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Hello To The Next Decade Of Awesome.

I’m 40 today. I’ve been looking forward to 40 since, about 37 probably. My 30s were 1 million times better than my 20s so I’m banking on the same trend for my next decade in this body, on this earth. This body and this earth better not disappoint me in that regard.

There are a lot of things with me that are exactly the same was me in my 30s, but a lot of things are dramatically different as well. I still drink too much Diet Coke but I’m mostly an herbivore in my diet. I still love Harry Potter and reading Young Adult Fiction, but I also read adult fiction and even non-fiction which I hated when I turned 30. I still sleep with a stuffed animal my Dad gave me for my 10th birthday, but I finally stopped wearing his watch. I still have my favorite TV shows that I won’t miss but we no longer have cable. I still don’t really care about makeup or manicures or hairstyles, but I have started dressing up for work every day…and liking it. I still am terrified of large social gatherings with strangers, but I very much look forward to small gatherings of friends. I’m still married to the love of my life, but we have two more kids now. I’m a Mom to three now, instead of one, but one of those children is now a legal adult. I’m still a Daddy’s girl, even after he’s been gone for 6 years. I still am a lover of animals, but we’re down two from when I turned 30 and I still miss them terribly. I’m still blogging here, although less about infertility and pregnancy and more about running and bullet journals.

The one area that is drastically different is the area of fitness. When I turned 30 I hadn’t even run my first 5K. When I eventually did run a few, I had one that took me 39 minutes and I now have a sub 25-minute PR. I am currently signed up for my first 100K while I didn’t even know such a thing existed at 30. I didn’t swim or ride bikes and now I’m a triathlete. I had never uttered the word “burpee” or “plank” and no I got to boot camps for fun where burpees and planks are usually on the menu. My level of fitness at 40 is a million times higher than my level of fitness was at 30 and because of that, I can’t wait to see where I’m at when I turn 50.

The most fascinating thing to me about aging is looking back – not only on achievements I’ve made – but on how many of those I wasn’t even dreaming about a decade ago. I didn’t know about triathlons or ultra marathons when I turned 30. But I had also never heard the words “bullet journal” or “zendoodle” – two words I use daily now. I’m definitely looking forward to pursuing the challenges currently in my scope, but I also hope to discover new challenges that I don’t know to set my sights on yet.

I’m going to spend some time this morning with my new bullet journal (I’m switching to Leuchtturm1917 because their dotted notebooks come in HARDCOVER, I’ll report back after I’ve been using it a bit.) and then I’m going to go for a ride and a run before drifting into work a little later than usual. Then I’m going to eat dinner at my favorite restaurant and be sad my oldest child can’t celebrate with me.

But mostly today I’ll just be happy to be 40. I surround myself with people who prove age is no boundary for adventure, so another year is just another opportunity to be awesome. Another day to set fire to the world with my enthusiasm and spread joy in my community with my endless love for my friends and family. I’ve been beyond blessed these 40 years and I look forward to next decade of achievements.

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Vacation.

We took our first vacation in 6 years in May. Part of the reason why it wasn’t a priority before was that the two week-long beach trips we took years ago nearly killed me. Having to care for small children away from home is a giant pain in the ass. Home is where all of the things are they are used to. Getting them used to naptime and bedtime and meal time in a strange place makes no vacation relaxing.

But I noticed in May that even with older children, if you’re the primary caregiver, vacations are still exhausting. I still had to do laundry halfway through our trip, I still monitored meal time and food needs for 3 of the 5 people. I packed snacks everywhere we went and tried to organize schedules so everyone got to do what they wanted. I got up stupid early to take advantage of early park hours just so I didn’t make everyone else suffer through my need to photograph every inch of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade and so I could practice my spells without people being bored.

My vacation was still very much about caring for the family. I did all of the packing for Nikki and Wes, I loaded up the car for the trip and drove halfway. On the day we left I packed everything into the van myself and then when we got home I did all of the laundry from the trip.

Vacations are damn exhausting.

But today? I leave for a real vacation. I leave tonight and come back late Monday night. 5 days of worrying about ONLY myself. No one else will be depending on me for clean clothes or meals. I won’t have to clean the kitty litter twice a day or wash dishes. I won’t have to pack lunches or cook dinners. I won’t have to worry about bed times or leg cramps or nightmares. It’s me and only me for FIVE DAYS. I can wake up and run and not worry about whether or not Donnie has a workout first.

