A 13.1 with the Jellies

*Okay, so technically a Portuguese man o’ war isn’t a jellyfish, but I’ve learned since completing my last half marathon that while they are super common where I live, man o’ war¬†aren’t as well known as I thought – hence the jellyfish reference. ūüôā


I found out about the Key West half marathon when I was at the expo for the Ft. Lauderdale 5K I ran last year. A couple of my friends, Tina and Jen, decided that we should all head down together and have a running adventure. It was supposed to be their first 13.1, but unfortunately Tina’s foot was injured and she was unable to join us. (We missed you so much, Tina! ‚̧ ) Jen and I trained for a few months, then made the 3-hour drive to Key West!


Jay was originally planning to run the half marathon with us, but due to his work travels he wasn’t able to devote much training time to it, so he decided to switch his registration to the 5K. He and I drove down together on the day of the race expo, checked into our hotel, then took the hotel shuttle to the expo to pick up our packets. The event differentiated between the 5K’ers and the 13.1’ers via the bibs – those running the 5K had a bright, tropical sunny day on their bib, while those running the half had a gorgeous Key West sunset on theirs. We also received a gender-specific shirt (which I love), with the tropical sunny image on the front and the sunset on the back. The medals also turned out to be quite different, but I’ll get to that later.


The night before the race Jen, Jay, and I were all watching the weather with heavy hearts, as we were predicted to have nonstop thunderstorms for the entire day of the race. Sure enough, before turning into bed that night we could hear the wind picking up and eventually howling, and the rain starting to pour down. We woke early the next morning and checked our email, finding that now there was a tornado threat and that the start time had been pushed back an hour. We kept watch for more updates, but when there weren’t any we grabbed a cab and headed to the start line.


The weather was super gloomy. The skies were dark, the wind was strong, and it was raining. Nearly everyone had ponchos or garbage bags on, but nearly everyone was laughing at how crazy the situation was. Jen and I found the pace time we thought we could meet and stood with that group, and when the anthem was sung and 8a came, we were off!

The route was amazing. We ran through the streets of Key West’s historic Old Town, past shops and restaurants¬†and the famous “Mile 0” road sign.¬†We ran past the Southernmost Point in the U.S. We ran through some of the neighborhoods. There were huge puddles everywhere, but right about mile 4 we looked at the sky and noticed that it was turning blue and the sun was peeking through. You gotta love Key West!

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 8.34.52 PM


Just past mile 3 the course opened up and we found ourselves running alongside the ocean. We ran on a wide sidewalk, which had a wall between us and the ocean – there was no shoreline. The storm the night before had blown a blanket of seaweed over the sidewalk… and also quite a few of the aforementioned man o’ war, which speckled the dark green seaweed with their vivid blue coloring. Peering over the wall, I was able to spot a few more of these beautiful (yet painful) creatures bobbling along the surface of the water. It was my favorite part of the entire course. ūüôā


The wind was at our back until the turnaround point at about mile 6, and then we were running into a headwind so strong it almost forced us into a walk. There were a few times I could feel it blowing my legs around as they were in the air mid-step. It was pretty crazy. The original course had us running along one of the piers, but the winds were so strong it was unsafe and they rerouted the course. We also opted to not use any port-o-potties in such windy conditions, which proved to be wise thinking:


The rest of the run was pretty uneventful, although my knee started to lock up around mile 11 and by mile 12 it was better but my left hip started locking up. I think it was mainly due to the strong winds, since I’d run that far before without injury but never in winds like that. Some things you just can’t train for! Jen and I crossed the finish line about 2:43 later, which is a bit longer than we were aiming for, but again – headwinds.



