Thursday, May 29, 2014


Several months ago, Jason had this totally awesome idea for raising awareness about the Red Oak office within Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture.  You see, for most of the firm, Red Oak is akin to what Nebraska is to most New Yorkers.  They know it exists and imagine a few good things (like steaks) come out of it, but have they actually been there?  Definitely not.

As anyone who's made a marathon trek across the country can testify, there's nothing that helps you appreciate a place more than experiencing all the road between.  So thanks to Jason's brilliant scheming, on May 17th more than a dozen bikers made the 55 mile trek between the Omaha and Red Oak offices with the inaugural "Romahoak" ride. 

Jason designed this super-spiffy logo.  If you look carefully, the biker is made up of O2O, standing for Office 2 Office.  Wish we all had such artistic talent!

New to the firm, but already paving new ground.

Planning the event was a lot of work.  Jason designed a nifty website where you could register as an APMA Chopper (55 miles), You-Could-Do-Worser (35 miles), Training Wheeler (10 miles), or Party Animal (Just the Barbecue.)  If you have a moment, check it out and click around.  I particularly like the map he created.

At the beginning of May, Jason led a smaller group (the Crash Test Dummies) on a test ride.  Despite some wet and cold weather leading up to their ride, the sun shone brightly and they had a great time.   We worried a bit that we'd used up all of our good fortune, but May 17th was equally splendid.  The weather was perfect, the barbecue delicious, the participants all safe and happy--we couldn't have asked for anything better.

Congratulations on a job superbly done, Jason!  Romahoak is lucky to have you.

Marty at a pit stop in Malvern, Iowa.  I was lucky enough to cheer everyone on at a few stopping points along the way as I commandeered the Honda Odyssey sag wagon.

Jason dismounts, smiling a bit bigger thanks to his cushy new biker shorts with extra padding.

John and Steve trek in across the Wabash trail.  John (from Kenya) is a fellow architect and running partner while Steve (from around the corner) keeps the technology running.

The crew coasts into Emerson.

Alley Poyner Macchietto has a fantastic biking culture in their office, led by Michael Alley who once spent the entire summer cycling with his family from coast to coast.  While Michael couldn't make it (his first grandbaby was born the night before in Texas), the group was inspired to keep pedaling by Erin and her legs of steel.

Live Well Omaha guru, Madison.

Her boyfriend Scott.

Steve's looking strong.

Only appropriate that Ben, organizer of Omaha's own B Cycle program, should join us for the day.

Jason pauses to fuel up with a banana as Lynn and Steve look on.  Lynn and Steve share office space (and swap stories of coyotes) with Jason in Red Oak.  They were kind enough to help pick up people and bikes half way through.

Kylie says, "Say Cheese!"

Back in Red Oak, a group assembled around the main square, waiting for the bikers to arrive.  As luck would have it, we even had local musical entertainment.

Talia blows some bubbles as she waits.
Daric, Jason's Iowa cohort, fires up the grill.

Here's Daric's wife Jill, pictured with two of their three gorgeous daughters.  Jill and Daric were great Red Oak hosts, especially when it came to organizing the food.
Eli plays with a few bubbles of his own...

...then decides he needs a drink.

Meanwhile, NomiAnn does her best to keep Annika out of the fountain.  We were so thankful that she and Papa K babysat all morning and came out for the barbecue in the afternoon.  We never could have made it work without their help.

At long last, the group makes it in to Red Oak. 

Huge smiles all around.

The delicious barbecue was the perfect finale.
Ride Romahoak, may you be the bright start of a sweaty, dusty, and rewarding tradition!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Plea for Advice on Running Music and Marathon Training Reflections

So, I need your help.  A long time ago, a great friend asked me for some advice about running music and I totally ignored her email.  Not that I really meant to ignore her email; I just didn't know how to respond because my own running playlist is pretty pitiful.  Before I knew it, that starred message got buried in the abyss of my email.  The memory resurfaces periodically (along with a pang of guilt) when I'm out for a long run of my own, but of course by that point I'm far from a computer.  By the time I get home, "life" happens and running music is shoved to the far recesses of my mind.

And so, if you have any recommendations about good running music, please take pity on my guilty conscience and share.  I know I've read a few related posts in the past, but finding them requires time and brain power--both seem in short supply at the moment.  My friend and I would really appreciate some new tunes to spice up our runs.

