Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Run, Robyn, Run! (Part 5)

It's funny, you set your alarm so that you don't oversleep, but you end up waking up every hour throughout the night in panic you have.  The alarm clock in the hotel room was set, a wake-up call was arranged through the hotel, and I still had one eyeball on the time watching the hours pass.

The nerves are in high gear at this point and my hands are literally shaking as I get dressed.  It is a very unsettling feeling and I am a basket case going back and forth between being ridiculously excited that we are finally doing this and ready to throw-up at the thought of what I am about to do. 

I had studied the course many, many times and knew that the first water stop would be at mile 2.2 and then pretty consistently every mile and a half after that.  I made a game-time decision to not use my Camelbak and run the marathon without carrying any kind of liquid on me.  I had my Spibelt and used it to carry everything I needed; cell phone, tissues, GU, and used the handy dandy cords to hold my bib.  This proved to be the best decision ever.  It actually felt great running without that extra weight on my back and the numerous water stops were plenty. 

My corral was blue, group #8.  This was the last of the bunch, which meant that it would be a good 28 minutes after the race officially started before Jen and I could cross the starting line.  The temps started to warm up (the high ended up being 64 degrees) and didn't need gloves, ear-warmer headband or even the extra layer of the jacket.  It was a beautiful day!

Jen and I minutes before starting. 
I posted on FB that I was more nervous now than when I
realized I was about to give birth to Ian and the epidural wasn't working. 

As I passed through the official starting point, I became overcome with emotion and was fighting the ugly cry from taking over my entire face.  It had been such a long journey getting to this point and it was finally here.  Seeing everyone on the sidelines cheering, holding up signs, making noise, made it all very real.  It took until about a full mile in before I buried deep these emotions and focused more on the race and wanting to get it done. 

The race is best told in two parts.  PART 1, which was the beginning to mile 13.  And PART 2, which was mile 14 to the end.

PART 1: The beginning to mile 13.

The first 9 miles really flew by.  I couldn't believe how quickly the race was going and before I knew it, almost 2 hours had been completed.  Around mile 9 is when the big, nasty hill happens and I was told in advance to expect it and know that EVERYONE walks it.  No problem, I could handle that!  But this hill was a toughie and even with walking it, my legs were now starting to feel the effects of what I was out there doing.

The crowd support was awesome!  I could actually feel my body moving faster and run lightly because of all the cheering, the music playing, and reading all the signs they were holding.  I absolutely loved it when complete strangers would read my name on my bib and say, "Go Robyn!"  "You got this Robyn!"   I mean, how can you even think of walking when passing all this?  I don't want to let the people down and disappoint.

Loved all the signs!
Had to stop and take a few pictures of some of my favorites.

There's the juggler!  He, among many, passed me.

Jen's cheering committee and mine divided and conquered.  I don't think this was intentional, but each group picked different areas to cheer us on as we ran by.  I thought this was the greatest thing ever and loved getting to see people I knew twice the amount of time rather than if they were all standing together.

Here's two pictures of me just before mile 6.

I am feeling GREAT!  At this point, I'm tracking a 5:25 marathon and couldn't be more pleased.  There are still tons of people around me, running with me and I feel like I am part of something really big.

Approximately half the people running are only doing the 1/2 marathon.  I know that soon I will be seeing them head to the right for their finish line and the full marathoners (that's me!) will veer to the left to keep going.  I didn't realize just how many people would be leaving the course. 

I got to see Jeff, Lori and Ben one last time around mile 13.5.  I knew that at this point, I won't see them again until I finish.  It was not logistically convenient to make it to any of the other cheer zones to see me.

PART 2:  Miles 14 to the end.

As I start the 2nd half, I know that the both the men and women top 10 have already finished the full marathon, gotten their medals and made their way to food and a shower.  Me, however, I am just getting my groove, that is with finding port-a-potties and pooping.  Yes, my tummy decided to either react from all the nerves or the full strength Gatorade (which I was not used to drinking) and I had to go 3 separate times during the race.  Yowzer!  It is what it is, but I will always wonder how much better my time would've been if I didn't need to stop so much.

As the hours passed, water stations were starting to break down.  They still handed out water/gatorade, but now it was only 1/2 table doing so, instead of 8 or 9 tables full.  In fact at one point, a guy was standing there with a jug in his hand offering to pour me a glass.  Yes, it is comical to look back on this now, but at the time, it was discouraging.  The real insult came when an officer let two cars cut in front of me on the course.  The cars were not a risk to my safety, but having to run behind their exhaust and fumes was like kicking a person when their down.  Come'on people...have some respect for those of us still out there.

