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I just got an email from WordPress about my blog’s year, and I apparently only posted six times in 2014. I’ve had this bjournal since 2005, and while it’s been a great way to capture little things that happen in life, updating it is not on my list of priorities. But SIX? I’m going to end this year by increasing by blogging productivity by about 16%. Here’s a seventh post for 2014 of some awesome things that happened this year.

10) I read 12 books.
I made good on this year’s goal of reading (an average of) a book a month. I finished book #12 in mid-December. It’s a great feeling to be well-read. I doubt I’ll keep it up next year, but I hope to at least read eight.
In addition to the six I mentioned in this post, I also finished:

  • Joan Didion – Blue Nights
  • Jeffrey Eugenides – Marriage Plot (I began Virgin Suicides again, but couldn’t finish it. I think I’ve seen the movie too much).
  • Martin Sixsmith – Philomena
  • Jonathan Tropper – This is Where I Leave You
  • Celeste Ng – Everything I Never Told You (the last two book titles sound like early-2000 emo band album titles)
  • Jonathan Eig – Birth of the Pill
  • Lucy Knisley – Relish (this is a graphic memoir, which I don’t count as a read book because they don’t take up that much time, but worth mentioning because I liked it a lot).

The best books? Middlesex, House of Mirth, Birth of the Pill, and Blue Nights.

9) I found a new cooking blog I like a lot. It’s Budget Bytes, and really gets that I don’t like spending money and want corn and beans in every meal.

8) I discovered the joy of nachos from Bellytimber. My husband, daughter, and I ate here on Valentine’s Day and I ordered the nachos for the first time, and I will always want to go there and eat nachos, in case you need someone to join you. My pal Susan co-wrote a cookbook called 804ork that includes the recipe, and I have the ingredients on my shopping list, ready to try this weekend (don’t worry, Bellytimber, I’ll still come visit).

7) We actually went to San Francisco! Who knows if we’ll ever afford to visit again. It was fun, and my kid was able to enjoy it and spend some QT with her aunt and uncle and watch me eat a lot. Which she never gets to do at home.

6) I ran another half marathon. And it went great-ish. I’ve barely run five minutes in a row since then, but I’ll get back to that eventually.

5) I got a fun writing gig. Val passed Raising Richmond, a weekly parenting column on rvanews.com, to me in January after she’d written about her adventures in parenting for several years. Yes, it’s the reason for only six (now seven) posts to the blog this year, but it’s been a lot of fun having readers and sharing things. And it paid for San Francisco. “You get paid for that?” you ask in amazement. Yes, back off. I’m delightful.

4) My daughter counted to 130 by herself. I don’t know when kids typically count to fifty and then 100, but my girl is good with counting. I bet it’s been all those hours she’s spent with a number picture book that I hate, so I can’t try to talk her out of reading it anymore. Plus she’s gotten into learning Spanish and is still considered by me to be a baby genius.

3) My husband and I went out three times in less then two months. And one of those times wasn’t even planned, we just got a surprise sleepover and got to see a movie and get dinner. I think we’ve been out at least twice since then. We tend to get a babysitter and then are ready to come home in less than two hours. We aren’t good at going out, but it’s still fun.

2) I had a good year at work. I’ve been able to try more new things in the last year than I’ve done in many years combined.

1) My sister and her family moved back to town. This has been the best. Not only has it been good to see her once a week instead of maybe once a month, she’s been a good backup for when our kid has been out of school, and I’ve been able to spend lots of time with my nephew. I love that she lives about 15 minutes away now. I can add on to the list of things borrowed and never returned to her. I’m a great little sister.

The older I get, the less I want to make a big deal about my birthday. Not that I’m grumpy about it — I still like cakes and cards. I like it low-key, and it’s too much of a hassle to get people to celebrate with me, especially since with kids it’s hard to plan things.  Anyway, keeping it simple right now is going to pay off when everyone starts having their awesome 40th birthday parties.

