To All the Trails I’ve Run Before

Do you ever miss a place before you’ve even left it? My husband says that I get weirdly attached to things. I’ve been to random places, especially on road trips (gas stations, etc.) and felt melancholy, because I’ll probably never stop there or see those people again. Where are they going? I also feel it sometimes when I’m out running or hiking. Will anyone else ever notice this tree? (Why am I so weird?) I’ve had plenty of time to acknowledge this quirk, as someone who, since leaving home for college, has not lived in the same spot for more than 3-4 years at a time. Here in Florida will be my longest stretch, as we’ve owned our first little house for almost 4 years now. As military transfer season approaches, bear with me as I become more reflective. I’d also like to describe my current happy place, so please read on.

I’ve already written about the OG trails in my life, in Mississippi where I grew up. While I can always go home, it looks very different now than when it was mostly just ponds and pasture, but the early memories of childhood exploration live on.

Mississippi home

The hiking trails we frequented in Cordova, Alaska were too wild for me to run on, so I stuck to the (slightly less wild) road, but I did stumble upon a few nice running trails in the larger cities. The 4 mile long Chester Creek Trail in Anchorage happens to run by the church that hosted our youth group on a mission trip in June of 2014. Part of the “greenbelt,” it makes you feel like you’re not in the city (though the appeal of an Anchorage trip WAS being in the city).

Chester Creek Trail, Anchorage AK, June 2014

The Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei, also known as the Brotherhood Bridge Trail or Mendenhall River Trail, is one that I got particularly attached to in Juneau. The Tlingit name means “going back clearwater trail.” In both August and December of 2015, I visited distant cousins whom I’d only ever written to or heard stories about before, so the trips hold extra special memories. There, I tweeted, “Sad that this could be my last run in Juneau ever. We leave Cordova this summer & idk if we’ll make it back to AK. 😭” So, this trail is definitely associated with the feeling of missing a place before I’d even left it.

Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei, Juneau AK, December 2015

One of my oldest and dearest friends got married in Fairhope, Alabama in December of 2017. I had a half marathon two weeks later, so the morning of the wedding, I ran 11 miles on the Eastern Shore Trail (which I’d found online). The EST runs along the east side of Mobile Bay for 32 miles. Looking back, I can’t believe the bride didn’t mind that I spent the morning out on a long run instead of checking in on her- love you, Lizzy! It was a beautiful wedding and a fun weekend. (And I accomplished my goal of a sub-two hour half.)

Eastern Shore Trail, Daphne AL, December 2017

In March of 2019, I visited Sevierville, Tennessee with part of my family. We went to the Smoky Mountains a lot when I was a child, so returning with my daughter was a fun experience. One day, she played at a playground with my parents while I ran on the Sevierville Greenway. The city website defines a greenway as “a corridor of undeveloped land, along a river or between urban centers that is reserved for recreational use or environmental preservation. Greenways connect people to the places they live, work and play!” Connection! That’s it! Later that year, we visited the other side of the Smokies in North Carolina, where I also found a greenway. I wrote about that trip here.

Sevierville Greenway, Sevierville, TN, March 2019

Finally, this brings me to my current obsession: the East Coast Greenway, which boasts the slogan, “Connecting People to Place.” Jacksonville will actually be hosting the Southeast Greenways and Trails Summit 2020 in April. The goal of this event and the nonprofit East Coast Greenway Alliance is to “transform the Southeast into a model of healthy, sustainable living.” The entire ECG is 3,000 miles long, connecting Maine to Florida, but my section- Amelia Island and Timicuan Trail (5 and 6 miles)- is listed as one of 15 favorite segments. (How lucky are we?)

I’ve run the entire local segment, but the 4 mile stretch of Timicuan Pathway on Big Talbot Island is my favorite. With multiple access points and parking areas, it’s convenient, but once you’re out there, you feel like it’s just you and the trail.

Happy place

It is paved, but there are side dirt trails that lead down to the beach. I like veering off on Blackrock Trail to Boneyard Beach, where I always stop for a few moments to rest, think, and pray among the huge pieces of driftwood. (This is often my only alone time for the week, so I take full advantage.) My favorite time to run there is late afternoon, so I can enjoy the sunset on the drive home.

Boneyard Beach

I’ve seen deer, turtles, tortoises, birds, snakes, and a bobcat, and I often stop to inspect scat along the trail to figure out what animal has passed by (Biology teacher problems). In late summer/early fall, webs of huge golden silk spiders stretch across the trail between trees overhead. I tried to count them once, but I stopped at fifty. (I know that they’d never just jump down on me, but despite the fact that I took Arachnid Biology in grad school, their presence does improve my speed work.) There is an open area where the National Park Service applied a prescribed burn in 2018, and habitat restoration is underway. Over the past year, I’ve been able to watch the barren, ashy land turn green again, and the acrid, smoky scent has faded.

Burn site

Saying goodbye to this trail, and the “connection to place” that it has fostered, will be hard, but I look forward to connecting to our new home in Sheboygan, Wisconsin through the new paths that I’ll find there.


The Mountains are Calling… (my Alaskan run story)

We are on our first ever Hafertepe family vacation this week, just us, spending a few days in the Smokies of North Carolina. These mountains have me reminiscing about the three years we lived in Alaska and the start of my running journey.

When we got stationed in Cordova, Alaska in July of 2013, I was in a total state of culture shock. (For an idea of where I’m from, check out my “Me” page.) I’ll never forget the ride from the (TINY) airport- it was a sunny day (thank goodness, as those are somewhat rare in the temperate rainforest). My mouth hung open for the entire 13 miles into town, gazing in awe at my new home in the Chugach National Forest– trees, wildflowers, water, mountains, and glimpses of glaciers. We were 4,000 miles from anything and anyone familiar. What on earth was I going to do?

At the local yarn and gift shop called The Net Loft, I signed up for a knitting class. Sadly, instead of discovering a new hobby, I found it impossibly frustrating. As a high school teacher, I knew exactly what my former students would do in my situation; I excused myself to go to the restroom and never went back. Oops!

The Ombudsman for the ship, Tara (who is now a good friend of mine), sent an email about training for the Humpy 5k of the Alaska Salmon Runs. These were the only regular races in town at the time, and they are part of the Copper River Salmon Jam music and arts festival that takes place on the ski hill every summer in Cordova. (Add this to your bucket list!) I had never been much of a runner, but I thought, why not? Somehow, though, I had not packed any tennis shoes, and there’s no such thing as two-day delivery up there. Shopping is an adventure. Finally, in the upstairs room of the Asian foods & more store, I found a pair of old-school Columbia Azuric trail shoes in my size. The rest is history!

