"Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts." - Unknown

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She always has to climb the tree after a long day in PreK II.

She always has to climb the tree after a long day in PreK II.

Time to bust out the boots! Happy October! 🍁🍃🍂

Time to bust out the boots! Happy October! 🍁🍃🍂

It got really quiet and we all panicked, wondering what mischief they had gotten into…then, we found them quietly, happily putting together a puzzle. #wtf #whoskidsarethese #neighbors #friends

It got really quiet and we all panicked, wondering what mischief they had gotten into…then, we found them quietly, happily putting together a puzzle. #wtf #whoskidsarethese #neighbors #friends

Ruby James - September, 2014

Ruby James - September, 2014

Well, I’m impressed. I guess all that money we spend on daycare is being put to good use after all. 

Well, I’m impressed. I guess all that money we spend on daycare is being put to good use after all. 

philadelphia rock-and-roll half marathon, 2014

Today, the girls and I sat on the sidelines and cheered for Jeremy as he ran the Philadelphia Rock-and-Roll Half Marathon.

It was a great day all around, and Jeremy finished it in 1:37:49 and killed his half marathon PR by TWELVE minutes. He’s a beast! We are so proud of him!

I also got a chance to see two of my favorite female elite runners compete for the first time, Kara Goucher and Deena Kastor. This was Kara’s first race back in over a year while she was recovering from an injury. And Deena set the World Record in the women’s Master’s division this morning. So inspiring to see these two, up close and personal, doing what they do best on the same streets I run every weekend.

But enough about them. Go Jeremy! We love you so much!

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We have our summer Saturdays down to a science now.

I start with a long run in the am while Jeremy spends time with the girls. Then, J and Q go to the gym while I spend time alone with Ruby (aka- I sit on the floor and she throws every toy we own into a pile around us.). Then she naps and I take Quinn to dance class (we’re doing ballet and tap now). Then, it’s family-time. Today we wandered Chestnut Hill (where apparently fall has magically appeared) and hit a local playground.

It’s nothing too exciting. It’s always some variation of this basic routine. But, it’s our life and I love it. Even if I’m exhausted 99.9% of the time.

Another one of our favorite, yearly, neighborhood events: the Mt Airy Street Fare. Food trucks galore!

Found on Jeremy’s phone. Quinn crossing the finish of her first race. 

Some pics from our annual neighborhood Village Fair. One of my favorite yearly traditions. 

Finally got Quinn’s first official dance photo. Yep. Totally natural.

Finally got Quinn’s first official dance photo. Yep. Totally natural.

lancaster county - intercourse, pa

Just a few leftover shots from our trip to Lancaster County last weekend where we played, relaxed, got our caricature drawn and took a horse and buggy ride through a terrifying lightning storm. 

Good times.

2014 bird in hand half marathon - running with the amish

(Warning This is a really long race report. I apologize to everyone in advance who doesn’t care about running or the Amish.) 

This past weekend, we rented a mini-van (yes we did) and packed up our temporary family truckster for a drive out to Lancaster County to spend a weekend with the Amish and run the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon.

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The Bird-In Hand Half Marathon is held in Bird-In-Hand, PA and is part of the Run, Ride and Soar Festival. The weekend includes multiple hot air balloon launches, a bike race, a 5k, a kids’ fun run and the half marathon. All proceeds from the half marathon go towards the local volunteer fire company.

The great thing about the weekend is the community feel. Their tagline is “The joy of running in community.” A large number of local Amish and Mennonite runners volunteer at the race. They work the expo, the water stops, the finish line. And a lot of them run it. And they are fast. And not just in buggies.

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The finisher’s medals are truly one-of-a-kind  (used horseshoes that have been cleaned, pounded, varnished and attached with a carved plaque and leather strap), the food is delicious (homemade woopie pies in the gear bags and cider donuts and homemade lemonade at the expo) and the course is simply breathtaking.

This race has been on my bucket list for a while, so earlier this year, Jeremy surprised me with entering us. We invited his parents to come with us because we have been meaning to take them out to Lancaster County for a trip since they moved here. We figured we could all stay together and they could watch the girls while we run it in the morning. Then, we could spend the rest of the weekend eating and exploring.

And eating.

Pre-race

Friday, we packed up the kids, picked up Jeremy’s parents and headed out. We drove the hour or so to Intercourse, PA (yes) and checked into our suite at the Kitchen Kettle Village Inn.