While I’d love to have a nice night out with gal pals or to eat a piece of peanut butter pie from the place that is closed on all days around my birthday, here’s what I’ll take instead:

-To sit alone in my room for 15 minutes with no pets/other people

-Nachos

-Maybe to eat a sundae at Friendly’s

 

 

 

This is a longer version of this from RVAnews.

My daughter: I want to watch a photo.
Me: A photo?
Her: Of the one that I like. About the man who can’t eat anything.
Me: The video we watched last night? (“Weird” Al’s “Fat”)
Her: Yeah. ‘I’m getting fat!’

~
While driving home, Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun” comes on the radio.
Me: It’s your jam!
Her: It’s not my jam, it’s your jam!
Me: It’s not my jam. I thought it was your favorite song.
Her (crying): It’s not my jam!
I turn down the radio.
Her: TURN IT UP!
~
She is constantly drawing now, which is the perfect activity. Her dad paints a lot, and when she sees him paint, she wants to paint or draw, too. Her specialty is heads with arms that shoot out of the sides and little stick legs (by the end of the summer, the heads have teeth). Sometimes they are self portraits, and sometimes they are other people. We have sheets of drawn heads all over the house and in the backseat of the car (it seems that every place she goes gives her an opportunity to draw something). Toward the end of the summer she presents a drawing to me that is a “snowman jumping rope” and a “broken teenager.”
We are about to go into Mexico for lunch, and she picks up a drawing from the and says she has to give it to the man (we don’t know which man). When we go inside, she hands the drawing the person who shows us to our seat.
“She drew it for you,” I said.
“Okay,” he said. I don’t what he does with it from there.
~
She and I have gotten home past her bedtime because we had dinner at a food truck court (burgers and gelato). We both go outside while I take the dog out, and immediately she strips down to her underwear and is in her tiny pool. It’s really hard to stick to bedtime on the weekends.
~
She and I are eating red-fruit popsicles on the front porch. It’s very hot and windy. As she slowly eats her popsicle, the red fruit juice flies from her and keeps hitting my white blouse, which I have miraculously kept stain-free. I get up to get a napkin, leaving her on the front porch. There she is, behind the porch door, her face dripping with red, like a pint-sized vampire waiting to be invited in.
~
Before her Saturday swim class, my husband and I drop off our daughter at the kids’ area at the gym so that we can work out. While I’m finishing up in the gym, she and my husband walk up to me and ask if I have her bathing suit.
I do not. There was some confusion. He thought that I had packed it in her gym bag, but it was still hanging somewhere to dry.
Either way, we don’t have it. She is very upset about this. In my few years as a parent, I have never felt so bad about something we’d done. We pace around, trying to keep her calm. We think of all the options. There’s not enough time to go home and get it. Our friend who is coming to swim class doesn’t have any spare swim shorts. I almost ask a mom whose five-year-old girl is finishing swim class if we can use her swimsuit.
My daughter is sulking in the gym lobby while we wait to return our locks at the front desk. I have only one last thing to try. I pull the pack of fruit snacks from my purse. She lights up and runs over to me to get the bag, and is happy again.
I am sad for when fruit snacks won’t fix everything.
~
We’ve invited our friends and their son over for brunch and tiny backyard pool time. She sees her friend every day in day care, but they are both really excited to see each other. Plus, to accompany the waffles I made, our friends (the parents) brought fried chicken. So they are our best friends now.
After we eat, the kids are bathing-suited up and ready to go in the pool, but they are both bothering each other. He does something, and she hangs her head down and slowly walks away until we intervene. Then she upsets him and he hangs down his head and slowly walks off. Soon, they are both slow walking around each other in circles with their heads down. Little kids are so sensitive.
They are still best buds.
~
My husband is out of town for four days, and on Friday night my daughter and I watch Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs for the first time. Between taking the dog out every ten minutes and also not paying attention, I only catch about 1/3 of it. She loves it, and watches it again the next morning. And the next morning. Throughout her three viewings, I’ve watched the entire movie. It’s very funny. She loves talking like Steve the Monkey, and especially likes Baby Brent. If you haven’t seen the movie, Baby Brent’s Sardines has a commercial where Baby Brent pulls a wagon full of sardines. Kids should “watch out , Baby Brent,” as the wagon of sardines falls over. He says “Uh-oh.”
No one is as committed to anything as my daughter is to reenacting the Baby Brent sardine commercial from Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.
She does this all day on Saturday, but since I missed that part of the movie on the first watch, I have no idea what she’s doing (although it’s very funny). By the end of the weekend, quotes from the movie are about 50% of what she’s talking about. I feel like my husband needs to watch it immediately just to get up to speed on what he’s missed. I buy the movie for her for $5 at Target, and when my husband watches it for the first time, I actually get excited for him to see it. Now he knows what we mean when we tell each other “Steve!”

