Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Blog of Three Three's #threes #triathlon #actthree #troisiemeacte #thisis40

I have a bit of a pet peeve against blogs that start with, "I know I haven't posted in awhile, but..."

I feel that it always signals the end of the great and sometimes not-gradual decline of a blog where a writer has moved on with their life, reached their goal, or hit an obstacle that could not be surmounted and stopped them in their blogging tracks.

Well I've written a few of those posts now, vowed to quit the blogging and social media twynmawrmom accounts "ONCE AND FOR ALL!" several times now, and yet, still find myself needing to write and declare and commit and share occasionally.

So here we are. Your favorite Main Line twin mommy, you, and perhaps a cup o' Joe. Let me catch you up quickly, and then at length, since everything seems to happen in three's. Feel free to start with your favorite. And...get a second cup o' Joe...or third!

A Tale of Three Philly Bike Trails
I've ridden my bike more than I ever thought I would. Sure, as a child I enjoyed biking, but I never imagined I would enjoy cycling. When I began triathlon as a challenge for my 30th birthday, I quickly realized biking was my weakest skill. Now, after my 40th birthday and numerous tri's under my belt, I see that it is only with years that you can truly build and witness the progress of one's biking skills. I love my Trek bike, and since my half-iron it has not gotten much attention. Still, every time there is a bit of a breeze outside and I gear up on that thing, I enjoy every minute of it. And, I'm actually getting better! As you know I get bored very easily, so I've challenged myself to try as many bike trails in the Philly/Main Line suburban area as possible.

My fave, of course, is the Schuykill River Trail. It runs from the city of Philadelphia, up Kelly Drive, through Manayunk (via bumpy towpath or bypassing via the streets nearby), up to Conshohocken, Valley Forge, Oaks, and Phoenixville.  I have started and stopped on many different parts of it. For awhile I parked near the Northern end of the Manayunk towpath and biked up to Oaks and back for a 30 mile workout (or twice for a 60-miler.)  Now I tend to park at Valley Forge, head North to Oaks, loop around Perkiomen Valley Trail, and back for a 20 mile workout. It is mostly flat, there are great vistas of the River, and not many runners to work around. As a woman during a weekday midday, I never feel completely alone or vulnerable, but do have some peaceful solitary stretches.

In preparation for the Tour de Cure in and out of Doylestown is the 202 Parkway Bike Trail. It's hilly! Rolling hills, I guess I should say. I thought it was very scenic at parts and well maintained. I would do the Tour de Cure again, Bucks County is gorgeous, but hope for temps less than 90's. I do enjoy this marked trail but it is about a 45 minute drive from my home so I don't do it too often. I sometimes park at the Target there and am able to grab a Starbucks and hit the restroom afterwards. Very convenient.

This summer I tried out Chester Valley Trail, because I heard some stretches had been recently completed and/or updated. I parked behind the Home Depot on 202 in King of Prussia, and rode all the way out to the Main Street at Exton shopping complex. There is a lot of stop-and-starting, street lights, neighborhoods, and retail shopping centers. The good part of that is, there are always people so you never feel alone and you could stop and get a drink whenever you like. There are even bike pumps and safety stops offered by area businesses if you run into trouble. The bad part of that is, there are always people and you can never quite hit 'race pace.' In total I managed to loop around the parking lot a few times to make it an even 30 mile training day. Not too shabby. I heeded the warnings of reviewers online who mentioned starting in KOP would allow you to enjoy a gradual decline heading back. That was true.

A Tale of Three IronGirl Races
"You never forget your first" racing partner, and for me, that is my friend Tara. When I started this business of triathlon, a mutual friend of ours re-introduced us (we actually went to college together but did not hang out) and she committed to try the IronGirl race with me. She had just completed her tenth marathon and was looking for a change. We trained together by biking on the race course, swimming in my condo pool, and checking our running progress. No one had any kids yet so our friends woke up at 5 am with us to cheer us on, and we hit the diner on the way home.

