35 in Chicago

A few weekends ago (October 17-18), we headed down to Chicago to visit my brother and sister-in-law and celebrate my mom’s and my birthday (hers is the 7th, mine is the 18th). We arrived around 11:30 on Saturday and hung out at their condo for a little while while I fed Kai his lunch and put him down for a nap. While he was sleeping, my brother Mike made the rest of us lunch and we made a plan for the rest of the day.

Kai slept for about an hour and a half, and then it was time to go. My brother suggested we check out Maggie Daley park, so we drove downtown and parked in a garage. We had debated taking the L, but thought it might be a pain with the big stroller, and it worked out just fine to drive the couple of miles.

I had never heard of this park before, as it just opened in 2014. It was probably the coolest park I have ever been to. It is 20 acres, and right at the Lake Michigan shoreline within Grant Park and near The Bean.

Here we were walking on the ice skating track and to the left you can see the four huge rock climbing walls. The park had tons of different areas to go into, and a sign on the outside of each one said what age groups that area was geared towards. A favorite was the garden of mirrors.

Of course we had to go on the swings.

We checked out the nautical themed area next.

We didn’t go into any of the areas that were geared towards older kids, but the slides and play equipment in those areas looked really cool. I highly recommend this park as a family activity if you ever happen to find yourself in Chicago. We will definitely be back. Once we were done at the park we walked over to The Bean for a photo op, because how could we not?

Nerd alert:

We walked around the area a little bit more, but once the sun started to dip behind the buildings it got cold in a hurry, so we headed back to the condo. Mike got started on his famous home made pizza crust, and I made Kai a grilled cheese for dinner, which he did not eat. He wore his skeleton jammies because I knew Omoleye would love them (she is an orthopedic resident). When she saw him, she immediately went and changed to match.

Kai went to bed around 7:30 I believe, and somehow I have no photographic evidence that the rest of the night happened at all. We ate pizza, drank wine, sampled several chocolate porters, ate pie, and played games. It was a wonderful night. Guess I was too busy enjoying it to take any pictures.

Kai, Steve and I all slept in the same room, and I remember not sleeping well because I could hear Kai moving around, his sound machine was going, etc. So I was the first one up on Sunday, my birthday. I sat on the couch with my iPad for a while until my mom came up and made coffee in the French press. Yes.

Our plans included going out to brunch. Unfortunately Omoleye was on call and had to go in to do surgery on a broken elbow, so she wasn’t able to join us. We walked to the restaurant, and though Mike warned us that we needed to be there at 9am when they opened, we didn’t arrive until 9:20 and there was a 30 min wait. We walked down the street to a park (Chicago has the nicest parks, I swear!) to pass the time.

Kai was obsessed with this bridge and probably went across like twenty times. Mike and I showed off our jumping skills because we are cool like that.

And Kai did some more swinging with Daddy and Uncle Mike.

Brunch was delicious (again no photos, darn it). I had a bloody mary and portobello mushroom and egg tacos. We walked back to the condo and hung out for a little while longer before packing up our things and saying goodbye. We timed it to leave at Kai’s nap time so he could sleep in the car. He fell asleep for about 40 mins (his usual max in the car). Since he was awake, I decided I wanted to stop at the outlet mall on the way home to spend some of my birthday money. Sadly, I found nothing to buy. Also on the way home, we stopped at Kopp’s for some frozen custard when I discovered they had turtle sundae as the flavor of the day. Coincidence that they had this amazing flavor on my birthday? I think not.

After we got home and unloaded our stuff, we all walked to the park near our house so Kai could burn off some energy after sitting in the car for so long. More swinging!

Then he got brave and wandered pretty far away from us.

Once Kai was fed dinner, bathed, and in bed, Steve picked up some Chinese carryout for us to enjoy for dinner. I had a sushi roll and a veggie stir fry while watching a movie, the perfect end to a great birthday weekend.

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Halloween 2015

I have a lot of recaps that I need to write up for the sake of my own memory, and they might come a little out of order. We have just been so busy this fall I haven’t had time to gather my thoughts.

First up: Halloween! A couple of weeks ago Kai and I visited a pumpkin patch with Steve’s sister Jamie and her daughter Aiva. The place was really neat, with lots of activities for the kids. Kai started things off with a rousing game of pumpkin checkers.

