Happy Halloween

I took the day off today because Carlos has the day off from school due to a teacher in service day. We had breakfast with my cousin who is visiting from Arizona. She came into town for her baby shower this past weekend. She is due with her first child, a baby girl, in February. My mom has one sister, and they both have two children. The four of us were very close growing up. I am the oldest and this cousin is the youngest. She is the one that inspired me to begin running. She was a Team in Training coach when she lived in Florida. She has since abandoned running and joined the Cross Fit movement along with her husband.

On Saturday after the shower my mom and my aunt were trying to get my cousin to divulge possible baby names. I never give parenting or pregnancy advice because it’s annoying. Seriously, everyone’s pregnancy is totally different, and people are going to parent in their own way. However, the only thing I suggested to my cousin was to consider keeping the name to herself. When I told my family I was going to name the baby Carlos if it was a boy my grandmother actually said, “Oh I don’t like that I’ll call him Carl!!” My mom and my aunt gave a little eye roll at the time too, but once Carlos was born it was such a suitable name for him and everyone loved it. My grandmother did call him Carlos every now and then and Carlos would say, “Noni, my name is Carlos!” There is nothing worse than deciding on a name, loving it, and having someone ruin it for you. Despite my mom and my aunt putting the pressure on my cousin, she stood her ground and didn’t tell us anything.

Let me backtrack for a moment to Friday night. I am the designated scary attractions chaperone for my son and his best friend, Tyler. Last year we did Six Flags Fright Fest. We went on two ghost tours in Gettysburg in the spring. This Halloween season they really wanted to do a haunted hayride at a local farm. The only issue is that the line can be many hours long. So when I saw an ad for Fast Pass tickets on Facebook this summer I grabbed 3 tickets. We were all ready to brave the hayride last Saturday night and it got rained out. Luckily this past Friday was perfect weather. We jumped to the front of the line and got right on the hayride. The boys and I were unimpressed and disappointed with it. It was basically people with masks jumping on and off the wagon, getting into your face, and then making some kind of noise. There was one section with creepy clowns. It wasn’t scary, but clowns bother me. At end after you get off the ride you enter a haunted house on foot. Now that was scary! It seemed as though it was never going to end. We were spooked every time we turned a corner. The boys had a blast and so did I. They are really such fun to be around. We decided we will try to do one scary/haunted attraction every year.

I finished my first graduate course two weeks ago. It was challenging to do it between work, Carlos’ schedule, Orlando’s schedule, marathon training, and a trip to Chicago. I spent many nights at the library until it closed at 2AM. I got an A, and two days after the course ended I began the next one. I contemplated taking time off, but after discussing it with my student advisor, and a couple of reasonable people in my life, I knew that breaking the momentum right now could potentially be the end of my studies. This course follows the same rhythm as the last one, assignments due on Wednesday nights, and follow up comments to classmates due on Saturday nights. This is not quite the graduate school experience of my dreams. That one didn’t have work and family balance to negotiate. I am doing the very best that I can to balance everything.

Work has been an absolute nightmare. Computer issues across the state. They fix one thing and three more issues arise. Enough said!

Running is my sanity. Fall running is probably one of my favorite activities in the whole world. It’s crisp, the air smells so clean, and the colors are striking even when they begin to dull like right now. My friend and I have enjoyed mild temperatures on our last few early runs. I still can’t believe she is willing to meet me at 5AM and run with a headlamp. We laugh a lot, and the runs go by so much faster. She never complains and will even run in the rain.

I will be going to Manchester, NH this weekend to run my 7th marathon. I will be with another friend who was supposed to run the marathon too. She has been injured since early on in our training. I feel so awful for her, but I am grateful she is still willing to take a road trip to cheer me on in the race. I still cannot even believe I am doing this. The shortest time I have ever had between marathons was 4 months between Vermont City and Hartford last year. My training plan since Chicago has been surprising low in mileage. The Manchester City Marathon is a bit hilly so the emphasis has been on hills and flexibility training. I have really enjoyed the change in training over the last few weeks.

I started going to yoga again on Tuesday mornings with my favorite instructor. The studio closed and she is now doing a class close to Carlos’ school. It is a Vinyasa flow class. I love the class and her teaching style. I am the worst at yoga. I feel like a big clunky elephant in the room. However, I love it, and I want to get better at it. Like running there is such a powerful mental aspect to yoga. I love pushing myself beyond the limits I once thought existed.

No political commentary from me. I am keeping my nose out of those conversations. One neighbor has huge Trump and Make America Great Again signs in front of his yard. They have been vandalized a few times. He repaints them and puts them right back out there. To each their own I say!

