Monday, April 30, 2012

Thank you

A very heartfelt thank you to everyone who emailed or commented condolences for our little dog, Max.  We are all handling it in different ways, but each of us seems to be doing the best we can.

I wish I could write a light-hearted post and get back to normal today, but I just don’t have it in me so you’ll have to bear with me.  Without sounding overly dramatic and for fear of coming across as the crazy cat (or dog) lady, I will try very hard not to dwell on our loss; but this is by far one of the toughest things I have had to go through in my adult life.

I’ve certainly lost others--my grandparents most significantly—but Max’s passing has stirred feelings that I don’t recall having with those other deaths.  Maybe it’s because he was a dependent of mine and although we adopted him as an adult, I still feel like I have let him down in some way.

I will say that I have a renewed sense of family and purpose.  With my sleepless nights and stressful days this last weekend, I should be feeling grumpy and tired.  Instead, there is a fire in my belly.  I have more patience with the children, ordinary moments have seemed more extraordinary, and perhaps most significant I now understand that these times, these days, these small frustrations--dirt, mess, toys on the floor, tiny underpants to wash, stickers on the chairs, crayons spilled in the playroom—these are what I will miss the most when the children are gone.  I know this because our house is just a little bit neater without Max’s presence and I would give everything I own for him to come back and mess it up again.

I can’t tell what’s running through Marshall’s head, but I can assure everyone that he is getting a lot of extra attention.  He seems to still be looking for Max, particularly when the family arrives home after an outing—I would guess he thinks we’ve brought Max home with us.  To watch that hopefulness in his eyes and wagging tail followed by a realization that we are one dog short feels like I am reliving my own acceptance time and time again.  It is brutal.  But I am so very thankful that he is still with us, easing us into this transition with his boundless energy and sweet, dirty face.

It's hard to see, but Frances surrounded Marshall with all of her friends, including her treasured baby, when we left the house this morning for our errands.  She didn't want him to be lonely without Max.

I’ll close with an excerpt from an old Erma Bombeck column that is certain to make any parent tear up, and I’m so sorry for that.  But as you all know, sometimes you just need a good cry and on this particular rainy Monday afternoon I couldn’t need it more.

An Erma Bombeck Column:
A young mother writes: "I know you've written before about the empty-nest syndrome -- that lonely period after the children are grown and gone. Right now, I'm up to my eyeballs in laundry and muddy boots. The baby is teething; the boys are fighting. My husband just called and said to eat without him, and I fell off my diet. Lay it on me again, will you?"

One of these days, you'll shout, "Why don't you kids grow up and act your age!"
And they will.

Or, "You guys get outside and find yourselves something to do ... and don't slam the door!"
And they won't.

You'll straighten up the boys' bedroom neat and tidy -- bumper stickers discarded, bedspread tucked and smooth, toys displayed on the shelves. Hangers in the closet. Animals caged. And you'll say out loud, "Now I want it to stay this way."
And it will.

You'll prepare a perfect dinner with a salad that hasn't been picked to death and a cake with no finger traces in the icing, and you'll say, "Now, there's a meal for company."
And you'll eat it alone.

You'll say: "I want complete privacy on the phone. No dancing around. No demolition crews. Silence! Do you hear?" And you'll have it.

No more plastic tablecloths stained with spaghetti.
No more bedspreads to protect the sofa from damp bottoms.
No more gates to stumble over at the top of the basement steps.
No more clothespins under the sofa.
No more playpens to arrange a room around.
No more anxious nights under a vaporizer tent.
No more sand on the sheets or Popeye movies in the bathrooms.
No more iron-on patches, wet, knotted shoestrings, tight boots, or rubber bands for ponytails.
A lipstick with a point on it. No baby sitter for New Year's Eve. Washing only once a week. Seeing a steak that isn't ground. Having your teeth cleaned without a baby on your lap.
No PTA meetings.
No car pools.
No blaring radios.
No one washing her hair at 11 o'clock at night.
Having your own roll of Scotch tape.
Think about it.
No more Christmas presents out of toothpicks and library paste.
No more sloppy oatmeal kisses.
No more tooth fairy.
No giggles in the dark.
No knees to heal, no responsibility.
Only a voice crying, "Why don't you grow up?"
and the silence echoing, "I did."

