Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mama Runs a Marathon Part 3- RACE!

I almost didn't hear the howitzer blast that signified the start of the 39th Marine Corps Marathon. I was too busy nervously chattering about my watch. It almost felt a little anticlimactic. Partially because I only half heard it, but mostly because it took a while for my race to actually start. Crowded as close to the 4:15 pace balloons as I could get, I shuffled forward towards the start line. The crowd started jogging as the big red arch came into view and my heart sped up as my feet did. I hit the start line running and felt the biggest smile ever on my face. It was GO TIME! 

People had told me two things about the start of this particular marathon. 1- it's crowded. Be ready to do a lot of weaving and passing, and keep your elbows tucked in tight. 2- it's hilly. The first mile is flat, but after that it's 3 or 4 miles of long gradual climbs. Because of that first thing, I didn't even notice the second thing. Even though I had been told, I wasn't prepared for the crowd at the very beginning. It didn't help that some people seemed to be just barely jogging, and some people started taking walk breaks before we were even a mile in. Then there were the dudes who started darting off to the side for a pee break right away. Guess they wanted to avoid the porta potty lines in the runner's village! 

I kept my eyes on the 4:15 balloons and started weaving. Being short was a hazard. I narrowly avoided (very narrowly) being elbowed right in the face several times. I was elbowed in the sides a lot, and had my heels nipped by other runners a few times too. I found my openings though and eventually made it up next to the 4:15 pace team leader. I wasn't able to hold my place next to him for long (I guess I'm not a very aggressive racer?), but losing him and then making my way back up to him was a good focus for several miles! 

I was feeling good there in the beginning. Like really really good. So good that sometime around mile 4 I surged a little ahead of the 4:15 pace balloons. Not too far though. I knew I wanted to grab some water at the next water station and figured that would put me back by the balloons. I was right. I ran comfortably with the pace team for several more miles, and then at mile 8 I passed him again. I decided at that point to go ahead and make the race my own. I felt I had paced well in the very beginning, but keeping my eyes on the balloons was getting annoying, and I had my bracelet with splits for a 4:15 finish that I could keep track of.

This was definitely my race 'sweet spot'. I spent a little time on the back part of a long out and back looking for friends going the other direction, but didn't see any. Around mile 8 I started dedicating miles to different people. I had planned to do this every other mile from mile 8 to mile 20. Once I hit mile 20 I had prayer requests to take me through each half mile til the end. 

One of the first miles I dedicated was to my Poppop. First I prayed for him, and for all of us here missing him since he passed. Then I started imagining I was talking to him. He used to often drive me to and from ballet to help my mom out and we used to have the best conversations in the car. Those are some really special memories and imagining I was talking to him during the race brought them back. I could hear him saying, "Well isn't that something?" as I told him about my GPS watch and the electrolyte tablet I put in my water. Felt the pat on the back and heard his famous, "Well done!" as I passed the next mile marker. That mile I dedicated to him was one of the most special of the entire race.

When I reached mile 10 I started getting excited because I knew some of my friends were there somewhere. I hugged the right side of the road and scanned the crowds for them. At one point I switched my watch to the 2nd screen and saw that I was, at that time, running around an 8:20/8:30 pace. To finish at 4:15 I needed to average 9:44 min miles. I was going much to fast, and not only halfway in. I had read the articles and listened to the advice. I knew do not try to 'bank time' in the beginning of a marathon. And yet here I was thinking, "Well I'm a solid 3 minutes ahead of where my spits bracelet says I should be. That could help later." and I kept my pace. This was not a good plan. At the time though, I felt like I could fly. I felt so amazing! 

So anyway, I'm running along (way too fast) still scanning the crowds for my friends and then I see a Stroller Warriors sign ahead. About a second after I saw the sign, I heard them screaming my name. I think I actually leapt over to them rather than ran. I was so excited to see them! I high fived and grabbed their hands and screamed something intelligible. It was awesome. 

I rode the high of seeing my friends for a long time after that. I was starting to feel tired though. I knew I was coming up on potential sightings of my parents and kids. We had mapped it out a couple days before. Mile 11 was a maybe, we were trying to make mile 16 a definite, and then mile 18ish was a maybe depending on how fast they made it over to the Smithsonian Metro stop. I started scanning the crowd again.

Mile 11 passed and I didn't see them. I knew we were heading out to Haines Point now. The notoriously tough, quiet part of the race. No spectators, and not much sound beyond the sound of feet hitting pavement and the wind coming in off the water to our right. I also knew the 'blue mile' was coming up. The mile dedicated to fallen service members. I was starting to feel fatigued and I had all the hardest parts ahead of me. 

I kinda had to pee. It wasn't urgent at all, in fact it was a feeling that probably would have gone away had I ignored it, but I saw a real bathroom ahead. I loathe porta potties (don't most people?) so I didn't want to pass up the opportunity so I headed in. Of course there was a long line. So I just stood there watching time tick by on my watch thinking, "Well. This wasn't the best decision." But oh well. Hindsight, right? 