Now, about those medals. The medal for the half marathon is pretty awesome. It’s a double-sided removable wine stopper, with a lighthouse on one side and an iconic conch shell on the other, in beautiful full-color. The medal for the 5K was, unfortunately, much less impressive. Jay wasn’t able to find a volunteer that had any when he finished his event, but ended up finding one still in the package in a box discarded in the trash. It’s pretty underwhelming as far as 5K medals go, but it makes for a funny story. ūüėÄ



Impressive medal or not though, this guy continues to make me proud. About a mile into his 5K he¬†developed a bad case of shin splints in his right leg. He ended up needing to walk a bit more than he’d planned, and as a result his time was considerably worse than when he ran this 5K a few months prior. I honestly don’t care, because he stuck to his goal: to finish. He was in a bit of pain the rest of the day (and pretty much decided that running isn’t his thing), but he did it. ‚̧


Would I do this run again? Probably not. It was beautiful and fun and I love the medal and the man o’ war were a nice touch, but it was a bit of a drive and a bit unnerving that there had even been a slight possibility the weather could have ruined everything. Of course, it was Key West, and once the run was over this hunky hubby of mine and I hit the town for some post-run fun… so maybe I would give it another go after all! ūüėČ


PSI have a tradition of getting a charm for my Pandora bracelet after completing a half marathon. Key West is known for their free-roaming chickens and roosters – seriously, they walk everywhere and scare the pee out of you when they start crowing from behind a bush. So it seemed perfectly fitting that the charm that best commemorated this race would be a rooster. Isn’t he cute?¬†


PSS That beautiful photo at the beginning of this post was taken by Jen’s mom, Lynne.


A Harry Potter Dream Come True

I’ve had this post on my to-do list for a long time now, and normally I think that a year is probably about 10 months too long to wait to write about something. But in light of Alan Rickman’s recent death and how much the Harry Potter series has meant to my daughter, I thought I’d share it anyway.

When Emily was in second grade, we bought her the first Harry Potter book for Christmas. She devoured it, and eagerly ripped through the entire 7-book series, reading about a book a month. After each book was completed we’d let her watch the corresponding movie, which basically turned her into a total expert on all things Harry Potter by the time she finished the final movie.


Harry Potter infiltrated every part of her life. She’d make lists of spells and hang them on her bulletin board in her room. She’d write stories for school that were inspired by the books. She’d always loved owls, but after seeing the first movie she renamed her beloved stuffed owl Hedwig and always had to have her by her side while reading the books or watching the movies. There were Harry Potter teacher gifts. We had never-ending conversations about the series, major discussions on character motives, and imagined different outcomes for various situations the characters encountered. And of course we ate Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. ūüėÄ


It was a no-brainer that we were gonna have to take her to Universal Studios to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. ūüôā

We really wanted the trip to be as special for Emily as possible, and Julia was still too young to ride pretty much everything. My parents kindly agreed to watch Julia for a day so that Emily, Jay and I could fully enjoy the park together. The next time we were at their house for a visit we woke Emily early in the morning, piled in the car (with Hedwig, of course), and headed to Orlando!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is spread across two of Universal’s parks, with London, Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, and King’s Cross Station all on¬†the Universal Studios side, and Hogwarts and Hogsmeade on the¬†Islands of Adventure side. Jay and I thought that it would be more fun to start where Harry Potter himself began his adventure – in London – and then proceed from there, roughly mimicking Harry’s journey.

First we stopped to chat with the shrunken head on the Night Bus, which was located in London…


…and then went through the magical bricked entrance to Diagon Alley!


We hit the super awesome ride at Gringott’s straight away, then headed off to Ollivander’s to let¬†a wand choose Emily. ūüėČ


If you purchase a specific type of wand, you can actually “cast spells” around Diagon Alley and watch things magically happen, like making feathers float. It’s pretty awesome, and in my opinion worth a little extra so that you can discover tons of hidden secrets!


It seems the power eventually went to her head. ūüėÄ


After exploring everything we could, we stepped through platform 9 3/4 and hopped the Hogwarts Express to the other side of Harry’s world.