Carlos and I have a giant pumpkin to carve and then major trick or treating to get to in a few hours.

Happy Halloween!!

Chicago Pre-Marathon

We are in Chicago!! I pulled an all nighter (because I like to pretend I’m still an undergrad) Wednesday night to finish a healthcare policy paper. I have 3 weeks left of this first grad class and I’m honestly surprised I haven’t quit. I have spent every night in the library. But anyway that’s boring. The paper is done. I turned it in 11 hours late. The professor knew I wasn’t going to finish on time. She’s really forgiving thankfully. She is also brutally honest, but I have a lot to learn so I will use the feedback to improve.

In the midst of trying to finish the paper I actually had to work at my job. Thursday mornings we have a webex meeting. I packed while listening to that and then responded to work email. Our horrendous new computer software was acting up so I really couldn’t do much anyway. I am so backed up with my paperwork because of the computer issues. Everyone is, and it’s becoming a serious problem. We do full, tedious, time consuming assessments only to lose them somewhere in the save process. It’s so frustrating, but I am sure as hell not going to complain to my boss about it. She knows!

I was so relieved to get to the airport. Although I have a ton of work to do in any spare time I get here in Chicago, it’s just nice to be away. After checking into the hotel we went to dinner. I had a blogger meet up planned with Biz from mybizzykitchen.com and Jacky from Jax House. Unfortunately something came up and Jacky was unable to meet. Biz met us just around the corner from our hotel at Native Foods. Native Foods is a vegan cafe. Biz is not vegan so it was really kind of her to brave a menu full of tofu, seitan, and tempeh! I tend to eat very simple foods prior to a marathon so I enjoyed the sesame kale macro bowl. Although we said the place was vegan a few times, Carlos still doesn’t seem to know that his chicken strips were not real chicken. He even asked for a second order!

I can’t quite remember how I found My Bizzy Kitchen, but it was at least 6 years ago. Biz was doing a holiday challenge to encourage herself and anyone interested to stay on track with health goals throughout the holidays. I loved it. It was just the support and accountability I needed. I found myself becoming very active in the comment section. I read Biz’s blog daily because I felt like I could have written many of the posts myself. Finally someone who got it!  The weight struggle, the ups and downs of Weight Watchers, the frustration of losing only to gain some back…I hate seeing anyone else go through that, but it was helpful to know others understand. There was a real genuine nature to the blog. I wasn’t surprised that when I met her in person it was easy to fall into conversation and chat away. Please visit My Bizzy Kitchen to see a photo of us at dinner and read more about our meet up. Thank you so much Biz, it was a fun evening!! Next time I make it to Chicago I’m counting on a foodie tour with Jacky and Biz.

My first full day in Chicago started with a 5 mile run along the water. It was a gorgeous day. I didn’t realize how much I truly needed a change of scenery. Look at this! It would take me a lot longer to get sick of this view.

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While Carlos and Orlando explored the waterfront on their own, I took the train to the expo. It was massive! I wandered around collecting lots of freebies. It was so smoothly run I didn’t wait at all to pick up my packet.

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The afternoon was spent on an architectural river boat tour. It was fascinating. We all really enjoyed it. Our guide, Jim, was the best. He was knowledgable and funny, but not in an obnoxious way.

After an early dinner at Navy Pier we took our time walking back to the hotel. We stopped by Milenium Park to see the bean.

 

It was a nice night out and I would have gladly kept exploring, but I was developing a blister on the right 4th toe. I wrapped that sucker in a blister bandaid immediately. I’m hoping it goes away by Sunday morning!!

Goal for Saturday – some photos to prove that I’m actually here too!

Rusty

I’m taking a much needed 5 minute break from the 2 chapters of Delivering Health Care in America I have to finish by tonight. To say I am overwhelmed is an understatement. In my first week of grad school I have completed two assignments, read more than I have in months, and became reacquainted with APA format. In my first few years of undergrad many moons we used MLA to cite references. In my last year we were required to use APA. I haven’t written a paper with references since 1996! I am rusty to say the least.

The general format of the class requires us to post our assignment on a discussion board by Wednesday. The assignment must be completed in APA format. Once posted we have to comment on two other posts by Saturday using a well thought out, researched reply with references. There will be a couple of group projects and a final paper. I truly do not have enough hours in the day to complete the reading required to keep up with the class.

The professor seems kind. She is demanding, but very available and offers insightful feedback. Her responses are prompt and she encourages us to reach out to her. My classmates have a variety of experiences and interesting backgrounds. Although we will never meet face to face they seem very open to communicating and helping each other.