We also spent some time jumping around on a giant bouncy pillow.

Pretty soon it was time for a hayride out to the pumpkin patch to pick out our pumpkins. I only succeeded in getting a blurry selfie to commemorate.

The kids had fun running around the pumpkin farm and picking out pumpkins.

Note that Aiva is exactly one year older than Kai and they are virtually the same size.

Eventually we selected our pumpkins and boarded the hayride back to the main area, where the kids were super thrilled about having their picture taken.

I tried to have Kai stand in front of the ruler so we could start a tradition and recreate this picture every year, but this is the best I could get. Kid does not stand still. Ever.

A few days later Kai decorated his pumpkin. I bought some washable paints and taped off the eyes, nose and mouth of the pumpkin.

Then Kai went to town painting. He was skeptical of the wet paint on his hands at first, but once I demonstrated what to do he got into it a little more.

After he was finished, I let the pumpkin dry for a few minutes before peeling off the tape. Once it was totally dry I took it outside and sprayed it with a clear coat spray paint to set it. I think the finished product turned out great.

The day before Halloween, Kai wore his costume to Kids Club at the gym and he got to be in a parade around the indoor track. My mom came to watch and we both ended up walking with him and the other kids. It was super cute.

For Halloween itself, we went to a party at my cousin’s house. We surprised everyone by showing up as a family of minions. It was a huge hit.

Unfortunately the weather was pretty crappy, but we did walk to the downtown area to see the parade, and luckily it stopped raining for trick or treat. We weren’t sure how Kai would do trick or treating, but he was an old pro.

He insisted on walking and carried his own pumpkin the whole time, which was basically the cutest thing ever.

We only went to four or five houses because Kai obviously doesn’t need any candy (and neither do we!). Back at the house, we changed Kai into his skeleton jammies and he was able to enjoy the fruits of his labor, a dum-dum.

I can’t wait to do family costumes every Halloween from now until Kai is old enough to be too embarrassed by his parents.

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Devil’s Lake Camping Trip

A couple of months ago, Steve and I decided we wanted to do one more camping trip this year. I have very fond memories of camping at Devil’s Lake when I was a kid, and I thought it would be beautiful to go in the fall. This past weekend we headed up on Friday evening. We got there around 6:30, checked into our site, and got set up. I don’t have any pictures of the first night because it was dark and I was trying to feed Kai a quick dinner while Steve was setting up the camper. It always takes a while to get everything set up, but we eventually did, and I think we put Kai to bed around 8:45 that night. He has always slept great in his pack n play and in the camper, which is awesome. Steve and I roasted weiners on the fire for a late night dinner because we are super classy like that. We followed it up with s’mores as camping law requires.

Saturday morning we all slept in a little bit (for me at least) and I think we all woke up around 7:30-7:45. I made pancakes in the camper and Kai and I ate them all up (Steve is not a breakfast person, which I will never pretend to understand).

After breakfast we all took a walk down to the camp store for a trail map.

Devil’s lake is surrounded by bluffs and is known for it’s awesome hiking trails. By the time we left for our first hike it was probably almost 10am. We decided to start at the north end (where we already were) and headed up the East Bluff Trail.

I carried Kai on my back because I knew I wanted Steve to carry him on our more difficult afternoon hike.

We stopped at a few look out points and snapped some photos. It was so pretty up there.

We didn’t hike too long because before long it was time for Kai to eat lunch and take a nap. We headed back to the campsite and I made Kai a sandwich. Kid loves dining al fresco.

Steve got to work setting up the new to us screen room on the camper. Not really necessary on this trip, but we wanted to try it out. Verdict – love it!

Kai went down for his nap, and Steve and I enjoyed a beer by the fire. Yes.

We also made pudgie pie sandwiches for lunch.

Kai slept for about an hour and a half and then he was ready to party. He loved walking around the campsite (and into the road, silly boy). Good thing we brought his cage play enclosure along.

