We were up and out early on Saturday. We took the scenic route to Monterey along the coast. Monterey is as lovely as I had imagined. We went straight to the marathon expo at the Portola Hotel. It was not difficult to find, just follow the Boston Marathon jackets and race tech tees. There was a line of people waiting to get their photo taken in front of a Big Sur International Marathon sign. I thought, what’s the big deal? Well I didn’t realize at first that the sign had the names of all the runners. Of course I jumped in line. Thankfully the names were in alphabetical order. Carlos gets his photography skills from me!
We wandered down to the wharf in Monterey. We took some photos and saw a few sea lions.
We had time to kill before we could check into our hotel so we decided to drive to Carmel to scope out the finish line area. We found the finish area easily and then went straight to the beach. It was beautiful out, but a bit chilly. Carlos and Orlando played soccer. Carlos made friends with JD the black lab.
I lounged and watched people perfect their selfies and social media posts. You cannot believe how long it takes a group of four women to coordinate a simultaneous jump for joy and have it captured on camera. It actually takes less time to do that than it does for boyfriend to photograph girlfriend throwing her scarf in the air, over and over and over again. How cute??!
We discovered we were very close to one of the entrances to the 17 Mile Drive around Pebble Beach. If you are into gorgeous scenery, slow drives, and imagining what it would be like to live in stunning homes then this is well worth the $10. Orlando and I loved it. We dream of one day building our own seaside home on our land in a small beach town in Mozambique. Of course it will be nowhere near as grand as the homes we saw. We stopped at many of the landmarks on the ocean and that gave Carlos the opportunity to climb on the rocks so he was happy too.
Back in Monterey we checked into the Munras Inn. The room was lovely, but we would have preferred a vacation rental that offers a little more space. Lodging is expensive in the Monterey/Carmel area. For anyone planning their trip to the area specifically for the marathon, plan early and check out VRBO, Home Away, etc. in Pacific Grove, Monterey, and Carmel. Had I started planning a little earlier we might have found a property at a more reasonable price, although these areas are pricey in general. Our hotel was a little less than a mile to the Marriot where I would catch the bus for Big Sur on marathon morning. It was an easy walk and with so many runners out I wasn’t worried about being alone. My family was very appreciative that I didn’t wake them at 3:45AM to drive me.
I thought about attending the pasta dinner, but the only seatings were at 4:30 and 5:30PM, but we were still out in Carmel. We found a local Italian place. I had a sub-par dish of spaghetti. It was a bit disappointing because running a marathon is really my only excuse to enjoy a big bowl of pasta.
There is a ritualistic process that takes place the night before a marathon. First I lay out my clothing for the race. I always put the safety pins in the bib unfastened. I set up all of my necessities. Most importantly I set as many alarms as I can especially when a race requires a 2:40AM wake up call. I was terrified I wouldn’t wake up on time for the race.
Then I was asleep in a matter of minutes once I got into bed. It was a beautiful, relaxing day, but I was excited and anxious about the marathon.
We spent a wonderful Memorial Day weekend at Waterville Valley in NH. Orlando and I had been once before a couple of years ago. The entire time we were there we kept saying, “Carlos would love this.” We were right!
Waterville Valley is a really easy 3 hour drive from our home. It is a beautiful area nestled in the White Mountains. The area is beautiful, peaceful, and quiet. We stayed at the Black Bear Lodge. We had a very spacious room with a separate bedroom, living room and kitchen. The hotel was located close to the Town Square where you can find shops, restaurants, and activities.
I got up early and enjoyed a couple of long solo hikes. Carlos and Orlando opted for swimming and soccer. It is a laid back environment with so many things to do; kayaks, paddle boats, tennis, golf, and biking. You can even go ice skating year round in the indoor rink. Outside of the resort I had no cell service at all. It is really nice to disconnect every now and then. It was a perfect short getaway.
On the way back we stopped in Hanover, NH for lunch and a walk through the Dartmouth Campus. My husband and I are both enamored with New England college campuses. It was a gorgeous day to take our time getting home.
There is one thing I loath about weekend trips and that is having to go grocery shopping when we get home. Not this time! I put in an order for Peapod grocery delivery because I had a code for free shipping. I had time to unpack, prepare for the week, and clean up the refrigerator. Around 8pm my groceries were delivered right into my kitchen! An easy end to a great weekend. I will most definitely be doing that again.
Orlando and I are the proud landowners of two plots of land here in Mozambique. We are financially unable to purchase land in the US, but given the relatively low land prices here in Mozambique it was a wise decision to invest in land here.
Our first purchase was a simple square of land high on a hill overlooking the lagoon of Bilene. We opted for the spanning view of the crystal blue water over a waterfront plot on the backside of the lagoon. We are both drawn to expansive views. The waterfront land was isolated and offered a lovely sight of the water, but it abutted land already owned by a resort. That signaled potential future issues namely a busy flow of people bringing with them noise and litter. After touring the waterfront land we were driven to the land on the hill. I think we both knew instantly that it was our land. I would have accepted any decision Orlando made because this is where he is from and I wanted him to feel most connected with the choice, but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt when I saw the land on the hill that it was his preference too.
There is a view I swear
A hint of the blue water
My brother-in-law Samito checking on the wall
These are older photos from when the wall was going up around the land. The photos obviously don’t do the view justice.