Despite one mini breakdown this week I am not throwing in the towel yet! I had a little internal heart to heart on my extremely boring 18 mile run today. I am going to do the best I can and learn as much as I can during this experience. I love learning, but I also have always felt a sense of inadequacy in everything I do as if I’m never good enough or smart enough. Just today someone asked me if I was even an RN. She didn’t understand how I could be in a Master’s program if I was an LPN. I am a registered nurse.  I know that part of my desire to obtain a Master’s Degree is to lend legitimacy to my role as a nurse and an educator.

Carlos had an excellent first week back at school. He really loves his new teacher. His class has only 8 children which is fantastic. I managed to have a successful week of marathon training. Today was my long run. To save time I decided to just run from home instead of driving somewhere for a change of scenery. Unfortunately both of my running partners were out of commission, one is injured, and the other has been sick. I could not have chosen a more mundane, ugly route! Needless to say the 18 miles did not fly by, but I got them done. I stopped in to a McDonald’s for water at mile 10 and the staff there could not have been more friendly. They allowed me to refill my water pack for free. A couple of elderly women were absolutely fascinated by my CamelBak and asked to look at it, see how it worked, and wanted to know where to buy to use on their walks! I get antsy sometimes during a long run and just want to finish it, but I am reminded that I am also doing this to set a healthy example to others. I try to smile when I run so I don’t give the impression that running is really awful, and I am always happy to chat for a few minutes.

I suppose I should get back to reading. It’s not the most captivating reading!

What’s New

Where do I begin? Do you have a few minutes…hours? It’s been a busy summer, and sadly it’s almost over. School starts on Monday for both Carlos and me. After researching programs and thinking about going to graduate school for a few years now I finally found a program that feels right. I was accepted into Sacred Heart University’s MSN program with a specialty in Nursing Education.

We have been in Florida since last Friday visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and my father who live in the Ft. Lauderdale/Pompano Beach area. My sister and brother-in-law moved here in May, and my dad has lived here for years. It has been wonderful spending time with them. Carlos has enjoyed some long awaited quality time with his auntie and grandpa.

Despite the heat and humidity I kept up with marathon training while on vacation. For my long run I ran 14 miles up the coast to Boca Raton. It was steaming hot when I left around 6:30AM and it only got hotter and more humid. It was a slow run, but the change of scenery was a welcome treat.

I ran, worked, and took a couple of vacation days. We went to Rapids Water Park on Saturday, spent time at the beach, and I got a much needed manicure with my sister.

 

More running news:

  • Marathon training is in full swing. It’s going really well. Lots of running, some speed and hill work, improving my tempo runs, and a new emphasis on warm ups and could downs. I am learning to run with friends. I am certainly becoming heat conditioned should it be hot and humid on race day. I am worrying less about my pace and more about injury prevention, enjoying the run, and taking care of myself.
  • Back in July I attended a two day Road Runners Club of America Coaching Certification Course in Portland, Maine. It was two full eight hour days of learning about running, coaching, training, dealing with injury, nutrition, and so much more. It was an intense training after which we had 30 days to take a 100 question exam. I passed with flying colors! I have no immediate intentions of formally coaching anyone, and even if I change my mind about that I don’t think I could ever take money for it. I took the course more for my own knowledge, and also to lend legitimacy to the answers and suggestions I offer to friends and new runners who ask for advice. As luck would have it one of my new running partners has registered to run her first half marathon this fall, and she is putting her training and faith into my hands. I’m honored, and a little nervous. Fortunately she’s extremely motivated, very positive, and open to this new experience. She is going to do great!
  • Speaking of registering for races…I entered the lottery for the Big Sur Marathon. It’s been on my race bucket list since I first heard about it. A friend who has run the race as part of the Boston to Big Sur challenge messaged me to let me know about the random drawing for First Timer’s. I don’t play the regular lottery, but perhaps I should. On April 30, 2017 I will be running the Big Sur Marathon. Orlando is looking forward to his first trip to the west coast. I will once again push myself out of my comfort zone as I face winter training again, something I swore I wouldn’t do after two years of training for Vermont City, and I will have to learn how to run long distances without the comfort and companionship of my music. Big Sur does not allow headphones on the course. I feel ridiculous admitting that this was the one factor that had me on the fence about registering, but ultimately I decided that this is something I need to do.
  • The Olympics…Usain Bolt is superhuman. Meb’s finish made me tear up. He is such a class act. Galen Rupp’s bronze medal finish had me torn with mixed emotions of excitement, and a little bit of skepticism. My heart went out to Kate Grace during her 800 meter race. The women’s 4×400 meter relay team were on fire and won their 6th straight gold medal. There were so many more inspiring moments.

