Ready. Set. Hope. The Avon Two Day Walk in Chicago

This weekend, as most of you probably know, I ventured down to Chicago to walk with a new friend (via Twitter, no less!) to join her team for the Avon Two Day Walk for Breast Cancer. Two days, 39.3 miles. That’s a marathon and a half. THAT? It’s A LOT.
The walk is set up for a marathon (26.2) the first day and a half (13.1 miles) the second. It may be walking – but it’s still extremely hard work.
Throughout the months leading up to this event, my concern had always been for the fundraising portion. Each participant was required to raise $1800 minimum for the walk, and I was concered about whether or not I’d be able to reach that goal. Once I signed up, if I didn’t reach the goal, it’d all have to come out of my pocket. While it’s an amazing cause, I sure didn’t have the extra funds to meet a couple hundred dollars to my goal if that’s the way it turned out. It never really even occured to me to panic about walking nearly 40 miles (Honestly, that part should have occured to me far sooner than it did).
With the help of awesome family, friends and assorted peeps who donated to the cause, I easily met my goal and was able to head off to Chicago for the walk.
It was an amazing experience. It truly was. I adore Chicago anyway – being there always makes me happy (Except when I pull a rookie mistake like I did on Friday — Arriving into town at FIVE P.M. On a Friday, no less. Genius). The hotel was nice enough – even though they gave me the keys to the WRONG ROOM when I arrived, which left me standing in the hallway waiting for someone to come let me in so I wouldn’t have to haul all my gear back downstairs.
Saturday morning, the walk started at Soldier Field. There, I met my team for the first time. I was invited to join the team by someone I met on Twitter – so this was truly the first time I MET everyone. Amazing people – so welcoming. Our team was led by a survivor who was walking her ELEVENTH walk for breast cancer – definitely inspiring.
The walk was hard – but it’s amazing how well it’s put together and how amazing the people are. With staff located at every major intersection to help us get across safely and cheering stations located along the way, it was kind of exhilirating seeing everyone out there – and getting cheered on along the way (I’m already going thru applause withdrawal – need to get my kids going on that). By the end of day one, my right hip flexor was not loving me at all and I had three lovely blisters which were made more huge and ugly thanks to the rain the last two miles of the marathon. Blech.
Everyone had told me Sunday would feel like a cakewalk after Saturday. Wish that had been true. Though I started out feeling alright, after several miles (and lots of rain), I knew that one of the blisters on my left foot had gotten worse, and I was hobbling along. It was starting to feel like the people who set up the mile markers had somehow measured wrong (one mile felt like three), and that we’d never cross the finish line at Solider Field. But we did. We were met with people cheering, lots of music and bottles of ice cold water. And this awesome feeling like we’d just done something pretty amazing. Because we did.

Huh. So That’s What the Flower Is For.

About a month ago, I was reading PARENTS magazine. I had gotten a free one-year subscription with a paint set we’d bought Pumpkin for Christmas, and since I love magazines, I figured WHY NOT?

I’ll tell you Why Not.

At this point, my kids aren’t babies. Sure, some of their articles are geared towards older kids – but… not enough. Each month when my issue comes, I flip through it and see if there are any easy recipes or random something to read before chucking it in my recycling bin.


The last issue I read had an article about how to take pictures of your kids. That article explained some cool camera settings and how to achieve certain photographic looks. Sure, I could probably read a photography magazine and learn some awesome techniques, but make no mistake, I’m not really at that point. I’m just a point-and-shoot kind of photographer who wants to take pictures that aren’t horrible.

The article introduced me to the Macro setting. The Macro setting is often identified on your camera with the little flower icon. This enables you to take pictures close up without your flash blowing out everything with massive amounts of light. This is the look I’d (to that point) only been able to replicate using the soft focus photo editing feature, and even that wasn’t QUITE right.

The Macro? It lets me take extreme closeups of a water bottle. For no apparent reason. Because I’m all giddy over finally knowing what that stinking flower is for.

Movies, Birthdays and Hockey

First things first – GAME ONE: RedWings. Awesome, awesome, awesome!

