Friday, June 29, 2012

Here it Goes, Here it Goes, Here it Goes Again

Yeah, I'd say 2012 has been a lot like the OK Go video. Good thing I like treadmills, right?

That's not to stay I've been stagnant, I've just been moving and changing a lot but my scenery isn't really changing. I've been going through the motions - flipping through my ACE texts, getting the personal and group training certifications, trying to be an active fitness blogger - but not really getting ahead. This past week I finally moved into action.

Step One: New serving job. I've hesitated to post this because I needed to make sure I gave my notice before any wandering eyes found their way to my blog. I've really enjoyed working with the people at this most recent establishment, but the overall environment - being a restaurant adjacent with and belonging to a hotel - just was not for me. I needed something new.

A serving job that was a little less:


Definitely NOT:

And wouldn't make me want to:

That third one is always iffy. I mean, the world is full of people. Not all of them are exactly brilliant, and of those less-than-brilliant types, I might have to wait on a few. At least if someone's stupidity makes me cry, I'll try to keep it on the inside :-D

Step Two: Get my A$$ in the gym!

No, not to work out. I finally, for real, not just saying I'll do it but actually DID, get all of my certifications and resume together and presented it to the gym I currently work at teaching spin. There was a minor hiccup today, as I found out I needed to fill out an entire new application, but that wasn't bad because it forced me to update my resume, qualifications, and references. I just hope that this gym allows its trainers to teach group fitness and vice versa. I don't see why they wouldn't except that it might complicate payroll, but I will argue that - in my opinion - members would want to see their instructors in multiples roles at the gym.

Years ago, when I was first just getting back to the gym and doing something about the rounder shape I'd gotten myself into, I noticed a divide straight away. There were the instructors, who just came and went as they had classes scheduled, and the trainers, who pretty much kept to themselves behind the trainer's desk, not interacting with members outside of their appointments. This didn't seem right.

It wasn't for several years after I first got back into shape that I took up an interest in training, mainly because I saw a gap that needed to be bridged. And maybe this is the server in me (the happy server, not the one who sometimes wants to scream), but I think the spirit of hospitality and helpfulness should extend to EVERY industry.

How many times have you walked into the gym and not even been greeted by the person at the front desk? I bet it's happened this week. The gym I work for isn't so bad - the front desk staff is typically attentive and friendly - but I've been in other places where it seemed like most of the staff, trainers, sales team, and front desk alike just didn't want to be there. I get that maybe they're bored or even frustrated because it's slow and they don't have any appointments, but what's stopping them from getting out on the floor, offering to spot someone, or even seeing if they can give some free pointers? What's more likely to get new clients, anyway: sitting around doing nothing, or engaging with members?

I say that I am and always be a server at heart. Maybe that's why I went and got a new restaurant job (I know, again) instead of quitting the industry altogether. And what I've learned in the service industry most certainly extends to the attitude I have toward personal training: it's not just taking an order and then providing the product, it's about guiding the experience. When I take on new clients, I could make every one of them do the same routine and see results, but that's not what they want, either. They need to be a part of the process and I need to make it enjoyable (or less torturous) for them.

Step Three: The Balancing Act.

Both jobs start in about two weeks. I'll train in the mornings and work four dinner shifts Wednesday through Saturday. My husband asked, "When will you sleep?" which I told him I'm not worried about. I'm actually concerned with when I'll eat! I'm going to start stocking up on Luna Bars, Lara Bars and Zone Perfect Perfectly Simple. I should just start sending emails:

Dear So-and-Such Company,
I am a mom/server/trainer/fitness instructor and perpetual student of fitness and life seeking sponsorship in the form of free food so that I might survive from one day to the next. I will eat and review your tasty food products, wear clothes with your company logo, and might even get the image of your best-selling product tattooed on my arm if it means I won't have to go to work on an empty stomach ever again.

Who would you have help sponsor your life?

What's the worst job you ever had? 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday Night Spin -- I'm Baaaack!