Back on out on the road, I started thinking about our friend Phil who had been KIA in Afghanistan 2 1/2 years prior. I was thinking of him, praying for him and for his family, as I entered the 'blue mile'. An entire mile lined with photos of fallen service members and American flags. The quiet racers got even quieter. People stopped to touch and pray over photos of people they knew. I wanted to stop and hug every single volunteer standing with a flag. I slowed down on purpose this mile so I could look at every single picture. I don't think there's really a way to truly convey the feelings and emotions of that mile. There was pride and sorrow. Relief and thankfulness. Sadness and even some anger. 

Moving on from that mile it took some time to collect myself, and I noticed most runners around me needing to do the same. I knew we were coming to the end of Haines Point and I started getting ready to look for my family again. I now had this burning, desperate feeling to see them. It started to totally consume my thoughts. I just wanted to kiss my kids and it was my main goal right then.

After many quiet (and introspective) miles, turning a corner and running into crowds of spectators again was a bit of a shock. If I ever go watch this marathon one day, I want to be there at the end of Haines Point. I would be interested to see if everybody had the baby deer in headlights look on their face that I felt on mine. 

I was singularly focused on my babies at this point. Running as close to the edge of the sidewalk as I could get. I saw mile marker 16 (my watch was almost a full half mile ahead of the mile markers because of all the weaving I had done in the beginning) and knew they should have been around there somewhere, but I never did see them. My mom told me later that I did pass them, and that she even chased my down for a little bit, but I guess the noise of the crowds drowned them out and I missed them. I passed mile marker 17 and knew I just had one more chance to see them. 

I was behind pace now, but was totally okay with that. I wanted to finish at least around 4:30ish and I was looking good for that, so I just kept trucking along. Once, while on a quick walk break to hydrate and fuel, the 4:30 pace balloons passed me, but I got ahead of them when I started up again and didn't see them again.

I hit the 18 mile marker and started feeling some weird, pulling, stretching pains on the insides of my knees. Having never felt anything like it before I was pretty thrown, but just ran through and it eased off. This is the part of the race where, looking back, I wish I had taken more time to notice my surroundings. We were running through the National Mall, past the Smithsonians and right in the front of the Capitol. On Marathonfoto, there's an awesome picture of me running with the Capitol dome right behind my head, but I barely even remember seeing it! I was half in tears at this point, knowing my last chance to see my kids was coming up. 

I've been to DC and the Mall enough that I had my bearings at this point and knew where to look for my family. When I passed the Smithsonian Metro station and didn't see them I broke down a little bit. I wanted to kiss those babies so badly. So now I wasn't just running to the finish line, I was running to my kids.

 After the Mall, it got quiet again. I knew the big party in Crystal City was soon, but first it was quiet. We were on a looooong overpass bridge. It looked familiar. I didn't pay a ton of attention to the course details, but I'm pretty sure it was I-395 because I felt as though I'd driven there before. It got ugly up there. A lot of runners walking. A lot of runners crying or looking like they wanted to (I was, off and on). A lot of runners standing off to the side stretching. I was tempted to pull of and stretch a little because those weird knee pains were coming and going, but I didn't know if I could get going again if I stopped. The knee pains were only working their way out if I walked a little at this point though. I was going through my prayer list (because at this point I was beyond the 20 mile mark) and it helped me keep my focus. 

After that long, tough bridge we hit a wall of noise as we ran into Crystal City. Music, screaming, cheering. People drinking and handing out beer (I made a wide berth around them, expecting the runners who were knocking back beer at mile 22 might puke). The streets narrowed a bit here so it got crowded again, but I found a comfy spot and stayed put. No weaving and passing now. 

At one point in Crystal City there was a glorious hose showering an icy cold must onto the runners. Absolutely heavenly. 

Once outside Crystal City I knew it was the homestretch, and not only because the Marines lining the roads were yelling, "You're almost there! 2 more miles! That's nothing! You're amazing!" I was definitely crying at this point because it was pretty easy to imagine that those guys in uniform were my husband who I was missing pretty badly at that point. Then a Marine handed me a Dixie cup with 2 Dunkin Donuts munchkins. I tossed 1 and ate the other. Holy cow was it good, but I was so exhausted and my mouth so dry (even though I was definitely well hydrated!) it took me an entire mile to eat that munchkin.

My watch being a half mile ahead was messing with my head. I passed the 25 mile marker and my watch was saying I was almost done, but the 1.2 miles I actually had to the finish were looking long. I was walking to ease my knee pain when I heard my name. I had been looking down at the ground so I looked up and there were my friends. Oh. I cried. I started bawling. I mumbled, "Can knees explode?" and my amazing friends fell into step (in their jeans) beside me. I stated running again and said, "I feel like I'm dying." What they said was better than, "No you're not!" which somehow wasn't what I needed to hear. They said, "I know." They knew. They knew how hard I'd been working. They knew what I was feeling. Then they said, "You've got this Sarah. You're so close. You've got this." They knew that too. So I smiled for the first time in many miles and surged ahead. The pictures they captured are my favorite of the whole weekend. 