We immediately went to one of the places she’d wanted to see the most – Hagrid’s house. It’s not an attraction you can enter, but it was pretty amazing to be¬†able to check out the exterior. Hagrid’s was situated near one of the rides, and while we were in line for the ride Emily was able to see one of her favorite creatures, Buckbeak. ‚̧



Then it was off to Hogwarts! A word of advice – don’t have too much or too little food in your belly before getting on the ride at Hogwart’s. It’s crazy fun, but crazy intense!


We ate lunch at the Three Broomsticks (which Emily still talks about a year later) with some non-gill-inducing Gilly water – then hit the rides some more before heading back to Diagon Alley.


We couldn’t help having some fun with the window displays at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. This is one of my favorite pictures from the whole day!


Emily had hoped and prayed that she’d be able to find a stuffed Buckbeak while we were there, but unfortunately they were completely sold out. She was a little bummed, until she turned around and noticed that they had Crookshanks. That was easy. ūüôā


Before we knew it, the day was over and it was time to head back to my parents’ house and to Julia. We can’t begin to express how proud we are of Emily. She’s so kind to everyone around her, so willing to help, and works so hard in school. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to reward her with something that meant so much to her. We love knowing that she’ll remember this trip for a long time, and that she had that time with us all to herself. ‚̧


What WE See

Dear Daddy,

You work a lot. For us. You travel a lot, again, for us. You are tired a lot, but it’s because of all the work and travel you do for us. And amidst all this tiring work and travel, guilt can sneak in. Guilt for not being home more, guilt for missing out on things, guilt for sleeping in whenever you can. That’s what you might see – all the ways you aren’t there for us. But it’s not what we¬†see.

PENTAX Image¬†Since the moment you became a daddy, you have been incredibly hands-on. You’ve only grown more gentle, kind, and loving, and for a guy¬†who admits to being uncomfortable around children you are more relaxed and¬†have adapted to any situation¬†better than even you expected. DSC_0899 You set a wonderful example of¬†patience, always explaining things carefully and allowing us¬†to experience things for¬†ourselves. We know that we can make mistakes and you’ll still love us, we never have to fear that a lack of perfection will disappoint you. IMG_1513 You’re protective, which means that you are also aware. You know where we¬†are, and you never let us¬†stray too far. We know your strong arms will always be ready¬†to catch us when we fall, and hold us when we need comforting. We feel safe with you, and in this big scary world that’s a gift we will cherish our entire lives. P1010897 You invite us into your life. We know that we are always welcome, always allowed to share in the things that bring you joy. And you don’t just let us join in, you teach us as we go so that we can continue to enjoy them together as we grow. IMG_1472 You never tire of our company. You want us around every chance you can, never asking us to give you space or time to yourself. You may be traveling or working a lot, but when you are home you can’t get enough of us. And we can’t get enough of you either. IMAG2638You are so helpful to Mommy. She does need a break from us sometimes, and you are always ready to step in and take over so that she can have her hands to herself for a while. We know that if Mommy can’t be with us (she likes a night off from time to time) then you’re ready to jump in and make our time together as special as possible. You’re setting an incredible example of what kind of support we should be looking for in our future husbands. IMG_0866 You aren’t afraid to be silly. To make us laugh. To be weird and goofy and wonderfully strange… because you know that’s what we are and you want to connect with us at our level. You take the time we have together and use it to build bonds that will last us the rest of our lives. You’re giving us memories – magical moments that make us love you even more because they¬†show us a side of you that only a special few get to see. And that makes us feel extra special. ūüôāDSC_1244 We know that what matters to us matters to you, and you do everything you can to take our interests and find ways for us to experience them at new levels. You enter our world and find ways to make it come alive, taking us places and giving us experiences beyond our wildest imaginations. We feel important because you constantly show us that even though we are kids and you and Mommy are not, we can all still have fun together.


Daddy, we love you. We don’t see that you aren’t here, we see that you ARE here. Never for one second doubt that you are anything less than phenomenal at this daddy thing.


Welcome, Summer!

