I Won the Lottery!!!

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The New York City Marathon lottery that is!

The TCS New York City Marathon is the largest and one of the most popular marathons in the world. Every year around 50,000 people finish this marathon, and exactly eight months from today, I will be one of those people!!

Qualifying for the NYC Marathon is no easy feat. There are three ways to get into this marathon: through guaranteed entry, their charity program or their lottery. Guaranteed entry methods include qualifying by time, getting grandfathered in by finishing 15 previous New York City Marathons, or running nine qualifying races as a New York Road Runners member the year before each year’s marathon. You can also gain entry by running and fundraising with one of the marathon’s registered charity partners.

The final way to qualify is through a lottery drawing. Last year, the TCS New York City Marathon held the biggest general-entry lottery drawing in the event’s 40-year history, accepting 19,083 runners out of 82,172 applicants. That’s still less than a 25% chance of being chosen, and I got in!

I ran my first and only half marathon in Phoenix, Arizona in 2011. It was something I had always wanted to do and I ended up dedicating my run to Hunter Halvorson, who was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH) at just 2 ½ years old. (As of November Hunter has officially been classified as CURED!). I finished the half marathon in 2:03:26, just 3 ½ minutes past my goal, and I was able to raise almost $1300 in donations for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

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About a year and a half ago, my coworker and good friend, Emily changed my life by introducing me to The Ronan Foundation. As a mother, learning about the reality of childhood cancer hit my heart hard. It is a cause I have come to be extremely passionate about and I will forever fight to help raise awareness and find a cure for childhood cancer.

Before I got pregnant last year, I was getting the itch to run another race. I had always said if I were ever going to run a full marathon, I would want to run the NYC Marathon. I knew it would probably be the only marathon I would run in my lifetime, and I wanted to run in a place that meant something to me. I wanted to run in this magical city I have called home for the last eight years. I am not sure how much longer we will be calling NYC our home, so I knew I just had to find a way to run the NYC Marathon this year.

Naturally, I knew I wanted to run for Ronan and all of the other beautiful souls that have been affected by childhood cancer. I realized that in order to do that, I would need to win the lottery. A few days before registering, I went for my first run since Alwyn was born. As I was running, I said a prayer asking to be chosen in the lottery, so that I could run for the Ronan Foundation. I was aware that it was a long shot, but I just kept praying. On Thursday, the day of the drawing, I prayed all day. That night, as I laid down for bed, I checked my email. As soon as I saw it, I was instantly brought to tears. I just couldn’t believe my prayers had been answered. I was beyond excited.

I was also completely terrified. It was hard to imagine how I was ever going to find the time and energy to do this with my plate already being so full. But I will. I will find a way. I am going to do this. I have to. If so many young children can go through everything that they go through to fight for their lives, I can run 26.2 miles for them. I can and I will.

So, stay tuned for my fundraising page and wish me luck!!

Valerie Anne

Be Bold Go Gold 2016 at the Astoria Street Fair

I am 36 weeks pregnant, our apartment is in a state of chaos, and I haven’t written a blog post in months, but I will always make time to spread awareness for Childhood Cancer! This afternoon Tyson, Qwynn and I headed over to the Astoria Street Fair to dance and talk about Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and The Ronan Foundation.

Last year my coworker and friend, Emily changed my life by sharing Ronan’s story with me. As a mother, the stories of parents losing their children to this horrible disease absolutely breaks my heart.

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In May, Tyson found out an old friend he worked with in high school lost her little boy, Carson to leukemia. He had been sick for 2 weeks with what they thought was bad strep throat, but when the antibiotics weren’t working, further testing found that he actually had leukemia. While they were waiting for a heart arrhythmia to correct itself, her little boy died just days after finding out.

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In just a week they went from thinking their child had strep to finding out he had leukemia to saying goodbye to him. When Tyson told me about what happened, it was all I could think about for weeks. I just couldn’t even imagine going through something like that. I held Qwynn so close in those weeks.

This is the reason I care so much about this cause. Because childhood cancer does not discriminate. It could tear your world upside down without any warning. We all need to be a voice for these children and their families. It’s not a fun thing to talk about, but it needs to be done.