~
I bring home a tomato from a coworker.
“Oh I love tomatoes,” she tells me.
“You do?” I ask.
“I’m not going to eat them until I’m an adult,” she says.
~
My husband’s friends are coming to dinner. The couple just moved to Richmond. My daughter and I hadn’t met them before, but she’s really excited to meet the male half. His last name is Butts.* She cannot stop talking about him. The night before they come over, the word “Butts” is said a record-breaking number of times at our dinner table (a million?). This freedom is overwhelming to her. She has never talked about another person with such enthusiasm. It’s made me lift the ban on the use of the word “butt” as an improper noun. It makes life a lot easier to have one less thing to monitor. Also, “butts” is funnier than bottom. And I like to say “hang on to your butts” while driving. It’s a win-win.
~
My brother is throwing out the first pitch at the Flying Squirrel’s game. Or, really, the tenth first pitch of the night. He gets free tickets because of it, but he has to leave for work as soon as it’s over. The short time leading up to the (tenth) first pitch is awesome. She plays her first round of mini golf for $1 before we go inside the Diamond. My brother gets me, my daughter, my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew on the field with him. The kids get some personal Nutzy time, my daughter gets to play catch with her uncle, and I get to enjoy the amazing view from the field. It’s an “‘80s Night” theme, and one of the ten pitches is thrown by the Ghostbusters. After the first pitch** we sit in great seats (I now think it’s worth it to buy the $11 seats). The weather is perfect for a ball game. It was overcast all day, but not humid. And after the parade of snacks: hot dog, popcorn, and Dippin’ Dots, my daughter continues to happily hang out for maybe twenty minutes. This is the first time we’ve taken her to a baseball game that I actually got to watch a significant part of it. It was really nice, and a glimpse of the good things that come with non-squirmy ages. It doesn’t hurt that she’s sitting next to her cousin and they’re both playing on their chairs. Whatever works.
~
My sister and her family move back to town in May (she’s been away from Richmond for seven years). This is a life-changer for me for many reasons. First, while she gets the house ready, I spend a couple of days hanging out with my nephew. I probably spend more time with him in one weekend than I have in the previous two years of his life (while I am his only aunt, it’s still important for me to be the best). She is better at seeing family than I am, so through her I see my grandparents, parents, and brother more. She’s been there when we needed a babysitter. My daughter will do anything if involves going to her aunt’s house. And I’ve already decided she’s hosting Christmas for the rest of our lives. It’s perfect.
She and I see movies together. I can’t remember the last time that happened — maybe Kill Bill Vol. 1. Our second movie night is at the Byrd — which she hadn’t been to in almost ten years (“It’s absolutely the same,” I assure her). And because she’s a good sister, she agrees to go to Shyndigz with me to get a piece of peanut butter pie.
My last memory of my sister in Richmond prior to that was when we both had apartments in the Museum District. After Hurricane Isabel I was sitting on my front porch and she was riding by on her bike. Neither of us had power. She had just been to Ukrop’s and bought cookies. I cooked her a bagel in my oven. I had power the next day, but she didn’t have it back for a couple of weeks.
~
My daughter has been having a hard time falling asleep lately. She’s up until almost 10 P.M. sometimes (way past her 8 bedtime). After she calls out for me from her room, I come back and sit down with her for a little while. This probably helps keep her awake, but I don’t know what else to do. I tell her a few stories. After stories she wants me to sing. I can’t recall the complete lyrics to many songs when I am not hearing them (it’s a weird problem I didn’t know that I had until she was born and I wanted to sing to her), but she requests songs from my small catalog.
“Sing ‘I’m fat,’” she requests. That is, unfortunately, one of the limited songs I know the lyrics to.
I sigh, and softly sing, “Your butt is wide, but mine is, too.”