Well, I was actually back on Friday, and taught class on Saturday morning. And I'd love to tell you I'm back with an awesome playlist of brand new tunes... but with all my catching up and picture-posting, that hasn't exactly happened, either. But I did group together some of my favorite, full-tilt, butt-whooping tunes for an awesome class to make up for the one I missed teaching my class last week. I'll spare you lengthy drill descriptions and just post the songs I used. I challenge you to listen to the same songs in the same order and NOT spin/run/work your a$$ off:
  1. "Good Feeling" - Flo Rida
  2. "Power is On" - The Go! Team
  3. "Mr. G" - DeadMau5
  4. "In the End' - Linkin Park
  5. "Jump" - Flo Rida
  6. "Right Here, Right Now" - Fatboy Slim
  7. "Devil Drums" - Scooter
  8. "My Body" - Young the Giant
  9. "Lose Yourself" - Eminem
  10. "Raise Your Glass" -Pink
  11. "All My Life" - Foo Fighters

Yeah, all the usual suspects. I'm a creature of habit sometimes, and I can't help but go back to my old standby's when I'm in the need of really getting the blood pumping and adrenaline flowing. In fact, I'm gonna be lazy and just leave you with a few videos, just so I can conserve all of my energy for tonight :-D

There's a theme... kinda.

Coming this week, hopefully, my first video blog. When I stupidly went for a 6-mile run outdoors yesterday, although I was well-hydrated leading up to the run, it occurred to me that it had been a while since I'd run in 90+ degrees. That's something I definitely should have accounted for and taken some extra water with me. I slogged through the run just fine, but felt pretty icky for a few hours afterwards. It had me thinking that while there are lots of articles and "how to"s out there for people who are completely new to working out in the heat, it might be helpful to post tips for other wanna-be know-it-alls who think they're conditioned enough that they don't need to consider the heat's affect on their workouts (like... uh, me).

So to that end- can anyone recommend some decent (preferably free or cheap) basic video editing software, so I can ramble at you in person instead of only in writing? Thanks!

Have you braved the heat where you live?

Day Eight - The Drive

Thursday, June 21st

Wernersville, PA to Tigerville, SC: 626 miles, drive time 10 hours, 37 minutes.
Potty Breaks: 4; Gummies: Just one more, man; Tears: none (yes, nearly 11 hours in the car and hardly a tear - I have the best kid on the planet); Exercise: plyometrics, push-ups & crunches @ 10:00PM.

For all intents and purposes, Thursday marked the last day of our journey together. I could not be a happier or prouder Mama that my little girl put up with me, the car, and a different bed almost every night. I knew I was a little crazy to embark on this road trip with her, and I worried about half-way through as she sleepily told me one night, "I don't want the hotel! I wanna go HOME!" that I was doing a number on my child. But when she woke up the next day, eager as ever to eat waffles and fruit loops (you gotta let some things slide when you're traveling), I knew she'd be OK.

We started off our day with our last taste of Pennsylvania. I'm pretty sure the blueberries were not actually local, but I know the black cherries were. I forgot how much I love them... and how much they stain my fingers when I try to cut out the pit for my daughter!

This plus a cup of coffee had me brimming with antioxidants and ready to go. (Not pictured: the cider donut I wolfed down before even sitting at the kitchen table).

We slowed down for a couple more pictures of the beautiful PA-Dutch landscapes we'd be leaving behind; another reason why I know I want to drive back.

Sadly, we did not actually see any Amish people in carriages, but the signs to watch out for them crossing or traveling the road were everywhere.

Onward, down through Virginia for what felt like years. This is by far the longest stretch that anyone traveling north to south or vice-versa must endure. Interstate 81 can be quick enough (the speed limit is 70mph), but it's also just two lanes in either direction, meaning if you get stuck by a truck driver who thinks he's going fast enough to pass another truck, but then they both hit a hill and slow to a crawl at 45mph... you're gonna be there for a while. And when you can finally pass, you have to make sure the cops don't catch you flooring it as you impatiently try to get by.

Finally, our first sign of the south:

I've never actually eaten in a Shoney's, have you?

