So! Did you hear? I ran my first 5k. You probably already heard, because I can’t shut up about it. I RAN MY FIRST RACE.
The weather Saturday was a beautiful 65 degrees and sunny. The scenery was incredible, if you like rolling hills (more on that later), wood trails (more on that later), and horses. I do like all of those, so I was pretty happy.
The race had over 200 runners–more than twice the participants of last year’s Thundering Hooves. This meant they were a little unprepared–there was only one porta potty. When it became apparent that there was no way all 200 of us would be able to use it before the race started, so some of us ended up using empty horse stalls. Good times! They promised that next year there will be at least two porta potties.
So about those hills and wood trails. I wasn’t prepared. I knew it was on a farm, but for some reason it never occurred to me that this was a trail race, not a road race. I had never done any trail running before, and I was surprised by how difficult it was. And the hills? Well, I have been incorporating hills on my runs, but this race was ALL HILLS. There was maybe a quarter of a mile that was flat. The rest was either uphill or downhill. You know what? People who say downhill is easy are lying liars. It is not easy, as my hamstrings and calves can attest to.
The trail was cleared, but that didn’t stop me from getting tangled in a thorn vine. Twice. I don’t think the other runners had problems, though. If you have read some of my previous posts (like this and this), you probably already figured I wouldn’t make it out of a trail race unscathed.
My time: 37:57. (I wasn’t lying when I said I run slow.) You know what? I’m happy with it. I actually thought it would take longer, what with those hills and me trying not to fall on my ass crossing the stream. Those of you who said the adrenaline would make me want to go faster were right.
All in all? Great race. I love Gentle Giants and am happy to support them any way I can. The trail was beautiful, the other runners were really nice, the volunteers were great. I am definitely doing it again next year!
Do you watch Downton Abbey? Of course you do, because it’s awesome. Last season there was a scene where Lady Mary, Isobel, and Tom were discussing their dead spouses, and how in love they were. And then Isobel said, “Well. Aren’t we the lucky ones?”
Today was a Very Bad Day, full of Very Bad Things. (Those Very Bad Things would be my children.) It was rainy and cold, so we couldn’t go anywhere, and even if we had wanted to, we couldn’t leave the house because Evelyn’s diaper rash is so bad right now that she can’t wear a diaper. Which means I spent the entire morning chasing her naked bottom around, cleaning up pee and poop. Joy.
Evelyn is also going through a pinching phase. My arms have little black marks on them. So that’s fun.
Also? The only two words she spoke today were “Up Mommy,” but she said those two words every two seconds, even if she was only put down because she demanded to be, and even when SHE WAS ALREADY UP.
And Lily…*shudder* Four-year-olds are not meant to be cooped up indoors.
If you are looking for a story where a mom has a really hard day, but then one of her kids gives her a hug and says “I love you,” and suddenly it is all worth it, I’m sorry. This isn’t that story. They were little monsters until they went to bed.
And yet, as I glance apprehensively at the bedroom where they lie sleeping, I think of that scene and smile, because aren’t we the lucky ones? I think so.
Thrive Tip #7: Bring in Living Things
It’s no secret I love flowers. I love to garden, and anytime I’m in the car, my nose is pressed against the window, looking for wildflowers. (It’s surprising how many exist on the side of the road.) So of course I think fresh cut flowers should be a regular occurrence rather than reserved for special occasions like Easter and Mother’s Day.
Rutgers University did a study several years ago about the effect flowers have on a person’s psyche, but I don’t think you need to read the study to notice the obvious: Flowers make people happy.
Also? If you’re a commitment phobe when it comes to color, flowers make a great way to experiment without permanence. Change your mind about yellow? Swap out the daffodils for peonies.
P.S. The flowers above came from Urban Stems, which I highly recommend (no, they didn’t pay me to say that or bribe me with free flowers, although that would totally work). When we first moved to our new place, Lily looked around and said, “This place needs flowers.” She was right.
I have gotten a lot of questions about cloth diapers the past few weeks. Since I love talking about cloth diapers almost as much as I love talking about my hair, I am happy to do it! So here you go–a cloth diaper lightning round. (P.S. I got a lot of very similar questions, so I combined emails, edited emails, etc. so I could hit as many questions as possible. Sorry if I butchered your letter! I did my best.)