For the second time around, I was training for my Half-Iron and Tara was post-baby, so it was another good time to go for it. We treated ourselves with a stay at the race hotel and a sushi dinner. We raced our hearts out and promised to hit it again at age 40. Ok that was Tara's idea but I was game. It seemed like such a long time away...

Fast forward to two days ago and IronGirl Columbia stole our hearts once again. Sure, they had to cancel the swim for water safety reasons, we didn't train enough, and the race expo was not what it used to be. But being in the comfort of women who just want to keep up the chops for as long as possible (5 ladies in the 70+ group, for one), is flat-out inspiring. Both of us having two kids and a keen interest in the Olympics, we decided to hit the Whole Foods deli bar nearby and enjoy dinner in front of the TV uninterrupted. We missed the bike pump at the start, the parking (what? no shuttle this year?), half our training, and half our preparation (isn't that the Gu you gave me last time because you didn't like the flavor then?), but it was exhilarating. We are STILL in the hunt, people. Still IN IT!

A Tale of Three Parts of One Heckuva Mid-Life Crisis
As you know, I began searching for a job again last summer. It was quite an adventure in and of itself! Having worked in College Admissions, the majority of the positions turnover in the summer, so it kinda took over before the twyns first year of school even finished. May to August I proceeded to take about ten interviews, including second and even third rounds, only to come up with no offer. There was one in particular that I felt could have been offered to me had I not given them the indication that I was interested in a larger role and that it would have been a step down for me. I left that interview sobbing because I didn't see myself waiting out someone's retirement for ten years doing a job I would probably hate. My husband was so supportive, and hated to see me so upset. He suggested I go back to school, perhaps a Masters in Higher Education would give my career search a boost. I could think of nothing I would rather do LESS than a degree supporting an admissions job. I got into music admissions via music, not admissions, and I always saw myself as more of a musician. Period.

And yet...I didn't want to be a musician anymore. Oh sure, I've said that manymanymanyMANY times before. Music-and-me have been going through a divorce that never gets finalized for over twenty years.  But I mean it this time! I can't work nights and weekends. I can't be taking the train up to NYC or into Philly for unpaid rehearsals while paying for child care. What's more, I'd rather see their performances or soccer games, to be honest. I'm ready for them to take center stage. Neither of them seems interested, but hey, no seven-year-old is dragging their mama around town to every audition notice they circled in the paper, now is she? Oh wait...

I'm sure music and I will get back together again someday, in some capacity, but it will likely entail more writing, not performing. I enjoyed working with my former partner-in-crime Sibyl Kempson last year, and creating with her, but it took SO much out of me. I literally felt like I birthed and raised a child to 18 years of age within the span of two years. I'm gonna need another ten-year hiatus.

So I did some soul-searching. I tried out a few careers week-by-week, "the flavor of the week" we called it, and really dug deep to see if, when examining the details, it was right for me. I literally was this close to buying a food truck, people. But we'll get back to that...

So, midlife crisis part 1: Ironman left behind. You witnessed my struggle with this. Thank goodness they offer fee-refundable registration! I forfeited $90 but not the entire $650. The running injury I sustained while trying to train for the marathon leading up to the Ironman was too tough.  I was eventually diagnosed with "Greater Trochanter Pain Syndrome" and proceeded to endure loads of physical therapy. Even now, I am recovering from the little 3.75 mile run from IronGirl this past weekend. I ran a few times this summer to train, but tried to limit it to uphills so as to save my trochanter/back hamstrings. That proved useful for training, but unfortunately taking the downhills during the race did not prove useful for my legs. Goodbye running. Goodbye Ironman. I'm a huge fan. I will be following the triathlon in the Olympics with pride and a special kinship, but I will leave the third leg to my future relay partners (any takers? ;) )

