Confession Time

Ok.  This isn’t easy to admit, but I’ll be honest.

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about how I was planning to wake up every morning to get in a short run.

Well, I totally overestimated my ability to wake up in the morning.  I kinda also overestimated my desire to do it.

It’s not that I don’t love running anymore – I still get in a short run whenever I can manage to, and I’m averaging a 3-mile run every week.  Our family is about 5 weeks away from taking a Disney Cruise vacation, and all I can think about is how the girls get to go to camp all day and I’ll be free to run the track around the ship.  I’m participating in a 5K this Saturday and I’ve already been scoping out my next half-marathon.

The problem is the same thing it was last summer:  IT’S SUMMER.  And Florida summers are no joke.  Between the heat, the humidity, and the insane daily thunderstorms, it’s not easy to find time to get out.  And although I really did love that early morning run, it’s just not always possible to do that either.  Jay’s schedule changed almost as soon as I made the choice to try and get out every morning, and I’m not able to get any running in when he’s out of town.

I know, I know – excuses, excuses. :(

Not running has had an unexpected effect on me – I started getting depressed.  I don’t think it’s the lack of endorphins as much as it is noticing the changes in my body, mainly the lack of energy and motivation that seems to occur whenever I’m not working out. Running makes me happy, makes me feel good about myself.  Not running makes me feel icky.  And I get bummed and feel like a failure because I’m not at all working towards my goal.

But I’ve started to see the absurdity in thinking that way, mainly because 90% of why I’m not running is not my fault - or, at least, it’s a well-made decision not to go.  I have no control over the weather, no control over the heat, no control over my husband’s work travel and obligations.  If I can’t run one morning because Emily’s friend is coming over for the day, then that’s not really me being lazy, it’s me making a sacrifice to help my daughter have a great summer.  If I look out the window and see the clouds rolling in and decide to set up the pool in the backyard instead of forcing the girls to go running with me, then I’m making sure my kids enjoy the little sunshine we have their way and not mine. A great day with my kids is way more likely if I’m not suffering from a never-ending migraine brought on by running in 90-degree heat.

I am not giving up on running.  Not by a long shot.

What I am doing is becoming aware of my limits and deciding not to let them get me down.  When I read that I struggled getting in runs last summer too for the same reasons I’m having trouble now, I realized that beating myself up is about the least productive thing I can do.

I’m still a runner, just a runner on hiatus.  A runner choosing to take a break until the weather and schedules are more cooperative.  A runner eagerly awaiting the beginning of the school year so that routines can be set in place again.  A runner admitting temporary defeat.

So maybe I’m not the great, dedicated runner I want or appear to be.  I’m okay with the choices I’m making.

And I’m not worried – I’ll know I’ll be back in full force before too long. :)

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My Mad Lego Skillz

Ok, I’m going to beg apologies right off the bat.

I’m about to toot my own horn here.  Pat myself on the back.  Give myself a giant chocolate-chip cookie.  Award myself the trophy.  Ride on the float in a ticker-tape parade.

But it is my blog, so here it is: I rock at Legos.

Not too long ago Julia begged me to play with some of Emily’s Legos, so I pulled out the bin of random pieces my awesome brother gave her years ago.  She stuck random pieces together, and I built a model of Emily’s room.  Boo-yah.

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To prove my awesomeness to the world – actually, just so that I’ve officially documented this for Emily’s sake – I took photos of her room on a rarer-than-a-sasquatch-sighting day when I could actually see the floor, and posted those here next to the Lego replicas I made.

Here’s her bedroom:

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Starting at the bottom left corner and working clockwise, the model features her desk and the dresser we decoupaged (complete with her hermit crab cage & hermit crab)…

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…her nightstand, stuffed animal-covered bed, and bookshelves…

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…and the toybox my dad built for her when she was born.

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Obviously, it’s not to scale, and obviously it’s not an exact replica, but I think it’s pretty darn good, considering Lego doesn’t have heart-shaped IKEA print bedpreads or animal-print girly-colored bricks.

It appears that Emily agrees with me… later I went back to her room to find she did this:

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Is it okay to toot my horn again? :P

The Four Best Beverages Ever Concocted

*Disclaimer – I firmly believe that water is the best thing out there when it comes to quenching your thirst.  Or maintaining healthy skin.  Or staying hydrated.  But I believe that God created water, and this list is strictly meant to feature fantastic drinks created by people. Although, for the record, I do consider each of them to be pure heaven.

