Friday, April 26, 2013

King Arthur Family Night: Lasagna to Go

A friend from church introduced me to Family Night classes at King Arthur Flour - a class for up to four people to make dinner from scratch for consumption that night. 

I was sold. 

I signed up for the Family Lasagna Night and invited Josh and Laura to come with Ryan and me. 

The instructor showed us step by step how to do everything and then we did it ourselves. We made our own pasta dough, waited for it to be proofed and then fed it through the pasta roller about 14 times until it was the correct thickness (or thinness). We added pasta sauce, cheeses (fresh from Vermont) and herbs to create our own lasagna. 

They boys pretended they were too cool to be baking and making their own pasta, but they really loved it. 

We also made a green salad and a baked apple dessert and they sent us home with a freshly baked baguette from their bakery. We wandered around the store (where I could easily drop $500 in one trip*) wile we waited for it to bake. 

We were so starving by the time it finished that we sped home and devoured it right then with Josh and Laura. 

It was so much fun! I just wish I had discovered these classes before now. 

*If anyone was considering getting Ryan a graduation gift, he told me all he really wants is a gift card to King Arthur Flour. I prooooomise. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

triple baby shower

I was lucky enough to help plan a celebration to shower three of our expectant friends all in the same evening. All three of these blonde beauties are expecting babies in the next few months and I'm seriously crossing my fingers that ONE of them will be born before we move. (And no, the stripes were not planned!)

Baby Girl Igoe is due in June, Baby Boy Dance is due in August and Baby Boy Monteleone is due in October. It's the second baby for all three friends and each baby is the second of the same gender in their families! It's just kind of the Sachem Way

It was a beautiful night with fabulous food, wonderful women and great gifts. And I'm so happy to have been a part of it. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

25.5 miles closer to a cure: Part 3 - Unfinished

Part 1 - Marathon Monday
Part 2 - We Need to Stop Running

The Boston Marathon was finished. 

And yet I felt so unfinished. 

We walked into our hotel room, immediately removed our running shoes and then slowly walked down the hall to Ryan's parent's room. As they opened the door for us, we saw Kate and Leah, wearing their Boston Baked Team Leah Bean shirts, grinning at us. We held them tight and I said another prayer of gratitude that my family was safe and sound. I am so grateful for LaMar and Lynnette and the great care they took of Kate and Leah that day.

Over the next few hours, Ryan and I saw on the TV what LaMar, Lynnette and our girls had experienced firsthand. The explosions were enormous and the images I saw on screen were horrifying. The VIP passes given to us the day before had most likely saved their lives. They were on the front row of the west end of the bleachers on the corner of Boylston and Exeter, just 50 yards from where the first bomb went off. We have found pictures from the news where we can see LaMar in his red coat in the chaotic aftermath. 

The events that happened that afternoon are something I won't soon forget. And the last thing I would ever want to do is make light of a very grave situation. Some lives were lost. Others were forever altered. People will be dealing with the aftermath of these explosions physically and mentally for a long time. And yet as I look back on the past week, realizing that we saw the very worst of humanity in those acts, I also know that I saw the very best of humanity. I saw an entire city pull together. I saw strangers embracing, comforting, helping. I saw them offering their food, phones and homes to passersby. And so, just after this horrendous act, after witnessing so much bad, I witnessed a lot of good. 

And it was so, so good. 

I was never able to cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Many people have asked how I feel about that. And to answer honestly: I'm mad. I really, truly am just mad at those cowards. I was mad at them before they had faces and names and I'm mad at them now. I, along with thousands of other runners, trained for months. I ran in negative temperatures. I grew icicles on my eyelashes. I ran up hills and down hills and up hills and down hills. I stretched and iced and rolled and rested. And I ran and I ran and I ran and I ran. I didn't do all of that to run the first 25.5 miles of a marathon. I did it to run the final 0.7. To cross the finish line.

I did it to make those final two turns onto Hereford and Boylston streets and to see the face of my six year old daughter sitting in the bleachers cheering for me.

And that is a sight that was stolen from me. So I'm mad. 