Here are some things people often say to my daughter:

“Look at all that hair!”

“You’re getting so big!”

“Ana or Elsa?”

“Do you want to go to timeout?”*

It would be funny to talk to grown women the way we talk to pre-school aged girls. Can you imagine meeting up with a friend and saying any of those things?

This is not meant to be a meaningful post, I just think it’s a funny idea.

 

*Okay, I say that.

 

 

 

I completed my first half marathon last weekend, which sounds a lot better to me than “I’m going to run a half marathon.” Although I got a good start on training for it, because of a leg injury, a cold, and the Affordable Care Act website, I wasn’t able to train as well as I should have. Seven miles was my previous longest run before setting out on 13.1 miles. I was nervous going in, and after hitting the 10k mark on the run, I really wanted to stop, and I walked/ran the second half. I finished in 2 hours and 34 minutes, which is pretty good considering I walked so much of it toward the end. I thought to myself “I hate this. I am never doing this again” around mile 7, but around mile 11 I thought “I should probably do this again so I can do better.”

Some tips from me to you:

Get shoes that fit

Part of my leg issues are probably due to picking out shoes on my own.  My previous running shoes were purchased at a running store with help from an expert. But they were ugly and I wanted cute shoes. So I picked cute(r) shoes and immediately I started having leg pain, and I dismissed it as just something else and definitely not the most obvious thing. Stretching, pilates, and running on the road and not the sidewalk all helped ease the leg pain.  I ran through it for almost all year until my shoes got holes in the toes. It was too late to get new shoes before the run, so I went back to my old running shoes, but it took a while for the leg pain to stop when I ran. I also stopped running as much on the road since the route I usually go has uneven pavement. I’ve been running on a soft dirt track, and that’s also better on the old stems.

Do not put “Thriller” on your playlist

I run throughout the week with Bunk, and when we set out in the am it’s usually dark, and we run by the place where the “Thriller” video was filmed (or some creepy place just like it) and just thinking about “Thriller” scares me, and not being comfortable with running in the dark anyway kept me from running a couple of times.

I made a good playlist to run to (I only listen to something when not with my dog) but I get bored with it, and prefer podcasts to keep my mind off thinking about how much I don’t want to be running. And if you read this blog with any regularity, you know that all I want to do is talk about and recommend podcasts. Like Analyze Phish. So funny.

But if you prefer music, I suggest Bombay Bicycle Club’s “Shuffle” on repeat, with Passion Pit’s “Carried Away” to break it up. I did listen to music for the last two miles of the run and MGMT’s “Kids” and U.N.K.L.E.’s “Nursery Rhyme” did bring me to the finish line feeling a little more badass than a Marc Maron interview would have.

Do not eat all the time

When I first started training I doubled the number of miles I ran a week in a few weeks, and because I didn’t want to lose weight I couldn’t keep off because I wouldn’t run as much post-race, I started to eat a lot of Peanut M&Ms during the day. So don’t do that. I should actually be pretty fit right now, but I’m not.

