Thursday, December 28, 2017

Ring in the New Year!

With the holidays bringing the year to a close, you know I couldn't pass up my last chance of 2017 to be an"extra" mom.  I mean - what fun are the holidays if you don't get to shop for a few presents, right?!

So, with a day or two before things shut down for Christmas break, I found myself sending something a little special to "school" with my son.



 



Thanks to some smart shopping on Amazon, the bells and zipper pouches (think of them as gift bags that can be repurposed into a diaper bag crayon holder) didn't set me back much.  And with a little extra print-out inside the pouch, I thought the entire package made for a suitable and somewhat educational toddler gift.


BELLS ARE RINGING, to the tune:  “Frere Jacques”
Bells are ringing, Bells are ringing.
Ding, ding, dong. Ding, ding, dong
Happy little bells, Happy little bells.
All day long, Ring their song


Other songs: Jingle Bells (Dashing Through the Snow), 
Silver Bells, Jingle Bell Rock, Frosty the Snowman, Winter Wonderland, 
Let It Snow, Deck the Halls


In addition to the kids' gifts, we also sent some warm and fuzzy scarves and custom designed hats for the lead teachers, and a few cute fashion scarves and socks for the part time alternates ... with some Target gift cards thrown in, too (I mean, it can't be a bad thing to have a little extra spending cash around the holidays).

Unbeknownst to me, after I already had the bell gifts lined up, I found out that my son's class was also doing a random book gift exchange.  No problem!  Amazon to the rescue again - this time with a penguin book!




I think Amazon has a bum deal going here, BTW.  I mean, with as much shopping as I do with them, they should be paying ME to be a prime member.  LOL!

So there you have it ... my last "extra" mom action of 2017.  And yes, we did have a few spare bells that ended up at home with me, so we will be doing some ringing in of the new year at my place too.

Happy 2018 to all of you, and may you make the best of the new year!


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Happy Holidays 2017!

Things around here lately have been status quo, so I don't have much to blog about that's of interest.  But, in wanting to talk about something holiday-esque, an old friend came to mind.

Almost 10 years ago now - where does time go, yikes! - I made good friends with a designer who worked at the holiday decor company I used to work at.  It's kind of a long story, but basically we ended up getting to know each other during one of my many extended stay business trips to China (side bar: you know you've been at your hotel too long when the staff greets you by name ... and sends you a complementary bottle of wine and chocolate covered strawberries at your 5 week mark).

Anyway, since I worked in artificial trees and wreaths, my new designer friend and I didn't really do much together professionally after our trip - my product category didn't require much from a drawing and illustration standpoint.  But, thanks to many wacky jokes and 12 hour time change induced laughing fits throughout our China excursion, we have been personal friends ever since.

A few years after our China introduction, sadly my friend moved to Houston.  Well, sadly for me at least - I doubt she's missing Minnesota right about now with our sub zero temps and daily snows. 

Despite our distance, over the years we've tried to stay in touch.



Me, visiting Galveston and 
learning how to live the TX lifestyle.





Her, visiting us back home and 
remembering what a good old ski trip and fried feast looks like.


Funny visits to see each other aside, the reason of my post is ... all the recent, seasonally appropriate holiday goop circulating Facebook and other media made me think of one of the best ginger bread houses I ever (helped) make. 

So here it is, a feast for the eyes - but not so much for the belly, as we used industrial glue and several other non-eatable components as well.




In process.  Notice the dog in the second photo, lower left, which is licking up 
the mess surrounding a Mister Bill inspired decapitated head.  That may or 
may not have been made via my influence and inspiration.



Close up detail.  Yes, that is a black hawk helicopter that has crashed onto the scene.


The day after, post many beers and a hangover the finished work was offered to the gods (squirrels).  Amazingly, not a single wildlife item hazarded a bite.  Could have been that industrial glue, I suppose.




Wishing you all a happy holiday, and best of luck in 2018!


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Halloween 2017

Going along with my post from Tuesday, I thought I should do a Halloween recap.

