A year ago today: Remembering Boston

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I write this post quite aware that there are many posts already out there on this topic, many different perspectives and many stories to tell.  I am telling mine.  This is what today means to me.

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Last year at this time, I was lounging on my in-laws’ couch in Pound Ridge, NY as Zachy napped, sporting my compression socks for post-race recovery.  I had run the More Fitness Half Marathon the day before, on my birthday, my first half post-baby.  I was filled with calm and pride as I had just reviewed the race pictures.

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As I turned on the TV, I learned of the terror in Boston, the images flashing on the screen, and me, in disbelief, mind reeling.  I logged on to each and every social media outlet to update myself more (a sign of the times, no?).  I knew some distant friends (some bloggers) who were running the race, and I also knew a particular friend was in Boston cheering her Mama on as she ran the race (I had seen this on Facebook earlier that morning).  I didn’t think much about particular people or situations, but more about the running community as a whole.  Call it selfish, but it honestly freaked me the F out.  Selfishly, I thought, “that could’ve been me and my family,” as we had just been involved in an enormous race in NYC the day before.  But then as the individual stories and pictures rolled out from the days’ events, I began to internalize it different.  I felt a deep pit in my stomach, one that I will remember always.

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It was the next day that I discovered how truly “close to home” this tragedy had struck.  The lovely aforementioned friend that had been waiting to watch her Mom cross the finish had been seriously injured in the bombings.  I found this out after receiving a very eery phone call from a reporter asking me to comment on my involvement in the attacks.  Apparently another Jessica Downes had been seriously injured in the bombings and the reporter had traced the name to me via old race records.  Creepy and very close to home.  My dear dear friend Erika, a preschool teacher who had been my own student teacher years ago, was broken and shattered and I was devastated for her.  Erika was there with me for some major events:  the acquisition of my first puppy Oscar, a crazy year of teaching first graders, relationship ups and downs, babysitting at my sister-in-law’s wedding and many other things.  I had taken her under my wing as a young teacher; she was bright, vibrant and LOVED children.  Erika was the last bombing victim to leave the hospital.  Today, she stands strong and is back in Boston for this year’s event.  I am more than proud to know her and I love her dearly.  I am SO sorry for what she has been through but am filled with pride at the way she has overcome these challenges.  Her preschoolers are so lucky to have her as is each person who is lucky enough to know Erika.  And now I am crying.  Please consider donating to the Brannock Fund.

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Anyway, that is what today means to me:  it is a day to reflect but be proud of our rebuilding, to tell those we love that we do,and to run because we can.  Today I ran for those who cannot.  Today and every day, I feel blessed.

Thomas the Tank Engine: Zachary’s 2nd Birthday Party

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I die.

OK, now you all KNOW that I like a good party.  ESPECIALLY a themed one. And I don’t take themes lightly.  Remember last year’s Elmo themed party?!  Yup,  I brought it again this year but switched up the venue. This year, I decided to have Zachary’s party at Nest. (DUH).  I LOOOVE it there and the party could not have been more fantastic. If you are looking to have a party for your little one, NEST is the place to do it.  The hosts are fantastic, the facility is amazing, the price is right and you DON’T HAVE TO CLEAN UP!  WIN WIN!!!!  Anyway, I will let the pictures do the talking :)

The cake I made for Zach's actual birthday (funfetti for the win)

The cake I made for Zach’s actual birthday (funfetti for the win)

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Setting the Scene:

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Edible treats

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Edible train, but of course!

Edible train, but of course!

Favors

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Family

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Fun

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And yes, I bring it with the themes :)  It really was a fun party though!  Do you do theme parties?!

 

The Love Run 2014- Race Recap

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REALLY?!  Does everyone see this beautiful weather ;)  OH boy, if only we could swap today for yesterday’s Noah’s-Ark style torrential downpour!  Yesterday’s race was a mix of emotions, ups and “downes”, highs and lows…and a LOT of water :)  1:55+ of it.  The aftermath:

DIRTY shoes.  Good decision to not wear my new Newtons.  Review to follow. Wrinkly wet bib.

DIRTY shoes. Good decision to not wear my new Newtons. Review to follow. Wrinkly wet bib.

All in all, I am SO proud of myself for my performance during yesterday’s half marathon.  There were a few times along the course where I saw people quit- which I TOTALLY get- and mentally, I wanted to do so as well.  But I pushed on, convincing myself that I was a “badass” and coaxing myself toward the finish with a promise of both a good nap and many cuddles from my little guy.

LOVES playing with Mommy's medal

LOVES playing with Mommy’s medal

The Love Run was an inaugural race for Philadelphia and was put on by CGI Racing.  The race set up was OK.  Here are some pros and cons for both the Expo and the Race itself:

PROS:

- Nice commemorative mug as a freebie

-You get a free finish line picture

- GREAT volunteers…plentiful and pleasant

- NIce size (10,000 people)

- Great fanfare and entertainment along the course even with the rain

- Swedish fish at Aid stations?!  YES PLEASE!