Over our three year tour, I ran the Humpy 5k, the Sockeye Half Marathon, and the Coho 10k (named after types of salmon- there’s the King Salmon Marathon distance, as well). Almost everyone walks to race start at the medical center, and a bus takes racers “out the road.” The lone road that runs out of town takes you to the airport (or to areas for hiking, kayaking, camping, fishing, hunting, and ATV-riding) before it ends at the non-functional “Million Dollar Bridge.” The buses drop racers off before the end of the road in waves, at the starting points for each race, and racers simply run back to town. The course is flat and fast with beautiful scenery. The Sockeye Half in 2014 was my second half marathon race, and with encouragement from a visiting cousin (who decided to run with me on a whim, with no training!!), I ran it in 2:07. It was awesome!

headed “out the road”

Even though the only way to travel in and out of Cordova is by air or sea (their famous slogan is “No Road”), I traveled all over the vast state for work and church. I was able to run near the arctic circle in Nome, on the Kenai Peninsula not far from smoking volcanoes, race “the hardest 10k you will ever do” on Anchorage trails (narrowly avoiding an angry moose), race with a cousin I’d never met in Juneau, and run in several other towns, each one unique and interesting.

after “the hardest 10k you will ever do”

Running quickly became an important part of my life. I ran in wind, rain, snow, on ice, in a full-body shark costume, too close to dangerous wildlife, and with friends who are still very special to me. I also hiked, climbed, kayaked, backpacked, camped, and pretty much became a different (better, I hope) person, more willing to step out of my comfort zone. I fell in love with Alaska, and I could fill an album with beautiful photos that still wouldn’t do the scenery justice. I am thankful that running, which started as something to pass the time and make friends, has become a permanent part of my life and serves as a reminder that I can acclimate to anywhere and anything!

New Gear, Who Dis

You don’t really need fancy gear to run; that’s what’s so great about it. I’ve been using Wal-Mart AVIA sports bras and the same batch of Nike shorts that I collected back in college, when sorority girls wore them everywhere except to the gym. That was OVER TEN YEARS AGO, so shout-out to Nike for making shorts that last!

Since my body has, of course, changed over the last decade, a few weeks ago I decided to look into new activewear based on suggestions from “running Twitter.” I asked the ladies to share what they swear by, and they did not disappoint. I don’t like to blow money on myself, so I made sure it was in our budget and scoured the Internet for discounts. I thought I’d share what worked, what didn’t, things I love, and things I returned, in case you’re looking to update your workout wardrobe and save a little $! I’m not getting anything for writing, but some links are referrals (you’ll get a discount, and I will too if I decide to make another purchase). I’m all about a deal!

Favorite overall: Senita Activewear for their affordability, dedication to pockets, and range- lounge, sport, swim, and CUTE maternity/nursing-wear (moms know the struggle)! Senita was recommended for their shorts, so I ordered the High Waisted Rio Shorts (3.75 in inseam). Medium fit well (snug), and pockets are perfect for my phone, no jiggle or droop. They have different rises and inseam lengths. I happened to shop on the day of their first swim line launch, so I snagged the Havasu Bikini Top (designed to support like a sports bra for playing on the beach, etc.) and Page High Waisted Swim Bottoms. Good fit, which can be hard when ordering suits online! I wish their maternity suits had been around last summer. Later, I ordered the Get It Done Crop Top and Circuit Tank Top (more fitted than expected, but cute; top in photo above), and the Tank Romper from their new Spring line. I thought my romper days were over, but I’m wearing it now! Shop Senita here and get 10% off of your first order.

Senita, Knockaround, dry shampoo, & cute kiddos

Favorite leggings: Handful Squeeze Play 37.5 7/8 legging. Handful was highly recommended for their bras, but the leggings- so smooth! At 5’3”, bottoms are often too long, or have an awkward rise for my short waist, but these are so perfect that I ordered another pair! I also got a (reversible) Flippin’ Awesome Scoop Tank on major sale, and the Y-Back Bra. I liked the bra, but I had a specific type in mind, so I returned it to search for something more compressive and adjustable (personal preference). EDIT: When I saw the new Play It Cool color after this blog was originally posted, I had to have it. I tried The Closer Bra this time, and I LOVE it! Exactly the fit I like, and it’s so cute, especially in this blue-grey-green color- my fave. Their customer service is awesome, and they donate money and breast pads to cancer survivors. Shop Handful here. (Not a referral, but look for current discounts on site.)

Favorite Sports Bra: SHEFIT Ultimate Sports Bra. I thought this bra was intimidating, but it’s a gamechanger for high-impact activities. My only “nice” adjustable sports bra was an old-school Brooks Moving Comfort. I ordered the Brooks Juno by suggestion, but it was uncomfortable, so I returned it. After returning two different bras, I didn’t have high hopes for the SHEFIT, but as soon as I put it on, I was thrilled! It is fully adjustable (I nursed in it), comfortable, and REALLY holds you in! (Can’t see much, but I’m wearing it in the top photo.) Shop SHEFIT here and get $10 off of your first $65 order.

Favorite Socks: Balega Hidden Comfort No Show Socks. Cushy and colorful. Buy from your local run shop- or mine, Current Running– and check for current deals!

Recommended gear that I already wear:

Favorite Shades: Knockaround, specifically the Mai Tais. Affordable AND polarized- a must! They stay put, have lots of styles, or you can design your own. Shop Knockaround here and get $10 off your first purchase.

Favorite Safety Gear: ROAD iD bracelet. I’m an ambassador, so my kids have IDs, and I run in mine with the hub’s contact info on it. Thankfully, I don’t have medical conditions to list. (Is “painfully slow” a medical condition?) Follow my Insta (@maggiehafertepe) to find out about my next discount or giveaway! Shop ROAD iD here. (Not a referral, but look for current discounts on site.)

Favorite Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 11. My current faves are the beautiful mint (my “signature color”) Saucony that the hubs surprised me with a couple of months ago. I had to go up a half size in these compared to my usual (also mint) ASICS Gel Kayano 25. Both are great neutral runners. Again, shop local!