Orlando worked hard to secure the purchase of the land in Bilene after our 2009 visit to Mozambique. I admire his tenacity. Like most processes here in Mozambique buying property is no easy task, complete with a great deal of bureaucracy, red tape, bribes, and paperwork. My brother-in-law assisted with the transaction, but the sale was not concluded until we next visited in 2011.
The land has a mandatory wall surrounding it, a specially made sign designating it as ours and some fruit trees. There is a family nearby that is paid to care for the land and the fruit trees. One day we will build a home there.
After renting homes in Chokwe during our visits in 2009 and 2011 we had talked about the possibility of building a small “dependencia” on my in-law’s land. A dependencia is a small house which is typically devoid of a kitchen and bathroom as those activities are usually done outdoors. Cooking is done over a coal stove and many bathrooms are still outdoor latrines. My only stipulation was that our dependencia have a functional bathroom indoors. At some point Orlando was confronted with the opportunity to buy land in his hometown of Chokwe, where I also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The plot was in a newly developed area which was once vacant land housing an old ruined stadium and a newer soccer stadium. We had seen the development on our visit in 2011 and I didn’t need much convincing that it was the right place for us to build a home. Orlando worked through his brother to secure the land purchase. I think it went a little more smoothly than the first time he bought land.
Orlando got the land cleared and started the ball rolling for construction to begin during his solo visit to Mozambique in February of 2015. He returned from his trip motivated and energized by the prospect of having our own home in Chokwe. The first order of business was to build a dependencia for my brother-in-law to live in so he could also guide the construction of the main house. I’m happy to see that his dependencia has a small kitchen inside and an adjoining bathroom which is much fancier than a latrine. I know Orlando feels a sense of security knowing that his brother is watching over things.
Our house was initially meant to be a small two bedroom home to provide us with a comfortable place to stay when we visit. I stay a safe distance from decisions affecting the land here. I am included in discussions and dilemmas surrounding the building process, but I tend to be less opinionated about it than I am about other issues. Orlando made a sacrifice leaving his family to relocate to the US and although he has carved out a successful life there, I know he misses home. I want this home to feel as though it is about him. After some thought and conversations with his brother and friend here he decided to make the home much bigger than originally planned. We now have a three bedroom, two bath home complete with a large open living room/kitchen space, and a garage. I’m not demanding and I actually prefer to live in simple surroundings, but my one request again was that I have a nice functional bathroom for my visit in December.
I was assured “my bathroom” and the bedrooms would be ready for our visit this December. Unfortunately I know Mozambique all too well and like most things here construction is also slow. We have walls, a roof, windows with screens, doors, bare bedrooms, and some semblance of a bathroom. It turns out the bathrooms were built too small and they furnished one bathroom with the basic equipment to function for our visit, but once we leave it will all be ripped out. The two small bathrooms will be joined to form one large bathroom and there will be a second bathroom installed on the other side of the house.
We spent the first night in Chokwe in a hotel so Orlando and his brothers could prepare the home for our stay. The bedrooms had beds, a reed mat and mosquito nets that we brought with us. After a couple of days I requested a strong rope be strung up in the closet and hangars so I could move our clothing out of the suitcase. I also bought a plastic shelving unit to house toiletries, under garments, socks, and some books I brought. Surprisingly that was enough to make me feel settled.
We lost water most days from morning until late in the afternoon so I took a few bucket baths. That I can handle. When I did shower in my half done cement bathroom it was no shower curtain, but given the heat the water felt refreshing anyway. Carlos actually opted for bucket baths in my brother-in-law’s bathroom. He has no interest in the “weird” cement shower. Considering some of the bathrooms I have had here in Mozambique this one, although not my dream bathroom, is not the worst I’ve had to use.
Side of the house
The front of the house
The “great room” eventually
Entrance to hallway of guest bedroom and garage
Orlando has spent a great deal of time discussing future plans of the house with the construction crew. He is not thrilled about how some of the process has gone, and he would like to rectify that as the project moves ahead. His immediate goal is to finish the house and rent it until we return for our next visit. There is an abundance of need for rentals in Chokwe because of all the aid organizations working in town.
I’m proud of what my husband has done. It is nice to have a place to come home to that we can call our own. It grounds us and connects us always to this place where we first met, fell in love and got married.
I wasn’t really going for the dramatic effect when I ended that last post. It was just getting too wordy. I finished Part 1 of the Vermont City Marathon recap when I was still on the congested trail winding along Lake Champlain. Eventually it came to an end and we re-entered the city. I began to hear the rhythmic sound of the Taiko drummers signaling our ascent up Battery Hill. I got so caught up in the intense energy of the drumming and the unbelievably enthusiastic spectators on both sides of the street that I almost missed my family. My sister suddenly jumped onto the course and told me she was going to run with me for a bit.
I was losing steam at this point as we took off up the massive hill at mile 15. I felt a stitch in my side as we rounded the top of the hill and I had to walk a bit. My stomach could not tolerate a gel, but I felt so parched. I was extremely grateful when someone handed me an orange slice. I wanted something cold and refreshing, not sickly sweet.
I wasn’t expecting my sister to run with me. It was a complete surprise, a very welcome one. Having my sister there with me was more special than she might realize. She may be my younger sister, but I’ve always looked up to her and admired her. Nicole was the athlete when we were growing up. She was a terrific soccer player and physical fitness seemed to come natural to her. I spent years envying her slender figure, petite features, friendly personality and the way she seemed so at ease in every situation.