Q: What cloth diapers should I buy for a newborn?
A: Use disposables for the first week or two. First bowel movements are black and sticky and resemble tar. Getting that out of cloth would be a pain in the butt. (See what I did there?) After that, I suggest you go with a fitted cloth diaper that is made for newborns, not a one-size diaper. I really like Green Mountain for fitted diapers. Some people like the Fuzzibunz Perfect Size, which I did like, but not enough to continue with the next size. I know lots of people swear by gDiapers, but I hated them with a burning passion.
Q: I really want to cloth diaper, but I am overwhelmed with all the options. What do you recommend?
A: I bought my first cloth diapers on a whim at Target. They were Charlie Banana, one size. One size is a joke (see above) so I moved on to other options, and then returned to CB when my daughter’s bum was bigger. I tried pretty much everything. Here’s what I found: It doesn’t matter what your mom likes, your co-worker likes, or any particular blogger likes. It comes down to your own unique preferences, which you can only determine through trial and error. I say order a cloth diaper sampler pack. Jillian’s Drawers comes highly recommended, but there are other options.
Q: I hear you can save lots of money using cloth, but it seems expensive to me. Did you really save money?
A: Yes, I did save money, even though I went completely overboard with how many cloth diapers I bought. There is a high upfront cost. How high depends on you. You can use prefolds with pins/snaps and a couple covers for pretty cheap–maybe $150 or so. (I suggest buying a couple prefolds anyway. They have a ton of uses.) You can go super fancy, and buy diapers that cost $30 a pop. There are lots of options in between. (Also, ignore the people who say your laundry costs skyrocket. Total bullshit, there.)
Q: Do you use cloth diapers at daycare? How does that work?
A: I do use cloth diapers at daycare. Were the daycare thrilled when I suggested it? Nope. And I doubt they would have agreed if I had used prefolds and pins. Daycare cares about two things: 1) ease of use, and 2) sanitation.
The truth is, neither of these is really an issue with cloth diapers, but daycares have a lot of preconceived notions. Just keep it simple. Use an all-in-one or a pocket diaper, pre-stuffed. Show them how it works. (Which, FYI, is JUST LIKE A DISPOSABLE.) Walk them through it and let them practice to get comfortable with it. Buy a wetbag (I use this one, because adorable owls, hello!). The daycare teacher takes the diaper off the baby and puts it directly into the wetbag and zips it closed. No smell, no sanitation issues. It’s the same as throwing it in the trashcan, as far as the daycare is concerned. (And then you take the bag home and wash the diapers, of course.)
Got a question? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Usually I would kick off the weekend with a food post, but my camera needed a part, so it is out of commission for the next week. I used my phone to take a couple pictures, but nothing looks edible on that thing. So instead of posting a recipe of my own, here’s a round-up of the best recipes I’ve found on the interwebs this week. Happy cooking!
1. A Bee Sting Cake would make the perfect Easter desert. (Joe Pastry)
2. I never say no to chocolate, and these chocolate ricotta mousse cups are no exception. (The Forest Feast)
3. My girls love pasta and meatballs. Maybe I can trick them into trying this elegant version. (The Roaming Kitchen)
4. This Seared Ahi Tuna with Chimichurri, Arugula, and Avocado would make the perfect Spring lunch. (Kitchen Confidante)
5. Lots of parents assure me that smoothies are a great way to sneak veggies into your kids. I’m willing to try it. (Super Healthy Kids)
6. This Lemon Cream and Blueberry Tart is an oldie but goodie from one of my favorite Washington, D.C. blogs. (Sweetsonian)
7. If you’re bored with quiche, try this baked eggs with spinach and mushroom dish for Mother’s Day brunch. (Smitten Kitchen)
8. Oh, hello there, Grapefruit Pound Cake. Get in mah belly. (For the Love of the South)
The last week has been…well, it’s been shit. Pink eye, double ear infections, both kids. And then I caught a stomach virus, lost my voice, and now possibly have strep. Good times.
The timing of it all was pretty terrible, due to work obligations and the 5k this weekend. I haven’t run since last Thursday, and I probably won’t until the race on Saturday. Hey, it’s only three miles! I can do that, even with a week off. I will go so slowly that the walkers will pass me, but I will cross the finish line.
