pixelated gems..and a giveaway.

while i was going through our most recent professional pics looking for good shots for the sidebar, i found so many that i had forgotten about and are amazing, hilarious or sweet and deserve some love too.

we took these back in october. it was about 90 degrees and we got annihilated by mosquitoes. thanks, georgia, love ya!

but thanks to brenna's sick talent, you would never know that we were sweaty, itchy, miserable and dealing with 2 screamy, sleepy, renegade munchkins, 90% of the time. she's good.

so glad we have this one. for a few weeks, she was doing this with her tongue ALL the time. but she never does it anymore.

um, are you kidding me? have no idea how we bribed him to do that.

i promise jesse is judahs dad, despite the opposite hair color, hair texture, and eye color.

they. love. him.

this one *almost* made the sidebar pic instead of the more composed one, just because it is SO us.

i think these are all actually grimaces

pause. forever.

judah is adorable. jesse is hot. it is known.

this looks like a movie poster to me!

so love this. even though the kids kind of look drugged/asleep.

oh, hello frame models. thanks for living in my house and being real people.

this child slays me

seriously? she is the best. prancing around doing some sort of touchdown dance and squealing all the while.

something about her face doesnt look like layle to me, but i know it is and the body language is SO her.

indignant and surprised.

lucky girl.

he's feeling great about himself and cant even stand it.

the chubby legs, the happy feet, the sprouty hair and the little prissy wave. she is everything.

and now, the giveaway.

a free custom key fob or burp cloth from my etsy shop to the best captioner of this, my favorite, photo of layla:

this wasnt even supposed to be a giveaway post when i started, but then i got to this pic, and so many ideas for funny captions came to me that i really wanted to hear all the hilarious possibilities that everyone else might have. so i am trying to bribe you for my own entertainment.

just leave a comment here with your best caption. feel free to leave a few if you want; it's quality, not quantity that makes a winner this time around.

we'll pick our favorite and announce the winner next week on monday or tuesday.

p.s. despite unbiased judging, i think i have picked my dad as the winner every time i have done one of these types of contests. he never takes/wants the prize, and i pick my next favorite, but dont let him have the satisfaction this time!


FAQ you!

i am doing a little tidying up around here. i am working on new pictures, a new "about" section (because, breaking news!!! layla isnt a fetus anymore!) and i just wrote a page for frequently asked question.

i tried to think of the things i have been repeatedly asked about in the comments section or in email and answered them all there in case others were/will wonder the same. some of the topics might deserve their own posts, but for now, this is where they'll live.

if there's something else you want to know, just leave a comment and i will probably be happy to answer.

and because it's been too long without them, pictures of the stars of the show:

layla girl with her 2 favorite christmas morning items: her purple baby and the leftover stump of the carrots we put out for santa's reindeer.

judah man riding a horsey (aka lulu's leg). he now just comes up to you, straddles your leg and starts his horse riding motion. it would be a little alarming if he wasnt repeatedly yelling, "ride um cah boy!"


fess up, ladies.

my friend, natalie, sent me a link to what have to be the most awesome little youtube videos i have seen in a looooooong time.

nat is a responsible emailer and NEVER sends chain crap, lame forwards or unsubstantiated garbage (snopes.com people. verify before you forward baloney). she also crawls under beds to be jesus and rescue me from pregnant marriage hell, so i just knew this would be good.

but i had NO idea that i would be shaking with mirth at my desk and restraining tears. this crap is SO RIGHT ON. i didnt know it was possible to simultaneously mock a group of people while also being completely embarrassed and guilty of being in that demographic.

i give you (merry christmas!), "shit girls say" (these videos are totally clean, despite that somewhat salty title):

the actor's delivery SLAYS me. he is so so so so so right on. it's hard to be offended by being stereotyped when the stereotype fits me snugger than the very clothes that i hate trying on.

i went back and watched these again (and again and again) and kept a rough tally of how many i am guilty of saying in JUST the same tone and i've gotta say it's at least 85%. and here i thought i was an original kind of gal.

