make smooth layers, because then the colors get mixed up. They stay separated if you just let them be and – while it may not be a perfect layered rainbow – they are still AWESOME in every way. It only made about 16 a batch because I think you loose a little bit of the batter each time you divide it up, so I ended up cooking two batches. This meant I had to wash dishes first because I do NOT have 12 bowls to use simultaneously. But even with all of that mess? Still totally worth it.

OH! Make sure you use cupcake holders because seeing the expression on your guests faces when they pull it off and see all the colors? PRICELESS. The kids loved them and the adults thought I was pretty damn awesome. Which, you know, I TOTALLY AM.

Wes also wanted a few “with worms,” so I used chocolate icing on half and topped them with gummy worms. Easiest – and most fun – cupcakes ever. Since I never make cupcakes (I’m sure you could guess that by how hideous the icing job looks) I didn’t have a way to store them. I’m sure every one of you has one of these Awesome Cupcake Holders but it was new to me so I had to share it just in case it would be new to you too. TWO LAYERS! And it even allowed for my gummy worms. Nothing got smooshed. You do have to be careful making sure the lid actually locks on the bottom dish, but other than that it’s easy breezy.

Last, but NOT least, is a “new” treat I came up with recently. Nikki was talking about marshmallows and I had melting chocolates I needed to use but didn’t feel l like making another batch of cake poppers. (For the record, since the week the power went out? I’ve made about 700 cake poppers for various events. I would like to take a break for awhile.) I had an idea to use marshmallows and try to improvise some S’mores Poppers with my leftover melting chocolates. BEST IDEA EVER.

S'mores Bites

This was SO EASY. First I crushed some graham crackers in a large sandwich bag. Actually – I let the kids do that – they love that job. Then I melted the chocolates (I always use the stuff I mention here because it’s easy to work with) and grabbed some bamboo skewers I had laying around. I rolled the sides and the “bottom” of the marshmallow in the chocolate and immediately (but slowly) rolled them in the graham cracker crumbs. I popped them on the wax paper to harden and TA-DA! S’mores bites! E took some to school last week and said the didn’t last 5 minutes. SO EASY but also a HUGE crowd-pleaser. I only wish you could buy a size of marshmallows between normal and mini – because I think these would be perfect if the marshmallows were just a tiny bit smaller. They are a bit big for “bites” for small kids, but that didn’t stop my kids from eating them.

SO! There you have it. Some yummy treats we’ve made for various gatherings lately.

I can NOT believe I just wrote a blog entry about various alterations to standby desserts. Just the fact that I have standby desserts now is quite a huge change from where I was when I had Wes. He’ll never know me as someone who is NOT comfortable in the kitchen. And that makes me damn proud.

But not as proud as my rainbow cupcakes. Those things were AWESOME.

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Thing One and Thing Two

Ready for Kindergarten!

Thing One graduated from preschool this weekend. I’ve been making fun of the concept of a Preschool Graduation all week. REALLY? They are wearing caps and gowns? REALLY? This seems a little silly, don’t you think? And then…what did I do? I cried through the entire thing. Partly because my daughter is growing up and partly because I’m going to miss her teacher. I hope she’s still teaching Pre-K when Wes gets there in two years. She’s amazing. But – yeah. I cried during my daughter’s preschool graduation. Because I am lame.

I promise this is not real

Thing Two turned THREE. We took him to a fancy Kid’s salon in town to get his summer haircut and this fun blue fauxhawk. Turned out ADORABLE. And even though it was stupidly high-priced and probably only something we’ll do every few years, he loved it. He got to sit in a plane and what a movie while they cut his hair. GENIUS.

Graduation Day

So…how was YOUR weekend? Any ridiculous blubbering at sentimental events? Any multi-colored hair styles? What about bug vacuums? We had some of those too but I’ll save that for another entry.

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