Today, was a crazy day that started with a special screening of the new Disney/Pixar movie, “Up”. I’ve wanted to see this since I first saw the preview because I loved the premise, and even the trailer was visually appealing to me. When my mom was able to snag four free tickets, my daughters and I were happy to join her.
I can take or leave children’s movies – when they’re well done, I am just as content as either of my daughters to watch them over and over again (Another recent favorite is “Horton Hears A Who” – which I adore). When they crappy? I’m less enthused about them and do my best to get the DVD outta my house as quickly as possible (“Beverly Hills Chihuahua”, I’m talkin’ to you).
But “Up”? It’s one of the good ones.
Carl Frederickson, a recently widowed man, ties a gazillion balloons to his house to fly away to South America – a life long dream he shared with his wife, Ellie. As you might be able to tell from the preview, a wilderness scout named Russell ends up joining him and they definitely encounter adventure.
This was the first movie Pumpkin sat through without fidgeting (much). This was also the first movie where neither of my daughters asked for a bathroom break (which during boring movies breaks the monotony for them and gets them up and around). They were riveted watching the story of Carl and Russell unfold.
There were moments that I thought might upset the girls a bit — some scenes were even I was a bit tense (I believe the geniuses on the rating advisory committees refer to it as “Mild Peril” (And indeed, I just checked it out and it’s rated PG for “Some Peril and Action”). My daughters didn’t seem bothered by it, but I wondered if they might be.
Of course, in Disney all’s well that ends well… that didn’t stop me from crying three times during the movie. (Also, the short film “Partly Cloudy” that preceeds “Up”? Adorable).
From the movies, we ventured home for a birthday party for The Princess. We had about nine kids show up (one of whom hadn’t RSVP’d – what is it with parents who don’t RSVP? – but she was still absolutely welcome anyway: we were happy to see her!). The kids played, ate cake and ice cream, opened gifts and played with all the new stuff. And SOMEHOW, I got them to go for my “game”: Everybody wad up a ball of wrapping paper and throw it in the trash! (Seriously, I thought that NO ONE would go for it. They liked it. Hmmm. I’ll have to remember that next year).
But now? I am WIPED out. It’s been a long day.
Photo: Disney/Pixar

Thursday Ten On Friday – My Kid Had a Birthday Yesterday so My Lateness is Excused Edition

1. WHAT a day yesterday! The Princess had an awesome day which got even better when we got home and she found a box left for her by UPS… a pogo stick from my dad. (The Fed Ex box with her new helmet arrived today. Whew). We took her to a restaurant where they loudly made it known it was her birthday. Cupcakes were consumed in school. Family called. (LOTS of family called.).

2. New music this week: “Don’t Stop Believin'” from Glee. “Let Me By Myself” Three Doors Down. “I’d Hate to be You When People Find Out What this Song is About” Mayday Parade. And a bunch of random iTunes stuff because it was free.

3. Let’s back up to Glee. I missed it when it was on TV and ended up watching it on Hulu over the weekend. That is some good stuff. I’m really looking forward to that show. If you haven’t yet watched it, check it out.

4. So, the cake for The Princess’s birthday party tomorrow has an aquarium theme. I have the fish figured out – what else is aquarium-ish? It may just be fish. Who knows. What happened to just a plain ol’ cake with frosting?

5. As I’m planning my kiddo’s birthday party, I realize how badly it annoys me when people don’t RSVP. I ran into one of the moms when I was taking cupcakes to school yesterday – and she said she’d see us Saturday, and while I’m glad her daughter is coming, I thought to myself, Were ya gonna let me know?

6. Got The Princess Mario Kart for one of her birthday gifts. We are all hooked already. In fact, I was kicking everyone’s butt in it til they went and read the directions. Now, we’re all about equal in our MK skillz. Are there any tricks I need to know? Frankly, it makes me kind of dizzy, so I have a feeling it will ultimately end up like all the other Wii games – I’ll just watch the kids play.

7. Graduation Open House season is coming. It does nothing but make me feel old.

8. In the course of the chaos of the past week, I completely forgot to wish my friend CASEY a happy birthday. It was several days ago. I tried to dig myself out of the hole and email her, but I got her out of office message, so CASEY: HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I love you and I’m sorry I missed your special day. I hope it was wonderful and that you got spoiled rotten by people with better memories than me.

9. Currently, I’m reading Denis Leary’s “Why We Suck”. This is not the book for those who are easily offended, for sure, but I’m only about forty pages in, and there’s a section on Anna Nicole Smith that had me laughing so hard I thought I was going to hyperventilate. Good stuff.

10. Am currently on “summer break” from guitar lessons for a few weeks, which stinks. I really missed going yesterday. Instead, I learned “Anything Else But You” by the Moldy Peaches (the song from Juno, in case you think you haven’t heard it). Fairly easy song which was nice.

Happy Birthday, Princess

Dear Princess,

Today, you are seven years old. Seven years ago at this time, I was sitting at my desk at work feeling miserable, trying desperately to get an earlier appointment than the one I had scheduled for after lunch that day. I went to that appointment eventually and the doctor I saw blew off my concerns when I said I was really uncomfortable and not feeling so good – said to me, “Ma’am: You’re just tired of being pregnant and you’re complaining. But here, I’ll write you a note excusing you from work for the duration of your pregnancy.”

I got in my car and less than 15 minutes down the road, my water broke. And a few hours later, you were born.