But I also know that I did it to raise much needed funds for Rett syndrome research. I did it for Leah. I did it for everyone who struggles with Rett syndrome every day of their lives. I ran because they can't. And in that, I was successful. 

I'm not sure what will happen now. If I get the opportunity to run next year, I will take it. Because I didn't train to almost finish the Boston Marathon. Just like researchers aren't spending their lives almost finding a cure. Just like Leah isn't spending her days being almost awesome.

I will do it. And so will they. And she already is.

I'm just not finished yet...

25.5 miles closer to a cure: Part 2 - We Need to Stop Running

"We need to stop running," he said. "We need to get off the course."

Me, thinking he was just kidding and wanted to stop because his quads hurt, replied, "So, should I just head home with these guys?" pointing to my friends.
"Yah," he said. 
"Um, I think I'll keep running," I responded. 
He agreed and with that, we were off. Just over two miles to go. 

But he kept talking about stopping. Something about his wife and a text and two explosions at the finish line. "They've stopped the race," he said. "The finish line is closed. The race is over." 

Once I realized he wasn't kidding, I was just confused. Explosions? At the finish line? But that's where Kate and Leah are. And people are still running, they haven't stopped the race. 

Slowly but surely the rumors started to circulate. The finish line was closed. There had been two explosions and though no one was sure what they were, it was certain they weren't good. We heard rumors of fatalities and injuries. So many injuries. 

I couldn't stop thinking about Leah and Kate. Were they okay? Danny's family was fine - they were on the way to the hotel - but he said they were on a street corner a few blocks from the finish line. I had to keep running. 

One of Danny's friends found us. He was just as confused as the rest, but confirmed the explosions and the closing of the finish line. He ran alongside us on the sidewalk until he was stopped by police who were closing off access any closer to the finish for spectators.

Around mile 25, two more of Ryan's classmates who had met us at mile 13, Blythe and JP, were screaming my name. Blythe looked like a ghost and JP's face was full of fear. More about explosions. And where is Ryan? Have you heard from his parents? " Ryan is behind us," I said, "and no, I haven't heard from his parents." I had texted Lynnette about a mile back, but she hadn't responded. I turned to continue on and Blythe, looking confused, questioned, "You're going to keep running?" "Yes," I replied, "I have to get to Kate and Leah."

And so we kept on running. I no longer felt tired. But I also no longer felt the elation of completing the last mile of a marathon. My thoughts were on Kate and Leah now and figuring out exactly what was going on. 

My personal Boston Marathon came to an end as we approached Charlesgate East on Commonwealth Avenue. The course was taped off and we couldn't go any farther. Danny and I found Kelly, another team member and together we all started responding to the texts that were now coming in as a continuous flow. I knew Ryan was behind us, but I didn't know how far. And he wasn't responding. And Lynnette still wasn't responding. For a split second, I thought of the worst: Something had happened to my family and they either couldn't respond or they did respond but had reached Ryan and he wanted to talk to me in person. I felt the emotion build up in my chest before I said another quick prayer and the feeling left. 

Everyone is okay, I thought. Everyone is okay. 

About 10 minutes after we stopped, Ryan approached. I waved my hand and he joined us. Though our confusion, I learned that Ryan had received a voicemail from his dad saying they were at the finish line, but everyone was fine. At the time, Ryan didn't know what the message really meant. He assumed they had arrived at the finish line okay and were ready and waiting to cheer us on. After Ryan learned about the explosions, he was immediately relieved, realizing they were at the finish line and everyone was fine meant something totally different than he originally thought. Danny ran off to find his family who had made their way back to their hotel. Kelly, Ryan and I shivered in the cold, not knowing what to do. 

And that's when it happened. That is when the good won that day in Boston. That is when, for me, I knew that no matter who had done this horrible and cowardly thing, they would not win. As we stood in the shadows of the buildings on Commonwealth Avenue, residents came running down from their apartments with water in pitchers from their very own cupboards. One woman came down with a pile of garbage bags. I ripped a hole in the bottom of one and pulled it over my shivering body to block the chill. Another woman offered us cookies from her cupboard, another a can of soda. I took a cookie and a cup of water and continued my way down the street. It was amazing to watch so many people come together. Offering their warm apartments or at the very least their phones. They asked us if we were okay, if our friends and families were okay, if we needed anything at all. And whatever it was we might have needed, they would have given it to us. 