And run we will!  You see, even though I haven't talked much about it on this blog, next week is peak training for the Utah Valley Marathon that Jason and I are running on June 14th.  If all goes well, I will log forty miles between my three midweek runs (5, 10, 5) and Saturday's 20 miler.

Allow me to indulge with some random marathon training reflections.  At 2:30 in the morning, I'm not capable of much coherence; however this is just about the only time that the house is still.  Marathon training has been such a pivotal element in our lives these past months that it would be a shame to let it pass by without any acknowledgement.

Goals:  Jason's dream goal is to both qualify for Boston and set a new Personal Record by running the race in 3:05 or less.  Even though he hasn't had time for as many midweek runs as he would like, he's been running consistently for long distances on Saturdays ever since we moved to Omaha.  As long as the altitude change doesn't kill him, I expect Jason will totally rock this race.

My own goals are more modest.  As much as I would love to run Boston, let's face it--the only way that will ever happen is if I make it to 60 without slowing down or else they grant me a handicap for my unusually short legs.  I'm built for endurance, but speed?  Not so much. 

And so, I'm trying to gear up mentally for a strong race where I feel happy and successful, no matter what the finish time on the clock.  I don't know how many more marathons are in my future, so I truly want to enjoy this race.  My training schedule has been identical to when I ran Utah Valley in 2011, but hey, it's 2014.  I have four kids now instead of three, one of whom still doesn't sleep through the night.  I'm older, heavier (did I just admit that?), and basically worn out.  2011's race went remarkably well--there's really no reason to expect that I should shave much time off.  But with a previous finishing time of 4:02:34, I can't help but secretly hope to beat four hours.

I do have a couple things working in my favor--so far I'm not nursing any injuries, as opposed to the ornery knee I fussed with in 2011.  I've also been doing a fair amount of training while pushing the double jogger.  Even though this makes these training runs painfully slow, I console myself by remembering how the extra effort must make me stronger on some level.  I guess we'll find out if stronger equates to faster!

Gear:  When I blew through my last pair of Asics, I decided that I was done with fancy (read expensive) running shoes.  My favorite 3100 series had been discontinued, and they'd upped the price yet again with their new line.  $140 for a pair of shoes that won't even last me a year is simply nauseating.  And so, I rummaged through the clearance aisle of DSW and found a pair of perfectly respectable (but not top of the line) New Balance running shoes for $35.  I went up a half size to allow plenty of room in my toe box, and thus far I've been really happy.  They've lasted me for 300 miles of training without any problems (knock on wood.)  If I've learned anything from this whole barefoot/minimalist running craze, it's simply that high tech footwear doesn't matter nearly as much as the athletic companies would have us believe.  As long as your shoe isn't too cushy, simply getting your run in matters much more than what you run in.  I must say, I sure hope that my theory holds because it feels great to thumb my nose at the whole crazy industry.

Double Jogger:  At long last, we upgraded to a BOB double jogger.  It's very well-designed and super durable--I imagine it could probably last us another four kids.  :)  But man, is it heavy!  Even empty, I struggle hefting it into the trunk of our minivan.  Fortunately, it rolls really well so pushing Annika and Eli on flat terrain isn't too bad.  I definitely notice the combined weight on hills and windy days, though.  Oh, and let's not forget turning corners.  There's no swivel wheel so my triceps get a workout on curvy paths.  Generally Eli and Annika seem to enjoy our runs.  Eli and I play i-spy until I get too winded; Annika often sleeps--thank heavens.  You see, the child is Houdini.  Despite the five-point harness, she manages to wriggle her petite arms and shoulders free, even when everything is tightened up as far as it will go.  Usually people passing the other direction give me an "aw-isn't-that-cute" glance when they peek in the stroller.  Last week a stranger gave me a look of positive horror instead, at which point I realized that Annika had wiggled free and was standing up in the stroller as I jogged.  (She's done the same in her car seat as well.)  Have I mentioned I'm worn out?  Gee, wonder why.

Lake Zorinsky and Beyond:  The only reason Jason and I have managed to both train for a marathon at the same time is thanks to the wonderful help and support of my parents.  We regularly camp out at their house on Friday nights and leave for a run early the next morning while the kids are still asleep.  By the time we get home, we usually arrive to the smells of NomiAnn fixing them a yummy Saturday breakfast.  Talk about the dream situation! 