My first thoughts when they placed you in my arms were, “Oh, this is my baby!” and “Oh! Her head is really cone-y. I hope that doesn’t stay that way.” Within hours, your melon was less cone-like and more the beautiful round perfect little noggin that I look at daily. Whew. (Seriously, why was I not expecting the conehead? I think pregnancy literature downplayed that little tidbit).

I can’t believe you are seven. The other day when I said to you, “You are SO old!”, your reply was, “Not compared to you, I’m not.” Smarty-butt.

You never fail to amaze me, by the way. I often forget that you are still a kid because you have this amazing grasp for words and putting them together and you just don’t express yourself like a kid. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that you’re a kid – because I adjust my expectations of you to the way you usually behave – and then when you have an age appropriate meltdown, I have to tell myself, “That’s what KIDS do.”

You write awesome stories – and you use punctuation correctly. It may sound like I’m grasping at straws for praise for you – but I tell you: This is the most exciting thing for me, as a writer, to see. That you have the same passion as I do for writing and exercising that creative part of your mind? I couldn’t be happier. You look nothing like me with your blonde hair and blue eyes, and so it’s nice to see that little bits of my genetics snuck in somehow.

You are a good friend to your classmates. You are entertaining. I just got home from dropping off cupcakes at your school and your teacher went ON and ON about some of the things you say – you have a self-assurance and confidence that I hope you keep. I hope you never lose that sense of yourself and that feeling within that tells you that you are awesome.

Princess, I wish nothing but the best things for you in your life. I hope somethings take work – I want you to know that not everything will come easily, and I want you to know what it is to work to achieve your goals. I want you to know always that you are loved, and I want you to always know HOW to love.

I’m so lucky to be your mom – and I love you lots and lots of tater tots.

Love you with my whole heart,

Martha Stewart, I’m Not…

One of the things I wanted to do for the breast cancer walkathon was to design a tee-shirt to list the names of those who I am walking for (survivors and those who lost their battle with the disease). Along the course of fundraising, I’ve been touched by those who have donated to the cause because of the people in their lives who have been affected by the disease – and are motivated to donate to the cause that might help others, so that maybe one day there will be a cure for breast cancer.

I have no truly adequate way to honor these people – I mean, I’d come up with something way cooler than a tee-shirt if I could. But, I figured wearing their names would keep them with me on my journey, and it would remind me of their journey. Their journey is what it’s all about.

This morning, I went to the craft store. I found a pretty decent bright pink tee. I found an adorable sparkly pink ribbon iron-on patch (whoo hoo!) and I stocked up on far more colors of fabric paint than I care to admit so that I can attempt to write the names on this shirt so that they are still legible. Somehow.

Hours after returning home, all the supplies sit on my kitchen counter because I’m so afraid of messing it up. I’m afraid that I’m going to forget a letter in someone’s name – or that I’m going to accidentally fill in an “a” with paint and no one will know what it’s supposed to say. I’m probably over thinking it.

At some point today, I’ll get this thing started. I’ll work slowly and hopefully the end result fits the vision I have in my head.

Thursday Ten: Well HELLO SPRING.FINALLY Edition

1. I just drove past the bank. Their little sign doohickey said it’s 83 degrees out. It’s awesome out there. I’ve got the window open and it’s not so hot outside that there’s no breeze. The breeze is what makes it perfect. Sad thing is, we have perfect weather in Michigan for such a short time each year. I live in the wrong state.

2. I am still working on Counting Crows in guitar lesson but I kinda sorta maybe didn’t really practice at all last week. Yeah. But, it’s getting a bit smoother and I’m not mangling the D minor so badly and YAY, the chorus doesn’t even HAVE a stupid D minor, so, that’s awesome.

3. I’m also learning “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. Just the chorus for now. Apparently Mr. A-Z plays with mostly barre chords and I’m learning a MUCH easier way with open chords, but nothing feels easy yet.

4. One week til The Princess is seven. One week. I haven’t started shopping for her birthday yet. She pretty much wants everything, so I have lots of ideas. I also need to brainstorm my cupcake strategy.

5. American Idol… I’m happy with the results. But then again, I’ve said it before – I’m more of an acoustic-y, mellow music kind of girl. Guyliner isn’t so much my thing (I have exceptions to that rule, none of which I can think of offhand). I think the show in general was pretty surprising last night – surprised at some of the acts that performed. Could have lived without hearing that Velveeta train wreck of a song by Kara, though.

6. And because my couch gets lonely if I’m away from it too long – I’m pretty ready for “So You Think You Can Dance”. Am I the only one who watches it and wishes my mother forced me to take dance class?

7. New music: New Tori Amos came out on Tuesday. I like Tori.

8. Apparently, I’ll be throwing one of my sister’s bridal showers. I’m thrilled to do something for her, but can’t for the life of me figure out why forty people need to be at one shower. And… I’m not having bridal shower games because they make me crazy.