By this point, the head index was well over 100, I imagined, so we pulled off at a gas station thinking we could find a spot in the shop to sit down and eat yogurt and Goldfish. Their two dingy booths were covered with boxes and trash... classy. So it was time for another car picnic, only this time, with the engine running and the AC on. I hate to do that, and I hate when I see other people do it, but if you've ever tried to drink milk on a really hot day, you'd understand why we hid in my car with the sun shades up.

After what felt like eons on the road, we finally crossed the Virginia border into Tennessee and were promptly greeted with rain squalls. This was a welcome relief from the heat, as well as a nice little bath to clean off the bug graveyard that the grill and hood of my car had become.

Around 6:00 PM I started to look out for a place to stop for dinner. This would be the one stop of our whole trip that I was going to eat - and allow my daughter to eat - whatever we wanted with no regard to sugar, fat, or staying within the recommended food groups. Of course, there are some compromises I will not make, but the only signs I saw for restaurants near the highway were for McDonald's or Cracker Barrel. McD's is absolute crap and I won't eat anything from there, no matter what. While I've eaten at Cracker Barrel before, I never enjoyed anything I've eaten there and was not in the mood to try to get a toddler through the gift shop without breaking anything or accidentally shop-lifting.

So I found the next best thing, given the area we were in:

What can I say? I love pork. And while BBQ is not something I typically gravitate toward or even crave, this place smelled AWESOME coming off the interstate. We pulled up not even 15 minutes before they closed, so I took our good timing as a sign that this was the place to eat. And I have to say, since this was probably the least healthy meal we had all week, we still didn't do half-bad with smoked pulled pork (protein), baked beans (fiber) and macaroni salad (uh... I think I saw one piece of diced bell pepper in there somewhere...) Whatever, I don't have to justify myself. We were in Tennessee!

And most importantly, someone else loved it.

The last leg of our trip took us through the breathtaking scenery of the Cherokee National Forest and then down through the Blue Ridge Mountains that run from North Carolina down into South Carolina. I wished I could have snapped more pictures, but there was that whole driving thing I was supposed to be paying attention to.

I was able to get one good shot, though, which my camera does not give justice too, but it was beautiful, regardless. We were coming down I26 toward Asheville when I just had to slow down to try to capture this:

We had a beautiful, scenic, and most importantly happy and tantrum-free ride for the entire day. I can't wait to do it again.

Thanks, little travel buddy. You're the best!
Total Travel Distance & Time:
2,268 mi, 40 hours

Ok.... maybe next time we'll just fly!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day Seven - The Treck Back

Wednesday, June 20th

Albany, NY to Wernersville, PA: 255 miles, drive time of 4 hours and 30 minutes.
Potty breaks: 1; Gummies: breaking the habit; Tears: a few shed over "angry birds"; Exercise: push-ups, crunches, planks and plyometrics.

For the return trip, I was going to drive further on Wednesday to make it half-way back to South Carolina, so that Thursday's trip time would be shorter and I could be back in Atlanta on Thursday evening. As I thought about it more, though, I wanted one more evening at my Gram's house and I knew my girl wouldn't mind stopping one more time to play with all of those vintage toys.

By this point in our week, the too-good temperatures were starting to give way to the uglier side of June. It was not even the first day of summer, yet the thermometer steadily rose to the point where you just want to hide inside with the AC blasting and all of the curtains drawn. I knew there would be no run for me this evening.

Fortunately, we were able to take a break along the way back down to PA where we could enjoy our "picnic" indoors. We had a fairly healthy - and most importantly cool and refreshing - snack of yogurt (Chobani for me), Mixed Berry Nutragrain, and our summer staple, lemonade.

"Wait, Mommy! You need a picture of me, too!"

Silly girl's already getting the hang of picture-blogging.

Once we reached Gram's, we were both a little stir-crazy but not wanting to risk a heat-stroke or sun burn, we remained indoors. I did a quick circuit of basic body-weight exercises, including high knee step-ups on the unusually tall stairs in the 120-yr-old house (give or take a decade or two), and this cool leg + oblique exercise from BexLife (the first exercise of this video) that combines a squat with a side leg/knee lift. It's kind of like doing a sumo wrestler stomp... or that's what my daughter does, when she tries to exercise along with me. She also tried to help me with my crunches by laying across my belly, which didn't really work, so I turned over to let her crawl on my back as I attempted to do a couple push-ups with the extra resistance.