“For families who have lost a child to cancer, they’re aware of cancer every minute of every, single day. The lack of funds shatters their hearts, because it means less chances for a cure. The lack of awareness crushes their spirits, because they need support. Their children need a voice. All year long, but especially this month, WE can be that voice: We can be kinder, braver, and spicer because of these kids…but it’s also time to make sure they get to lead long, happy, healthy lives. What’s a better mission than that?” (The Ronan Foundation)

So #BeBoldGoGold and make the world a little brighter on behalf of kids like Ronan and Carson. Turn your social media GOLD. Donate what you can, even if it’s $1. Make sure people know about childhood cancer. More awareness = More funding. More funding = more research. More research = a cure.

SOME FACTS ABOUT CHILDHOOD CANCER:

• Cancer is the number one disease killer of children in the U.S. It is the 2nd leading cause of death in children overall, after automobile accidents.

• All 12 major pediatric cancers are getting less than 4% of the United States’ federal funding for cancer research.

• Americans spend 20x more on potato chips than on childhood cancer research.

• The Empire State Building lights up for numerous sporting events, holidays, many other cancers and illnesses and even for filming movies and such, BUT it refuses to light up gold in September for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Valerie Anne

Deciding To Have Baby #2

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As Qwynn’s 3rd birthday came closer and closer, I just couldn’t wrap my head around how fast time had gone. She couldn’t really be turning three already?! This realization was especially discouraging because we didn’t seem any closer to being ready to expand our family, something I still really wanted. I never considered only having one and being done. My mom would always say four kids was a good number. “One for each arm,” she would tell me. That seemed like a lot to me. A family I babysat for in college had two boys and their mom told me once that she always liked having two kids because then they can always have one on one attention. I thought this was a good point.

I always pictured us having at least 2 children, maybe even 3, and I wanted them pretty close together, about 2 years apart. This is what I had imagined before we moved back to New York City. A city where even with a discount, we pay more for Qwynn’s childcare than most people spend on a mortgage. A city where rent in a good school zone is at least four times more than most people pay towards rent elsewhere.

For awhile, whenever the topic came up about having another child, Tyson and I were both teeter-tottering on the same fence, but I was leaning more towards having a second little one and Tyson was leaning more towards the not. Not only did having more children mean more financial stress, but he is so smitten with Qwynn, he didn’t want to take away any attention/love from her. I, on the other hand, saw daily how good Qwynn is with the babies in my classroom, and I absolutely knew she would not only be okay, but would make the best big sister ever.

Not being completely on the same page made this decision so much harder because it felt unfair to make this big step of expanding our family if we both weren’t completely sure it was what we wanted. I just kept coming back to the same question though…

Would we ever truly be 100% sure or ready?

Right now, we might think giving up that morning Starbucks coffee or evening bottle of wine would be torturous. Could we do it because we know we have to buy diapers instead?

Right now, we might think giving up cable would be too hard. Would we even care when more of our time will be taken up by another little bundle of joy?

Right now, the thought of not having a car might seem like a huge inconvenience. Could we manage to be able to put more towards rent in the city?

Right now, it might seem like a one bedroom apartment with two kids would be impossible. Would we make it work to have the city at our fingertips?

Right now, it might seem like we cannot manage another child, but I knew we would likely not make any changes in our lifestyle choices until we absolutely needed to…until we had a baby on the way.

Our move to Arizona and then back to NYC taught me an important life lesson. Sometimes what you think you always wanted, turns out not to be what you really want after all. At the same time, sometimes you don’t really know how much you want something until you decide to go for it. Sometimes you don’t really know how much you are willing and able to sacrifice until you have to. Sometimes you don’t know how much you want another baby until you see the little peanut on the monitor and hear that little heartbeat for the first time.

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Valerie Anne

3 Reasons I Decided to “Go Gold” AGAIN…In Public

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When I decided to make my first Be Bold, Go Gold video it was to support a good friend and her passion for The Ronan Thompson Foundation and childhood cancer awareness. My outlook has always been, if we can’t count on our closest friends and family to support us, then how can we expect to count on anyone else. As I began researching more about childhood cancer statistics and facts, my own passion for the cause began to grow. This, and these three other reasons are why I decided to “Go Gold” again, and this time in public.

1. It is changing my outlook on life.

If this experience has taught me one thing, it is to let go of the little things, while at the same time holding on to the simple moments in life.

I wish I could have recorded my husband’s face when he first saw all the gold glitter that covered our hardwood floor and area rug as I was making our gold tutus. I know he was biting his tongue from protesting too much. I used to hate glitter too. It’s annoying as all f***. But it didn’t matter this time. Because kids are dying of cancer. Mothers and fathers are being taken away from their children. The ones we love are leaving us too soon. When I thought about it this way, the glitter all over was a minuscule problem, and I even started to welcome it. There are still remnants all around our apartment, as well as my parent’s house. I love that it is a constant reminder to stop sweating the small stuff.