From a young age I convinced myself that I was everything she wasn’t. I told myself the same story for so long I actually believed it and it strained our relationship terribly. Until one day after having Carlos I told Nicole I wanted to learn to run. That sounds funny doesn’t it. Who doesn’t know how to run? Well I didn’t know how to run without getting winded in two steps. Nicole told me to run the long sides of a track and walk the short sides. I did just that until I could finally run a full loop around and then two and so on. Nicole and I ran my first 5K together, in the pouring rain. That was the moment I caught the running and racing bug. Nicole has been one of my biggest supporters throughout this journey and I am grateful to have this second chance to rebuild our relationship.
My sister stayed by my side until we neared mile 17 where I had another very special guest waiting to run the last nine miles with me.
For the last year and a half I have been seeing a Health Coach. I sought help about 6 months after the Montreal Marathon because I simply could not push past the funk I had fallen into and whatever it was that sent me hurling back into old behaviors. Laura is part running/fitness coach, part nutritionist, part life coach and part therapist. She has been a steady source of support throughout my injury and has really helped me come to terms with the runner I am today post injury.
After I made the decision to register for Vermont City she offered to run with me for a bit. I never imagined she would run 9 miles with me. Those last 9 miles were mentally and physically challenging. The stitch in my side would not go away and when it finally did my legs started to feel the stress of the mileage.
As the miles ticked by so did my personal goals. My A goal to come in under 4:29 (aka beat Oprah’s time) came and went. My B goal to finish below my Philly marathon time of 4:38 also came and went. At that point I was just aiming to finish in under 5 hours. I never doubted my ability to run the distance. If worse came to worse I knew without a doubt I could walk to the finish. It didn’t come to that thankfully. I did take walk breaks in those last 9 miles. However, as we approached mile 25 I refused to walk at all through that last mile. About a quarter mile before the finish I gave a quick hug to Laura as she made a graceful exit off the course. My eyes welled up. I really couldn’t believe that she stayed with me through all those miles. Her support meant more than she will ever know.
As I turned my gaze back on the course I could hear the excitement of the finish line. I rounded a corner and the lake was to my right sparkling alongside the final stretch of the Vermont City Marathon. The runners were received by a huge crowd of cheering spectators, loud music and enthusiastic announcers. I caught a fleeting glimpse of my family as I entered the finish chute. I slowed to a walk as the gracious volunteer placed a medal around my neck. Tears poured down my cheeks as I wrapped myself in the silver blanket (which should not be used like a tissue to wipe said tears off hot sweaty face…bad and rather painful idea!).
I did it! I finished my 4th marathon. In that very instant as I walked away in a bit of a daze I absolutely did not care what my time was. I didn’t care that I took some walk breaks. I didn’t care that I hadn’t had a more thorough training leading up to the race. I did the very best I could given the circumstances and I proved to myself once again that I am so much tougher than I give myself credit for both on the course and off.
For those who are dying to know my time, it was 4:52:54. This was my slowest marathon yet I can honestly say it was my proudest finish.
Saturday morning Carlos made his First Communion. It was a beautiful mass. Carlos was a reader and he did a great job! The girls looked like mini brides and the boys looked so handsome in their white dress shirts and ties. After the mass we had a party for Carlos. My dad came up from Florida and my sister and her husband were here from the Boston area. It was a really nice afternoon with friends and family.
That evening we spent more time with my dad. We took him for a walk around the college in town and then we went to the town commons for frozen yogurt.
As I was getting ready for bed I reminded Orlando that the WMass Mother’s Day Half Marathon was the next day. I have been on the fence about running it and decided to play it by ear. Before I went to sleep I told Orlando I was going to run.
The next morning was a bit of a rush to get out the door. I couldn’t find my hat or my check book. My stomach was a little off. Off we went. We got to the registration area and I was told check or cash only. I never carry cash on me. Back at the car Orlando was talking to a woman who was telling him where to park. I thanked her and told her I wouldn’t be running after all. Turns out she was from the Cancer Connection, the local organization the run benefits. Well she insisted that I follow her and she would get me registered. It all worked out and I threw in a donation for the Cancer Connection as well.
I lined up at the start and the gun sounded a few minutes later. The sun was already blazing and it was only 8 o’clock. I ran the race once before two years ago so I was familiar with the course. It’s a beautiful course in rural Whately, MA; rolling hills, vast expanses of farmland and lots of colorful trees, flowers and people along the way. The water stops are plentiful, thankfully. There were a few fabulous spectators with hoses and sprinklers to cool us down. The finish line is full of energy and well stocked with food for the runners (and their sneaky 8 year olds who somehow always manage to find something other than a banana!).
It was an unseasonably hot day. I started slow and just tried keep an even pace. My thoughts were all over the place for the first few miles – “what is my goal today,” “I feel so slow, so heavy,” “I can’t believe I have a full marathon in two weeks,” “I feel like a new runner,” “I’m hot,” “I love running,” “This is my idea of fun on Mother’s Day now, remember when it used to be going to a buffet brunch?!”God I’m so happy to be running again,” “My Achilles feels good, wait what was that, oh nothing I think,” “I love half marathons.”