my favorites: "that's NOT okay," "can you do me a huge favor?," "are you near a computer?" "that poor dog needs water," "TWINSIES!"

so fess up, what percentage of these are you guilty of and which ones are right on for you?

a hearty, hearty, touché to the makers of these videos. i'm burnt.


last minute gifts

shalomha amigos.

just wanted a share a few of the handmade things i am gifting this christmas.

it hasnt been a huge handmade christmas for me personally this year since i was so busy being paid to make christmas presents for others to give their loved ones. this year's dukes family christmas gift bounty and our electric bill: sponsored by etsy. thank you, jesus. amen.

first off: the most thoroughly underwhelming understatement of a gift for judah and layla's preschool teachers. these chicks are AMAZING and if i had the money to buy them what they deserve, then i would be able to afford a nanny, not to mention all of the expensive cheeses i am forced to live without daily. hardship.

because nothing says, "thank you for working yourself silly being an answer to our prayers and a solution to our insane scheduling/budgeting needs," like...

a dishtowel!


that sensation youre experiencing right now? the mouth slightly agape, lower jaw stuck out and brow furrowed? it's judgement and shocked disapproval. yes i know this isnt the most glamorous gift but i am hoping it's super useful and helpful to these wonderful ladies.

the kicker: it was supposed to come with a punny little note to each that said, "thanks for getting your hands dirty while taking care of our kiddos!" except for the part where we forgot to write the notes, so they just got these random dishtowels with no labels. luckily, my mom decided to write each teacher a card and give them a gift card, so the towels were at least identifiable as belonging to judah and layla's people, even if it was in the cold, lonely shadow of my mom's more suitable gifts.

anyway here they are:

to my credit, they are AWESOME. they are from a pin i have wanted to make for myself FOREVER. (ed: not intended to be used 6 at a time.)

the dishcloths button around your oven handle to keep little creatures from INCESSANTLY pulling them off and strewing them all over your house; bringing you to the brink of emotional meltdown when you have wet hands and turn to dry them, only to find NOTHING there. cue psycho theme music.

anyway, i have now made six of these, but didnt make any for myself. i WILL be doing so ASAP. and here's hoping the kids' fantastic teachers are finding these useful long after they spend their much-deserved target monies.

the other project i've tackled so far is a pair of kiddie cooking accessories: chef's hats and aprons for my nieces. i used these tutorials cause they were AWESOME to the max and added some personalization for kicks.

for sophia and airabella. who love rainbows.

pockets, waist ties and adjustable neck strap. hopefully they get years of use out of these.

sophie and bella are 4 and 6, so this SHOULD look a little big on a 2 year old.

holy myspace stank face.

i really, really hope they like these. they are getting to the age that they can legitimately cook with my sister in law and enjoy doing it so hopefully they'll get excited about these. if not i also bought a loud, plastic, electronic toy to go along with them. because the charm and effort of handmade is sometimes lost on those born post-katrina.

if you're the sewing type, i heartily recommend either of these two projects if you still need christmas gifts. if not, godspeed out there in retail land, my friends.


frankenz and mirrd

continuing this precious phase of adding a "D" onto the end of words that simply dont need one, i give you a video of judah chatting about the christmas story. plus bonus footage of me trying to make him show off his new (mercurial) counting-of-objects skills, forcing him to confess his new feelings for me (though he accidentally goes back to the "mommy go bye bye" party line), a discussion of where jesse is and a sweet farewell. and lots of my most creepy/endearing mommy diction (designed to make him feel comfortable sharing, but not to turn him off with my enthusiasm).

did i mention i LOVE this phase with him? he is so chatty and bright yet still such a speech-impeded baby with an amazingly fresh perspective of the world around him.

we take night time walks a few times a week all around our town to visit the nativities, christmas lights, santas and animatronic deer (he does NOT like the "robot reinBeer"). i was tickled when i realized that he already knew a lot about the christmas story based on what he was learning at preschool. hooray for retention!