9. Yesterday, Pumpkin threw her arms around my neck and told me she loved me like crazy. I love the enthusiasm of children. I love always knowing what they are thinking, because they’ll tell you so. And when my kids say things like that, it lights me up. (Of course, they also say things like, “I want chocolate milk! With a straw! No! Not that straw! A red one! Not that red one! The OTHER red one!” At those times, I remember that they love me like crazy).

10. Today is the perfect day for a vanilla soft serve ice cream cone eaten outside at a picnic table in the sun.

Someone Else’s Kid

Pumpkin and I just got home from the library. It seems to be a Wednesday thing now, the library visit. While we were browsing the children’s books in the play area, a littler dude – probably around two years old – tried to take Pumpkin’s book. Then he hit her on the head.

His mother looked MORTIFIED. Immediately, she apologized to me and my daughter, pulled her son aside and sternly told him that hitting was not okay, and then apologized to me again.

And I was okay with it. Pumpkin wasn’t hurt (it was a light swat to the noggin with no real force behind it – barely even ruffled her hair), the mom was apologetic, the mom asked her kid to apologize. I mean, she did everything I would have expected a mom to do and I was grateful for that. Kids are kids, and sometimes the young ones hit.

But there’s always a sense of “WHEW” when it’s not my child acting out. It’s funny how when it’s my child behaving…not nicely… I want nothing more than to just crawl into a hole, but when I’m on the other side of it, it’s different.

A Bedtime Story From THE PRINCESS

Editor’s Note: All spelling errors have been corrected (not that there were many because my kid is wicked smart).

One day there was an elephant who could talk. She went to the store to buy a tutu. “I will buy a lovely pink tutu! My ballet teacher will love it!”

Then she put on the tutu and went into the jungle.

Then she went into the mud. “Oh dear, my lovely tutu!” and she started crying, A-hm, a-hm, a-hm (Editor’s Note: I asked, and those are supposed to be crying noises). Then she climbed into a tree. The end (bad ending, I know). But when she climbed into the tree, she got eaten by a giant howler monkey.

Hi there, it’s the Editor again. Yes, my child ended the story with a howler monkey eating an elephant wearing a tutu. Have I mentioned lately that she rocks?

Thursday Ten: The OMG I CAN’T BREATHE Edition

1. It’s spring, so my allergies are INSANE. Not only are my allergies insane but it’s becoming more and more clear that Pumpkin is going to be nice and allergic to everything, just like me. Sorry, kiddo.

2. My theory DID hold on the whole American Idol/Danny not trending issue. And yes, I’m pretty proud of myself. Mildly embarassed that I even HAD a theory, but proud nonetheless, because who doesn’t like being right every now and then?

3. Last night, my BFF and I went walking. We got about five miles in before the rain started and then popped up our umbrellas and went for another mile. By the time we got through the first rainy quarter of a mile (or so), there wasn’t much rain left – only occasional sprinkles. We really lucked out. It was awesome to catch up on all that was going on in each other’s lives – also, it was fun to go out for dinner afterwards even though we were stunned to discover our powers of invisibility that made it impossible for the wait staff at the restaurant to see us. It’s pretty tough to be invisible – also: Hungry.

4. In guitar lesson today, I started learning a Counting Crows song. That makes me so UNBELIEVABLY happy.

5. I’m also still working on the Dave Matthews song, and of course today my teacher taught me a short cut that would have kept the song from kicking my butt over the past week while I was trying to learn it. Thanks. To her credit, there are several ways to indicate the chords and she tells me that people tend to find the way that works best for them. Think we’ve found my way (AFTER a painfully unproductive week, but such is life).

6. New music this week: Kris Allen’s version of “Heartless” and Eminem’s “Beautiful” has been on repeat today.

7. Last night, at about 1:50 a.m. (so, I guess that would be this morning…) there was a huge crash of thunder. I sat up in bed – it scared the hell out of me. This huge rumble of thunder. I got up and unplugged all the things I didn’t want to get struck by lightning (seriously, have lost a television and a printer to lightning. Despite surge protectors). Went back to bed. No more thunder and lightning. That was it. Just one loud boom. No more storm.

8. Two weeks from today, The Princess turns SEVEN. It blows my mind. I can’t believe my kiddo is gonna be seven.

9. Hockey night tonight. I’m SO glad the series is back at the Joe so the game will be at 7 and not TEN. This means I might actually stay awake for it. Which would be a good thing.

10. So, yesterday I was channel surfing and I stopped on Oprah (Shush). Dane Cook was on. I have seen very few Dane Cook movies and you know what? He’s just NOT that funny. Which explains why I know VERY LITTLE about Dane Cook. (P.S. I was really scrambling to come up with a tenth thing, that’s why y’all get the Dane Cook hooey. Because yeah, I needed ten.).