As I was hitting mile 17, I could hear the "party" going on at mile 22.  WOWEE!!!  A big band was playing, there was dancing, cheering, lots of enthusiasm.  By the time I swung around to mile 22, no one was left.  The band left to go home, the people dancing left.  There wasn't anyone left cheering. 

When I had to go to the bathroom a 3rd time to poop (around mile 20), I actually left the course and found a Burrito restaurant and walked in and asked if their bathroom had toilet paper, because as I announced to everyone inside, "I could really use some right about now."   It was a nice, clean bathroom and well worth the extra time.

By mile 20, I had enough and was really ready for this to be over.  I had been out there for more than 4.5 hours and still had a way to go.  Unfortunately I wasn't getting any faster, only slower, much slower.

As the miles wore on, the crowd of participants got thinner around me.  There was starting to be huge stretches of space between me and the other runners.    One guy even asked me to stop and take his picture at the mile 25 marker. Ha!  What was I going to do, say no?  Sorry, buddy, but I really can't stop right now.  This extra 40 seconds might make all the difference in the world for my ending time.  I even waited to see if he liked the picture or wanted me to retake it.

Instead of texting every time I hit another 5 miles to let my group know where I was, I was now texting pretty much every mile from 20 to 26.  I couldn't wait for this marathon to be over.  I was going to blow through 6 hours and it wasn't going to pretty.  At this point, I just wanted to finish. 

Stay tuned...part 6:  The BIG finish!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Run, Robyn, Run! (Part 4)

We drove up to the Baltimore area on Saturday morning, dropped the kids off at my in-laws and then Jeff and I continued to Philadelphia.  Ever since I announced I wanted to do this marathon (7 months ago!), Jeff instantly went into action and figured out where he would get his Philly cheese steak fix.  It would either be at Pat's or Geno's.  Since Pat's is a Pepsi place and Geno's is not, the decision was a no-brainer.  Geno's it is.  I decided to do some of my own research and find a place I could get a gluten-free treat to reward myself with after the race.  I found this sweet little bakery called, "Sweet Freedom Bakery".  The whole entire place is baked this way --  Here is a label from their box.

Hard to believe, but without any of the above ingredients, the items I picked out were incredibly tasty.  I really don't think you'd be able to tell it was missing any of this stuff.  I picked out 2 different kinds of cupcakes, 2 types of cookies, 2 slices of banana nut bread, and a Cinnamon sugar crueler.  Yum-O!  And how nice to know that I had this waiting for me once I finished the 26.2.

So before we even got to the hotel, we drove by Geno's for a cheese steak and Sweet Freedom for my baked goods.  I have some pretty awesome pictures of Jeff enjoying his cheese steak (finished within 2 blocks of us pulling away), but I am under a gag order from including them.  Just know that he enjoyed it.  The look of satisfaction on his face is now his ID photo on my phone when he calls.  If nothing else, going to Philly was worth it for him for this cheese steak experience.

The rest of Saturday went like clock work.  We checked into the Embassy Suites on Benjamin Franklin Parkway-- closest hotel to the starting line.  I had no desire to walk any more than necessary come race day.   It would take about an hour to explain the story on how I got us reservations at this hotel.  A few months before registration to the race even opened, this hotel was already booked solid.  Let's just say I got very lucky and they found a room for me.  Great hotel!

Had a quick lunch with my sister, Ben (BIL) and some friends my sister hadn't seen in a long time.  The restaurant was called Singapore Chinese and was located near the convention center.  It was a completely vegetarian, Chinese, and kosher restaurant.  Throw in Gluten-free and you'd have a home-run.  The owner was very helpful on what I could and couldn't eat.  Got some pseudo-looking/tasting sweet & sour chicken.  Very yummy. 

Afterwards, we met up with Jen and got our race packet from the expo at the convention center.

I'm still freaking out on the inside. 
It is all too real that it is happening!

Dinner that night was at Maggiono's.  We had reservations for 5:30pm for the 9 of us. The place was PACKED!!!  Even the line to tell them we were there and had reservations was about 30 deep. You literally couldn't move in the lobby/bar of the restaurant.  Crazy!!!  The food was good and we had a nice time at dinner.