You already saw my costumes from the Howl-oween 5K and the Terror Trot, so you know what I did for costumes then.

Aside from that, on the actual day of Halloween I was a ... well, I thought a classic, though I may be wrong based on my feedback from the current generation:




My outfit on that day was thanks to Tipsy Elves.  PRO TIP: look at their pricing on Amazon first, you will likely save 50% or more.


 


Of course, having three costumes over the span of the "Halloween Season" just isn't enough for somebody like me.  And thanks to my little guy, I get to add a whole 'nother costume category to my repertoire - group costume.  Thus 2017's family theme was Muppets, with me being Miss Piggy, my husband as Kermit, and baby boy as Fozzie Bear.

Speaking of my little guy, I have good fun getting to chose his costumes (for now).  With him just starting to pick up on animal sounds, I particularly get a kick out of his snore/grunt impression of a pig that sounds nothing like said animal.

Maximizing on this pig "impression", for my son's Halloween "school" party I sent him to daycare in a pig outfit ... that is technically a sleep sack, which we can reuse for the next couple of years hopefully.




And it wouldn't be Halloween without treats.  So I sent my son bearing treats for the staff on Halloween day.




Yep, even more extra.  Though this treat was far less complicated - just a glass bottle of Starbucks frap in either chocolate or caramel with a one bag each of Target monster and caramel cashew trail mix, wrapped in candy corn printed black tissue paper and tied up pretty with some curling ribbon.





The copper bin was my favorite part of that gift, and is now sitting on my dining room table as an unintended center piece (I guess I better figure out wear to store that thing before Thanksgiving in a few weeks).

So that was my Halloween - in a nutshell.  What were your costumes like?  Comment below!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Since I haven't blogged very consistently on here in awhile, I'm going to expand my net of "acceptable" topics on this blog to include whatever my current shenanigans are.  That means today I am going to talk about how I've become that mom.

You know.  The mom that is just so ... extra?



Ok, I can't take credit for that hair, but how cute is that?!


Sigh.  How did this happen?  How did I become the "SO extra" mom?

I guess it shouldn't be a surprise, because also me:




True story.  I mean - I can't even pretend that's not me.  Heh.

Anyway, I'm writing this a fair amount after the fact, because as you may know, International Talk Like a Pirate day was almost two months ago - Tuesday, September 19, 2017.

For those of you unaware, Talk Like a Pirate Day is one of those "holidays" that's just meant for fun and silliness.  Officially, there's not a lot of history behind it aside from it started as a private joke between to guy friends - and then it accidentally blew up on social media.

In the past few years, for me, Talk Like a Pirate Day has meant sending a friend of mine in Texas random gifts (when the mood strikes me anyway, it's not like I do it on a yearly / consistent basis).  Historically, those gifts have included: having a bouquet I made out of black artificial silk roses and plastic gold doubloons arranged in a plastic skull trick-or-treat bucket couriered to my friend at work, sending a smiley face balloon bouquet with pirate eye patches drawn on them, and ... this year's piece de resistance - ordering a pirate battle royale pool set via Amazon Prime:



 



I know.  An impressive find even for a spaz like myself.  LOL!

High on ridiculousness, I decided I needed to share the pirate love at my son's "school" (daycare) in 2017 as well.

Queue: overdrive mom.

---

Of course, being that this was me, first things first for Talk Like a Pirate Day - costuming.

My outfit included a pirate necklace and holiday appropriate dress.  I added to that a pair of tall, black motorcycle boots with chains and buckles that I already owned.



 


For my son, I ordered a kid friendly shirt and a pair of pants cut to accommodate a diaper booty.  He already owned a pair of red Crocs shoes, and was soon to own a pirate hat as well so that was covered ... more on this in a bit.


 


(Interjection - since my husband was traveling on business at the time - no soup for him).  

