Hershey Half Marathon – My Goal


“Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.” ~George S. Patton, 1912 Olympian, U.S. Army General


Well, the verdict is in – I didn’t fall off a ladder and break my leg or even twist my ankle this week (althoughI almost hit a buck tonight), so I guess I do have to run the Hershey Half Marathon tomorrow morning. I’ve spent this past week painting the upper half of our bathroom – 2 coats of primer, 2 coats of finish, and 3 coats on the trim. Painting was fun…. for the first 45 minutes, after that, not so much. I also spent the week thinking about the fact that I was trying not to think about the fact that I’m registered to “run” a half marathon tomorrow. My running neighbor, Mrs. T, would ask me at the bus stop each morning, “So, are you getting ready?”. I would pretend like I didn’t know what subject she was referring to even though I absolutely did, but I’ve been trying to appear to be more consumed with painting than gearing up for a race. In my efforts to appear nonchalant, I didn’t even check Sunday’s weather forecast until Thursday. Thankfully tomorrow is looking like a beautiful day!

Upper half of bathroom with paint

Confession time – I have been gearing up, watching videos and reading articles about pacing, hydration, carb loading, and general race etiquette as well as trying to figure out how to adhere the words “If found on the ground, please drag to the finish line” on my shirt. The big question that hangs in my mind is… am I going to set a goal time? This is the question that has haunted me for the past 16 weeks. My friends who also enjoy running ask it almost every time I see one of them. “What pace are you going to try to run?” I’ve thought long and hard about this question although I think I knew the answer all along. My answer is (drumroll please….) I’m not setting a goal time other than hoping to finish +/-5 minutes of last year’s time. Why no specific pace time? You see, I’ve spent the last 16 weeks hitting goals almost every week.

Even though I ran a half marathon last October and am on the verge of publicly referring to myself as a “jogger,” I still view myself as that girl in 10th grade who couldn’t finish one mile in less than 12 minutes for the presidential fitness award test in gym class. I’ve spent the past 16 weeks realizing I’m not that girl anymore. I can actually go faster than that, and I can do it on my own without my neighbor to drag me through it. That was my goal this year – to do it on my own. It’s a lot easier to run 11 miles when there’s someone to talk to about your last cooking fiasco instead of thinking about how your right leg feels ploddy because your quad is beginning to cramp, your left knee is starting to hurt, and your hips just ache. I’ve run 3 double digit long runs on my own – almost 300 miles total of training, without stopping or puking or calling Daniel to come pick me up. Before this summer, 6 miles was the longest run I had ever done by myself, so this summer’s training in and of itself ranks up there with other events which I would call my defining life moments.

All of my training has taken place without a timing device. Other than trying to remember to check my start and stop times, I pretty much ran a pace that was comfortable and stretched me a bit for that day, so why should I try to run by the clock tomorrow? The year before Alice was born, Daniel and I spent summer evenings bike riding together. My bike was outfitted with a handy-dandy speedometer attached to my handlebars which I watched religiously; it took all the fun out of biking. I began to dread our evening rides. Once I got back on the bike a few years post Alice’s birth, I ditched the speedometer and have never looked back. That has been my approach to running, probably influenced by my neighbor’s lack of concern for her times as well, no gadgets or gizmoos to tell me I should be moving faster every time I slip on the running shoes. My life moves fast enough when I’m not in running shoes; so oddly enough, I guess I like to slow down and catch my breath when I run, enjoy the sunrise without needing to check my watch or step up the pace. I fear that a little device ordering me to move faster at 5:30am would squelch any desire I have to get up and actually move to beging with, so I choose to enjoy being clock-less for the most part. My theory on exercise is if you’re not enjoying it at least a little bit, there’s a better sport/exercise program for you.