We slowly made our way down some side streets to the back end of the finish line chute where our yellow bags were waiting for us on the buses. Stay away from garbage cans and don't go near the buses kept running through my head. So many rumors still. No one knew what the next few hours would hold and the fear showed. 

We pulled on our sweatshirts, picked up some finish line food and walked west to our car. As we approached Boston Common, we saw policemen, firemen, SWAT teams, military and more all being briefed for their immediate assignments. 

Officers were guarding the entrance to the garage. "Are you here to pick up your vehicle?" they questioned. When we answered yes, they told us to not worry about paying and to get out as quickly as possible. So we did. We made a few loops until we figured out how to get onto the freeway with the street closures and headed south to Kate and Leah. 

The Boston Marathon was finished. 

And yet I felt so unfinished. 

Part 3 - Unfinished

25.5 miles closer to a cure: Part 1 - Marathon Monday

I'm finding that it's nearly impossible to put into words the story of what was Marathon Monday. What is in my head and my heart aren't transferring neatly onto the screen. I've started probably seven different times and each time I end up feeling that I either haven't done the day and its events justice or feeling bad that I have some of the emotions I do or that I don't have others. Suffice it to say that Marathon Monday up until about 2:50 p.m. went better than could have been expected. After that? Well, that's a different story. A story told many times over from lots of heartbreaking perspectives throughout the past week. This, however, is my story. And sorry, but it's a long one. A really, really long one. 

Here's part 1:

Ryan and I woke up dark and early Monday morning. The girls had spent the night having a sleepover in grandma and grandpa's hotel room down the hall so we wouldn't wake them as we got ready. I slept great, Ryan not so much. Must have been first-marathon jitters (Ryan would phrase that "first-and-last-marathon jitters"). 

We cooked and ate our oatmeal, pulled on our spandex, laced up our shoes and pinned on our bibs. We were ready. 

The drive north into the city didn't take long at all. Boston and the surrounding cities seriously shut down on Marathon Monday, or Patriot's Day in Massachusetts. So the majority of the cars on the road at 6:30am were marathon related. We wound our way into the Boston Common parking garage where we parked our car and gathered our bright yellow bags and race-day belongings. 

As we walked up the stairs, we entered the historical Common full to the brim with so many runners of all shapes and sizes.  Young, old, trim, husky, male, female, muscular, not-so-much. That's one of my favorite things about marathons. Sometimes you run right by the person you think will blow you out of the water while the person you are certain you will beat leaves you in the dust. It's definitely a physical race, but it's also mind over matter and that is very evident on race day. 

We got in a line - the longest of all the lines, we later found out - and, as we made friends with the man and women in front of us, wound our way to a big yellow (heated) bus where volunteers in bright yellow jackets ushered us onto the springy green vinyl seats. Our bus driver was playing some pretty sweet mid-90s jams, so Ryan and I felt right at home. They had runner transportation down to a science. I could not believe how quickly they were loading buses and shipping us off to the start. As soon as one line of yellow buses left, another line was ready and waiting. 

I stared out the window as we exited Boston and headed west to the runner's village. A marathon is a long way to run and it seems even longer when it takes you 40 minutes to drive there on the freeway. Eeek! I dozed off a bit and then woke as we neared Hopkinton. The streets were already beginning to be lined with smiling well wishers and it made my heart swell. 

As we exited the bus and bid our driver farewell, we made our way into the runner's village - a mecca of sorts in the running world. Porta potties lined the entire outskirts of the village (a high school field every other day of the year). Three large tents housed thousands of runners camped out on chairs and blankets - some trying to catch that last bit of sleep before the starting gun, others stretching or chatting with friends old and new. Ryan and I stood in line for the port a potties before we snagged a bagel and made our way to where Team Rett was congregating. 

I truly was thrilled to see the other members of the team. Though I already knew a handful of them and met a few more the afternoon before, it was such a great feeling to stand together with them, all wearing our purple singlets for these brave and strong girls and boys. We discussed refueling strategies for the race, sharpied our names and the names of our Rett inspirations on our arms and legs and got everything situated in our new running belts - advil, shot blocks and headphones for me. And with that, Wave 3 was called. The photographers snapped a few pictures and we dropped our yellow bags on the bus as we walked to the starting line.