For our afternoon hike, we drove around to the south shore of the lake to do the Balanced Rock Trail. Let me just say that since it has been years since I hiked this trail, I did not recall exactly how difficult and treacherous it is. Thank goodness Steve was carrying Kai and felt confident in his footing, because there is no way I would have felt comfortable with him on my back. The trail is all steep rock steps that are uneven and slippery, and some of them move. One wrong step or slip and you could literally tumble down the bluff.

On the way up we somehow missed the off chute of the trail that leads to the balanced rock itself. The views however, were amazing.

On the way back down we did find the balanced rock and stopped for a photo op.

I took this shot on the way back down so you can see how steep and technical the trail is.

Once we reached the bottom I stopped having a heart attack and spotted a giant rock that I knew I must pose atop of.

After the hike we stopped at the concession stand and I got ice cream, obviously. We let Kai loose to play on the playground there for a while before heading back to the camp site. I should have snapped a pic of the playground because it was pretty cool. Instead of wood chips, the ground was covered in ground up tires so it was nice and soft and bouncy.

Back at the campsite, I put Kai in his snuggly suit because it was kind of cold and windy, and because it is adorable. I made him a quesadilla for dinner which he would not touch (even though it is one of his favorite foods at home).

Kai was pretty worn out and I think he went to bed around 7:30 this night. Steve and I made tacos for dinner and sat by the campfire. The wind was a little ridiculous and was blowing the smoke every which way, but we finally figured out where to put our chairs to get the least amount of smoke in our faces. I practically fell asleep in my camp chair before calling it a night. I slept horribly this night due to the wind being obnoxiously loud and a pole above our bed in the camper falling on me no less than five times (yes, the parts have already been ordered to fix this little problem for next time). Kai was up around 7am Sunday morning, and I made pancakes again. We all felt lazy and hung out in the camper for a long time before getting motivated to start packing up. Kai made himself useful in rearranging one of the cabinets.

I chased Kai around the campsite while Steve popped the camper down.

Turns out our little man is very handy like his Daddy and helped get the trailer hooked up, no problem.

We tried to stop at the nature center on the way out because I thought Kai would enjoy it, but turns out it was 300 yards straight up a steep trail from the parking lot. After all of our hiking the day before, Steve vetoed that plan immediately. It turned out ok, because Kai was asleep with in three minutes of leaving the park.

And with that, Claudette is safely stored away, ready for the camping adventures that await us next year.


Filed under Family, Fun, Nature, Travel

Day in the Life – Fall 2015

Monday, October 12th 2015

I am 34 (for another 6 days), Steve is 39, Kai is 15 months (in 3 days) & Zooey cat is 14.