Jen's brother and sister-in-law came to cheer Jen on.
My sister had another friend join us that night at dinner.
I guess I should give some background info and say that Lori
used to live in Philly and still has some pretty good friends
in the area. 

Now it was time to go back to the hotel and get a good night of sleep. Tomorrow was the big day and the moment I had been waiting for, for a very long time. 

Stay tuned for part 5....race day!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Run, Robyn, Run! (Part 3)


Friday night, as I was packing, I justified bringing just about every single running gear-type thing I own.  I wasn't sure if the weather could take a turn for the cold and I'd want my longer capri running pants.  I didn't know if a long sleeve tech shirt would be better than a running windbreaker jacket and figured I should bring both. If it was raining, the water resistant windbreaker would be the way to go. Then I saw my heavier running jacket hanging in my closet and thought that could come in handy too while waiting at the start line. I had decided long in advance a back-up pair of running shorts might be necessary. And of course, I had my special short sleeve tech shirt I had ordered to wear on race day. Also, I knew that I'd need options on my head and packed both my ear-warmer headband if it was going to be cold and the sun visor in case it was warm and the sun was out in full force.  Throw in a pair of running gloves, two pairs of socks, and of course, my sneakers and I was all set.  This was just the stuff to wear.  I also had to bring my iPod, back-up iPod, Garmin, Camelbak, 6 packets of GU, body glide, Spibelt, SweatyBand to hold back my hair, Cliff bar, bananas and bottles of Powerade to round out all the gear needed.  As a precaution, I packed band-aids, neosporin and advil* too. Whoever said running was a low-maintenance sport has certainly not met me.  :)

But here's the thing, by packing so many items that performed various tasks depending on the weather conditions, it helped calm me.  I wasn't worried about having to second guess myself on if I choose the right things to bring.  I'd just bring it all!

The only good thing about the weather being a tad on the warmer side was that it helped make the decision easier on what to put on come the morning of the race.


"You don't have go FAST, you just have to GO."

At one point during the marathon, I felt this couple coming up behind me
and moved to the left to get out of their way.  The woman said, "Your shirt
says WE should pass on the left."  I replied back, "Its been so long
since I've seen the back of my shirt, I forgot what it said."  :) 


*Turns out what I thought was Advil in my suitcase turned out to be Junior Strength Advil.  OMG!  I didn't find this out until 6:05am that morning when I went to go take two.  Yikes!  The label only went up to 70lbs.  I'd have to take more than 6 at a time and I am not even sure it would be as potent as the real thing.   Good thing I had Jen on speed dial and she was able to provide me some of the adult strength pills.

Stay tuned for part 4....getting there.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Run, Robyn, Run! (Part 2)

In light of it being Thanksgiving today, I want to reflect on all I am grateful for regarding this marathon. 

I seriously could not have done this without the love, support and encouragement from so many.  How lucky I am to be so rich in this area.  I hope I don't ever take it for granted and forget what a blessing it is to be surrounded by all of this.

I am so fortunate to have the BEST. FAMILY. EVER.  If I didn't have Jeff's unwavering love and support, I know it would've been a very uphill climb to get to the starting line.  He always had faith in me that I could do this.  Countless times over the past 7 months, he would look at me and say how proud of me he was. Without question he jumped in, took care of the kids, and gave me all the time I needed to get the training done. I am so thankful for the husband and best friend that he is.

As soon as my mom heard I was doing this, she made it a point to call me from her place of work every Saturday to check in on me after I ran.  She wasn't completely on board with what I was doing, but she was one of my biggest supporters.

I am fortunate to have family that wanted to be there.  Without hesitation, my sister Lori said her and Ben (BIL) would be there to cheer me on.  Ben designed these very cool and hilarious shirts for him, Lori and Jeff to wear the morning of the race.  It was an awesome surprise when they showed it to me right before I started running.

My in-laws graciously took the kids for the whole weekend.  We dropped them off on Saturday morning on our way to Philadelphia and picked them back up on the way home on Monday.  It was wonderful knowing they were in excellent care, having fun and one less thing for me to be stressed over.

Tons of other encouragement came from my dad, stepmother, my other sister Meghan, and my sister-in-law Elaine.  While it did little to calm my nerves, it was nice to hear the faith they had in me that I could do this.  Hearing my dad's enthusiasm in his voice when I would tell him I ran "X" amount of miles each weekend there was a particularly long training run was always very cool.