Midlife crisis part 2 is a little more personal. Turning 40 can be scary for some, and I guess I am no different than many others before me. For some reason I really felt it looming over me. I had been thinking, well probably since I got the pair at the age of 16, to lessen the burden on my shoulders and back with a reduction. I consulted a few, I conferred A LOT, and I got the surgery. I can't believe that I did! And I am SO SO happy. ELATED. I feel like I set the clock back ten years. I got my 30's back! I had gotten to the point where NO bra lasted me more than 45 minutes without hurting. And don't get me started on working out, the chafing, the double boob, the unwanted delayed gut-wrenching jiggle-BOOM....everyone wants what they can't have, I guess. But it took me three weeks post-surgery to really understand the weight that had been lifted: I had been in the habit of holding up my shoulders all day (and particularly when sitting at a table or counter) to lift up my chest. I couldn't stop shrugging my shoulders permanently! I had to consciously push my shoulders back down after the surgery. I still find myself doing it sometimes. Only my large sisters know: there could be pancakes on the dinner table every night if we let them. It was my time, my turn, to let them go. It is/was emotional, and I could write about it all day, but feel free to ask me any personal questions you have in a private message of some kind. Otherwise I'm going to start accosting women on the street and advising them to do the same! Scars are better than pain. I mean, it was a group effort, it certainly wasn't easy and couldn't be done [with kids] alone, but I've enjoyed the difference in my swimming, biking, running, golfing, cooking, cleaning...ok maybe not enjoyed that last one, but you get the idea.

Which leads me to my favorite 3 of all 3's! Midlife crisis part 3: the job search journey has led me to my Act 3 in life! I will be starting a second bachelor's (technically it will be my third, how fitting) degree in nursing. They have accelerated programs and the one I have chosen, and been admitted to, will take 14 months at Villanova University, starting in May 2017! I couldn't be happier that I have been called to this choice. I reached the decision late last summer after the series of job interviews and set about taking my pre-requisites at Delaware County Community College. I could write another blog post about how wonderful that institution is, and what an amazing transition schooling can be for the SAHM. But for now I've written enough, and you've read enough, and there is always, ALWAYS a part three, people.

Not a CHILD number three, for me, but a PART three, LOL. A great and exciting Act Trois for this Triathlete. AMEN.

Till next post...

P.S. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you probably knew all of this, 
but I knew you wanted the full story...

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Keep mom in the picture #mothersday

I know it is disingenuous to speak of my friend's battle with cancer and how it affected ME and MY LIFE, so I have avoided it up to this point. Here is a woman who wrote her own obituary, so she certainly does not need my take on her life. In her own words, she claimed victory over cancer, because, being an English professor, she used the true meaning of the word "victory" and claimed she was strong in the face of adversity, rather than focusing on whether or not she 'vanquished' her enemy, Mr. Cancer.

In fact, she did not.
My daughter asked for a photo so she could 'paint my friend.' Kylie would have loved it!
So I have not wanted to 'tell my tale', because it was not MY tale to tell, and I was mostly only an observer over the last eighteen months of her life/struggle with the c-word. In fact, since we had our babies, we had seen each other less and less than of course those awesome college days where I seem to recall us drinking together every night. Memories are fickle, however, and I'm not sure how objective I can be about our relationship. In death, everything is memorialized to the nth degree and I sure do think we were close. But as we drove to the funeral, my college friends and I reminisced, and, we weren't sure. We tried to gauge if we were the 'imposters' heading to the funeral where there would be 'real' friends of hers who had known her in recent years; or if we were really, truly, friends of hers who knew a certain side that, perhaps, no one else did.

It doesn't matter.

What matters now, and why I chose to blog about this, is because, on this Mother's Day, I am thinking especially of her and her children. As my mom tells me, a "motherless child" is a psychological profile. Losing your mother, the person who created your world, changes your world. And I'm thinking especially of those two she left behind.

Thanks to Kylie's blog and her online world, she will live on for many years. One of her legacies, especially for me, will be the fact that she insisted on "mom" getting in the picture. This is actually the reason she started a blog, because, having lost her mother at 24, she was saddened by the fact that she did not have many photos with her mother. So, fat jeans and bad hair days be damned, she got in the picture for many many months.

And, today, I want to encourage you all to do the same.

I know you didn't shower last night.

I know you need to get your hair done.