I’ll be back to my old self very soon, I promise!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Just like that

It is amazing how quickly things change.

Just yesterday I was writing a ho-hum, tongue-in-cheek post about my mother's weekend visit and having an unprecedented four dogs vying for our love and attention this weekend.  A few short hours later, one of those wonderful dogs is gone.

Our beloved Max passed away Friday evening unexpectedly.  Of all of the dogs in our family, Max was the most physically strong.  But his heart gave out last night doing what he loved the most - playing fetch with his favorite red ball.  In retrospect, our evening had morphed into a very Norman Rockwell-esque scene with the children, the dogs, Will, my mother and me all convening outside in our backyard.  The kids were marveling at how high Daddy could kick the inflatable balls and I was enjoying spending time with the dogs, particularly Max.  He loved being outside; he adored the children; he embraced our little family and he was as happy as I can ever remember seeing him.  And then, after fetching a final throw of the red ball, he lay down on the grass.  He was calm, he didn't complain, but we knew something was wrong--Max didn't lay down when there was a willing ball-thrower.  

After a few minutes of discussion, we decided to take him to the emergency vet clinic and I drove him there so Will could put the kids to bed.  I scooped Max up and he gently rested his head on my shoulder just like a baby.  My baby, Max.  In our sweet, infant-like embrace we headed for the car and the clinic.  Max remained calm and content in the backseat; but he labored through breathing and his little heart beat very fast.

Once we entered the clinic, time stood still.  I explained his symptoms (with Max's head on my shoulder during the entire discussion) and they whisked him away to the back of the office to give him oxygen and an IV.  I remember (I have to remember this) that when the technician took him from my arms, I gave him a kiss on his head and told him I loved him.  Please someone tell me that he heard that part--that I loved him.

At some point, the vet came in to tell me Max was in congestive heart failure and his lungs were filling with fluid, but they didn't know how severe it was---could they take some x-rays?  Yes, please, whatever it takes.  I cried and called Will, trying my best to explain to him what was going on through the giant lump in my throat and tear-stained cheeks.  When the vet returned with the x-ray results, she looked white and worried--Max's x-rays showed a heart murmur, but more urgently he had just stopped breathing and they were performing CPR.  What?  WHAT?  Is he going to make it?

Moments later, I heard her say I'm so sorry Lucy; he's no longer with us.

Can I say goodbye?

They brought Max's still body into the room, wrapped snuggly in a lambs wool blanket.  His little head still smelled like the sweet grass we had been playing on just an hour before.  I kissed and kissed and kissed him.  I never wanted to leave that room.  I couldn't believe those soft ears, watery eyes and black little nose weren't coming home with us that night.  I never wanted to leave him again.  Please, don't make me leave his side.  Again.

A very wise woman (my mother) reminded me that the grieving process is long--that I won't cry a lot now and be okay next week.  But in some ways, this is comforting to me.  I don't want to cry it all out tonight or this week.  I want to know that I can be sad for a long time; maybe forever.

Max was ten years young and never showed a hint of slowing down - happy, gentle, playful, attentive, and eager to please.  His sole goal in life was to convince you to sit on the couch so that he could sit next to you and be petted.  He wanted so little, but gave us so much in return and I'm not sure if he knows just how much he meant to us.  I like to think he had a good life with our little brood--the children loved their "Maxi-poo" (as they often affectionately referred to him) and Will and I fawned over him as much as young parents can.

Max passed away like he lived his life--sweetly, gently, calmly and with an eye on what would be easier for those around him.  His death has given me an even greater appreciation for life--not just to run upstairs and hug Marshall and the children as tightly as possible (although I did this several times last night).  But also that the memories I have of Max's time with our family are what will need to last us into the future.  We will have no more todays with Max; only yesterdays.  I didn't sleep last night thinking of Max's last day on earth; trying to piece together every time I looked at him, petted him, kissed him.  And these memories are uniquely mine.  Just like all memories are a uniquely human way that our wonderful Creator instilled in us to allow us all to continue to live our life with those that have passed away.  Max reminded me of this today.  That we are creating memories every second of every day, especially (and maybe most importantly) when we don't realize it.