Don’t make fun of the musicians

I don’t know what the application process is to be a cover band that plays on the street during the big races around town, but I’m assuming there is no screening. I was immediately irritated with the first band I ran by and whatever dumb, baby boomer song they played. Then I ran by a high school kid and his guitar and it seemed to me that only high school bands should play things like this because otherwise there’s no excuse to be so terrible. But also, if you’re not there to play loud, fast songs then why bother? After coming up with a list of good jokes against the musicians who volunteered, I realized that I hadn’t even run a mile yet and I thought about how much I was running / did not want to run for the next 13 miles.  Then I felt bad for thinking poorly about those who take the time to support people who run for no reason outside of themselves. While the half marathon is not a spectator or band-heavy route, it was still nice to see the supporters who were there handing out drinks and making noise. Even if the noise is the crappy music, which only motivates people to run faster to get that mess out of earshot. Thanks, though.

Wear your medal

This run (which has an 8k, half, and full marathon) gives medals to the participants. I accidentally got the marathon medal, and by the time I realized it I was too far away to go replace it. I haven’t worn it since I got it, but I now feel like every chance I don’t take to wear my huge medal in public is a wasted moment. To  people who only did the 8k and keep brushing it off because an 8k doesn’t sound like a big deal: it is a big deal. I’m trying to pump myself up to get out of bed early and walk/run two miles with Bunk in the morning. It can be a challenge to get going, so any miles done are good ones.

Good job runners, and thanks to Richmonders for putting up with all the road closures and Saturday errand-ruining so we can do things like this.

Also:

  • On my morning runs I saw a fox, many deer, a raccoon, bunnies, and a couple fighting in the street.
  • I love running across the Boulevard Bridge. It’s beautiful.
  • I got this the night before the half marathon and it was a life-saver. I would have worn a jacket and that would have been miserable (it’s a magnetic pouch that fits over pants to carry small items).
  • Big hooray for my dad and father-in-law for also running. So  many grandpas up in our house this weekend!
  • The bananas in the post-race food tents are the best bananas on earth.

Once on the bus home from elementary school the school bus broke down next to a shopping center. We had a substitute bus driver that day and while we waited for another bus he decided to buy us cheeseburgers and drinks from McDonald’s. He needed volunteers to go with him, and my friend suggested I go because, according to her, I was a fast runner.

This made me extremely proud. At that point I had no idea I was considered fast or athletic. To be associated with good fitness was a great feeling that I never really latched onto until now. I was also super impressed that the driver would buy burgers and drinks for forty kids.

Fast forward to now time. I no longer think about McDonald’s cheeseburgers (I’m sure they’re still fine in that “technically not food” way, though I did love them for a long time) and I am working on being that fast runner.

forest gump

I picked up jogging after the birth of my junior associate (like, immediately after. Take that, other moms)(jk) as a free and easy way to get back into shape.  Until the day before my daughter was born my husband and I took long dog walks in the morning (also, I had no idea how slow I was walking towards the end of the pregnancy, and it was very sweet of him not to ever mention it).

I had never observed runners before and thought “I want in on that,” but it’s an activity that I got immediately once I started to be able to keep a good pace. I’ve always loved walking, and what is running if not advanced walking? When done properly, it’s healthy and calming, and at the end of the Monument Ave 10k you get a two-pack of Ukrop’s White House Rolls.
Here are just a few things that keep me moving toward my goal of being better runner:

 
Running with the dog.
Bunk’s walking pace is my running pace, so taking her out is good exercise for us both.  But it’s not perfect.

Bunk and I can get into a great stride with jogging. Then we come to an obstacle, like a woman walking three dogs at a pace so slow it’s the Earth’s rotation that makes it appear like she is moving at all. Bunk flips out because of the other dogs, and I get flustered and have to decide whether to change directions to avoid them or try to run past and suffer a meltdown with Bunk and look like a terrible person in the process (I can’t always control crazy). Typically my attempts to go a few blocks out of my way to avoid a slowly grazing dog pack means that I will run into them again because they are going that slow.

I have so much confidence that I will sustain an injury while out with Bunk that I’ve started to carry my phone with me so I can call for help when it happens. Bunk is very strong and if I’m not paying attention to what she’s about to panic attack over, I can trip or fall. I bring treats to help her sit and calm down when faced with other dogs if I can’t avoid them. Running in the morning before the sun comes up is great, and that’s when we get our best exercise. But sometimes, despite my best efforts, other-animal heavy walks are so stressful that I’m pretty sure I gain weight and it’s the opposite of exercise.

