Sunday, May 31, 2009

the only thing that doesn't hurt is my left nostril

Margaret, Charlie and I successfully completed the Rock n' Roll marathon, today. As Charlie would say, all three of us propelled ourselves in a forward direction for a total of 26.2 miles. And, we were off the race course within seven hours.

(It's important to note that my official chip time for completing the marathon was LESS than the race time that is shown on the finish clock. Due to the tens of thousands of people that participated, it took us almost 20 minutes to get to the start line. )

Charlie is a superstar stud. Not only did he run a marathon today, he came home and after cracking open a beer, primarily led the charge of getting four children fed and in to bed. My job was to figure out what we were going to eat for dinner. When I suggested uncooked rice because I was too tired to lift a pot on to the stove to cook, he ran out to pick up Mexican food.

In a moment, he will return from picking up dinner from our favorite Mexican restaurant. And after I take two bites of a burrito, I fully anticipate I will fall asleep and wake up sometime next week. Until then, get a load of my fuzzy (in more ways than one) right toe...

What you can't see is the purple nail that will probably fall off within the next few days. If a blister the size of nickel and purple toenails aren't evidence that I just COMPLETED a marathon, I don't know what is.

(Actually, I received a medal, too.)


Saturday, May 30, 2009

T minus 32 hours

Our coach says we need to get at least 10 hours of sleep tonight ... which I believe might be more sleep than I've had in the past two nights ... so instead of waxing poetic about each of the pictures in this post, I just want to point out that the third member of our GO DEANA GO team arrived on the scene today.

Welcome to California, Margaret!!

Welcome to California Brian and Alexander!!

Look ... BOATS!!

We spent a few hours sight seeing this afternoon before ...

... we picked up our race packets and bib numbers at the convention center.

We took pictures of totally random things that had the word "Marathon" written on them and we freaked out A LOT that we are actually doing this (OMG! OMG! OMG!) in less than two days.

We went shopping for some last minute supplies...

Including some very important ... um ... race gear.

We rode a diagonal elevator while impersonating the Verizon bars.

And we went out to dinner. Of course by the time we went out to dinner, Margaret and her crew had been up for almost 24 hours, although I'm sure you'd never guess that they were tired from this picture. Poor Brian actually fell asleep while he was eating his french fries. It's just a good thing Charlie was sitting next to him or he might have done a face plant right in to his ketchup.

The man that sat at the table next to us during dinner told us that he was going to be pushing his wheelchair in the marathon on Sunday. He has apparently done marathons all over the world in his wheelchair. When the kids asked him how he hurt his legs, he said that he fell out of the sky like something from Chicken Little. During a parachuting adventure, his parachute didn't open and he broke his back which resulted in paralysis from his waist down.

It's a miracle he's alive. If it was me, I doubt I would have survived. If the fall didn't kill me, the realization that my parachute wasn't going to open most definitely would have.

So not only should you never parachute ...

You should learn how to swim.

Lastly, you should sign up for a marathon at some point in your life. Because if the mere registration for this race is any indication of how much fun we are going to have on Sunday, I'm sure we are in for the best adventure of our life.

Or ... something.

Thank you again - a million times over - for all of you who have helped make this possible. Although you aren't here with us ... you are definitely in our hearts.

Especially you, Deana.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

the joy of home ownership

Between work life and home life and now - getting ready for marathon and family coming to town weekend - I have so many things to do, I am almost paralyzed with where to begin.

Earlier today, as I sat trying to figure out where to start ... fill out the medical forms necessary for the race? ... start a load of laundry? ... pay the bills? ... clean out the refrigerator? ... go grocery shopping? ... get out of my pajamas? ... I got dragged in to something completely irrelevant.

I dusted each individual slat on our wood blinds.

Then I cleaned the tracks of our sliding glass doors.

And the tracks on every one of our windows.

We strive to be tidy people and at least twice a year, I clean our windows inside and out. Not to mention, I clean our wood blinds at least once a month and vacuum the tracks frequently. So I'm at a loss how it is that these things get so unbelievably disgusting and full of rolly pollies?

It never fails that once I start a simple project like cleaning the windows, I start discovering all kinds of problems with the house that must be repaired. The weather stripping on the windows is brittle and falling off!! The wood frames are rotting out!! The tracks are open and water from the outside pools on the inside!!

