Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Boston Marathon 2014 - Wicked Awesome


I will be using the words amazing, awesome, wicked, crazy, and inspiring in this post a lot.  There are just not a lot of words that can accurately describe this day.

I wasn't sure if I was going to take my children to see the 118th Boston Marathon.  I had never taken them before.  I had actually not watched the marathon since 1998.  Crazy.

Usually we use Patriots Day as an extra day to get chores done and work around the house.  A badly needed bonus day in the middle of the crazy spring season.

But this year was a little different.  My children and I knew four people running the marathon this year. And  it was the first marathon following last years tragic and terrifying bombing and subsequent stand-off with the bombers.  It was definitely going to be a special marathon.

But I still I didn't know if I wanted to go.  The hassle of it all.  The day lost after a holiday weekend away from home. And that little nagging fear of putting my children in a not 100% safe situation. Crazy because logically I knew that there would probably be no place safer than the marathon route that Monday, but events like last year tend to rattle you in ways that don't really make sense.

But then last Thursday my youngest asked me about going and when I told her I wasn't sure she replied that she wasn't sure if she wanted to go because she was a little scared.

"What if there are bombs again?"

And then I knew.  Of course.  Of course we were going.  I wasn't raising my children to live in fear. I wasn't raising my children to be bullied by cowards.

I spent hours over Easter weekend trying to figure out just the right place to set up camp with my children for the marathon.  Hubby was working so it would just be the four of us.  I knew I didn't want to go all the way into Boston.  Just the logistics of getting into the city and then getting out again was a overwhelming.  I also knew I wanted to use the commuter rail to get us there and back because I would be venturing into unfamiliar territory and knew there would be lots of road closures.

After spending waaaayyyy too  many hours thinking about (because that is what I do) I decided that we would go to Wellesley, the 1/2 way point of the marathon and the home of the Wellesley college scream tunnel.  I knew that the train would drop us off right at the center of town (I wouldn't want my little divas to have to walk too far).  I knew that there would be places to get food and drink (very important when you have a 14, 12, and 7 year old).  And I knew that the Wellesley students would ensure that it wouldn't get too boring (another important thing to think about because when you have children my age because everything has the potential to be boring).

Once I had made the all important location decision I then became obsessed with the dilemma of how  I would possibly be able to fit everything that we would need for a day out in ONE TINY BAG! The BAA had asked everyone to refrain from carrying backpacks and large bags on the marathon route.  Understandable, but worthy of a panic attack from the mom who carries everything with her even when leaving the house for just a few hours.  In the end I decided not to really plan ahead and in our mad rush that morning just threw my wallet, sunblock, sunglasses, and lip balm in my crossbody.  And it turned out that those few things along with a small stadium blanket were all we needed.

Huh!  What do you know...

It was an awesome day.

A wicked awesome day.

We arrived in Wellsely as all the police officers were finishing up their security pieces.  The town was still quiet.  It was a little eerie to see the huge police presence, but at the same time reassuring.

We stopped to warm up (it was still pretty cold at 9:00 in the morning) and grab a bite to eat at a local coffee shop.

I swear my children were actually happier than this picture would suggest.  They just weren't feeling picture taking yet.  Eh it happens.

By the time we finished our breakfast people were starting to set up camps along the street.  We strolled through the town.  As we walked around we saw many National Guard men and women walking their way to the halfway point of the marathon.  They traditionally walk the root in their fatigues and boots hours before the race starts. We all started to get a little excited watching the soldiers walk by.  

We also of course found a lacrosse store.  Because my children have a sixth sense for these things.

My children love all sporting goods stores

We made a sign to hang in the local Dunkin Donuts.

And then we wandered down to Wellesley College.  The women there take sign requests from the family and friends of runners, make the signs, and then hang them along the police barriers in their scream tunnel.  Wellsley had over 800 requests this year. It was fun and inspiring to read all the messages for the runners.  

