A Trip to the Apple Orchard

Oliver likes to pick things. The specific sippy cup his juice will go in. What vegetable he’ll eat feed to the dog during dinner time. The shirt he’s going to get dirty before we leave the house. Even his nose from time to time. And much to my husband’s dismay, Oliver loves to pick the not-quite-ripe tomatoes and peppers off the plants he spent all summer nurturing from little seedlings.

We can’t seem to shout “Nooooooo” fast enough. One second the little red tomato is sucking up water, blowing in the breeze, the next it’s flying over the balcony as a smug 2-year-old laughs from above.

So what to do with an overly zealous picker of fruits and veggies? Take him to the one place where he is allowed to pick all the apples he can carry, which turns out to be quite a lot when it’s daddy carrying them in a half-bushel sized bag.

When we proposed the idea to Oliver, he instantly caught on to what we would be doing and ran around the house shouting “pick apples” over and over. This is where we learned our first lesson. Don’t propose any idea to a toddler until you are about to do it. Or better yet until you are doing it. There was a week lag-time between when we suggested going and actually went, which meant a week of listening to Oliver say “pick apples” in the whiniest toddler voice he could muster.

Yea, I guess we deserved that.

The day of the apple picking trip was all blue skies and sunshine. We headed out early in the morning to beat the crowds and had almost the whole orchard to ourselves—a good thing when your toddler’s preferred method of picking fruit also involves chucking it through the air the second it leaves the tree.

Other interesting things I learned about picking apples with a toddler:

1) The apples out of his reach are inevitably the ones he will want to pick the most (thank goodness for a tall husband!)

2) Toddlers do not discriminate between large, perfectly shaped apples and tiny, spotted, brown ones.

3) Instead of placing the apples in the designated bag, it is much more fun to toss them on the ground and watch mommy and daddy retrieve them.

4) Eating apples is just as fun as picking them.

5) But not as fun as eating the homemade donuts the orchard also sells.

6) And any trip to an orchard can be improved by a subsequent trip to the park.

We left the orchard with enough apples to make every apple recipe ever found on Pinterest, assuming the apples would stay fresh through December. (And I possess a Martha Stewart level of craftiness). Thankfully, Oliver’s unique picking style is also matched by his unique eating style. He takes two bites from an apple, hands it back to mommy and demands a “new one.”

Maybe those apples won’t be lasting so long after all.

Are there any fall activities you like to do with your kids? Looking for a great mom-approved apple recipe. We tried and loved these cinnamon apple muffins by Rachel from Add a Pinch.

Marathon Mom

Since becoming a mom in July, 2012, I’ve achieved personal records in the 5k and half marathon. In April, this sleep-deprived, busy mom ran the Toledo Marathon 35 minutes and 45 seconds faster than a 19 year-old me with no responsibilities.

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Photo Credit: Danielle McKay, my awesome best friend who waited for me at the finish line!

You think that is a coincidence?

Running 26.2 miles may be hard. But being a mom is harder, and it’s given me a competitive edge not matched by the best training program out there. You see, a standard training program can only tell you so much—when much to run, what to eat, how much to rest.

But that’s where it ends.

Anyone who has run a marathon knows that making it through training, and then the race itself, is as much mental as it is physical. This mental toughness isn’t something you can learn from a book though. It comes from lived experiences. From trying times when you have to dig deep, quiet your fears, and keep moving on.

For me, it comes from being a mom.

From learning the importance of trusting my gut to finding the perfect time to run (it is always after the baby poops but before your partner has detected the smell), read on to find out about all the things I’ve learned about running, and myself, from motherhood. Then leave a comment to let me know how parenthood has impacted your running!

1. Perfect runs aren’t born from perfect conditions

In the same way you don’t have to be a perfect parent to raise a happy, well-adjusted child, you don’t have to have perfect conditions to get in a great run. So it’s raining and cold. Or you’re tired and cranky. Or your favorite pair of shorts are in the dirty laundry (this one seriously happens to me all the time). It’s okay. Get out there and put one foot in front of the other. The way I see it is you either get a great run or a lesson in perseverance. Win-win.

2. Do it now. Later won’t come

My free time is precious, and with a toddler, there is very little to be had. If I don’t use my “me time” wisely, I’ll quickly end up with back log of dreams I wanted to pursue but never did. So when I commit to something like running a marathon, I commit to do it now. I set aside the time, and whether I’m feeling like it or not, I lace up my sneakers and hit the road. Because in Mommyland, it’s now or never.