Yesterday our windows were perfectly fine because I didn't know any better.

Tonight, they all need to be replaced. And if we're going to replace the windows we need to get the frame of the windows re-stuccoed. Then the whole house will need to be re-painted.

Suddenly a simple task that should have just left me with clean windows is resulting in Google searches and calls to contractors for estimates that will undoubtedly cost $25,000.00.

How do I cope with this kind of stress?!

Three words: Peanut. Butter. Cups.

Lesson learned: The more you look, the more you find and the more poor you will be. So the next time I am motivated to do home improvement, I am going to pick up a box of chocolate and close my eyes until the feeling passes.

what's in you wednesday

I am due to run a marathon in four days.

Or, less than ninety six hours from this very moment.

(Is it just me or did the end of May just suddenly ... appear?)

Thankfully, Alex and Kathleen came through at the last minute to save the day, because up until this past weekend, we had NO idea what we were going to do with the children. Although we've been training with them in their strollers, there was no way we were planning to push them on the marathon course.

Partly because strollers are not allowed.

Partly because there are no McDonald's along the route.

And partly because this race will be painful enough without four small children in tow.

(Oh and Margaret? I received your e-mail. Even though wheelchairs are allowed on the course, you are dreaming if you think I'm going to push you in one for the first 20 miles.)

After four separate babysitters fell through on us, and we were starting to turn our sights to unsuspecting friends and neighbors for their help, Alex and Kathleen called and volunteered to drive in from Arizona on Saturday afternoon to watch the children while Charlie and I attend a spaghetti inspirational dinner that is being put on by Team-In-Training.

AND THEN, Kathleen brilliantly suggested that we stay Saturday night in a hotel a few blocks from the starting line, so we wouldn't have to hassle with parking at 5 AM on Sunday morning. This is the first time we have ever left the children - except for when we went to the hospital to have Henry and I really don't think that counts - so we are looking forward to having a quiet night and a full day to run in peace.

(Or, perhaps sleep in until 11 and order room service.)

(Race? What Race? Did you get a load of the beautiful BATHROBES?!)

This is beyond awesome. All of our problems are solved. Except the whole part about me and a child that won't wean. And a full 24 hours away from said child that won't wean.

And during that span of 24 hours, my body will be bouncing for 26.2 miles. And although I plan to pump before the race, any nursing mother knows that a pump doesn't do quite the same job as a baby. (Or a toddler.)

(And how is it that I'm still nursing?)

I'm not sure how this whole not-nursing-before-I-run-scene is going to go down. I'm hoping well, but I'll be bringing Tylenol with me. And quite possibly, my hands free pump bra that fits remarkably well under my running top in case I need to relieve a little pressure on the course. Because I would if I had to.

(And you know I would.)

In other news.

This past week, I went to the gym a few times.

On one of the days, I was feeling like I wanted to go home and lay on the couch and eat a doughnut. Until I noticed that a woman in her 80's with blue hair, climbed on to the Nautilus equipment I had just been on, and added EIGHTY pounds to the weights I had been lifting. Instead of lifting my measly 50 pounds, she was pumping 130. And then she belted out fifteen more reps than me.

Then later in the week, when I couldn't find the energy to go for an afternoon run, I stumbled upon an article about Buster Martin, the 101-year old man who ran a 1/2 marathon and now has his sights set on running the London marathon.

And then I was thinking that in 2005, we were told that my Uncle Bill most likely wouldn't survive the year due to an aggressive form of cancer. But four years later, he's still here. And this weekend, he is taking a break from chemotherapy treatments and will be flying in to California from South Carolina - along with my Aunt Grace - to watch the three of us (but mostly me) run a marathon.

And then I was reading the most recent CaringBridge update on Deana, who is recovering from yet another round of sepsis and pneumonia ... and preparing to undergo yet another operation ... and she is fighting this awful disease as hard as she possibly can. And still smiling.

I derive a lot of inspiration from people who are fifty years older than me and able to bench press fifty pounds more - or - almost seventy years older than me and out running marathons. I derive a lot of strength from people who are facing significant health challenges and yet defying the odds because they won't give up.

But this weekend, I determined that the primary source of my motivation comes from my four-year-old children who BREEZED by me when we were out running on Saturday. And then turned around and chanted, "Hahahaha! You can't catch me!"