6:25am – I wake up and look at the clock. Everyone else is asleep and I am still tired so I try to will myself back to sleep. We are all tired from a fun weekend of camping at Devil’s Lake. Kai starts making noise in his sleep, as is often the case in the early morning. I lay in bed with my eyes closed, but it’s no use.
6:38am – I know there is no way I am going back to sleep, so I get up and make coffee. I get on the computer and check email, Facebook, etc. The morning is my alone time at the computer and I don’t feel bad about “wasting time” before anyone else is up.
7:10am – I get hungry and make breakfast for myself. Since I will be running later this morning, I have a mini bagel with peanut butter, banana slices, honey and cinnamon with a side of vitamins (multi, vitamin D, iron & un-pictured probiotics).
7:26am – I start cleaning up in the kitchen. The house is a disaster and I wish I could just spend all day cleaning it from top to bottom. There is stuff everywhere on the kitchen counter (the bane of my existence). No matter how often I clear this area, it ends up like this in no time, I swear. It is where clutter lives in our house.
I check the weather and it looks like a pretty decent day, and especially nice for running.
7:37am – Kai is moving around in his crib, waking up. I give him a few minutes because he does not love it when I go in immediately upon waking and will usually scream at me if I do so. He needs time to talk to himself, play with his monkeys, do a little yoga, etc.
7:45am – I go in and say good morning. Kai is happy to see me but doesn’t want to come out of his crib just yet. Kid loves his crib and loves to just mess around in there while I am in the room with him. I pick out some clothes for him and finally get him out under protest.
Once Kai is dressed and I let him loose, he runs straight into the kitchen and into the forbidden utility/laundry/cat litter box area. Little stinker. He screams at me when I catch him and tell him to get out of there. I bribe him with his milk cup and that does the trick.
7:55am – I give Kai his breakfast of banana slices and a toaster waffle, which he blows on before he eats. While he is eating Steve comes in to say goodbye before leaving for work.
When Kai is done with breakfast, we play for a bit and I change into running clothes and get packed up to leave for the gym.
8:40am – Leave for the gym. I drop Kai off at Kids Club and put my stuff in the locker room before heading out for my run. This is only my second run since the marathon, and I do an easy five miles while listening to Mindy Kaling’s audiobook. She cracks me up. The weather is perfect for a run, low 60’s. Fall running is the best. After my run I shower at the gym.
10:30am – I pick up Kai from Kids Club and get his shoes on. We snap a selfie on the way out and he looks at me like I am crazy. Get used to it kid.
10:44am – We pull into the grocery store parking lot. We need a few staples such as bananas, salad supplies, yogurt and chocolate.
11:15am – We arrive home and Kai is very helpful with putting the groceries away.
11:30am – I make Kai a smoothie as part of his lunch, since it is the only way he will eat a vegetable. It has yogurt, juice, bananas, carrots, spinach and strawberries. I put the rest of the smoothie into reusable pouches and put them in the freezer. I also make him a sunbutter sandwich and give him some milk. He has really been loving milk lately, after being luke warm on it for quite some time.
While Kai eats lunch, I make my treat, pumpkin spice latte mix from this recipe. It is so good, dare I say better than Starbucks.
12:00pm – Kai plays with his toys for a while and then poops. It’s always good when he gets that out of the way before his nap. We change his diaper, read a story, and I put him down.
12:19pm – Kai is in his crib singing e-i-e-i-o from Old MacDonald.
12:30pm I eat my lunch of leftover Bangkok Curry from Noodles and a graham cracker with chocolate peanut butter for dessert. I also glance at the monitor and see that Kai is asleep.
12:50pm – I start cleaning the disaster of a house. I clean up the kitchen again, fold laundry, put all of our camping stuff away in the basement, dust, organize, etc. Lastly I tackle the dreaded kitchen counter. Remember what it looked like this morning? Here it is after being cleared of junk.
Ah, much better.
1:50pm – Kai is awake and talking to himself. Dang. I really thought he was going to take a 2+ hour nap today after our big camping weekend. I leave him for a little bit to see if he’ll go back to sleep.
2:05pm – Kai is still talking away. He is saying uh-oh over and over. That is totally his favorite word right now. I go in and get him, change his diaper, and decide that since he is up we can vacuum the house.
2:20pm – I vacuum the wood floors first and Kai is very helpful in standing right in front of the vacuum and trying to push it himself. I am glad he is taking an interest in housekeeping.
After the wood floors we bring out the big dog vacuum and get the area rugs done too. I feel much better about the state of the house now. We both have a snack of crispy snap peas with a Larabar for me and a fruit and veggie pouch for Kai.
3:10pm – Grandma arrives to babysit until Steve gets home from work. I believe she is Kai’s favorite person right now.
3:15pm – I leave to go to my client’s house. I normally don’t do in-home massage, but this couple has their own massage table and they have been clients for a very long time so I don’t mind at all. I do two 90 minute massages while I am there. They have a granddaughter that is Kai’s age so we always share the latest pictures before I leave.
6:57pm – I pull into the garage and Back to the Earth by Rusted Root is playing. I am really into it so I sit in my car and belt it out until the end of the song. I come in to find my guys playing in the playroom.
I say hi and then immediately change into sweats. Time for a beer. We all hang out for a little bit and I catch up with Steve.
7:15pm – I go and change Kai into his jammies and fill his milk cup. He is allowed to watch his beloved videos.
7:35 – I take Kai to brush his teeth (he refuses), we read a story and it is time for bed. Night night Kai. I am starved and immediately throw together something to eat.
7:57 – I eat my dinner of a gigantic taco salad with a side of chips while watching Fixer Upper on Netflix.
8:18pm – I clean up from dinner.
8:25pm – Steve has to do some work from home tonight (he’s an IT guy), so I grab my laptop and park my butt on the couch. I finish up a blog post, go through the pics from our camping weekend and from today and upload all of them, then do some random things on the computer while eating a square of 85% dark chocolate. Fixer Upper is still on in the background and Zooey is sitting next to me on the couch.
9:50pm – I decide that since I am not doing anything productive I might as well go to bed. I feed Zooey, brush my teeth, and say goodnight to Steve, who has apparently just finished working earlier than he was expecting.
10:00pm – I get in bed and read for a little bit on my Kindle. My eyelids start to close in no time, and it’s time to sleep.
Good night!