Handful, Balega, & Saucony runnerfly

Also on my radar:

Oiselle is another brand recommended on Twitter, and I’ve seen buzz from Facebook friends who are Zyia Active reps (MLM), but since I only ordered from sites where I found the best discounts at the time, I haven’t checked them out yet.

Thanks for reading!

Running Through It

I haven’t written in awhile because I wasn’t sure what to say, or if my voice even has a place in our current state of information overload. I hope this won’t seem like a callously upbeat article where I encourage you to embrace this time in the face of those who are struggling- healthcare workers, sick people or those who have lost loved ones, small business owners and individuals who are out of work, and essential workers putting themselves at risk- the list goes on.

Then here I am, a stay-at-home mom whose life hasn’t changed dramatically except for the fact that my husband is home more, trips to the grocery store feel like scenes from an apocalyptic movie, and I can’t bring my kids to the beach, zoo, or playground. It could be much worse. Other stay-at-home moms with small children may agree that, even with the occasional play date, we know the feeling of being isolated. At least, for me, the “quarantine” didn’t feel like being plunged suddenly into icy water, like it might have for someone who interacts with other adults daily. Instead, the weirdness has crept up slowly, like easing into lukewarm water that feels fine at first, but because it’s lower than your normal temperature, eventually you realize you’re freezing.

I wasn’t in the best place for a couple of weeks before this all started. For whatever reason, I was in an angry rut, and I felt like I wasn’t coping with motherhood very well. Having Michael home has been a relief for me, while for him- someone who always has to be busy and productive- it’s been more like that icy plunge. He’s handled it like a pro. Our main concern is our upcoming military transfer and the logistics of buying and selling houses during a pandemic. Also, I worry that we may not get closure by visiting our church and all the places we love one last time, and saying goodbye to friends.

There is one thing that everyone has in common right now. We all share the overwhelming feeling of uncertainty. Am I doing this right? Am I being too paranoid, or not paranoid enough? WHAT is happening, and WHEN will it end? Having a surgeon for a sister (who sews her own masks and masks for others, and is an all-around inspiration), her husband who is also a doctor, and an RN mom who works at a nursing home (with the most vulnerable members of our population, for crying out loud!) I’m torn between mirroring their critical need to be utterly vigilant, and the relaxed way in which us beach folks tend to regard everything, including social distancing. (Cue that neighboorhood guy with a megaphone shouting, “Welcome to the quarantine party!” from his garage.) How much is too much, on both sides?

My husband, who can’t stand to be inside, takes the kids on two walks a day. We enjoy visiting the “goose pond” down the street, where officials caught a 7-foot gator yesterday morning- we just missed it! Even with double parenting and more time, the inside of our house looks like squatters live here, and Maren enjoys skiing down “laundry mountain.” It is what it is. As for the 7-month-old, he’s just living his best life. Not that he saw many before, but if he ever does see a bottle of milk again, I’m sure he’ll just laugh and think, “Yeah, right, where’s mom?”

So, I just wanted to share with you the one-ish thing that has kept me sane over the last MONTH that we have been practicing strict social distancing. Exactly a month ago, I stopping bringing the kids anywhere, stopped going to the grocery store on a whim (when we used to run to Publix every other night because it’s literally 4 minutes from our house), stopped seeing friends, and started our new life. Even the week before, when I struggled with my attitude, I told Michael: I have to start running every day, or I’m going to go insane. So I have. (Started running, not going insane. Or maybe a little of both.)

Almost every evening after I put the baby to bed, I run through the neighborhood. I found a new area to explore, and I look forward to finding new sidewalk chalk art each time. I’m not the only one out and about- there are usually several walkers and bikers enjoying the extra daylight and nice temps, but I give them a wide berth. This alone time at the end of the day has been so valuable to me. (Doesn’t wanting “alone time” sound crazy?!) Now, I’m not saying I’ve become fitness inspo- we also sample fun beverages at all hours of the day, and I ate an entire bag of chips for supper last night. There are no food or drink rules during quarantine.

Something that connects us all is technology, of course. Living away from family, we often utilize FaceTime, and I am an over-sharer via texts to friends (sorry, guys). I’d never heard of Zoom, but boy, are they having a moment. One of my best friends had a virtual baby shower. I joined an online yoga class with my former instructor and friends at Current Rhythms studio in Alaska; their morning yoga was my lunchtime flow! My sorority sister besties and I had a nightcap “together,” and the unofficial Facebook page for our sorority arranged a pen pal exchange. I watch Celebration Church Amelia Island services on Youtube or listen to the podcasts while I run. I’ve made it a point to shop or get takeout from as many local businesses as I can and post about them on Instagram to show support.

The running community is particularly active on Instagram, especially now that races and group runs are on hold. I’m an ambassador for a company called Road ID (@roadid) that makes medical and identification bracelets or tags particularly for sports and outdoor activities, but also for pets and children. Through the #TeamROADiD hashtag, I can see what others are up to, and simply wearing the ID with my husband’s contact info on it makes me feel like I’m not really running alone. Another company called Runhouse (@runhouseofficial) started the Keep Running Local movement, and each day they post a journal graphic to fill in and keep a simple record of your activity. My brother-in-law (the doctor, also a runner, but in this case a reader), started the Coronavirus Book Club (@coronavirusbookclub). He encourages buying from local bookstores and sets up Instagram live Q&A sessions with the authors. How cool is that?

A local running store in Jax, 1st Place Sports (@1stplacesports), posted a 15-day challenge with not only fitness goals, but also activities that my daughter and I did together, like making slime and baking. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the saying, “I’m not a Pinterest mom, I’m an Amazon Prime mom,” but I need it printed on a mug, a t-shirt, tattood on my bicep- it’s me. The challenge encouraged me to try projects that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, giving my 3-year-old precious attention that she’s craved since the baby came. Was the “slime” perfect? No. Did I eventually give her free reign of the ingredients while I finished my coffee? Yes. But in case you’re interested, here are the websites I found for the slime:

And the cupcakes (tip- add more sugar):

Not part of the challenge, but another fun project, was the volcano she and dad made.

Will our eventual return to a new “normal” be a plunge, or a slow descent? I’m sure it will be different for everyone. In the meantime, we will just continue to love and support each other as best we can. I’d love to hear how you and your families are getting through this time. (Did you see the post that said, “People from the south don’t call it ‘coronavirus’ or ‘covid-19,’ they call it “everything going on’?” So true.) I’m thankful for those who are out there keeping us all afloat. I’d like to end this post with an inspirational quote, but honestly, let’s just get through it, y’all!