So this brings me back to my semi-clock-less goal for 2012. While I usually try to mellow out and enjoy the scenery during my workouts, I do plan to give it all I have tomorrow morning. My goal will be not only to finish without stopping, puking or fainting and relatively close to my time from last year, but also to finish utterly and completely exhausted knowing I couldn’t have given one ounce more. It will be the first time I run 13.1 miles by myself, by my own motivation; and that is worth celebrating.


I admit it. I have a goldfish addiction, similar to that of your average 4 year old. Not the kind of goldfish that swims in a bowl; I’m talking about those little bits of baked cheddar crunchiness that you pop into your mouth one after another without a second thought. Parmesan is my favorite! I do not buy them… period…because I could easily eat an entire bag in one sitting. I do buy the whole grain cheddar goldfish sometimes, but even that is very rare since I feel they’re a seriously pricey snack food (at least for my budget). So I’m always on the lookout for cheaper goldfish alternatives.

Last week, I found just that at The Country Store, a local bulk food store that sells many “odd” things you can’t find in chain grocery stores. The store boasts a huge assortment of spices in various forms, canning paraphernalia, raw milk, lard, therm flo, clear jel, etc. On this particular visit to the store I was looking for some produce and snacks to take on our upcoming weekend get-away when I found “Cheddar Ducks Quackum’s,” a fun goldfish alternative for almost half the price of the real deal. Ian wasn’t overly happy about this find because we had already picked up a bag of Baby Goldfish (family trip splurge) which I put back, but he was intrigued enough by the ducks not to care too much about the returned fish. Cheddar ducks quackum’s did not let me down either. Both my kids happily ate almost the entire bag (along with some help from myself) over the course of the 7hours in the car this past weekend. (I could even pronounce all of the ingredients.

Fast forward to today, on my way home from some morning errands I stopped at The Country Store for some clear jel to make a sour cherry pie since I had pie dough at home I needed to use up. We were also low on cheddar ducks and chocolate milk (another one of my guilty pleasures), which has become Ian’s addiction as well. I knew I was pushing Ian because it almost 12:30pm, and my boy takes after his mother. He gets VERY hangry (low blood sugar -hunger- leads to intense anger and unreasonableness). But I had given Ian a cereal bar at the stop before in hopes that it would stave off his hanger, and I only needed 3 items in the store…. how hard could this be?

On the way to the store, I told him what we were getting… duuummmb, d-d-dumb! Immediately he starts whining/demanding goldfish instead of ducks. Now I recently read a blog discussing discipline tactics, one of which is repeating what your child says in order to let your child know he/she is heard instead of feeling like the parent is steam rolling the kid’s desires. I’ve been trying this with Ian recently, and I feel it’s been helping him not to escalate so quickly. So I dove into my mantra… “I hear you want fishies, Ian. I know you want fish. I will get you fish when we go to Weis. I’m getting ducks here.” This abated him a little, although he declared up and down he wasn’t going to eat ducks. “That’s ok,” I said, knowing full well that he would quickly change his tune when he saw his sister chowing down on them.

Ian's blankets which he loves very much and usually go everywhere with him.

So as I’m unbuckling Ian’s carseat, I asked him if he wanted to take either of his blankets inside the store. “No,” he answered quickly and firmly. I got him out of the car, shut the door and locked it at which point he decided to go back to his whining/crying state similar to his fish-fit earlier. “I want my blanket. I want my blanket,” he cried over and over. Now for whatever reason, my kids do this a lot. They say they do or don’t want something and change their minds 20 seconds later. This drives me CRAZY. Maybe they do it because they’re kids. Maybe they do it because they know it drives me crazy. Maybe they do because we’ve given in to them too many times, but I’m very tired of it and have been cracking down on this dynamic recently. My response to his blanket whining went something like this – “Sorry. You said you didn’t want your blanket. You may have it when we come out.” Looking back, this wasn’t the right battle to pick given the time of day, but I wanted to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible. Instead, I set myself up for the longest three-item-grocery-store trip I’ve ever had. The whining continued in addition to the arrival of alligator tears, which quickly went to semi-shouts as Ian stubbornly refused to come into the store with me.