I can do exactly TWO, push-ups with her, by the way... and they have to be modified. Youch!

Time for dinner.

My Gram was a Locavore before it was cool. While the area she lives in has had its fair share of suburban sprawl over the past ten years, there are still farms galore and tons of roadside stands where she gets a lot of her produce. And having such deep German roots in the area, the European mentality of shopping nearby and often to get what's available and fresh - vs. doing a huge shopping trip of packaged goods once a week - is prevalent. I enjoy shopping this way too, as I feel I'm more likely to use the produce I buy before it goes bad if I only buy a few of something at a time.

For our meal tonight, we had asparagus, red potatoes, cucumber and tomato salad, berries, and Italian-seasoned wings.

The best part of this meal? My girl tried everything, and actually ate all of her asparagus first. While her love of veggies and fruit has more to do with her tastes than anything else, I can't help but feel like I've done something right when my daughter dives into the greens on her plate first.

I wished I could have stayed in Wernersville for a whole week and actually take my daughter to the farms and markets myself. After the success of this trip, though, I know I'll be back. I was happily reminded of how nice it is to just sit around my Gram's house and I can't wait to drive back up and spend more time there.

Does your area have good local produce? Do you travel anywhere where the local food can't be beat?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day Six - Goats, and goats, and goats, Oh My!

Tuesday, June 19th

The list of places I wished I could share with my daughter was certainly too long to fulfill for just 48 hours in New York. So I had to settle to take her to Indian Ladder Farms, a place that overwhelms the senses with amazing views, the fresh flavors of just-picked produce, and of course, the smell of cider donuts baking around the clock.

On site, there is a short hill you can climb up to picnic tables with a breath-taking  view of the surrounding Helderberg Escarpment. They have a fragrant and dense herb garden that I just love to run my hands through until I smell like mint and lavender. While known primarily as an apple orchard, there are also acres of raspberry bushes and cherry trees. Of course, Little Miss only cared about one thing:

Seriously, I'll be picking sand out from under this kid's fingernails and dumping it out of her shoes for the rest of her young life.

Since I think we were still feeling like two jumping beans after having spent so much time in the car, today's objective was to let her run and dig as much as possible. The farm also features a small petting zoo, which is to say that had about 32 goats, 1 donkey, and a Scottish Highland Ox. Only the goats approached the fence to be pet (fed) while the ox remained in the shade of an old barn and the donkey only concerned himself with his corner of a bail of hay. Of the non-pet-able creatures, there was a fat, lethargic bunny, chickens, and a really mean-looking turkey. Recalling a turkey attack a friend recently endured while out on a run, I made sure we kept little fingers away from its fence.

The goats were cute enough, though, and she was happy to see and pet them, although they begged like dogs for treats.

We were there with friends - cool friends, who had change to get dried corn to feed the goats, unlike her totally unprepared Mama who didn't have a quarter in her wallet or anywhere in the car.

After a picnic of not-so-great organic yogurt (you can't always win trying to be healthy) Nut Thins, garlic cheddar cheese curds (don't knock it til you've tried 'em) and a ton of raspberries, it was time to pack up and head back to the city.

Back at the couple's house whose porch we've been crashing and yummy food we've been stealing, my little girl - sleep deprived and exhausted from an afternoon in the sun, or so I thought - plugged on like a little Energizer Bunny. I had made sort of a joking promise to my friend that he could be the God Father of our child, although we're not religious, and realistically if anything happened to us our immediate family would take over in raising our child. Still, the least I could do is let him steal her for some exclusive one-on-one. This included hopscotch on the patio stones where, back in the day, waaaaay pre-baby, we may have once played drunken "full contact" hopscotch. At the end of the night, Little Miss had some new BFFs (especially since he and his wife were - again - way cooler than Mommy because they had Dora and Diego on Netflix).

