Running in the New Year

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Towards the end of 2013, I made the goal that so many of us do.  In the New Year, I decided that I would take up running.  I know what you’re thinking, “why wait?”…or “resolutions are stupid…”  And yes, I agree.  But the reason that I decided I’d begin in January 2014 is because upon forming this plan, January seemed very far away.  And I hate running.  And it’s really cold in Massachusetts, so I wanted to avoid as much of the 10-month winter as possible.

Even still, I tried to prepare for my upcoming endeavor.  I bought a jogging stroller for Lexie, I mapped out several courses in the area, and I even joined up with one of the “G-words” to start practicing on an indoor treadmill.  With my iphone loaded with episodes of “Dance Moms,” I would enter the gym doors determined to run for an entire episode.  Then, like clockwork, one mile and ten minutes later, I thought, “nah, maybe I’ll try this again tomorrow.”

My procrastination was winning the war, but I knew that I had an official “outdoor run date,” firmly etched into my mind. January 12th. That would be the day, I’d decided, that I’d hit foot to pavement and begin my illustrious running career.  Leading up to my first run outside in over a year, I took stock of my “running equipment,” and noticed a few holes…literally.  The shoes that I’d bought seven years ago on a whim in an athletic store with my friend Dani had served me well, but I could see now that my toe was sticking out through one shoe and the side of my foot was showing through the other.  I decided I’d need new kicks before my first run.

Naturally, Nike had discontinued the model that I was familiar with, but a lady had a pair on eBay that were only slightly used.  I know how disgusting that sounds.  Used running shoes.  I didn’t care.  I wanted that model, and I felt like I’d won a small lottery to find a pair.  I placed my bid.  By the time the shoes finally arrived, my first run was days away.  I walked around in them a bit and then promptly placed them back in the box until the weekend of my first run.

By the time the morning of January 12th rolled around, I was enthusiastic about my upcoming trek on the road.  I woke up very early, dressed in my fanciest running attire, and put Amanda Beard’s (Olympic swimmer) audiobook onto my iphone to listen to for inspiration.  I laced up my brand new shoes (or brand new to me) and walked outside into the cool January air. Then I headed to the shuttle stop at the front of my hotel, pinned on my racing bib, and boarded the bus that would take me to the start line of Disney’s 26.2 mile marathon.

Oh sorry, did I forget to mention that my first run would be the Disney marathon?

Since my eBay shoes had arrived only the day before my parents and I left for Florida (“MY PARENTS ARE TAKING ME TO DISNEY WORLD!” exclaimed the 28-year old), I decided to break them in over the ten hours that we spent at Magic Kingdom… the day prior to the race.  You’re not supposed to walk around in the sun the day before you run a marathon?  You’re supposed to train in the shoes you’re going to wear for the race?  You’re supposed to train for the race?!

Somehow I’d spit on and then thrown away all of these memos and had my heart set on winging it.  When I’d registered for the “race” (which for me was really classified as “goal of completion”), I provided the organizers with my half-marathon time from the year before.  This put me into corral H, the one designated for the 4:10 pace group.  When I’d learned that this was my corral at the Disney Expo, I found the news absolutely hysterical.  “I’ll keep up with them for as long as I can,” I thought.  After all, who am I to say that I don’t have a Forrest Gump-esque running talent hidden deep inside.

Before I even get to the end of the story, let me assure you that I do not. And  I will not be traversing America on foot.

But there I stood.  In corral H.  In the freezing cold.  Wearing a backpack and eating a Power Bar.  It wasn’t a stretch to say that everyone around me appeared more prepared for this jaunt than I was.  In fact, I’m willing to “go all in” that this hunch was perfectly accurate.

After being forced to linger outside for what seemed like a very long time, beginning at 3:30am, the race came to an official start at 5:30.  I heard the horn; I saw the fireworks.  But there I stood, still in corral H, waiting on pins and needles for my turn to cross the start line.  The corrals went from A-P, and beginning at that first sight of fireworks, we all made our to the start…very slowly.  I saw seven sets of fireworks detonate before they were finally for me. I crossed the line just after 6:00 and easily jogged the first mile in the pitch black dark.

My pace felt slow, and within the first two miles, I’d joined the 4:00 pace group.  I decided to stick with them as long as possible, and then do my best to “hang in there” towards the end.  These are my people, I realized.  We’ll run the race together.

We all slowed down at the water stops, and I had my own Gatorade, fruit snacks, gels, and arsenic (in case things got really bad) in my knapsack.  I felt good.  Sure, I hadn’t run any training miles (aside from those mornings with the Dance Moms on the treadmill), but I was in pretty good physical condition and had just survived what turned out to be a delightful day in Disney World with my parents.  How much harder could this be?

The sun started to come up and the miles were ticking off quickly. 4, 5, 6. I started to realize what a joke it had been when I’d complained about running a 10k.  This is easy, I decided.  People want to make a big deal out of this to pump their own balloons!  Look at me, trotting with the 4:00 pace group… and there’s the castle just around the river bend!

By this point the sun was starting to come up, and I was making my entrance onto Main Street USA, running towards Cinderella…sorry, feeling like Cinderella…as I cantered passed the adoring fans who were cheering on our noble pursuit.  I floated by Her Majesty, who was likely asleep in her royal palace, feeling like a million bucks. “HEY CINDY!…CHECK ME OUT! LOOK AT WHAT I’M DOING!”