Filed under Miscellany

Live Real Farms Energy Drink

I recently had the chance to try out a new energy drink from Live Real Farms. The drinks are made with real dairy and fruit juice, and nothing artificial. It comes in three flavors: berry berry, peach mango, and strawberry banana. From their website: Live Real Farm’s energy comes from simple things, including Vitamin B12, fruit juice and green tea extract and is a good source of Vitamin A, C and D. It’s lactose free, gluten free and fat free, packed with 12 grams of dairy protein, with only 180 calories per 11oz serving. 

I first decided to try the drink as recovery nutrition after a long run. It’s important to take in some nutrition right away after a hard effort, but I usually can’t stomach anything solid right away. I often turn to a smoothie, so the energy drink was perfect and convenient. I sampled the peach mango flavor, and it was quite tasty.

With 33g of carbohydrate and 12g of protein, it was just about spot on for what I aim to take in after running. A 3:1 carb/protein ratio is ideal for me, and this was close enough. Now for the “energy” part of the drink. It contains green tea extract and vitamin B12 to give a natural boost. I love to drink coffee after running, but my stomach hates me every time I do it. With the energy drink, I got a nice dose of pep without the side effects of coffee. I have even tried drinking one of these as an afternoon snack even though I normally try not to have caffeine in the afternoon because I am 80 and it affects my sleep. I didn’t have any problems sleeping with this though, which was a plus.

My favorite flavor is the peach mango, followed by the berry berry and then the strawberry banana, but I liked them all. Though I will probably stick to using the drinks mostly for a post-workout snack, I love that it is something that is easy to grab when I need an energizing boost.

Want to try it? Click here for a coupon good for $.50 off of Live Real Farms Energy Drink.

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

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Lakefront Marathon 2015

I’ve waited a few days to recap my 2015 Lakefront Marathon experience because, well, it did not go as planned. In fact, it was so far off from what I had planned and trained for that I kind of wanted to just forget the whole thing ever happened.

My friend Cindy took this photo and it was the only one in which I somehow did not look like I was dying a slow death out there.

So let’s back up to the beginning. When I first started working with my coach this year, my ultimate goal was to run a 3:20 marathon. My back up goal was to run a PR (sub 3:29). Never once did I thing I would not accomplish a PR. I trained my butt off all summer. I had a couple sketchy long runs in there, but for the most part training went really well. I hit my paces in my speed workouts, remained healthy, and put in the miles. I was ready.

The only limiter I really had throughout this training was my GI system. For some reason, my stomach does not love it when I run fast or long. It was a problem on and off during my workouts, and I knew that it was the only thing that might prevent me from having an awesome race. I never really know when it’s going to feel good or bad, and I make sure not to eat anything different or weird in the days leading up to a long run or race. In the two days before the race, I started limiting my fiber intake in hopes it would help.

Race morning, I could tell my stomach felt a little off before the race even started. I just hoped against all hope that it would hold up for 26.2 miles. The race started at 7:30am, and I went off at a nice comfortable pace. It was pretty crowded which prevented me from starting out too fast. My plan was to ease into the first 4-5 miles at slightly slower than goal pace (7:37 pace is a 3:20 marathon). Then I would pick it up a little, and around mile 10 I would decide if I felt good enough to start hammering a bit faster or hold steady. I hit the first five miles in 7:57, 7:43, 7:32, 7:38, 7:40. Around mile 5.5 I saw some friends cheering that gave me a big boost, and I hit the next five in 7:24, 7:36, 7:37, 7:33, 7:32. Perfect. My stomach had been holding out until this point, but I could tell I would never make it the whole race. During mile 11 I had to stop at a porta pottie. That mile was 8:57 and I was pretty pleased with myself for still running a sub-9 min mile with a bathroom break.