On the topic of the Olympics, I had the pleasure of watching the final soccer match between Brazil and Germany with my soccer obsessed son and my Brazilian brother-in-law while in Florida. It was a nail biter and ended in a shoot out. We went crazy when Neymar scored the winning goal for Brazil. It was such an exciting game. I can’t imagine how insane it must have been in the stadium.

I love the Olympics. This year in particular, it was a welcome break from political talk. I really enjoy the inspirational stories of the athletes. It’s fun to come together as a family in the evening to watch whatever event is airing.

The beginning of August was two weeks day camp for Carlos and a busy work schedule for me. We still made time for get togethers with friends. There was a quick trip to the Connecticut Shore, a baseball game, playgrounds, and Carlos went on a whale watching trip with a friend and his family.

I went to see Pitbull in concert in Hartford with a friend. I wasn’t planning on going to the show, but at the last minute my friend had an extra ticket. It was a gorgeous night thankfully because we had lawn seats. The show was fun, energetic, and got me dancing…something I absolutely love doing, but I haven’t done in ages.

Where was Orlando in August? Fortunately Orlando has been very busy with work. As a mason he relies on the summer months to not only make money, but to accumulate hours for our medical insurance. As a mason in the bricklayer’s union he is required to work at least 1000 hours per year to maintain his benefits which are far better than mine so we prefer to keep his active. The intensity of his summer work hours is balanced by a 2-4 month winter layoff. We miss him over the summer, but it’s a trade off that we’ve been living with for many years. Today is actually Orlando’s birthday and we are looking forward to seeing him after almost a week away.

We are on the plane flying home. JetBlue’s wifi is by far the best of any airline I’ve been on in recent years and it’s free! We should be in Hartford in about 90 minutes and then it’s back to work this afternoon. Carlos has soccer practice later today. Tomorrow will be a full work day and an afternoon play date at the park. I have a 16 mile long run on Saturday. I work Saturday night at the hospital. Sunday morning run, and my friend’s baby shower later in the morning.

The summer break will officially close with my birthday. I will be 43 years old this weekend. All I ask for is another 43 years to keep living life as fully as I have this past month.

 

Why?

5 police officers killed in Dallas

3 police officers killed – in St. Louis, Tennessee, and Georgia

the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the people affected by the loss of these lives. I have no eloquent way of expressing my thoughts on these issues so much of this may seem like I’m rambling. I feel a deep sense of sadness right now.

My son enjoys watching the news with my husband most nights. I generally have a good sense of what’s going on in the world even though I rarely sit down with them. My husband and I encourage Carlos to ask questions. He’s interested and inquisitive. As much as the mom in me wants to shelter him from all the bad in the world, I cannot. So I want to make him aware, knowledgeable, and in tune to his surroundings. On Thursday night when he went in the living room to watch the news, I joined him because Orlando was working. Lester Holt began the news with the top stories of the two men killed by police officers. I watched and worried about how to explain these stories to Carlos. I am not going to lie, I felt a sense of relief when I looked over for Carlos’ reaction after the report was finished and realized he was sound asleep. I sat and watched him so peaceful and sweet. Then a rather abrupt realization washed over me as I noted his beautiful dark skin and hair that resembles his father. My son is one day going to be a black man despite being half white. I shook the thought because I didn’t really no what it meant or how to justify my fear as the thought came into my mind.

Have you ever watched little children play with one another? They are so unaware of other kids’ differences particularly as long as everyone is interested in playing. My son has never been concerned with the color of another child’s skin or the clothing a kid wears or a hair do or the gender of a class mate’s parents. None of that is of interest to him. He just wants to play, run, goof around, and laugh with other children. His friends all seem pretty much the same. He still plays with boys and girls. He has friends of various ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. My friend and I often talk about this as we watch our boys make friends almost instantaneously when we go to a playground. We ponder the question when does it all change and why?

At home we have never had a reason to discuss the interracial dynamics of our family. It’s just not something we consider to be a part of our identity. It sounds ridiculous to some, but we simply don’t see the difference.