Yesterday I was putting together a new playlist for the race, and I ended up listening to my first playlist, from a year ago. It was all Alanis Morrissette, angry Pink, a few from Kelly Clarkson. Clearly I was not in a good place.
Then there was another playlist, from about three months ago. Some more Pink, although not quite as angry, Kelly Clarkson’s Since You Been Gone, Katy Perry’s Roar, Alicia Keys Girl on Fire. I was moving forward.
And now? Here it is:
Alicia Keys/Jay Z–New York
Pitbull/Christina Aguilera–Feel This Moment
Joan Jett–Crimson and Clover (by far the best version)
Lustra–Scotty Doesn’t Know
The Script–Hall of Fame
I look at that list and I just see songs that I like. Not songs that are necessarily about lost love or hard times. Just music that makes me happy. I don’t want you to think I go skipping down the street spreading flower petals everywhere, because that’s not the case. Sometimes I’m still mad as hell and sad, too. But I’ve come a long way from Alanis territory.
Running is good for the soul. The evolution of my playlist proves it.
“Mom, can I run?” Lily asks.
I look across the plaza. It’s not far from here, where we stand, to where we are going. I would catch up with her in no time, even with the stroller slowing me down, and she would never be out of sight. But the plaza is made completely of cobblestone, and I shudder slightly as I think of her racing across it.
She’s had a lot of bumps and bruises, this child of mine.
There was the time she scraped her knee on the gravel path as we hiked along the Potomac River.
There was the time she split her lip at the nursery where we were choosing rose bushes.
There was the time her heel got caught on a cobblestone and she spilled coffee all over her pants. (Oh, wait. That was me.)
There was the time she tripped on a curb, not once but twice, during the one-block walk from the Metro to our house, bruising both elbows.
The cobblestones might as well be shark-infested waters.
I know she’s going to fall. Maybe today, maybe not. I know there will be blood and tears. I feel slightly sick as I think about it, but I smile down at her sweet, hopeful face.
“Go run,” I say.
She takes off, her purple coat held tightly to her body.
“Lily!” I shriek behind her. “Hands out of your pockets!”
I mean, cheese and rice, kid. At least protect your face.
Thrive Tip #6: Let there be light.
When people think of small spaces, they often automatically think of dark, as if “small” and “dark” inevitably go together. And too often, they do go together, but I don’t think it has to be inevitable.
The amount of light can greatly affect both the mood of a room and the mood of the person in the room. I prefer natural sunlight (doesn’t everybody?) and am so, so grateful that my tiny condo has lots of large windows. Every room (yes, all three of them, four if you count the bathroom) has a window, in fact.
But basement apartments are common in D.C., and they don’t have large windows, and sometimes don’t have windows at all. One thing I have noticed is that most small apartments don’t have adequate light fixtures to compensate for the lack of sunlight. This is even true of my space. The ceiling lights are ridiculously small and don’t provide sufficient light on cloudy days or evenings after the sun goes down. I absolutely notice the difference in the atmosphere of the room and I get tired and grouchy. So now I am searching for options that work–a new ceiling fixture, perhaps, or a lamp.
Just because the space is small does not mean one light bulb will get the job done! Make sure the space has plenty of light, no matter what size.
Hi Lynn, My husband and I separated six months ago. We have joint custody, and the girls are with their dad every other week end. This means every other weekend, I’m free. I can do the grocery shopping, I can exercise, I can go out with friends. I can, but I don’t. I can’t seem to find the motivation to do anything except mope around and eat cookies. And then I read your blog, and you run! You work full time, and you don’t have any weekends without the kids! And you somehow find time to blog, too! So my question is HOW DO YOU DO IT ALL?
Whoa. I do NOT do it all.
Since that is not at all a helpful answer, I’ll do my best to put together a better response.
First, remember that I have been separated for 18 months, and those 18 months followed four or five months of absolute hell while I waited for my husband to make a goddamn decision, already. Six months after shit hit the fan, I was not running, blogging, or really doing anything except trying to function on a very basic level. So hey! You are WAY AHEAD of where I was, if you are even contemplating the remote possibility of one day getting off the couch.