Take a Racecation

Whether it’s close by or a road trip away, with old friends or new, you won’t regret traveling to a new place for a race.

In October of 2018, a friend and fellow Coast Guard spouse came down from South Carolina to visit me in northeast Florida. Jo Ann and I were stationed in Alaska together. (I later visited her in Charleston, where we did run, but mostly just ate good food. Maybe I’ll do a post on that later.) We spent the first part of the weekend racing- I drove up a little over an hour on Friday, 10/5 to meet her on Jekyll Island in Georgia for Under the Oaks Run, in it’s 8th year at the time, organized by Saint Simons Christian School.

Jo Ann and I reunited at the Holiday Inn Resort Jekyll Island, where we stayed before the race. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years, but I think other military spouses will agree that our shared experiences often create a unique bond.

View from our room at the Holiday Inn Resort Jekyll Island

It was a beautiful day. We walked down the sidewalk along the beach to Tortuga Jacks restaurant for packet pickup. The atmosphere was fun, with runners everywhere enjoying the island vibes. We spent time catching up out on the deck before the 1-mile Neon Fun Run, which was a great way to kick off the weekend. With hats, glow sticks, desserts, face-painting, and balloon animals, I think it was a fun opportunity to involve the whole family. (I, however, was enjoying rare toddler-free time.) Afterwards, we carb-loaded at the pasta buffet. Each event was only $10 for adults. This was my first time doing anything “extra” for a race, and I enjoyed it.

Our room was comfortable, but neither of us slept well- chalk it up to pre-race jitters, or the fact that I couldn’t get the AC to emit the perfectly consistent fan sound that I require (oops). Saturday, we drove the short distance over to Summer Waves Water Park for the race, which began at 7:30 a.m. We were worried about parking since it’s a small island, but we left early, and it wasn’t a problem. I ran the half, and Jo Ann, who I believe was training for a different race at the time, ran the 10k. There was also a 5k.

Thx for the finish photo, Jo Ann! Half #4 in state #4, 2:17 time

I’d like to share a few reasons that I loved this race, and I wish I’d been able to do it again while we lived here. First, it was relatively small, so I enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t crowded. Had I trained more, I think an age group award could have been attainable. Second, I loved the course- it began on the road, but quickly moved onto the sidewalk, through some trees, and out along the beach for a ways- luckily that sunny part was early, before the heat set in. The rest looped back on mostly shaded, paved trails through the beautiful oak trees. (A friend mentioned that at a previous UTO, the sidewalk was hard on her legs compared to running on the road like most races, so that may be worth noting for some.) Third, there were several photographers for the events, and all photos from True Speed Photo were FREE! Can we talk about how expensive race photos are?! Not only were these free, they were my favorite race photos ever. Usually I look like I’m one step away from collapse, so I’ve never bought a race photo. I don’t know if it was the nice lighting and background, or just my golden view of the overall experience, but I loved all of them.

After the race, there were more family-friendly activities as well as giveaways inside the water park entrance. A funny note: while exploring Instagram hashtags a few weeks before, I connected with a runner in nearby Jacksonville. After the race, someone randomly asked me to take a photo of them and their family. I later saw the photo I took posted on the Jax runner’s Instagram page- what are the odds? I wish we’d recognized each other so we could have connected in real life!

We spent the evening back at my house in Yulee, Florida. The next morning, Jo Ann went for a run on my usual neighborhood 5k route, but I was too much of a wuss to get my sore legs moving again. We then had a delicious southern brunch at Florida House Inn in Fernandina Beach- a basket of cornbread, biscuits, and jam to start, then chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits- foreshadowing of our Charleston visit? What a great weekend!

A few months later, I had a destination racecation experience. (Are y’all tired of this made-up word yet? Not me.) On Friday, 1/18/19, a group of local runners from my northeast Florida/southeast Georgia community (including several other military spouses) made the long drive down the entire state of Florida for the Key West Half. A few of us stopped in Key Largo for lunch at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen for some famous Key lime pie. (Yes, that Beach Boys song was on repeat in my head).

Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go

Luckily, it was a beautiful day, so the views were nice on the long stretch through the Keys, though after an early morning start and several hours on the road, we were ready to reach our destination. Our cute house was in the gated community of Coral Hammock. It wasn’t in the heart of the festivities, but Uber rides were easy to come by. The best part about the location, to me, was the CVS right across the street, because I needed something right away to help with morning sickness. Yep. I found out that I was 6 weeks pregnant a just a few days before the trip. Surprise!

I powered through and had a blast with the girls that night. We started at Santiago’s Bodega, a tapas restaurant where we shared approximately 87 small plates of food. We then headed out on Duval Street, which reminded me of a less crowded Bourbon Street, for my fellow New Orleans lovers out there. It was nice to spend the evening dancing and having fun on Friday, since the race was on Sunday of MLK weekend.

Saturday, we rented bikes to ride downtown, but it only took a couple of blocks before a childhood trauma resurfaced- flashback to elementary school when I went riding with a friend, but I was too scared to borrow her big sister’s bike, so I toddled along behind her on an old kiddie bike wearing a Ninja Turtle helmet. Utter humiliation. I decided to scrap the idea and borrow my friend’s car to meet them at Turtle Kraals restaurant for packet pickup. Luckily, a nice couple was leaving as I arrived, and I got a coveted parking spot in the small lot AND time left on the meter. The rest of our group ended up ditching the bikes once they got there, as it was a more strenuous trip than they thought. (The whole situation was hilarious.)

After lunch at Half Shell Raw Bar (where I resisted raw oysters), we did the touristy thing and walked down to the southernmost point. There were pasta dinner specials at Turtle Kraals and the Raw Bar (as well as drink specials on race day), but I honestly couldn’t tell you where we ate dinner- I think it was somewhere out and about. A quirky thing about Key West that you’ve probably heard is that there are chickens everywhere. There was a rooster that hung out in our backyard and many just roaming the streets.

Of course, we couldn’t resist staying up late again Saturday, but in a surprise turn of events, freak back-to-back storm fronts blew through in the early morning hours, causing the race start to be postponed to 9 a.m. I remember checking my email for updates in bed, glad for the extra rest! It was still windy and rainy at race start, so we bought ponchos at a souvenir store, but we quickly ditched them as the sun came out and steamed everything up. We still laugh at this pre-race photo!