I am not a thirsty gal. That whole thing about drinking 8 glasses of water a day just never seems to happen, no matter how motivated I am or how many tricks I’ve tried to achieve it.  And while I do my best to drink as much water as I can every day, there are a few other drinks that I indulge in, whether I’m thirsty or not.

Here are those glorious beverages, in no particular order. :)

  • Starbucks Java Chip Frapaccino Light
    I’m not a coffee drinker, but when Emily was just a baby I had a sweet neighbor who would come over and keep me company all day.  She frequented Starbucks, and every time she went she’d ask me if I wanted anything.  After multiple rejections she finally ignored me and brought home this delicious treat.  I really don’t like coffee – this is the ONLY coffee I’ll drink from anywhere – but this is mixed with chocolate and has chocolate chunks at the bottom.  Yummers!  I love it so much that Jay found a way to duplicate the Java Chip recipe, which saves us money so I can drink guilt-free… at least, financially.

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  • Benihana Japanese Grapefruit Shochu
    I like alcohol as much as I like coffee.  But, just like there’s an exception to my dislike of coffee, this is my exception to my dislike of alcohol (although on rare occasions I do indulge in a mimosa).  We go to Benihana at least once a year, usually for Jay’s birthday.  It holds an extra special place in our hearts because it’s also where he proposed to me.  Since we are usually celebrating something when we go, it seems fitting to order a drink with a bit more kick to it than the water I usually get at restaurants.  The grapefruit shochu is my favorite – as long as they put tons of sugar on the rim.  :D

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  • Frozen Coke
    Um, yeah.  I really don’t think I need to explain this one much, but if you really haven’t caught on that this is my all-time favorite, never-turn-it-down drink, here’s a bit about how I got hooked and why this blog is named after them. :)

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  • Ghirardelli Chocolate Milkshake
    If you are a lover of chocolate milkshakes (or any flavor, I imagine), and find yourself near a Ghirardelli, don’t delay – get yourself an extra-thick milkshake ASAP. You won’t be disappointed.  They do it right – and when you say thick, they make it thick. It takes longer than most shakes to melt, and doesn’t have that funky fake ice-cream flavor that others always seem to have.  I usually get my milkshakes when I’m in Downtown Disney, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have one in San Francisco too, where Domingo Ghirardelli established his first chocolate factory in 1852.  Soooooo good!

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And there you have it.  The four most heavenly beverages concocted by man.  At least, in my humble opinion.

You’re welcome. :D

 

Up, Up, and Away!

If you have ever been to Downtown Disney you’ve undoubtably noticed the beautiful hot air balloon ascending and descending slowly over the stores and restaurants.

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Covered in gigantic yellow and red stripes and various Disney characters, the balloon is actually not full of hot air but helium, and currently holds the record for the largest tethered helium balloon in the world!

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We’ve been to Downtown Disney lots of times – the girls love the carousel and it’s where Jay gets his soap and I get my favorite milkshake, so we always make a point of stopping there on our way home.  But although we’d seen the balloon for years, we’d never given it a try.  We have a tradition of trying something new every time we go to any part of Disney World, whether it be a restaurant, tour, or other experience.  And even though we were only stopping by after spending a few days in Legoland, we decided to give it a go (after we’d gotten our soap and milkshake) and add it to our list of Disney experiences.

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The attraction isn’t exactly cheap, and at $18 per adult and $12 per child it cost us a whopping $60 to go up in the balloon.  Knowing that this would be a one-time event, we bought our tickets and got on.

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The balloon rises up 400 feet into the air, and provides a 360-degree view of the Walt Disney World Resort – you can really see just about everything.  Emily was super excited to point out the Epcot ball, and you could easily see the tip of Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest and even the Tower of Terror.  With the help of the pilot we were able to pinpoint other landmarks across the resort as well.

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Looking straight down from the balloon you could see a beautiful compass on the loading dock below… although I don’t recommend looking down if you’re afraid of heights!

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When we got off of the balloon about 10 minutes later we discovered a hidden Mickey made out of the ropes used to anchor the balloon.  The pilot was thrilled we found it, telling us that he makes it every day and no one notices it.

