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You may have wondered – and rightly so – just where the hell I’ve been this past month. I mean, I haven’t oinked, in like, forever. It’s true. And I’m truly sorry. I’ve been guilt-ridden about falling down on my responsibility to you, my dear readers, so much so that I’ve gnawed my fingernails down to their quicks. My thumbs look more like mini-hotdogs wrapped in prosciutto than digits. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to post, I’ve thought about it endlessly and even composed pithy vignettes in my head – I just haven’t had time to sit down and write. The reason for this? Every spare moment has been consumed with exercising, eating, and thinking about exercising. It’s ridonkulous, I agree, and you can blame it all on my brother-in-law.

Last January, my brother-in-law (we’ll call him Corrado), asked our family to run the relay in the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon. OinkDaddy, an optimist and a member of the 26.2 club, was all for it. The other four family members whom Corrado approached were less enthusiastic, including me. 

I am not a runner. At best, I’m a shuffler. I can appreciate that lots of people get jazzed about hitting the pavement; I’m just not one of them. OinkDaddy, on the other hand, is at least conversant in fartleks, Kcals and energy goos. When he signed up to run his first marathon, Large was still rockin’ a stroller; OinkDaddy ran his third marathon six months after Medium was born. Come to think of it, when Corrado started running, his twin girls were a month shy of their one year anniversary. Hmmm. I smell a social research project: Is there something about babies that inspires men to become long-distance runners? But I digress.

The KeyBank Vermont City Marathon is a huge event in Burlington, Vt., traditionally held over the Memorial Day weekend. It’s an inspiring, uplifting, sweaty spectacle. I’ve spent quite a few mornings in May ogling exhausted-yet-determined people ascending Battery Street Hill to the rhythmic thumping of Taiko drummers. Each time, I’ve been so impressed that I’ve uttered the words, “I should do that,” only to have my motivation disappear faster than my kids’ Easter candy.

KBVCM relay teams are selected by lottery in February and are notoriously difficult to get. I never thought we’d get in, so it was quite a shock to hear that we were lottery winners. What were the odds? And more importantly, in the cosmic way of things, might this have reduced our chances of winning PowerBall?

OinkDaddy and Corrado gave me inspiring pep-talks, “You can do it!” “Stick with the training program. You’re going to be great!” “Go slow; just keep running!” The week after I received the “good” news, I hauled my butt around the track 12 times. I walked more than I ran. An old hamstring injury flared up. Ignoring it proved unsuccessful. With trepidation, I made my first-ever appointment for physical therapy. I don’t know why I waited so long. My physical therapist, Kim Ellsworth at Essex Aquatic and Rehab Center, was (and is!) awesome and had me up and running in a jiffy. I could have saved myself weeks of pain if I had seen her sooner. Therapy behind me, muscles and ligaments and tendons strengthened, I bought new Brooks running shoes and ran 3x/week for two whole weeks. And then I kinda…just…stopped running.

One reason I don’t care for running is that I’m not good at it. I never have been. I run like a duck. My knees are knocked slightly from doing w-sits as a child (Mom, you were right. If only I had sat criss-cross, apple-sauce!), thus, the lower half of my legs swing out as I run and the outside edge of my foot strikes the ground first. It’s not very efficient. Or comfortable. As far as exercise goes, I much prefer practicing Tae Kwon Do or going to a Les Mills Body Combat class (where a different Kim kicks my ass). I find running monotonous; minute after minute, mile after mile of the same forward motion. Breathe in, breathe out. It’s like being in labor all over again.

Mid-April, I got my poop together and started to train semi-seriously. Running outside helped motivate me to run farther. I ran two miles, then pushed myself to run three. I continued my cross-training workouts and a couple of times I ran with a friend who is so fit she bounds along Gazelle-like, talking continuously, while I huff and puff and nod occasionally. I welcome any distractions from my screaming quads.

Two weekends ago, I ran with Corrado. He generously let me set the pace (my pace is off his by a good three minutes), and for the first time since high school, I completed a five mile run. Huzzah! In spite of the fact that I’m not setting any speed records (11-minute miles, hello?), I trumpeted my accomplishment far and wide.

I’m now cautiously optimistic that I’ll be able to complete my leg of the relay without expiring on the trail. Look for me. I’ll be the one in a red Team Deep Fried Bacon high-performance t-shirt stumbling over the finish line. Don’t be offended if I don’t stop to chat. I’ll be headed for the beer tent.

