Long, cold winters require a bit of warmth, a bit of fun. They require long drives through Amish Country which devolve into giggles over “inappropriate” words spray painted on broken down one room schoolhouses. They require quick bathroom stops in the middle of nowhere, the bathroom not heated with seats cold on our bums. They require surprises for little boys who have had to deal with weeks and weeks of time off from school.
And so, two weeks ago, we did just that, eventually ending up at Castaway Bay in Sandusky, Ohio.
Our third trip to the indoor water park, they boys figured out where we were headed about five minutes away. This year, unlike last year, we were staying at the hotel attached to the water park as we were invited by the PR company for Cedar Point.* We got to stay for free, but even if we hadn’t been invited, we would have purchased tickets like we did last year. It has become a part of our winter routine, something to look forward to during the long, cold, endless season.
This year brought about a little change as the boys, familiar with the layout of the water park, felt okay without us, the parents, hovering over their every move. One reason we prefer Castaway Bay over some of the other indoor water park options is that the size is manageable for the younger set. Our sons are six- and eight-years-old and strong swimmers. While we didn’t let them in the wave pool without us, they were free to climb and play on the big water feature, ride the slides, and take the water roller coaster ride together. That meant? My husband and I got to sit in the hot tub for our first time ever. In three years! The boys ran over every few minutes or so and let us know where they were heading. Then we climbed out and took them to other places they wanted to go that required our presence — or places we wanted to be with them, to play and interact and so on.
The boys also got to have a blast in the arcade that evening. The joy of an arcade and an indoor water park makes for two little boys who sleep very well in hotel rooms. Hooray! (Double hooray because my husband had them to sleep by the time I got back from hanging with some of my favorite people and meeting some great new people, too!)
Friends: Christina of A Mommy Story and Diane of Momo Fali.
Wine from Mon Ami Winery on Catawba Island.
Add in some fun activities, a Snoopy and other Peanuts characters, and yummy food, and really, we had a wonderful little excursion. The 82 degree temperature inside the water park was an added bonus, seeing as how it was nine degrees outside when we visited.
I can’t wait to head back next winter for our annual surprise trip. The questions will likely begin in mid-November. “Is it winter yet? Can we go to Castaway Bay now? It’s cold. I want to go to the water park.” And then one day, we will surprise them, and all will be well!
But you can surprise your family this winter!
I have a four pack of tickets to Castaway Bay (not the hotel, just the water park) to give to one lucky reader. The giveaway will be open from today through next Tuesday, March 4, 2014. A random winner will be chosen and I will contact the winner by email.
How to enter:
Make sure any/all comments have a working email address. Best of luck!
* = All opinions are my own. Duh.
I announced it on Twitter, but it needs to be said here too: I’m an Official Pittsburgh Marathon blogger! I’m thrilled, of course. I’ve already been sharing my training updates here on the blog, but now I get to share them with a broader audience! My hometown audience!
I’ve been asked to share why I chose the Pittsburgh Marathon, why I’m choosing to #RunHomePGH — their theme for this year.
It’s quite simple: If I only ever run one marathon, I want it to be my hometown marathon.
On the one hand, making the choice was easy. Pittsburgh is in my heart, my soul, my being. I bleed black and gold. I get homesick for Pittsburgh every time one of my ‘Burgh friends posts a picture on Twitter or Pittsburgh Dad uploads a new video. Living in Ohio, I make a concerted effort to take my children to the city so that they can, on some level, understand why I love it so much.
Combining my love of running with my love for Pittsburgh made sense. The decision to “run home” was driven home when I ran the Inaugural Pittsburgh EQT 10 Miler in November. Running through the streets of the city with the sun shining down, the people cheering, the love of all things Pittsburgh flowing through me with each step made it abundantly clear: I had to run the Pittsburgh Marathon.