If you are ever traveling to Lancaster County, and looking for a cute, family-friendly place to stay, I highly recommend Kitchen Kettle. It was super-touristy. I mean, they were dropping off tour busses. But, it was quaint, clean and best of all, Quinn had a blast.

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Right outside of our suite, was a little village with a restaurant, café, coffee shop, toy store, fudge shop, ice cream shop, jam shop, quilt shop and a ton of other random stores where we could blow all our money. We could get our caricature drawn, listen to live jazz, grab a cup of coffee, get some ice cream, play on a playground, go to a petting zoo and take a horse and buggy ride (we did all of this). Quinn was in heaven.

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The Inn also gave us free breakfast at their restaurant and 2 coupons for 12 free, giant cookies from their bakeshop. Can’t beat that.

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The first day we were there, we ate lunch at the Inn’s restaurant (which was great), then Jeremy’s parents stayed with Ruby while we took Quinn and headed to Bird-In-Hand to pick up our packets at the expo.

The expo was under a tent at the race site and only about a five-minute drive from the Inn. There was plenty of free parking and we got our bag immediately and wandered a bit.

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Most expos are filled with random vendors selling products you don’t need and healthy foods and drinks. Not this expo! It was filled with Amish lemonade, woopie pies, cider donuts and wooden, handcrafted toys! It was awesome.

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We drove back to the inn and picked up the rest of the crew, changed Quinn into her running gear and headed back to the race site for the Amish pasta party and kids’ run. Quinn decided at the last minute she wanted me to run with her and I was kind of glad she did. I was secretly hoping to be a part of her first race experience.

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I was a little concerned leading up to the race about how long it was going to be since there was nowhere online that really gave an exact distance. But, I had nothing to worry about, as the race was literally about .10 of a mile. We rounded one corner and headed down to the finishers chute. They may have made it shorter because of the unseasonably warm weather, but either way I was glad. She just sprinted through with a giant smile plastered on her face, waved to Daddy, Ruby and the Grandparents, collected her medal and was on Cloud Nine for the rest of the night.image

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After that, we watched as they launched hot air balloons into the setting sun. We ate pasta, pizza and pie at the Amish pasta party and just meandered around in the fields.

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They also had Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run speaking later during an outdoor s’mores cookout, but since it was getting late, and the kids were exhausted, we headed back to the room to get everyone settled in for the night.

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Race Day

Jeremy and I woke up at 5am after a restless night with Ruby. We were tired, but we are always tired these days, so no big deal. I ate my usual pre-run breakfast of coffee, 1 slice of oatmeal bread with peanut butter and banana and we were off to the race.

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As soon as we stepped outside and knew it was going to be a rough day. As I obsessively checked the weather all week, I was hoping the random 2 days of massive humidity this weekend was a fluke and would go away, but no such luck. It was gross. 100% humidity and 74 degrees to be exact.  A record actually, I found out later. We hadn’t seen humidity like that all summer. And the sun wasn’t even up yet. We grabbed our handheld water bottles, dressed lightly and hoped for the best.

We got to the race and parked in about 15 minutes. We had well over an hour to spare before the race started, so we just wandered, used the port-o-potty a few times, watched the hot air balloons launch again, and enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere (free from our screaming children). Even with the humidity and rising temps, it really was a beautiful morning.

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At one point the sun was rising over the cornfields- this giant, glowing ball of orange hovering over the fog-covered fields - and all the runners were just gawking at it, commenting on how stunning it was. Then someone who worked for the race walked by and said that  the sun coming up was the last thing they wanted to see. Come to find out later, they had actually talked about canceling it because the heat. They didn’t, but at this point, everyone knew it was going to be a scorcher.

Jeremy and I finally lined up. It was a small race, under 1,700 people, so there were no corrals, but we settled into an open spot behind behind the 1:50 pacer.

This is where I made my one giant, rookie mistake of the day: listening to Jeremy convince me should stick with the pace group and that I could run a 1:50.

I have been running my 10-14 mile training runs around an 8:40 pace – which feels comfortably hard. In my mind, on a good day, I probably could keep up at an 8:20 pace at a race. So, I agreed. Of course, I should have known better. I knew how hot it was going to be. I would find out soon enough that this was a bad idea.

They made the random announcements, sang God Bless America (or was is America the Beautiful…?) and we were off.