Things I’ve Learned About Running

  • Eat breakfast or be prepared to bonk
  • Run un-caffeinated or get the trots
  • Good sneakers really do make a world of difference
  • Injuries will not go away on their own; go to physical therapy
  • When doing crunches off the track at the gym, face the same direction as the runners lest they get an eyeful of sweaty underwear
  • My brother-in-law not only runs faster than I do, but he writes faster too. Check out his fitness related blog and be amazed by how many calories he can consume.

The marathon is coming. Bring it, baby.

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We’re less than a week away from THE award show of the season, the 83rd Academy Awards. As a movie buff, I make an effort to watch every year. I get a kick out of the unscripted moments (Adrien Brody smooching on Halle Berry after winning best actor for The Pianist) and the acceptance speeches that come from the heart (last year, Kathryn Bigelow was poised and inspiring accepting her best director win). And of course, I enjoy watching all the beautiful people and criticizing their attire.

In the spirit of the award season, I’m honored and pleased to announce that OINKtales was named by Alison over at The Other Winnie Cooper as being an Awesome Blog and Darla of She’s a Maineiac as being a Stylish Blogger. Thank you both! OINKtales is grateful to accept your awards and wants to reward your kindness by reciprocating. You are both awesome and stylish bloggers too!

And while I am truly flattered to receive these awards, my cynical side is clamoring for satisfaction. I have to make the following observation: Blog awards are the new chain letters. Do you remember being a kid and getting that hand-written note from your cousin that promised if you mailed a sheet of stickers to some unknown person on a list and then copied the note exactly and forwarded it to twelve of your friends and family, you’d end up getting reams of stickers? Did you ever get any? Do you want to guess whether I did?

In college, I did do a lingerie chain (new, not used!) and it was moderately successful (I got a whopping three pairs of undies this way) and within the last couple of years, I bought into the Facebook chain where you announce random facts about yourself (being petrified by the idea that vampires might actually exist is my #25). But overall, I have broken more chains than I have extended them, for which I understand that I have been penalized a lifetime of bad luck.

Be that as it may, I’ve decided not to break this chain. Mostly because I respect both Alison and Darla immensely and who am I kidding? No matter how you look at it, these awards are compliments. (Would you be surprised if I told you that I have a hard time accepting compliments?)

So here we go: The requirements for accepting these awards are to link back to the awarders, list seven things about yourself, and then pass the award on to other worthy bloggers. I’m supposed to list fifteen but I don’t follow directions well.

Seven Things You Don’t Know About Me:

I don’t like to talk about myself. So ironic, since I can blog about intimate things in my life (tampons of preference, hello?) but when I am in a group – and sometimes even one-on-one – I tend to downplay my accomplishments and make light of things that are important to me. Any couch psychologists out there?

I think kids are disgusting. But they’re like pets. When they’re yours, you love them even when they’re disgusting.

Every day, I consider going back to my old job. Or trying to. It’s not like they’re saving one for me (wouldn’t that be nice?).

Every day, I daydream about winning the lottery. Although I’d take less than a million, it’d be hard to accomplish the basics with less than that. Lest you think I am greedy, consider that I have three children to put through college and probably, grad school.

I am an escapist reader and my favorite genre is young adult fiction a la The Hunger Games, The Golden Compass, and anything with Potter in the title.

I have two belly buttons. At least, it looks like I do. This is what comes of keeping one’s belly button ring in when one was hugely pregnant. Not. Pretty.

And though this last bit I suspect you already know, I’m including it anyway, if only to end this list: My family means everything to me.

Now, to my list of awesome/stylish blogs. I personally know some of these people, some I met (or am just stalking) in the blogosphere. I recommend you check them all out:

Other Awesome/Stylish Blogs:

OINKdaddy. My better, happier half’s observations on our life.

Push the Envelope. Watch it Bend. A brand-new running/fitness blog authored by my uber-fit brother-in-law (an OINK to follow on this one).

She Rides, I Pay. For funny, horsey folks.

My Topography. Beautiful. Lyrical. Words and pictures.

Saying YES 2 boys and Life. Humorous, homesteading, homeschooling mom.

The Ramblings. Prolific blogger whose hilarious descriptions strike a chord with many.