On the other hand, choosing Pittsburgh was hard. 26.2 miles in and of itself is big and daunting and more than I’ve ever run. With two half marathons under my belt and a series of smaller races, I am 100% committed to running. But deciding to run a full marathon felt too big. Choosing Pittsburgh on top of that — a hilly course to put it lightly — felt like I was setting myself up for failure. When people in my life made comments about how “crazy” I was when I finally bit the bullet and registered, I started to doubt myself.
I’m over that now.
I CANNOT WAIT TO RUN HOME. To my home. Through my home. With my people. Past my people. For my people, with my Pittsburgh and Ohio family somewhere in the crowds, cheering me on. I cannot wait to cross that finish line, accomplishing something no one thought I could do, something an old physical therapist told me I’d never be able to do. And if we’re honest, something I didn’t think I would ever do.
I’m still a bit nervous: that’s a lot of miles, a big giant hill. But I don’t doubt that I can do it. I’ve started working hill routines into my weekly training along with using the very hilly Salt Fork State Park for some of my weekend long runs in order to incorporate lots of hills in with lots of mileage. I won’t be the first one across the finish line. I don’t think I’ll be the last one either, but even if I am, I’ll do it with a smile on my face. Or maybe a grimace at first but eventually a smile. Right? At some point? Come on, fellow marathoners, tell me that this won’t kill me!
Now that you know why I’m running, I’ll offer a brief update about my training: I just finished my eighth week of training, leaving me ten weeks left to figure this whole running all the miles thing out. The 56 degree weather on Saturday made for a very awesome, but equally hard run. I am feeling the mid-training exhaustion that everyone talks about, that I experienced with half marathon training, too. I’m going to pull one run out of my training this week and substitute in a day of cross-training — or maybe straight up rest. I have no desire to push myself to the point of injury.
As far as pace goes: Things are looking pretty slow as I start working in hills. I keep struggling with this, mostly mentally — and mostly because I read so many blogs by so many really, really fast running women. So, when I’m running slow for me, which is really slow for them, I start getting down on myself. And then I shake it off and get over it and remind myself, once again: I’m running my own race. And then I duck and shuffle up the next hill. Because hills.
Over the next two weeks, my plans include working more on a killer hill near my house, passing the 13 mile mark in my long runs, and working really, really hard on hydration. I was doing so well with that but totally fell off the water horse. Time to hope back on! Here’s hoping that the Polar Vortex leaves me alone so I can stay outside and away from the dreadmill!
Are you training for the Pittsburgh Marathon? Be sure to check out the other Official Run Home Bloggers:
“Snow can wait, I forgot my mittens…”
Beyond the exhaustion of a never-ending winter with the non-stop snow and occasional ice and bone-chilling cold and colorless landscape… beyond all of that, I stand in the middle of a field with my camera, searching for some kind of hope. Any kind of hope. As the wind blows and snowflakes circle my head, I stand — alone.
I feel the cold; I don’t feel the cold. I feel alone; I don’t feel alone. I feel everything; I feel nothing. In one breath, I am okay. In the next, I collapse in a heap of ski pants and thermalined green jacket, gloves and hat and tears and boots. I flop back, the cold of the snow and ice reaching its icy fingers through the thin of my hat, the short length of my hair, all the way to my scalp, my brain, my soul, my being. I breathe out the fear, the ice. I inhale the truth of life, of seasons. Cliche, yes, but this too shall pass. The snow will pass. This winter will end. Eventually, I won’t feel like this.
Winter will melt into spring. The sun will once again be visible more often than not. I hope to be around to embrace it like a long lost child, come home.
When I think back to the winter of 2013-2014, I want to remember the happier times. Like two little boys asking to go play outside. Like the way I didn’t really have to help them get their snow clothes on except for tying their boot laces in double knots. Like how they spent nearly two hours outside without whining or complaining or fighting or tattling.
When I think back on this long, long winter with all of the Snow Days and the scrambling and the frustration and the Cabin Fever and the other hard things, I want to remember their giggles. I want to remember how they worked together to clean the snow off the playhouse, worked together to create snowballs to throw at the dog, worked together to crush the snowman. Worked together.
I want to remember how they drank half cups of hot chocolate at the bar, clad in long johns that they still call jamma-longs.