There was a bit of congestion at the start, but it thinned out quickly. After a mile, our 1:50 pacer started charging. We hung with him for the next mile, but when I wearily looked down to see we had run mile 2 at an 8:00mm pace, I grumpily told Jeremy we needed to give up the dream. That guy was booking it. Everyone around us was mumbling about how he was going too fast and we all just kind of hung back together and watched him take off. He was in front of us for a good part of the race, but towards the end, we finally lost him for good.

Other than that, the first couple of miles were like a dream. The sun was rising, the fog was lifting off the fields, there was a random power glider zipping around overhead. Jeremy was high-fiving little kids (very unlike him).

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We passed meticulously manicured lawns with Amish families sitting in chairs watching us run by. They had pumpkins, produce and flowers beautifully arranged in front of their homes.

For the most part, the Amish families would quietly sit, stone-faced, and watch you run by. But if someone called out to them, “Good morning!” They would perk up and happily reply back. It was such a stark difference from the crowds I’m usually used to seeing on a course. And I loved it.

Around mile 2 we began a steady incline to what would be the biggest hill of the race. Since I studied the course pretty well, I knew where the hills were, but I also knew that the entire course was rolling. I was mentally prepared for this one and it actually ended a lot earlier than I had expected. I think all my hill training climbing out of the park during my weekly morning runs with the girls (Hi Carolyn and Tammy Leigh!) plus my extra plyo/HIIT workouts (Hi squats and lunges!) during the week have really helped my leg strength. And while the hills were a challenge because of the heat, my legs actually felt great the entire race.

Mile 1     8:16

Mile2     8:00 (oops)

Mile 3     8:26

Towards the end of mile 3, we crested the hill and started our steady decline for the next mile and half. It was definitely getting hot, but I tried to ignore it the best I could and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The rolling hills were breathtaking. The farmland sprawled for miles. Coming from the city, it was so soothing to run in such serenity. Nothing but cows, corn and farms as far as the eye could see.

The water stops were great. Most were organized by local Amish families, with the kids handing out the cups.  All the little boys stood together and called out: “Water. Water. Water.” And the girls stood behind them calling, “Gatorade, Gatorade. Gatorade.” It was all a very surreal.

Mile 4     8:22 (Gu)

Mile 5     8:22

Mile 5 is where I started to struggle. Up until this, I was running a pretty decent clip in spite of the humidity.  I was taking sips every now and then from my handheld and took a Gu a little earlier than normal to help, which is did.

But at mile 6 something happened. We were out in the sun. Full sun. There was very little shade on this course. Most of it was run down country roads in between cornfields. If you were lucky, you could hug the side of a field on the right and get slight shade for a minute or two, but it didn’t last. And since the course is basically a giant circle, the first part of it ran east, directly into the sun. I have never gotten too much sun in any race I have ever done, but by the time this one was over, I had a full tan on both sides of my body.

I had also made a last-minute decision to run with my calf sleeves, a move I immediately regretted. At mile 2, all I could think of was stopping and taking them off. It was so hot. I never did, but it was something that definitely made things seem worse later on. Although, they probably did help keep my legs feeling strong. I had almost zero leg pain after this race.

The heat was frying my brain. I tried not to look at my watch since I knew it was going to mess with me. When it finally beeped for mile 7 I looked down and realized it wasn’t on mile 7 at all, but only mile 6.

I sighed out an expletive and Jeremy told me to try to relax (he didn’t realize at the time why I was upset). But I felt defeated. I knew it was going to be a long run at this point. The previous 5 miles had already taken so much out of me. I slowed down a bit and just tried to keep going.

As mile 7 approached, I knew there was another hill coming up. As we turned the corner, I saw it looming off to the side. A girl was running in front of us and was suddenly approached by what seemed to be her coach, who jogged along side of her. We heard him tell her:

“This is the last hill. Once you are up this one, it’s over.”

Jeremy repeated this to me, but I knew better. I had read enough race reports and studied the elevation enough to know that this was not the last hill, but the last, large hill. And I was right. This was definitely one of the hilliest races I have ever done and the hills lasted until the very end. Jeremy and I both cursed this guy later on. And around mile 9, we passed this poor girl, who was walking up a hill looking tired and PISSED.

Mile 6     8:39

Mile 7     8:49

Mile 8     8:53

After mile 7 I realized I didn’t hate the uphills as much as I hated the flats after a downhill. You get a false sense of speed from a downhill and then it goes away once you are running flat again and it seems so much harder.