Oh, Bunk. I love you, but I know that you will be the death of me. On the plus side, you give me more reason to get out there and run, and I’m pretty sure you deter anyone from trying to mug me.

I’m not sure why I directed that last paragraph to my dog, since she has told me on several occasions that she never reads this blog.

UPDATE: I totally ate it running in the morning with Bunk after I originally wrote this.  It wasn’t her fault — I was in the road and jumped onto a lawn when a car was coming because it was dark, and I slipped on the grass and fell on my face.  I dropped the leash but she stood next to me until I got up.  Teamwork!

 

Pedometer!
Bunk ate my pedometer.

Ok, she didn’t. She totally would though if it wasn’t always attached to me. My job participates in a program that rewards healthy habits. I signed up a few months ago and am obsessed with it. I even recently started to sleep with my pedometer on so that I don’t forget it during the morning scramble and lose those valuable steps. Steps = points = money deposited to a health savings account up to $500 a year. It’s a great motivation to meet the recommended number of daily steps (7k, not difficult at all) that has a larger point value.

Every day is game to get all those steps in. I even made up a routine during my lunch break to walk across all six floors of my building. I call it “work steps,” and I have a theme song for it called “Work Steps” that I sing to myself sometimes. If I do work steps and no other additional exercise (like a dog walk/run) I always meet the step goal.

I love it. It’s changed my lifestyle. It’s my Rushmore.

Also, someone asked me if I was a doctor because she thought that I was wearing a pager.  I told her it was a pedometer.  The point is that my pedometer makes me look like a doctor.

 

Have a reason to run.

I have said before that I don’t know what motivates people to line the streets of Richmond to cheer on strangers while they run a race, but having now participated in several of those races I love that people are there. Richmond is a big running city, and there are two major races – the Monument Ave 10k in the spring, and the 8k/half/marathon in the fall – that I have been running with my husband and my father-in-law for the last two years. They’re spaced well throughout the year so that I always have a goal ahead (the goal being that I want to beat my time from the year before, and also beat my husband’s and FIL’s times, sorry).

It’s easier to run during the race than it is to run in training for it. I guess it’s the time of morning, the motivation from the bystanders, and the Power-ade. I really enjoy the runs and hitting that moment when it feels better to run faster than it does to slow down. I plan to add a few minor runs during the year, and am going to train to run the half marathon in November. I never, never want to run a marathon, though, don’t ask me to.

Fun fact: Last year my pal Christophile and I ran a 5k together and unless she was slowing down for me we ran at exactly the same pace, which is why we’re so compatible as friends.

While we’re on the subject, it’s fun to listen to podcasts while exercising. JUST SAYING. EARWOLF.COM.

I Wanna Be Your Suze Orman

(yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah*)

I have the reputation of being joyless and miserly, or at least not one to part easily with money (which isn’t totally true because what are pets good for if not a way to waste money?). However, I definitely save for a month to buy a $15 CD and things like that, so let me put this frugality to use for YOU. I am willing to start a talk show or podcast where people call me and ask if they should or should not buy something. I am a lot like Suze Orman except I wouldn’t recommend that you walk away from your mortgage. But I have a lot of the same outfits. Also: Don’t buy anything, you don’t need it.

Email Grabber

I have online profiles for about 400 things from yogurt websites to insurance plans I no longer have, and have no grasp on who I have given basic information to. I am going to team with a nerd to build a program that cracks into the internet and tracks down and possibly deletes those many emails and passwords we’ve all set up and don’t use. Although there is probably no harm in having that information out there I want it back. Also: Nerds wanted to create this! I will promote it on “I Wanna Be Your Suze Orman.”

*Sung to the tune of Sleater Kinney’s “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone,” obviously.

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