How do I know that summer has begun?
IMG_8706Why, when we get to start checking things off on our Summer Fun Checklist, of course!¬†We¬†had so much fun with last year’s checklist¬†that¬†the girls were really eager to create a new one to help us set some goals for the next few months. ūüôā

IMG_8700Much of the list is the same as last year, but isn’t the very definition of summer getting wet with friends, then finishing every day with an ice cream? For us it’s also a really great time to get in a visit to Nana’s and Granddad’s house, which is when we make sure to take¬†our¬†annual swim¬†in a natural spring.¬†And of course, a hot summer means lots and lots of frozen cokes! ūüėČ

IMG_8701Our checklist might be full of classic summer fun activities, but there are quite a few new ones, too! Emily is really into chess right now, so she’s excited to participate in Chess Club at the local library this summer. And Julia is learning to swim, which means¬†that gets a nod on the poster as well. This is¬†one of my favorite things about this project – seeing the girls’ current interests and goals written and put on display. ‚̧

IMG_8698Here¬†are¬†some of the other new ideas we added¬†to this year’s list:

  • The Minion Movie
  • 7-Eleven¬†Day! ūüôā (find some tips for a great trip here)
  • Electronics Camp (Emily)
  • VPK Open House
  • Legoland
  • Game Night
  • bake¬†cupcakes
  • bowling
  • Inside Out
  • STEM¬†Camp
  • Sister Sleepover
  • McDonald’s
  • Harry Potter movie night
  • Julia’s birthday
  • Emily’s birthday
  • trampoline park

This year there are¬†even¬†more activities¬†for us to check off – and I love¬†that there’s still a little more room to add things as we think of them! ūüôā

A checklist can be a great way to beat boredom during the summer, and you don’t even have to make it poster-style like I did.¬†A good¬†friend of mine liked the idea but doesn’t¬†consider herself¬†to be artsy enough to draw out her list, so she came up with another way to display her goals – a Summer Bucket List! Super cute, right? Check out the how-to on her blog here.

Easy DIY Bucket List - TM2S

Hope you all have a fabulous and fun-filled summer! ‚̧

The Green Miles

I think I‚Äôm becoming a running-event snob. Last year I participated in a St. Patrick‚Äôs Day 10K, and although I really enjoyed it, it was a pretty small and low-key event. There weren‚Äôt a ton of people, and even though everyone was dressed in green it just wasn’t buzzing with the race-day energy I’ve grown to love at larger events. It was my first 10K and I‚Äôd gone by myself, so I‚Äôm sure I would have had more fun if it had been a shorter race and I‚Äôd had a friend with me (or even someone at the finish line), but in the end I showed up in my green, ran my race, and left – as did everyone else who participated.


This year my friends Jen and Carolyn wanted to sign up for a different St. Patrick‚Äôs Day run, one that was being held downtown. Since every participant over 21 would receive a free beer it was sure to draw a larger crowd. It was also a 4-Miler (an uncommon race milage), offered a finisher‚Äôs medal, and was the kick-off event to a huge St. Patrick‚Äôs Day festival being held downtown that day. It was definitely looking to be the energized event I’d grown to love.


Jen and I found some fun¬†St. Patrick’s Day¬†shirts at Old Navy for about $5 and bought them¬†just in case¬†we decided we¬†didn’t like¬†the event shirts (which actually turned out to be pretty cute). Our event packets also came with long green bead necklaces, and we wrapped them around our wrists like bracelets so they wouldn’t smack us in the face as we ran.

This race was way crazier than what I‚Äôd experienced the year before at the 10K. Everyone was dressed to participate – Carolyn even wore a giant beer mug hat – and there was green everywhere you looked. (Yes, I know my shirt is glaringly white, but I swear there’s a shamrock on it. ūüôā )


We saw some pretty goofy getups РI think my favorite was this guy and his enormous fuzzy green mustache:


The course¬†took us down one of the main downtown¬†roads¬†and then doubled back, as opposed to weaving through the city blocks like other runs that¬†I’ve been to¬†in the same area. It¬†was my first 4-Miler, and I really¬†loved it. I try to make sure I’m always able to run 3 miles, so a 4-mile run pushes me a little harder than normal without being quite as strenuous as a 6.2-mile 10K run would be. Plus¬†it was nice to be able to add a new distance to my list of completed runs!