At this point, with each mile, I started slowing down. The course was still beautiful, but I wasn’t looking at it. I was just looking down at my feet and willing them to keep moving.

For about two miles, Jeremy was running 25 yards ahead and it really started to annoy me (since we were supposed to be running together). I kept thinking how I wish he would just leave so I didn’t constantly feel like I had to catch him. When he finally realized I was far behind him, he slowed down enough for me to catch up with him and snip,

 “Just go! If you feel good, just go. I’ll meet up with you at the end.”

I meant it, and I really wouldn’t have cared if he had left at that point. But of course, he didn’t. He slowed down and made sure he didn’t get too far ahead anymore. In the end, I was glad he stayed. I would have walked at the end for sure.

He was tired, but in a decent mood because this pace was leisurely for him. So for the rest of the race, he kept trying to point out everything I should be enjoying about the run.

 “Look at those beautiful fields!”

 “Look a camel!”

 “Cows!”

 I didn’t respond. I just kept going.

 Did I mention how hot it was? It was ridiculous. The race did a fantastic job keeping runners hydrated. All the water stops were fully stocked and easy to navigate. Even though I was carrying my handheld, at this point, I ran through each one and grabbed a water to dump over my head, which helped.

Every mile or two, a house would have a hose spraying out into the road for runners to cool off. And every couple of miles, the race set out chests of ice along the side of the road, which runners would grab and put into theirs cups, caps, sports bras (me) or just chew on. 

And even though I was slowing down, I was still passing runners up to this point, especially on the uphills. I didn’t walk a single hill the entire race.

But, I was still fading. I knew I was losing it and changed my strategy completely. I decided I no longer cared about my time at all, but I just didn’t want to walk. Or pass out and die, which seemed more likely.

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Around mile 9, took my last Gu and needed to refill my bottle. So, I grabbed three cups through a stop (two for my bottle and one for my head) and walked. I didn’t tell Jeremy to stop, I didn’t care at that point. I just walked for about 30 seconds. I knew I needed it mentally. I was mad, but again, I just wanted to survive. I couldn’t believe how difficult this half marathon was when 18 miles the previous weekend seemed so easy. At this point too, people were starting to pass me left and right. Including a few Amish guys in full pants and suspenders.

After I started running again, and my Gu slowly kicked in, I got a bit of a reprieve. The sun was now at my back and I was feeling like the end was near (in a good way).  The next mile, I even sped up a little again.

At mile 11, I saw another hill off to the side and when I reached it, I realized it was a very rocky gravel road of rollers. I knew I was starting to feel a little better because I cracked a joke to Jeremy about how I thought the Amish were trying to kill us.

There was also a Rita’s Water Ice stop around this time. It looked delicious, but I knew it would make me sick, so I skipped it and kept trucking along.

Mile 9     9:43 (Walk break/water refill)

Mile 10   9:05

Mile 11   9:43 (Hilly gravel)

After mile 11, I got a second wind. Even though the miles were going slowly, I knew I had it. I had given up a time goal at all and mentioned it to Jeremy. But he’s better at math than I am and told me we still had a chance for a PR. Since I had given up looking at my watch, I didn’t realize we were still so close. I decided to dig deep and keep moving. Even if I didn’t PR, I was ok as long as I didn’t stop.

Mile 12 got kind of weird. I felt good all of the sudden. I started passing people again. But, suddenly, there were a lot of people going down. We saw one girl on the side of the road surrounded by people and someone on a bike trying to give her water. Another half mile up, I saw two girls basically carrying their friend in the middle. They were all wearing neon yellow tops and the girl in the middle could barely walk. They stopped in the middle of the sprinkler to try to cool her off. I noticed they didn’t have water and there was no stop anywhere near us.

I asked if they needed water and they said yes. I threw them my water bottle and told them to keep it. There wasn’t much left in there, but a few gulps of water/Gatorade may have helped her. 

I looked for them at the end of the race to see if she was ok, but honestly there were so many people in the medical tents at the end (more than I had ever seen) there was no way we would have found them. A few moments after we ran off, we saw a medic drive by to help them.

At mile 13, I somehow got down under a 9mm again. This was probably one of the flattest portions of the race and I was just so happy I was almost finished, I couldn’t help but pick up the pace. Once we ran past the 13 mile marker, we turned onto a grassy portion to run to the chute. This is the only race I have ever run where the finishers chute seemed to come faster then I expected, which was a relief. I looked up and saw the clock said 1:54. I knew I had a new PR if I picked it up. We finished the last .16 in a full-out sprint.