weekly pinspiration

and now a feature film starring tom cruise, demi moore and jack nicholson. i give you, a few good pins:

from ye olde organization board (the playground from my right brain which dreams of iron-fisted control over every aspect of my insane environment):

i've been spinnin' on lazy susans like paulie D behind the decks (i died a little just then) since i realized their amazing potential for maximizing shelf depth. wicky-wicky (that's my turntable record scratch noise...make a note of it).

i have been using a lazy susan to hold all the spices that didnt have a pre-made place in our "official" spice rack that lives on the countertop, but all those teensy bottles and containers were impossible to find easily behind the barricade of their bigger spice brothers. and these little nuggets of flavor are not big or tall enough to merit a place on the shelf floor.

enter the tension rod idea:

it was just a few bucks on amazon, has total versatility and could fit any length cabinet thanks to the little adjustable screw.

i just wedged it above and behind the lazy susan, about an inch from the back of the cabinet, and the little fellas just sit right up there and lean back against the wall until they are called into active duty in a casserole.

"you want them on that wall, you NEED them on that wall" (keeping with the a few good pins theme)


the next pin we tried was from the same organization board. the idea was using those clear vinyl shoe holders as organization for your cleaning junk in the laundry room (or anywhere else, really, these guys are mad useful).

before, we had a wire rack over on the left side of our laundry closet/nook. it was insufficient and had things stacked and smushed just to fit so that when we had a code red cleaning emergency and grabbed one thing, ten others exploded off of the shelf and came tumbling out thanks to the jenga-like setup.

no more!:

every one gets a pocket to himself. full visibility and maximum grab-ability.

i mounted it with screws and had to cut a few rows off because it was too long (they will be used elsewhere). i also cut out a square so i could access the light switch. perfect! i love this setup SO much more.

on friday, when jesse was letting our massive, wild, exclusively OUTDOOR dogs out of their garage kennels (where they bunk in cold weather). he was taking chopper (the smaller of the two) back to the back yard and clifford was running amok in the garage. judah heard the commotion and decided to open the interior door in our kitchen that leads to said garage. clifford, sensing his once-in-a-blue moon opportunity, blew past judah like one of the bumpus' turkey-marauding hound dogs from a christmas story. it must have been quite an adventure for judah and layla, alone in the house, to see the 100 lb black piggy that is cliff, come storming inside.

he of course made straight for our bedroom and took a massive dump right by our bed. when clifford "bunnies" it's no chocolate mallow peep, but more of a life-sized easter bunny on steroids.

so when i got home and saw the carpet cleaner on the counter and out of its vinyl love pocket (not to be confused with a latex love pocket, which is something else entirely) i asked jesse what had happened. he explained that a code red cleaning emergency had presented itself thanks to judah and clifford.

keight: "judah, sweetie did you order the code red?"


(really hoping youve seen a few good men, at this point)


now a holiday pin and one from the upcycling board. as soon as i saw this pin for a preppy christmas wreath, i knew i would be making it for our door this year. just some yarn and a few ornaments and blammo, an adorable, just-my-style wreath.

and this was also the perfect change to try out this pin for making your own super cheap wreath forms. the idea makes perfect sense, $1.75 for 6 ft of foam pipe insulation from home depot, and some duct tape, and you have 3 wreath forms ready to be cutesified into something lovely.

i usually get the straw wreaths at joann that come wrapped in plastic (which i leave one b/c i dont need to access the crazy straw). they are $3 and i always use at least a 40% off coupon. so $1.80 for one wreath isnt bad, but $1.75 for enough foam to make 2 or 3 would be even better.

i bought my big noodle and headed home to make the christmas wreath.

cue record lazy susan scratching to a halt:

hmmmm, not as traditional of a shape.

so yeah, this was a massive fail. i checked the comments section of the post that the original pin came from, and lots of people had this same problem. the author suggested it was something to do with the diameter of the insulation. i had noticed at home depot that there were several options, but i just picked the one that looked the most like the one in the picture. so i thought.