And it’s working! The other night Tyson was working late at the Ranger’s game, which meant it was just Qwynn and I for dinner. I made her mac n’ cheese, one of my favorite meals as a kid. We had a great conversation about her day at school, and I relished in the fact that she is at the age now that we can actually have these dinner talks. As I started cleaning up my plate, I noticed Qwynn was putting the last few noodles on each prong of her fork. As I looked at her messy, cheese covered hands, my first instinct was to tell her to stop playing with her food and finish eating her dinner. But I resisted.

I held back because my own memory of doing the same exact thing when I was little came flooding to the front of my mind. I thought, what’s the big deal? So she’s playing with her food and getting a little messy. At least she is here. She is alive and able to explore this wonderful world around her. That is what is important. It was then she noticed me watching her and she held her fork up and said “Look Mommy!” She was so proud of herself, and in that moment I felt proud and blessed to be her mom.

2. I had the opportunity to attend the Bloomingdales Runway Heroes Fashion Show.

The Bloomingdales Runway Heroes Fashion Show was only about 15 minutes long, but it was one of the most emotional 15 minutes I have had in my life. As I watched all these brave kids strutting their stuff on the runway, the feeling of compassion was so strong inside me. The hardest part was watching the first few kids come out being held by their parents. It instantly brought tears to my eyes. On the outside, they looked like completely normal moms and dads with their children. But I knew they weren’t. I knew that they were dealing with something no parent or child should have to endure and it was honestly heartbreaking.

I just couldn’t help but think…that child could be one of my many nieces or nephews. That child could be any one of the children I take care of everyday at work. That child could be one of the countless kids I see walking through the streets of New York City. And the saddest realization of all, that child could be my precious and beautiful Qwynn Jolee.

Halfway through the fashion show Tyson texted me this picture and message and I just lost it inside.

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This horrible thing, childhood cancer, could become any one of our realities at any moment, without any warning. When I began to think about it this way, I just couldn’t stand back and watch. I HAD to do something else.

3. I wanted and felt the need to do more.

I was really proud of my first video and felt truly blessed that I got to share the experience with my sister, nieces and daughter. But even after getting so much positive feedback for it, I still felt like I could’ve done more. I felt that I could’ve tried harder to reach more people. I started brainstorming ideas and began building the courage to go out in public and talk to people about childhood cancer awareness.

At first, I didn’t even consider doing it by myself. I wanted my friend Emily to help me with my idea, but the timing just wasn’t working out. I wanted to do something now! But how could I do it by myself? It couldn’t be possible.

But it was.

It was very possible. It was possible because I have the most supportive husband and most fun-loving and courageous daughter. It was possible because I couldn’t stop thinking about all those kids whose lives were cut short. All those moms who don’t get to dance and be silly and laugh with their little ones anymore. It is possible because I would want people to do the same for me if it were my daughter.

It is possible because if we don’t speak up and do something for each others’ kids, then the horrible reality of childhood cancer is never going to change. It needs to change and we can all do something to help.

Be Bold and Stay Gold!

Valerie Anne

From Bar to Barre: Balancing Aging, Parenthood, Work Schedules and a Consistent Exercise Routine

Living in NYC definitely has it’s perks. One in particular is the amount of walking that is required. Most of my time living here I have been able to get away without going to the gym regularly because my daily commute was my gym.  The walking always seemed to be enough and a run or class here or there was just an extra bonus. I have also been able to eat whatever I want (within reason) and spent many evenings out at bars with friends enjoying my fair share of adult beverages.

At my company holiday party 2 years ago, a co-worker made a comment to me that at the time I blew off. After returning to the table with a full plate of second helpings of everything at the buffet she said, “Wow Val! I remember when I could eat like that. Then I hit my 30s.” This was two months before my 30th birthday, so naturally my reply was, “Well then, I better take advantage of the two months I have left.”

I really didn’t take what she said seriously though, and I thought, It’ll be different for me. I was kind of right. Nothing really changed when I turned thirty. Thirty-one on the other hand was another story. Not long after my 31st birthday I realized that Winter had taken it’s toll on my body, and I accepted that I could no longer eat or drink whatever I wanted and still survive on just walking.