I put Carlos to bed Thursday night and I went to bed myself at 8pm. I had watched enough and read enough throughout the day about the shootings. I have my own thoughts and opinions which I won’t get into, but essentially they probably go against the grain and I’m not looking for an argument. I was mentally drained. I slept deeply and for many hours until I woke early to go for a run. On my way to the reservoir I heard the news about the police who were shot in Dallas. I instantly thought of a friend whose husband is a policeman in Dallas. I can’t even imagine how she feels day in and day out when her husband is at work. I was relieved hours later when I heard that he was fine, however, I thought about them both throughout the day worried that more violence would erupt. I was brought up to respect a police officer with reverence and a little bit of healthy trepidation for the consequences of breaking the law. Therefore I can honestly say I don’t participate in unlawful activities. The mere thought of being arrested scares me.

Where am I going with all of this? I haven’t a clue. I’m as confused today as I was on Thursday. I’m not taking a stand on any “side” because I truly believe that we all matter. It’s all of the grey areas in the arguments that concern me the most. There is no easy solution, no simple answer, and no outcome to please everyone. We will never live in a world without guns or violence. I’m no idealistic fool. That won’t stop me from praying that maybe one day people will stop hating each other and stop reacting with violence. All I can do is live my life in a way that is meaningful to me and my family, keep them as safe as possible, and do no harm to others.

Lighten up challenge – Day 2

6/1/16

How is it June already? Carlos gets out of school next Wednesday! 

I worked at the hospital last night. It was a nice steady night with one admission so no time to think about food. I had a banana and an apple along with coffee and almond milk. 

Working the overnights throw me off a bit now. I don’t have a routine and I have had difficulty controlling the binge eating after a night shift. Instead of looking for something to nibble on, I took a short 20 minute power nap after bring Carlos to school. I wasn’t hungry and I definitely couldn’t stomach anymore coffee. The rest was perfect and I actually woke up a couple of minutes before the alarm.
9:45 Smoothie with frozen blueberries, an orange, 1 tablespoon of hemp seeds, spinach, a few chunks of fresh pineapple and about a half cup of almond milk.

10-12:30 Two patient visits 

1:15 Lunch at Atkins Farm salad bar. Lettuce, cauliflower, cucumber, wheat berries, chick peas, kale/apple mix, tabbouleh, balsamic vinegar. 

I was feeling hungry on my way back from seeing patients. Instead of going home I am working from Atkins which is about 3 minutes from Carlos’ school. This is my view right now. 

Carlos had a friend over after school. I had a few pretzels while preparing a snack for the boys, but put the bag away quickly before I got out of hand with them.  The afternoons are challenging especially after being up all night. I made myself a dish of blended frozen mango and banana. I also had some sunflower seeds. 

I worked while the boys played, in and out, in and out! Legos,  trampoline, drawing, soccer and then we went to the playground. I just packed up my work and kept plugging away from the playground. It was a gorgeous day thankfully. 

Carlos’ friend wanted beef tacos for dinner. Um none of those in this vegan house. So we had dinner at a little Mexican place right down the street. We were out anyway so it was fine. I had a delicious burrito light on the rice, black beans and grilled vegetables. 

We dropped Carlos’ friend off at his family’s ice cream shop. Of course we were offered an ice cream. I was feeling full after the burrito so it was easy enough to say no thank you without having to say anything about being vegan. I like to ease into that when I’m getting to know people. 

We got home around 8 and I went to bed shortly after. No run or exercise but some days something has to give. 

Mother’s Day Half Marathon 2016

I realize that it is almost Father’s Day and I am finally writing a recap for one of my favorite races, the Mother’s Day Half Marathon. Better late than never. This is a little local race that continues to grow in size and popularity. The race benefits The Cancer Connection. I had run the race twice before. Last year was a tough run for me for a variety of reasons only made worse by unseasonably hot temps. This year I lined up feeling a lot better physically and mentally. One week prior I ran a strong 6.5 miles of the Plattsburgh Half Marathon Relay. I’ve been running more consistently and building up a base before marathon training begins in July. I’m nowhere near the shape I was in the first time I ran this race, but I am determined to get back there.

I arrived with barely enough time to use the port-a-potties. As I exited the sani can the race was beginning. I walked quickly to the start area and merged into the crowd of runners. There is such a laid back vibe to this race, I wasn’t feeling nervous. The weather was grey and threatening heavy rain, but the rains were holding off so far. It was cool out and ideal for running.

I felt good, but knew enough to take it easy on the first few miles. My A goal was to run under 2:10. This goal was directly related to my performance the week before in Plattsburgh. However, each course varies and while the Mother’s Day Half is not overly technical, it is a bit more challenging that Plattsburgh. So my B goal was to finish under 2:15. I immediately saw the 2:15 pacer and fell easily ahead of her. 