What's the most unique or unexpected animal you encountered at a petting zoo? For us, I'd say it was the boars (or maybe they were just really big pigs) at the Greenville Zoo. They just don't strike me as very fun to pet. Also, I'm immature, and just want to say, "Mmmm... I'm craving some bacon..."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day Five - It's Gettin' Hot in Here...

Monday, June 18th

First travel-free day!!!

We slept in, and did not plan on doing anything until 11:00AM, at the earliest. This girl is learning quick about proper hotel behavior: Stay in comfortable clothes (anything with an elastic waistband will do) for as long as possible, bypass all the fruit and oatmeal for the brightest, most sugary cereal that Mom never buys, and how to recline in bed to watch TV without spilling a drink down your shirt.

But our leisure was short-lived.

To avoid any shock or concern, let me first state that nothing happened in OUR room. I had left her for a moment to get ice for the cooler. As I walked down the hall, I noticed one of the rooms, which had its door propped open as the housekeepers were moving through, was a bit smoky. No big deal, I thought. The housekeepers seemed to smoke while they work. Well, that is a big deal, as the people running this place clearly didn't give a shit. That's what I get for $63 a night, I figure. Anyway, I get the ice, come back, and notice that I wasn't really smelling cigarette smoke. Pass by the same room again and now the haze is so thick I can't see through to the window. As I bolt back to my room the alarms go off, scaring the living daylights out of my child, who was just trying to eat an apple and watch Elmo's World.

Have you ever been asked, "What would you grab if you could only grab two things (one for each hand) before escaping a fire?" I'll tell you what: Your kid and her favorite stuffed animal. In hindsight, I might have also wanted to grab my purse and her shoes, but I wouldn't have been able to move my car to go elsewhere if I wanted to.

At first, the firefighters seemed to almost mill about apathetically, and I saw one guy take a giant fan off a truck to bring in to exhaust the smoke, I assumed. Suddenly, a few more trucks showed up and they actually moved with a sense of urgency to get in gear and run inside, telling the guests and staff that had just been waiting downstairs in the lobby. The smoke was upstairs, after all, and everyone was under the impression that it was going to be quickly controlled. At this point, there were eight trucks. A bit excessive? Probably, but they had to get up on the roof as a fire had actually ignited in the ceiling and started to spread upward.

Moments after the burst in activity, the receptionist came out and told some of us the firefighters had given her the impression that they were going to have to close. Fortunately, there was a hotel next door. As in, they shared a parking lot. After smacking myself in the forehead for not going with this second hotel to begin with (online, it was $20 a night more), I trudged over to check us in. They were willing to give us a bargain, considering our circumstances.

They also gave us cookies.

Yes, I shared. A little.

After about a two-hour wait for hotel #1 to get the all clear for guests to return, we went back to round up our things. They assured us we could actually remain there if we wanted to, that the firefighters said the building was clear. Uh, no thanks. They were at least kind enough not to charge a cancellation fee.

Finally it was time to run!

I took the Little Miss to a lovely park where I had once clocked easy miles as I first started out running again. This place has miles of winding paths over mostly flat terrain, with enough bumps and dips to make you work but not kill the legs. It was perfect for me when I was a noob runner, and great today with extra cargo to push. We got in between three and four miles before she was chompin' at the bit to get out.

As I watched her play, I mused about how with the passage of time and - of course - having a child, my perspective of my home town has changed quite a bit. Places where I used to sit to be left alone in my thoughts, or perhaps have a run-in with a love interest so he could see just how deep and profound I was, sitting there all alone in my thoughts, are now only significant if they have bars to climb, slides to zip down, and sandboxes to dive into. And of course, they have to be stroller-accessible.

So for kicks, following our afternoon in the park I took her to the old cafe, where I used to work and would write on my days off, mostly waiting to be seen writing so someone could come over and ask me what I was writing about. This was back in the day when I walked around with a tattered spiral notebook and a Bic pen... not a laptop. The cafe, which used to pay me $5/hour under the table, has actually come a long way from the crappy sandwiches I used to throw together for people. And we enjoyed a nice pesto chicken panini with spinach and tomato. I would have snapped a pic of this because it looked and tasted awesome, but I was trying to keep someone from making it snow by opening all of the sugar packets.