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Although the ride was a bit pricier than we’d hoped, Jay and I are glad that we can now add it to our long list of Disney adventures.  Both girls loved the balloon, and Julia still talks about how we went “up, up, UP!”  But our favorite part is that now whenever we see the balloon flying overhead, we can say, “We DID that!”

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Made to Fit

So, this wasn’t working:

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As soon as Emily’s party was over I eagerly pulled out my last birthday gift from my grandma – a 6,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.  It’s the largest puzzle I’ve ever attempted, and unfortunately, our table was about 2 inches too short (widthwise).  I started the puzzle anyway though, and as you can see, between the Burger King, Julia’s homework, Emily’s puzzle, and Julia’s puzzles, it was getting a bit crowded on the table.  I not only needed to find a way to add a few inches to the table’s width, but I also needed to better define my project’s territory.

After going over multiple possibilities with Jay, I decided that creating a new surface for the table would be the best bet.  I headed over to the local dollar store and picked up 8 pieces of black foamboard.

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The puzzle measures 42.25″ x 62.25″, and I decided to add an extra .75″ to the width of my foamboard so that my new surface area would measure 43″ wide.  I also gave a few extra inches to the length so that the puzzle wouldn’t be up against the edges on all 4 sides.

First, I taped two pieces of foamboard together on the back with duct tape.

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Then I measured and marked the board at 43″ in a few places and connected my lines with a ruler.  Once I had my line I used a box cutter to score the line, making sure I kept my line as straight as possible.
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I continued the same way – taping, measuring, and cutting until I had my new “tabletop.” Some of the black paper on the foamboard had peeled off of the front while I cut the first piece on the back, so afterward I cut along the front of the boards instead of the backs, and any more tearing occurred on the backs of the boards.

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Here is the front of the board with a puzzle piece on it:

IMG_9793The next step was to clear the table of all the junk and then slowly move the completed sections onto the new foamboard surface.

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It took a little while (Julia kept trying to “help” me :) ), but eventually I managed to get it all on the board.  I really love working on the black background because it makes the colors pop and the dark color doesn’t compete with the image.

IMG_9798As a rule I never start with the edges in a puzzle (just call me a jigsaw rebel), but it would have been impossible to do them on the table anyway since it was too small. Once my foamboard tabletop went on I was able to put the edges together and get a better sense of the final size of this puzzle.  It’s a whopper!

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I think this method will work well for future large puzzles too, and if I need to I can cut these foamboard pieces along the taped lines and save them for later.

As far as where we eat dinner now, well, that’s another problem… :)

Tie-Dye!

First of all, let me confess that for the past few days I’ve been spelling it tye-dye.  How did I get into my 30’s without ever realizing it’s not spelled like that?  Sheesh.

IMG_9839Anyway, my sweet friend Tina and I had been wanting to do tie-dye with our kiddos for a while ever since we’d seen the materials at Hobby Lobby.  I’d done some research on Pinterest, and to be honest I was pretty confused and overwhelmed by the whole thing, since it seemed that everyone had a different process for dying things.  So we were thrilled when we hit the jackpot – a kit with absolutely everything we needed!

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Here’s what came in the kit:

  • 90 rubber bands
  • 6 pairs of gloves
  • 1 plastic tablecloth
  • 18 plastic bottles with powdered dye (4 colors were duplicates)
  • Instruction/idea booklet

The kit was $30, but we had a 40% off coupon, bringing the price to $18.  The shirts were different prices ($3.49 – $7.99), but they were on sale for 30% off.  So for about $15 each, we were ready to get started!

The process was surprisingly simple, and took less than an hour from start to finish (not counting the time it takes for the colors to set).

Here’s a step-by-step of what we did:

  1. Wash the shirts.  We used the fast-wash cycle, so it only took about 20 minutes to wash all 6.  Do NOT put them in the dryer if you want the dye to bleed a bit (typically what you want in tie-dye).  If you don’t want your colors to bleed, then dry the shirt first.  We opted to work with the damp shirts.
  2. Choose your design style.  There are tons of tie-dye styles – the idea booklet in the kit had a few and we found even more online.  We all liked the traditional spiral design, which is done by lying the shirt out on a flat surface, pinching the shirt in the center (grabbing the front and back together), and twisting the shirt in a circular motion.  If the sleeves or ends of the shirt won’t twist well, then just tuck them around the central spiral, making sure to keep the whole shirt in the same circular direction.

