Spring Break 2015

I can’t believe it, but we’re on the other side of spring break already, which means the countdown to the end of the school year is on…39 days! 

The first several days of spring break were here in STL, and we stayed busy hanging out with friends, going to a St. Patrick’s Day celebration (we are the absolute least Irish people ever, but this was so fun), and enjoying a few 70 degree days outside all day long. 

The end of the week was spent in Chicago and the burbs. The boys couldn’t remember being at the Shedd Aquarium (I don’t even remember how long ago we took them), so that was the activity for Thursday when we got to the city. The entire family’s opinion post-visit is this: we’re pretty much over aquariums. I mean, it was cool, we saw some fun stuff, but meh. 

 Now, I LOVE downtown Chicago. I love the hustle and bustle, the crowd, the hotels and restaurants. Since the boys hadn’t ever stayed right on Michigan Ave, we decided that’s what we would do, and stayed at the Hard Rock. Love its location, and it’s a nice place. 

Overall, though, the boys weren’t all that impressed. I mean, they liked the hotel, they thought Michigan Ave was OK but not that big of a deal [mostly they were like, “we have to walk everywhere?” Suburban kids (shakes head)]. Millennium Park and the food were probably the highlights of our 24 hours in the city. I can’t say I blame them on the food: they had Garrett’s popcorn, Giordano’s pizza for supper, and Wildberry for breakfast. Plus Starbucks hot chocolate in the morning with their dad while I snuck in a workout at the hotel (see above list of food to know why this was necessary).

 We headed out to Wheaton Friday late morning for the next part of our trip: seeing Matt’s sister Heidi and her family in their new house! This was just so much fun for all of us…the boys all left in the afternoon to play baseball, and Heidi and I stayed home while her two little girls napped, which gave us a great chance to talk for a while. It was just so good to catch up! 

The rest of our time was spent with the boys playing with their little cousins and Rockit the dog, eating more amazing food, and the adults just enjoying each others’ company and a few good drinks, and a trip to a great museum on Saturday morning. 

On the way back to STL on Saturday afternoon (our Sunday was full of baseball practices and team pictures and the like, so we needed to get back), Matt asked the boys for their highlight of the trip, and all three said Aunt Heidi and Uncle Jeff’s! :) 

   

                 

 Here’s to the next few weeks flying by. The pool is calling my name…

On Running.

I am about to say words that I literally never, ever in a million years thought would come out of my mouth.

I like running.

Crazy, right? I know. There are probably ten blog posts in existence where I tell you how much I hate it (I don’t currently have the energy or desire to track that down, but trust me…it’s there). But I really don’t hate it anymore.

Two springs ago, after I was a few months into healthier living/eating, I started walking and eventually added a little jogging just to get my heart rate up. Well, as we all know, jogging burns more calories than walking, so I started doing a little more of it, JUST for the calorie burn.

For the next year and some change, that was my approach to running: I didn’t like it, but it torched calories, and I was a fan of that. So I did it.

Last June, my foot started hurting, and eventually, I had to stop running altogether, and then stop all high-impact exercise, and then, have surgery when it was evident this wasn’t going to clear up on its own. Throughout that time, I kept thinking about how much I wanted to be able to jog again.

It took several months of taking it easy to let my foot heal most of the way, but I’ve been out running on the few warm days we’ve had, and I.LOVE.IT. All the months of heavier weight training at home (in place of as much cardio/circuit training as I used to do) have totally made a difference in my endurance, and I can already run 3/4 of my usual 3.6 mile route. The times I’ve been out, I’ve run faster than I ever have as an adult.

(I still have some foot pain, generally for a day or two post-run. I’m not sure what to think of this…I think I could still see some improvement in the months to come, but I may just have to deal with a small amount of heel pain. Whatever. I can deal.)

I had to share…because this something I never, ever thought could happen. Additionally, I’ve started drinking coffee (with a ton of milk) or lattes, which previously grossed me out.

So apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks :)

Illini. Forever.

For Christmas, the boys all got new Illini pullovers and tickets to the basketball game against Northwestern. Saturday was finally the day we got to go to Champaign-Urbana!

We left early Saturday morning from STL, so that we could have several hours on campus for shopping and sightseeing before gametime, and also to ensure that we could eat two meals at our favorite Green Street locations. Priorities.

On our way out of town, my friend Kelli texted to see if we’d seen the latest forecast. I hadn’t, but it had changed from the 1″ of snow that I was expecting to 5-7″, on its way midday into the night. Great. But at this point…whatever. We were on the road, so not much we could do about it now.