i might give this another try, making sure to grab the right kind of insulation, but i dont know. the straw ones are so sturdy and dependable, not to mention really cheap already, and i might be a little scarred from the disappointment of this endeavor.

so, a few days deterred, i went for it with my straw wreath form, 2 cheapo bundles of yarn and a tube full of assorted red ornaments from joann.

i stupidly bought the long oval-shaped yarn instead of a nice little sphere that could easily go around and around without a lot of effort on my hands' part. but even still, this was a fast and easy project on the couch while watching 30 rock. i just taped down the first end and then at every color change, tied the ends of the two colors together on the back side of the wreath.

then i figured out an arrangement for my ornaments (i didnt spring for the red jingle bells like the original did, so my bunch is less awesome) and hot glued them in place. i didnt bother to take off the little gold ornament tops, i just pointed them in the most out of sight direction when i glued them down. you can see them if you look hard, but i think it's extra festive that they are real ornaments.

i love it! love the chunky hunter green and cream stripes and the glittery red ornaments. we wont discus if it actually matches or clashes with the front door. bright yellow is a neutral, right?

if i see the red jingle bells on mega sale any time soon, i might buy them to make my cluster more random and varied looking. i like this okay, but wish it wasnt as uniform. i plan to use this wreath every year, whether inside or on the door, so a few more bucks to make it perfect seems worthwhile. plus, think of the happy jingling every time we open the door!

you want the truth? you cant handle the truth! (yes, i am getting a little tired of myself at this point).

okay, maybe you can handle it. as i was making this, i realized that the original pin actually linked to an etsy shop where these were sold, and not a DIY tutorial. i kind of hate feeling like i am ripping off someone else's idea that was meant to make them money. but then again, i wouldnt and don't begrudge anyone who can make the things that i sell in my etsy shop for themselves.

but for those who dont want to or cant do it themselves, i definitely wanted to plug the original shop and say that for only $28, you could just buy the fully fabulous version, jingle bells and all. doing it myself without the bells took approximately an hour and $11...so just pick your poison, i guess. this shop also has a happy grey ornament wreath that i really want to make/buy too!

i might be becoming a wreath junkie.

go forth and PIN, my friends.


random thoughts from a camera-less female

our camera is broken and in the shop again. it's always been the same problem that they cant ever seem to fix this is its 3rd trip to the doctor in new york. this time there's the bonus that they are charging us $150 because the 1-year warranty is up. thanks, nikon, for failing to fix the problem when it was free and now "discovering" what the real issue is and, whoopsie daisy, your warranty's up, so please pay us. i think not.

i have spoken to a supervisor and an investigation is being launched. thinking of jumping ship, selling this bad boy, and joining team canon.

i've got no pictures to share, but i have a bunch of thoughts on my mind-grapes (tracy jordan, anyone?).

-we caved in to ourselves and did get a christmas tree this year, despite my vow to not have one while the terminator, layla, who is freakishly strong, mobile in three dimensions, and speaks NO english, continues her dominion of terror over our living room. our solution was duct taping the snot out of the tree stand to the top of our little coffee table. we always get a smaller tree and put it on our ikea coffee table to make it normal height. so far it has worked, and i am quite pleased with us for not letting toddzilla cow me into grinchdom.

-i bless the day two years ago that i up and decided to learn how to sew AND the day in his freshman year at college, that jesse decided to teach himself to play the guitar. these 2 skills have provided over a third of our income this year, and have gotten us through a very lean time as jesse's pay has transitioned to support-based. having a hobby that you love that can also put food on the table is a good idea. my kids will be attending carpentry camp.

-judah has been declared 100% potty trained. it's been a month since we first sent him to school in big boy underpants and he has only had 3 accidents, all of which happened en route to the potty. hooray! he still gets a pullup at night because i dont know how you deal with that, but the rest of the time it's just a thin layer of cotton and a 30 month old's bladder and sphincter control keeping things in their place. nothing is cuter than his little booty in those underpants and his little toothpick legs sticking out of them.