Tomorrow: One more stop at one of my favorite places on this too-brief of a journey home.

I did not, for the record, type this entry while at a coffee shop. I am curious to know if any of you are guilty of this?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day Four - "Homeward Bound"

Sunday, June 17th

State College, PA to Albany, NY: 316 miles, drive time of 5 hours and 43 minutes.

Potty breaks: 2; "Gummies": cutting back to a small handful; Exercise: Flying around like a Butterfly Fairy (more her than me); Tears: minimal.

Something about coming up over I88 and descending into the Hudson Valley makes me warmly nostalgic every time.

2012-06-17 17.14.02.jpg

The drive up from State College almost the entire way to the New York border was through rural, Amish farmland on two-lane state and US routes. It was a welcome break from the monotony of highway driving and stale car air conditioning, as we bumped up and down hilly roads and twisted around windy corners with all the windows completely down. Something I'm glad I was able to enjoy, as I watched today's heat indexes rise into the 100's.

We arrived in Albany just in time for some delicious steak, shrimp, corn, beans and potatoes prepared by our awesome friends. I wish I had snapped a picture of their plentiful bounty but a certain toddler was tired of hummus and yogurt and needed to dive right into some real food.

Then, it was dress up time.

2012-06-17 19.15.52.jpg

I mean, what else do you do when you've kept a kid locked up in a vehicle for nearly 24 hours in the past four days? You give her wings and let her fly.

2012-06-17 19.25.32.jpg

While I didn't run around nearly as much as she did, we did do a few of those spin maneuvers, when you lock arms and the one person starts revolving, lifting the other (smaller) person into the air. That fired up my deltoids REAL fast, getting her 33-lb. butt into the air!

When we reached the hotel, it was time to collapse and treat myself for all of the hard hours clocked burning rubber through seven states and counting. If I were to find the energy to press onward and share my favorite places in my home town with my little girl, I was going to need some fuel of my own...

2012-06-18 00.10.21.jpg

Let's ignore the fact that I'm a wanna-be health professional for the moment. If you can't tell from the glare, this is "Chocolate Therapy" from Ben & Jerry's. I mean... how could I pass that up on the shelf. And even if I didn't have a freezer to put it in and it would go to mush in our cooler, forcing me to eat 3/4 of it then regretfully throw the rest away so I wouldn't hate myself in the morning... it was therapeutic, and totally worth it!

Tomorrow: What happens when you're a little too frugal, and why you shouldn't go with the cheapest hotel in town...

Have you had "Chocolate Therapy"? Is it not the best ice cream ever?

How hot was your heat index today? Did you grin and bear it in the heat or move indoors? Did you eat ice cream afterwards?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day Three - Life of the Party

Saturday, June 16th

Wernersville, PA to State College, PA: 238 miles, drive time of 2 hours and 38 minutes.

Potty breaks: 1; First fast food break (upon my grandmother's request); "Gummies": Too many (gotta make a girl behave for a wedding); Tears: buckets; Exercise: 40 minute run around Penn State + the wedding reception.

Someone was not ready to get up this morning. Can't say that I blame her.

Saturday was the day of my cousin's wedding, one of the catalysts for this crazy idea for a road trip. We figured that we couldn't drive north without visiting family, and we couldn't visit family without trying to find a way to make it to a major family function. There were some concerns expressed that maybe it'd be too much to make a kid sit in a car for umpteen million hours and THEN also make her sit still for a wedding ceremony, but this girl continued to impress her Mama and everyone else around.

The drive out to State College was brief, compared to previous legs of our journey so far. We had not planned on an Arby's stop but since it was my grandmother's idea I was polite and played along. I do miss their fries. But I was good and got myself a salad. I decided to treat my girl to some chicken fingers, which came with apple slices and yogurt dip. What I expected to be crappy - the chicken - was halfway decent. What I expected to be good - the yogurt - was this pink, WAY overly-sweetened gelatinous goo that in not way resembled yogurt in taste, smell, or texture. Surprised to be disappointed by a fast food kid's meal? Not really.