I know there are 10 - 20 - 30 pounds hanging around that you want to hide.

I know no one is asking you to get in the picture (my husband is historically terrible at this, but, after years of my insisting, is getting more proactive!)


You guys, let's just be us. Honor yourself today, on this, and every other day. 






Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Soul-searching for the transitioning SAHM

The world is cruel. Ok, it's not super cruel, but there are some prejudices I think I have silently encountered over the last few years while I have stayed-at-home that I would like to address.

Stopping your career mid-stream to raise your little ones is a:
  1. hurdle in your career
  2. obstacle to overcome
  3. dream come true
  4. necessary evil
  5. a chance to reset & redefine
It is NOT, as I thought, a chance to "redirect in a more lucrative direction" or "pick up where you left off", as I had previously thought! Employers did not see line items on my resume as an asset with a 5-year gap tacked on top of it; they saw my time out as a liability and my previous management experience as a burden if they were to hire me for a 'lesser' position.

I didn't want this to be true, and I didn't really believe it to be true at the outset, because I wasn't requesting an inappropriate salary level, and I wasn't trying to become management right away. But perhaps my experience was intimidating, or too specific. I did all the right things: social media, new skills, keeping up-to-date on current software and strategies, incorporating constructive criticism from headhunters...and at the end of the day I'm just wondering if I wore too much eau de mere. 

Let me sum up the last couple of years of my life so you can gain perspective:
  • worked in music & theater performance
  • then music administration - which led to college music admissions - at the Director level
  • left the job to raise twins in a new city 
  • realizing the niche quality of my previous positions, tried to transition to general college admissions
  • although I received much attention and many [first and second!] interviews, did not secure employment in that area, and frankly, was not really invested in it [at the end of the day, college admissions is TRAVEL. It could be two weeks a year, it could be ten weeks a year. Music and Theater, even at the administrative level, includes nights/weekends. I'm not interested in being away from my family. I needed that #5 RESET & REDEFINE option.]
So I did some soul-searching. I asked myself many questions. I came to many, many answers. 

And finally: ONE answer that did have what I was looking for: 
  1. meaning
  2. inspiration
  3. potential to be lucrative
  4. long term growth potential
  5. family-friendly options for this mom who loves being available for her kids
These, I discovered, were my priorities. Maybe these questions will help you find yours too. Try to answer them each separately, without a need for a running thread between them. There does not have to be a storyline attached to all of them. We are trying to move away from the storyline you have already written for yourself many times. We are changing the plot.

The idea is to wrap our brains around what you are good at, what you are qualified to do, what you want to do, and what you are able to be appropriately compensated for. [I know I'm not supposed to write sentences that end in a preposition, but we didn't ever say TwynMawrMom makes money for writing, now did we? Precisely my point. at which. I'm making... yeah.] And again, none of those things have to match each other (they certainly don't for me), and they also don't necessarily need to correspond to a job that is already in your vocabulary and/or listed on your resume. Don't feel the need to answer them all at once. Take one or two at a time. Take a week for each! Take your time.

Honestly, this is the rest of your life we are talking about. What do you want to do with it now that you've had your babies? 

1. If, God forbid, something happened to my partner, what would I do to support the family/pay the mortgage? What could I do immediately? And what would I want to do if given any time, education & credentials?

2. What am I qualified to do currently?

3. If I wanted to go back for more qualifications or a new certification/education in another area, what would I be interested in studying?

4.  What do I see myself doing when the kids leave the house (like, college-aged)?

5. What do I see myself doing at 60? [Again, does not need to match #4]

6. What is at the core of who I am? Not just what I am passionate about, or good at, but my CORE being. Who am I. What do I wake up in the morning thinking about. What am I motivated by. What gets me running (besides the kids.)?

7. If I had ten hours a week to volunteer at a place, what would it be? (This might be a good opportunity to try some different places in general...) Where would this ten hours of my life be best spent? If your first answer is "the kids' school", which is a totally normal first response for a SAHM, what would your SECOND answer be?