3. Educate yourself, but always follow your gut

There is a lot of information out there about to properly raise a child. It’s up to you to pick and choose what works best based on your unique situation. Same holds true for running. The training plan that helped your friend reach a PR might have you sidelined with an injury before you make it to the starting line. Or the newest and best pre-race meal might send you to the port-o-potties instead of into the corrals. You know your body. Listen to it.

4. Sometimes the best thing about a finishing a hard run is that it’s over with—that’s okay

Just like the best thing about a tough parenting day is crawling into bed with a full Netflix queue, the best thing about a really hard run can be that it’s over with. Pat yourself on the back for surviving and don’t look back.

5. A few bad runs don’t make for a bad race.

A common inner monologue I had the first few months of my son’s life went something like this. “Oh no, this kid will not stop crying. He’s been crying all day. He’s going to keep crying all week. I think he might cry forever. This will never end. This is my life from now on. I can’t do this.” I’ve had the exact same thoughts while training for a marathon. A couple bad runs with tired, sore legs and I’m convinced I’ll never make it to the starting line, let alone finish the race. Surprise, I did. And you likely will too. Everyone has bad training runs. Plan on them. Work them into your training routine the same you would any other workout. View them as your mental toughness training, because that is just as important to build up as physical strength.

6. Don’t use Google to diagnose running injuries—ever. An achy knee is sometimes just an achy knee

I once convinced myself that Oliver had leukemia. Turns out it was something called Roseola. Had I waited for the doctor appointment instead of endlessly searching Google all weekend I would have saved myself a lot of grief. The internet can be great for gathering information, but it can also be great for freaking yourself out. If you’re really concerned, seek the advice of a medical professional.

7. Enjoying the process is just as important as the finish line

I don’t mean you have to love every single run. I don’t enjoy every day of being a parent. But if you can’t find joy in the journey, you are going to be miserable 99% of the time. Focus on what makes you happy about running—socializing with friends, getting outside, the strain of your muscles as you speed down the road. Because those are the things that are going to keep you going when the finish line is out of sight.

8. Flexibility is as important and preparation

In parenthood and in running, you can’t plan for every potential setback. Sometimes, unexpected things happen and your ability to adapt will be what sees your through. Instead of focusing on every problem that might arise, focus on developing a general problem solving strategy.

9. Don’t take yourself so seriously; it’s just running

Many parents have lots of high expectations for certain events—think 1st Birthday, Christmas, vacation to Disneyland. And when the inevitable hiccup happens, they loose perspective and freak out. The same thing happens in running. People fall short of goal times. Injuries spring up. It’s understandable (and okay) to be disappointed when you put so much effort into something. But after the disappointment fades, remind yourself what’s really important. Why did you start running to begin with? Chances are it’s not about the finishing time at all. If you can remember this, it will be much easier to laugh at yourself when the inevitable shit hits the fan….or should I say wall.

10. If you can raise another human on little to no sleep, you can also go for a run—doesn’t mean it will be fun

There will always be an excuse not to run. You get decide if that excuse is good enough to keep you inside. Sometimes they are, and that’s okay. But when I think about all excuses I had to step over on my way to making it through my son’s first year of life, I realize I am stronger than many of my perceived obstacles.

11. It will never feel like the right time to sign up for a marathon. Don’t let that stop you.

There is a common expression that says it will never feel like the perfect time to have a kid. That is so true. Ask any mother to be and she can probably give you at least one reason why it might have been advantageous to wait. Most of this boils down to fear of the unknown, of inadequacy, and of failure. It’s the same for running a marathon. At some point you just have to decide that your goal is important enough that you are willing to face the obstacles you are bound to encounter along the way.

12. The best time to go for your run is right after the baby poops, but before your spouse has detected the smell

You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. It’s scientifically proven that your running speed is positively correlated with the amount of poop your husband has to wipe off of the baby’s butt.

13. Whether or not stale graham crackers constitute proper pre-run fueling depends on what kind of day you’ve had

The baby is sick and has been up all night. The toddler just spilled the entire box of Cheerios and is licking them off the floor like the dog. Oh, and where did the dog go? He’s pooping on the carpet next to the crib. This is the day you grab the stale, stuffed in the cracks of the couch graham crackers and call it a win because you are managing to make it out the door.

14. Always remind yourself of the example you are setting

You are the first and best teacher for your child. If you’re having trouble finding motivation, think of the example you set by establishing a goal and sticking to it. Is it too early to sign him up?

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What would you add to the list?