Shortly after seeing them my watch officially hit 26.2 miles. I almost stopped and saved it then, but I knew it would save that time (4:26:52) as my fastest marathon time and I wanted to see what my total distance ended up being.

We were on the same road now that we had walked in on off the Metro that morning. Which made me irrationally angry. "I already DID THIS!" But I pushed on.

The sound of the crowd started getting LOUD and I knew we were almost there. We turned and I saw 'the hill' that everybody talks about. That *insert curse word here*  was steep. And all along I had been thinking the finish line was right at the top of the hill, but there was a turn and a bit of a straightaway to the finish. I had to walk a couple steps at the top of that dang hill, but then my mind screamed, "MY BABIES!" and I pushed the pace all the way through the finish line. 

I stopped my watch (26.73 miles in 4hours 32 minutes and change) and slowed to a walk, following the herd that had finished around me. I had a moment, "HOLY CRAP I FREAKING DID IT." and then burst into tears. 

We all herded (I can't think of any other word to use. I felt like we were cattle) into lines. I stood there for a minute in a daze, texting James and my mom (who mercifully told me what street corner they were on so I didn't have to truck it all te way out to the family meet up) before thinking, "What the heck am I in line for?". I asked the guy in front of me, "Are we getting medals here?" He said, "I hope so!" and, sure enough, a Marine was placing that (heavy!) medal around my neck a minute later. 

After getting medals, another Marine handed me an empty bag. I looked up at him, still crying a little, and said, "What do I do with this? Where are my kids?" He kinda smiled, I'm sure I wasn't the first half delirious and confused runner with questions, and said, "Follow everybody else and get food and water."

I got my bag filled with water, protein shakes, a food box, bananas, and I grabbed a cool paper recovery jacket that said "Mission Accomplished" and started heading towards my family. I kinda wished I had turned my watch back on to see how far we walked after! It was nuts! Probably good for the muscles though.

Finally. I saw my dad. He and my mom hugged me, but I was crying and saying, "Sam. Let me hold Sam." Of course, he says, "Mama you're sweaty! Put me down!" and Kate had no interest either. Whomp whomp. I had been desperate to hold them and kiss them since mile 12. And no dice. It was so good to see their little faces anyway! 

There was so much going on around us. A beer tent (and I had a ticket for a free beer!), massage tables, food, music, and tons if people. But I turned to my mom and said, "I wanna go. I want to go back to the hotel." so we made our way to the Metro.

On our slow walk there, I checked Facebook. I thought the emotional moments were over for the day, but oh man was I wrong. I knew a lot of oeople had been tracking me me, I thought of them frequently while out on the course, but I had no idea just how many until I opened Facebook! The posts and comments made while I was running, and then all the congratulatory posts that started coming in the moment I crossed they finish line, I was overwhelmed with all the love! I am so incredibly thankful to be so blessed with such amazing friends and family all over! 

We made our way to the Metro station and stood on the packed platform waiting for our train. I looked around and saw my feelings reflected in the tired and euphoric faces around me. That's when it really hit me. These were my people. I belonged here. I did it. I was a marathoner. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mama Runs a Marathon Part 2- Race Weekend! Expo and the morning of!

I don't know how many times I've started this post and then given up because I just couldn't figure out how to put all the emotions into words. I still have no idea how I could ever possibly do it. So I'm going to recap and see if I can't capture at least some of the emotions of the day! 

We (my mom, my dad, and the kiddos) got to DC on Saturday around lunchtime. We had lunch and checked into our hotel rooms before getting on the Metro to go get my bib. I hadn't been to DC since before I was married and navigating the Metro with two little kids was... well an adventure. They did great though! 

The line to get into the expo/packet pickup was so very long. Holy cow. So we're standing there (and it was kinda hot) and then I see a sign for a separate entrance for DOD ID holders. Um. I've got one of those! So that was cool. I mean, I wish I had seen it earlier, but we still got to skip most of the line. I texted James and told him thanks for marrying me so I could get a sweet ID. 

The expo was nutso. My friend Jessie had gone on the first day and had snagged me a jacket, so all I really had to do was grab my bib and check in at the Semper Fi Fund table. There was so much to see! I could have spent so much time (and oh my goodness so much money!) in there! A marathon expo of that size with a 3 year old and a 1 year old who had skipped naps that day though, not really a recipe for a fun time. We did a quick loop and then headed to Union Station for dinner, ate some yummy food, and went back to our hotel.

I had plans of putting the kids to bed and then lounging in my bed watching Netflix on my computer and eating oatmeal. By the time I got all my stuff laid out for the next morning, got both kids to sleep, and set my alarm for 3am (yikes!) I figured it would be smarter to just go to bed. Especially since there was a good chance Kate would be up once before my alarm. I had expected nerves to keep me awake, but when you're working on 15 months of sleep deprivation, not much keeps you awake. So that actually worked in my favor! Kate was up around 2ish to nurse, and luckily went right back to sleep so I snagged a little more shut eye. 