Even so, after a while I got a little bored of our usual running spot--Lake Zorinsky.  Even though Zorinsky is great with its big loop, little loop, and combinations thereof, I started to feel like a hamster on a giant run.  Instead, I picked up a map showing the extensive trail system throughout Omaha and Council Bluffs and decided to explore new territory.  I've loved learning more about our city by covering new terrain.  Eventually I'd love to cover all the sections of trail, but that will probably take years.  In the meantime, I've enjoyed running around Lake Manawa, the Bob Kerry pedestrian bridge, beautiful Chalco hills, the Missouri riverfront, Midtown, Memorial Park, the Keystone trail, West Papio, the Veterans Memorial trail, and many other places.  Corny as it sounds, I am totally motivated each time I get out my little yellow highlighter to mark off new sections on my map.

Beyond the Marathon:  One of the reasons I'm most looking forward to getting through peak week is that it gives me hope for life beyond the marathon.  Not that I don't enjoy training: I do.  I cherish the time to be alone with my thoughts and clear my head.  Even though each individual run is tough, I like the feeling of getting stronger and being able to manage more.  On its own, a thirteen mile run is grueling, but when you hit thirteen on an eighteen miler, you hardly even notice. What I am noticing, however, is that the intense commitment of marathon training is starting to take a toll on my family.  It's not simply the time I spend running, although that alone becomes significant, especially during these final weeks.  It's all of the mental energy spent planning and preparing and gearing up.  You see, even though I am obsessive about getting my training runs in, it's still a mental battle to get started.  Every time.

And so, I'm grateful that soon the mileage will be cutting back because it's time to look beyond the marathon.  It's time to catch up on the laundry, hang some pictures, clean the bathrooms, plan meals, and plant a garden.  Time to give my children more undivided attention, and talk with my hubby about more than just training.  It's time to make new friends, set new goals.  It's time.

But first, Peak Week.  There's nothing like coupling your most intense training with Memorial Day travel and an overscheduled last week of school.  I say, bring it on, because I can see beyond.

Happy running!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Even though we live in Nebraska, not too far from Dorothy's Kansas abode, I've often reassured my children that they need not fear tornadoes. While they do happen, the likelihood of one actually striking our home is pretty remote. I like to remind them that Grandma Susie and Grandpa Charles have been much closer to a tornado while spending the day in Salt Lake City in 1999 than I've ever been.

I've still never seen a tornado; however last night I was reminded that the violent storms of the Midwest are nothing to be scoffed at. We spent part of Mother's Day huddled beneath the stairs of my parent's basement, listening to weather reports as we pondered the green sky. No tornadoes, but 75 mph winds and torrential rains. When at last we were given the "all clear," our family headed back home, grateful that all had ended well. Or at least so we thought.

As we pulled into the back alley, we found this:

Actually, that's not true. The sight we saw was much worse, with the tramp lying crumpled on its side in our neighbor's yard on the patch of grass that you can see behind the basketball hoop.

The trampoline had blown out of our yard and across the alley before resting in a mangled heap.  Amazingly, it managed to do so without much damage to Jason's parked car, our garage, or heaven forbid, the neighbor's property.  We're certainly sad to lose our favorite toy, but grateful that it wasn't so much worse.

And so, in memoriam of our beloved trampoline, here are a few photos of the munchkins playing.

Somewhere I have cute pics of Annika jumping, which perhaps I'll post if I ever get organized.  (Unlikely, I know.)  The loss of the tramp really is unfortunate since it doubled as a giant playpen.  I'd stick her on it, close the zipper, and sigh with relief since she was finally contained.  And as we all know, keeping up with her is a challenge.  In asking Papa K about his recent babysitting experience, he told me that the kids were mostly well-behaved; "Annie was the only real renegade."
Good thing we love her!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

In Over My Head

In honor of Mother's Day, allow me to be frank with you this morning:

I am totally in over my head.

When I was expecting Annie, I often heard that parenting four isn't much different than parenting three.  In some ways, that's true.  Parenting children, no matter how many, requires constant effort coupled with boundless energy and patience.  It doesn't matter whether it's 3am or 3 pm, Monday or Sunday--I'm still Mom.  The shift never ends.