It's a bit of a walk from the village to the actual starting corrals. And the fact that we were the ninth corral out of nine means we were as far back as you could be. We stood, jammed like sardines, in the chute and waited for the gun. At 10:40, we heard our cue and eight minutes later, crossed the starting line for the 117th Boston Marathon. 

I was really doing this. 

I started out slow and steady. I had heard from so many people to not overdo it on the first four miles. They're downhill and pushing it here will cause a lot of pain later on in the race. So, slow and steady it was. Before I knew it, mile 1 was behind me! Just 25.2 to go. Somewhere in the second mile, I felt myself sort of trip over something. Someone must have dropped a gu or they were already shedding layers. But then it happened again. When I felt it happen a third time, I looked down at my own pouch and saw my baggie of advil drop to the ground in what felt like slow motion only to be lost in the still-crowded street behind me. Turns out the first two items I thought some poor schmuck had lost or shed were actually my own shot blocks and headphones. Guess I won't be listening to music for the next four hours.

Shortly after, Ryan caught up to me. We were both feeling good. The crisp morning air was perfect and the energy on and off the streets was unbeatable. Not too far ahead, I noticed three other Team Rett runners - two of whom I knew were planning to run my goal pace. As I made my way to them, Ryan ducked off to the side of the road to do that thing that boys can do so easily in races. For the next few miles I shadowed my teammates and made small talk. After doing all of my training runs solo, it was a little strange to be running with other people. But i was just soaking it all in. The fans in Hopkinton were fabulous and the encouragement was contagious. 

Around mile four, I veered off to the side of the street to grab a quick sip of water. My team pacers did not and I lost them for good at that point. I did, however, catch up to Danny, a Rett dad and fellow team member. We fell into the same pace and jogged side by side for the next nearly seven miles. Together we passed through Ashland and Framingham, two otherwise sleepy little towns that, on race day, are filled with fans lining the street giving their full support. Families on lawn chairs, friends camped out at the corner gas station. Local retailers and townies alike screaming our names (Go Purple! Nice work Team Rett!! And my all time fav: Go Runner Person!!) and holding hilarious signs. (Some of my favs: If this were easy it would be called Your Mom, Your butt makes you look fast, You trained longer than Kim Kardashian was married,Toenails are for sissies, Keep Calm and Marath On.)

Soldiers dressed in military uniforms cheered us on, and I love that Danny shook their hand and thanked them for their service. We high (or low) fived so many little kids lining the streets. Three and four year olds cheering at the top of their lungs and adding our hands to their running tallies (seventeen! eighteen!!...). We ran by street after street of fans holding out popsicles and wet paper towels, oranges and twizzlers, cold sponges and vaseline. This race is a part of these people. It runs in their blood and they are just as much a part of it as the racers.

We refueled at mile 10 (big thanks to Geoff from Team Rett who gave up one of his gels for me). Around mile eleven, Danny stopped to stretch. I knew if I stopped, I would keep stopping, so I just kept running. A few minutes later, someone squeezed my backside and, thank goodness, it was Ryan. And he was looking good! I have to admit, I feared the worst with his knee, so I was happy to see him running with a smile. We ran together for a quarter of a mile or so when he stopped to stretch and I continued on. By this point, at mile 11, we were nearing Wellesley and a whole slew of friends ready and waiting for us in their Team Leah Bean shirts. I was feeling good, but was definitely ready for a little extra push. They said they would be "somewhere in between miles 11 and 13." Mile 11 stretched on, so did mile 12. No sign of them. Just before the mile 13 sign (or just after? I don't remember), I saw them. Eighteen familiar faces, screaming MY name and holding signs reading, "Go Team Leah Bean," "Maren & Ryan - Go Team Rett," "Team Rett Fundracers - Go! Go! Go!," "We love you Maren & Ryan!," "Run Laytons Run!" 