I was so stinkin excited that my alarm going off woke only me up! I had been expecting it to wake up both kids and wasn't looking forward to trying to get ready with both of them underfoot! It was really nice to have some quiet time to myself to get dressed and ready. I wasn't really feeling nervous, but I was so so very excited! Like I wanted to jump up and down and have a dance party. I'm smart enough to know when to let sleeping babies sleep though, so I refrained from dance partying. 

 Instead of dance partying, I went on a selfie spree. Because... you know... I had to do something! 

Took a sleeping Kate out of her crib around 4ish and got her to nurse a little more. That made me really happy because I knew it was going to be a long time before I could nurse her again. I let her sleep a little longer while I got Sam up and dressed. Once she was up and dressed my parents had come into our room. My mom was amazed at how awake my kids were at 4:30am. I was less surprised ;) 

We got on the Metro when it opened at 5 with all the other runners staying in Springfield. It was such a weird energy. Everybody looked sleepy, but there was palpable excitement and nerves in the air for sure! I felt surprisingly calm and just sat back and ate my bagel. A couple people commented on how well behaved my kids were for it being so early. I said they'd had plenty of training during early morning summer runs! 

Once we got off the Metro, we had a solid mile walk to the runner's village. That's when I started getting nervous becaus it was windy. And cold. Cold wind. I was not excited about that! In the runner's village though I found friends and fellow Stroller Warriors and my excitement came back! 

Mom and Dad came to my corral with me with the kids and they hung out just outside the gate. That was great because I didn't know anybody else in my corral. That didn't last long though! A girl came up to me and told me she recognize used me from my Instagram account! How cool! We chatted for a while, and I also chatted with an older woman who told me, after learning I was a Marine Corps spouse and did a lot of training with my stroller, that she picks a hero every race she runs and that I was her hero for this one! Wow! I was getting emotional and the race hadn't even started! 

The opening ceremonies were awesome. I bawled like a baby watching Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter parachute in (with many others!) holding American flags, and listening to our National Anthem. The energy in the crowd was so emotionally charged! I kissed my parents and kids goodbye (and held back more tears) and made my way out into the middle of the corral. A group of us found the 4:15 pace guy and crowded around him. To say space was limited at that point would be a massive understatement. Tight quarters. 

Those red and white balloons were being held up by the 4:15 pace guy! 

Standing and waiting for that howitzer blast signaling the start of the race was a crazy feeling. So much like waiting in the wings before a show! And yet so different! Before a show I used to have at least a pretty good idea of what to expect. Before the race I had no clue! The memory of the start is a little foggy actually because I was so jittery, but I do remember nervously chattering on and on about when I wanted to turn my watch on and when I wanted to start trying to pick up GPS. I didn't want to waste any battery and I also didn't want to not be able to get GPS until after I crossed the start. I was fully consumed with thoughts of my watch! 

I did take at least one moment to stop my racing mind and think, "I did it. All that work. All those miles. All that time. I did it. I'm here. I'm ready. Let's DO THIS." Despite my nervous chatter, I felt ready. So ready. 

Race re-cap post to come soon! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mama Runs a Marathon Part 1- Training

Anybody following me on Instagram or friends with me on Facebook has known for months that I'm training for the Marine Corps Marathon. That would be because I haven't shut up about it since the day I started training. Ok ok fine, since the day I registered last spring.

I knew training for this thing would take time. I knew it would take a lot of effort. What I didn't know is quite how all consuming it would be. I figured it would be equal parts exhilarating and exhausting, but I didn't realize just how much. I know that my biggest challenge still lies ahead, but having pretty much completed my training at this point (just two short runs this week, 4 and 2 miles) I honestly feel amazed at what I've accomplished both physically AND mentally.

For the most part, my training has gone pretty smoothly. I missed one long run (16 miles) due to a cold (and don't even get me started on how that missed run has been messing with my mind the past couple weeks), and maybe one or two weekly runs along the way. There were weeks when all my runs were SOLID and I was riding a constant runners high. Then there were weeks when I just felt sluggish. Heavy legs, no focus, and too much of that little voice in the back of my mind that says, "You know, you should just stop. Walk. Or better yet, turn around and go home to your couch and a plate of cookies." People who aren't familiar with how marathons work are sometimes confused when they realize that this isn't something most people have any hope of actually winning. But they don't realize that it's that little voice that we're trying to beat. That little part of yourself that really doesn't think you actually CAN do this. You run a marathon to shut that little part up once and for all.