Second, since I have received numerous emails regarding time management, I will let you in on two secrets. One, my job allows me three hours a week of exercise, on the clock. This means I have a built-in babysitter (daycare) and a set time for getting exercise into my day, three days a week. So that’s how I find time to run. I am lucky; there are plenty of people who don’t have this option, and for them, finding time to exercise is almost impossible.
The second secret? You probably aren’t going to like it. I don’t have a TV. Don’t get me wrong, I like TV. But I can’t afford cable right now, so nope. But a surprising thing happened when I decided not to take the TV with us. I realized I had about two hours of free time after the kids go to bed, every single night. Once I clean the kitchen and straighten up a little bit, that still leaves 90 minutes. Usually. Sometimes the kids don’t go to bed as easily as I would like, or sometimes the baby refuses to sleep at all unless I am in bed with her. Then I have no time at all. But, yes, usually…I have 90 minutes that once was sucked into a vortex of television.
You can do a lot with 90 minutes.
But back to you. Please don’t pressure yourself to get in amazing shape and clean the house top to bottom on these free weekends. You are still grieving. I do think you should try to get out of the house, maybe meet some girlfriends for lunch or a nice walk. Read a good book, outside at a park or over a glass of white wine. It will help clear the fog from your head.
Take the time you need to just be. See how you feel in another month or two.
Got a question? Email me at email@example.com!
This past weekend I volunteered at the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run. It was the first time I volunteered for a race, and it was so much fun! Totally worth getting up at 5 am. Bonus: I get a guaranteed spot in next year’s race. (To be honest, this was why I signed up as a volunteer. I didn’t make it through the lottery this year.)
Here’s what I learned about volunteering at races and running in general:
1. Always bring a couple hair bands. I had one in my hair and two backups on my wrist, because of the windy weather. By the time the race was over, my hair was blowing free. Why? During the race, a runner asked for my hair band because her’s broke. This happened two more times. Actually, it happened three more times, but the third runner was out of luck because I was out of hair bands.
2. Runners really like encouragement. I was stationed at mile 2 to call out the time–so pretty early in the race–but the runners were so excited to see me and smiled as I cheered for them. A few even said thank you! That surprised me; I thought they would be too focused to really notice me, especially when they still had 8 miles to go. After the race, I overheard two runners discussing the course, and one mentioned that it would have been better to have more cheering sections. Good to know, if you’re setting up a race.
3. Preparing for a race is important! I got the impression that even with the lottery, some people rolled out of bed and thought, “Oh, I think I’ll run 10 miles today. That’s easy, right?” It’s not easy. And if this is how you approach a 10 mile race, you will be walking by mile 2.
4. Finishing a 5k is a huge deal to some people. After the 10 mile race, I stayed at the 2 mile marker to call the time to the 5k runners. And, man, some of those runners are FAST. But there were a lot of people who really weren’t fast at all, and who were struggling just to keep going. (And if I thought the 10 mile runners were excited to see me, that was nothing compared to the 5k runners.) A lot of people paused to take their picture with me and my “2 Miles” sign. I have a lot of respect for these people. They are taking a step towards a healthy life, and it isn’t easy.
5. Some people really don’t care at all. The 5k was a run-walk race, and plenty of people ended up walking by the time they reached me two-thirds of the way through the race. I also saw lots of people running with strollers and children. Good for them! I think it’s great that they are doing this as a family. But the very last people in the race? A family just strolling along, occasionally taking in the view from Memorial Bridge. They laughed and joked around a lot, oblivious to the fact that we had to stand there for an extra 20 minutes as they dallied along. Honestly, it made me furious. Not because they were walking, not because they had kids, but because they obviously didn’t give a damn. I DID give a damn. So why couldn’t they take their nice, leisurely stroll next weekend, not during a race that has so many entrants that it requires a lottery system?
6. Coffee would be nice. The runners definitely appreciated the water, Gatoraid, and healthy snacks. And then? Pretty much all several thousand of them went looking for a Starbucks. I was in line for an hour. (Because they also didn’t have coffee for the volunteers, and after a 5 am wake up call, I really could have used it.) Every Starbucks and coffee shop in a three mile radius was packed with runners. It was madness. Maybe races should provide an after-run coffee?