My children decided they wanted to hang out with the Wellesley ladies for awhile to see how many kisses they would get (the students not my children).  In the scream tunnel not only do the Wellesley students scream and cheer their hearts out (some runners say they can hear the screams from miles away), but they also solicit kisses from the runners with funny signs. It is one of the many awesome traditions of the Boston Marathon.

So we waited.  And we waited.  And waited.  And my children must have asked a million times how much longer.  And it seemed like forever, but really wasn't long at all before the we heard the sirens from the lead cars signalling the arrival of the wheelchair racers.

There are really no words to describe how inspiring the wheelchair racers are.

My children were awestruck.

The elite woman were next.  They first group had passed us by almost before we knew they were there.  They were so fast.  I was not surprised at all when SuperHubby texted me later to let me know that the women's winner had set a course record.  The elite men quickly followed and again we were overwhelmed by their speed and strength at the half way point of the race.

And then finally the rest of the runners.  Literally thousands and thousands of runners passed us by.  Some still running at a fast pace, some running at a slow jog,  and some walking.  We saw young runners, old runners, pregnant women running, mobility impaired runners, runners who were running their first marathon and runners who were running their 17th Boston Marathon.  We saw runners who were running for causes and runners who were running for special people.  We were looking for the four people we knew and did not see any of them even with the special app warning us when they were approaching. Crazy, but true.   It was dizzying looking for people in the mass of runners.

The runners were all so excited to see us.  Many were video taping the crowd cheering and yelling encouragement. And amazingly enough hundreds made sure to thank us, the crowd, for being there for them as they passed by.  I hadn't expected that.  I hadn't expected to be so appreciated by people I didn't know.

TeenStar got kissed several times as runners mistakingly thought she was one of the Wellesley students that she was standing next to.  The shock on her face the first time it happened was probably one of the funniest things I have ever seen.  By the time we left the marathon her hand was black from high fiving so many runners, her throat was hoarse from yelling so much encouragement, her back was sore from leaning over the barrier to look at the runners coming down the street, and her face was pink from the lovely April sunshine. I was so proud of her.

Princess managed to get her hand out there for a lot for high fives too.  It took her a little more effort to stick her arm out far enough to make contact with the runners, but she did it without complaining.  That is major for her.  She got a little tired and hot around the 3.5 hour mark, but overall was great.

Golden Boy is 12.

As a "parenting expert" I know that 12 means that no enthusiasm or excitement will be shown about anything unless it directly benefits the 12 year old.  Thankfully for most people this is a fleeting stage.

So Golden Boy alternated between half heartedly sticking his hand out for high fives and sitting on the blanket with his ipod.  Luckily he is not really a complainer so I didn't let his lack of enthusiasm bother me too much.

We stayed in our spots cheering and high fiving for hours.  Eventually the groups of runners became smaller and the gaps between the groups became larger.  We realized that we were hungry, tired, and that it was almost time to catch our train.

I loved this day so much.

I learned many things.

The human body is crazy amazing and marathoners come in all shapes and sizes.

As amazing as the human body is the human spirit is even more incredible.

Determination and grit in action is an inspiring thing to witness.

The majority of people in this world are good

I have never shared so many smiles, so much laughter, and so much excitement with so many strangers in my life.


And wicked awesome.

After a wicked awesome day you are wicked tired.
And just in case you were wondering as epic as Monday was I was not in any way inspired to run my own marathon. In fact I can't really think of anything that would inspire me to run a marathon.  Just so we are clear.

Monday, March 31, 2014

It is Hard Being the Baby

There are 6.5 years between my oldest and youngest and 4.5 years between my middle and my youngest.  All those years makes my youngest truly the baby of the family.  And while there are perks to being the youngest...

There are also a lot of things that make being The Baby challenging.


You are almost never the first one to do anything.  No matter what you do your older siblings have probably been there and done that.  And sucked your parents dry of all excitement, enthusiasm, and picture taking abilities.  