Scary Mommy. Blogging maven who has never heard of me but who is laugh out loud funny and who has her own scary mommy society (it has an eight-week waiting list!).

Theta Mom. Another blogger who has never heard of me but who, like Scary Mommy, started her own blogging community and is highly supportive of other bloggers.

And of course, the aforementioned She’s a Maineiac, a new blogging friend who writes about the loopy world of a desperate Maine housewife, and The Other Winnie Cooper, one of my BFF’s who considered participating in the underwear chain and who is now the larger-than-life voice of a 12 pound shih-tzu.

Happy linking everyone! Now, to find my Roberto Cavalli knock-off for the red carpet…

Is it me? Or have the current fashion trends come full circle? Having spent my pre-teen and teen years excitedly ordering clothes from J.C. Penney catalogs, I am no fashionista. When I was twelve or thirteen, we visited a family in Pennsylvania. My counterpart was the same age and ethnicity as I but that was where our similarities ended. Shortly after we arrived, she took me to her bedroom with the walk-in closet and proceeded to model a seemingly endless supply of sweaters from the United Colors of Benetton and J. Crew. She was stunned when I admitted I had never heard of either brand.

“But where do you get your clothes?” she asked.

I pushed my pink, twisted bandana headband from my forehead to the top of my head before I answered, “Uh, from Ames.”

Now, my standard uniform is jeans with a sweater. Old, broken-in jeans with machine washable sweaters. I reside in a world lightyears away from couture and a distant cry from even prêt-à-porter lines. In spite of this and my fashion apathy, I do occasionally wander through websites that cater to women who think nothing of dropping $1K on a pair of shoes that remind them of Carrie Bradshaw. And this is what they’re selling:

C’mon people. Really? Weren’t these ensembles in fashion when Kurt Cobain was alive? Who brought plaid shirts back? I wore a vest and gray leggings in the early 90s. And I had a black zippered mini-skirt from Express that I practically wore out. Not that I would (could!) wear them now. If I had them, which I don’t. So, who is wearing these clothes? Better question: Who is BUYING these clothes?

I don’t have the answers but I think Olivia Newton John wants her blue jumpsuit back.

After I checked into the Cape Hedge Inn, I told the kids we were hitting the beach. Small, Medium and Large hastily scrambled into their suits. A measure of their excitement: no one complained when I applied sunscreen.

We were on vacation with my husband’s family—his parents, brother, sister-in-law and their two children, K and G (ages six and three), as well as his 85-year-old grandmother whom the kids call G.G. (Great-Grammie). We were missing only my husband’s sister and her family and – there is no way to write this without the words dripping with irony – my husband.

Small, Medium and Large’s first ocean experience was idyllic. We spent the afternoon under the sun, jumping waves, squealing over seaweed and selecting the smoothest pebbles to bring home. More than once I wished my husband was there with us (he was arriving the following evening) to see the kids at their carefree, fun-loving best.

Fast forward a few hours. I have lugged all the beach toys, rocks (did I call them pebbles?), blankets, towels and coolers back to our motel room, made all the kids shower and change, rinsed and wrung out four bathing suits, cleaned the cooler and found dry clothes for myself. I am exhausted and so are the kids. Unfortunately, when my kids reach exhaustion they refuse to allow themselves to feel tired. Instead, they push themselves to that level beyond exhaustion – super-hyper-drive-your-mother-crazy-energizer-bunny-stage. They are entertaining themselves by bouncing off the walls. Literally. It is 7:30 p.m. and we haven’t eaten dinner.

My sister-in-law drops by our room to invite us to go with the rest of the family and dine in town. At a restaurant. After telling her that is sheer madness, I politely decline—opting for what I hope will be a lesser form of torture: a visit to the grocery store.

Our drive to the store is blessedly quick. Once I have located the entrance (on the far side of the building from where we have parked), we troop in. I hand Liam a basket and take one for myself. At first, we navigate the aisles like a school of fish; as a group, we dart in for tasty bites and shy away from oncoming predators. But by the time we reach the bread aisle, our school has disbanded. We look less like fish and more like an ineffective cowboy with a poorly managed cattle herd. I yell at the rogues and attempt to head them off at the pass. More than once, I wish I had a cattle prod.

We reach the checkout counter where a bored teenager with heavy eye-liner scans our groceries. I have over-estimated stuff to buy and there is no bagger so I do it myself. After we make it through the exit, I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s then that I hear a noise. Nora has dropped her new flip-flops. I freeze. And it dawns on me.