- Course was well marked and different from any other half marathon course in Philly

CONS:

- VERY expensive…I think it was 90 dollars!

- SMALL expo (understandable for an inaugural race) with NO FOOD SAMPLES (always my favorite)

- SWEET medal

Zach wants you to know that it is real ;)

Zach wants you to know that it is real ;)

- LONG course…My Garmin read 13.35 miles and while I tend to overrun normally, this is really long.  The course map itself even said 13.2 miles…last time I checked the half Mary is 13.1?

-Obviously the weather, but what could they have done about it?  Not sure. I actually have never raced in weather like that so I am not sure how it is normally dealt with…

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OK, so here was my mile-by mile thought recap ;) Always fun and entertaining :)

BLUE lips:

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Mile 1> It is downpouring.  I am busy “driving” my body around people and puddles.  REALLY crowded.

Mile 2>  Damn! Chinatown smells like fish!  This early on a Sunday morning?!  Gross. STILL raining.

Mile 3>  Just saw my amazing support crew!  LOVE!  Ian said there is no way it could rain the entire time…he is right.  Right?  RIGHT?!

Mile 4>  OMGTHANKGOD I bought that hat yesterday at the Expo (as water runs down the brim of my hat). I am also done dodging puddles and I will now slosh through everything to conserve energy as I have already overrun the course by .1 of a mile.

Mile 5>  I should be eating some shot bloks soon.  Getting hungry.  Wish I had eaten brekkie this am.  Was running late, tried to order an Uber, no success and ended up flagging a cab at 7:50.  I cannot believe I made it to the start (as the race took off..oops).  Hungry.  Taking three shot bloks as soon as I see a water stop.  Took them a bit too long before and was SOOOO thirsty by the time I got to the water.  I gulped down two cups.

Mile 6>  CRAP!  Finding out about that hill yesterday was NOT good.  NEVER trained for this. LEGS ARE LEAD.  I don’t think I will EVER recover from this hill and might run 10 min miles the rest of the time.  Wait, does my Garmin say 11+ minute miles?!  Hahah F this hill!  Oh, and “is this rain a joke?!”

Mile 7>  My support team again!  Just when I needed it!  Still ruminating about that insane hill.  Bad placement. RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RACE.  BUUUUUT…what goes up must come down, right?  I’m riding this downhill as fast as I can.

Mile 8> More than halfway done, but MAN does this weather suck.  My hip has hurt since mile 4 (?)  and I am sooo cold and wet.  It can’t really rain this entire two hours, RIGHT?!

Mile 9>  I am going to play the “eye contact game” and make eye contact with every single person who is on the other side of the turnaround.  Boy did this entertain me!  Side note: I

Mile 10> OK, so theoretically I only have a 5k left.  The longest, wettest, sore-est 5K ever.  Boy is this going to hurt tomorrow.  Tough mile.  Wait, I was going to dedicate each mile to a special person during this race! Bummer!  Cue thoughts of baby Fi and Steph (miss them like Hell) then my Erika girl…GOD I miss her.  She is SUCH a fighter and I am being a wuss about rain…Have to talk to her soon.

Mile 11>  Another REALLY tough mile.  They have Swedish fish at an aid station!  Even in the middle of this nonsense I grabbed a HUGE handful and stuffed them into my pocket.  For later.  Of course.  I ate one right away though.

Mile 12> I need to suck on a jolly rancher. I am bored, tired, cold and wet.  Where the hell is the finish? Eye contact game is getting old and I just feel plain old bad for the people on the other side.  I just want to make it to the finish. NOW.

Mile 13> Longest race mile EVER.  Just. Keep. Pushing.  You are a badass running in this crap.  The finish is near.  You’ve done this last mile so many times.  Play a Scandal scene in your head.  ANYTHING to distract. ANYTHING.

FINISH>  Did that just happen?  I laughed to myself, grabbed my medal and blanket and shivered my way to the Husband and Zach.  I promptly gave kisses and requested that we “find the car immediately. PLEASE.”

STATS (finish = 1:55:47 a few seconds off my PR) Proud that I got negative splits!

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And a final THANK YOU to my AMAZING Supafanz  xoxoxoxo

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Ode to my Babysitter

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Hellooooo!  I am SO looking forward to today; the day before my (hopefully not soggy) half marathon. After picking up my bib this morning,

photo 2-3the only plans are: sitting on my ass, drinking two liters of water, not leaving the house, eating pizza and gummies and cuddling my little cutie.