The friends that wished me well, decorated my car with signs before leaving, left me cards in my mailbox were amazing. I am thankful for every single one of the messages, texts, emails, phone calls, in-person hugs, high-fives and more that I received leading up to, during and after the marathon.  It really helped to motivate me to go one step further, one second faster.

I'd like to give a quick list of all the other things I am very grateful for:

-The hotel we stayed at was only a 1/2 mile from the start/finish line.

-The weather was beautiful.  When we woke up the next morning, it was raining.  This so could've easily been the case a few hours earlier on the 20th.

-I was feeling good.  Ridiculously nervous, but not sick with a fever, cold, sore throat, and my legs didn't have any aches or pains.  This is a bigger deal than you would imagine.  You can't live in a bubble waiting for race day.  I am around kids and germs all the time.  I always feel like I could be catching something and get sick. Actually now that the race is over, my throat is starting to hurt and I am blowing my nose.  hahahahahha.  See what I mean?  There was a ton of pressure to try to remain as healthy as possible and not get a twisted ankle or anything of the sort.  I am thankful that I was feeling as good as I ever could on the 20th.

-Maggiano's having gluten-free pasta.  It made it easy to carb-load at restaurant that I was familiar with and didn't worry about getting sick from eating non-gluten-free pasta by accident.

-I had some tummy issues and I am grateful there was always a bathroom close enough nearby. 

-My ipod and garmin worked perfectly.  I am thankful for that.

-I am most thankful that I found amazing socks that prevent blisters.

And last but not least, I am filled with gratitude that I was in overall good enough health to run and complete this.  Two men (only 21 and 40 years old in age) died during this exact marathon and 10 others were taken away to the hospital.  It makes you realize how fragile life is and I feel fortunate to have been able to accomplish my goal and get to the finish line in one piece and still standing.

I hope everyone reading this has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and you too are surrounded by your own amazing friends and family.  I know I've got the best anyone could ask for.  And for that I am forever grateful.  Love makes the world go around.  :)

Stay tune for part 3....taking it all with me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Run, Robyn, Run!

So I did it!  I survived, more than survived and can't wait to share all the details about the weekend. I'd like to apologize in advance for all that I am about to write.  I have no idea how many blog entries this story will span or if it will even end up in a coherent, logical narrative.  But I am filled with so many emotions and feel the need to get it all written.  For years to come, I want to have the ability to look back and remember all the moments vividly that made up this amazing journey. As my friend put it, the marathon is the reward for all the training you did.  If you aren't interested in hearing about all of this, you might want to take the next several days off from visiting my blog.  ;)

Where do I begin?  The nerves started kicking in the week leading up to the big day.  As we got closer and closer to race day, I got more nervous. Not sleeping soundly was the first to go.  My funniest nightmare was that a freak blizzard was in the forecast and a good majority of the runners dropped out due to the bad weather.  However, not one to give up, I trudged ahead and ran it anyway during the blizzard.  It took me 2 days to finish.  Needless to say, I was checking the 10 day forecast, then the 5 day forecast, then the weekend forecast, and lastly the 36 hour forecast 7 or 8 times each day.  Not once did it ever show anything but a gorgeous day, with only a 20% of precipitation. 

As the week crept on, I'd get either instant nauseousness or diarrhea just by thinking about what was to come.  By Thursday, I was a mental mess and completely freaked out.  What did I get myself into?  Was this going to be a complete disaster?  Would I be wasting my family's time by supporting me in this craziness?  Who did I think I was that I could pull this off?  And then there was the Jen factor.  She got into this herself because I came up with this wacky notion to run a marathon.  Due to many factors outside her control, Jen's training had been anything less than stellar and I was worried that she was going to really regret doing this.  It was a lot of pressure and all these doubts filled my every waking (and non-waking) thoughts.  And last but not least, the biggest thing I had going against me, was that I wanted to know I gave it my all.  That I did the best I could do.  I didn't care how long it took me to finish, but I had to be proud of me.  Have no regrets. Leave nothing behind.  My two big goals was to 1. Not be swept by the bus.  And 2. Not be last.  If I could do that and not look for a reason, any excuse to not give it all I got, then it would be a big success.  And, yes, I accomplished that.  And may I say, I did it with a smile all the way up until the very end.

Stay tuned for part 2....being thankful.