It was just after this checkpoint, at around mile seven, that I received the first inkling in my head that I might die in this race. I had made the “joke” several times leading up to this idiotic undertaking that “one person dies in every marathon, and it could be me,” and it was just after Cinderella’s castle that I started to wonder if this statement might actually come to fruition.  I had no choice but to abandon the 4:00 pace group.

Fear not, my friends!  Because chugga-chugga-choo-choo, here came the 4:20 group!…And there went the 4:20 group….and the 4:45 group….and the 5:00 group.  And then it was just runners on their own who started passing me in overwhelming droves.  Runners in costumes.  Runners who looked like they needed a visit from Jenny Craig, runners who were part of the Dopey Challenge and had already completed a 5k, 10k, and half-marathon in consecutive days leading up to this event.

By the time I got to Animal Kingdom, my legs felt like they’d been pierced by thousands of Robin Hood’s darts, and I realized I was completely screwed.  I felt light headed and thought I might pass out…permanently.  I decided to take a bathroom break, and as soon as I’d stopped moving, I felt even weaker.  I swallowed some gushers that I’d brought in my satchel and continued on my journey to Galilee.  Finally, I crossed mile marker eleven.

It was at this point that I began to walk.  Like the Tin Man.  In desperate need of some oil.

As the group traversed an overpass, I suffered my second panic attack of the experience.  If I passed out near the edge of the road, I’d fall over the side of the bride – onto the interstate below – and I’d be run over and killed.  I decided to stay as far away from the cliff of doom as possible.

At some point I was halfway finished with the marathon.  I went to a medical tent.  “How do I seem?!” I demanded from the medic on duty.  “I feel very lightheaded!”  I was relieved to speak with someone after hours of solitude, to hear my voice, and to know that I was alive.  The medic, expecting to deal with blisters and sprained ankles, was likely thrilled when I literally stumbled upon her.  There I was, in the midst of normalcy.  An existential crisis.

She asked me if I was quitting the race.  “No, I don’t think so,” I responded nonchalantly, “do you think I can continue?!”  She told me that I had good color and suggested that I sit under one of the blankets that had evidently been sponsored by Reynolds Wrap.  She gave me a banana.  Eventually I stood up and confidently announced that I’d be back on my way.  She told me that there wasn’t another medical tent for ten miles.

There’s an episode of “90210” [for every situation because it’s the greatest life guide of all-time] where Kelly, Clare, Donna, and Valerie mistakenly end up at a convent on their way to a spa called Elisha Springs.  The nuns tell them that the only service station for their broken down wheels is “miles down the mountain,” so rather than going for it, they hole up with the sisters, eating mashed potatoes.  I decided in that moment that all four of them were losers.

I was determined to continue onto my ultimate destination whether it be with Mickey Mouse or Jesus.

I kept walking.  On a slow and incredibly painful march.  I was an early American settler making my way out west…voluntarily…instead of sitting at a pub in Epcot drinking an imported beer.

The mile markers that had ticked off with ease when I’d first set out now seemed to be light-years away from one another.  I made it to the ESPN center and jogged around the practice field of my beloved Atlanta Braves.  The coolness factor of this experience gave my step some pep for about ¼ of a mile.  Then it was back to the tin man.

By the time we got to Hollywood Studios, I was scrounging my bag for the arsenic.  I still had about six miles to go.  I thought about the long and difficult challenge of a 10k, and I wanted to cry.

For a while now, I’d been walking on grass.  Shortly before I crossed into Epcot though, signifying the final stretch, I was forced to walk on the wooden planks surrounding the Boardwalk Inn.  I’m now certain that Walt was a cruel and heartless man.

It was early-afternoon, Epcot was open to the public, and happy-go-lucky park-goers with beers in their hands stood alongside our running path eagerly cheering us on.  I wanted to smack each one of their heads with a Whac-A-Mole mallet as hard as possible.

At long last, I reached the final mile marker, indicating only two-tenths of a mile to go!  And then I saw an odd sight.  A line of people, just a few short minutes from the finish, casually standing around and chatting…waiting in line…to meet…Dopey?!  The thought of purposely waiting to put this nightmare behind me was too much for my weakened brain to handle.  Eventually though, I realized what was happening.  These were the geniuses who’d signed up to do the four-part Dopey Challenge…running 48.6 miles in four days. I ferociously straight-legged my way passed them.

And there I was, ten-hours after I’d boarded the bus to take me to the start, finally lumbering my way across the finish line.  Adorned with a gigantic gold medal, my best guess is that I must’ve won the race.  I finally sat down on the curb.  And then I was yelled at for sitting on the curb.  And I had to keep walking.

I found my parents who had waited in a huge crowd for hours to see me finish.  I screamed at them within five minutes of our reunion.  And then we all headed to lunch.

Walking through the airport the next day was a real big challenge.  But within four days, I had decided that completing the marathon hadn’t been that difficult.  “Yes,” I assured someone, “I’d do it again.”  And then… “But I might practice a little more next time.”

As I reflect on my experience “running” the Disney marathon, I am truly thankful for the fact that despite the long shot odds, I was able to complete it. And as Marathon Monday in Boston approaches, I know that many people have meaningful stories behind their desires to complete their races, and I wish each one of them the very best in their pursuits of the finish!