My brother and his wife are flying me to Denver as a birthday gift. They’re flying my Mom out too and we’re all spending the weekend in Breckenridge. I get to see my one nephew that I haven’t seen in over a year (I think? I’m pretty sure it’s been since they came for my 50-miler.) and I haven’t seen my SECOND nephew yet! He was born in January so I haven’t met him yet. I AM SO EXCITED.

Of course there’s still the Primary Caregiver stuff I have to do before I leave. Make sure all the laundry is done. Make sure the house is clean enough that it can be picked up for a showing. Make sure there’s groceries and pet food and kitty litter. Make sure Donnie knows schedules and obligations while I’m gone.

But once I’m on that plane? It’s all him. And all I have to do is make my nephews love me in 5 days. (The baby should be easy to win over, I’ll have to bribe my older nephew with ice cream and candy when his parents aren’t looking.) (Just kidding, Guys!)

I might blog from there, but I’m not sure how the internet availability will be. I’ll definitely be posting pictures of mountains on Instagram. I’m actually doing a 10K on the Fourth in Breckenridge which should be interesting. I ran in Denver when I visited several years ago and it was terrible because they have this weird situation where THERE IS NOT ENOUGH OXYGEN TO RUN. Luckily the ONLY time limit is that I have like an hour and a half to get to the aid station at mile 2.8. Even with no oxygen, I think I can swing that.

See you in the mountains!

“Fake Parachute Pants” Is Going To Be The Name Of My Memoir

I had something going on every night this week. And y’all? I am NOT a night person. If you want to meet me for breakfast or for a run at 5am – I am ALL over that. But an evening workout or dinner and a play? I’m the WORST. Luckily my workouts were with people who knew me well and my social outing with someone I could relax around so this week it wasn’t so bad being out “late”.

(I had to put that in quotes because I was still home by 9:30 every night. SOOOO LATE FOR ME.)

That meant I had no time after work or dinner to do the domestic chores like dishes or laundry so I’ve been doing all of that in the morning which has been TOTALLY CRAMPING INTO MY BLOG TIME. Luckily, this week is an anomaly because if I really went that long regularly without blogging I’d have to start paying a therapist.

The play I saw last night was called “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” and it was written by Nora Ephron and performed by a couple of my friends. Y’all? I LOVED IT. If you are local, you have two chances to see it, if you’re not local keep it bookmarked in your mind in case it pops up in your community. Basically it’s storytelling around clothing and it got me thinking of all of the memories I have associated with an item of clothing. Or an outfit. I walked out of there thinking of NO LESS that 20 stories I’ve probably never told on this blog, all surrounding clothing.

SO! Today? You get the one about the Michael Jackson concert.

My Mom worked for a charity services group when I was little. When the Michael Jackson Thriller tour came to town, the charity (which helped children) was given tickets and they had more tickets than kids so my Mom took me. I WAS SO EXCITED. But I had nothing to wear. So, my Dad took me to Hills which was a discount store that had clothing (In my memory it was like the Wal-Marts of today, but it may have been even cheeper) and we found a pair of fake parachute pants. I say “fake” because parachute pants had a specific fabric to them and these? These were more like plastic cargo pants.

BUT STILL! Close enough. They were maroon and I wore them with a white top with stripes that totally didn’t match but my pickins’ were slim and I was just excited I had something close to cool.

Except they were essentially plastic. And we were going to a hot arena for a crowded concert.

And they melted. ON ME. There was a non-plastic lining to the pants, THANK GOD, but the plastic outer layer? Melted around the ass area. I never wore them again.

The concert was amazing, I could barely see Michael Jackson and it was before the days of multiple Jumbotron Screens so I felt a little short-changed. Like, Why do they sell tickets here if we can’t see them? But it was still my first concert and my first melted clothing.

It happens to everyone at least once, right?

At least everyone who buys their clothes at Hills.

Split Timing at Mile 5

Turning My Kids Into Future Race Directors

Yesterday was my first day “off” in a whole week! My first rest day! I did 9 workouts in 7 days and then didn’t do SHIT yesterday and it felt great! What did NOT feel great was the incredible amount of binging I did as I was just so damn tired and when I’m tired all I can think to do is eat. So, you know, Yay! for consistent workouts! But Boo! for eating my weight in french fries!