In the beginning of my training, I was just flying along. I was PR'ing (PR = personal record for those non-runners out there) left and right and simultaneously trucking along through p90x3. I felt strong. I felt fast. I felt unstoppable. I mean, I wasn't sleeping because Kate was still up several times a night, and I was dealing with 3 year old drama and almost 1 year old tantrums. So those first few weeks weren't without their rough patches, but, for the most part, I was sailing along feeling like a bad *ss. Theeeeeeeeeen the mileage started to creep up and as my fatigue levels increased, so did  my guilt. Guilt because I didn't push play and do a p90x3 workout after a 15 mile run (I am very aware how crazy and, well, silly this sounds, but it's true). Guilt because I spent yet another Saturday morning away from my husband and kids. Guilt for giving the kids their breakfast in the stroller and taking them on yet another hour + run. Training started to be tough in ways I hadn't thought about. But it was pushing through all of that, and realizing I didn't really have anything to be guilty ABOUT (I didn't need a strength workout after a 15 mile run, I was home by breakfast time most Saturdays, and the kids actually really like riding in the stroller) that made me so much stronger mentally. People talk a lot about how mentally challenging running a marathon is and I always just assumed you get your legs strong and then on race day push through the mental challenges. I don't know why, but I never thought of how I'd be training for that aspect of the race all summer as well.

It was after my 20 mile training run that I really realized how far I'd come. Immediately after finishing the run all I could think was, "Um. Ow.", and, "6.2 more miles? Yeah I don't think so.", and, "Nope. This was stupid idea.". But a few minutes later I realized what I had just done. It was crazy. Like it hit me in the face all of a sudden, "You just ran 20 miles. T.w.e.n.t.y. m.i.l.e.s. You're amazing." (It's pretty awesome how your perspective can change after a hug from your husband and a pumpkin donut). 

So here I am. 4 days 10 hours 29 minutes, according to the app on my phone (because I'm nerdy like that) from the official start of the Marine Corps Marathon 2014. I have my outfit picked out (the shorts or capris decision was an incredibly difficult one to make). I have a nice long playlist made, with the most pumped up songs in the last hour. I'm fueling and resting up this week. I'm feeling good, feeling strong, and feeling so. very. nervous. Holy cow. I haven't felt nerves like this since I was dancing. I've had the 'standing in the wings, tapping the toe of my pointe shoe on the floor, waiting for my musical cue in the snow scene' type of butterflies for a while now. When I take the time to really think about the race, I get tears in my eyes. There's so many emotions going into this, it's insane. There's a part of me that is so very ready for it to be over so I can have a little break, and a part of me that's expecting to feel deflated and kinda bummed when it's all finished. Again reminds me of ballet. When I was little I used to cry and cry when our run of The Nutcracker ended. I hated that popped balloon feeling after the months of build up. When I got older all I felt after a run of Nutcracker was relief before collapsing into an exhausted heap. Kind of expecting more of the latter post marathon to be honest. A little popped balloon and a whole lot of exhausted heap. 

Once I drag myself out of the exhausted heap I hope to write part 2 of this. I really hope to be able to articulate the way I feel during and after the race, but I'm afraid it might be mostly, "It was just.... awesome. And it hurt. And I'm tired. But it was awesome." I guess we'll see!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Don't Blink...

If you're a mama, chances are you've heard the phrase, "The days are long, but the years are short."

Maybe you hate cliche phrases so when you hear it you groan and roll your eyes. Maybe you just sent your baby off to school for the first time so when you hear it you burst into tears saying, "SO SHORT!". Or maybe you're up to your eyeballs in poopy diapers and temper tantrums and, if you had the energy, you'd say, "Yes. Yes, such long days!", but as it is you just nod and pull out the wipes. Again.

I'm a fan of cliche phrases, and this one is a hot contender for my favorite. It just hits me right in all the feels. 

The days are long.

There are times when I feel like I'm in some sort of 'groundhog day' situation. Wake far before I'm ready. Change a diaper. Visit the potty. Nurse, maybe just one kid, maybe both. Throw on clothes. Repeat 5 billion times, "We can go downstairs in just a minute, I need to brush my teeth.... Yes I DO Sam. I DO have to brush my teeth.". Make breakfast. Empty the dishwasher. Pull a load of laundry out of the dryer in hopes that I might fold it at some point. Break up 86 little arguments over trains. Kiss 27 boo boos... It is now 7:30am...

There are days when I'm ready to throw in the towel by noon. When bedtime seems like it's NEVER.COMING. When, by the time my husband comes home, I'm so touched out and wound so tight that I snap at him when he asks what is for dinner because I simply CAN'T handle his hand on my arm and CANNOT answer another question (sorry honey!).

There's also days where everything is just so joyous that I feel like my smile has been hot glued on. Where I tick everything off of my to do list AND make up a fun, silly new game to play with the kiddos. Where I'm tempted to skip their naps because we're having such a good time (not that I ever do that, naptime is sacred around here 😉). Where my husband comes home and I chatter his ear off about all the fun we had and all the awesome, amazing, and (let's be honest) SHEER GENIUS things our kids did. But even those days are long. Even those days I look at the clock and have that, "HOLY COW ITS ONLY 9!" moment. The days are long.

But the years are short.