Mothers (and fathers) wear an awful lot of hats, functioning as chef, nutritionist, server, hairdresser, chauffeur, tutor, wardrobe designer, maid, project manager, police, bodyguard, doctor and more--all within the course of a day.  Lately, however, I can't seem to get beyond the role of Emergency Responder.  Whether coping with overscheduled appointments or overdue library books, I am certifiably overwhelmed--bouncing from one crisis to the next.  As Annika becomes increasingly mobile, she requires constant vigilance in the hopes that she will actually survive to adulthood.  Her daring antics, while cute, leave my nerves frazzled and my sanity compromised.

Case in point: last week the piano tuner came to tune our recently acquired Baldwin Hamilton.   I was already feeling a bit embarrassed when he arrived because I'd just barely gotten back from a run with the double jogger and was a sweaty mess, plus we ended up having to move the piano to a different wall so that it wouldn't be directly in front of an air vent.  As soon as the tuner got his stuff out, Annika immediately started gnawing on his tools so I took both kids upstairs to play trains and shut the baby gate.  Everything went smoothly until I came back down for a moment to explain how we needed to take off early to see Brooklyn's horse display at school and could he please let himself out?

Well, by the time I got back upstairs, Annie had trapped herself in the upstairs bathroom.  While I was gone, she'd managed to push open the closed bathroom door, pull it shut behind her, and then open the bottom drawer of the vanity (presumably to chew on our toothbrushes), thereby making it completely impossible to open the door more than a few millimeters.  A few stiff shoves against the stout door, and I knew I was in trouble.  The hinges were on the other side, and Annika was already getting upset, lying on the floor and crying as she slid her little hands underneath to touch my fingers.

At fifteen months of age, Annie is old enough to get herself into a pickle, but not old enough to get herself out.  My coaxing pleas to "shut the drawer, Annie!  Push the drawer shut!" were futile.  In desperation, I started sliding fig newtons and graham crackers beneath the door to help her calm down while subtly gathering rescue supplies like a wire hanger and screwdriver.  All the while, the piano tuner is still downstairs plunking away and I'm calmly trying to pretend like nothing's wrong.  In whispered but urgent tones, I did what all girls do--I called my Dad--who was as clueless as I about how to solve the problem.  Next I called Jason, who did his best to provide advice from his Iowa office.  While Jason was explaining to me how I could climb in through the upstairs window, Annie pushed the drawer in partway, jamming it in the process.  I could now open the door three quarters of an inch and see more fingers peeking through.

Eli, by this point, was also upset, crying about how "I miss my Annie!"  As I went down to look for a hammer, he went and told the piano tuner all about how "his baby" was locked in the upstairs bathroom.  Before I know it, this complete stranger is upstairs helping me free Annika.  It was an emotional moment being reunited with my babe.  Mostly I felt grateful, although "mortified" ran a very close second.

By now, I'd completely missed Brooklyn's presentation on her proposed pet Morgan horse at the Envision expo.  My mother kindly offered to bring the big girls home from school, so I could have stayed around until the tuner finished.  Instead, my shame was such that I thanked the piano tuner and vacated the premises before we could do any further damage, hanging out at a park until I was sure he would be gone.  When I came back, the following bill was sitting on our piano:

Toddler Rescue: No Charge.  I guess everyone who enters our home likewise becomes an Emergency Responder.


In the time that it's taken me to compose this blog post, I've removed Annika from the middle of the kitchen table where she was sitting in a puddle of water from the cup she dumped, removed multiple crayons from her mouth, and listened to Jason's exclamation when he noticed that she was, I kid you not, hanging from her high chair like this:

So please excuse the sparsity of blog posts.  As I mentioned before, I am totally in over my head.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Zoe's Announcement

Zoe has an announcement to make on behalf of Callie and Adam.

Naturally we were all excited when Callie shared her news, but Talia's reaction was the best.  Her questions were quite unusual, like "Are you going to keep it?" and "How many will there be?"  When we explained that yes, Callie and Adam planned on keeping their baby, and there would likely be just one, her smile faded just a smidge.  "Oh," she said.  "I thought it was a puppy."

As wonderful as another pug cousin would be, we're delighted that the human variety is on its way.  Congratulations Callie and Adam, and smile--the first trimester's finally over.  :)