What could I do? Sit him in the car and wait until he stopped screaming? This would take more time than just dragging him through the store. Leave the store? – stories of other parents leaving stores because their kids were throwing fits rang through my head. But this seemed to punish me more than it would Ian. This is only store I know of that carries clear jel, so I would have to make a special 30 minute roundtrip drive another day in order to get my pies made. I did the only thing I could think of, which I have done many times before. I picked up my flailing, crying little boy and headed for the store entrance turning all the heads in the parking lot because his cries were getting close to frantic. For some silly reason, I just knew that he would calm down once we got inside where I could distract him.

“Would you like to walk or ride in the cart?” I (surprisingly!) calmly asked him. “I’m NOT coming!” he stated over and over while standing in the corner behind the carts. I picked him up and put him in the back of the cart, which only elicited louder wails. For some reason, I kept thinking he would see the pettiness of his cries and abruptly stop this ridiculous show, so I pushed on ignoring the other customers in the store judging the poor mother who didn’t know how to control her son’s behavior.

Ian’s sobs were approaching hysterical as we approached the chocolate milk, and I knew if we weren’t making a scene before, we had definitely reached that level in the dairy aisle. But I only needed 5 minutes in the store. Please, please, please calm down, Ian, I inwardly begged. I pulled the chocolate milk off the shelf and put it in the cart while Ian decided he was going to stand up in the cart and yell his lungs off. “Ian, you need to sit down and stop crying, or I’m going to put the chocolate milk back,” I found myself (still calmly) saying as my face began to turn multiple shades of red. But my “threat” had no apparent effect on my boy, and I knew I had to carry through with my consequence. I put the chocolate milk back on the shelf… and that was it.

The End.

The you-know-what hit the fan, and I quickly exited the store with cart and child – the only time in 6 years of parenting I’ve had to do that. Once outside I sat Ian on a bench until he was calm enough to hear me even though he continued to blubber on about chocolate milk. “Ian, if you can be calm and ride in the cart, we will go back into the store, get ducks and clear jel. If you are still calm after we have gotten those things, I will get the chocolate milk.” The tears ceased. The crying halted to sniffling. He took my hand, and we walked toward the entrance for the second time today.

An older gentleman was standing near the door. (I later realized he had come out of the store to find me.) I forget his exact words to me, but he wanted to offer me parenting advice. He told me he had raised five kids so he knew what he was talking about. He told me that when his kids started to throw a fit, he would pretend to cry and throw a fit too until they stopped and asked him what he was doing. I knew he was trying to help me in the way he thought best. I appreciated his advice as much as I possibly could at that moment and told him I would try that next time (even though I’ve tried this many times already with very mixed results). Embarrassed, defeated and red-faced, I walked back into the store and got the three items: first the clear jel, then the ducks, and finally the chocolate milk. Standing in line at the check out, an elderly lady was behind me. Ian must have caught her eye because she leaned close to him and smiled a beautiful smile. “Are you having a bad day?” she gently asked Ian. “I had two little ones too so I know exactly what that’s like….. Poor Mommy might be having a bad day now too.”

The rest of the day has been relatively normal. I fed my boy his favorite chicken nugget lunch, and he returned to his normal, mostly happy self. We’ve had some very smallish meltdowns, but nothing out of the ordinary. I even tried throwing a small fit to one of Ian’s small meltdowns, just like the older gentleman with five kids suggested . Uuummm – that didn’t work so well. The thing that remains imprinted in my mind from the whole experience was the sweet, kind lady who sympathized with my situation. If I knew who you were, I would call you up and say: “Thank you. You were my angel today. Thank you for your words, your understanding, your grace, and your compassion. They meant so much at that moment.” May my words be just as kind and caring to those around me today (and my parental advice be minimal unless asked for it).


Pulling the bike trailer with his trike.
Pulling the bike trailer with his trike.


Happy Fall!