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The photographers always catches me dropping an F-bomb every time I cross the finish line. Keepin’ it classy.

Mile 12   9:02

Mile 13   8:50

Mile .16   7:33 (say what?)

Chip time: 1:54:51 / 8:43pace. 

A PR by about 30 seconds. And 14th in my age group, which I’m ridiculously proud of considering the conditions of the day and the fact that I am now in the oldest portion of my age group. :)

After we crossed the line, I was handed my enormous, extremely heavy horseshoe medal by a very sweet Amish girl, and immediately downed 2 bottles of water, a bottle of chocolate milk and devoured a banana and a bag of salty chips. I have never drank that much after a race. 

I also couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. I had all but given up hope halfway through this run, but somehow, I still managed to pull it off. While it wasn’t the time I was hoping for, I still met all of my goals. And on the hardest race conditions I had ever run. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe I PRed on a day when so many people were being treated in medical tents and taken to the hospital. Over 50 to be exact. Thankfully, everyone ended up ok.

We spent the next hour or two wandering the fields and enjoying the post-race activities. We watched Amish guys at the end cover people with icy towels as they came in and runners resting comfortably in an ice bath that the fire department set up in an inflatable tank at the end.

We ate at the free community BBQ they set up for everyone (burgers, hot dogs, chicken, potato salad, desserts) and even finally met Chris McDougall, who was seriously one of the nicest people I have ever met. We interrupted his lunch to say hi and he happily talked to us for 15 minutes about running, the race, Philly, and he even gave us suggestions about where to take Quinn while we were in town. 

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After we returned to the Inn, we talked to everyone about our race and spent the rest of the day sightseeing, buggy-riding and eating our faces off – Amish-style.

Even if I hadn’t PRed at this race, it would have still been one of my favorite race. Other than the weather, everything about it was perfect. It was so well organized, and such a nice change of pace from the usual, large, crowded, expensive, loud races I normally do. We will definitely be back next year, and plan on doing the Garden Spot Village Half Marathon as well, so we can get the coveted Road Apple Award.

Thank you Bird-In-Hand for a wonderful race experience!

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 And thanks to this stud, who didn’t leave me even when I was grumpy and told him to split. Love you. :)

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***All photos are copyrighted by US Candids and Amy Wissing. To see more of Amy’s gorgeous photos from the event, please check out her Flickr page here. They’re gorgeous!***

dutch wonderland - summer, 2014

We capped off our weekend in Lancaster County with a trip to Dutch Wonderland.

We went last summer, but unfortunately, it was 100 degrees that day and I was 8 months pregnant. It was pretty awful.

This year, the weather was perfect (mid 70’s) and we invited some of our good friends to join us up there. And Grandma and Grandpa were there, which always makes everything more fun.

Quinn was much more adventurous this time, riding many more rides. She liked the hopping frogs the best and even rode her first (little) roller coaster. She was just meh about that one.

And even though Ruby only rode the boat with us, we loved hanging out, napping in the stroller and watching the shows.

What a great day with family and friends! And I’ll never forget the accidental formal dinner we had with everyone afterwards (another story).

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It was the hottest, hilliest race I’ve ever done. I gave up all time goals 6 miles in and changed my race plan to “just don’t walk and get to the end without passing out.”
Somehow, I still managed a new PR (just barely) of 1:54:51. Bummed about the weather, but really proud I pulled out a PR with such tough conditions and just glad I didn’t end up being one of the dozens of people who were treated for heat exhaustion or dehydration at the end of the race.
With all of that, it was still one of the best races I’ve ever done. It was magnificent in every way. More to come on the race and our fun weekend in Lancaster County soon. If you are into running, put this one on your bucket list.

It was the hottest, hilliest race I’ve ever done. I gave up all time goals 6 miles in and changed my race plan to “just don’t walk and get to the end without passing out.”

Somehow, I still managed a new PR (just barely) of 1:54:51. Bummed about the weather, but really proud I pulled out a PR with such tough conditions and just glad I didn’t end up being one of the dozens of people who were treated for heat exhaustion or dehydration at the end of the race.

With all of that, it was still one of the best races I’ve ever done. It was magnificent in every way. More to come on the race and our fun weekend in Lancaster County soon. If you are into running, put this one on your bucket list.