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  1. Use rubber bands to hold your design in place.  Since we chose the spiral design, we had to use 3-4 rubber bands to hold them together.  If you choose to do a spiral, be sure that the rubber bands cross in the center so that your shirt looks like a pie with 6-8 wedges.

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  1. Prepare your work area.  The kit came with a plastic cloth, so we laid it out on the floor and set our shirts on top.  We put paper towels beneath the shirts to help absorb excess dye, but I’ve seen others use cookie sheets and I like that idea better.

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  1. Mix your dye.  Each bottle in the kit had pre-measured powdered dye inside of it, so all we needed to do was fill the bottles with water to a marked line and shake the bottles well.
  2. Choose your colors and start squirting!  Get ready to get creative – this is the fun part!  Carefully squeeze the dye you want onto one of the banded wedges on your shirt.  You can use as much or as little dye as you like, keeping in mind that the more dye you use the less white will show on the shirt.

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  1. Wrap the shirts.  Once you have finished dyeing your shirt, wrap it in plastic wrap or place it in a zip-top plastic baggie.  The shirt needs to stay wrapped for 6-8 hours – the longer it stays wrapped the more intense the colors will be.

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  1. Rinse out excess dye.  After your shirt has been wrapped for 6-8 hours, remove the rubber bands and rinse out all excess dye until the water runs clear.
  2. Wash.  I washed each shirt separately, then ran them through the dryer.  *It’s recommended that you wash the shirts separate from the rest of your clothing for the next few washes as well.

And that’s it!

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The shirts were super easy to make.  Even Julia, who’s only 3, was able to get in on the fun.  We proudly wore our creations all day the next day (which happened to be 7-Eleven Day), and received many compliments on them.  I’m a bit addicted now, and I’ve already been trying to think of what I might tie-dye next!

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Lego Heads

We are a Lego-loving family.  When we first found out we were pregnant with Emily one of the first things Jay and I both got excited about was that we could play with Legos again.  Not that we’d ever really stopped, though – I used our love of Star Wars and Legos as an excuse to buy Jay big Lego kits to “decorate” his office with before we even had kids.

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I have fond memories of playing Legos with my brother for hours upon hours upon hours when we were kids.  We built models of our house, crazy cars, and whatever else we felt like building.  I remember one year Kevin got this incredible pirate ship set, and we had the best time playing with the little maps, peglegged pirates, and treasure chest full of “real” gold coins.

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Kevin is, if nothing else, totally awesome, and saved a bin full of his Legos for me to pass on to my kids one day.  And so, when Emily was finally old enough (I think she was 3 or 4 – Jay couldn’t wait any longer), we brought the bin out of the attic and set her loose.  I was thrilled to see that the treasure chest, parrot, skeleton, pirate, and even the treasure map escaped being lost forever and that we could now breathe new life into them.

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When Emily was about 2 years old a local museum held an exhibit featuring a famous Lego artist, Nathan Sawaya.  My parents and brother were in town visiting, so we all went and checked it out.  His work was absolutely amazing, and the way he used the bricks to convey a message really blew my mind.  If you ever have a chance to visit one of his shows, I highly recommend going.

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After the exhibit there was a little room where you could create your own Lego art, and there was no way our group wasn’t going to sit and play for a bit!

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When Julia came around, we were excited to explore the world of Duplos.  We sorta skipped that stage with Emily, but since Julia was still putting things in her mouth we couldn’t risk her playing with the smaller pieces.  She received a few sets as Christmas and birthday gifts, and her collection has grown considerably since.  One of our favorite things to do is to make towers out of each of the colors, or to try to make one huge tower out of every single piece she has.  Of course, as soon as the tower is built, it comes crashing down with a, “Let’s do it AGAIN!” from Julia.

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We were super excited when Lego started creating sets aimed at girls, and boy, did Emily make out like a bandit that first Christmas and birthday!  Before we knew it she had a cute little Lego neighborhood all laid out on her bedroom floor…

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…and it still continues to grow!