Not only am I a binge runner, but I am a binge exerciser in general. It’s always easier to get going during the summer when it’s not freezing or pitch black outside when I have to leave the apartment for a class.  If I am able to get a good routine in place, I can go weeks working out 3, 4, even 5 days a week. I always feel amazing when I can stick to a regular exercise plan, but it seems that after awhile I always go back to making excuses for why I can’t get my butt moving.

Having a kid definitely does not make sticking to an exercise routine any easier. The guilt that comes with leaving all the getting ready and commuting responsibilities with Tyson so that I can take a morning barre class or evening yoga class is sometimes too much to handle. Especially during the Rangers season when his schedule is so busy.

However, after Memorial Day, with the unofficial start of summer upon us, I decided I had to get over the guilt and figure something out. Running on my lunch break everyday was not motivating enough, but I had taken a couple barre classes last summer and really enjoyed them. So I went to Tyson with a routine I thought was fair and hoped that we could make it work. For the past six weeks this has been my workout schedule:

Monday: 30-40 minute Lunch Break Run
Tuesday: 55 minute Core Barre Class
Wednesday: 55 minute Total Barre Class and 30 minute Swim Class with Qwynn
Thursday: 55 minute Barre Assets Class or 60 minute Yoga Class
Friday: 30-40 minute Lunch Break Run

I’m not perfect every week (summer is busy!), but I usually get at least three of the days in. It definitely takes sacrifices from all parties involved. On Tuesday I work the 10 AM shift, and drop Qwynn off as soon as school opens at 8 AM to make it to my 8:30 AM barre class. This makes it possible for Tyson and I to still commute together, but it also makes all of our days much longer, leaving the house by 7 AM and not getting home until close to 7:30 PM.  Tyson very generously commutes with Qwynn by himself on Wednesday mornings and I meet him at the YMCA for Qwynn’s 9 AM swim class after my 7:30 AM Barre class. On Thursday evenings he commutes again by himself to allow me to take my evening yoga class.

I am definitely nervous about Fall and Winter coming because it means colder weather, less sunlight and new and busier schedules. I am really hoping that my new found love for barre (seriously you should try it if you haven’t yet) will keep me motivated to continue going to class even when it is dark, cold and there is half a foot of snow on the ground.

As hard as it is to manage all of our schedules and to get myself up earlier than I technically have to get up in the morning, I never regret doing it. Even the times I have had one too many glasses of wine the night before 😉 and just want to stay in bed curled up next to Tyson, I remind myself how much better I’ll feel if I sweat it out. And I always do. No matter what, I always feel better when I say yes to a workout.

 

Valerie Anne

Easy DIY Mermaid Costume

When Tyson’s brother first invited us to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, I debated how much I wanted to get into it. I didn’t want to go all out, but I decided it might be fun to at least make Qwynn a simple costume. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money or a lot of time on it either, so I gave myself a $20 budget and headed to Michaels!

I knew that Michaels’ fabric selection was limited, but I was able to find 4 small squares of different green fabric designs. The problem is they didn’t have any fabric pieces large enough for the base of the mermaid skirt. I continued walking through the store and eventually came across the t-shirt section. Lightbulb!

What an inexpensive way to get a large piece of fabric! As I looked at the t-shirt more the vision just came to me—I turned it up side down and I now had a floor length skirt with a hemmed waist…essentially. I grabbed a light green small adult t-shirt and continued on. I found a piece of glittery pink felt that I thought would work perfectly for the seashell top. With my coupon (Michaels ALWAYS has coupons), my purchase total for everything was just under $10!

When I got home I searched through all my craft stuff to see what else I had that would be useful. I found some green ribbon left over from Qwynn’s first birthday. I also dug out Qwynn’s old pink sparkly skirt that was too small for her from the goodwill bag.

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Now usually when I decide to make something like this, I end up spending so much more money than if I would have just bought it already made. My projects also seem to take wayyyy longer than I anticipate. This project however was so easy, I was pleasantly surprised at how quick it went and how little I spent on it.

For the mermaid skirt, I started by putting the t-shirt on Qwynn and pinning the sides to get an approximate fit.

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I used the pins as a guide and drew my mermaid skirt shape.

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I do not own a sewing machine and I wouldn’t be able to use it even if I did. Luckily I have discovered a wonderful thing called sewing tape! It is about $5-6 at Michaels, but with a coupon you could easily get it down to $3-4. The only other thing you need is an iron. I used the iron-on tape to “sew” the sides of the skirt and the bottom hem.