After the run we received our medals, which featured a funny little leprechaun, the same image the event shirts had on the front.


Then Jen, Carolyn, and I went to the beer tent with our free beer tickets, and while they enjoyed their drinks I traded mine to a guy in exchange for taking this photo. I hate beer.


This run sealed the deal – I absolutely love and prefer these big running events.¬†There‚Äôs definitely something to be said for the less chaotic runs – the Ocala Half Marathon is still one of my favorites and I still plan to squeeze in a small event or two a year. But there’s just no comparison to¬†the mass craziness of hundreds of people and the insane amount of energy in the air that goes along with all that craziness! ūüôā


Hoping I Get it Right

Girls, I love being your mom. ‚̧

I’m just not always sure I’m doing it right.

See, when you’re a mom you are constantly bombarded with decisions. It starts when you find out you’re pregnant and you realize you are about to spend the rest of your life making choices – choices that have the potential to¬†impact the way your¬†new little baby’s life will turn out. Breastfeed or formula feed? Cloth or disposable diapers? Jarred baby food or pureed at home? As a mom you can see the pros and cons of either choice all too easily. And so you agonize over which choice is best for your baby. Some¬†moms¬†go in with a solid plan, knowing exactly what they want to do… and then find out that it’s just not going to work the way they¬†wanted. And then they¬†agonize too. Agonizing comes with the job.

It’s like that being a mom. The list of¬†choices you have to make never ends. So¬†you weigh the options, discuss with everyone around you to get their opinions, and eventually – perhaps even reluctantly – make choices. Many times the choices are potentially big – which schools to send your kids to, which friends they are allowed to hang out with.¬†Those are the hard ones… the ones that are most likely to upset your children. They are also the choices¬†a mom will sweat over for years, not knowing if she made the right decision¬†until her children are grown and she sees the outcome.

Our pastor recently asked what we are most tempted to worry about when it comes to our children. My answer was this:

“That they will be confident being who God made them to be, and not succumb to the world’s desires for them to be “ideal,” whether it be their physical image, their faith, or their personality. I want them to always know that they can lean on God, my husband, and me and never feel alone in the world.”

This is what I’ve thought¬†about more than anything else since I became a mother.¬†There is no way of guaranteeing that anything I do will actually work.¬†I have no idea if the choices I’m making are the right ones; if they are, in fact, molding you each¬†to be that kind of woman that I pray you’ll be: confident, loved, and trusting in God.

Trying to live by example is hard. I’m flawed, and I want you to see me work through those flaws. But when I allow you to see them, am I¬†teaching you¬†the realities of sin and humanity or am I demonstrating behavior that you will find acceptable and justifiable? I work hard to stay in shape, but are you learning how important it is to care for your health or are you learning that you can only be okay with your body¬†if you’re fighting to avoid weight gain? And later, when you’re older, if I tell you about my experiences in dating will it give you useful insight into your own relationships or will you feel like it’s permission to make the same¬†mistakes I made? I can¬†present everything¬†to you¬†the right way, but I have no control over how you choose to interpret it.

I guess what it all boils down to for me is that you know, without a doubt in your minds, that you are loved. Choices will be made for you,¬†and they might not always be the right ones.¬†I can guarantee that you most certainly won’t always like them. I don’t care about that.¬†I care that you¬†know I love you, and that the choices I’ve made as you’ve grown are all a result of that love.


I’ll continue to make tough choices for you as you grow. I’ll also teach you how to make tough choices of your own. It won’t be easy, but I’m okay with it.

Because I just love being your mom.

And for what it’s worth, I’m incredibly proud of the girls you are growing up to be. ‚̧