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We’ve been to the Lego Store for their free build events, and we’ve enjoyed a few trips to Legoland over the past year.  We’ve seen shows about the Lego factory and have built and raced Lego cars at Downtown Disney.  We’ve drooled over the giant kits and imagined what it would be like to build them.  We’ve sat down as a family of four and built ridiculous Duplo animal trains and zoos.  Legos unite us in a way that most of our daughters’ toys cannot – they allow us to invent, design, and create together – and then tear it all down and start over the next day with something entirely new.

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Yes, we are a family of Lego-heads.  Little plastic connecting bricks in so many shapes, colors, and themes – and the only limit is your imagination.  What’s not to love?

Happy 7-Eleven Day!

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Yay, it’s almost 7-Eleven Day!  From 11:00am until 7:00pm you can get a FREE small Slurpee at any participating 7-Eleven! Can you tell I’m happy? :)

And how perfect that it falls on a Friday!

Last year I posted some interesting facts about 7-Eleven’s famous beverage, but this year I thought I’d give you some tips on how to make the most of this event.  You know, because I’m all about the Frozen Cokes.

  • Choose Your 7-11 Wisely
    7-Eleven Day can get pretty crazy.  Keep in mind that this is a pretty popular event, and that not everyone will be as clean and careful at the machines as you will.  I’ve been to some locations where there was Slurpee mess on the floor from the front door all the way to the machines – sticky, gross, and almost making me change my mind about getting one.  Almost.  The machines weren’t working well, and the employees were extremely annoyed at everyone.  Since that unfortunate experience I’ve located a fabulous 7-11 near my house that is well-kept all year long, the employees are friendly, their machines are always fully operational, and the supplies are always fully stocked.  Since I know that this event draws a crowd, I like knowing that the rest of the trip will be as pleasant as possible.
  • Do NOT Try to Fill Up Your Car
    I learned this one the hard way.  Again, lots of people all heading to the same place for the same freebie = lots of people also trying to put gas in their cars since they are already stopping.  I know that this might not be the case everywhere, but last year it was crazy, even at my favorite 7-11.  More people, more cars, and more people trying to manipulate those cars to get their tank lined up with the pump just proved to be ridiculous.  I’m in the habit of pumping my gas every Friday when the girls and I get our frozen drinks, but I’m planning to fill up tomorrow instead to avoid the hassle.
  • Don’t Feel Weird Buying an Extra Slurpee
    One of my favorite ways to enjoy a frozen coke now is to get a large, drink half, and stick the rest in the freezer.  Later in the evening after the girls are in bed I pull it out and eat it with a spoon instead of having cookies, cake, or ice cream for dessert.  It curbs my sweet tooth and prevents me from too much fat intake late in the evening. My usual practice is for the girls and I to enjoy our free Slurpees right away, but I also buy myself a small Slurpee to take home and freeze.  I’m still saving a little since I’m not buying a large, and this way I still have something yummy waiting for me after dinner.
  • Be Kind to the Employees
    I can’t stress this enough.  They are going to get a huge increase in customers, many of whom are tired, hungry, and grumpy.  Some of these people are just going to walk in, get their Slurpee, and leave, but a good number will make other purchases while there (including me), which means longer lines.  They also have to keep a closer eye on the customers because of things like theft and small kids running around the store while parents get their drinks – not to mention the people who keep coming back in to get more free Slurpees (I saw one guy try to come back at least 3 times last year).  Just remember, you’re getting something for nothing.  Be nice, and don’t forget to say thank you. :)
  • Have Fun!
    Take pictures!  Make memories!  Start a new tradition!  7-Eleven has new mustache Slurpee straws, and I think I’ll be getting them for the girls to celebrate the beverage we love to bond over.  I might even keep them in the car after I wash them so they are ready to go every Friday.  You can also check out http://www.slurpee.com for some fun Slurpee facts and a video on the Slurpee Story, or go to their Facebook event page to RSVP for 7-Eleven Day.

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Have a wonderful 7-Eleven Day!

 

* Image from the 7-Eleven Day Facebook event page.

 

Genie Wishes

The question usually goes something like this:

Imagine you’re digging in you great-great-great-great-grandmother’s attic.  You come across an old oil lamp she found while on her travels.  You decide to clean the lamp up, and after rubbing the side with a cloth for a few minutes out pops a genie and tells you he’s going to grant you 3 wishes.  What do you wish for?