Monday, November 14, 2011

If it's in the paper, it must be true!

Great article in the Washington Post on Thursday, November 10th.

Jeff and I have always been quite lax when it comes to the amount of time Ian and/or Sam is allowed to play video games.  We don't have a maximum set amount of hours they can't play wii, computer games or their iTouch each day.  As long as they don't seem to be getting too obsessed or refuse to turn it off to do other things we suggest, then its fine with us if they play to their hearts content while we are at home.

We both are of the feeling that this is a techy-world they are growing up in and want them to have the skills that will be very much integrated with their school, career and day-to-day life.  Personally, I love that they are growing up in an age where there was always touch technology available.

I came across a great article the other day.  Apparently gaming is not detrimental to a child's development and can in fact help them flourish when learning.


I have never played video games. They cut into reading time. Today, I don’t even understand TV advertisements for games. Do you have to get inside an Xbox? What?

I am sensing this may become a handicap for an education writer. What game designers know about what excites and involves their users may be the key to a new age of online learning.

I say maybe because I have grown weary of technological breakthrough reports that promise more for classrooms than they deliver. Twenty-first century learning plans, when you examine them closely, often appear to be little more than curriculums from the previous century with more expensive equipment and better-written mission statements.

That’s what I thought until I bumped into Tom Vander Ark’s new book, “Getting Smart: How Digital Learning Is Changing the World,” particularly the chapter on motivation. He lists seven ways video games reward the brain, as revealed in a 2010 speech by editor and game theorist Tom Chatfield. Even I could see that it was also a list of seven things many great teachers use:

1. Continuous grading. Vander Ark notes that “most games give participants the ability to watch their progress slowly but surely creep along in infinitesimal increments . . . like a bar graph, or a figure in a race, but somehow how the gamer is doing overall is clearly displayed and communicated.”

2. Multiple long- and short-term aims that are clearly defined. There are multiple levels and multiple forms of success.

3. Rewarding effort. You get credit every time you do something.

4. Feedback. “Gamers can fail in millions of small ways, learn quickly what they need to change and then move on,” Vander Ark says .

5. Element of uncertainty. Experiences that surprise just enough can create high engagement. The gamer, like me reading a detective novel, wants to know what happens next and see if he identified the perp.

6. Finding windows of learning. Games give players some important elements they need to remember.

7. Confidence. Chatfield concluded that game reward systems make people braver, more willing to take risks and harder to discourage. I will have to take his word for it, but those are qualities good teachers impart to their students.

Motivation is the key to good schools. It is at the heart of our many arguments over education policy. Can the desire to learn be stimulated by tests that affect graduation, or lessons that fit the subject to the students’ personal experiences, or a yearning to please a caring teacher, or a team spirit that wants our class spelling average to beat that of the third grade across the hall?

For game designers, Vander Ark points out, motivation means sales. They can see quickly what works and what doesn’t.

I have seen good teachers do continuous grading by calling on everyone in class each day and starting each day off with a short quiz. They reward effort with a smile, a cheer from the class, a better grade or a chance to read a better book. They introduce uncertainty by asking a question that does not have an obvious answer and with a series of questions to the class (Socrates would have been an awesome game designer) to find the most likely answer.

Fairfax County’s Bernie Glaze, one of the best social studies teachers I ever saw, once explained to me the useful connection between games and learning. Two of her students were resisting her lesson on philosophers. They called them old white guys without a jump shot. She engaged the two by saying that all she wanted from them was some thoughtful analysis, just as they discussed each morning why their basketball heroes had won or lost the night before.

It will be hard to produce online lessons that make this happen in physics, calculus, Romantic poetry and civics. But smart people say there is a way to do it. That’s fine as long as they check the result with teachers.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"My boy is wicked smart"*

I was not an "A" student.  Far from it.  School was not easy and always a struggle to keep my head above water.  This could've been in large part to attending a very competitive private school from 7th to 12th grade.  It was expected you went to a good college upon graduation and a very large percentage (possibly 70%) of my classmates went on to become lawyers. The other 29% became doctors. And then there was me.  :)

I've never felt as smart in my whole my life as I did on Monday, November 7th at 10:00am.  I had Ian's parent-teacher conference and I found out just how amazing my son is doing.  I'd like to take full credit for his brilliance, but I can not.  I married a very smart man.  Probably the smartest guy I'll ever know.  I am sure some (ok, maybe all) of Ian's intelligence is coming from his father, but for those 15 minutes sitting with Ian's teacher, she didn't know this.  And I looked smart. Very smart. 