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Nothing says “togetherness” like frog hats at the Rain Forest Cafe!

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Finding the perfect ball cap to wear at the park

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Not quite right

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Getting closer

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Bingo

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Slowly making my way to the start… in the middle of the night.

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Tearing down Main Street!

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A tomahawk can brighten any day.

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First place finisher

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Disney marathon victors (nearly two decades apart!).

 

 

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Since You’ve Been Gone

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Well hello again!  It’s been quite some time since I’ve updated you on the wonders of my heartpounding lifestory, and I apologize for jumping into your lives again unannounced like this.  To give everyone a quick update – just to get us all reaquainted – here’s what you’ve missed since we last spoke: I abruptly left another potentially exciting career opportunity (working in country music), and migrated north, this time with my child Lexington in tow, to take up residency in the southernmost floor of a beautiful lakeside hacienda in the “little-known hamlet” of Lunenburg, Massachusetts.

Some of you might recognize Lunenburg as the town in which my parents live, and as soon as I arrived, that thought occurred to me too. Then I figured, “well hey, I could use a couple of roommates.”  And so the former trio (now a quartet with the addition of Lexington) began its year-and-a-half-long reunion tour.  We revisited some of our greatest hits: “Cathi, Clean Your Room!” “Dad, I Need Money,” and my personal favorite, “Be Home by 11:00… I Mean It”.  It was so great to be able pick back up again, right where we’d left off.

After the honeymoon phase of my vacation started to wear off, it began to dawn on me that I had nothing to do…other than to care for Lexington of course.  I decided to look to those I admire most and think about their careers for inspiration.  When I realized that getting a reality show, starring me, off the ground was a bit of a shot in the dark, I continued down the list to another hero, Valerie Malone.  Sure, she’s a fictional character from 90210, but she was pretty damn successful running a nightclub at age 21.  I mean yeah, she got the money to buy the club as part of a con-job to recover Dylan’s stolen assets from a couple who had wiped him clean and fled to Mexico, and the chances of finding myself in this exact boat started to move the reality show idea into the “sure thing” column, but nonetheless, I was obviously onto something.

Then I remembered my other rock solid mentor, Lorelai Gilmore, from the show Gilmore Girls, and the puzzle pieces slammed into each other like I was Harry effing Potter, cracking the Rosetta Stone with the swirl of my cape and the wave of my Phoenix feather-core wand.  Lorelai lives in a small town in New England; I live in a small town in New England.  Lorelai is a single mother to a teenage daughter; I am the single mother to a teenage daughter.  Lorelai has no money; I have no money.  Lorelai opens the Dragonfly Inn; I open… well, a gymnastics studio.  I figured an Inn was way over my head, but upon looking around Lorelai’s town, “Stars Hollow,” and realizing that they have a dance studio and we don’t, I thought, “hell no am I going to let Stars Hollow out dance Lunenburg,” and also, “gee…how hard could that possibly be?”

I’m not going to answer that last question, but I will tell you that my dad had a busy summer filled with plenty of time consuming construction; I got a crash course in “painting a gigantic building by yourself;” and Skills & Thrills (www.SkillsAndThrillsLunenburg.com) opened its doors in September 2012.  Of course my mom pounded pavement, spreading the word and assisting with birthday parties and classes, and Lexington has proven invaluable in her general manager role as well as serving as president of the “Flexie Lexie Club”.  It continues to be “all hands on deck” around here.

Even more recently, I took the plunge in taking a bunch of money from my parents to buy a house nearby…which of course is the gift that keeps on giving because it means more construction jobs for my father… (you’re so welcome, dad!).

Since we last spoke, I’ve been able to maintain my record of watching every episode of every season of every location of “The Real Housewives,” and I continue to aspire to the life of Betty Draper (seasons 1-3) in Mad Men.  I know what you’re wondering… how do I do it all?

Lexie and I have plenty more of where this comes from, so we hope you’ll stay tuned!  Please enjoy some photos of “our very Massachusetts lives”:

Lexington oversees construction.

Lexington oversees construction of Skills & Thrills.

The first board comes down!

The first board comes down!

Yikes

Yikes

Bathroom before the genius takes over.

Bathroom before the genius takes over.

Bathroom after Mr. Fix-it seizes control.

Bathroom after Mr. Fix-it seizes control.

And we're off!

And we’re off!

Skills & Thrills!

Skills & Thrills!

Just "hanging around" Skills & Thrills!

Just “hanging around” Skills & Thrills!

During a break from work some of us got hooked on "Friday Night Lights"...

During a break from work some of us got hooked on “Friday Night Lights”…

My mom was excited to meet Elizabeth Warren!

My mom was excited to meet Elizabeth Warren!

Ah, picturesque Lunenburg getting its BudLight delivery.

Ah, picturesque Lunenburg getting its BudLight delivery.

Our hope and faith will never die.

Our hope and faith will never die.

A Halloween themed story-hour at the local library.

A Halloween themed story-hour at the local library.

Best friends move into a house!

Best friends move into a house!

If you haven't done so, I recommend taking your children to see "Frozen"!  We both loved it.

If you haven’t done so, I recommend taking your children to see “Frozen”! We both loved it.

Interview with Lexie: The Sequel

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Me: Good morning Lexie. Thanks for taking my call today!