Now, obviously, the best wishes would be for things like ending world hunger, no more wars, homelessness would be eradicated, every orphan has a home, etc.  But say these wishes were only allowed to be applied to you directly.  The genie isn’t powerful enough to save the world, so the wishes have to be selfish – you’re the only benefactor.  I know, it sucks, but those are the rules.

I made my list of wishes the first time this question was posed to me, and to be honest it hasn’t really changed all that much.  I never saw the sense in asking for tons of money or a pony or giant bowls of ice cream.  And my wishes weren’t simple either. After seeing movies and cartoons where the genie gets confused and the guy who wishes to become the richest man in the world becomes a major drug dealer with all the problems that go along with it, I knew I had to be specific.

So, in no particular order, here are the wishes I’ve held onto since I was a kid:

Have a voice exactly like Whitney Houston’s
The voice of an angel – that’s what I thought the first time my parents played her album for me.  I was hooked, and memorized every word to every song.  I saw a photo of her with her hair all teased out, and with my curly hair I knew I could even look like her if I wanted to.  Ah, the fantasies of a child.  But to this day, I will belt out any of her songs when I hear them, and I still wish I had a voice just like hers.

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Sing a duet with Phil Collins
Now that I can sing like Ms. Houston I’d love to sing with my all-time favorite, Phil Collins.  I have envied Marilyn Martin for her duet with him in “Separate Lives,” and later I even found myself jealous of Rosie O’Donnell and ‘N Sync for their duets with him in Disney’s Tarzan.  I’d love for my duet with him to be documented on video, (of course I’d look amazing), and for he and I to have a blast doing it.  For now though, I’ll just have to settle for my autographed photo.  :)

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Meet the Muppets and star in a movie with them
The Muppets are awesome, and it would be the coolest thing in the world to show up in one of their movies and get to interact with them.  I love their loose attitudes and quirky, silly jokes.  One of my good friends had a chance to interview them last year, but unfortunately she wasn’t allowed to bring anyone along. Durnit.  She did bring me back some mementos from her trip though, so I wasn’t totally bummed.  You can read her interview with them here, it’s pretty funny!

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Have always-perfect hair like a Disney Princess
Life just isn’t fair.  And hair, in my opinion, is the best example of this.  I would love it if I could stand on a windy cliff like Pocahontas and not look like a hot mess. Or swim and surface like Ariel and have my hair look dry either way. Or drag my hair behind me like Rapunzel without getting ridiculous tangles.  Or sleep for any length of time and wake up with perfect hair like Snow White and Aurora.  I would love it if my hair could just look amazing no matter what situation I’m in.  Is that too much to ask?

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Perfect eyesight
I’ve had glasses since I was in 3rd Grade, and contacts since I started high school.  I’m terrified of getting laser surgery, but I would love to wake up in the morning, open my eyes, and see clearly.  Perfect eyesight for life.  Who wouldn’t want that?

So that’s my list!  Of course, now that I’m a mom and a wife I should probably tweak it a bit… maybe wish for a weekend alone… or with Jay… in Australia.  Nails that don’t lose their polish so quickly.  The ability to fully recharge each night on 4 hours of sleep. A pet jellyfish.

You can laugh if you want, but I’m willing to bet that most people have their list ready too.  Feel free to share your wishes in the comments below if you like – if nothing else it might make me feel less shallow!  :D

Another Blog Improvement!

I get asked all the time about my journey as a runner.

So at the advisement of a friend I’ve added a new page to my menu bar.  Just click on the little red circle at the top right of the screen, and the menu bar will pop right up!

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I’ll be honest – my running career has had its highs and lows.  There are times I love it and times I don’t.  There have been weeks I’ve run more than 30 miles and months where I’ve barely hit 20 miles.  It’s definitely been a wonderful albeit inconsistent journey.

But I wouldn’t change a thing.

When I began running I was most interested in how other runners got started, so that’s where I began my list as well.  All of my other running-related posts are listed in chronological order on this page so that anyone who is interested can follow along on my journey as it happened.

I truly hope that reading my trials and successes with running will both motivate and encourage others to get out there and get moving!