Our town has a big race every Memorial Day. It’s the Cotton Row 10K. There’s a 5K and a 1-mile fun run too, but the big event is the 10K as it’s been running for 30+ years and it involves this fantastic hill that is so steep the road has actually been graded (grated?) to provide better traction for cars. It’s basically 3 miles uphill, and then 3 miles downhill. I was trying to do it in sub-56 minutes for several years (bake in the day they only gave out participation items if you did it under 56 minutes) and finally met that goal last year so this year I decided to finally give back to the event and volunteer. Nikki and I worked packet pickup (which we do for a lot of races, she loves packet pickup) on Sunday and then we all sat at the 5-mile mark yesterday calling out split times for runners. It was pretty great and it always makes me feel good to get my kids out volunteering at races because I want them to understand how many people it takes to get these races going. If you’ve ever run a local event but haven’t volunteered, try to find a way to do that, it will be eye-opening.

Packet Pickup on Sunday

Packet Pickup on Sunday

Split Timing at Mile 5

Split Timing at Mile 5

Split Timing at Mile 5

Split Timing at Mile 5

We have two ways to be “in the loop” for volunteer opportunities in our community. One is our Huntsville Track Club. It’s very cheap and I’m a member and some of the opportunities come from emails with them. BUT – most of the requests for volunteers pop up in a Facebook Group a local person started years ago: We Run Huntsville. It’s a “closed” group, but he lets anyone who is a real human join. It’s actually a pretty great resource all around for group runs and advice seeking, but that’s where I see people post requests and online signups for volunteer opportunities. I tell the kids that I like to volunteer more times per year than races I actually participate in so that, in some way, I’m balancing things out on the side of me giving back more than I take.

Nikki LOVES to volunteer. She just loves feeling like a grown-up and being a part of a big group trying to accomplish something. She actually cried a few weeks ago because Wes and I were going to volunteer at a race and she couldn’t help because she had a soccer game. I can’t tell if Wes actually likes it or not, he usually just plays on his DS but at least he shows up and knows there are people involved with these events that do it just because they want to help. We’ll see if he becomes more involved as he gets older.

I don’t do a lot of volunteering at the kid’s school. I tried this year but failed miserably and have probably been put on “banned” lists at this school for the rest of my life. BUT! I do a lot of volunteering at our local running/triathlon events so I’m hoping – in the big picture – that helps things balance out.

Do you have any events through school/work/church at which your kids can help out? Do you find that maybe one of your kids like it more than others? I never really got E out doing that kind of stuff but I’m really hoping Wes eventually enjoys it like Nikki does. I don’t want that kind of thing to feel like an obligation, but I do want him to give back since he participates in local events too!

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The Hidden Secrets of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade

I didn’t do a lot of research on our trip because I started seeing too many detailed photos and didn’t want the entire experience spoiled for me, but I did do some which meant we were able to find some of the secrets of the parks. We also had a charming family, I guess, because we had wizarding assistants helping us quite often and sometimes they told us things we might not have known if we hadn’t researched it ourselves. So! Here are some of the things we discovered while we were there.

First, You need a Wand

I think Ollivander’s at Diagon Alley is a little more like the movie, but we got our wands in Hogsmeade Ollivander’s. You need to go do the 7 minute “demonstration” show first because it’s really cute. If you have kids, go early and make them wear their robes. Chances are they’ll get chosen for then demo. NOW – they don’t get the wands for free, of course, but my kids both felt really honored and those are the wands they picked out. There are 14 “Ollivander Originals” and the shop in Diagon Alley has little plaques on the wall explaining each of those. But then you can choose character wands. I chose Luna’s. The gold labels are the interactive wands and they’re $45 but totally worth it if you’re going to be there for a few days. Regular wands that aren’t interactive aren’t much cheaper so might as well get the ones that do magic. If you’re only going to be there for one day? It might not feel worth it, but by the time the trip was over we had all had fun with all of the spells in both parks. It takes awhile to get the hang of it and we really enjoyed the early morning hours to practice/play without lines and crowds at each spell.
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Find the sensor

There are black camera looking things at all of the spell locations and those are the sensors. You can’t always find them, but if you do, it gives you a place to kinda “aim” and you know when the red lights around it blink that you’ve done the spell right. Some of the window displays (like the plant shop) have so much going on and moving around, it’s not always obvious what your spell is supposed to do. You don’t need the spell map because there are gold plaques on the ground at each spell so you’ll know where to stand and those plaques show you the wand motion you’re supposed to do.

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BUT! Take your map to Knockturn Alley

You do want your spell map in Knockturn Alley. And you want to stand with it under one of the blacklights. That’s all I’ll say so you don’t get spoiled!

While you’re in Knockturn Alley…

There is one big spell location in the middle of Knockturn Alley, right outside Borgin and Burkes. You point your wand at the sensor and there’s a giant skeleton on a screen that will start doing what you’re doing. It was the kid’s favorite spell spot of both parks. There are 5 spells in Knockturn Alley and I think they were all “easiest” because – evidently – bright sun can affect the sensors and it’s always dark in Knockturn Alley.