First let me say that I realize with a 3 year old and an almost 11 month old, I haven't even BEGUN to understand the magnitude of the second half of the phrase. I'm starting to get the idea though...

It's so easy for me to get caught up in the 'groundhog day' feeling, that I don't always think about the fact that I HAVEN'T been doing this same routine forever. All it takes is reading an old journal entry (or blog post), or readisomething from a couple years (or even months) ago on Facebook to make me jump and think, "WHOA! Remember when Kate went down for a nap before Sam and I even went downstairs in the morning?". Or, "Oh my goodness! I used to nurse Sam on the couch watching Boy Meets World every morning."

Then there's pictures. Pictures absolutely slay me. I'll look at a picture from when Kate was born, less than a year ago, and tear up because Sam looks like such a BABY! Or pictures of Sam's first Christmas. Or a video of the first time Sam made Kate laugh. Or a picture of when James and I first met...

I'm gonna go ahead and throw out another cliche here... WHERE does the time go?! My baby boy who used to sleep swaddled next to me on the couch walked down the stairs without holding the railing this morning holding 2 books and a truck. My baby girl who nursed for an hour right after she was born is too busy trying to walk and yelling, "No no no!" at her brother to nurse longer than 5 minutes. 

The days are long, but the years are short. Keep your heads up mamas. Change one more diaper. Wipe one more nose. Take a deep breath and read that story 1 more time. It's ok to feel like your day will never end. It's ok for part of you to wish it away. It's ok to think, "I will NOT miss this!". Just remember that there are some things you WILL miss, and you might just start missing them sooner than you think. So soak up the snuggles. Run your hand through the baby curls. Relish in the slobbery kisses. And rejoice in the fact that someday the sleepless, teething nights will also be a memory 😉

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Me Time and Mommy Guilt

Let me set the scene-

You've been in full on 'mama-mode' for days, months, years even and you finally have somebody willing and able to watch over your little ones for a little while so that you can go out and go to the gym/get your hair cut/grocery shop... SHOWER by yourself. Your husband/mom/dad/grandparent/sibling/friend/sitter is all settled in with the kids. You walk out the door. You're euphoric! No... wait... there it is. WHAM! The Mommy Guilt. "Shouldn't I be reading to them right now?", "I must be a crappy mom if I WANT to get away from my kids this badly.", "I should be spending money on new clothes for my brood rather than on myself.", "But they were crying for me!"

Mommy guilt is POWERFUL. Mommy guilt is PAINFUL. I think different mamas feel it in different degrees. Some mamas' guilt might be stronger and hit them a little harder than others, but that doesn't make either one a bad mama, just a different one. (Wanted to get that little disclaimer out there early!)

I have always struggled BIG TIME with Mommy guilt. I don't get a chance to be completely by myself very often. Mostly by choice. I've chosen to stay home with my kids and to keep them here rather than have them in a daycare or preschool setting. I'm 100% happy with that choice, but I'm also human! And I need my batteries recharged every now and then.

As much as I struggle now, it's nothing compared to how I used to be when Sam was first born. I remember going to get my hair cut when he was 4 months old. James had to practically push me forcibly through the door to make it to my appointment. I spent my entire time in the chair sweating profusely and checking my phone obsessively for messages from home. I did not enjoy myself at.all. Some of that was just new mama jitters, but a lot of it was the crushing MOMMY GUILT. I shouldn't be taking time and money away from my baby! I should want to be with him 24/7! I should be a SUPERMOM who's batteries are everlasting and never ever need a recharge! That was the last time I went out on my own or did anything for myself for a long time.

Somewhere between being Sam's mama and James' wife, I forgot there was somebody else I needed to be. Sarah. I forgot how to be Sarah. And as important as Sam (and now Kate's) mama and James' wife is, Sarah is important too! Before I got married and became a mother, I had hobbies. I was a dancer and a teacher. I liked to read. I liked to go to the gym. I liked to watch and sing along to movie musicals. I liked to dress up. I liked to chat (okay gossip) with girlfriends. But I was starting to lose a lot of that. Some of it was just a part of growing up and growing into motherhood. Some of it had to go, and I was happy to see it go. But some of it, well I started to miss it, and I started to miss me.

It didn't get easier or better overnight. It was a gradual change. I started to workout from home while Sam napped. And Sarah started to peek through the mom uniform (yoga pants and a ponytail FYI) a bit. Then I started putting Sam in childcare at the gym for a little while and she peeked out a little more. Then, of course, the gym closed the childcare. I panicked a little then. I was starting to find ME again and I was afraid to lose her.

Enter Stroller Warriors.

It took me 2 months after I joined the Facebook group to actually make it to a workout. I was plagued with Mommy guilt the entire way there. Was I being selfish? It was a hot day. Should I really be forcing Sam to sit in a stroller for a half an hour so *I* could do something?