13.1 Miles: Sometimes It’s Not About the Finish Line

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Initially, when I set out to run the Toledo 1/2 Marathon, my goal was to finish. Whether that meant running, walking, or crawling the 13.1 miles it didn’t matter. After a couple months of training injury free, I started to feel really strong. So strong in fact that I decided finishing wasn’t enough; I wanted to set a new PR (personal record).

A couple weeks out from the race, my injury free body succumbed to a few minor aches and pains that derailed my training. I had to decrease my mileage and speed and subsequently I began contemplating altering my goal back to “finish.” As I stood in the starting coral on race day I started to formulate the beginning of this blog. It was going to go something like this:

“Sometimes, finishing is enough of a win, whether you come in first or last place. And then there are the times when having the ability to start is all that matters.”

My confidence was shaken and I really didn’t think I would be able to keep a 9:16 pace, the speed I would need to beat my old time. I was prepared to accept “good enough.” There would be other races I told myself.

My dad, who would be my running buddy for the day, shuffled through the crowd and situated us near the two hour half-marathon pacer (a 9:10 pace). Just before the gun went off I whispered over to him, “I’m not so sure about keeping up.” Even though we planned on running together, I didn’t want to hold him back.

“Just give it a couple miles,” he said reassuringly.

Just a couple miles I repeated to myself. You can run that fast for at least a couple miles. You are strong and… BANG. The gun went off pulling me back into the moment. The crowd of runners started shuffling forward, a buzzing swarm of nerves and excitement crossing the start line.

Just a couple miles.

At just a couple miles in I was feeling good. My body felt light, and with each stride my foot sprung off the pavement, propelling me forward with minimal effort. The throng of runners had thinned just enough that I could let my mind wander without worrying about colliding with someone. Maybe I can do this, I began to think, a new blog opening beginning to formulate:

“There are moments throughout life when we realize we can surpass our own expectations. Moments when we realize our limits are mere products of our fears and insecurities.”

As we crossed the six mile mark my dad held up his hand for a celebratory high five. A strong finish was looking more and more promising.  I started to visualize myself crossing the finish line with a sub two-hour time, my arms shooting excitedly into the air, a look of both pride and relief splayed across my flushed face. I thought about all the reasons I was running, all of the things it meant to me beyond my physical capability of putting one foot in front of the other.

It meant I am a strong, determined woman. I can set a goal and see it through. My dreams are limitless. It meant I am not defined solely by my role as mother and wife.

Around mile 10 I was still on pace, but the fatigue was starting to set in. The steady rain that had fallen all morning soaked through my socks, and a large blister had formed on my heel. Thoughts of slowing down, of possibly not meeting my goal again crept up. As powerful as visualizing success can be, so too can visualizing failure. And visualize it I did. Caught in a mental game of tug-o-war, my confidence wavered with every exhalation.

I passed the mile 11 marker; I CAN’T do this. I’m a failure.

I passed the mile 12 marker; I CAN do this.  I’m a success.

I passed the 13 mile marker. I CAN’T. I CAN. I CAN’T. I CAN. THUD. My racing mind hit the proverbial wall, coming to a jolting realization. I am wasting so much of my energy and focus debating CAN or CAN’T that I’m overlooking the things I AM doing, right now in this very moment. Things that are true whether I cross the finish line or not.

I am running. I am running strong. I am running determined. I am seeing a goal to its completion and in the process proving my dreams are limitless. I am not solely a mom nor solely a wife; I am a runner.

Does not finishing this race in an arbitrarily selected time take away from any of that? I don’t think so. So why am I putting so much significance into that one element? Why am I letting it define what constitutes a success? Why don’t I try creating a new measure of success?

Like spending two hours running, side-by-side with my dad, who just a couple years ago thought running 13.1 miles was a crazy person’s undertaking. Or sharing in the pre-race jitters and excitement with a crowd of strangers who were all united by a singular love of running.  Then there’s partaking in post-race celebrations with my entire family, enjoying an amazing brunch cooked by my mother-in-law.

Why not let those moments define the day?

When I crossed the finish line, the clock read 1:59:45. I was simultaneously exhausted and elated. I had done it. I met my time goal. It meant a lot to know I could do it, but what I came to realize over those 13.1 miles was that it didn’t mean everything.

It’s important to set goals in life, but it’s equally important to realize that goals are not always the end-game. There is the journey you must take on the way to meet them. The lessons you learn when you fall short. The pride you feel when you reach them. And the peace afforded to you when you realize that you are defined by so much more.

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