Week Five and the Dangerous Squireel

Day – 1 Today is Monday and I did not plan to run but managed to get in a hike with my dog. We went in the woods for about 45 minutes. We both enjoy these nature walks.

Day – 2 This is the first day that I have kept track of my time and pace for a couple of weeks. I was stunned that I had cut almost a minute off my time per mile. The fastest that I have run so far was just over a 13.2 minute mile. Today I ran 12.2 minute miles. I am running much more of the time and I pushed myself harder than I have recently. I am running 3 to 4 times per walk at least in the beginning of the run. By the end, I am walking more, but I am still going the same route and doing 2.25 miles. I also walked about 1.5 miles with the two younger boys in the afternoon while the oldest swam for an hour. Then we went to the park.

Day – 3 I was supposed to volunteer at school today but had a sick child at home. He was sick in the night and had a slight fever, but I believe it was a reaction to having two teeth pulled yesterday afternoon. My middle son has inherited my overcrowded mouth and will possibly have more baby teeth pulled prior to some orthodontic work in the future.

Day – 4 I started my run out by running 5 blocks! That seemed like a huge accomplishment. Our neighborhood is called Hillandale so there are quite a few uphill portions that I am not running yet . I ran most of the flat and downhill parts and walked when I was going uphill. There is a big hill toward the end that I ran part of. One day I will be able to run the entire way. I am not sure that I will manage it at the end of six weeks, but we shall see.

I always seem to do a hike with the dog on the same days that I run and today was no exception. I feel sorry for his sad face when he sees me go out without him. He sees the sneakers and knows that I am off to stretch my legs. Today was probably the scariest and funniest hike I will ever take.

Often when I hike in the woods, I worry about coming into contact with the wildlife. We have seen deer, fox, copperhead snakes and various other critters down there. Today, a squirrel jumped from a tree onto my back, down to my leg and took off running in one direction while I took off in the other. Wen I could breath normally again, I realized it really was funny, but I hope it never happens again.

Day – 5 and 6 I am combining these two days because I did no exercise to speak of. I must admit, I have not been stretching as regularly as I did initially and my goal is to return to that habit.

Day – 7 I set my alarm for 6:30 am so that I could get my run in before taking my son and his friend to the pool and then going to church. At this point I am running most of the flat/downhill portions and even short distances uphill. I started out by running four blocks, walking half a block and then running four more before walking just over a block uphill. I encountered two deer on my run, but luckily no squirrels! It was a beautiful fall am but I felt a little of the burning throat again that I did a couple of weeks ago. When I got home I felt like I just couldn’t clear my throat. It eventually went away. I did a little stretching and used the foam roller, but probably not enough. I plan to stretch more in week six and do some biking.


First Day of School


Today was the first day of school. It is a day that I have been anticipating and dreading in equal measure for the last three months. My youngest son started full time school today. He joins his brothers in a Spanish Immersion program that will continue through 5th grade. For the next two years, there will be one school drop off and pick up. This will greatly simplify our lives in many ways.

Family and friends have been asking half tongue in cheek half seriously what I am going to do with my time now that all my boys are in school. Since September 2003, I have been a full time stay at home mom except for the ten months that I finished graduate school and dipped my toe in the water as a working mother. That wasn’t ideal for our family so  I inevitably stayed home. Well actually we did anything but stay home.

There have been playgroups, preschool programs, travels, museum and zoo visits, park outings and many many errands with children in tow. In so many ways, that was a simpler time. The children were harder to care for because they needed help with so many things, but our days we our own. Five years ago, when the oldest started school those care-free days came to an end. We have to adhere to a school schedule and calendar now and it isn’t always convenient. There is no more traveling to NYC and further whenever we want. There are no more mid week trips to the zoo or Smithsonian museums with my boys. I can still do those things, but it won’t be the same. My free time is scheduled between 8:40 drop off and 3:05 pick up.

I plan to spend a lot of time in my boys’ classrooms. My middle son’s teacher already has a weekly job for me. I will do all of those errands without kids and hope to occasionally have lunch with my husband. I will do the school drop off and pick up most days since our elementary school is outside our neighborhood. I will take care of sick kids, do laundry and cook meals. Today I started a new fitness program which I will write more about later. Life is changing as it does, and while I am sad that babyhood is over for us, I am looking forward to the next chapter. I also wish my children every happiness and success as they move forward  in their lives.