Lexie: Well if I wasn’t a latchkey kid, we could be having this conversation in person now couldn’t we?

Me: Lexie, we’ve talked about this. You’re having fun at home aren’t you? I even left music on for you!

Lexie: Classical. Whoopee. Where’s the stuff I can dance to?

Me: Lot’s of people dance to Mozart.

Lexie: Oh yeah. I’ll invite a few friends over.  We’ll have one of those world famous Mozart hootenannies.

Me: I’m not having this argument with you again.  Classical music will enhance your brain capacity which will help you get into a better college when the time comes.  This is an investment in your future.

Lexie: I don’t want to go to college!  I want to dance on Broadway like those kids on “Dance Moms”!  I want to study under Abby Lee Miller! 

Me:  Right… Let’s get back on track here.  The purpose of this interview is to give your friends and family an idea of what you’ve been up to lately.  This isn’t a forum for you to air your latest grievances.

Lexie:  That’s a shame because I have several of them.

Me: I’m sure you do.  We’ll, uh, come back to that.  What have you been doing with your time these days?  You and I have been together for almost 6 months now!

Lexie:  Yeah.  The time’s been dragging along like molasses hasn’t it?

Me:  What do you mean?  I can hardly remember a time when we weren’t together!

Lexie:  This is awkward.  Um.  Yeah… same here.

Me: Let’s talk about this week.  I had President’s Day off… did you have fun spending the day together?

Lexie:  It was a regular blast.  We watched “90210”… very different from every other day of every other week.

Me:  We also went to the park!

Lexie:  Right.  Talk about uncomfortable.  We were the only ones who showed up without a pet.  What was that about? Did we stumble upon some secret President’s Day Pet Society meeting or something?

Me:  Lexie… we were at the dog park.

Lexie:  Well no wonder, then!  Why the heck did we go there?  There was no slide.  There were no swings.  Let’s not make that mistake again, huh genius?  We looked like morons showing up without an animal.

Me:  Hmm.. now this is awkward.  Maybe we should go back to “90210.”  You’ve seen several episodes now.  Do you have a favorite character so far?

Lexie: Kelly Taylor and Donna Martin.  As you know, I’m growing out my hair, and I’d like it to be long and beautiful like theirs.  Also, when I get my license, I see myself driving a BMW convertible like they do.  On that note, I’m also a fan of Steve Sanders who has a Corvette.. oh and Dylan, he drives a Porsche.

Me:  Are you telling me that you only like the characters who drive nice cars?

Lexie:  Yes I am.

Me:  But Lexie, the whole point of the show is that material possessions only get you so far in life.  What about the lessons that we’ve been learning by watching these episodes together?  What about always being honest and learning to be a good friend?  Isn’t that more important than the kind of car someone drives?

Lexie:  No it isn’t.

Me:  But what about us.  Don’t you think we’re pretty great?  We don’t have a luxury car.

Lexie: Why do you think I threw up in the Civic last week? 

Me:  Ok.  Maybe TV isn’t our topic either…. Or cars.  You mentioned that you’re trying to grow out your hair. How’s that going

Lexie:  This Halloween I’ll be starring as Rapunzel. 

Me:  That’s certainly ambitious of you.  You do know that if you want to maintain your flowing locks, you have to allow me to brush you, right?

Lexie: Did I say Rapunzel?  I meant a Rastafarian.  I’m going for the the beautiful matted look.  A cross between Whoopi Goldberg and one of the Jamaican Bobsledders.  

Me:  Uh huh.  Speaking of the Jamaican Bobsled team, are you excited for the Olympics this year?

Lexie:  I sure am!  After I tumble my way to a gold medal or two, we’ll grab some pints at the local pub, see Big Ben, sing a few verses of “London Bridge is Falling Down,” ohh, maybe run into Pippa or one of the Spice Girls, harass the guards at Buckingham Palace… I’m really looking forward to this mate! 

Me: I’m not sure how to tell you this, but I think there’s been a substantial misunderstanding here.  For starters, we’re not going to London for the Olympics.  We’ll be watching it on TV at Grammi and Grandpa’s house…. in Massachusetts… supporting our team right here from our own home turf of America.

Lexie: ……..

Me:  Lexie?  Are you still there?

Lexie:  I’m here. 

Me:  Do you have anything to say?

Lexie:  Well I just don’t understand how I’m supposed to compete with the rest of the gymnastics team if I don’t go to London. 

Me:  That brings me to the next portion of that misunderstanding I referenced a moment ago.  Lexie, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’re not going to be on the Olympic team.

Lexie:  WHAT?! 

Me:  Well those athletes train all their lives to earn a spot on the team!  You don’t just put your name on the sign-up sheet to go to the Olympics!

Lexie:  Bollocks. 

Me:  What?  What is that?!  Lexie!  Is that a bad word?!

Lexie:  I guess I’ve been training for London more than you realized. 

Me:  I guess so.  Well we’ve got a big week ahead.  We’re moving to Massachusetts next Wednesday. How do you feel about that?

Lexie:  Scared.  Will I have to go to a new school?

Me:  No, you’ll continue to be home-schooled.

Lexie:  Will I have to cheer for the Yankees?  I’ve lived in Tennessee my whole life!  

Me:  No no Lexie.  We’ll cheer for the Red Sox (as long as they’re not playing against the Braves of course).  You won’t have to be a Yankee fan.