But after just one workout I was hooked. Not just on this amazing club, and being surrounded by such inspiring people, but on RUNNING. Because running was something for ME. It felt amazing to set and meet goals again. And the mommy guilt was kept at bay because Sam really seemed to LIKE riding along in the stroller for a run! He'd point out dogs or trucks, snack on snacks, yell encouraging things like, "FASTER!", and always had a blast at the playground when I was finished.

As I started to run more, and train for longer races, I started to do more solo runs. Good ole Mommy guilt came back to play then. I felt so guilty leaving Sam behind to go get in a few miles, but I was different than I had been a year prior. I had found Sarah again and was learning how to mesh 'Sarah' with 'Mama'. To do that, I needed to start looking Mommy guilt in the eye and say, "Not today!" (anybody catch the sort of vague Game of Thrones reference? Hmm? Anybody?).

Now I'm looking ahead to the summer when I will be marathon training. No, that's not a typo. MARATHON TRAINING. 26.2 miles. T.w.e.n.t.y. s.i.x. p.o.i.n.t. t.w.o MILES. Yep. Okay... moving on.

There's going to be A LOT of long solo runs. Probably a lot of long stroller runs too. I won't even start training til July and already I can feel the guilt.

I know that it's okay though. It's okay for me to take some time for myself. It's okay for me to make a goal that's just mine and mine alone. It's okay for my kids to come along for the ride sometimes in the stroller, (maybe a little longer than they might like, but don't worry, the stroller is where Mama starts handing out treats!), and it's okay for them to stay behind without me sometimes.

To be the BEST 'Sam and Kate's Mama' and 'James' wife' that I can be, I need to be the best Sarah I can be. I need to remember that I'm important too. My dreams and goals matter too. And as long as I remember that, I don't think I'll lose sight of ME again anytime soon.

After my very first race in October 2012

Friday, January 10, 2014

Instead of yelling...

I've sat down to write this blog post several times in the past couple weeks, and a some small person or another keeps pulling me away. I have (hopefully) about 30 minutes before my smallest of small people wakes up hungry, so here goes!

Not yelling is harder than I thought it would be, and I thought it would be pretty hard. Some days it's a breeze. I calmly and quietly handle misbehavior, my heart rate stays normal, and our day is nice and smooth. Some days it is a physical and emotional struggle. Some days I can feel the yell in my throat. Like it's a seed or something I choked on. My heart goes faster and faster, and I fight so hard against the urge to yell. I don't always win, but I'll ya what, the times I DO win? Man it's a sweet sweet victory. It's such an amazing feeling to push down that yell, and speak calmly instead. The times I don't win? Well, those are not good times, but I make every effort to stop it as soon as I possibly can.

Some things I've learned:
-I am more likely to yell at Sam if Kate is fussing. And that is so not fair.
-Sometimes I feel like yelling, not because Sam is even doing anything particularly BAD, but because I'm frustrated with how slow it's happening or how much of a mess it's making.
-Yelling makes a temper tantrum/bout of misbehavior last at least twice as long as calmly dealing with it does.
-Time outs are more effective if they're used incredibly sparingly (continued misbehavior after several attempts to calmly stop it/redirect or repeated actions that could cause harm to himself or others)
-Sam is more likely to act out when he's bored. Sam is more likely to be bored when I am very busy with other things. I am more likely to yell when I am very busy with other things. I need to slow.down.and.simplify.

Some things I've done when the urge to yell is about to overtake me:
-Close my eyes and take several VERY deep breaths
-Shut myself in the bathroom or laundry room for a few moments
-Go outside.

The last one ^, go outside? A.m.a.z.i.n.g! Particularly when it's cold! I make sure both kids are safe (Kate is buckled into her swing or something where Sam can't mess with her) and I step out onto our front porch. It's like as soon as the fresh air hits my face I feel immediately better! I've always liked utilizing time outside for the KIDS when they're having a bad day, but now I love to utilize it for ME. 

Even better than stepping outside for a moment to pull myself together? Getting a chance (if Daddy gets home early enough) to go for a run on my own.

Yesterday was a TOUGH day. I did not win against the yelling. I was extremely tired. Kate's naps were all off and she was very fussy. The house was messy. Sam was messy. Sam was tired and slightly bored. It was an all around bad situation. James got home early, I nursed Kate, said, "I'll be RIGHT back", and laced up my running shoes. 

3 miles and a shower later, I was a new Mama. I scooped Sam up to snuggle on the couch and told him that Mama was sorry for yelling so much. He said, "Mama! Look at Sam's orange cement truck!" and gave me a hug. In Sam's world, that means all is forgiven ;)

Sam, my sweet sweet Sam, has started doing something that is both heart breaking and such an awesome reminder to keep my promise to him and to myself and stop the yelling. When I am upset with him, he grins, and says in a quiet voice, "Mamaaaaaaa. Smile.". Oh Sam, Mama wants to be able to always smile for you!