We miss you, Max.  We love you more than you may ever know.  Thank you for loving us back, flaws and all.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A little of this ...

Nana is in town this weekend (sans Pop, who is already missed):

And when Nana visits, we automatically double our Bichon count.  Four (yes four) fluffy white dogs are currently lounging in the Homiller house.  I’m sure we’re breaking some sort of city ordinance or at the very least an unspoken rule of dog lovers that ‘thou shall not attempt to house more than two lap dogs at any given time.’  Wise words.

Have I introduced you to my son, George Gump?

All kidding aside, this boy can officially outrun is all, including his sister (but don’t tell her that).  I had to beg him to let me sit down and rest on our trip to the botanical gardens earlier this week.  How is it that a former marathoner can be winded before her two-year-old?  I can only hope this means I will have some mother/son runs in my future.


Reason number 15,932 Will and I are a perfect match

Why yes, that is a 1970s Bruce Jenner face on my key ring.  And because I’m sure this picture needs at least some explanation, here goes: Will eats Wheaties every single morning (“The breakfast of champions … and me” he likes to joke.  And yes, I laugh at that little witticism every time).  Someone in the General Mills marketing department decided it would be a brilliant idea to bring back some of the old school Wheaties boxes—Muhammad Ali, Mary Lou Retton, and good ol’ Mr.  Bruce Jenner.  So, every time I open our pantry (which with starving 2 and 4 year-olds is a lot), I see the above picture. 

Under my breath (or so I thought) the other morning, I said something like, “Jeez, I wish Wheaties would stop it with the retro boxes.  I’m so tired of looking at that face.”

Fast forward to my grocery store run with George a few days later, I handed the nice checkout lady my key chain so she could scan my Kroger card and noticed her staring at it a little longer than normal.  When I saw what Will had put on my key ring, I started laughing hysterically and said, “my husband cracks me up.”  She replied, in a very Nene Leaks fashion, “that’s your husband?” whereby George then chimes in with his version of Wait, you see my Daddy? which comes out of his little mouth as just “SEE DADDY!!” and you may be beginning to get the picture.

If there has ever been anyone accused of over-explaining to a complete stranger the fact that Bruce Jenner is not my husband nor would I ever have a headshot of my husband on my key ring, it would be me.


I can’t believe I forgot to include this picture on my post about Frances’s concert:

All of the girls wore double French braids for the show.  I have no idea how the teachers got those wiggly little ones to sit still long enough to do this, but they looked beautiful.  And as Will pointed out, it made our girl look about 10-years-old. 

Oh boy, I am really not ready for that.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Achy Breaky Heart

Only Frances and her classmates can turn this …

…into something completely adorable.

Frances’s school put on their second singing concert after receiving rave reviews and calls for “encore!” after the Christmas show.  Or at least that’s what they told the room of exhausted parents who had just schlepped their entire family to the local elementary school in time for the 7pm start time.  But it was well worth it and the kids were wonderful.

The theme this time was “Rockin’ through the Decades,” so each class sung a tune from the past, including:

Yackety-Yak (Don’t Talk Back)

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Chicken Soup with Rice

And of course, My Achy Breaky Heart

While I can think of about 1,000 songs from the 1990s that I would have chosen over Mr. Cyrus’s one-hit wonder, Frances and her friends had a blast.  And there is nothing like a mullet wig to elicit constant laughter from the audience:

Frances’s usual Richmond fan club showed up, including


Gram-E and Mr. Pyles

Grandma and Grandpa

And her #1 fan, George

Per George’s usual style, he was completely fascinated by the show, clapping at all of the right parts and silently longing to be up on stage with the rest of the kids. 

So, once the last song ended, that’s exactly where he headed:

Someone get that boy some dance lessons.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

PS - I can't sign off without a huge "thank you" to Will's parents and the Pyles for coming to the concert.  Frances is a lucky, lucky girl to have so many wonderful people who love her so much!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Weekend in review

Frances, George and I made another visit to Lynchburg to see Nana and Pop.  Will had a law firm retreat at Amelia Island (Florida – yes, that’s right, people.  Let’s all take a moment to glare in his direction …), and when Daddy goes out of town, so do we!