The rain came, but softly. It was just warm enough by then that the rain actually felt nice. I ran smoothly and felt as though I was running a solid pace to achieve my A goal, but I don’t use any kind of tracker for races so I had no idea. I felt great. I didn’t look behind, but I was convinced I had lost the 2:15 pacer. Shortly after the first 6.5 miles I caught a glimpse of a bright yellow shirt gaining on me from behind. I knew before I saw the sign that it was the 2:15 pacer. With a quick spin of my head I confirmed my suspicions. I snarled internally and then started running a little faster until I could no longer see that yellow shirt out of the corner of my eye.

I lost the pacer and tried to keep up a slightly faster pace than I had run in the first half. I certainly felt as though I was running a stronger pace than 2:15, but suddenly the pacer was behind me again. I sped up and lost her. Back and forth, it continued like this for the last half of the race. At about mile 12 I got really pissed off when I saw the pacer appear at my heels again. Oh hell no!  I hit the last mile at a sprint. I kept it up, didn’t look back and finished as strong as I possibly could at 2:13:13. 

I could see Orlando and Carlos cheering for me just before I crossed the finish line. In a split second I remembered why I run these races. It’s not really about my time. Last year’s race was grueling and challenging, but I finished it. This year’s race was a really strong effort on my part. I ran my heart out and finished proud. Both years represent my commitment to living an active, healthful life. No matter what my finish time is, I finish proudly and grateful for the ability to move my body. When I see my husband and son at the finish I remember that I do this because I want to be around for as long as I can to enjoy my family. I also hope that my son sees me as a positive example of how to live a healthy life. 

The rest of Mother’s Day was spent enjoying Carlos’ soccer game with my mom and lunch together.

Spring Vacation – Hershey

Friday was a full day in Hershey, PA. The kids had no clue where we were going. It was fun to see the look on their face as we entered the town. There was much more to do at Hershey’s Chocolate World than I expected. We saw a 4D movie, went on a trolley tour, experienced a chocolate tasting, and created our own chocolate bars.

The trolley tour was my favorite part of the day. Our guide told us the life story of Milton Hershey and it was fascinating. I’m sure I had heard it years ago, but I was still enthralled in the tale of how he grew not only his business, but the town, and most importantly the school that bears his name. We drove by the home he grew up in, the school, the factories, the amusement park, and the gorgeous botanical gardens.

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This photo does not do the gardens or the tulip beds justice. We did drive up to the gardens and the hotel later in the day, but there was a fee to enter the gardens and the kids weren’t really interested. They just wanted to sword fight so we walked around the grounds of the hotel and they battled it out! Inside the hotel there were framed photos of how the hotel and town used to look in the early 1900s.

Back at Chocolate World we attended a chocolate tasting. We were given a little lesson on where chocolate comes from, how it is made, and how to properly taste the chocolate. We tasted Hershey’s Special Dark, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, Dagoba Dark, and Scharffenberg Toffee Chocolate After tasting it we had to pick a flavor we detected and vote for it using the monitor on our table. The kids loved that part. They weren’t too keen on the dark chocolates, but I enjoyed them. It was just enough without overdoing it.
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The kids’ favorite part of the day was creating their own chocolate bars. You were able to select the base of either white chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate. Next you selected any fill ins. I think our choices on that day were rice krispies, toffee chips, pretzel pieces or cookie dough. You could pick three of the fill ins and sprinkles for the top. We were all a little bummed that peanut butter was not an option.

You got to watch your chocolate bar on a conveyor belt. First the fill ins were added, then the the bar was dipped in more chocolate to seal in those extras, and finally sprinkles on top. While waiting for the chocolate bar to cool you got to create your own wrapper.

My candy bar was dark chocolate with pretzels. I’m thinking this would make a post Chicago Marathon treat!
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Surprisingly we did not stuff our faces with chocolate. We actually only ate the samples we got along the way. The boys ate a full size Hershey’s bar they got on the trolley ride. At the end I offered to get them each something in the gift shop and they declined.

Back at the hotel the boys swam again and then we went to dinner. I really enjoy spending time with Carlos and Tyler. At dinner we love playing the would you rather game. You know would you rather be able to teleport anywhere or be able to read minds. However, with 9 year olds the questions often involve various bodily functions. Although many of the questions were gross or hysterical some were downright thought provoking. Would you rather know when you are going to die or how you are going to die? (You can’t change the time or method of your death.)