Speaking of my cutie, this post is actually dedicated to my amazing babysitter.  She deserves a post…maybe even a whole blog.  We have had amazing lucky with babysitters.  As you might surmise, I am incredibly paranoid about who I leave Zachy with, so at 9 months when I decided I was able to leave him with someone other than immediate family, I found a great way to procure a sitter: via the UPenn Nursing school e-news letter.  Basically, you send an “ad” to the advisor, they put it in the newsletter and viola!  Applicant upon applicant, each more qualified than the rest.  The reason I went this route is because I have met a few of the nursing students there and they are super nice. I also wanted someone who was CPR certified and who liked kids (I narrowed my search to Peds nurses).  As I said, I received MANY applications and resumes.  I have NO idea how I sorted through them, but I think it was a schedule thing?  I interviewed about 5 total.  I found one that was quite good for a few months but then her schedule changed (always a major possibility with these girls) and I was in need of a new one.  SO, I went through the process again and interviewed about 4 again.  When I met our current sitter, I KNEW she was the one. I hired her on the spot.  Here is what sold me:  she had a 1.5 year old brother (clearly experienced), was respectful and sweet as pie, was studying to be a Peds PICU nurse (heart doesn’t get bigger than this), and all around I had a great gut feeling about her.  Oh,and the kicker; I had been bringing Z to a class at Pennsylvania Hospital and she had apparently volunteered in it and REMEMBERED Zach from it (I then remembered her and her gentleness with the kids) and that pretty much sold me ;)  Anyway, our babysitter (D I will call her for privacy) has become a part of our family.  I am SO blessed to have found her.  She loves Zach like her own and we likewise love her as our own.  D worked for us throughout her final semester at Penn.  She then interviewed with CHOP for a much coveted position (as Peds nurse in PICU) and I KNEW she would get the job; because why wouldn’t they want an amazing soul like D on their staff, but I of course had mixed emotions because I thought we would loose her :(  Thankfully, everything worked out: D got her dream job AND agreed to stay with us per her schedule!  WIN WIN!  When she gets her monthly schedule I book her for as many hours as possible.  Boy are we happy; ESPECIALLY Zachy, who calls “Dadahn” his best friend.  Now, what makes such a good babysitter? Well, obviously as I mentioned it helps that D loves Z so much an vice versa.  But here are some other concrete things:

1.  She is ALWAYS on time and reliable.

2.  She is always willing to lend a hand if she can

3.  She cares for our doggies as well

4.  She cares for  me :)  Always asking sweet questions about my life and getting to know me, cheering me on for races, etc.

5.  She reports what Z eats because she knows I am cray cray

6. She takes and sends to me adorable pics of Z

7.  She cleans up after him

8.  She feels comfortable in our home and also brings him places

9. She takes Z to run errands for me (hellooooo Whole Foods lol)

10.  She likes my baking

11.  She is always thinking of Zach even when she isn’t here (she got him a gift from Disney!)

12.  She has a GREAT imagination and plays SO well with Zach

13.  When I come home, Z barely even notices because he is having such a good time

14.  She reads him stories ALL THE TIME

15. She has gotten to know Zach and our family so well

16.  She lives close

17.  She doesn’t mind taking Z out in this nasty weather (even though she is a true Florida girl; she was so psyched about the snow)

18. She is beyond thoughtful

19. She is Zach’s best friend but recognizes that this might hurt my feelings so she makes him hug and kiss me :) So sweet.

20. She leaves adorable notes on my white board

oops...totally revealed her name...sorry D!

oops…totally revealed her name…sorry D!

D is getting married later this year and all I can say is that her man sure is lucky.  She is the sweetest, kindest BEST babysitter and person. She realizes that it isn’t easy to trust people with your most important treasure; your child.  We are SO lucky. Thank you, D.  xoxoxoox

Still Breastfeeding…A Toddler

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Zach will be two next month.  When I was pregnant, I was turned off by breastfeeding and not sure if I was going to do it at all.  I had anatomical issues (I will leave it at that) and many bouts of mastitis to get through, but I can honestly AND PROUDLY say that we are TWO YEARS going strong with breastfeeding.  And I will say, I realize it is not for everyone.  But I am TRULY from the camp of “whatever works for you is the right thing.”  PERIOD.  So, haters, move along or leave a comment. Both will be equally accepted ;)  Honestly, though, it seems to offend some people that I am “still” breast feeding Zach (although I am seriously not sure why…it is not anyone else’s boobs but mine).  But as I have mentioned before, once you are a parent you seem to automatically hand yourself over to unsolicited advice and criticism.  This one though, I am not budging on.

In case you are wondering, bfeeding does NOT interfere with his appetite.

In case you are wondering, bfeeding does NOT interfere with his appetite.

Zach LOVES “mama bee” and has not shown ANY signs of wanting to wean.  He feeds 2-3 times daily.  The two “must haves” for him are before bed and in the morning. The noon-time pre-nap feeding sometimes doesn’t happen if I am out or something.  Can he do without my milk?  Sure. But am I withholding it from him?  No way.  It is SO easy for us and is remaining a fixture in our lives for the time being.  Does it interrupt his sleep?  NOPE!  Thank the good lord, Zachary began sleeping through the night ON HIS OWN ACCORD a couple months ago.  He no longer eats during the night or cries for us.  And he did this in his own developmental time-frame.  I can do a post on this later (sleeping through the night; cry it out or no?) but the point is, my son wasn’t going to wake up in the middle of the night until high school and he certainly isn’t going to breast feed when he goes off to college.  But he is HAPPY,  KIND, HYSTERICAL, DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE and most importantly, HEALTHY. So, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it right?  Man, what a HIPPIE I have become!