Alright.  Real talk for a minute.  I know that this may seem like stupid money to throw at a pointless holiday, but hear me out.  First of all, the dress I bought - I can wear that at work pretty much any day.  And the dress with the necklace can be a pirate go-to costume for me for years to come.  As for my son's outfit, it's versatile enough: he wore the entire thing for various Halloween events in the last month, and the shirt itself he can wear to school on whatever day.  Just know that I'm not all about throwing money away, and since I do so many wacky costume things all the time, I have learned how to be smart in my planning to ensure I can use items again in the future.  *end soap box*

Now, you know me.  When it comes to blowing out a theme, sometimes I just can't stop myself.  Which of course means - but wait, there's more!

Being that most of the other kids at "school" wouldn't likely be dressed for the occasion, I found a seller online that offered hard felt pirate hats for $9.99 a dozen and sent them with my son to share with his classroom.  While it is doubtful a room full of toddlers much understood what a pirate was, the end result was still pretty dang cute.




Not wanting the teachers to be left out on the fun, I also sent goody bags for them to be decked out in pirate gear as well.  The "meat" of their costume included a plastic pirate eye patch and a neck gaiter (in assorted pink colors that I thought made the gift more wearable in the future).  The idea on the gaiter was that it could be tied into a "pirate hat", with the possibility of reusing it as a headband or whatever later.





In addition to costume supplies, to show a little love to the staff, I also provided individual bags of Pirate Booty brand snack mix and "gold treasure" (glitter nail polish & chocolate gold coins).





And of course, because there was so much for the teachers to have, I wrapped them up in a nautical looking red polka dot gift bag stuffed with blue and white striped tissue.  I forgot to save a picture of the bag on my phone, but it looked something like this:




To keep things a little more pirate looking, though, I stuck a skeleton straw in the bag so that it poked out of the top, and tied the whole thing shut with white curling ribbon.




So there you have it.  The teachers seemed to enjoy their gifts, and my son came home saying "arrgghhh" almost non stop, so I'm guessing it was a success? 

Which means I guess I better start planning for next year ... LOL!


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Terror Trot 5K 2017 (Deflating Wings)



Terror Trot 5K (3.15 miles)
41:55
Average Pace 13:30/mile



A couple of weeks prior to the Terror Trot, I received an email from Anderson Races that included a $20 registration discount code good for any of their upcoming fall races.  Being that cost to participate in the Terror Trot 5K was at $45 by then, the discount meant that even with online handling fees, I could sign up for this race (and take home a fleece and a finishers medal) for under $30.

Ok ... you know me.  And Halloween.  And costuming.  And races.

So even though I'm in terrible shape right now, I figured what the heck?!




JUST TAKE MY MONEY ALREADY!

I know in the past, I've said I'm not a tremendous fan of Anderson Races, so you might be wondering why I knowingly signed up for another one of their events.  Before I get too far in this recap, I should clarify: while they're not on my sh!t list like Team Ortho is, I do feel like Anderson Races' management style just ... leaves somethings to be desired, I guess you could say.

For example, packet pickup on Friday prior to the race was ... interesting.

When I walked into Fleet Feet Marathon Sports, two women were running check in - one who I believe to be the owner of Anderson Races (she was busy doing something with race gear, possibly sorting sizes or something), and then another woman manning the check in table itself.

The woman manning check in was technically fine, though somewhat slow.  Overall, she seemed a little confused about what was going on.  And since I was the only person there, the amount of time it took to get my fleece and so on seemed a little much.  But honestly, I couldn't care less about that part.

What I did care about was: when I was handed my fleece shirt, it looked MIGHTY SMALL.  Especially because online registration specifically said "unisex sizing" and I had paid to receive what I expected to be a men's XL.  (At point of registration, I waffled on what size to get  since I wanted room to layer my fleece and didn't want it to be too small ... but also worried my selection would leave me swimming in fleece depending on the cut.)

Imagine my confusion, then, when I held the fleece up to my chest and determined it would be on the fitted side.




I mean - really?!  Have I gained THAT much weight post baby?!

As I checked my size tag to make sure I was given the correct item, I noted that the tag said "XL WOMENS".  Wut?  That's definitely not unisex.  Well, whatever.  I actually typically prefer women's cut anyway.  And apparently these particular fleece shirts ran small.  I'm just glad I decided to order larger than I expected needing - my friend, who did packet pickup a little after me, barely fit the large fleece ... and she is maybe a women's medium on a good day!