Then somewhere around mile 4 my mind began to focus on my ego. Over the course of the last few years I had developed a running ego. I got better at running. Then I got faster. I had an entire year of PR’s in 2013. I thought the injury to my Achilles shattered that ego, but it didn’t really. The ego is still very intact so much so that it has inhibited me from running races because I know I am not in a place to PR right now.
By mile 8 I came to the conclusion that I have to let go of the ego if I want to enjoy running races again. In a way I am starting over again. Not only am I a different runner, I have a different life and a different schedule. The ego needs to go. I’m fortunate to be running again. I’m so lucky to be healthy. I can set new challenges for myself and achieve new goals, but I cannot go backwards. No one can take away my running accomplishments and from here on out I will make new memories.
I ran the rest of the race with a new attitude. I let go of any expectations of myself other than to run a steady pace and finish the race. I did just that. As I neared the end I saw Orlando and Carlos. Carlos reached his hand out and joined me as I crossed the finish line. In that very moment I didn’t care what the time clock read. Carlos’ hand in mine was the best Mother’s Day gift! Oh and the medal of course.
I mentioned that I was having dental surgery on Friday. There’s a story behind that surgery that connects many dots of my life. In my early 20s while a student at UMass the left side of my face became swollen and inflamed in pain. Two ER visits, a dentist visit and finally an X-ray later it was discovered that I had an infection in the root of one of my molars and required a root canal.
After graduating from college in 1996, I knew that I was going to apply to the Peace Corps. However, my stepfather passed away on December 2, 1996 and I put my Peace Corps (PC) application in a drawer because it didn’t seem right to leave my mom. Eventually she found it and told me to apply.
I sent in the application sometime in mid 1997. Applying to the PC is a long process for some of us. There is a medical exam, dental exam, lots of paperwork and an interview. I sent in all the paperwork as well as the medical and dental which included full mouth X-rays. My interview was in Boston in August 1997. By February of 1998 I was getting antsy. I wanted to move on with my life and was ready to take off for distant places whether with the PC or on my own to teach English.
In early March 1998, I called the PC headquarters in D.C. I was congratulated and told I had been invited to serve in Armenia. I told the woman that I hadn’t received anything in the mail. She put me on hold and when she returned she seemed nervous. She explained she shouldn’t have given me that information over the phone. She also mentioned I should have received an envelope from the Dental Office. I hadn’t so she transferred me to that department. I was told that it had been sent a couple of months ago and indicated a problem with the tooth I had the root canal on a couple of years earlier.
The invitation to Armenia finally arrived. The group was scheduled to leave at the end of May 1998. I eagerly began seeking as much information about Armenia as I could including connecting with current PC volunteers in Armenia via a very bare bones newsgroup on the internet. I was really excited to go especially after communicating with people who were already there. They spent vacations traveling to Greece or interesting places within Armenia and the summers sounded beautiful.
While planning my departure to Armenia, I was also being scheduled for the dental procedure to repair the root canal. I had periodontal surgery at the beginning of April. I can’t remember how it worked exactly, but by the end of April I had been told I could not go to Armenia because I would not be dentally cleared until my mouth was completely healed. My dentist wouldn’t clear me until June. I was devastated.
The PC recruiter in D.C. assured me that once I was cleared he would work on placing me somewhere else. However, when I called him in June 1998 with the news that I was finally cleared by dental, he was dealing with 4 PC evacuations out of unstable countries. His priority was placing those PC volunteers who wanted to continue their service. In our conversation he mentioned a new PC program in Mozambique beginning in the fall of 1998. I expressed my interest and he immediately apologized saying that I wasn’t going to be on the list for the new Mozambique program.
I hung up the phone and immediately called my boss at the time. He was an African American Studies professor at UMass Amherst. He also ran a scholarship program for black students in Durban, South Africa. I had been involved in organizing his trips to and from South Africa. Together we wrote a letter to PC to explain why I thought I would be an asset in PC Mozambique.
I sent the letter and waited. I waited and waited. Finally I called and spoke to the recruiter. He told me he received the letter, but was very sorry he couldn’t invite me to serve in Mozambique. I thanked him and told him I really couldn’t let PC keep me in limbo any longer. I fibbed and said I had an opportunity to teach English in Guatemala. In all honesty I could have gotten a job in a hot minute teaching English in Guatemala as jobs were plentiful then.
That evening there when I got home there ws a voice mail from Dan, the recruiter, welcoming me into PC Mozambique. I screamed!! I knew without a doubt that this was where I was supposed to be going. Armenia never felt like a good fit, but Mozambique seemed to have everything I was hoping for in a PC experience.
My PC experience is another story for another day, but suffice it to say my time in Mozambique was life changing. I loved my life in Mozambique and not just because I met my husband there. I was truly happy and comfortable there. I met such beautiful people. The food was delicious. The weather was hot. The beaches nothing short of perfect. I ate mangos and papayas from the trees in my yard. Most importantly I learned to relax.
Prior to leaving many friends and family members “warned” me not to get married over there in Africa. I laughed. I wasn’t exactly known for dating. And who goes into the PC with a goal of getting married anyway? I certainly didn’t, but it happened. Orlando and I will celebrate 14 years of marriage this September.
Not only did Mozambique introduce me to my husband, it also gave me a dear friend. For my first year in the PC, I had a site mate. Well when you live in a small house with lots of down time and no tv you become friends really quickly. Amelia and I learned so much about each other in a short time. There was no such thing as TMI! However, when she was offered an opportunity to move to the capitol and work with the Ministry of Education after a year we both knew we were ready for an independent experience. Our friendship has stood the test of time and I cannot imagine having gone through my first year of PC without Amelia.