And so I will trudge on with my promise. I will be calmer. I will be quieter. I will be the very best Mama that I can be because I have been blessed with 2 amazing little people who deserve nothing less :)


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013- A Recap

As I'm nursing Kate to sleep just hours before we ring in 2014, I thought I'd take a minute to post a fun recap of our year :) 

I was struck down with 'morning' sickness. Sam watched a lot of Thomas movies and I ate a lot of crackers.

We also made my pregnancy 'Facebook official', Sam got his first haircut, and we got the news that our new house on base would be finished and ready for us to move in in March! 

The sickness haze started to lift and we got down to business getting organized for our move.

I also started leading the 'Couch to Crazy' group with Stroller Warriors. We started with a couch to 5k program.

Towards the end of the month we found out our new address and were able to drive by our still under construction house. 

At the very end of the month, Sam and I flew up to PA for a visit.

Moving month!

We packed. And then packed a bit more. James had to be at the range the week we got our keys. So my mom flew down to help me out. She and I were able to move over a bunch of boxes and get the kitchen set up before the truck moved everything else a week later. I <3 my kitchen!

My couch to crazy group ran their graduation 5k! I felt so proud watching them all cross the finish line!

We continued to settle into our new house and Sam loved everything about living in a house rather than an apartment. So many opportunities to play outside!

We also found out that the baby in my belly was a GIRL! 

In May we finished up the last of our unpacking. Took longer than I was expecting!

Sam and I made the loooong drive up to PA for Tommy's graduation and shortly after we got back we had Sam's Thomas themed 2nd birthday party. We celebrated a little early since we'd be at the beach on the actual day.

Sam turned *2*!!

We had a fantastic week and a half in Lewes with my family. James and I went out on our first date night ALONE since before Sam was born to celebrate our 3rd anniversary. 

When we got home from the beach we moved Sam's crib to the nursery and set him up with a BIG BOY BED! He did so well with the transition!


James was gone for a good portion of July doing some training.

Sam and I stayed busy playing at the park, going running, and taking swimming lessons (they did NOT go well, although by the last day Sam did kick his legs and blow a couple bubbles)

The biggest event in July (besides Mom and Dad's visit for my birthday of course!) was POTTY TRAINING!! Yay! We stopped diapers cold turkey and never looked back! A day and a half of a lot of accidents and then it 'clicked'. Hooray for Sam! 

Big month!

Early part of the month was spent filling the freezer with dinners, prepping the house for a baby, and doing fun one on one activities with Sam (like Mini Marine day at Daddy's work and a visit to a train museum!)

Then on the 20th our sweet Kate joined our family! 


A lot of adjusting to having a baby in the house again.

My Mom came to visit and help out when Kate was 3 weeks old and James had to be in the field for a week.

This month I started to sllllowly ease back into running. I was SO happy to get back into it!

My couch to crazy group ran their first HALF MARATHON!! This group of women were SO amazing! The amount of pride I felt hanging medals around their necks as they crossed the finish line was immeasurable!

I myself started running more and more and really started to feel like my old (non-pregnant) self again!  

We saw lots of grandparents this month! Gran'mama and Grandpa came mid-month and we went pumpkin picking. Then Nana and Grandpa Bob came at the end of the month and joined us for trick or treating! 

James and I kicked off November with a 5k race. My first since having Kate! It was rough, but felt great to be 'back'!

Sam and I caught a nasty cold, complete with high fever, mid-month which kept us inside for a while. Cabin fever didn't take long to set in so I turned to Pinterest to find a few activities and crafts that might help alleviate some of Sam's boredom. 

We made the trip up to PA (first road trip with Kate AND first road trip with Sam in undies!) for Thanksgiving and were lucky enough that James' grandparent's Christmas brunch was the same weekend! It was awesome to be able to see SO many family members in one long weekend!

So much holiday fun!!

We attended Christmas parties for both Stroller Warriors and 2nd Tank Battalion and went to a friend's for a super fun cookie decorating plays date.

The kids were getting their own table and chairs set from Nana and Grandpa Bob and since that would be top big for us to fit in our car with the rest of the presents at Christmas, they shipped it to us early. We took full advantage and had an early Christmas with just the 4 of us in NC. Big Christmas dinner and all! I made my first turkey and it was amazing!

We spent a few days in Maryland visiting with Gran'nama and Grandpa (and saw Uncle Josh and Aunt Julie too!) and then some time in PA with Nana and Grandpa Bob. Christmas morning was spent at Nana and Grandpa Bob's and the afternoon and dinner was spent with the Maida cousins. 

Sam really 'got' Christmas this year and it was SO fun to see how magical it all was for him! It gave my heart so much joy to ask him, "Who's birthday is on Christmas?" and hear his little voice say, "Jesus!" What a special time!

We have had such an INCREDIBLY blessed year! It has been so wonderful settling into our first house (rather than an apartment) and becoming a family of 4! 

I have so many hopes and goals for 2014. One that I want to share here is my goal to RUN A MARATHON. Yes. A marathon. A FULL marathon. 26.2 miles. I'm most likely completely nuts. It's going to be a fun year :)

Happy New Year!