Spring Blessings


Spring is my favorite season. I am so happy when the days are get longer and warmer but the nights are still cool. I love seeing the daffodils, tulips, forsythia, azaleas, rhododendron, and all the other spring flowers blooming and slowing adding color to the grey and dreary days of late winter. The green grass and trees seem so fresh and even though my head aches from all the pollen, I feel recharged and energized, much like waking up after a good night’s sleep.


The past few weeks, our entire family has been spending more time outside. We walk or scooter to the morning bus stop, the kids ride their bikes or play outside after school and the dog is getting walked more each week then he did the entire winter. We went camping two weekends ago overnight and last weekend we spent an hour or so helping clean up around the Sligo Creek trail. I smiled when I heard my four year old say, “Hairy vine, no friend of mine,” as he pointed to a particularly thick strand of poison ivy running up a tree. He had heard that phrase a couple weeks before at his good friend’s birthday party at the Audubon Nature Center in Chevy Chase.

Three weeks ago, I enjoyed for the first time this year one of my greatest spring pleasures. I rode my bike outside. I feel the sun on my face and the breeze as I went up and down hills. I only biked for about an hour that day and barely made ten miles, but it was great. I biked to my kids’ school and surprised them by pulling them out of their classes to go to the school book fair. The following week, I biked to Whole Foods to pick up a few groceries and then back to my starting point. Today, I had planned to stay home and catch up on cleaning, but when my neighborhood carpool fell through, I had to go out anyway so the bonus was another bike ride.

Today, I biked farther than I have previously and I can feel my body getting stronger and faster. I am getting more familiar with the bumps and hills on the trail and my muscle memory is kicking in. I am not nearly as fast or as nimble on my bike as I was when I used it to commute regularly in Philadelphia or when I worked part-time as a bike courier, but I love using my legs to pump up and down and actually take me somewhere instead of just spinning on the trainer. The trainer serves its purpose and has prepared me for these for now short jaunts outside. I am looking forward to longer rides and rides with my family and friends.

There were many people on the trail today, running, walking, biking, jogging and just enjoying the beautiful day. It is on days like this, that I feel lucky and blessed to be able to use my body and to be outside and enjoy the sun and soak up much needed vitamin D. Today was my day off from my squat challenge but I felt good stretching the muscles that I have been working so hard lately. If you are on Facebook, check out https://www.facebook.com/Samantha.Gibson.Fitness?fref=ts, for her 30 day squat challenge and general health and fitness tips. I am working on changing my life one habit at a time and working toward a stronger healthier body. After my bike ride, I even came home to take the dog on a short hike in the woods.

This outdoor exercise not only works my body, but it also feeds my soul and makes me a better wife and mother because I am happier and healthier.IMG_20130424_102944_950

Happy Place

It was difficult getting out of bed this morning. The whole family is still adjusting to the time change and losing an hour of sleep on Saturday night. We all went to bed early last night, but it was hard to wake up when it was still dark. We moved slowly, but everyone got off to school and work on time. After everyone left, it was time to do some exercise and catch up on my chores.

I started out riding my bike for about 30 minutes. I rode almost twelve miles on the trainer and I am closer to achieving my goal of doubling last years mileage. At the end of the ride, I got a phone call from a friend who was struggling with some sad news that her father is very ill. Since she is far away, it was really upsetting to me that she was so sad and there is really nothing I could do for her other than listen. Our conversation was brief, because my friend had to go and make some other phone calls.

2013-03-11_10-59-30_973My nine year old lab mix hadn’t ventured outside yet, so I decided to take him for a walk. We headed straight for our favorite place “the woods”. We are so lucky that we live within walking distance of the Northwest Branch trail and we can escape into Nature within ten minutes. As soon as we were outside, I noticed the gorgeous day. The temperature is warm and climbing and even though it is slightly overcast, hints of the sunshine were peeking out from the clouds. Birds were singing and Spring flowers are beginning to pop up all over the neighborhood.