8. What did I like about my job before kids? What did I not like?

9. If I were to be paid half of what I used to make, what hours would I be willing to work and what would I be willing to do? If I were to be paid twice what I used to make, what hours would I be willing to work and what would I be willing to do?

10. What's that thought, in the back of your mind, that's been lying dormant since forever, that you haven't entertained before? That one, there? We've all read the adage, "What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?" Take it one step further: What would you do if no one else knew what you did, ever? If it was just for you and your paycheck to know?

Again, I hope these helped. I'm still figuring all this out for myself. I'll let you know how things progress...

Obviously, it is not full-time blogging, or I wouldn't keep you all waiting months between posts! After the toddler years, life just isn't as exciting, is it? ;) I'll leave you with a *5* year old photo! Egads!! 5 years went by RULL quick.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

40 things I know about myself as I approach my 40th birthday

1. I'm a doer.
2. I'm a visual learner.
3. I like swimming.
4. I'm glad I have/had big breasts.
5. I'm done with my breasts.
6. I was meant to be a mom.
7. I like accomplishing things fast.
8. I do not like running/racing fast.
9. The best decision I have made was to marry my best friend.
10. I don't honor myself.
11. I'm a nerd.
12. I really like learning new things.
13. I love scuba diving.
14. I honestly like helping people.
15. There is nothing I wouldn't do for my family.
16. I am not organized.
17. I like attention.
18. I have a love/hate relationship with music and my voice.
19. I do not spend time or energy on trying to understand what other people think of me.
20. Therefore, I have no idea what I look like to other people.
21. I do not know how to dress myself.
22. I value comfort over formality.
23. I never wanted to be a rock star.
24. I did want to be a Broadway star.
25. I always have many goals.
26. I am self-disciplined in most areas.
27. Friendship motivates me.
28. I could travel often and be happy. I am a gypsy at heart.
29. I was raised on science fiction.
30. Organized religion grounds me.
31. I think that water is a cure-all. Drinking it, hearing it, seeing it, living near it, feeling it.
32. I want my ashes spread on a certain rock in Kauai overlooking the ocean.
33. I want my children to live full lives.
34. I'm worth more than I ever got paid to do a job.
35. I change my job/career path with my location.
36. I have a pretty low blood pressure, which keeps me even.
37. I have a hot temper I am always working on controlling. I have done a better job of this since I had kids.
38. I don't really like reading. I like good stories, but I do not covet sitting down to read a book.
39. Put on good music and I can do anything.
40. I will always dance at the party.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Quick tips on Hershey Park #familyfun

Our 11th anniversary pic. Happy twyns, happy lyfe?
Well as you know I do live in Pennsylvania. We are actually only about an hour and a half drive from Hershey so we have gone twice as a family, as a day trip. Here are my wins & losses, maybe it will guide you to a successful trip yourselves!

First of all, Hershey is lovely. There is no comparison with some other amusement parks: there are roses and trees and no trash on the ground as you wait in line for say, a roller coaster. It's a class act. It's worth the extra sticker price and travel.

Secondly, there is an app! These days, isn't there always an app? Well the Hershey app does provide you with approximate wait times (we found them to be overestimates of the actual time we waited, so we were pleasantly surprised, like, a lot.)

It will also let you search, and filter through that search, by food, rides by height, and rides by wait time! Once you choose an attraction, you can click "take me there", and the GPS will provide you with a path by which to walk there. It can be glitchy with cell service through the glorious trees, but overall: Pretty cool.

Thirdly: Great Family Rides by height! My twyns are firmly implanted in the "Reese's" height range and we have about four or five true roller coasters we enjoyed riding:

  • superdooperlooper (about 4 times that day)
  • The Comet (twice that day)
  • Trailblazer
  • Coal Cracker (log flume type)

Like, really really enjoyed:

Take a few minutes as you enter the park and get 'officially' measured at the height station near the Carousel. The kids will get a wristband for their appropriate height range and won't have to be measured again all day.