I want to remember how disappointed they were every time school was canceled, how they found things to do together — and apart — to pass the long, long hours. I want to remember how we played fast and loose with my own schedule to create pockets of family time with the unexpected, unstructured days off. I want to remember the unsolicited “thank yous” for the bits of fun we had, the things I worked hard to create so that the difficulty of Snow Days meant less than the fun we had as a family.
Mostly, I want to remember that this season of unrest eventually ended, but we first have to get there, through these short-but-long days. We will, of course. But soon, right?
Of note: Callie doesn’t care if winter ever ends. That’s one happy dog.
I shared this, in part, on Instagram earlier today. (1 & 2) I wanted it to be here, too — in this space of our own.
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My husband’s phone rang as we sat in the not-quite-silence of our living room on a school holiday. Downstairs, the noise from the playroom let us know the boys had found a way to keep themselves busy — for now. The Olympics on the TV across the room provided a quiet hum, the reason I sat on the comfy couch instead of in my home office. My husband doesn’t always answer his phone, but he answered it this time.
I’m glad he did. His childhood friend lost his grandfather this weekend. A family friend, each generation close friends with each generation, the loss was felt in ripples and waves throughout our own family.
We scrambled to get things together to make it to the funeral home. My husband’s suit just dropped off at the cleaner’s on Friday, he had to call to see if it would even be done. I found something funeral home appropriate for myself, for the boys. I got the work done I needed to get done. Eventually, things came together and we stopped to meet up with the grandparents.
When you marry into a family that lives in an area in which you didn’t grow up, there are stories upon stories that you can never begin to fully collect. I did not know that Gramps and Mamaw used to go on cruises with this now passed on friend. I didn’t know the depth of the history, the weight of the loss.
We made our way to the funeral home and did what you do at funeral homes. I felt overwhelmed by how much people love my husband, and by association, my sons. The kindness in the light of loss even more striking than usual, and I blinked hard a few times to keep the tears behind eyelashes clad in non-waterproof mascara.
After a very early dinner with my husband’s grandparents, full of laughs and many questions, we made our way as our four person family unit to the coffee shop. As we walked in the door, a young family caught my eye. Young in the fact that the baby that they were wrapping up in a blanket was a new baby. A very, very new baby, making them very, very new parents. I imagined they had stopped at the coffee shop as part of their first outing. I wondered how long it took them to even get out the door, how many times they checked the diaper bag, what they still ended up forgetting despite bringing many things they didn’t need today — things they won’t ever need. I smiled at them, catching my husband’s eye. He smiled at me, the memories between us not needing voice — only a look.
The four of us stood at the register, ordering two Venti black coffees. Two sons danced around our feet, full of questions — about coffee, about why we ate dinner so early, about life, about death, about GameStop, about video games, about everything, about nothing. One of them stepped on my foot. Our scene to the gentleman waiting behind us was not nearly as quiet and precious as the scene set by the new family in the front of the coffee shop, now struggling to get their new baby into the car seat.
It struck me then, the weird cycle of life. Here we were, just fresh from the funeral home. There they were, making goo-goo eyes at their precious, beautiful newborn. Here we were, deep in the thick of noise and mess and non-stop questions and never-ending parenthood. There were friends of our family, saying goodbye — coming to realize that the questions end, that children eventually say goodbye to parents, grandchildren to grandfathers, great-grandchildren to a man they’ll never fully be able to know or appreciate.
We are not there, at the beginning. We left that behind some time ago. We are not yet at the ending. We find ourselves somewhere in the middle, overly conscious on days like this of these endings and beginnings and the middleness of our lives right now. There is comfort here in the middleness — of realizing how far we have already come, of hoping that the ending remains far away. I worked hard to patiently answer the questions lobbed in my direction as we waited for the barista to brew another pot of coffee just to fill our order.
And so, in a coffee shop somewhere in Ohio today, I gave thanks for all that we have come through, for where we are right now in the middleness of this life, and for everything that yet remains.