Upon my return to the US the pesky tooth required an updated crown. Then a couple of years ago I felt a twinge of pain in that area and the memory came flooding back. I knew it was an infection so I called the dentist. A quick X-ray confirmed it and after a short discussion with my dentist I decided to pull the tooth. I couldn’t justify anymore expensive root canals. My dentist who had nothing to do with the previous procedures showed me exactly what the problem was and admitted that the job not done properly.
In a matter of 30 barbaric seconds a dental surgeon yanked the tooth out of my thankfully numb mouth. It was horrible. I cried briefly because I couldn’t believe the manner in which it was done. I left with a wad of gauze in my mouth and a nauseous feeling in my stomach. Later on I would run my tongue over the gaping hole and feel a sense of sadness. That tooth had cost me a great deal of pain, anguish and money, but it also changed my life forever.
I was assured by my dentist that the issues did not stem from poor dental care. I refused to leave the hole as is because I didn’t want my top teeth to shift as the bottom teeth had shifted. Before I could address the missing tooth I had to straighten my teeth. A word to anyone with teens in braces…insist that they wear their retainers or get a permanent retainer placed behind the teeth. I had braces at age 10 and they were removed by age 12. I wore my retainers for a bit, but then orthodontic care fell to the wayside as did my retainers. By not continuing to wear the retainers my bottom front two teeth began to spin inwards towards each other.
I wore Invisalign from October 2013 until Friday. I now have retainers which look similar. I have to wear them as often as possible for the next 6 months and then I will go to nighttime wear only.
With Invisalign completed we could now discuss the gaping hole wear my molar once sat. I had two options – a bridge or implants. I say implants because the space is large enough to fill two teeth into it. I honestly don’t know what happened to the other tooth or if there really was another tooth. My dentist sent me for an CT scan of the head to determine if implants were a feasible option. We sat in his office and he explained that implants were possible but I would need to have a sinus lift to add more bone in which to “implant” the new teeth.
My dentist is truly enthusiastic about his profession. He admitted that he was just learning to do this procedure and offered to do it for free. I just had to pay the cost of materials. He said he would invite a more experienced colleague to assist. I had faith in his abilities so I said yes. Friday was the sinus lift and first stage of the implants. The procedure took 3 hours. I am a ridiculously good patient. I don’t flinch or whine. I am totally still. At one point I even got drowsy! It went really well, but my face is really swollen and uncomfortable.
I honestly think the worst part of the surgery was the post op instructions. Before beginning the procedure Dr. Fox told me I could do any crazy pounding exercise. I thought he was kidding because he knows I’m training for a marathon. I said, “what like a 20 mile run on Sunday.” He thought I was kidding. I reassured him I wasn’t joking and he forbade me. He and his colleague told me absolutely not, no 20 mile run. No running for at least 48 hours and then only a short run if the swelling has subsided. My eyes welled up with tears. Not only was I mentally ready for my 20 miler the weather is amazing.
At the end of the procedure he told me I should stick to a liquid (smoothies, juices, broths, pureed soups) diet for 2 weeks and then a soft/liquid diet for another 4 weeks. I have numerous sutures and the area really needs to heal without any potential trauma. I will do anything I have to in order to heal properly. This tooth has cost me more money than I care to think about.
In 6 months I will at last have the implants and this lengthy tooth saga will at hopefully be finished. When I recount the story of “the tooth” it’s difficult to be resentful of the money spent (quite possibly a down payment on a house) and the pain felt because I wouldn’t have the one thing that means more to me than anything in the entire world…Carlos.
Carlos was born in December. I remember that winter was fairly mild so I took him outside from the time he was 2 weeks old almost every day. I would bundle him up in his car seat and take him for walks. The fresh air was good for both of us.
I’m almost always cold. My family thinks I’m ridiculous as I walk around the house with my space heater carrying it from room to room. Winter was always a time to hibernate. Since Carlos came along I have learned to embrace winter. If I can’t move to Arizona or Mozambique then I better learn how to enjoy the winter.
It started with sledding. It’s one of our favorite winter activities. I dare you to try not to smile when you’re sledding. Impossible!! I have been taking Carlos sledding since he was 1. The hills have gotten bigger, steeper and make my stomach lurch a little, but still impossible not to smile. It is also the one winter activity we can all do as a family. My husband is like a kid again when he sleds. He is always volunteering to take Carlos and his friends sledding.
When Carlos was 3 my sister bought him 3 ski lessons for his birthday. The program was called Ski With Me I’m Three. It was fabulous. Carlos loved it! I really wanted to try it, but the next few winters I think we only made it out a couple of times for him to take a lesson. Last winter Carlos took a lesson and then spent the afternoon going up and down the smaller area of the mountain for beginners. The second time we went I finally took a lesson. I loved it! At the beginning of winter this year I rented skis for Carlos because it’s much cheaper than renting them each time. In late November I hit up the tent sale at the mountain we usually go to and decided to buy myself some skis. We took advantage of the discounts being offered that day and bought season’s passes too. We have already been a handful of times. I have no clue what I’m doing, but it’s fun and feels great being out there. We typically ski at the smaller area which has a J-bar that takes you up to the top. I am a disaster when it comes to getting off the chair lift. I think I need a lesson on that alone. Carlos is doing great though. Orlando is afraid to try it, but he loves coming with us. We are working on getting him to agree to take at least one lesson before the end of the season.