Let the record show: I did catch them. And then I laughed, "Hahahaha! Now you're getting TICKLED."


What inspires you?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

for your consideration

If you decide to take an afternoon and drive one hour north to an amusement park with your four small children, you just might want to confirm that the park will be OPEN before you depart from your driveway.

Because when you arrive and discover that the parking lot is empty, chances are - it's not your LUCKY day.

And when you tell your children that the park is actually CLOSED, you will quickly discover that pulling the nail off your pinky toe would be less painful than turning the car around and driving back to the freeway.

But, if you are a fast thinker and live in the childhood paradise that is San Diego, you will quickly formulate a back up plan that involves driving 30 minutes to the Zoological Society's Wild Animal Park where you will remedy what had become a terrible situation.

Now, let's say you made the decision - a few years ago - to join an online (non-Facebook) community that exists to reunite high school students that you had received countless invitations for ... and then, shortly after joining this community decided that you wanted to cancel your membership ... but could never figure out how ... so you change your real name to a pseudo name with the hope that it would just go away.

Just beware that your real last name might be tied to your new pseudo name.

So it is quite possible that out of the blue, you'll receive a few e-mails from people that you graduated with ... 20 years ago ... and they will want to know when and why you changed your name to Oogma Moogma and hey! will you be making it back for the big reunion?

And you might be a little confused as to how these people tracked you down until you log on for the first time in three years and then almost wet yourself when you discover that the account is still active and anyone who you might have known from high school would immediately recognize your last name.

Suddenly, you don't feel like such a fast thinker anymore. And you can't recall ever seeing your husband laugh so hard in his entire life.

At your expense.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

the dream

This morning when Elizabeth woke up, she told me that she wanted to draw a picture of a dream she had last night. Since I was in the middle of preparing breakfast, I grabbed her a small notepad and pen and didn't really focus on my daughter as she sat down to sketch a picture of ... who knows what.

A kitten perhaps?

Maybe a unicorn?

After a few quiet minutes, Elizabeth proudly presented the drawing from her dream. This is a picture of me. With six babies in my tummy. Elizabeth couldn't recall if the total number of babies in my tummy included she and her three siblings, or if these were six new babies.

Let's just say that if either of these scenarios comes to fruition, particularly the latter, it's a good thing my husband knows CPR because I'd undoubtedly go in to cardiac arrest.

Speaking of CPR...

St is the randomly generated lucky winner of a CPR Anytime Kit! St, please send me an e-mail at TheAmazingTrips(at) and I'll have your kit sent off as soon as I can.

And speaking of adding six new babies to our family...

I've joked before that if Charlie and I were to add sextuplets to our clan, we would refer to our family as Charlie and Jen Plus Ten. Which, of course - I borrowed that description directly from the hugely popular television show Jon and Kate Plus Eight. A show which I've only watched once or twice, because I get the premise. And there is absolutely no entertainment value for me watching a reality show in my spare time about a family that is outnumbered by multiples.

But tonight as Charlie was channel surfing, he stumbled on to Jon and Kate and together we sat and watched as they celebrated their children's fifth birthday. And at least what is being portrayed on television, as the collapse of their marriage.

At the end of the show, while they sat talking to the camera, all I could think was that although there are two sides to every story, it was clear that Jon and Kate had each dug their own trenches - erected their own walls - and were lobbing bombs over to the other side.

Yet they both said something along the lines of, "Regardless of what happens, we're going to do whatever we can to protect and make the best lives for our children."

Now I know that not all marriages can or should be saved. But by and large, the issues that divide most couples start out very simply. And it seems to me that if Jon and Kate really want to protect and make the best lives for their children, they will do whatever they can to get their marriage on the right track.

This might be extremely difficult. It might take a lot of forgiveness. It might take putting aside their pride. It might take improving their communication skills. It might take a complete overhaul and re-prioritization of their lives. It will definitely take loving each other, unconditionally.

But as the child of a divorce, there is no more important fight than the one that will keep a family together. Charlie and I will be celebrating our 15 year wedding anniversary later this year. I know that our marriage isn't perfect. But we try to make each other happy. And we know that at the end of the day, the best gift that we could ever give to our children, is the love that we have for one another.