I buried my face in my hands for a second to pull myself together and then  embraced each and every one of them. I was halfway through and they were exactly what I needed to see. I was so frazzled from the excitement that I didn't even think to stop for a picture, and after our quick embraces, continued on my way. They had been tracking us and said Ryan was about a minute behind me. 

As I pulled away and continued on the course, I said a silent prayer of gratitude for these friends and so many others who stood by my side cheering me on not only on race day, but also the last five months - or five years for that matter. 

About a half mile after my refueling-by-friend, Danny again caught up with  me. This time, for good. We ran together for the rest of the race, minus about a quarter of a mile combined where one of us needed to stretch.

Wellesley was amazing. That town knows how to do the fan club for the Boston Marathon. They cheered like you would not believe. Before we knew it we were running through what is known as the "screaming tunnel" of girls from Wellesley College. They were all holding signs saying "Kiss me...I'm Irish" (or ...I'm from Georgia, ...I'm Asian, ...I'm single, ...I won't tell your wife, ...etc.). I resisted, but Danny found himself a willing volunteer for a great big bear hug. He gave me permission to tell his wife. 

At mile 16, the hills started. But my training in New Hampshire and Danny's training in the hills of Orange County actually prepared both of us pretty well. The first hill was nothing. And as a reward at the top, we got to see a whole slew of Rett families on the side of the road to cheer us on. Seeing a handful of amazing angels was exactly what we needed to keep us moving. 

Just after this, I felt some minor chafing under my arm. About a half mile back, we had passed a knowing spectator holding popsicle sticks doused in Vaseline. Not feeling the chafing at that point, I passed them up. But it was starting to get bad, and fast, so I mentioned to Danny to be on the lookout. We grabbed some power gels at the aid station at mile 17 and refueled again. Just after, we saw another Rett family. Geoff, the dad who gave me my first gel, was running the marathon and was probably a mile or two ahead of us. His incredible wife was jumping up and down screaming our names and her big hug infused me with energy. I gave their sweet Sam a hug and continued down the street. A few blocks down, Danny yelled, "Vaseline! Vaseline!" and sure enough, there was the most blessed sight I had ever seen. A tall, graying man in khakis and a button down shirt holding an enormous jar of Vaseline. I ran across the street and, as I dug my fingers in to scoop out the good stuff, said, "Bless. Your. Soul." A few feet away, his wife said, while laughing, "You mean bless my soul." I laughed, blessed both of their souls, slathered my underarm and ran on my way. 

As we turned the corner, we mounted another hill, this one steeper but shorter than the first. I think we walked part of it. I don't remember. Danny was cramping in both of his thighs and I welcomed the break. 

Mile 19 found us in Newton. As we made our way down the tree-lined streets, I spotted six more Team Leah Bean shirts. My friend from church and her five cute kids were visiting her sister, who lives a few blocks off the course. Another round of hugs, another burst of energy. And she told us Ryan was still tracking about a minute behind!!  I again didn't have the clarity of mind to snap a group picture, but I know her sister took a few as we quickly chatted. 

We hit a bend in the road just up ahead and climbed the third of four hills, this one similar to the second - short and steep. The next mile or so was a blur as we prepared for the fourth and final hill - heartbreak. We were exhausted, but eager to have the hills behind us. We ran the first half, then through an intersection, and then arrived at the final half of the final hill. We did walk a bit as Danny was still in pain and my right quad was quickly seizing, but we made it. We made it though the hills. So we took a picture to prove it.

The top of heartbreak brought us to the entrance to Boston College. And I'll just say right here, right now, that Boston College gets the award for best crowd. For a solid mile, students lined the metal barricades shoulder to shoulder, leaning over as far as they could before they toppled to the ground, with their hands outstretched. At first I was in the middle of the road, too far to reach their palms. But after about 30 seconds, I made my way to the right hand shoulder and, for the next mile, slapped hundreds of hands. Seriously, hundreds. And as I did, they cheered for me, personally. Go Team Rett, you're doing awesome. Lookin' good purple! YOU, RIGHT THERE, you're doing amazing! Keep it up! You can do this!! 

I did stop to roll out my thigh for about 10 seconds and then continued on with the barrage of hand-slapping and morale boosting. I was grinning from ear to ear. Done with the hills. Less than five miles to go. And I didn't even realize it at first, but my cramp was gone. I've got this!