When Carlos was 4 he started a Learn to Skate program. Unfortunately the program was extremely unorganized. It was a mass of children on the ice with only a few instructors. He spent the entire time doing his own thing which was basically walking back and forth across the ice on skates. I started taking him myself to the public skate hours after school. It had been many years since I skated, but it was kind of like riding a bike. I got right back up there and while I’m no Dorothy Hamil, I manage to stay upright. One afternoon at the rink I met a guy who coached a skating program for adults at UMass Amherst. I joined the program and was really enjoying it until I got unbearable, painful shin splints from skating. I couldn’t believe it, with all the running I was doing it was skating that caused the shin splints. There is a lot of pushing into the lower legs and my shins couldn’t take it. I had to stop going to the lessons, but I still go skating with Carlos for fun. I have my own skates and I keep them in the car just in case. Carlos has since joined a different Learn to Skate program which is phenomenal. This is his third year and he is doing great. They learn all different techniques and now are doing mostly stick and puck drills.
Winter hasn’t stopped me from running. Sometimes it is tough to get motivated to get out there, but once I do I’m always surprised at how great it feels.
Orlando and I went snow shoeing a couple of years ago and I would love to try that again. We snow shoed up a local snow covered mountain. It was so peaceful and beautiful.
This weekend we are in Lake George. It’s a ghost town in the winter, but the lodging rates are a bargain. We are staying a condo rental. It’s very cozy and comfortable. We’ve enjoyed lounging by the fireplace, but we’ve been getting outdoors as well. Yesterday morning I went out for a chilly, but scenic run by the lake. Later in the morning we went tubing. It was a first for all of us and we loved it! It’s like sledding turbo charged. We had a blast. Then we went down to the frozen area of the lake. We wandered around checking out the ice fishing holes and sliding around. There is something so refreshing about breathing in the winter air. It just feels cleaner.
Carlos plays outside almost every day even in the freezing cold temps, snow and sometimes rain. I don’t force him to, he wants to especially if it’s snowing. Embracing winter has made it possible for all of us to stay active and healthy throughout the winter.
I won’t give a history lesson here, but if you are interested in the Revolutionary War time period or have children who are studying it and you don’t live too far I would highly recommend visiting Fort Ticonderoga. It was immensely interesting and very engaging for all ages.
Before I get to the fort let me rewind to the early morning. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run in a new place so I set off on foot to discover a little bit more of Hague, NY. I was expecting a crisp cool fall morning, but the temperature was warming up quickly. The area is very hilly, but beautiful in every direction. I ran back past the Hague Market, along a wooded trail and then up a huge hill where I came across an old cemetery. I stopped at the cemetery and walked around a bit before heading back to the resort. The foliage was so rich and colorful. My run was slow with lots of photo breaks.
After my run I grabbed Carlos to go kayaking. We each had our own kayak and we rowed out away from the dock in silence, Carlos leading the way. Carlos went to a kayak camp this summer for a week. I watched him in awe as he maneuvered the kayak effortlessly over the calm water. He was confident and strong. We didn’t talk much and just enjoyed the peacefulness of the lake and the gorgeous scenery.
I could have stayed out there all day, but we really had to get back to the cabin and get a move on if we wanted to make it to Fort Ticonderoga. After checking out of the resort we returned to Libby’s for breakfast. Then it was time for the main attraction. From the parking lot it doesn’t look like much, but once we passed through the welcome center which houses the gift shop and restaurant you go through a door to be greeted with a spectacular views all around.
We wandered around for about 20 minutes awaiting the next tour. There was a wall with chronological information. You could peruse the cannons on display. The fort was strategically built overlooking the outlet of the La Chute River which connects Lake George to Lake Champlain. This was an important area because it essentially linked New France to New York.
Fort Ticonderoga was built by the French beginning in 1755 and originally called Carillon. The fort changed hands a number of times. In 1759 the British defeated the French there and took control of the fort for the next 16 years. In what is considered the first American victory of the Revolutionary War, Fort Ticonderoga was captured on May 10, 1775 by Benedict Arnold, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys.
The tour began with a lengthy history by our very intelligent and sarcastically witty tour guide.
Once inside the fort you could roam around checking out the various rooms like the shoe workshop, the tailor’s shop and a bunk room. There was also a museum on the top floor of the building with historical artifacts, weaponry, clothing and paintings.
We were invited to return back outside of the fort to watch a demonstration of muskets being fired.
From there we took a tour of the King’s Garden.
The corn maze adventure was next on our list. It was actually quite easy which worked out great since it was beginning to get very warm out and we were all hungry for lunch. We ate lunch on site and enjoyed the gorgeous views. On our way out we were given directions to Mount Defiance. For a small fee you also received a ticket to drive up Mount Defiance just across the river from Fort Ticonderoga. During colonial times the mountain was deemed too steep to fortify with troops and weaponry despite the major vantage point from the top until finally in July 1977, British General Burgoyne ignored past skepticism and brought his cannons up the mountain forcing the Americans to abandon the forts below.
Once at the base of the mountain I did my best to convince Carlos and Orlando to hike up the mountain. It’s only about a mile up. They reluctantly agreed and complained the entire way up! Wimps!! However, once at the top we were treated to amazing views all around.