After dinner we took a walk through the town of Gettysburg and then we met up at Ghostly Images again for another ghost tour.  This one included more outdoor ghost stories and a tour of the Jennie Wade House. Jennie Wade was the only civilian killed during the Battle at Gettysburg. The guide was the same as the night before, but she was in costume pretending to be the mother of Jennie Wade.

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The only “photo” of Jennie

After a tour of the home, and some history about the day Jennie died we went into the basement. This basement was a little creepy with a replica of a dead Jennie on a bed covered with a blanket as well as a painting of a similar scene, but with her family surrounding her. They had to take shelter in the basement after Jennie was killed.

We were encouraged to take many photos and then survey them for orbs and misty areas. Carlos and Tyler were allowed to use the guide’s “Ghost Meter” EMF sensor to see if they could pick up on any paranormal activity. They swear they did, but I didn’t see it! They also swear they saw a ghost. We had some really enthusiastic ghost hunters on that tour adding more enthusiasm to the experience.

On Saturday it was time to head home, but first a swim and a final mega pillow fight. The ride home was long but uneventful. The boys played video games, drew, talked, and watched movies while I listened to podcasts. We stopped for lunch in Allentown where I managed to find a delicious vegan kale salad and a smoothie.

I love traveling in every form. Flying off to foreign lands is fabulous, but there is also something distinctly adventurous about taking a road trip. As nit picky as I can be about planning and organizing other areas of my life I tend to leave road trip plans very loose. Our motto for this trip was go with the flow and we did. There were no schedules or time constraints. I let the kids energy dictate the course of the day. These two boys are full of spunk and love to be active. They are curious and game for just about anything.

Before I left I got a few funny looks when I mentioned that I was traveling solo with my son and his friend. Well it was a blast. I had such an amazing time. Carlos and Tyler were great fun to spend time with. They were also respectful and kind. It was an easy and extremely enjoyable trip. I would travel with them again in a heartbeat. I have heard that the feeling is mutual.

Spring Vacation – Gettysburg

When I was about Carlos’ age my mom took my sister and me to Gettysburg, PA. I loved history even as a child. Years later I went on to get a Bachelor’s Degree in History. Although my focus was Latin American History, I always loved learning about early American and Civil War History. I took the very popular UMass course, Civil War through film, taught by Dr. Stephen Oates. It was a multimedia class that drew many History and non-History majors into a large auditorium on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4pm. But nothing brought the Civil War to life more than standing on the battlefield in Gettysburg, and I wanted to experience that with Carlos.

Last week was spring vacation. Since Orlando is back to work after a winter layoff, I decided I would take Carlos and his best friend on a road trip to Gettysburg and Hershey. They are 9 so I had to balance it out…a little bit educational, a little bit sweet fun!

We hit the road on Wednesday afternoon. It should have been about a 6 hour drive, but we hit traffic on I84 in Connecticut and then stopped for dinner at a restaurant on the Hudson River in New York. Proud mom moment #1: The waitress complimented the boys on their behavior and she was also very impressed that they were coloring and reading while waiting for their meals instead of playing on electronics.

After about 8 hours on the road we arrived at the hotel around 10pm and the boys were ready to explode with energy. The pool had just closed. The only other alternative to blow off some energy was to have an epic pillow fight (quietly) in the room. We all slept great that night!

I went into the trip with a very loose plan. Traveling with kids is unpredictable and I’ve learned that the less expectations I have going in the better. The kids took their time at the hotel breakfast making waffles and then they wanted to go swimming. Once they were ready we started out at Gettysburg National Military Park.

We got to the park mid-morning and were instructed to head inside the National Park Service Museum and Visitor Center. I purchased the package which included a two hour bus tour, viewing of the short film “A New Birth of Freedom” narrated by Morgan Freeman, and access to the Gettysburg Cyclorama program.

The bus tour was first. Our guide was fantastic, very knowledgeable, and talented with his ability to keep the kids engaged. We stopped at a few locations where we were able to get out for a bit, take photos, and walk around.

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Once back at the Visitor’s Center the boys picked out toy swords from the gift shop. Then we went to the film and Cyclorama. Both were excellent visuals to bring to life what we had just seen out on the tour. They were not long programs making them perfect for children.

What I didn’t realize is that anyone can drive the grounds of the park and stop along the way at the many statues, memorials, and graves. There are paved roads as well as walking trails throughout the park. I would have enjoyed seeing more on my own, but the boys were hungry and ready for a change of scenery.