We arrived in plenty of time for the ceremony and fortunately, without any traces of our meal on our dresses.

By this point, though, I was starting to feel that nagging butt pain (my tailbone) that I get from sitting too much, which I think I may have mentioned out loud a few too many times because now my daughter was starting to complain, "My butt's sore!" too. But with promises of multiple gummy worms on the horizon, I was able to negotiate with her and keep her still during the nuptials.

For the first time this trip, however, I felt I was pushing my luck trying to keep her still and well-behaved for even another minute, so the second we could split after pictures, we headed to the nearby Inn to check in, change, and then bolt for a run.

Parenting Tip: If you don't have a jogging stroller, here's reason #147 why you should. When you have an over-tired child who refuses to nap, insisting, "I NOT TIRED!!!" just take her for a run...

... and take a moment for yourself to enjoy the scenery:

After a quick shower and getting dolled up once more, I was able to take a fairly well-rested child to the reception and I was able to enjoy the buffet and perhaps a little Knob Creek with significantly less guilt than if I had not had the opportunity to run!

But for good measure, we were sure to hit the dance floor as soon as we could for a little extra calorie burn!

Sadly, the party eventually came to an end, and it was time for bed, much to a certain child's disappointment. This is when the buckets of tears were cried. I mean, you would have thought I'd ripped up her favorite stuffed animal, she wailed so hard. But I was already that mom who kept her kid up past 11:00PM just to enjoy a few more minutes of celebration, so it was time to go!

At the end of the day, though, ALL of the kids had fun, even the grown ones.

Do you like to bust a move on the dance floor?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day Two - Sharin' The Love

Friday, June 15th

Lynchburg, Virginia to Wernersville, Pennsylvania: 323 miles, drive time of 5 hours and 56 minutes.

Potty Breaks: 2; "Gummies" Consumed: 7; Tears: 5 minutes; Exercise: Running around Grammy's yard.

You'll notice my "Gummy" count: These include Dora snacks, gummy worms, or any other small treat incentive I might have to use to lure a toddler into a grimy public restroom to pee and/or poop, or to get her to go before we eat a meal when she cries, "No! I don't WANNA go potty! I wanna eat RIGHT NOW!" I realize food rewards are not the best, but I maintain something small a few times a day is better than going all out with cake or ice cream. Besides, the ice cream is MY reward for my amazing maternal abilities and unending patience :-D

Day Two went just as well as Day One, actually, and the drive was simply gorgeous. Being a so-called grown up, I do typically favor the quicker highways to the back roads - not like when I was a teen with a hyundai and no cruise control. But for this leg of the journey, my gps navigation took me straight up through the Virgina mountains, giving us gorgeous views and taking us by rolling farms and vineyards.

When we finally crossed into West Virginia, it was time to stop to heat up our lunch and have yet another picnic. This stop was especially nice, because it was at a rest area with actual picnic tables and a big open area where we played a brief game of tag. They also had sky diving. Cool.

After spending a few minutes each driving through West VA and Maryland, we entered Pennsylvania and I promptly rolled all the windows all the way down. Pennsylvania has a smell that is just... intoxicating. It may sound weird to describe it this way, but having spent a week or two every summer of my entire childhood at my Grammy's house, this smell is imprinted in my brain and evokes a strong sense of nostalgia the second I cross the state line. I felt like a little kid, with a swelling sense of warmth and childish joy as my senses were filled with the sights and smells that are distinctly Pennsylvanian.

We arrived at my Gram's house and promptly dug into the storage chest underneath the windowsill where the toys that I played with as a child remained, stored rather haphazardly but still completely in tact. I thought that it must be pretty cool to sit there as a great-grandparent and witness generation after generation of children rip through the treasure chest, each kid exhibiting the same excitement and wonder at the old toys that are new to them just because they're different and inherently cooler because they're at Gram's and not at home.