Danny and I continued on at what I felt was an increased pace from the previous few miles. We rolled gently down the hills into Brookline where the skyline got a little taller and much less residential and the fans got a little more crowded

At mile 24, we approached Coolidge Corner where, much to my surprise, three of my friends and their families were again standing to cheer me on! I wasn't expecting them anywhere else on the course and I was thrilled! I was just ahead of Danny at this point and he caught up as I was getting my picture taken with them. 

"We need to stop running," he said. "We need to get off the course."

Part 2 - We need to stop running
Part 3 - Unfinished

play date

While Leah rides horses each week, my wonderful friend has Kate over for a play date. She has two of the most darling little girls - one is almost three and the other a few months younger than Kate. It's been nice for me to have that time to focus on just Leah without worrying about Kate freezing in a barn wanting to eat whatever is on the ground. And you know what's on the ground. 

From the looks of it, she prefers it this way too. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

ASW - Your Journey, You're Tuck (final installment)

I honestly cannot believe it has been two years since I first stepped foot onto Tuck's campus for Admitted Student's Weekend. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with information and excited about what the years ahead would hold. They certainly have not been a disappointment and as I took part in welcoming the students and partners of Tuck's Class of 2015 to campus this weekend, I felt so happy to have just been a part of it all. I know I wasn't the student here, but Tuck does such a great job of incorporating the family that I might as well have been (only without the homework, which is awesome).

This year, I took part in the Tuck with Kids panel that was disbanded last minute because only one partner with a child came to ASW! So, we joined in on another panel (and sent our info out via email). 
{some of my favorite tps - Laura, Michelle and Tiffany}

I also entered the tshirt design contest and my design won! So, all partners participating in ASW donned my design all weekend. I soon found out that a few of the assistant deans liked the shirts so much they want to keep the branding going for a few years. So, go me! 

And go Tuck!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tuck Run 4 Boston

The Friday after the Boston Marathon, I participated in a small, informal run coordinated by one of Ryan's classmates. It was a 5 mile run to remember the victims of the bombing, and I felt I should participate. 

Many students at Tuck have ties to Boston through family, friends and schooling and almost everyone I talked to knew someone who was affected in one way or another, so this was their way to support and remember. 

We started out in Tuck circle and did a 5 mile loop around Hanover. It was beautiful despite the humidity and so great to become acquainted with some more Tuckies (there were about 5 others who aren't pictured). 

My feet were blistered from the marathon and my 7 miler earlier that morning, so this is what they looked like after I took them out of my shoes. Needless to say I had a date with some warm water and epsom salt that night. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

26.2 - almost

So many thoughts are racing through my head about the events from this past Monday. I haven't quite sorted them out, but when I do, I promise to post. Until then, I'm playing catch up from a busy and fabulous March/April. I've been very blessed.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

the morning after

The morning after the Boston Marathon was a bit surreal. We were stiff and store with blistered toes and aching feet. Though we had no medals around our necks to show for it, we had our two little girls to hug tight. We took a trip to Target and then hit up IHOP for a good, hearty breakfast. I heard somewhere that chocolate milk is a great recovery drink and I took that to heart. I'd rather not say how much I actually drank over the course of the next few days. And it was worth it. 

We picked up a copy of the Boston Globe and said goodbye to Ryan's parents before they drove to the airport and we headed back to New Hampshire. 

It was somewhat of a glum drive that was quickly turned around once we pulled up to our home. Posters and balloons galore covered our porch with a delicious goody bag of treats on the doormat from our amazing friends. Those same friends who had spent the day cheering for us and then finding themselves and their own families in harm's way as well. 

First item on the agenda when we walked in the door was to present Leah with her medal. She loved it. And when I say loved it I mean, grinned from ear to ear and didn't want to take it off for days. She wore it to school the next day and all of her classmates got to parade by her and touch her shiny medal. We think if any one of us deserved a medal, she did 100%. 

And with that, we wrapped up our weekend in Boston. Incredible and fabulous to start, life changing in the middle and not what anyone could have ever expected to finish.