We went into the town of Gettysburg to explore a little. First I booked tickets to our evening ghost tour. Carlos and Tyler are obsessed with anything scary. After that we walked around town looking for a place to eat. Gettysburg retains that quaint feel of old colonial days. If you ignore all the cars, paved roads, modern hotels, and people with iPhones you can almost feel what it might have been like during the time of the Civil War.

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Proud mom moment #2: the boys were once again complimented on their behavior during lunch. The waitress commented on how unusual it is these days to see kids without electronics. Interestingly I didn’t even have to ask them to leave the electronics in the car.

After lunch we walked around and went into a couple of shops. The old fashioned candy store was a favorite!

That night after more swimming and dinner we returned to town for our first Ghost Tour. Thursday night at 8pm we met outside of Ghostly Images for our tour of the Haunted Orphanage. The children were said to have been tortured by the woman who ran the orphanage at one time. The guide was very theatrical and did a great job of setting the stage so to speak for our journey to the basement of the orphanage where we had the opportunity to sit in the dark “pit” that once  served as punishment for the bad children. We also spent some time walking around outdoors near the cemetery while the guide shared many more ghost stories. Whether you were a skeptic or a believer it was certainly entertaining. The kids loved it so much they asked to go on a different tour the following night.

Next up Hershey, PA.

Respect the Process

After writing about the twinge of jealousy I was feeling about my friend running her first half and full marathon rather spontaneously, I sat with my emotions for a while. I was a bit embarrassed I even shared them here. I am actually in awe of my friend’s abilities. I accept that she is a different runner with her own unique skills and strengths.  I’ve asked her in the past to consider running with me in order to help me improve my speed. She is more than willing to, but we haven’t been able to coordinate our schedules. She has also asked me if she could join me on long runs to help build her endurance. Maybe I was a little bent out of shape that she didn’t need me after all.

Jealousy is ugly and I have a history of carrying around a great deal of it. I’ve done a lot of work in recent years to overcome reacting with jealousy, but occasionally it begins to bubble up.  I am aware that it is my own issue stemming from insecurity and lack of confidence.

I thought about what I was feeling and realized it wasn’t envy. I’m not jealous of my friend’s running ability or her race time.  So what was it then?

When my friend texted me that day about running a marathon that was a month away I instantly thought, but you haven’t trained. You need to train for a marathon. It’s not something you just get up one morning and decide to do. I was annoyed that she wasn’t respecting the marathon training process.

Ahh marathon training! I believe I actually love the process of training for a marathon more than the marathon itself. It is the training that I crave. I love the schedule, the alternating workouts, the challenge of the long run each week, preparing my CamelBak, trying new fueling techniques, and waking up at the butt crack of dawn to run in the dark (just kidding I don’t really enjoy this part). The race is just the icing on the cake.

My running journey has grown from a run/walk around a local track to marathons. I needed to take baby steps along the way to eventually get to the starting line of my first marathon. In order to ensure success which to me simply meant finishing the marathon uninjured I needed go through months of training for that first marathon. During that time I increased my mileage gradually, learned how to fuel properly, and overcame many challenges including broken ribs. I thrived on having a schedule, a specific run or workout of the day, and the marathon served as the end goal.

Each training has been designed differently, but one thing remains the same, I need the training process in order to reach MY goals. Training gives me a sense of purpose during the months leading up to the marathon and provides me with specific focus. On the day of the marathon it is important for me to feel like I’ve done everything possible to properly prepare for the race.

Before venturing into distance running I read about the training preparations of many runners, professional, semi-professional, and casual runners like me. I have listened to numerous podcasts and interviews to learn more about how people train for distance races. I’m even more fascinated with the process of training for an ultra marathon. I continue to learn and seek information about long distance running. I love the running, but I am also a bit of a geek when it comes to the process of developing endurance, stamina, and creating a solid foundation to maintain health, nutrition, flexibility, and the mental fortitude to continue running long distances. This is something that energizes me, inspires me, and provides fuel for my running dreams.

All of what I just wrote is about ME, not my friend. I realized that I was kind of pissed off that she had no intention of dedicating herself to months of training for her first marathon. She obviously doesn’t respect the process, I thought. Now I see that is just ridiculous.  My friend will do what is right for her. Running that half marathon clearly made her feel confident that she could complete a full marathon weeks away. She probably doesn’t need months of training. She most likely doesn’t want that either. She has told me before that she wished she could run long distances. Perhaps my own accomplishments inspired my friend to finally take the leap into distance running. Maybe I should try looking at the situation from that angle.

This is not a competition. I should not compare myself to a friend with vastly different abilities. I am ashamed for feeling anything but joy for my friend. I want to support her and show her I’m proud of her success.