-after a reeeeeallly rough period of anti-mommytism by judah, we are coming out on the other side better than ever. it's in large part thanks to his 2 year old stall and manipulation tactics that i get called in after jesse puts him to bed, but i dont care. i was once called in as the way to get him to go to sleep, because rather than rock with me, he would just give up and say, "my get in bed. mommy go bye bye." now, jesse comes out and judah demands "mommy snuggle me." its the greatest moment of life. this kids is the ANTI snuggler, and would always pick jesse over me, so the fact that he demands that i get under the covers with him every night, sing our song (dixie chicks "godspeed") and hug and smooch him to my heart's content is euphoria.

-it also took/takes a heap of "fake it til you make it" self-esteem and bucket of grace from god to plow through the times when we was/is so mean and hurtful to me. i realized that acting hurt or offended with a two year old wont work if the goal is getting him to act like he likes me. he doesnt have the empathy receptors necessary for this kind of emotional manipulation (which is exactly what is was). all i was doing was making myself truly less likable in his eyes. he was mean to me for dumb unwarranted reasons, but by getting prickly and wounded, i was actually giving him a legit reason to like me less by becoming bitter mommy.

so against every emotional instinct, when he is rude out of the blue to me, i gird up my loins, remember the relationship i WANT to have with him, and constructively distract him, act silly, or ignore it. it is unspeakably difficult. it's like i am being boo'd off stage and have to put on a smile and deliver a brand new solo. my mom self-esteem is shot and i have to jump right back up and act like i am untouchable to provide him a positive outlet. yuck. vulnerability to the max. it is SO unlike me to not hold people immediately accountable for hurting me, but it is actually working. and when we get to a place where he is ready to listen he is SO much more receptive to hearing how his unkind behavior hurt me. lesson learned. nobody out-pouts a 2 year old. not even me.

-layla is getting SASS-y. she is starting to exert her will to an alarming degree. when we take something away from her she now charges us like a rabid rhino cub and has even hit us a few times. it is simultaneously hilarious and horrifying. i know she's not really trying to hit or to hurt us, because she has never seen that behavior modeled, and she is just acting out her frustration the only way she knows, but man it is intense and bizarre to see your "baby" snap and go all jack bauer on your ass. she is slightly intimidating with that big belly hanging loose and that warrior mullet flying in the wind.

-jesse is a sick freak and is thinking of training for a full marathon in the spring. i continue to enjoy a running-free existence and see no reason why i should go back to the dark days of running for any reason besides a predator being hot on my heels.

-if you didnt see the new tab or sidebar announcement, i am going to offer ad space starting next year. i few people wrote and asked about it and i figured it was time to stop being a fraidy cat and just go for it. the worst that can happen is nobody being interested, and that hasnt bothered me these past 3 years anyway. if you or anyone you know would like to advertise here, just email me for more info and pricing at putapuredukes (at) gmail (dot) com.

-i have about 8 words with friends games that i am about to lose due taking too long to play my turn. this is sad, but also good because it means and i am really busy AND going straight to bed at night rather than laying submerged in increasingly cold bathwater and trying to craft wicked triple word scores like a motionless fleshy submarine who slowly prunes herself silly.

-we were hanging out with an awesome new church couple last night when i happened to ask them when they graduated high school. this is my brain's way of sorting out age through ye old, "i was a senior when you were a freshman" trick. they arent married so i was thinking they were on a different life schedule than us and were just finding each other later in life. um, no. they arent married yet because they are 22 and 23. the graduated high school in 2007. they were freshmen when my BABY BROTHER was a senior. they were 5th graders when i was a senior. lucky for them they are super cool and easy on the eyes or i would have stormed out then and there. fetuses! i was hanging out with undercover fetuses!!! is this what the rest of my life is going to be like? is this what is means to be old?!? am i too old to even be using the "what grade were you in when i was a senior" method of mental sorting? these are the things i need to ponder tonight as i am cleaning my dentures.