In fact, this church service that we attended last year, is still at the forefront of our minds ... almost ten months later.

Here's yet another masterpiece drawn by Elizabeth. This depicts Charlie and I on our wedding day. (I'm the blushing bride on the left.) And in case you were wondering, Charlie's not screaming. I spoke to the artist and she verified that he is indeed smiling. And apparently, jumping up and clicking his heels.

Probably because one day, he might be the father of 10 children.

Monday, May 25, 2009

they are growing SUPER fast

Today, the kids learned how to pump on the swings.

Actually, they learned how to kick off from the ground as hard as they could, until they were swinging high in to the top leaves of the giant bird of paradise.

For as long as the kids have been swinging in swings...

They've required my help to go anywhere.

For a moment today, when I went outside to tell the kids I was there to help them go "SUPER FAST!" and they told me, "No Mom, we can do it by all by ourselves!" I began to feel a little unneeded.

But then I had a great idea.

Seeing as you only learn how to pump on a swing once in your lifetime, much to my children's delight, I decided to celebrate this momentous occasion by baking up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. And well, my children need me for this particular task.

Because at least for now, they still don't know how to work the oven.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

headlines from the week (part 2)

So on Sunday, we had the incident with honey bees.

On Monday, we received a call from our friend the gardener.

It seems that a few days after we had visited with them, inspectors from the County came knocking on their door. They wanted to do an inspection of our friend's house and premises.

Don't get any ideas, because we definitely did not turn them in.

Apparently, our friend did not have a single permit for any of the structures that he had built on his property. Not for the two-story temple that he built for his wife so she could pray. Not for the playhouse with a ladder leading up to a loft that he built for his boys. Not for the poultry house where he keeps his chicken, ducks and geese. Infact, there wasn't even a permit for the roof over their head - which our friend had constructed before they moved in - because the original roof had completely rotted out.

Our friend was calling to tell us that his house had been condemned. And Charlie went absolutely berserk with excitement that he had slept in a CONDEMNED house.

The County Inspector told them that it was an unfit dwelling - especially for a family with small children - and they needed to leave the premises, immediately. Our friend needs to tear down all the structures that he built and if he doesn't do it - the County will send in bulldozers to do it and then send him the bill.

Now before you feel too badly about their plight, our friend bought his property for 1/4 of a million dollars, in cash, five years ago. Within days of the County showing up on his doorstep, he received an offer for 3/4 of a million dollars.

So. The family is planning to move to their second home in Montana within the month. They will be taking with them all of their chickens, ducks and geese.

And I'm thinking that their road trip north is going to be most eggcellent.

Please Mom and Dad - just tell me when it's over!!

headlines from the week (part 1)

This past Sunday morning, our doorbell rang at 7:00. Charlie ran to open the door before the ringing woke up our still sleeping children, and there stood one of our neighbors.

She wanted to know if we realized there was a beehive on one of our palm trees?

(Can you see it - on the far left stump?

We actually had done some yard work earlier in the week and didn't see a beehive. Curious to see what she was talking about, Charlie threw on a pair of shoes and walked down the side of our property and what he first thought was a cluster of snails at the base of a palm tree, turned out to be a hive of honey bees.

A rather HUGE hive.

Now, we've dealt with bees in the past. Or rather, wasps.

A few years ago, when Charlie and I were visiting my father in Massachusetts for the Fourth of July, he told Charlie - over dinner one night - that he had a hive in his pool house that he was hoping his son-in-law could help him knock down. My father's grand plan was that they would wait until night, when all the wasps were sleeping. And then, they'd tip toe out to the pool house and hit the nest with some high potency Wasp Killer spray. But first, they'd dress from head-to-toe in winter gear so they wouldn't get stung.

After the men got ready and were wearing snow pants and down jackets and hats and mittens and snow goggles, they walked out in to the hot and humid July night. They made their way down to the pool house while I stood on the deck above them, watching the scene unfold.

I wish I had been blogging at that point in my life, because I absolutely would have taken a picture of my husband, who was tasked with carrying the flashlight, which had been strapped to his head in the form of a headlamp. Charlie's job was to stand closest to the nest and shine his light so that my father could see where to spray.

None of this seemed very safe to me, but they were men.

And there were bugs.