As has often been said (including by me), a weekend getaway with the children is much more tiring than relaxing.  The two brain cells I have left after our adventures are now fighting with each other, so please excuse this mainly picture post of ‘What Frances and George did this weekend in Lynchburg,’ which included:

Peaks of Otter:

Maggie and Calvin even joined the fun

New neighborhood puppies:

Two new Bichon puppy (girls!).  Frances was beside herself.

Hot chocolate on a rainy Monday:

And although Will did get to travel this weekend for business (to Florida.  Alone.  No kids.  Have I made my point yet?), he’s actually been doing much more of this than ever before:

These pictures make me feel slightly bad about the teeny-tiny guilt trip I may have laid upon my hardworking husband for having a weekend to himself.

The view from his oceanfront room.

Okay, I’m over it.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

And then reality set in

As an epilogue to my post yesterday, I found myself running this morning in the dark to the sound of what must have been 3 or 4 coyotes baying at goodness knows what.  The new moon?  The fact that a sweaty, fatty runner was mere feet away from their hungry chops?  I kid you not.  All I could think was, "Oh my gosh, I am going to get eaten by this pack of coyotes and everyone will say, 'Did you hear about that crazy running lady who wrote a blog post about running early in the morning and then got eaten by wild dogs?  Yeah, she totally had it coming.' "

On a completely unrelated note, has anyone ever heard of coyotes attacking people?  I'm just wondering.  Seriously.

And now, the promised unrelated note of Frances with her blue M&M moustache.  

Don't ask.  I have no clue how she was able to paint her upper lip with the blue dye on the outside of an M&M.  My girl has talent when it comes to her dessert.

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My running routine

I am absolutely no expert—believe me, I’ll be the first to shout this obvious fact from the closest mountaintop.  But I’ve had enough friends ask about my running and/or exercise routine – most recently, Susan from college!—that I thought I would share with you all (aren’t you lucky) what I have been doing these last ten or more years to stay in shape (sort of) and to stay motivated. 

My general routine

First, I am now and always have been a morning person, so I exercise almost exclusively first thing in the morning.  Before kids, this just meant whenever I happen to roll out of bed.  Once Frances (and eventually George) came along, I realized that if I was going to exercise I needed to get it done before anyone else stirred.  I do this in part to ensure it gets done (once the kids see I’m awake, any hope of ‘me time’ is over) and in part because I am a very typical wife/mother/woman who feels guilty if my routine gets in the way of other’s daily schedules.  I know, I know, I need to get over this and take the kids with me in the jogging stroller, get a babysitter, use the Kid Zone at the gym, etc., etc.  I’ve tried all of these and none of them work for me; I still feel guilty and useless afterwards (like I now need to somehow make it up to the kids for sticking them in a stroller for 75 minutes by taking them to Disneyworld).  Believe me, if it were easier to sleep past 4am on a weekday and 5am on the weekends I would do it; but right now, that is what works for me and I love it.

I also exercise every single day, with little exception (those being if I have an injury where I have been instructed do nothing except breathe in and out or I am deathly ill).  But I only run every other day.  And while I’ve had a few injuries here and there these last years, I really think this routine has saved my major extremities from more severe beatings (knock on wood).

On my ‘off’ days from running, I typically go to the gym and ride the elliptical trainer for 45 minutes followed by 25-ish minutes of light weights, stretching and core work.  I shied away from weights for a number of years after college swimming, but I’m back now and I like the way they make me feel (strong!).  If the gym isn’t opened or I’m stuck at the house for another reason, I have several Tae-Bo videos that I will use (hellooooo Billy Blanks!).  As a former dancer, I can assure you these videos are hard and exhilarating.  My favorites are his earlier ones (late 1990s, early 2000s), but they are all good and can grow with your ability.  And no, Billy is not paying me to say any of this (but he should, don’t you think?  Or at least offer me a free personal training session, right?).