Fourthly: Water Park and Amusement Park in One! But do the water park first. We have no photos of our first three hours at the park, because we were enjoying the Wave Pool (four cycles of the 'wave-maker'), the slides (three times in the double tubes we share), the Lazy River (twice around), and the huge boat that splashes everybody called Tidal Force. We were specific with the kids about wearing our bathing suits there, enjoying the water park for the first few hours, then changing and doing 'dry stuff' for the rest of the day. It worked! As the twyns get older it is sooooo helpful that my husband has clear boundaries. 

So we arrived at the park at around 10 am, got to the lockers/changing areas/water park zone at around 10:20, started the water fun and finished around 1 pm. All of our phones and dry clothes (a large backpack full) fit easily into a locker which had unlimited in/out access for $15/day. We got some kettle corn to hold us over so we could get to some roller coasters before the crowds got bigger. For some reason, 3 pm had a bit of a rush. 

The water attractions close at 6 pm (beware of mass exodus), and the park itself closes at 10 pm or 11 pm, depending on the day. I would suggest getting a locker closer to the front of the park so that, at the end of the day, you are not schlepping back up to the water area ("The Boardwalk") to get your wet towels in the locker. There are rides up there, but no roller coasters in the Reese's range, so there was no reason for us to go back. So, because we had two parents and some kiddie rides to wait on, I was able to trek back up on my own while they did the swings in the main area of the park. 

Food & Drink: Stick to the center. Hershey is a nice big park, and there are a lot of hills, so be prepared and wear your walking shoes. On both visits we found we liked eating at Gourmet Grille, near the Zooamerica entrance (we skipped Zooamerica), because it has an enclosed seating area (a break from the heat if you need it) and there are some additional healthy options (paninis, salads, unsweet iced tea, and even quinoa salad.) If we had planned better, we would have purchased the "souvenir" cup at the beginning of the day for drinks, which costs $9, and refilled it throughout the day for $1 each time. As it was, we spent $3/piece for drinks at lunch (x 4 = $12), and we were hesitant to keep buying bottles of water or other drinks throughout the day, even though we didn't want to get dehydrated. There are water fountains in a few locations (next to Skyrush, for example), to refill your already-purchased water bottles if you like. They searched our bag in the beginning of the day so I do not believe they allow outside drinks. Overall, I'd say get the $9 refillable souvenir cup and stay refreshed.

Speaking of food, the Simply Chocolate ice cream shoppe was awesome. Like, real ice cream. And on our first visit, we actually ate at Red Robin for dinner after we left the park for the day. It is directly outside the park. It is run and managed very well to accommodate all the many tired families (we even paid the check on the iPad at the table so we could exit swiftly), and has all your favorite Red Robin foods. 

My daughter loves the Sea Lion show: "Our Friends from the Sea", but it was only 15 minutes this time. I swear it was 30 minutes last year. This is near the Flying Falcons ride, which my twyns also both enjoyed. You get a great view of the park from up top! Unfortunately we did not hit any of the other shows. I know there are some good Disney-style ones, but we are there for the rides. I would love to spend a few days in the Hershey area, enjoying the outlets, the hotel grounds, the gardens, and Chocolate World. My daughter really wants to make her own chocolate bar, but we never think far enough in advance to purchase/reserve that extra. We totally skipped the entire Chocolate World experience this time. It is right before the entrance of the park. Just get in there and get going! Pass the kiddie rides and get straight to the fun. 

Lastly, the games. You could tack on extra $40 before you even blink, trying to win another stuffed animal (because your children have so few, wink wink.) My husband, with his amazing boundary-ness, told the kids "no games" right off the bat, and that was that! I could have easily let the boy just spend like $2 trying to win that big stuffed bear, but Daddy made a good rule, and we stuck to it. So be aware, the games are everywhere. Make a limit before you get there! 

I think that's all the tips I have for now! If I think of more, you'll hear about it. Obvie

Have a Super Duper Looper Day! 

Coupon tip:
Always google search!  
We used this promo code for $12 off each adult ticket last week:  19138 

For more Family Travel posts, see the list under the Parenting tab here.

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