Does this poncho make my butt look big?

The race itself went partially through the downtown area, past the southernmost point, and along the water and back. I kept up with my friend Michelle (who uses the Jeff Galloway run-walk racing method) for about 9 miles, until I had to stop and walk more- early pregnancy was kicking my butt. I ran into her again towards the end at a round-about, and her little cheer as we met each other gave me the boost I needed to finish! My official time was 2:37, my slowest half yet, but I was just happy to finish while carrying new precious cargo. Also, LOVE the mermaid medal!

We had lunch at Raw Bar again, and that evening we had dinner and watched football (Who Dat!) at The Waterfront Brewery. I was even able to meet up with another CG spouse I’d been with in Alaska- we are everywhere! Most of the group stayed out for awhile (when in Key West, right?), and I think all of us had a miserable drive home on Monday, but it was so worth it! On the way out, my road trip buddy Christina and I stopped by Baby’s Coffee. I’m always down to try a new brew!

Many of our group went back for round two this year, and I was signed up, but now that the little mama’s boy is here, I ended up staying home. (I was actually going to stay with Jo Ann, who is stationed in KW now! Small CG world!) Have you ever traveled with friends for a race, or do you have a destination race you’d love to do? We just found out we are moving to Wisconsin this summer, if anyone wants to check the Midwest off their list! (*double-checks map*) Thanks for allowing me to record and share my memories!

New Year, Old Me

I don’t think we give enough credit to the places where we grew up. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I couldn’t wait to get the heck out of Dodge. I was raised on 80+ acres of ponds and cow pasture-turned-pine forest in south-central Mississippi, a half hour north of Laurel (a friend once told me “you claim where the Wal-Mart is”), the town made famous in recent years by the latest fixer-upper show, “Home Town” on HGTV. I went to college (Southern Miss) in the Hub City- not a huge metropolis, but Hattiesburg is centrally located an hour or so from Gulfport, Meridian, New Orleans, and Mobile. After grad school, I lived and worked on the coast. Mississippi is usually mislabeled during hurricane season, or famously referred to by national weather people as “the land mass between New Orleans and Mobile,” but we just roll our eyes. We may be mostly ignored, but what people don’t know is that here, even hours north of the coast, instead of “BC” or “AD,” our frame of reference is often “before Katrina” or “after Katrina.” If you ever want to study coastal resiliency, look us up.

I moved far away with my husband to a place where the main forms of recreation were found outdoors. Wow, I’ve become so outdoorsy! I thought. Look at me in my flannel shirts and expensive boots every day! Everyone here hunts, fishes, and forages for their food. I’m so good at kayaking and driving this ATV. Where’s my hiking pole? I’m soOoO cool. I’ve changed so much from my college sorority/beauty pageant days! This is the new me! It wasn’t until I went home for the first time after leaving the state that I realized…

I literally spent my entire childhood and adolescence doing those exact same things.

ATV-ing? Sounds intense. We’ll be riding the “putt-putt” with our popsicles.

Wait, what?! That may sound silly, but it never dawned on me as I roamed the many trails on my grandfather’s land, climbing hills and crossing streams and waterfalls, that I was hiking- not in Keens, but in regular old black rubber boots from the feed store. We even used hiking poles- or as we called them, “snake sticks.” Sure, I was a huge nerd and read a LOT (still do), but I often did so in or under a tree outside. 4-wheelers? Check, though we had no helmets or gear. Picking berries? Check- blueberries and blackberries by the bucketful. Fishing for hours and paddling around in a boat? Double check- bass and white perch make a great fish fry for any occasion. Deer sausage? Yum. Am I dumb for not realizing this as I reveled in my newfound love of the outdoors? Apparently.

I don’t necessarily think I took those things for granted, but it only took a few years away for me to almost forget my roots. Now when I come home, I run on the trails where I used to walk and ride. The trail pictured on the right above is steps from my parents’ backdoor and goes a quarter of a mile downhill through the woods before coming out in a clearing and linking up with another trail that runs around one of the ponds. If I don’t continue on and make a big loop, the incline on the way back is a good one. The terrain is different on each trail, so it’s fun to explore it all again from a different perspective.

The coolest thing about visiting, hands down, is that I get to relive my childhood memories through my kids and my cousins’ kids- my grandfather still rides through the yard at least once a day, and my daughter now loves to hop on.

As a new year is in full swing, take a moment to think about the good things that shaped you and how they relate to the person you’ve become. You may find that the new you is more like the old you than you think.

New Years Resolution: Save Lives!

Happy New Year! In December 2019, Be The Match Foundation celebrated the facilitation of 100,000 blood stem cell transplants for individuals with blood cancers like leukemia. One of those was from my own donation 7 years ago the same month. I’d like to tell you about my experience, how you can help, and even how it could relate to running.

It may or may not surprise some of you that while I am now found exclusively in running shoes, boots, or sandals, I used to wear a pair of rhinestone-encrusted stilettos quite regularly. I competed in the Miss Mississippi Scholarship Pageant (part of the Miss America Organization) in 2009 as Miss University of Southern Mississippi, and in 2010 as Miss Riverbend.

MAO terminology has changed, but when I competed, contestants were required to advocate for a “platform.” At the time, a boy from my hometown was battling cancer and needed a bone marrow transplant, so my mom suggested raising awareness for the National Marrow Donor Program (now known as Be The Match). I teamed up with the representative in Mississippi to plan donor registry drives, including a couple on campus at USM, one at the state capitol building in Jackson, and others at various events around the state. My sisters became involved as well, maybe even more so than me over the years.

I did several television and radio interviews, started a Facebook page, and participated in a social media focus group for BTM- don’t forget that Facebook was just taking off back then! (I felt a wrinkle form as I typed that.) I never placed at Miss MS, but I was recognized as one of the Quality of Life Award Finalists for the platform. I feel weird typing so much about myself, and I didn’t do anything on my own- my mom (Iris), sisters (Emily and Chloe), hometown community, sorority sisters, now husband, and the MS rep (Mattie) were there every step of the way.

Before I go any further down memory lane, let me share a bit about joining the registry. The Be The Match website goes into much greater detail and makes the entire process easy to understand, so I highly recommend you check it out. I’ll give a quick overview. The website states that every three minutes, someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer like leukemia, and the mission of BTM is to deliver cures. It does so through marrow or cord blood transplants.