I know a lot of people (i.e., my rail-thin husband) have complete rest days during their weeks, working out three days a week or every day except Sunday, for example.  And in fact, this schedule may be best for some people; but through trial and error I have found that I need exercise every single day.  I am a huge grouch when I don’t sweat for at least 60 minutes a day; I have no idea why and I often wish it weren’t true, but I have come to embrace and accept it (and thankfully, so has my family).

How I stay motivated

So, aside from my greyhound-like need to run until I drop, I have also learned some motivation secrets that I use when I’m feeling blah, slow, tired, or just generally uninterested in running.

Pick up a copy of Runner’s World (or your exercise magazine of choice).  This sounds silly and perhaps a little too simple, but it really, really works.  If you are a runner, nearly every issue of Runner’s World has a motivational article (or 6) about how to start over, how to pull out of a slump, how to train through the post-race blues, etc., etc.  It is rare that I don’t read an entire magazine and not find a gem of information to carry me through to the next month or more.

Momentum can be your best friend or your worst enemy.  Good momentum is often the only way I can get myself out of the door during those dark, winter months because I don’t give myself a day off.  I have made running/exercise part of my morning routine and my body and brain are on autopilot.  Sometimes the only reason I find myself dressed head to toe in wool and running in the sleet is because I’ve exercised every day before that.  I never ask myself, “should I go?”  I just go.

But I have also been on the flipside of momentum—the kind that spirals you back into your warm bed, forces you back on the couch to continue watching the Millionaire Matchmaker marathon, or whispers to your brain, ‘it’s okay.  You’ll run tomorrow.’  And I know it is really hard to get past the bad momentum.  But my experience is that the only way to swing the pendulum the other direction is to forcibly do it myself.  I just have to start somewhere; anywhere is better than where I have been.  If you find yourself on the wrong side of momentum, push back and get out of the door.  Eventually, that same momentum will be pushing you along, I promise.

Finally, I (try to) never forget why I run.  I run because it makes my body feel great.  Period.  I exercise because it makes me feel great.  Double period.  Call it selfish; call it my drug of choice.  But that is it, plain and simple.  A lot of people use a certain goal weight, an upcoming reunion or a future 10k as motivation to keep running or exercising and that’s great.  The problem I have always had with similar goals is that at some point they will all end.  The race will happen (and you’ll be awesome).  The reunion will come and go (and you’ll look fabulous).  Your weight will finally hit that magic number (and it will feel fantastic).  But then what?

If you run or exercise because it feels great every time you do it, I promise you will never want to slack off again.

And there ends my completely useless post on how my inner brain operates.  Please take everything I say with a very large grain of salt.  I realize there are many, many trained professionals out there (some of whom read this blog) that have actual PhDs in what I have just written and could easily put my theories to shame.  Also know that I am 35-years-old and in ten years my routine will very likely evolve into something better suited to my aging body.

If nothing else, when I am 70-years-old and hobbling around on my runner’s knees I may give myself a good giggle reading back through this post on all of those things I thought I knew.  But one thing I know will remain true—I always feel better when I exercise than when I don’t.  Triple period.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Weekend getaway

Will and I could hardly believe it had been a full year since  our little brood had destroyed Katherine’s house visited my sister, Katherine, and her wonderful family.  So, Friday evening we packed up the Toyota as tight as we could and headed up 95 for the weekend.

The traffic north was terrible (you roll the dice every time you travel on I-95), but the kids were surprisingly good - very little fighting or whining for an over four hour trip that was supposed to take less than two hours.

The weekend did not disappoint--the weather was perfect, so we were able to do our typical Washington DC 'touristy' things Saturday and Sunday.  Will and I are both nerds in that way--we love, love, love Washington DC.  There really is something almost magical about seeing these incredible historic landmarks in the background (and sometimes foreground) of every picture moment.  It is hard to get a bad photo of these sights.

Saturday was a Smithsonian Day:

We only toured one museum (2-year-old and 4-year-old legs can only walk but so far), but we ran around a lot on the mall and caught a ride on the merry-go-round child-magnet.

The most common scene of the day--Frances and George holding hands with some combination of their aunt, uncle and cousins. 