I am so proud of my son.  He is a superstar.  I hope his enthusiasm for learning continues.  I can't wait to see what the years ahead have in store for him.

*quote taken from the movie, "Goodwill Hunting"

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Ian:  Mom, I'd like if you can start surprising me.

Me:  What kind of surprises are you looking for?

Ian:  Well, I'll give you an example of a disappointed surprise:  I say I want a cheese sandwich in my lunch and you give me a chicken & cheese wrap.  That's not the kind of surprise I want.

Me:  Ok, what would be a good kind of surprise?

Ian:  Oh, you know, a wii game would be a good surprise.

Me:  I'll see what I can do Ian.

Ian:  It's doesn't have to be every day, just like once a month.

Jeff:  Ian, how about we start the surprises at the beginning of December?

Ian:  Ok.

Mom-mom comes to visit from Monday, December 5th to Thursday, December 8th.  We are keeping it a surprise for the kids.  Yay!

While the kids were in school on Thursday, I was at AC Moore to load up on a few birthday presents for some upcoming parties Sam has been invited to.  I found this awesomely huge Princess coloring book that I knew Sam would go crazy for.  After picking Ian up from school, we walked into the house and the kids saw the coloring book.

Ian:  THAT is this kind of surprise I am looking for.

Me:  Ok, then I'll go get you a princess coloring book too. (hahahahaha)

Ian:  Noooooooooo.  That would be a disappointed surprise.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sam - take 2

Here's a quick update on Samantha -- All her blood work came back looking good.  There is no sign of Celiac disease (Thank G-d!) or any kind of nutrient deficiency.  So my thought that something could be not causing her to feel well from the inside is not the case.

Her sleep started getting better, but then we just had a rough patch for a few nights, so who knows?  Maybe she is just going to be one of those horrible sleepers her whole life.  I know that Jeff and I each have had many nights where we wake-up and can't go back to sleep.  Overall, I think we are spoiled by Ian and how amazing and deep of a sleeper he is and always has been.

Now for the good stuff - we are seeing a big improvement with the Occupational Therapy.  This has proven to be the way to go.  Sam does have some sensory issues (nothing major), but her behavior is not appropriate to whatever it is ticking her off.  She blows up way too quickly and goes from 1 to 60 in a second.  The therapist, Tasha, is doing some heavy, intense exercises with her and Sam is loving it.  We continue to work with her at home and do the same type stuff - just translatable to what we have in the house.  For example, take the cushions off the couch and let her jump off into the couch cushions.  Create an obstacle course for her to run through.  Lots of jumping up and down.  Major squishing under a stack of pillows.  Creating a mountain of pillows with a blanket over it and have her climb over it. Crawl through a tunnel. Repeat, repeat, repeat.  It lets her get her excess energy out and get that sensory stimulation she craves in a good, positive way.  That way when she starts to freak out over something small (like all of a sudden her shoe or clothes she is wearing is bothering her), she no longer blows up over it and gets herself in a temper tantrum frenzy. 

The best part of this is, Sam LOVES going to her OT appointments.  For her it is like one big play session.  And, Tasha has observed (quite accurately) that Sam has this need to be in control and all her moves are extremely calculated.  So Tasha is also working on addressing this.

Looking back, I was doing the exact wrong thing.  I wanted Sam to be calm and quiet when we were in the house. I thought that if we could keep it as peaceful as possible, Sam wouldn't get all crazy.  This is the exact opposite of what we should've been doing.

Based on Tasha's recommendation, we also created a space for Sam to have down time. It's a princess tent -  a quiet place for her to go where it is calm, cozy (think pillows, blankets).  Tasha said that Sam should start to seek this place out when she feels herself getting upset. 

We are scheduled to do 6 sessions of OT.  We've had 3 already and I am already seeing some progress.

I think we are definitely moving in the right direction.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The candy delimma

The little devil on one side of Sam's shoulder must've had some pretty harsh words for the little angel sitting on her other shoulder.