Lexie:  Red socks?!  But I only have pink boots!! 

Me:  Close enough.  I think that pretty much ends our time today.  Is there anything else you want to say?

Lexie:  Yes.  Enough with the Mozart.  I want to dance with somebody!  With somebody who loves me! 

Me:  Aw.  That’s so sweet.  We can have a Whitney-themed dance party tonight after work if you want.

Lexie:  Who said anything about you!?  I want to dance with Milo Randall or that cute boy down the hall! 

Me: Ok Lexie.  As always, it was wonderful chatting with you.  Have a great day.  I love you very much!  You’re so special and important to me!

Lexie:  See ya. 

The very handsome Milo Randall

Not Without My Daughter

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People say there’s nothing like witnessing the Christmas magic through the eyes of a child.  Yeah sure, I always assumed that to be true, but I don’t think I fully understood what people meant until this year, when I was able to witness the Christmas magic through the eyes of my child.  Through the eyes of Lexington Sapphire Shores.  Each time that I became winded from hanging a strand of multi-colored lights in the apartment, or tired from waiting with the other parents in the line to see Santa, or was on the verge of passing out from inhaling Sharpie fumes addressing holiday cards, I would look at Lexie’s big brown brown eyes sparkling with wonder.  This was her first year to celebrate Christmas, and it was obvious that the holiday meant a great deal to her.  It was obvious that she was appreciating my efforts to make it special.

Christmastime had been stressful enough for me in years past when I had to shop for gifts to give friends and family and pack my things for the yearly jaunt that I take to Massachusetts.  (I know you’re probably wondering how I managed it all, and the truth is, I don’t know).  But this year, I had a child to think about on top of all that.  Christmas was no longer just about me.  I didn’t just have to pack things for me or pick out a Christmas Eve outfit only for me or decide what the Christmas card photo would be of me.  This year, I had to do all of these things for Lexie and me. This year, I had to arrange everything for us.

You’re probably assuming that I was overwhelmed and on some level I believe I was, but luckily, the parental adrenaline surged through me, and I kept my composure to get everything done in time for Christmas.  First and foremost was getting the picture for our holiday card taken and out of the way.  I felt that once this task had been accomplished, everything else would start falling into place.  Lexington didn’t have her Christmas dress in time for the card, so formal wear was out of the question, but soon after she was adopted, I had purchased a Snuggie for her.  And it just so happened that I had a matching Snuggie for myself. Case closed.

With the outfits chosen, I arranged for picture day in early November.  Coaxing a kid into cooperating during a photo shoot isn’t for the faint of heart, but I’m pleased to report that Lexie made it through the process with flying colors.  Sure, the ordeal of brushing her hair and making sure her bow was perfectly in place proved to be as easy as it is with any pre-schooler, but she worked through the pain of beauty and ultimately shined.  In fact, as a previous baby model myself (please, no applause necessary) I know firsthand how strenuous a photo shoot can be, but between Lexie and I, only one of us has ever peed on the floor of a photographer’s studio.  And it wasn’t Lexie.  So I suppose I’m doing my part in helping to make the future generation better than the one that came before.  In any case, Lexie cooperated wonderfully, and we had the perfect picture to send out to friends and family.

Next was selecting her Christmas dress.  You’re right.  This should have been easy, but I was working within very tight parameters this year.  As previously mentioned, Lexington has a baby cousin, Cupcake Sweetie-Pie Kremer, and both of the girls insisted on wearing matching dresses for the big Christmas Eve party.  It was a demand that became hard to refuse since this was each of their first Christmases with the Sinkel family, and they were so excited.  Equally as excited were Cupcake’s older sisters, Louisa and Emma, both of the human variety.  Now you might be thinking, big deal – just pick out a dress and order two, but to that I say, “not so fast.”  Not only did Lexie and Cupcake have to match, but their dresses had to correspond with Louisa and Emma’s navy dresses that had already been purchased.  Yes, it was a tall order, but naturally as “super parents,” my sister and I got it done.

With the Christmas dress situation squared away, I was in charge of ordering hair bows for Cupcake and Lexie.  Like a chump, I made the mistake of investigating “dog bows.”  Since Lexie has no idea that the outside world refers to her as a “dog,” I probably should have known better before embarking (em”bark”ing, get it? That one’s for you, dad) on such a search.  “Dog” bows retail at about $20 a piece whereas “baby” bows go for a cool $2.50.  America, I have some concerns about your status quo…

After ordering the bows (and pink parka and taking Lexie to PetsMart to try on and purchase snow boots), I was ready to pack her suitcase.  I think my niece, Louisa, said it best as soon as the monogrammed (via puff paint) suitcase rolled into my sister’s living room.  “I was expecting it to be smaller.”  Yeah, well so did Yasgur when he told Mike Lang he could borrow his farm.  It’s hard to prepare yourself for everything in life.

Packing the car in general turned out to be much more difficult than expected for me.  Lexie had no interest in allowing me to do this.  Each time that I left the apartment to put something into the car, she barked at an ear-piercing decibel and manically ran around the apartment as to inform anyone within earshot that something very bad was going down.  In a way, I suppose she was right because we had an 18-hour drive with my father ahead of us.  When he landed at the Nashville airport, I literally had to tell him that we didn’t have room in the car for his computer.  After he packed his oranges in the glove-compartment, we found the space.