American History museum

The faster-than-average merry-go-round; so of course, Frances LOVED it.

Sunday we toured the Martin Luther King, Jr and Franklin D. Roosevelt memorials, two of my favorites:

MLK memorial was breathtaking.

FDR memorial is incredible.

My two favorite pictures from that day:

George and Franklin had a lot to say to each other that day

Daddy and his favorite girl
Frances and George did great, particularly considering what we were asking of them (DC is no small city), but undoubtedly their favorite part of the entire weekend was being at Katherine's house.  What's not to love about watching movies (waaaaaay past bedtime) snuggled with everyone in Aunt Katherine's bed, eating sandwiches cut in the shape "F.H." (I know, I can't compete!), and backyard bubbles and baseball.  

Needless to say, both kids cried when we left ... or at least, after they woke up and realized we weren't at Henry and James's house anymore.  

Both kids napping on the drive home = SUCCESS!

And I may have cried a little, too.

Thank you, Katherine and family - we all miss you already!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Two weekends ago, I ran my second Charlottesville TenMiler.  And yes for those of you keeping track (ha!), that was the same weekend I visited Lynchburg with the kids, which meant a two plus hour car ride to Lynchburg on Friday, an hour car ride each way to C’ville on Saturday morning, and a two plus hour car ride back to Richmond to close the weekend.  It sounds completely crazy now, but for those of you who have a runner as a close friend or relative will know that we are all just a little bit wacky when it comes to our races.

The hardest part was the 4am wake-up call on Saturday morning.  It wasn’t the early hour so much; my usual weekday alarm is set at 4am (see what I mean?  Wacky, I tell you), rather it was my complete inability to fall asleep the night before.  Looking back, I’m sure it was the anticipation of the next day’s run that kept my brain from shutting down for the night.  I didn’t feel nervous, but I guess I was subconsciously and nervously excited.  Wanting to get enough shut-eye, I turned in around 9pm, but tossed and turned until I heard my parent’s living room mantle clock chime at 10pm.  Then 11pm.  Then midnight?!  Once I heard the 1am chime, I realized that I would never fall asleep…and the next thing I knew my alarm was blaring.

Fueled on Frank’s coffee, 3 hours of sleep, and a small cup of Greek yogurt, I jumped in the car and headed north in plenty of time to make the 7:15am start time.  And this is the point when I can fairly say that runners are just not normal people because I loved every minute of my morning from that point forward.  On my drive up, I listened to great radio songs (a shout out to the DJs who were playing early 90s pop hits in the wee morning hours—your one-listener/singing audience thanks you!), I arrived early enough to get a great parking spot, stretched in the cool (but not cold) morning, and headed for the starting line.

The race itself went fine—I was about 30 seconds slower than my last year’s time, but considering my lack of sleep and a change in the course (UPHILL ONE MILE FINISH??  Why do race directors do that to a girl?), I was thrilled.  Around mile 8, a man behind me said to his running buddy, “Okay, dude, I think I’m done.  Good luck finishing, everyone!”  That was by-far the hardest moment of the entire race.  Miles 7 and 8 of a ten mile hilly course are the worst part—you’re more than half-way done, which means your lungs and legs are toast, but you still have (what may as well be) an eternity until the finish line.  You want nothing more than to quit, walk to the nearest bed, and fall down on it immediately.  Thankfully, some fellow tired soul next to me started giggling when we all realized the ridiculousness of the moment, giving me a final push to finish as hard as I could.

The best part of the morning?  Meeting up with my friend, Robin, from college.  We hadn’t seen each other in years and although I had to head back to Lynchburg much too quickly, we left promising to get together again (with our kids) as soon as possible.

I’ve probably written about it enough for everyone to know how much I love running, and I do.  I love it.  And I particularly love racing.  I am almost always disappointed in my time, rewinding the entire race in my head and thinking through where I could have pushed harder or run smarter.  But I also know there is no perfect race and that each one I complete when I don’t have some nagging injury, muscle cramp, dehydration issue, blister problem, or all of the above is the best race I could have run on that day.

"I always loved was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs."
Jesse Owens

Happy Thursday (almost Friday), everyone!