A Picture Guide for Canning Applesauce

After having participated in upwards of over 10 applesauce making days, there is one thing I can say for certain about my husband’s family: they  take their applesauce seriously. I’m talking 6 bushels of apples made into sauce and canned for the coming year’s use within 7 hours. Other people who can applesauce usually wonder how we can get all those apples canned so quickly, so here’s a glimpse of how we made applesauce this past Saturday – Miller Style.

1. Proper Preparation – this first step is 2 parts, and both parts are optional but will help you achieve maximum efficiency and speed during your marathon canning day.

Part A – Spend the evening before you plan to can your applesauce relaxing, gaining energy for the coming morning. One of the best ways to relax as well as to prepare mentally and physically for the next day is a campfire. (Actually I think a campfire is the best way to kick off every weekend, but I’ll take what I can get.)

We hone our cooking skills, which we’ll obviously be put to good use.

We concentrate on carb loading since we’ll need lots of energy.

Alice's first smore

And of course, we make sure to get a full night’s sleep…. plus more if we can.

Part B: Before beginning anything on your canning day, make sure you have a “food plan” for the day. The menu for applesauce day is the main motivator for some of us Millers to come help… because we get to eat amazing food all day long. This year it started in the morning as my mother-in-law prepared apple dumplings with help from some others.

Daniel demonstrates his apple peeling abilities... who knew? Not I.

More about the menu later on; but as I have learned from the Millers, the menu can make or break your day.


Step 2: Wash the apples. We like using a mixture of apples. This year’s sauce was Cortland, Jonathan, Jonagold and Crispin.

Often the littlest people enjoy this job the most. Bring a full change of clothes for them.



Step 3: Quarter the apples… watch those fingers!



Step 4: Begin cooking the apples as soon as there are enough cut to keep the pots full.

Eric claims his cooking abilities are almost non-existent; however he is the master apple cooker in the family.

(At this point, you may begin to notice an essential part of making the process efficient is the equipment… a cut-off 55 gallon drum for washing apples, 5 gallon food-grade buckets for holding quartered apples and later applesauce, a second stove brought in to cook and later can at the same time, and a tarp on the kitchen floor for easy cleanup. I’m told this family has spent years “perfecting” this process and acquiring this equipment.)

When your cooked apples look like this, it’s time to break out the cone.

Step 5: Press the apples through the cone into a 5 gallon bucket. (I did not get the best picture of this process, but hopefully you get the idea.)

Once you have enough hot applesauce to feed to your work crew at lunch time, eat when needed. Some family members admittedly come to applesauce day just so he/she can eat  skillet, a macaroni, hamburger, bean, onion, tomato juice, cheese and seasoning bit of heaven that is always! on the menu.

Since this apparently wasn’t enough good food, dumplings came next.

Step 6: Stir in as little sugar as possible using the “canoe paddle” (an extra large wooden spoon Eric made which is long enough to stir a 5 gallon bucket).

Step 7: Prepare the jars for canning

Step 8: Can it. We use 3 canners on 2 stoves, so even this step goes relatively fast.

Total output – 95 quart in approximately 7 hours, a delicious smelling, warm house, lots of laughter, even some singing (and of course hands that are sore from cutting). Total calories consumed for the day – I’ll think about that tomorrow.

Step 9: Celebrate. Ok so this isn’t a prescribed Miller  way to end the canning day. But this year we were given tickets for Hershey Park to use this weekend. Since we were canning on Saturday, we made our way to the sweetest place on earth Sunday morning. This was Ian’s first time at an amusement park, and Alice’s second. We all had a blast, but Alice had a very momentous day!

Alice lost her first tooth while waiting in line to drive the classic cars on the turnpike.

As I like to put it, she lost her first tooth, and five minutes later she drove her first car. Wow – that went way! too fast!

Next came the big rigs…. slow down life!

What a great day! A HUGE “thank you” to SG and LH for the tickets!!