For the most part, the drive went smoothly.  Naturally, I was worried about my baby in the backseat and woke her up several times to ensure that she was still breathing.  I’m guessing though that this happens to most parents.  Lexington wouldn’t eat or drink throughout our ride, but eventually we were nearing my parents’ house, and I realized the end of the trip was within sight.  She could have a nice bowl of water as soon as we got there.  It was when we were within forty-five minutes of our destination that my father informed me that his car was parked at Logan airport, and we needed to pick it up before going home.  This excursion added two hours onto our driving time…after eighteen hours already spent in the car.  Yeah, I don’t plan on letting that one go anytime soon.

Finally, we arrived at the house and Lexie went onto meet and instantly fall in love with all of her cousins, even Calvin, who she was told is a “cat,” and Jade, another “cat,” who she didn’t get to meet.  Cupcake and Lexie wore matching bows several times over the course of the trip, and she seemed to form an especially tight bond with my niece, Emma, who happily looked me in the eye and informed me with a smile that “Lexie is the special one now.  It’s not you anymore.”  Such is the way of the world once you have a child I suppose.

Santa arrived for all the kids, and Lexie got the Sock Monkey stuffed animal that she’d been hoping for.  She also got to go on a nature hike, watch all four hours of Gone With the Wind, and spend New Years Eve with her grandparents.  What more could any kid ask for?  (Side note: judging by the party favor she left in my dad’s theater while being babysat for the night, Lexie is not a fan of Auntie Mame).

Sadly though, our time with our family came to an end and we had to load the Civic back up again for the long road home.  This time my mother accompanied us, and like on the way to Massachusetts, everything was going smoothly.  And then we hit an ice storm in Virginia, and then we were trapped on I-81 for two hours on sheets of snow and ice, and then we witnessed two accidents, and then Lexie got smuggled in for her first hotel stay at a Holiday Inn.  The bright side is that I missed a day of work, and Lexie got to sleep in a king-sized bed.  Not bad for a ten pound child.  The dark side is that we bought a Mega Millions lottery ticket and didn’t win.  I can’t tell you how shocked I was.

Overall, we had a great holiday, and we hope you all did too.  We’re already looking forward to our next trek to Massachusetts.  I’m not sure when this will be, but whenever it happens, it will certainly be with the motto that I’m now living by.  “Not without my daughter.”  Happy 2012!

Interview with Lexie

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Because lately, I’ve been recounting stories about Lexie, I thought it might be nice to let her speak out directly.  She allowed me to sit down with her this morning and the transcript below is what followed.

Me:  Hi Lexie, thanks for joining us today.

Lexie: Does this mean you forgive me for hiding in a pile of laundry this morning?

Me: I don’t want to talk about that.  I couldn’t find you for ten minutes.

Lexie: I thought we were playing a game.

Me: A game where the participants run around ransacking their own apartments, screaming “Lexie” at the top of their lungs? … You should have come forward.

Lexie: I didn’t want to give away my position.  Honest mistake.

Me: Let’s move on.  So, I think the readers would like the chance to get to know you a bit better.  They hear so much about you, but now you can tell everyone what you’re really like.

Lexie: One word. “Awesome.”

Me: Right. But let’s expand upon that.  What are some of your favorite things?  Like your favorite band for instance?

Lexie: Everyone already knows this one.

Me: Humor me then.  For the sake of people who might not have studied “all things Lexie.”

Lexie: Bananarama.  After all, who amongst us hasn’t had at least one cruel summer?

Me: Good point.  What about your favorite movie?

Lexie: The Maltese Falcon.

Me: Refined taste.  Lexie, have you ever even seen The Maltese Falcon?

Lexie: I have not.

Me: So how do you know it’s your favorite?

Lexie: Because it’s about a Maltese named Falcon.

Me: Nevermind.  What about TV?

Lexie: Oh, I have several favorite shows.  I just finished the Sopranos, and now I’m about to start Breaking Bad and then Nip Tuck.  I’ve heard they’re both excellent.

Me: Huh? No no. You must mean Berenstain Bears or Sesame Street.  That’s what you watch when I’m not home, right?

Lexie: Um… yeah.  Right.  My favorite character is Meadow- I mean Elmo.  Yeah, I like Elmo.  The red one.

Me:  We’ll talk about this later.  What about your favorite colors?

Lexie:  White and off-white.

Me: Your favorite Kardashian?

Lexie: I don’t follow politics.

Me: No, Lexie.  The Kardashians.  They’re not political.

Lexie: Then why are they the top story on the news every morning?

Me: Because people want to know what they’re doing.

Lexie: Why?

Me: They just do!….  This isn’t going well.  What else do you like to do?

Lexie: Pee on the floor.

Me: LEXIE!

Lexie: Well I do!

Me: Something else.  Do you like to go to the dog park?

Lexie: What is a dog park?

Me: It’s that field we go to where you play with other dogs and run around without your leash.

Lexie: Oh.  Well I just call that the park.

Me: Ok, then. Do you like the park?

Lexie: Not particularly.

Me: Now that’s not true!  You love the park!

Lexie: Yeah, but I’d rather watch TV and chew blankets.

Me:  Fine.  Are you looking forward to Thanksgiving?

Lexie: Yes.  We’re going to see the new Muppet Movie!