Funny story about that, BTW - when she was trying on the fleece, both of the Anderson Races staff members were telling my friend enthusiastically that her fleece fit well.  We realized why once my friend settled on the large, because they continued on saying "good thing you like how that fits, because women's large is the smallest we have".

Already out of stock on smaller sizes at noon on day one of packet pickup?  What about anyone coming on race day?  I was pretty shocked on that one.

And then they tried to sell us on the Chocoholic Frolic race.  My friend and I both looked at each other and at them like ... um, that's next weekend and we just dropped $30 for this.  I guess kudos for Anderson Races realizing they had a captive audience to promote to but ... they didn't even have the shirt up on display or any kind of registration info out.  If you're that eager to drive participation, maybe a little pre-planning from the marketing side ... ?

So now you see what I mean regarding "leaving something to be desired".

---

Fast forward, race morning.

Despite lack of solid info regarding the race on Anderson's web page (there was no picture of the fleece, the medal, or even a course map), I knew upon arriving at Lake Harriet that the 5K run was scheduled to start at 9:05 (5 minutes after the 10K runners left).

Since it was fairly cold, and my friend drove the family mini van ... with the family in it ... we decided to stay in the van for as long as possible prior to running.  With an added benefit of having a sweet parking spot about a block away from the start, we figured there was no need to be outside freezing, especially since we already had our bibs.

About 5-10 minutes prior to gun time, we finally left the insulation of the van and headed to the start.  There, I was a bit surprised to see such low participation numbers. Typically a race held around a lake near downtown Minneapolis is packed, but if I were to guess there was maybe 300 runners there TOTAL, and that was adding the 5K and 10K together.

I can't help but wonder ... how much of the poor attendance could be attributed to Anderson Races' lack of marketing, and how much of it is due to market saturation for races available these days?  It would be interesting to know the answer to that question ...

Even though numbers were what I would consider low, I definitely wasn't complaining.  A cheap race that isn't crowded?  Sounds good to me!

Bang!  Time to run.  (And yes, it was pretty much that blunt.  We didn't even hear the race announcer try to get the crowd ramped up or anything.  All the sudden he just says 3... 2... and the gun banged.)

Ok ... let's run, I guess!

The course started at the Lake Harriet band shell and followed the trail that circles the lake there.  Since we were late to line up, my friend, her family and myself all lined up at basically the very back of the pack - but were pleasantly surprised to find that the trails were wide enough to handle the crowd and allowed for easy passing as we went.  In fact, over the entire course there was very little bottle necking.  Score!

I wish I had done this ... alas, I did not.


As we ran, my friend and I (and her daughter, who we lost around the 1/2 mile mark) hung together.  Meanwhile, my friend's husband and their son took off ahead.  Keeping a fairly conservative pace of maybe 11-12 minute miles, my friend and I chugged along, chatted, and enjoyed people watching.

One of my favorite costumes of the race was a mom in a terrific witch costume (complete with puff sleeves and ground sweeping hem line), running with two children (which I think were girls due to their longer, tinsel haired wigs ... but I didn't look that close).  The two kids were dressed as tin men in what has got to be one of the most spectacularly home made costumes I have seen in a long time. 

As I mentioned, the kids costumes started with a shoulder length blend of gray hair and silver tinsel wigs.  Then, they were clothed in gray sweat suits.  To create the "tin" look, they had wrapped silver foil chrome duct tape around their pants in bands, spaced out every 3-4".  Additionally, they had created some "circuitry" on their backs out of those new style, hard plastic 6 pack beer can holders, which were spray painted gray and with various computer motherboard parts and wires glued onto them.  I wish I would have taken a photo of them because the end result was awesome.

Of course, I couldn't resist telling them as I ran by ... "Best costume of the whole race BY FAR!"  The kids beamed.  I hope they keep that creative spirit into adulthood.