We got to C-U, and I swear, I smiled all day long. I love being on campus so so much! We had lunch at Zorba’s, followed by shopping at the local bookstores for some new Illini gear.

zorba's entryway, full of 2004-5 newspaper clippings of final four team.

zorba’s entryway, full of 2004-5 newspaper clippings of final four team.

snowy quad + foellinger in the background. feels like yesterday that we were meeting up on the quad between classes :)

snowy quad + foellinger in the background. feels like yesterday that we were meeting up on the quad between classes :)

instilling a love for this beautiful campus early.

instilling a love for this beautiful campus early. #goodparenting #ftw

I posted this picture to Instagram/Facebook kind of early in the day.

me and alma. still annoyed that i didn't wait in line in my cap and gown for a pic here in '99.

me and alma. still annoyed that i didn’t wait in line in my cap and gown for a pic here in ’99.

My roommate Karen commented on that picture: “Um, not trying to be mean, but are you wearing orange? It looks like something cute and trendy, but it better be orange!”

Hilarious! Because every good Illini fan knows: YOU WEAR ORANGE TO ASSEMBLY HALL. I didn’t have anything to wear (my Illini gear was all old and too big), so part of the plan was for me to find a new tee while shopping and change clothes in the van in a parking garage. Which is exactly what I did (my kids: “Are you serious?” Me: “Totally. There is nothing weird about this.”).

We took the boys by all of our old res halls and apartments, which just made me grin even more…Wardall 6 and 502 w Green #205 were home to three of the greatest years of my life, and just getting to see them made me happy. (Matt did not feel the need to be photographed outside where he lived. Weird, right? ;) )

because you needed to know which rooms were mine.

because you needed to know which rooms were mine. and…there’s my orange!

oh hey, people who live here now. i almost knocked on the door so i could get a glimpse inside.

oh hey, people who live here now. i almost knocked on the door so i could get a glimpse inside.

And THEN, we got to spend some time with my other roommate, Kim, her husband Rich, and their daughter Zoe at our other favorite Green Street spot, Murphy’s Pub. Our boys love going there and scratching their names into the tables and benches, and, of course, the food is great. Loved catching up with our friends, and making big plans for a fall reunion!

kim and me. never enough time to get all of our words in on these visits :)

kim and me. never enough time to get all of our words in on these visits :)

yes, we take our kids to a pub every year.

yes, we take our kids to a pub every year.

By the time we left Murphy’s, snow had started falling on campus. Oh well. We got to the game about 30 minutes before tip-off, and the boys were so pumped. They just wholeheartedly love Illini basketball, even when the team isn’t that great.

assembly hall with these crazies.

assembly hall with these crazies.

Fortunately, it was an awesome game that saw the Illini hit 14 of 28 three-pointers and result in a 26-point victory. Less fortunately, it had really started snowing by the time the game was over, and our drive towards home got more treacherous the further south we got.

So, we made a decision about 15 miles outside of Effingham that we would take Matt’s parents up on their offer to let us stay there overnight instead of continuing on with horrible visibility and road conditions. They graciously took us in, and the boys crashed immediately.

We woke to a full foot of snow on the ground there, but were happy to hear that STL had only gotten about 4″. And by late morning when we headed out, roads were clear and the snow had nearly stopped, making travel much, much easier.

I think it’s safe to say that none of us will forget this trip soon.

Cowboy

Sharing this because he said I could, and because I know these weird, funny things won’t be coming home much longer. 



So that’s the big orange-framed mirror I have in my bedroom, and Jack Henry as a cowboy. Eating a hot dog. (Seriously? In my room? What the heck?)

Obviously, I don’t get it. The only info I got from him was that he doesn’t like to ride horses (not sure he’s ever ridden one but whatever). So this is logically what you do instead then, right?

I love first graders. 

Brutal Honesty.

AKA he might need to work on this before he has a girlfriend.

After school, I ran to the mailbox to grab the mail – and I do mean I ran, as the high is approximately 15 degrees today, and we all know how I feel about winter.

There was an Athleta catalog in the pile of today’s mail. I don’t even know why I get this catalog at all, since I own zero Athleta clothing items, but whatever. I do love to take a quick look at their clothes.

The first few pages were yoga clothes with super-flexible models in crazy yoga poses.

Me, to Jack Henry, who was looking over my shoulder: I know I used to be able to do some of those.

JH: Really? Are you sure?

Me (still in workout clothes from earlier workout): Yes. Remember? I used to be a dancer? I can’t do most of these anymore, but let me try this one pose… (sidenote: I did not take ballet for very many years because it was not my favorite…way too many rules and discipline involved there. Also, going 18 years without doing much in the way of working out will severely limit your former flexibility.)