Me: Lexie, I’ve told you a dozen times. You can’t go to the Muppet Movie with me. They don’t let anyone with fur into the theater.

Lexie: But the Muppets say we’re all Earthlings!

Me: Let’s wrap this up. Is there anything else you’d like to share with everyone?

Lexie: I don’t think that Ross and Rachel were really on a break.

Me: Anything else?

Lexie: I think we should consider getting a pet.  I’ve seen some on TV and they look like fun.  We could use some company.

Me: I think there’s been a series of misunderstandings here.  Well, thank you for joining us Lexie!  I hope you have a good day.

Lexie: Thanks. I’m planning on rifling through that box of Christmas presents you have stored on top of my crate.

Me: Perfect.  So long.

Lexie: Wait… I have a few more things to add-

Me: Sorry, that’s all the time we have!  Thanks for reading everyone!

Our First Halloween

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       As any parent knows, Halloween is an exciting event in the life of a child.  The candy, staying out late, getting to dress up in the costume that’s been selected.  But every parent also knows that Halloween can be a stressful time.  Dealing with the brunt of the sugar high, checking for glass in the Smarties or drugs laced in the Snickers bars.  And above all, getting the child’s costume exactly right.  “No MOM!  I wanted a red cowboy hat,” or “those aren’t the same boots that Lady Gaga wears!”  It can be tiring to say the least, and I now know this stress firsthand.  I know this stress firsthand since it’s my first Halloween with my daughter, Lexie.
       I thought that I had gotten out ahead of the game when it came to Halloween and selecting the perfect costume for my child.  Not wanting to be the parent who puts the oxygen mask on their kid before putting it on themselves, I decided that I would be Kelly Kapowski early on.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to convince Lexie that she would make a great Screech.  “That’s fine,” I told her.  “There are aisles full of costumes at PetSmart.  We’ll go together, and you can pick something out for yourself.”
       Lexie was enthusiastic about this outing.  We went in early September to ensure that costumes would still be available in her size.  She had never gotten to choose a Halloween costume before, and she relished the freedom that I had given her.  Like any good parent, I had told her, “you can be whatever you want to be.”  She was ecstatic, and I was ecstatic when within ten minutes of being in the store, she proudly selected a unicorn suit.  “Are you sure, Lexie?” I asked, just to make sure she was happy with her choice.  “Yes, mom,” she declared proudly, “I’m going to be a unicorn.”  “Ok,” I said, “good choice.”  I proceeded to show her costumes for princesses, pumpkins, and cheerleaders before leaving the store.  I wanted to make sure she had seen all of the options, but she was thrilled about being a unicorn.  I had a decisive kid on my hands, and I couldn’t have been more satisfied with her selection if I had picked out the costume myself.  We took it home for a fitting.
         To our chagrin, it turns out that Lexie wears a size small, not an extra-small.  She was embarrassed.  I assured her that it was ok, but this news came on the heels of her finding out that she’s much larger than the standards set by the American Kennel Club for a “desireable” maltese.  It was hard to handle.  We returned the costume for a small, and things seemed to be on the upswing.  She tried on the costume for her grandparents, and everyone seemed happy.  Lexie lapped up the positive attention that she received as a unicorn.
        Since this weekend is the week before Halloween, I asked Lexie if she’d like to wear her costume to the Barktoberfest event happening nearby.  “Sure!” she responded, just as enthusiastically as before.  “I’d love to wear my costume.”  I put it on her and we headed outside, and that’s when her attitude started to shift.  The hood of the store-bought costume either fell directly over her eyes or off of her head entirely, and the hole put in place for her leash didn’t match up with the alignment of her harness.  She wasn’t happy.  “I don’t want to be a unicorn anymore,” she told me sadly.  “Can I pick out something else to wear?”
       With only one week before Halloween, I felt that finding something new at this point would be a very tall order.  Besides, Lexie had made her choice.  She wanted to be a unicorn, and I had already bought her the unicorn costume.  Just because it wasn’t perfect, I felt that she should follow through with her selection, but since it’s our first Halloween together, I also didn’t want anything to tarnish the memory.  I decided that I would let her put a list together of other costumes that she might be interested in and take her to the store to try them on.  Here are the snapshots from our trip.  You’ll never guess what she settled on…

Lexie has often heard the term, "Cotton States," since she hails from Tennessee...

Lexie tries on a cotton costume

She didn't know if she really wanted to be cotton, and Lexie likes the sun, but she's also taken interest in the fluffy white objects in the sky. "Maybe I can be a cloud" ...

Lexie as a cloud

Lexie didn't think a cloud was really for her, but she thought maybe a farm animal costume would be a good choice.

Here she is as a lamb

"A lamb is a little too docile," she said. "I want to be something bigger and stronger... like a polar bear!"

Lexie finds a polar bear costume on one of the shelves!

"Hmm... if I'm going to be an animal," Lexie thought, "maybe I should be a TV character like my mom is going to be."

Here is Lexie as her favorite TV character - Happy from "7th Heaven"

"I don't know about TV," she said, "I'm kind of more into movies these days. How about Falcor from Neverending Story?"

"This Falcor costume is nice," she said, "but maybe a more classic character would be even better..."

"I think I'm going to be the Abomidable Snowman!"

Lexie looks great in the abomidable snowman costume, but then she thought maybe she should be something even more synonymous with classic Halloween.