At my registry drives, there was a paper questionnaire with basic medical information, but now the forms are online. In addition to the questionnaire, there is a packet of 4 cheek swabs that are easily administered and placed in an envelope to be mailed. You can register at an event or request a kit to be sent to you. You must be between the ages of 18 and 60 to join the registry, but donors under 44 are called most often. Donors of diverse ethnic backgrounds are especially needed. One in 40 registrants will be called as a POTENTIAL match based on the DNA markers from the cheek swabs, but only about 1 in 430 go on to donate after further testing.

Eventually, I got busy with grad school, then work, and I was less involved. In September of 2012, I went back to my hometown to help with one more event. The family of the boy I mentioned before, who did receive a transplant but sadly passed away, formed the Seth Harris Childhood Cancer Foundation, which organized Wings of Hope Day- an event/drive during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I don’t remember this, but I told a friend that I said a silent prayer at the event expressing my hope to donate one day. Just a few weeks after, I was notified that I was a potential match to a patient! I went in for tests, and it was determined that I was, in fact, a match. I was shocked! Three years after joining the registry, I was 1 in 430!

I underwent more blood tests, an EKG, and a chest X-ray over the next few weeks to make sure that I was healthy enough to donate. The program arranged all appointments with the hospital nearest the school where I was teaching; I just had to be flexible enough to get up early and go before work. It was determined that I would be donating peripheral blood stem cells via a central line placement. This just means that, rather than surgically removing marrow from my pelvic bones to get the blood-forming cells, those cells would be filtered from my blood in a nonsurgical procedure. (Those are the two donation methods.) For five days leading up to the procedure, a nurse came to my apartment to give me injections of filgrastim, which increased the number of blood stem cells in my bloodstream. This just made me feel a little sore and achey.

I spent the night before the donation at a hotel near the hospital in Jackson, MS. (I was not supposed to share specific details about when and where to ensure privacy for the patient, and I’m not sure if that still applies all these years later, but better safe than sorry.) The donation process was fairly simple. I was awake but sedated slightly, and I watched on a sonogram machine as they put a long catheter into my femoral vein which traveled up into my abdomen. (The veins in my arms were apparently too small.) I didn’t feel it at all. For several hours, I sat in a hospital bed as the necessary cells were filtered out of my blood. It wasn’t painful, but I remember being exhausted and having a bit of tingling in my extremities.

Afterwards, I received updates that the recipient, an adult female, was alive and doing well. My last update was in 2014, when I filled out paperwork that allowed my information to be shared with the recipient should she want to contact me. I never did hear from her, but I hope she’s still doing well! [EDIT: For a different transplant story about my sorority sister who donated via the other method and was able to meet her recipient, scroll down to the comments!]

Be The Match started some awesome online fundraising initiatives over the last few years. Individuals and teams are given personal pages with lots of resources, such as images, emails, forms, and step-by-step guides. I participated in the “By The Mile” challenge and chose running as my activity, working towards a specific race date. Each time I ran, I shared a photo on my social media pages along with my fundraising link, where I shared about my donation experience. I was so thankful to everyone who helped reach my fundraising goals. The pages are organized differently now, with a “Freestyle” category that can apply to running or any other activity or event. I’ve started a new page for 2020; if you’re interested in donating, you can do so here! It costs $100 to add a new member to the registry, so I love visualizing that with each donation made. Fundraising also helps with research.

This is provided as a Facebook cover photo for fundraising.

So, what does this mean to you? To me, joining and growing the registry was a tangible way to do some good in the world. Being able to actually donate was the icing on the cake, and online fundraising helps me stay connected to the organization that has been part of my life for several years now. If you have ANY questions, do not hesitate to ask. I encourage you to look into it- whether in 2020 or a few years down the road, you could be the match to save a life!

Thanks to Stacey from BTM for her help with this post!

When Your Trail is Frozen

[Thanks to Holabird Sports for asking me to be a part of their “Fitness Fire Storytellers” series with a post about cold-weather running. You can see a version of this article on their website here. Merry Christmas, everyone!]

My daughter is obsessed with a certain blonde ice queen right now. I relate to her emotional plight as the eldest on some level, and I have to admit, I’ve spent many a run listening to her songs on repeat. They don’t exactly have the same effect now that I live in Florida, but picture running through the snow while letting it go- what a boost, right?

I much prefer running in cold weather to running in the heat, because- get this- running actually WARMS YOU UP the harder you work. When it’s 110° outside, like it was several times this summer here in Florida (while I was 8-9 months pregnant, I might add), there’s nothing you can do outdoors short of escaping to a pool to survive, and even the pool feels like bath water at that point. But I digress.

There’s definitely something magical about running on a trail vs. the road in the wintertime, especially in northern climates. Everything is different; the sights, smells, and sounds are transformed so that your well-loved trail looks like a new place. Along with these changes come new challenges. Staying warm and keeping your footing becomes a priority. I learned this first-hand when I began my running journey in Alaska (more on that here).

Running in August vs. December 2015; Juneau, AK

I am personally more motivated to get out in the cold if I’m running on a beautiful trail, but you do have to take certain precautions, and I wouldn’t recommend trying a trail you’ve never run before if it’s icy or snowy out. Some challenges that you may face in the winter are:

  • Darkness: Be safe. There’s no shame in my reflection game. I often wore a reflective vest and a headlamp. Granted, we had a lot more darkness up there in the winter than here in the lower 48- we lived in south-central Alaska, and had about 5.5 hours of dim, dusky daylight in the height of winter. Even in Florida, though, 4:30 pm hits, and I want to put on my pajamas. Reflect accordingly!
  • Cold: I read somewhere that you should dress for your run as if it’s 10° warmer out than it actually is, and that piece of advice has been so helpful. Don’t overdress and risk being uncomfortable 5 minutes in. I love vests for an extra layer and POCKETS! Also, gloves that allow your fingertips to poke out so you can still unlock your door or use a touch-screen phone are useful. I found back then, though, that my iPhone ceased to function at around 4°, so keep that in mind. I usually wore something fleece on my head. My absolute favorite thing to run in was a moisture-wicking Under Armour hoodie (the bright blue one in the picture below). Moisture-wicking material is important, especially for your closest layers, because cold sweat is the worst.
  • Ice/snow: I wore Stabilicers or YakTrax over my regular shoes to clomp around on the ice before discovering a pair of Icebugs running shoes. They have little studs built in and are water resistant- huge plus for snow! None of these options were really cushioned enough for me to run more than 5 miles or so, but I didn’t really want to be out on the ice longer than that, anyway.