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I was originally going to make the fins out of the t-shirt and continue the scales all the way down, but I discovered that would make the bottom too tight and impossible for Qwynn to walk, so I cut the fins off. Instead, I cut approximately 1-inch strips of the fabric and hot glued them to the bottom of the skirt, layering them to get a full look. This was a great solution because I didn’t need to be very exact in cutting the strips since I was okay with a more ragged look. And it didn’t take long to hot glue them on either.

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For the waist of the skirt I cut tiny slits in the collar ever two inches or so and thread the ribbon through it so I could tie it snug around Qwynn’s waist.

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The final step for the skirt was attaching the scales. I only covered the front to save time. I cut three different sized scales out of card stock to use as tracers for the fabric.

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Tracing and cutting the scales was by far the most tedious part of the project, so if you are not a control freak like I am ;-), I suggest recruiting help. I attached all the scales by using about two-inch pieces of sewing tape along the top of each one.

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For the seashell top, I used the sheer fabric from Qwynn’s old pink skirt, a small pink hair rubber band for the center, and shells cut from the pink felt. I attached the shells to the sheer fabric with hot glue.

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Qwynn already had a light-colored t-shirt to wear under the shell top which was the final piece to the costume. That, and a big smile! 🙂

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I am still so shocked at how smooth this project went and I am absolutely thrilled with how it turned out! Best of all, I came out way under my $20 budget!!

Valerie Anne

The Dreaded Daily Commute and the Things That Help Us Survive It

I enjoy so many things about living in NYC. Commuting everyday from Astoria, Queens to the complete opposite side of Manhattan and then back again is not one of those things. It is long, unpredictable and can be absolutely exhausting. Our daily commute consists of approximately 40 minutes of walking, 30 minutes on the train, and 5 minutes of waiting for said train. And that’s just one way.

The walking part is easy. I could walk for miles. Qwynn is secure in her stroller and easily distracted by the sights and sounds of the city.  She loves to people watch, and is constantly pointing dogs, birds, green taxis, yellow taxis, school buses, city buses, ambulances etc, etc, etc. She gets so excited!

Keeping Qwynn distracted on the train is another story though! She has always been pretty good at entertaining herself, but the older she gets, the harder it is becoming to keep her busy on the train. We have tried really hard to postpone the TV watching and iPad/iPhone exposure for as long as possible. (A topic for a separate post 😉 ). Luckily, Qwynn has yet to show a ton of interest in these things, and although we know it won’t last forever, we are going to keep riding this train as long as we can.

For now, here are four “old school” things that help us get through our daily commute:

1. BOOKS

FullSizeRender-8Qwynn LOVES to read! Which means we don’t leave the house without at least a couple books in her stroller. She used to enjoy looking at the books on her own, but lately she’s all about Mommy and Daddy reading to her. I really enjoy reading to her, but there are those days that I need a little me time on the train to recover from my day with my 9 other babies. So, we have a rule. I can read her the book if I have a seat, but if I am standing then she needs to look at the book on her own. I can’t say that I haven’t politely declined an available seat because of this rule. It’s ok for mom to be a little selfish every once in awhile.

2. PAD OF PAPER AND PEN/PENCIL

IMG_7603Qwynn received a pad of paper and mechanical pencil from her grandparents for Christmas and has been loving to doodle ever since. FullSizeRender-11She can only draw circles, so of course she asks Tyson and I to draw for her most of the time. Our doodling skills can be pretty hilarious. Her favorite things to ask for are “Qwynnie, Mommy, Daddy and coffee.”  Pretty much sums us up. She has also been really interested in her letters lately, so recently we’ve been writing out words and spelling them, too.

3. STICKERS

FullSizeRender-10What kid doesn’t love stickers? One day, Qwynn spent the whole train ride piling stickers on her nose. She thought it was absolutely hilarious! I have a love/hate relationship with stickers because they stick to places you don’t want them to (like strollers and hardwood floors) and they can be a b**** to get off. So we have a rule for these, too. Qwynn can stick them to paper, her clothes or her body, but as soon as we get home all used stickers go right into the garbage.

4. CHEERIOS

IMG_9644Well, technically we buy trader Joe’s Multigrain O’s, but they are still just as magical. Qwynn doesn’t eat on the train too often in our daily commute because we want her to be hungry for her lunch and dinner. On the rare occasion that we don’t have time to feed her breakfast at home, we can give Qwynn a bag of cherrios on the train and she will sit there the whole ride chowing down and people watching. It’s like she’s at the movies. And you know what the means. Mom and dad get to rest and zone out a little before the work day ahead. Hooray for cheerios!!!

Valerie Anne