“Did we pay for those flip-flops?

She is silent.

“Nora! Did those flip-flops make it onto the checkout belt?”

She shakes her head vigorously. Her eyes well with tears. “I forgot!”

The bags I am hefting suddenly feel heavier. I close my eyes. For an instant, I consider just continuing on, going back to the motel. But I can’t. I will not intentionally set my six year old on the road that could end with her crafting a shank out of a cafeteria utensil. This is one of those “teachable moments” the parenting experts are always on about. Damn them.

“C’mon everybody. We have to go back inside.” I herd the kids back toward the doors we just exited. They start an ascending chorus of “Whys” and “Do we have tos?” but they are stumbling in the right direction. A young couple stares at us wide-eyed as we pass them on their way out of the store. I think to myself that we are a walking advertisement for birth control.

The doors close behind us. I can see our cashier just beyond the next set of doors. But they remain closed. We are trapped in this glass box until someone leaves the store.

Liam notices that we are being captured on the security camera’s monitor and begins doing the “butt dance.” Nora and Henry drop their bags and begin shaking their butts at the camera too. They are hilarious. I am nigh hysterical. Suddenly, the doors hiss open and the group of German exchange students that had been testing Axe deodorant sprays in aisle seven are standing on the other side. I stop telling my kids to stop and stride purposefully through the cloud of pheromones. Small, Medium and Large follow me meekly.

The flip-flops make a smacking sound when I slap them on the conveyer belt. “We forgot to pay for these.”

The cashier shrugs, scans the tag and says, “That will be two dollars and seventeen cents.” I hand her the money silently.

She is handing me my change when Liam leans forward. “You really ought to tighten up your security. I mean, my sister walked right out of here and there weren’t any bells or anything.”

So, he learned something. Too bad it wasn’t the lesson I was trying to teach.

My apologies; mea culpa. I have been remiss in my oinking responsibilities. My thanks to those of you who gently prodded to get me back online. I have no excuse for my absence other than: Life got in the way.

Is there anyone out there who considers time to be a fluid, relaxed space? Time is compressed in my world. I think I must orbit a black hole that peels time from me second by second. I start most days with: Oh please, let me sleep just five more minutes! And end with: Is that the 11 o’clock news? The moments in-between are filled with quick assessments: Is it possible to retrieve Nora from school, snack her, make it through eight traffic lights, get her skates laced and her onto the ice in less than 20 minutes? Can I make it to Lowe’s, the grocery store, the post office and the bank in the hour before the kids get home? If school started 10 minutes ago and I drive 60 miles per hour, will he be more than 15 minutes late?

When I posted last, we had just adopted Paco. In the weeks that followed, we packed and then demolished our kitchen, learned that Paco likes to mark, bought a new dishwasher, met with Liam’s math teacher, ordered replacement parts for the stove after the microwave accidentally fell on it, borrowed a dog crate, primed and painted part of the upstairs of our friends’ house, attended seven other meetings at two schools, tested for a red belt, scheduled and rescheduled appointments to get our hair cut, helped organize a night of silent and live auctions, hand-washed dishes in bins in the bathtub, had two field trips, got our hair cut, connected the replacement parts for the stove, competed in one Tae Kwon Do tournament, dealt with a temporary kitchen sink, bought gifts for four birthday parties-went to three, hosted one, primed and painted the backsplash, walls and ceiling, stopped using the dog crate, oversaw the installation of new cabinets and countertop, made fruitless calls to seven home improvement stores looking for oil-rubbed bronze sink drains, bought white sink drains, dyed Easter eggs at our friends’ house and…finally…unpacked the kitchen.

Poor dog. He had no idea what he was in for when we walked into his life.

**

Before demo, our kitchen had brown ceramic floor tiles, yellow laminate counters, oak and pressboard cabinets whose shelves sometimes tipped, a tiled backsplash with brown grout and a too-large peninsula that trapped guests in one half of the room or the other when I opened the refrigerator.

Demo was pretty satisfying:

And now, I am thrilled to have cherry cabinets, seamless hi-mac countertops, drawers that glide open and close softly, an extra deep sink and a super-quiet dishwasher. Floors and backsplash to be installed later this year. A big thank you to all our friends who lent expertise, muscle and fun to this project. You know we couldn’t have done it without you!

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