You are constantly getting gypped.  Things that your siblings take for granted are out of reach for you. You know things like getting anything brand new and not a hand me down.  Or maybe getting a real live FUN-CATER-TO-YOUR-EVERY-WHIM babysitter who is not an older sibling.  And maybe even having your needs met immediately or at least not weeks later.

"Why didn't you tell me you had a huge hole in your sneaker?"  
"I've been telling you for weeks."  
"Hmmmm.  I am sure your sister must have an old pair of sneakers in the garage..."  

You are wise beyond your years.  Which can be nice, but can also make you the slightly inappropriate friend for your friends who don't have older siblings.   Your best bet in this situation is to stick with other "Babies" because it doesn't matter how much your parents insist that conversations remain age appropriate when you are around you will still absorb all that teenager-ness almost as if by osmosis.  So while your friends without older siblings are busy playing with American Girl dolls and Barbies you are busy trying to take the perfect selfie and working on your twerking skills.  You know for the 2nd grade club scene.

Over half your life is spent in the backseat of a mini-van.  Because your older siblings always have places to go.  You know all those pictures that show your older siblings on fabulous weekend day trips to the zoo, the children's museum, or the beach.  Sorry that is not going to happen for you Baby, there are now things that have to be done on the weekends.  There are football games to go to, softball games to be at,  and book reports that are due on Monday.  There definitely isn't any time for fun Baby activities.

Even though you don't necessarily feel like life is treating you fairly your siblings will always consider you to be mom's favorite. Just because you are The Baby.  Your siblings have spent half their lives hearing things like:

"Don't be so rough.  She is just a baby."  
"Don't aggravate your sister.  You know better, she is just a baby."  
"Please go play with your sister." 
And even the dreaded... 
"You can go with your friends The Baby just needs to come with you."  

They have also seen The Baby get endless babying because mom knows this is her last one.  This is her baby. And because your siblings think that you have grabbed that coveted "favorite" spot they will spend a lifetime making you pay for it whenever your biggest protector (your mother) is not looking.

So yeah being The Baby is hard.  And sometimes a little unfair.  And some days the only thing that keeps my baby going is the knowledge that in just 6 more years she will be, for all intents and purposes, the only child.  The only child living at home who intends to make her parents pay for every youngest child injustice she has endured over the years in dinners out, shopping excursions, and plenty of opportunities to be Daddy's date at baseball, football, and hockey games.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Last Thursday was report card day.

We like report card day at our house.  

It is the day that our hard workers get to see the benefits of that hard work.

They would probably like the hard work to be connected to cold hard cash, but instead they have to be content with high fives, "nice jobs", "I'm proud of you", and a personal feeling of satisfaction.

So even though they would like the cash-ola the other stuff seems to be enough for my crew.  Or they have just given up trying to get any more from us.

So even though Thursday was report card day I definitely didn't anticipate any drama.

You know what they say about assuming...

As I was pulling up to the middle school I started getting texts.

Texts from TeenStar who was staying after school for softball practice.

She was livid.

She was mad because the music teacher gave her a C for effort.  In middle school the electives like art, gym, music, etc are graded on a pass/fail basis and then the child is given a "grade" for effort.  The music teacher dared to give my Type A TeenStar a C.  And he was about to feel the wrath.

She texted me that she was on her way to his classroom.

About 10 minutes later she texted me that the music teacher wouldn't budge in his grade because he felt that she didn't put enough effort into a project.  

She was still mad and of course had her own opinions on said project.

But she let it go.  Mostly because she never has to have middle school music again and my guess is that she knew she didn't give it her best effort and her initial anger had to do to the fact that a teacher had called her out on it.

I, of course, could have followed up with the teacher and made my case for TeenStar, but I figured she had probably done a good job on her own.   I also felt that perhaps she was learning a valuable lesson. She was learning that everything you do or don't do can have repercussions and sometimes you need more than just your reputation to glide through (no matter how hard you have worked for that reputation).  She was learning if you want that "A" for effort you need to put forth the effort all the time not just when you feel like it.