After a delicious dinner of smoked pork (again... hey, I'm not complaining!), sweet potatoes, and yellow beans that I haven't had since the last time I was in PA (I never see them in the grocery stores in Georgia!), it was time to go outside to stop and smell the flowers.

Where the pool I swam in as a kid used to be is now a beautiful garden and while it was sad to learn she'd had her pool filled in, all the kids who once frequented her house for the reprieve from the summer heat are long grown and spread across the country. Little Miss still enjoyed the yard, though, especially leaping to try to touch the branches of the tree that stood in the pool's place.

Then, it was across the street to the ball field that stands adjacent to the old elementary school where my Grammy actually taught, before it was sold to the county to become a municipal building. Now, it stands empty, as the police have moved to a different facility. We are hoping someone else will take the building over and preserve it.

I was going to take my girl down to the playground where I used to play but it was already getting late and as I recall, the landings for the monkey bars and slide are like ten feet off the ground. Not a good idea for a tired kiddo, so on the stop through on our way back to Georgia, we'll give it a shot to see if the equipment has been made more little-kid friendly. For tonight, as we were already in desperate need of a bath, we settled for playing in the dirt.

Do you have any childhood places that you share - or wish to share - with your own kids?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Road Trip, '12 - Day One

Thursday, June 14th
Atlanta, Georgia to Lynchburg, Virginia: 446 miles, drive time of 7 hours and 29 minutes.

Potty Breaks: 2; "Gummies" Consumed: 5;  Tears: 0; Exercise: Double on Wednesday, so, rest.

For a child who's never been in a car for more than two and a half hours, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous about how the Little Miss would take to an entire day - let alone nearly 3 days - on the road. A toddler AND a running mom who are constantly itching to move trapped in a car together for hours running into the double digits? Maybe not the most brilliant of ideas I've ever had in my life.

But, so far, so good!

Growing up, I loved road trips. Taking the fuel burned out the equation, I loved to just pick a direction and drive aimlessly as far as I wanted for the day. These days, I certainly need a plan and I almost always run on a deadline. So I was looking forward to this trip if for no other reason, than to at least put on the chick rock and feel like I could drive toward the sun without anything pulling me back to the real world. Granted, we have also listened to "Real in Rio" about 27 times so far, but the drive itself has almost been liberating. And my little girl, she's been loving every minute of it.

The drive started *almost* on time, save for a few last-minute details like stocking the cooler, (although I forgot the PB&J, doh!) going to the bank, and getting the first, all-important Starbucks jolt. We cruised up through South Carolina, stopping at about three hours for potty break #1 and a "car picnic" AKA "teaching a toddler to eat a cup of yogurt in the back seat." Lunch was rounded out with some fruit and milk, then we plodded on through North Carolina, where we picked up US29 North for a good combination of highway and country driving. For picnic #2, we found a gas station with trees and actual picnic tables, where we ate carrots, cucumbers and hummus and took pictures of the clouds. The weather was perfect; I could even blow my fans without running the A/C, the air was so pleasant.

Our total estimated drive time did wind up being extended by about 20 minutes as I overshot our first destination, but we still managed to arrive for dinner, which my friend had been so kind as to prepare for us: pork chops and broccoli for all, cous cous for the grown-ups and mac n cheese for the kids. Aside from packing our mostly-healthy cooler, I knew getting decent meals at each stop for this week's trip would be tricky. Fortunately, I have great friends who help me not have to worry about such things. And if it weren't for a certain online group of amazing ladies and the friendships we have developed, I would not have had someone I felt comfortable enough asking to stay over with, let alone someone gracious enough to open her home to us. So here's a Shout Out to my Mamas!

There's nothing else too exciting to post about Day One except that it went surprisingly smoothly, and I am excited to see how well we both hold up for the rest of the journey. Exercise is not too great of a concern at this point, as I feel like I am working hard enough just packing and unpacking the car and the toddler! And honestly, since we have not stopped - and will not - for fast food, I don't feel as bloated and gross as I remember feeling on previous trips. My goal is to get a run in on Saturday, however, at the latest.