And they had Wasp Killer Spray.

And it was night.

And they had just had a beer and they were feeling very confident.

And it would have taken a lot of duct tape to stop them.

As they descended to the pool area, I could hear the guys talking. "Look at 'em. There must be a thousand, sleeping peacefully. Those buggers aren't going to know what the hell hit 'em. Ready? Let's take out those bastards!!"

With that, my father started spraying. And almost immediately, I could hear my husband talking to my father, "Walter, Walter! You're getting them! But oh, oh, they're waking up! And OH! They're starting to fly out of the nest! And OH SH*T!! AHH!! They're FLYING TO THE LIGHT!!!"

(The light, which may I remind you - was strapped to my husband's head.)

I could see the headlamp go bounding across the yard, while my father stood in the pitch black pool house yelling, "Charlie! CHARLIE!! Come back! You've got the light!!"

The wrought-iron pool furniture which had been staged all around the pool house was knocked out of the way and two warmly dressed grown men were tripping and stumbling and trying their best not to fall in the pool while shouting obscenities as they tried to outrun the angry wasps that were now chasing after them. From the deck I screamed, "Charlie! Throw the lamp!! Get the light OFF your head!!"

My husband flung the headlamp and then ran over to one corner of the yard and started pulling off all of his snow gear. My father followed him and while Charlie bent down yelling that he had something stuck in his hair, my father smacked Charlie repeatedly on the top of his head to dislodge any wasps that might be trapped. The whole sight was by far one of the funniest things I had ever seen, and I was laughing so hard I almost fell off the balcony.

The next day, the men inspected their handiwork, and since the nest was saturated in Wasp Killer Spray and there were dead wasps all over the ground, they deemed that this operation had been a raging success. But, they both decided that the next time a huge nest of wasps settled on my father's property, it might be worth it to call a professional.

Hence, this past Sunday morning, Charlie and I made the unanimous decision that we weren't going to attempt knocking down this hive. And besides, if these were in fact honey bees - which we believed they were - we'd rather have them moved someplace instead of killed, if that was an option.

So we spent the next hour on the phone calling around to various bee removal specialists. We were quoted rates ranging from $150.00 to $500.00. Ultimately, we settled on the least expensive company that told us they would capture all the bees in a vacuum and move them to their honey bee farm.

Charlie and I imagined a high technology system with a low flow vacuum that would safely capture all of the bees in a system at the back of a truck. We imagined that the Bee Removal Specialist would be wearing a bee keeper suit and protective hat.

An hour later, Russ arrived on our doorstep.

Wearing short sleeves.

And carrying his altered shop vac.

He climbed on to our steep slope and surveyed the hive, which he estimated had a colony of at least 50,000 bees.


He then set about removing bees with his shop vac, which was stuffed with rags so the bees couldn't fly out, once caught. He said he would bring the bees back to his farm and release them in to big white boxes so they could reestablish the hive.

He told me that when you are afraid of bees, your body puts off a scent and the bees will sting. But if you just stay relaxed, the bees will just fly around and not bite you.

I'd heard that before. My husband hadn't.

Which is why when Charlie and I did a run a few weeks ago on a country road and we could hear what sounded like a helicopter hovering over head ... and we looked up to see a black cloud of bees swarming five feet above us ... I remained perfectly calm while my husband took off running as fast as his legs could carry him.

While the bees swarmed a short-sleeved Russ up on our hillside, he told me that he's had both of his knees replaced and one of his hips. He's suffered two massive heart attacks and just recently, he had a quadruple by-pass and a pacemaker installed.

It took Russ about an hour to remove the hive. And while I trusted his ability to remove the bees from our property, I definitely didn't trust his physical health and was prepared that at any moment, he would pitch forward and require emergency resuscitation.

And seeing as my husband was in the house with the baby, I'd probably be the one to rescue him.

Thankfully, I do know how to perform CPR.

Do you?

Since you never know when you might need it, whether at a pool or perhaps when a 79-year old bee technician shows up at your house, if you haven't yet left a comment on this post, you have until Monday.

you'd think i'd learn

Almost every time our children persuade me to let them push a toy - or ride a toy - during a walk around our neighborhood...

This is inevitably what happens, before they all pile in to the stroller.

And then, they have the audacity to tell me that they are tired.