I had told Sam she could have 2 pieces of Halloween candy a day.  I didn't care if those pieces were both eaten by 9:00am, there would be no more candy for the rest of the day.  Sam would be very content to live on a diet of only candy, so I knew the 2 piece limit was going to be a tough one.  The first day following Halloween, Sam had her 2 pieces by 1:00pm.  About an hour later she asked me for another piece.  I said no, and she turned away sulking.  Just a few minutes later, I notice Sam had very quietly taken her HUGE bucket of Halloween candy to her room and closed the door.  Do I let her gorge herself until she gets so sick and doesn't want another piece ever again?  Or, do I go up to her room a few minutes later and catch her in the action? 

I decided to wait it out.  I knew that the only way she was going to be able to have a field day with all the candy is if she had her child-proof scissors to help her get into it.  After about 15 minutes, I went up to her room to investigate. I noticed the bucket was no where to be seen.  Sam went to great lengths to hide it.  She must've had a master plan and maybe the scissors heist was going to happen at another point in time.

The next day Ian is picking out his piece of candy he'd like to eat and Sam runs up to her room.  She comes back down with her big bucket and asks if she can have her 2 pieces of candy.  She eats her candy and leaves her bucket sitting next to Ian's.  At the end of day, Sam was an angel and did the right thing.  For now the little devil on Sam's other shoulder will have to make do with a little less candy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Utah Chicken

Jeff's birthday was on Wednesday.  We have plans for date night this Saturday and will go out to dinner and a movie.  But I wanted to cook him something special for dinner on his actual birthday and asked him what he'd like me to make.  "Utah Chicken", Jeff replied.  I smiled and said "Sure."

The "Utah Chicken" dish has a great back story.  For our 2nd date, I invited Jeff over for dinner.  He was turning 30 the next day and I thought it would be nice to have him over for a good, home cooked meal.  The only problem was, I couldn't cook.  So I went online and found some recipes of things that seemed tasty but easy to pull-off in the kitchen.  I invited my friend, Kathy over to do a test meal.  I needed to make sure I could actually cook dinner for the guy I was interested in getting to know better.  I wanted Kathy to be my guinea pig and let me know if the food was good enough to serve to a guy with boyfriend potential, to make sure she and I didn't get sick after eating it, and to give me an idea on how long it will take me to get the meal on the table with everything the right temperature and ready at the same time.

I did it all for the test drive with Kathy - the feta cheese popovers I made for appetizers, the chicken pasta dish, the side veggie and even went as far as making the chocolate cake for dessert.  It was a hit! I knew I could cook this meal with confidence and only be nervous about every other aspect of having a guy over at my place. I sent Kathy home with all the leftovers because just 2 days later, I was going to have the same food all over again in my kitchen. 

I don't make the dish often because it is a little time intensive.  It takes 1 hr, 30 minutes to prepare - with 1 hour of that cooking time.  There really is no way to speed up the process of this dish.  But Jeff loved it and subsequently married me, so I guess it was a great choice among the thousands of recipes I was contemplating.

Several months later, while we were dating, Jeff went to Utah for a business trip.  I knew I'd be picking him up from the airport and asked him if there was anything special I could make for dinner that night.  He will have eaten every meal for 5 days on the road and I knew a home cooked meal would taste really good when his plane landed.  He requested the chicken dish I made for him on our 2nd date.  I hadn't made it since that night and loved that he remembered it.  I happily said yes, bought all the ingredients and was ready to go for when he returned to town.  I picked him up at the airport and we drove back to my condo.  I went to the kitchen and started making dinner.  Close to 2 hours later we were finally ready to eat.  It was now approaching 11:00pm.  Jeff was completely dumbfounded and couldn't believe that we were eating so late.  It never occurred to me to make the dish ahead of time and just reheat it when we walked in the door.  And it never occurred to Jeff that I would be starting from scratch when we got back from the airport. 

We got a pretty good laugh about that and thus the name of Jeff's favorite chicken dish has always since been called, "Utah Chicken".



  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed golden mushroom soup
  • 4 ounces cream cheese with chives
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in the package of dressing mix. Blend in wine and golden mushroom soup. Mix in cream cheese, and stir until smooth. Heat through, but do not boil. Arrange chicken breasts in a single layer in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Pour sauce over.

Bake for 60 minutes in the preheated oven. Twenty minutes before the chicken is done, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Cook pasta until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.

***** My updated gluten-free version:  I use a gf mushroom soup that Wegman's sells.  I make 2 types of angel hair pasta - regular and gf. ***********

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Looked Hell directly in the eye

It takes a lot for me or the kids to get sick.  For the most part, we are a very healthy bunch (knock on wood) and only experience maybe one or two colds through out any given year.  I chalk this up to not keeping an extremely clean house and thus the germs help build up our immunity systems.  I am definitely not one of those moms who freaks out when I hear a kid we just played with is sick or getting over being sick.