He ran into the office with me, laughing that I was about to attempt this. Admittedly, a couple of them were so crazy-hard that they made me laugh and fall over when I tried them, but I was fairly close to still being able to hold this pose that as a kid/teenager, I could totally do:

IMG_5189

If I can straighten my stabilizing leg, I’ll have it. And I love a good challenge, so it’s on, Athleta catalog girl with mile-long legs. New life goal.

Poses I will not be trying, because, to quote my friend’s 8-year-old, what in the actual what?

IMG_5192

Jack Henry and I did a couple of easy poses that he knows from PE (Warrior II, Tree), and as he left the room, he said something like, “Well, you definitely aren’t a dancer anymore.”

So that about sums it up. Thanks for keepin’ it real, JH.

Let’s All Be Brave.

Friday night, I had some good-for-the-soul time with two of my best girlfriends. Over dinner and a couple of drinks at one of our favorite spots, we talked and laughed for a few hours that served to recharge our batteries.

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here we are, reunited on sunday morning.

 

Also: it’s not a night out with me until someone has told me I’m too loud. And that happened a couple of times, which is another mark of a successful evening. What can I say…I am a tiny bit loud.

These girls, Kelli and Robin, are not just friends that I have a good time with. These are girls who know me. They know about these big, scary dreams I have for myself, and they’re supportive. Not just cheerleaders for my cause, but people who ask hard questions, pray for me and my family, and hold me accountable for the things I say I’m going to do. And I do the same for them.

They’re the girls I referred to at the end of my Maybe It’s Time post, who are also dreaming big this year. And they’re well on their way to pursuing their goals, and we are only seven weeks into the new year.  I’m kinda proud of my people.

And? I’m beyond blessed to have more than just these two in my corner. There are a select few others, too, pulling me out of my comfort zone and into this next whatever-it-is stage I’m entering.

>>>>>

On Friday morning, I saw a review for a book called “Let’s All Be Brave” by Annie Downs. I read a little more about it, and I decided it was something I needed to read. I ordered it from Amazon, and thanks to prime shipping, it was in my hands by 9:45 on Saturday morning.

The boys asked if they could watch a movie, and I readily agreed, and ran upstairs and jumped into bed to read my new book. In just a few pages, I was in tears (in addition to being kinda loud sometimes, I’m a bit of a crier, even more so recently). It’s not a sad book; it’s just that I’m feeling like I’m at this transition that’s requiring some courage, and a few of her comments read like a friend writing encouragement right to me.

Like this.

I think it’s really nice when other people remind you that you are loved.

It makes you brave.

When you know who loves you, you know your safe places. You know where you can rest. You know where you can go when you fail. (I’m sorry if I’m the first to tell you this, but brave or not, you are going to fail.) Knowing who loves you also lets you know who you can trust with you brave ideas and who will hold you accountable to being brave but not being foolish (if you let them).

Right?

I hope you have brave ideas. And that there are people right there with you.

You Never Know…

I wrote earlier this week about having breakfast by myself at the end of my retreat overnight (already a distant memory. Sigh). The restaurant was, of course, really busy late Sunday morning. I brought a book along to read in case I ended up sitting at a table by myself, but I was seated at the bar, which was totally fine with me.

At the same time I sat down, another lady who was also by herself, was seated next to me. As it turned out, she lived close by and was a regular. We started chatting immediately (I know, y’all are shocked that I needed to talk). She shared pictures of her grandsons, told me about her four grown daughters, and we talked about my little retreat and my family, too.

Near the end of breakfast, I asked if all of her daughters lived here in St. Louis. Three did, she said; the fourth lived in their hometown 80 miles east of St. Louis. Since I’m from 120 miles east of here, I was immediately interested in details!

It’s a good time to interject that I LOVE small world stories. So much.

She was from Centralia, a town 60 miles south of Effingham, and I was really only familiar with it because in the mid-1980’s, neighbors moved in backyard kitty-corner to us. The girl who moved in was 6 years older than me, and she became my surrogate big sister. This family that became our neighbors was from Centralia.

Given that it’s a fairly small town, I asked, “By ANY chance, do you know the C family? They moved from Centralia to Effingham in the mid-80’s?”

Aaannddd of course, she not only knew them, but the C family had many years before their move to Effingham bought her parents’ home. And, my breakfast friend ALSO lived on the same street, so her kids played with the C kids when they were young.

Can you believe it? How fun is that?

I was suddenly so glad that I hadn’t been seated at a table by myself, but instead at the bar, where I got to have a nice conversation and make one of those small-world connections that can only happen when you take the time to chat with a stranger. :)