The hardest thing about cold-weather running is just getting out there, but once you do, you’ll feel like a total ice queen- or maybe that’s just me.

my little ice queen, gloves and all

Postpartum Recovery and Running

Happy Thanksgiving! This year has flown by, and I’m so thankful for our new little one. (I’m also thankful that it’s time for comfy leggings, big sweaters, and the best scented candles- it may sound silly, but fall candles did wonders for my spirit in those early postpartum weeks.) I encourage you not to dismiss this post because you’re a man or you’ve never had a baby- I’m sure you know women who have (you know of AT LEAST one, as you exist), and I think this info could be useful for them (please share) and help you see things from their perspective.

It’s crazy that a mother spends 40+ weeks (both of my babies came late) growing a human, enduring labor, and is then left to her own devices to not only care for said human, but also to physically and mentally recover. I know there’s that appointment 4-6 weeks after, but it’s usually not very in-depth. I also know that women have been having babies and recovering forever, but how many times have you heard your mom, friend, or grandma complain or make jokes about their bodies not being what they once were due to weakness or incontinence? It’s true that our bodies will never be the same, but only now, it seems, are women realizing that some negative aspects don’t have to be their new “normal.”

Maren and Kellen

My daughter is almost 3 years old, and my son is 2.5 months old. I am thankful to have had uncomplicated pregnancies and natural labors. (I’m not saying it was easy, just that everything went pretty much how I wanted it to go.) My first necessitated more healing than the second, and I didn’t run for 6 months, which was okay because that’s what I needed to do. This time, though, I knew I’d be able to start again much sooner, but I wanted to make sure I did it safely.

9 lb 6 oz chonky boi

That’s where the 4th Trimester Fitness® Method came in. Founded in Jacksonville by Emily Wannenburg, a retired nurse midwife, the goal is to educate women on postpartum fitness. I heard about a class being offered in a local Facebook group, Postpartum Mama Moves. We met once a week for the 6 week Postpartum Recovery® series, where we learned about the pelvic floor, what happens to those muscles during and after pregnancy, how to strengthen them, and exercises to help us safely return to fitness. The series began when I was a month PP, but there were moms with older babies as well. Our local instructor, Anne Homan, is a doula with A Moment In Time Doula Services, a certified 4TFM instructor, and a mom of 3. Anne says, “Once you are postpartum, you are always postpartum. Pelvic health awareness matters after birth, but ALSO many years beyond. Even if you are not currently experiencing any issues after birth, you may be preventing future issues from occurring by simply being educated. My hope as a doula is to bring education and awareness to more women EARLY ON in their postpartum journey.” She helped us identify our level of abdominal separation at the beginning and end to evaluate improvement.

Me, Kellen, and instructor Anne

Now, do I think you HAVE to take a class to aide in your recovery? Not necessarily. More and more women are utilizing physical therapists, and lots of information can be found online. However, the sense of community these classes provide can be a huge asset to a new mom. According to Anne, “One benefit of taking PPR class vs just googling information is that you have an instructor to guide you, and a safe space created just for YOU. This class was created not only for women to be able to recover physically after birth, but also receive emotional support and connect with other women at the same stage of life. No questions or topics are off limits in class! Women often feel relieved to be able to freely discuss topics that aren’t commonly talked about and realize they are not alone in some of the things they are experiencing.” I can verify- there’s no such thing as TMI to a mom. Another awesome thing is that babies are welcome, making it easy to attend without worrying about childcare. We could actually incorporate our babies into some of the workouts as weights and resistance!

Action shot of Anne instructing with K so I could do the exercises

Something from class that I have incorporated into my daily life is checking my bodily alignment, especially when holding my baby and when squatting to pick things up or load the dishwasher. In addition to pelvic floor strengthening exercises and cues, we also worked with exercise balls and bands, which were a challenge for me.

I started walking daily as soon as I felt able. When Kellen was a week old, we went for a long stroll- too long, as I was lightheaded and hurting after. (We also got caught in the rain, so, you know, mom of the year over here.) We took it easy after that. If you have a toddler, you know that there’s not as much walking as there is stopping to observe every ant and leaf, but that is a good thing. Eventually I traded out the caddy for the carrier.

At 6 weeks PP, I started a plan on my Nike+ app. I eventually abandoned it, but it was a great way to begin. My first run/walk was only 10 minutes long. There was soreness, but not pain, so I felt encouraged! I gradually increased to 15 and 20 minutes. Now that some moms are running together, I am still slow, but not as sore. Like others, I sometimes run with one of the kids depending on my childcare situation, and sometimes I am blissfully stroller-free. (Shout-out to my BOB, though- love it.)

Stay tuned for a post on holiday running and the upcoming Reindeer Runs in Fernandina Beach! Thoughts on anything from my fellow mamas?

[Maternity photo by Barefoot Photography; children photo by Aimee Taryn Photography]

National Take a Hike Day

In honor of this day (11/17) that I had no idea existed until I saw it on Instagram, I thought I’d recount my first backpacking adventure in Cordova, AK 5 years ago. My husband and I hiked Power Creek Trail to the Alice Smith Intertie and down the Crater Lake Trail for our first camping trip- go big or go home, right? (Here’s more info on Cordova’s trails. I hiked all but one!) I’m totally cheating, because I was able to log into my old Shutterfly Share Site “Hafertepe Hikes” and copy the entry. Reading it now, the time it took us to cover the distances seems laughable, my statement that it was “the hardest thing I’ve ever done” was clearly made prior to two natural childbirths, and apparently I didn’t know what a cairn was, but I love it! Enjoy!

Power Creek to Crater Lake Backpacking Trip, August 29-31, 2014

This trip was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, physically or mentally. Well, the Alice Smith Intertie part, anyway.

We started on the Power Creek Trail Friday afternoon, around 2:00. It took us about three hours to complete the 4.2 miles to the cabin. Luckily, the rain let up for our hike, and it was beautiful!

The elevation wasn’t too difficult, and our feet didn’t get wet until crossing some water towards the end of the hike. (We remedied this on Saturday by walking with trash bags over our legs). Luckily, our shoes dried quickly hanging above the wood stove in the cabin. We watched the Disney documentary “Bears” on my Kindle, and it rained throughout the night, providing a lot of water for food and drink on Saturday.