Also – go to Borgin and Bourkes and go stand by the vanishing cabinet in the back corner. You’ll hear the canary that Draco used to try to get the cabinets working in the 6th book/movie. Also – look out for the great moving WARNING! posters and fun ads around Knockturn on the walls. There’s a lot to see there even though it’s dark. Also, the shopkeepers in Borgin and Burkes stayed in the character of evil wizards.

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Speaking of Shopkeepers

All of the employees stay in character and there are great ways to take advantage of that. If you or your kids buy stuffed magical beasts and carry them or their wands through King’s Cross, the employees will all act bewildered by the “sticks” and the “weird animals”. Wesley carried around Buckbeak and all of the attendant’s at King’s Cross (because you’re in London at that point) were all, “What is that?” It was cute.

Knight Bus

Outside of King’s Cross you can go see the Knight Bus and talk to the conductor. He stays in character as does Dre Head hanging in the window. Dre Head will talk to you for REAL. Like, he told me he loved my naturally curly hair! Make sure you talk to them as much as possible because they’re fun. The conductor told the kids not to use their magic in London. It was cute.

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Hidden Spells

In Diagon Alley there are TWO hidden spells currently. It seems like there might have been three at some point but we made sure to ask several employees and there are only two now. They’re not on your map. One is in the window of the Scribbulus Writing Implements, the window to the right. There’s a mapped spell on the left window, but the right just point your wand at the book and do a triangle motion. (You’ll see the sensor.) What happens next happens in (evidently) 14 different ways so you can stand there for awhile and do it over and over again. Makes you look really cool too because there’s no stamp on the ground so it’s like you’re really magic! The second location is in the window of Mr. Mulpepper’s Apothecary. Point your wand at the pile of poop and do the same triangle motion. That one is not as obvious visually but you’ll feel the wind coming out of the window as you do it.

Goblins of Gringotts

Go to the Gringotts Money Exchange and ask the Goblin questions. We asked him if there was a dragon in Gringotts and he answered perfectly. You have to be loud and clear. He also asked us follow-up questions and was impressed we knew the answers. This was all super impressive since he’s animatronic, not a human in a costume. Also – if you want a great reaction, ask him (clearly), “ARE YOU A HOUSE ELF?!?!” Let’s just say he does NOT like that question.

Ride the Forbidden Journey

There are so many wonderful treasures to see in the line going to Forbidden Journey that you have to ride it. You’ll see so many things from Hogwarts like the entrance to Gryffindor Tower and the statue with the humpback that the characters use to sneak into Hogsmeade. There’s also great interaction between portraits and scenes with Dumbledore and the Trio that will give you a type of “backstory” to the ride. When you get to the actual ride, ask the staff if they’re legs get tired walking on the treadmill all day. They stay in character to answer. If you’re motion sensitive (it’s one of those “simulator” rides) then keep your eyes closed during the “screen” parts – that’s what I did. But then non-screen parts didn’t bother me and you get to see the whomping willow and Aragog. As long as I closed my eyes the second we got to the screen, I was fine. The visuals of the screens is what screwed with me.

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Ride Escape from Gringotts

This ride is the same with with the screen but it’s harder to ignore. I only rode that one once because the lines were AWFUL for that one. And the majority of it was the screen scenes so I kept my eyes peaked a little to see what was going on so it made me queazy. This one is interesting though because you’re basically Bill’s guest of the bank DURING the robbery scene of the 7th movie. There are TWO Bellatrixes – the real one (with Voldemort) and then Hermione with the trio trying to steal the goblet. It’s fun. Glad I did it, but only did it once!

The Shows

There are two shows at each location and try to see them both. They’re short but fun. It seems like there are variations to them but in Diagon Alley there Celestina Warbeck and a great puppet show performing stories from the Beedle and the Bard. In Hogsmeade you have the Tri-Wizard pep rally AND the frog choir which was my favorite!

The Food/Drink

The food is stupid expensive like with the entire park, BUT, I thought it looked way better. Most of the other park you’re talking pizza and hamburgers but both at 3 Broomsticks and Leaky Cauldron you could get meals that felt more like they were fresh and unique. Also a quicker way to get Frozen Butterbeer as those lines get REALLY long in the heat of they day. If you don’t like regular Butterbeer, give the frozen stuff a try. We all loved it. Also – notice there are NO sodas in either place. They really try to keep the “feeling” of the magical world completely different from the rest of the parks.