We decided to take the nearby ferry across Lake Champlain into Vermont on our way home. The small ferry crosses in only 6 minutes on cables to a dock directly across the lake. You can even buy Vermont maple syrup and a few other goodies on board.
Whew! That’s it for our weekend getaway. I would highly recommend checking out north western Lake George and the Ticonderoga area.
I brought Carlos to school in the morning and went straight to the dentist. I’ve had Invisalign “clear” braces for almost a year now and this was to be my final set of trays. The problem area, my two front bottom teeth, has resolved quite nicely, but I had to report to my dentist that my bite is still very uneven. We decided I would proceed with three more trays to see if that helps. As anxious as I am to be done with this process, I’m also very grateful to be able to address the issues with my teeth. With no intervention my bottom teeth would have turned inward so much the gums would have been negatively affected and the teeth would have likely come loose.
After the dentist I went to one of my favorite noon Vinyasa classes. Sandra is a newer yoga teacher. She is so sweet and patient. I also love her teaching style. I learn something new each time I attend her class. She loves arm balances and really encourages us to try even if we are unable to get all the way into the pose. I’m convinced I just have too much body to hold up! I keep trying though. Typically the next day I feel like I’ve done a heavy weight lifting session because my arms are so sore.
After school there was a school pizza party. Carlos and I went for a little while, but had to leave early to go to soccer practice. I love his new school and all of the activities designed for the families to become more familiar with one another, but somedays I’m just not all that chatty or interested in pursuing small talk. This happened to be one of those days. I tried striking up a couple of conversations, but they fell flat and eventually I just took to sitting on a bench facing the playground where the kids were playing. People are friendly and nice, but most already know each other. Do you ever feel like you don’t know what to say?
Typically this would be my weekend off, but I took the following weekend off to run the Vermont 50. Although I am no longer running we decided to go away for the weekend anyway. So after soccer practice and dinner I took a little rest before work.
I rarely talk about work and I’m not going to drone on about it now, but suffice it to say I had a really crappy night. Each night that passes lately has me wondering why I stay. My resume is done and I’ve put some feelers out. In January the hospital is implementing a time clock system to punch in and out. At that time the 11pm to 7am shift will be required to work 11pm to 7:30am and we will be required to take a 30 minute “lunch” break. When I was hired I was told night shift works until 7am. This has been my saving grace in being able to get Carlos to school. I cannot leave work at 7:30am and get him to school on time. I am so frustrated by this. I mentioned to my boss that I was concerned about it and would probably be forced to quit. She just shrugged! I arrive to work 10 minutes before my shift starts. I never call out (it’s been exactly three years since my rib fracture and that was the last time I called out). I am a hard worker and go above and beyond my job description. But the bottom line is, we are all replaceable. This is probably just the kick in the ass I need to move on.
After work Carlos and I hurried out for an impromptu hike so I could shake off the night. We went to a new place I’ve been dying to try called Lithia Springs. It’s only a few miles from our house and I can’t believe we’ve never been. It was awesome and there’s still so much to explore. We hiked about 3.30 miles in 2 hours. We walked and talked, laughed and goofed around. It was kind of overcast and cool, but it was such a fun morning.
After the hike we picked up our CSA. I got loads of kale, purple potatoes, a big zucchini, tomatoes and a big cabbage. I am going to miss big bundles of organic kale!
Carlos had a soccer game in the afternoon. He plays in-town soccer. No pressure, no crazy parents and no traveling to other towns. Carlos has had a lot of soccer training, but it became clear that he just really doesn’t care for anything too intense so this is perfect for him. He enjoys it and loves being with his friends. I think they won, but honestly I don’t care because it’s supposed to be instructional with the focus on team work.
We chilled out in the afternoon. I went to bed when Orlando came home to get ready for another night of madness.
I left work and went straight to the gym for some strength training. I really could have used a punching bag though. When I got home I asked Carlos to come out for a short run one mile run with me. After all our hiking and his soccer playing the day before he was whining about his legs bothering him. I said we could walk and within about 10 minutes his legs were fine! We ended up doing a walk/run in the rain for a total of 2.16 miles. We even did a sprint to the driveway. He declared himself the winner, but I explained that I was the real winner because instead of one mile he did double.
We got home, relaxed, ate and then it was time for skating. Carlos did a fabulous job. I absolutely love this program he’s in. This was his third week back on the ice after being off for months and the progress is already noticeable. He is starting to skate backwards very smoothly and much more quickly. I’m so impressed with him. Skating backwards is difficult in my opinion. I have a very hard time with it.
It has become somewhat of a ritual for Carlos to go over my mom’s after skating. This gave me time to go grocery shopping, prepare minestrone soup for dinner, prep vegetables for the week, juice some fruits and vegetables and make a pot of quinoa and sprouted lentils to have on hand for the week. I couldn’t believe how much I accomplished in a few hours. Before I knew it I had to leave to pick up Carlos.
We chatted a bit and then played with Photo Booth until Orlando came home and I went to bed. In the spirit of Halloween we had fun with the X-ray setting on Photo Booth:
I’m starting to get my running mojo back. I decided to run up Mt. Holyoke and then hike my way back down. I ran up the access road to the top rather than the trail because I am still being over cautious about injury. It was an awesome feeling making it to the top. It’s not a huge climb and only about 1.65 miles to the top, but it really gets the heart pumping. I took in the view from the top and then strolled down the trails for a total of 3.15 miles.