Since I was in terrible shape for race day, around the 1 mile mark we took our first walk break.  Not wanting to spend too much time walking, though, we picked back up again maybe around 1.25 or so, running to the 2 mile mark.  It was shortly around starting to run again around 2.25-2.5, however, that my Apple watch decided to be a brat ... and shut itself off.  WTF!

Here's what I have for splits on course.





Over half a mile missing.  Boo.  Well, what do you do?  At least the race was chipped timed.

Besides, it wasn't like we were in it to win it.  Not to mention, the last half mile on course was pretty uneventful anyway.  So, no big loss.

With 41 and change on the clock, we rounded the last corner of the course and scurried across the finish line.  Boom, another race (and medal) on the books!




Yes, those are my Bay to Breakers wings.  I figured I might as well put them to good use again.  Funny thing, there was just enough juice in the batteries after Bay to Breakers to make it exactly to the finish line photo.  As we walked away, I noticed my wings were starting to sag and the fan was running slow.  All the sudden, my wings were flat and the fan just wouldn't turn on.  I couldn't have timed that better if I had planned for it!

Secretly, I think the people at the snack line were just as happy that my fan shut down.  No one ever seems to enjoy working around those giant things.  Heh.

I would have gladly sacrificed my wings anyway for what I picked up at the snack table: a bottle of water, a bag of dill pickle potato chips, and some various other snacks (the usual mini candies and granola type bars).  All of this I promptly inhaled in the name of breakfast while we awaited our long lost running partner to finish the distance - my friend's daughter, who we lost at the 1/2 mile mark, wasn't terribly far behind us.

With a fun, but not record breaking, experience on the books ... that was it.  We decided to wrap it up and head for home.  Once there, I gladly bundled up in my fleece and added my new medal to the collection.







---

Well!  That's the story of how race bib #83 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon ... but with Halloween races pretty much in the tank at this point, my guess is I won't run again until the snow melts.

Here's to 2018 and (hopefully) a stronger training season!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Howl O'Ween 5K & Kids Run 2017 (Burger Buddies)




Carver Scott Humane Society Howl O'Ween 5K & Kids Run
No time or distance recorded - Kids Fun Run Completed


This past spring, I was asked to help out with a local 5K race hosted by the Carver Scott Humane Society (CSHS).  Race details were still pending at that time, but generally speaking, the race was anticipated to be held in Chaska late fall of 2017.

Though things didn't quite work out due to my personal schedule and available free time, I thought ... well, at least I could participate in this somehow.  So, with my son now fully mobile and walking, once I heard there was a kids fun run option for this race that was only $10 (early registration) and allowed adults, it was settled.

Fun Run - here we come!




The official race day schedule for the Howl O'Ween 5K was unclear from the get go, as the company that "organized" this event left a lot to be desired (CSHS hired an outside event planner that seemed somewhat inexperienced).

Leading up to race day, I wasn't sure if packet pickup was required in advance or offered day of.  And since the 5K was at 9 am, with the kid's run following at 10:30, I was also unsure if day of pickup would still be open after the 5K started.

Thankfully, despite their lack of accessible information on race websites, etc., the race organizers answered their Facebook page somewhat quickly.  After a few back and forth questions two days before the race, I discovered that packet pickup was open on race day until the kids run started at 10:30.

Score!  Tick the "sleeping in on race day" box for me!

---

With a quiet morning at home on Saturday, around 9:45ish my sister helped me pack 3 kids into the  car, and my husband drove us down to the race start area.  Since this is the first year the 5K has taken place on this date (and taken place in downtown Chaska), that left participation numbers  a little soft at around 100 or so folks.  Those numbers made parking downtown a non issue.

Within a few minutes of leaving my house, we found a spot about a block or so away from the race start, and headed to Chaska's City Square / Gazebo Park to check in.  For those of you unfamiliar with downtown Chaska, here's a picture of the park when it's not set up for race day.




The park itself is a fairly simple space - it's basically a full city block with a bit of a walking path through the center, a few benches, and a small gazebo.  Despite it's simplicity, the park really is a lovely little spot to sit and relax.