The best part of the walk was when we got to the woods. I let Jack off his leash and he happily stayed near the trail and me and sniffed around enjoying the day and doing his business. We hiked down toward the water and began to walk around. The first sight of the water always takes me someplace else. Whatever thoughts are on my mind seem to float along the current. I can only focus on the still naked trees, the running water and the rocks and signs of life all along the path.

Today I was noticing animal tracks, new buds on trees and plants and just thinking about my friend. Sometimes when I am in the woods, I do think it could be dangerous if we ran into the wrong person or if either my dog or myself got hurt. I carry my cell phone and watch out for people and animals and keep Jack close by even when he is off leash to minimize any danger. Even when I lose myself in nature, I still pay close attention to my surroundings. When we had been walking about 20 minutes, I ran into a man who was whistling and calling for his dog. His 12 year old hound, Trixie had run off and he had been searching for her for over an hour. I told him that I hadn’t seen her but that I would look for her. It was just at that moment that I saw a large wingspan of a bird I didn’t immediately recognize. I believe that it was a blue heron and I caught a glimpse just as it was settling itself on a rock to enjoy the day. I watched the beautiful bird for a few minutes, but it was really difficult to see because it was so still and blended into the surroundings. I did get couple of photos with my cell phone that I am posting below.


On our way out of the woods, Jack and I saw the man searching for his dog again. He hadn’t found her and I said that I would keep looking and alert my neighbors that there was a missing dog. When I got home, I sent an email to the neighborhood list serve. Luckily I have since heard from the man and Trixie was found several miles from where she had been seen. Apparently while she was enjoying the warm Spring day she had found her happy place too and lost track of time.

Snow watch

IMG_1998We are on “snowquester” watch. I am not joking, that is the name the weather people have made up for the latest snow event that is due to hit our area later today and tomorrow. We haven’t had a good snowfall amount since “snowmageddon” in 2011. My kids are keeping their fingers crossed and are planning to wear pj’s inside out so they can have a day off from school tomorrow. If they don’t have school, they will somehow know it ahead of time and will bounce out of bed before the sun rises to make the most of a free day to watch tv, play Legos, and get in some outdoor time.

I have my own plans for a day off from carpooling and errand running, not to mention working at the preschool consignment sale. I dream of catching up on laundry, housework, cooking, planning for our Cub Scout Blue and Gold banquet and squeezing in some reading. My kids will not be happy to learn they are included in some of my plans, but a day off from school should take the sting out of a few chores. Perhaps I should wear my pj’s inside out too. It will be a perfect day if the power stays on.

When I was a child, I don’t remember ever knowing ahead of time that a snowstorm was coming. I definitely don’t remember my mom being as excited as we kids were for a day off from school. I suspect that was because there were so many of us at home. I do remember the magical sight of big fat flakes falling from the sky and watching it from my classroom windows. The cheers that erupted when we learned we would have an early release day were almost as joyful as Christmas. There was at least one occasion when the buses had barely released the students in the morning, when they loaded them back up to return them to the surrounding farms. For those of us who were walkers, we often broke into spontaneous snowball fights and games of king of the mountain. It was a beautiful time. At some point, I began to help my brothers with their snow shoveling business and then snowfalls were not quite as magical.

The best blizzard ever in my memory was sometime in the 1970’s when feet of snow fell and drifted shut the streets near our house. The piles were so high we could walk right up the mountains to the roof of the apartment buildings across the street. By the time, the plows finally cleared our street and we kids went back to school, my mother was probably ready to erupt into a few cheers of her own.

A few years ago, my husband called me from work to say that our area was expecting a big storm and he was thinking of purchasing a snow blower. In reality, he had placed it on hold at Sears, but the call was to prepare me. I told him he was crazy, that we rarely got measurable snow here and that it was gone almost as quickly as it came. He argued that we had three small boys at home, and I would not be able to spend much time helping him shovel for us and our elderly neighbors. When we got dumped on that time and several more times that winter, I was forced to utter those three little words that always get stuck in my throat, “your were right”. It took a huge burden off us and several neighbors and we have come to rely on the snow blower when we get more than an inch or two. Last night, Matt moved the snow blower from the shed to the front of the house and along with our full fridge, we are ready for “snowquester”, but this may jinx the whole thing. We are too prepared and we want it too much.