"Look at this ghost costume!" she exclaimed.

"It fits me perfectly!"... "but you know what mom?" she said. "I think I want to be a unicorn again."

"The unicorn costume is the prettiest one of them all."

"I wanted to be a unicorn all along!"

Weekend with the Grandparents

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Prior to my parents’ visit this past weekend, I had numerous conversations with my pre-schooler about the appropriate etiquette with which to behave around her grandparents.  I thought that we had come to an understanding.  “These people are your family,” I explained to her.  “They’ve traveled a long way to see you.  They love you.”  She nodded along, “yeah, yeah mom, I get it.  I’ll be real pleasant and hold off on sending them my holiday order form until after we’ve met.”  “Holiday order form?” I questioned her.  “Yeah mom, remember?!  You told me to write down all the stuff I want and send it straight to them.  You know!  That list….  For Christmas!”  I silently shook my head.  “Just don’t bark at them,” I pleaded.  “Whatever you do, please don’t bark.”

In a traditional story, this paragraph would begin with Lexie aggressively barking at my parents who had driven eighteen hours to see us, but Lexie isn’t a traditional dog.  Lexie didn’t bark, she didn’t growl, she didn’t wag her tail or even so much as gaze in their direction.  She just sat there.  Shell shocked and fully committing to a completely vacant stare.  It was as though each of our conversations leading up to this moment had gone in one ear and out the other.  It was as though she hadn’t understood a word I’d been saying.

As we walked into our apartment, Lexie repeatedly looked back in the hopes that we’d shaken our predators.  But then they followed us inside.  Most dogs like treats, and Lexie is no exception, so I suggested that my mother approach her with one as a bribe.  Or a peace offering.  Unfortunately, it seems that Lexie might have seen one episode too many of “Lambchops Play-Along” in her past life because the “taking candy from a stranger test” is one that she’s determined to pass with flying colors.  “Let me guess,” she surmised, “you’re also looking for a lost puppy and need me to get in your car to help you find it.  Yeah, and then you’ll sell me a bridge at a real fair price.  I don’t think so!”

Lexie’s reluctance to enjoy a snack with her grandparents wasn’t an isolated incident.  They were with us for two days, and for two days, Lexie didn’t eat one bite. She did drink water though…but only when I brought the bowl directly to her as she held court from her green love seat.  Yes, her green love seat.  The vet cautioned me to thwart off her attempts at becoming the apartment’s co-captain, and my immediate response to this warning was to burst out laughing.  Through my persistent chuckles though, I tried to explain to him that I was already just another passenger sitting in coach, begging for a second bag of pretzels.

My parents made every effort to get Lexie to warm up.  My mom even went so far as to sit next to her in her big green chair.  It seemed that they had been playing a game of “hot/cold,” and as my mom confidently sat in that chair, I could hear Lexie screaming, “ICE COLD” at the top of her lungs, followed by, “GET THE HELL OUT OF MY LOVE SEAT.”  I wanted to tell Lexie that we don’t use language like that, but I knew she’d laugh in my face as I’d done earlier in the vet’s office.  After all, the kid does live with me.

Finally my mom decided to actually pick Lexie up, and I knew that this action would be considered a very bold move in the eyes of my young warrior.  My mom remarked that Lex was “stiff as a board,” and I sensed that this was her attempt at donning a Harry Potter-strength  invisibility cloak to avoid any potential confrontation.  Lexie seemed to be muttering to herself, “don’t make any sudden movements, and the enemy will retreat.”  “Don’t make any sudden movements and the enemy will retreat.”  It had become her survival call.

Lexie looked to me for help, but like any parent of a reluctant pre-schooler, my only response was to imitate Mickey Mouse and tell her that “it’s ok.  Mommy’s here. You’re ok.”  Naturally, as soon as I heard myself speak in this voice, the one that only small people and Muppets have the ability to evoke, my instinct was to stand up, walk outside, and throw myself into oncoming traffic.  But if I went through with that, then what would happen to Lexie?  I realized in that moment that my life isn’t my own anymore.  Becoming roadkill is no longer a viable option for me.

Things seemed to calm down in the evening, and by the time Lexie woke up the following morning, it was obvious that she felt like a brand new woman.  Fresh out of the box.  She enthusiastically licked my face (yum) and playfully followed me outside for her morning stroll, eagerly running back to our front door at its completion.  Alright, I thought to myself, we’re goodThe shock has dissipated.

Just as we had gathered around for pancakes and “Saved By the Bell” though, the winds shifted.  My parents had woken up, and Lexie swiftly reverted to the personality of an inanimate collector’s item propped up on the highest shelf.  It hadn’t been a dream, and Lexie continued on with her lifelong audition of being cast in “Jim Hensen’s The Secret Life of Toys.”  Don’t let the humans see you move.  I’m a toy.  I’m just an ordinary toy.

Sadly, our weekend-long visit came to an end but not before Lexie was able to coax her grandparents into buying her a brand new dish set and into giving her the promise of more glitter to come.  Naturally, I didn’t get anything.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over time  it’s that once a grandchild has come along, the parent no longer has any use for their own kid anymore.  Destiny has fulfilled itself and the mission has been accomplished.  Also, Lexie wants to earn her keep, so she’s accepting any modeling or television offers that come her way.  And if you do have such an offer for her, I have this to say to you,  “she really has a very charming personality.”

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