But boy did Ian and I get knocked down big-time this past Sunday.  Fever?  Check.  Nausea?  Check.   Dizzy?  Check.  Can't move?  Check.  Throwing up?  Check. 

We were at a friend's house with a few other families on Friday night and received an email early the next morning from our host apologizing in advance for what might soon hit us.  5 out of 6 of their family members woke up in the middle of the night sick with this stomach bug.  I immediately replied back and wrote, "Don't worry about it.  I am sure we will be fine.  Besides, you can never be certain when you get sick who contaminated you or them."  These kind of emails come all the time after having play dates and finding out the kids your kids were playing with are now sick. 

All Saturday we were fine.  Ian did complain of a tummy ache Saturday night, but Jeff chalked it up to him having eaten dinner too quickly. As soon as the babysitter showed up, Ian was his cheerful self and was eager to play wii games for a few hours with Patrick.  Jeff and I went to a party and had a great time.  All was well.  By the time the sun rose on Sunday, it was a very different story in our house.  Within minutes Ian and I were part of the casualties this Burke stomach bug had taken as its latest victims.  The rumor was that this bug will last only 12 hours, but I guess I got lucky as I was still throwing up a good 15 hours after it started.  I hadn't eaten anything since Saturday night and obviously couldn't even hold down water.  Jeff said it's bad when you throw up the medication to help you no longer feel nauseas.  I don't throw up easily and never even did once with either pregnancy.  Actually I can't remember the last time I threw up.  But boy will I remember this day for a long, long time.  It was bad.  Very bad. 

You know how bad it was?  Even not having eating anything all day, anything close to resembling food or the thought of food on tv sent me racing to the bathroom.

Ian got off a little better.  He only threw up once in the morning.  But the rest of the time you would think we were matching lumps, close to comatose, unable to function. 

It wasn't until the next morning that Ian and I faced a new day and could hold our heads up again.  I kept Ian home from school so that he could take it easy and be ready for trick-or-treating that night.  That was the important goal - be healthy enough to go out on Halloween.  How sad to wait all year for this holiday and then have to miss it.

24 hours after Ian and I had it, Jeff got affected with a very minor case.  Compared to me and Ian, you can't even call what Jeff had as having the stomach bug.  He went to work a little late on Monday, but still managed to get to the office.

Sam, on the other hand, is one tough chick. She came out of this completely unscathed.  I have a feeling the Burke stomach bug took one look at her and ran the other way. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween 2011

This year Ian wanted to be Darth Vader and Sam was Super Girl.  She really had no choice in the costume, as it was the one I ordered her last year and she refused to wear anything that year.  The costume actually fit her perfectly this year and before she knew to ask to be anything different, she was saying "Super Girl to the rescue!!!!!!!!!"   Next year I know I won't be able to convince her to be something I want her to be, but it was nice to get our money's worth out of the Super Girl costume. 

Every year my cousin, Leslie and I send each other's kids fun Halloween packages.  This year she sent Ian Halloween themed shrinky dinks.  Ian had never seen shrinky dinks before and really had a blast making them.  The kit had approx. 40 different shrinky dink designs and after baking, they attached to a 4 sided spooky-looking tree.  It became a really cool centerpiece for our table. 

We went trick or treating last night with some good friends in their neighborhood. When we came home, Ian was eager to hand out candy to the kids who were still out collecting.   As the kids were picking out a few pieces of candy from our big candy bowl, Ian added, "Wait, I've got a surprise to show you."  All the kids were taken aback by this and not sure what was going to happen.  I was in the kitchen and listening as some responses ran the gamut from "Is something going to jump out at us?"  to "Um, what kind of surprise?" 

Every time we had more trick or treaters at our door, Ian quickly put the bowl of candy down and to a very nervously awaiting audience, pulled out his shrinky drink Halloween tree and showed it off.  "I made this!  It's shrinky dinks".  Some kids were impressed.  Some not so much.  One father did think it was just as cool as Ian did and said to his little boy, "They're neat. We've got get some of those."

It was very sweet watching Ian be so proud of his art project and want to show all the kids.  If you ask Ian, he'll tell you, you come to our house and you get more treats than just candy.