She was learning about accountability.

As I was reading the first of TeenStar's angry texts Golden Boy was hopping into the mini-van.

As he settled himself in the front seat he happily declared, "I made Honors!"

I congratulated him on his accomplishment and asked him to read me his grades as I pulled away from the school en route to the elementary school for Princess.

"In Language Arts I got an 80."


SCREECH!  Hard Stop! 


Only kidding I didn't really screech my tires and come to a hard stop because that would have been a little bit dangerous in the middle of school pick up traffic.

I did yell "WHAT" and give him a major side eye.

"An 80% is not acceptable.  No way.  You know that."  

I started to launch into a major tirade about the grades we expect from him and how school is his job, his first priority,  but then stopped myself because I figured I had better hear the rest of his grades first.

Fortunately the rest of his grades were great.  More than great.  Excellent. Definitely what the type of grades we have come to expect.

But there was no way I could overlook that Language Arts grade.  Now to be fair Language Arts is definitely his weakest subject.  The writing gets him all the time.  Everything about the writing gets him.  The actual physical act of writing is an issue (I can't even describe his handwriting.).  Spelling is an issue. Sentence structure is an issue.  Paragraphs are an issue, actually not as much as sentences, but still an issue.  Conveying his thoughts accurately is a struggle.   He is crazy articulate in discussions and conversations and always gets tons of credit for contributing productively to class, but ask him to put his thoughts in writing and all of sudden he is hot mess.  I know Language Arts is his weakness, but he had never brought home a grade that low before.

As we sat in the elementary school parking lot I officially interrogated Golden Boy about the root of 80%.

Unfortunately he had no answers.

He just kept on repeating "I don't know".

AAAAAAAHHHHH!  "I don't know" makes me crazy.

I just kept repeating "You have to know.  It's your grade!"

Ah yeah we were getting no where fast.

So finally I told him that he was to go see his Language Arts teacher after school to find out why.  He was to ask his teacher why his grade was an 80%, what he needed to do during the current term to improve and then be prepared to report back to me.

Which prompted some emails to the teacher because of course Golden Boy didn't know the day she stayed after school and of course she didn't have a school website so he could look it up quickly (first year teacher).

So even though I wanted Golden Boy to be the one to figure out this mess I emailed her with the request that Golden Boy stay after one day to discuss his grade.  Honestly I didn't leave it to him to ask the next day because I figured he would forget (forgetfulness is part of his nature) and I just needed to know we would have some resolution so I could move on.  

But I totally wasn't going to be the one to develop a plan to fix his grade or talk to his teacher about why his grade was what it was.  (I honestly think he didn't really know why.  Like he hadn't given it that much thought.)  

I wasn't doing it because it was his grade.

And he needed to figure out how to fix it.

He needed to learn some accountability.

She replied back that Golden Boy was an excellent student and a wonderful contributor to the class and she would be happy to meet with him one day the following week.

I read the email to Golden Boy and let him know that he needed to figure out what went wrong.  He needed to have answers about his unacceptable grade.

Don't get me wrong I would love to swoop in and meet with Golden Boy's Language Arts teacher to get a full run down on what happened the past few months.  Frankly I'm not really confident that she is meeting his needs as a student who struggles with writing.  Not because she isn't a good teacher, but because she is just not that experienced.  I would love to meet with her and immediately FIX this issue.

But I really feel like I need to hang back.  Golden Boy is 12.   He knows writing is a struggle for him.  This is his issue. He needs to have first crack on fixing it. He needs to own it.  I need him to know that these are his grades and that grades are not important just because mom and dad say they are.


Of course I will get involved if I have to (You totally didn't think I could just let it go, right?), but I am hoping he can do most of the heavy lifting and feel a sense of pride at the end of the school year about the way he handled things.

These middle school issues are a HARD.