Also, I'd like to point out a visible mound in the right hand corner of the photo above.  Interestingly, there are a few Native American burial mounds that frame the gazebo, with approximately one mound in each corner of the park.

On race day, a handful of various vendor booths surrounded the sidewalks that hugged the gazebo (not on top of the mounds), so the park looked a tad different from the above.  Apparently race day photos haven't been posted yet on Facebook by the CSHS, so I don't have those pictures right now.  Hopefully I'll do a supplemental post of those photos later.

Regardless of photos - once we arrived at the park, lack of good race organization once again surfaced.  When I walked up with 3 kids and 2 additional adults, there was ... nothing.  No sign, no volunteers directing incoming foot traffic, nothing.  It was totally unclear where check in was taking place.

Leaving the kids to run around the park in their hamburger costumes with my husband and my sister, I took off to find check in and discovered it was taking place in the gazebo itself.  And good grief was it a mess!  I know I had six packets to pick up ... but that should NOT have taken as long as it did.

Favorite question of the day (as the race announcer is on speaker saying that kids run registrations are still being accepted):

Woman wanting to register next to me: "Can I sign up my kids for the run here?"
Staff at check in: *confused look on face* "Uh... I'm not sure.  I don't think so.  Let me check if we're still allowing people to register now."

#facepalm

Regardless of the disorganization, the shirts were pretty cool (if I do say so myself):




With check in complete, and bibs in place, the amount of time we had planned for the morning was just about perfect.  At 10:20, just as we finished taking a group photo, the race announcer started calling kids to line up at the start line.  So, we moseyed that way.

The field of participants for the kids run was around 10-15 kids.  It wasn't huge.  Maybe that small size helped, but whatever the reason - despite the other disorganization on race day, the kids run was quite well put on.

I have to say, I think the kids run organization was actually credit due to race sponsors from Orange Theory in Chanhassen and Ladybug Childcare, though, who provided volunteers to help at the event - not the paid race organizers themselves.  (Orange Theory provided the woman who lead the kids on the run, and Ladybug provided volunteers along the "course" to keep kids on the correct route.)  Volunteers aside, the announcer did a good job of telling kids the "rules of the road" and how to follow the adult leading the race.  Then, after a brief count down, he directed the kids to "GO!".

Of course, my niece and nephew are quite a bit older than my son, so they took off like bats outta hell ... leaving my sister, dressed as the Hamburgular, to chase two crazy fast hamburgers running around the perimeter of Chaska City Square Park.

While they took off, I spent a few seconds trying to convince my own little hamburger to take off running.  I don't know if it was just too many strangers, too much excitement, or what ... but he just wouldn't budge and wanted to be held.

Well?  What's a Hamburgular to do?  With a 30 pound hamburger in arms, and a hus-burger besides me, we started trotting around the park ourselves.  Though I put up the good fight and ran the first half of the race babe-in-arms, eventually my back (and my lack of cardio capacity) started to protest.  A little after the halfway point, my husband and I traded jobs and he took a turn toting a 30 pound burger.

Thankfully, the race course was only about 1/3 of a mile long, so not too much later we were at the finish line.  There, the older kids were all victory dancing that they got finishers medals.  My son ... I don't know if he was equally as impressed:




In addition to the medals, Orange Theory was passing out reusable water bottles filled with water, and every kid that finished also got a inexpensive (pp non woven) zippered and insulated lunch tote with a finisher's certificate inside.

While the kids didn't care much about the lunch tote, I thought it would be nice to have since it was perfectly sized for a 6 pack - heh.  They, meanwhile, were pretty darn excited about their race finisher certificates.

It's the little things that count, right?!

Once things settled at the finish line, all 6 of us circled the vendor booths to see if there was anything else for the kids to do.  While I noticed there were some nice things available, like natural dog treats, reduced cost micro chipping for pets, and even a few handmade art vendors ... there wasn't much interesting to the kids.

Hungry for lunch, we decided to call it and headed back to the car.




And that's the story of how race bib #82 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon ... being that it's Halloween season, perhaps that will be sooner than you think!