I felt a little better after the stop and I knocked out a couple more sub-8’s in 7:46, 7:53 but my stomach wasn’t having any of it. My pace slowed to the 8:30’s and I hit the halfway mark around 1:42:45. It was all downhill from there. I couldn’t keep any nutrition in me, and started to feel sick and depleted. I ended up making 3 more bathroom stops along the way and almost quit the race multiple times. In fact, I had completely decided that the next time I saw my friends or a race official or anyone that could give me a ride to the finish, I would be done. Problem was, I never saw anyone to give me a ride. I just kept slogging along, jogging when I could and doing a lot of walking along the way. Once there were less than three miles to go I knew that I would just finish the race on my own two feet.

I ended up crossing the finish line in 4:07:21, a mere 47 minutes off of my goal. Ouch. I felt pissed off, disappointed, defeated, you name it. I felt like all of my training went to waste. I quit marathon running in my head and possibly out loud. I picked up my gear bag and put on warm clothes, and soon after I saw Steve. Turns out he didn’t have a great race either. When I started to tell him how horribly wrong things went, I lost it. He tried to comfort me and make me smile, reminding me that it’s just running and it’s just one race. Of course this is true, but I just needed to be sad about it for a little while.

That’s the thing about the marathon. You can train your butt off, show up to race in perfect conditions (seriously, it was in the 50’s with a tailwind), and things can go awry. Things that are out of your control. What could I have done differently to prevent this from happening? I don’t know. I ate the things I normally eat, I took in the same nutrition on race day as I did in training, so who knows why my body picked this day to revolt.

I do know that I am signed up for another marathon on November 1st. I was not planning to run this marathon. I was planning for Lakefront to go well and I was going to drop to the half marathon distance in this other race. Now I have a decision to make. Do I try again? After I finished on Sunday I thought there was no way I wanted to run another marathon. Maybe ever. But of course three days later I have already forgotten some of the hurt, and I am feeling like I may go for it. I am not going to do any more structured “training,” but I may go out there and see what happens. To be continued I suppose…


Filed under Races, The run

Fall fun

Mother Nature has sure been gifting us with a gorgeous fall so far! Though the temperatures have finally started to drop, the last few weeks have been unbelievable for September. We have been spending a lot of time outside and things have been busy in a good way. I found this slide on a buy/sell/trade group on Facebook and snagged it for Kai. He likes it alright, but he won’t climb up the back so you have to put him on the slide and he gets bored and runs away after a couple times down. That’s right, he is walking and running all over the place now with no need to hold onto our fingers anymore.

A couple weeks ago we attended a wedding reception for our friends who were married in Jamaica earlier this year. It was held outdoors and Kai had fun riding around on Steve’s shoulders and listening to the steel drum band.

We had a playdate at the park last week with my friend Cara and her two boys. Despite their expressions in the photo, I’m pretty sure they had a good time.

This past Sunday was the annual Susan G Komen race for the cure. We do it every year in honor of my cousin Kelly who is a breast cancer survivor. Five years cancer free was an awesome reason to celebrate with Kelly’s Clan.

Since my marathon is this Sunday (eep!), Kai and I opted to walk this year instead of run. He got a little antsy in the stroller so we cut out early and walked just under two miles instead of doing the full 5k.

After the walk we headed home so Kai could take a nap, and when he woke up we went right back out to Harvest Fest at State Fair Park. I had never been to this event before and wasn’t sure what they all had, and it turned out to be alright.

Kai enjoyed watching the camel and pony rides, and they also had a little kids area in one of the buildings where there was a huge box of wood shavings and some toys.

They also had a little farmers market, pumpkin patch, build your own scarecrow, and places to eat. A lot of the stuff I think will be better when Kai is a little older and able to enjoy it more. The huge bummer about the whole thing was that when we got there they were all out of every single kind of pumpkin beer! We did get there when there were only two hours left of the festival, but still! Not cool.

Skeleton pj’s have been in heavy rotation (please note the new “say cheese” face). I am hoping to find time to go for a hayride and apple picking, and next weekend we will be going on one more camping trip. As much as I am sad to see summer go, I love fall as well. If only we could skip over the other two wretched seasons we would be in business.

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Filed under Friends, Fun, Kai