I practiced a little trail running on flat stretches of trail. It was a leisurely hike down. As I was getting close to my car I greeted an older man who was walking his little furry white dog. The dog was bounding along quite happily. We said hello and then the man informed me that 6 months ago the dog was paralyzed! I said well she’s made a remarkable recovery and now I can tell you all about the dog, the man’s daughter who lives in Maine, his workout schedule, etc. People love to share their stories with me! This summer at our favorite little local lake, Carlos ran into a friend from school. When I walked down the small beach to get him to go home I met his friend’s grandmother and her friend. The grandmother’s friend suddenly began explaining that she was wearing a big floppy beach hat because she was in menopause and taking hormones and didn’t want to get a sunburn. I learned all about her daughter who was a new Chemistry teacher and more about menopause. It’s amazing what people will share!
Later in the afternoon I had a phone call to make and I was doing some computer work at a coffee shop near the bike trail. It was a gorgeous day out so I decided to walk and talk. I was surprised that I ended up walking 4.35 miles. I moved for a total of 7.5 miles.
I have been itching to do a long run, something more than 5 miles. I had plans to run with my friend Kate, the one I will be running with in the Baystate Half Marathon next month. However, things didn’t work out quite as planned. I left the house and decided to run in her direction. I ran 4.47 miles before meeting up with her as she got delayed by a couple of unplanned issues. We then did some hill work and a mini boot camp of lunges, squats and tricep dips. The weather was really undecided, it was grey and gloomy, but a bit muggy and breezy. Rain was imminent and of course as we headed back to do more hill work it began raining. We decided to just get back on the road and run to my house. Luckily the rain fizzled out. I ran another 4.04 miles for a total of 8.51 miles!
Back at my house we indulged in a little homemade facial. I made a face scrub out of almond oil and coconut sugar which smells divine! We cleansed our faces with my new Beauty Counter cleanser and then did the scrub. My skin felt so nice and smooth!
Little known fact…I really wanted to be an esthetician when I was in high school. I used to practice doing facials on my friends and family. I was so interested in it my mom took me to the Elizabeth Grady School in Boston for a tour and informational session. Of course once my friends started looking into colleges I wanted to do the same. I am still interested in skin care, but these days I am more interested in how to care for the skin as naturally as possible by eliminating chemically laden products in exchange for more natural organic remedies. Something tells me at some point my career path might come full circle.
I have been itching to get back into strength training. I hit the gym after bringing Carlos to school. I didn’t have much time, but managed to fit in a good 45 minute session including a quick warm up on the bike. I am aiming for one day a week at the gym.
Later I met my oldest and dearest childhood friend for lunch. It was a belated birthday lunch for me. It’s always nice to catch up with her as we don’t see each other too often. She is a busy nurse practitioner with 4 sons! She had 3 of her boys long before I had Carlos. As kids we used to talk about how we would live next door to each other in California and have children at the same time. Well by the time I got pregnant with Carlos I figured that dream was long gone. Ironically she got pregnant a few months later with her fourth son. Carlos and Domenic are great friends and although they don’t see each other often they act as though no time has passed when they do get together just like their moms. Now I just have to figure out how we are going to live next door to each other in California!
I brought Carlos to soccer practice in the morning and went for a run while he was there. It was a really enjoyable 4.36 mile run. After practice we went home so I could shower. We picked up our farm share, went to Barnes & Noble to pick up a gift card for a birthday party that afternoon and back home for lunch.
The birthday party was for one of Carlos’ new school friends. He loves to dance and takes dance lessons. His mom said he really wanted a dance birthday party so the studio let him have the party there. The two dance instructors spent about a half hour teaching the group of kids a short dance to one of the songs in the most recent Muppets movie. Then the kids performed the dance for us. They had cake and ice cream in the lobby area before going back into the dance room for another performance. The dance instructors put other music on and led the kids in a little freestyle dance party. It was nice to see the boys participating too and having so much fun. My husband is a great dancer and Carlos has inherited the natural rhythm that every Mozambican boy seems to be born with thankfully!
I ran 4.40 miles at my happy place, Ashley Reservoir, for a much needed run after work. At home I whipped up my favorite black bean and corn salad for an afternoon barbecue. Carlos had skating at 11:30. At 1:30 all went to the barbecue at the house of one of his class mates later in the afternoon. This new school is very small. There is a strong sense of community. This family invited the entire class over to get to know the families. The teacher and one teaching assistant also came. It was a beautiful afternoon. There was tons of homemade food. The company was enjoyable. It was so nice to chat with everyone, get to know the parents and kids a little better and make ourselves more visible. Carlos is settling in very nicely and we are beyond thrilled with the transformation we have seen in him in the short time he’s been back at school.
We love Montessori and what it is doing for Carlos, but we are quickly becoming aware that not everyone shares our enthusiasm. At soccer practice a boy from Carlos’ old school told him that his mom won’t let him go to Montessori because they let you learn whatever you want to and that’s not right. There have also been a few quips made to me by parents about the lack of structure in a Montessori classroom. I don’t say too much other than to encourage people to visit a Montessori school before criticizing. I tend to preface any discussion about Carlos’ new school with, “Montessori school is not appropriate for all children, but it is a great fit for Carlos.”