Oh, Saturday… We had no idea what ol’ Alice Smith had in store for us. We had to backtrack a couple of miles back down the Power Creek Trail to hook up with the intertie, and the elevation began climbing immediately. There were too many switchbacks to count, and when we reached the top of one hill, we would see a pile of rocks on the next indicating that we weren’t yet at our goal.

“pile of rocks” = cairn

When we saw a sign telling us that we had only gone 1.8 miles, and the shelter was still 2.2 away, we were shocked! The rain started falling and the fog rolled in, making the hike increasingly difficult. We were so happy to finally see the shelter; four walls and a roof never looked so comfy. This trek took about four hours or so. [NOTE FROM PRESENT-DAY MAGGIE: We didn’t pack enough food or water for my giant husband, so the rain was actually a blessing, and we ate a lot of wild blueberries. Also, there was a bag of noodles left in the shelter from another hiker. Bless you, wherever you are.] It rained throughout the night again, providing more water, but Sunday morning dawned sunny and crisp. It was a beautiful day!

The rest of Alice Smith was just as difficult as the first half, but luckily the weather was on our side. We climbed over so many mountains (maybe they were hills, but they looked huge to us), and we finally saw some wildlife- a momma black bear and her two cubs! They were far below us, but luckily we had binoculars.

By the time we made it the 3.5 miles to Crater Lake, I wasn’t sure if I could last much longer, but we rested on some rocks by the shore, had a snack, boiled more drinking water, and re-energized for the 2.4 miles down. We ended the trek on a high note, and even saw another creature- a marmot!

[ANOTHER NOTE: A friend had dropped us off on the trail and left our car on the other side.] The trip involved about 16 miles of hiking, but there were so many switchbacks and places where we had to search to find the trail, I would love to know how many steps we actually took! We were sore and exhausted, but it was well worth it.

Tell me about your favorite or most challenging hike! Happy Take a Hike Day!

Fall Family Vacation: Running, Hiking, and Mom Stuff

We were excited to spend most of last week in Waynesville, North Carolina. Growing up, I visited the Smokies in Tennessee with my family, and my daughter and I joined them on a trip there in March, so I was interested to see the NC side. (Maren, almost 3, was excited to go back to the mountains. It’s cool that she’s starting to remember her experiences.) Other than visiting family, my husband and I hadn’t been on a trip together since our honeymoon. We had two goals: drink good coffee on a balcony with an awesome view, and warm up at night in a hot tub.

Our house/cabin was high in the hills on a steep, narrow, twisty road that I did not drive once. We spent most of our time there, Maren playing in the leaves (we don’t see many leaves on the ground in Florida, unless they’re still attached to downed trees during hurricane season), making s’mores, and enjoying the fall colors. Peak leaf change was at the end of October, so we watched the transition from fall to winter during our stay. We saw temps in the 60s drop to the 20s!

I was able to run twice. We ventured out to nearby Lake Junaluska one day, where my husband Mike held the sleeping baby, our daughter played on the playground, and I had a beautiful run. The Lake Junaluska Walking Trail is a paved trail with a 2.3 mile loop that can be extended to 3.8.

Lake Junaluska

I ran the 2.3, and I’d like to point out that rarely do course mile markers line up with the distance shown on my app, but these matched up perfectly! There are flat, open parts, hilly, shady parts, and a couple of bridges. I saw runners, walkers, dog-walkers, strollers, and photographers trying to capture the eagle that lives in the area. I didn’t spot the eagle, but I saw geese, ducks, and swans.

On a similar afternoon, we visited the Waynesville Recreation Park, which, in addition to two playgrounds, has a skate park, dog park, disc golf, sports fields, and more. While Maren and Mike played on the new all-abilities playground, I stumbled upon the Waynesville Greenway with the stroller and decided to run/walk a couple of miles. I ran loops on a gravel trail before discovering a paved trail that I suspect is what most of the greenway looks like. It runs along Richland Creek for 5.3 miles, connecting the park to Lake Junaluska. Next visit, I plan to run it all!

a particularly leaf-strewn part of the greenway

Our other major outing was a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, making a loop from Waynesville to Maggie Valley and back on the highway. We drove up to the Waterrock Knob overlook and hiked up to the summit.

Later, I saw that this steep trail, paved at the beginning but rocky most of the way (and icy this time of year), is listed as “moderate/strenuous,” so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend hiking it with a baby strapped to your chest, but it was worth it! Maren did well, though dad had to carry her in a few places. Elevation at the top is 6,273 feet, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway! Pretty cool for your first mountain hike, huh, kids?

[Side note: Maren’s dinosaur got lost on our way back down the mountain. She was sad, but I got a message a few days later from some girls who were at the top with us. They found him, brought him along for the rest of their adventures, then saw my pic under the Waterrock Knob hashtag on Instagram! They’re mailing him to Florida. Social media is awesome sometimes!]

Continuing on, we stopped at a point on the road to see Soco Falls. I stayed back to feed baby, but Mike and Maren made a quick hike down to see the falls.

Waterrock Knob and Soco Falls

As Kellen isn’t exactly a “leisurely stroll” type of baby, we saved the cute downtown shops for our next visit. A few local places we did go:

Let me conclude this post by saying that we did NOT give our moms enough credit on vacations growing up. As my cousin so aptly put it- for moms, “It’s not a vacation, it’s an away game.” I realized this when both kids were napping at the same time, and I found myself cleaning and doing laundry. Also, my husband is amazing- he’s the one who actually got both of them down to nap, & he can do everything I do except breastfeed. However, we all know moms always do the packing for themselves AND the kids. (My husband packed his clothes in an old tub with no lid that I use for storage, which was painted by my sorority sister 13 years ago.) I’d like to share a few cheap things I packed that I thought were genius. Pack these, and I promise they’ll provide about 7 precious minutes of entertainment apiece:

  • a small bubble maker from Walmart for afternoons spent out on the balcony, so I didn’t have to A) blow bubbles for her or B) prevent her from spilling the solution as she blew bubbles herself
  • a glow wand and bracelets from the dollar store for extra entertainment around the campfire at night
  • those coloring books with a marker that ONLY colors in said book, found at Target, dollar store, etc.

To be honest, my favorite day was when it rained, and we spent all day at the cabin. This trip was a great growing experience as a family! PS- happy birthday (Nov. 12) to my husband! I love you!

Share with me in the comments your best “away game” tips OR the best running spots you’ve discovered on vacation!

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