-sewing christmas gifts for the kids' awesome teachers tonight. they are so lame and un-wowing compared to the heaps of tiaras i would like to shower upon these wonderful women who parent my kids for 4 hours every day.

that's all for now. i'll let you know if we need to stage a protest at nikon HQ.

dukes out.


last call

i am a sewing bandit today and will be for the rest of the week getting people their orders in time for christmas.

my etsy shop has become a sweatshop with even jesse being enlisted to help.

because i am insane like that, i just added two new items to my shop along with the old favorites of scarves, jewelry rolls, boppy covers and baby gifts:

custom ruffle camera strap covers with padding and lens cap pocket

custom kid's ruffle half-aprons with pocket and waist ties

ordering for custom items (where you pick your own fabric) ends on december 15th so that i have enough time to make and ship it to you for christmas, so if you want something from me, visit the shop and get on it!

secret surprise celebrating the 12 days of christmas: from now through dec 15th, enter code BLOGBUDDYXMAS and receive 12% off your entire order.


half [marathon] of my heart

i ran a half marathon, you guys.

actually, WE ran a half marathon:

team finding my feet.

i want to tell you every single detail of our amazing weekend, but it's just too much. so i am just going to focus on the race. (raechel's account is already up)

rest assured that our team rocks. meeting internet friends in real life is surreal and a tad scary. you never know when you're going to run into an organ harvester instead of just a pal. but this bunch was 100% pals and we all had way much fun getting to know each other, hanging out and bonding over this shared trial/accomplishment.

the running of the miles was really just a small part of the weekend of bonding and laughing and hijinks, and all that stuff will stick with me and with our group for a long time.

we spent the summer training together in our home towns and only communicating over email and nike plus, so getting everyone in the same room was a lot like finally giving birth and getting to meet your baby face to face after growing along with it, sight unseen, for months. this team is my baby. and bonus: it includes my baby daddy.

this half-marathon-as-having-a-baby metaphor was rampant the entire time.

team FMF: i heart yall. i will run many minutes behind you all any day of the week.

after carbing up with the team on friday night, our hotel room had lights out (except for my headlamp because i have to read before sleep) at about 9 pm to be ready for our 5:45 am wake up time. it was me, jesse, ryan and raechel sharing a room. ryan is a gold medalist in snoring so he nobly took the couch in the adjoining living room to let the runners get some sleep.

ryan completed the chicago FULL marathon in october so he was just there to support raechel and the team this time. it was great to have his experience, and as an added bonus pretend like he was a running snob every time he would say, "well for the full..." or "in chicago..." i actually did get a lot of helpful tips from him all the while still rolling my eyes and saying, "yeah, you ran a full, we get it. come down off your high horse, richy."

despite the worst night of sleep EVER thanks to some soccer tournament that was also in town (i think it was the juvenile delinquent loud and disruptive cup 2011), we heard the alarm and were not tempted to sleep more. funy how 13.1 miles looming over you makes your heart pump.

we got dressed in our running stuff, complete with cheap accessories we could just throw down on the course and not miss once it warmed up and our hearts got pumping (god bless the target dollar section).

we choked down smoothies, clif bars and bananas as we rode through the dark streets of memphis towards the starting line. we were all predicting how emotional we would be by the time we finished.

we parked and walked to the starting line. we met up with everyone, posed for some pictures from official race photographers, ryan and our own cell phones (all the pics in this post come from one of those sources...the official photos are just screen shots of the proofs that i grabbed until i decide which to buy), pinned on race bibs, found where our starting corrals would be (based on desired pace/finish times), and got our gear situated and ready.

making an uproariously hilarious joke to katie vick when she asked me to pin on her bib. i said, "now you know, i am kind of a professional sew-er, so dont be surprised if i pin this on really awesomely." i also showed her how to look your most intelligent in a photo. youre welcome, and youre welcome!

let the record show that i jumped ON three and he took the picture on, like, five. i was on my way down. i've still got hops, dont you worry. also, jesse is amazing a million

like adorable happy criminals showing our numbers off

oh, i like her lots and lots. even though we kind of hate how adorable and tiny she is, we mostly just need to love her because of awesome.

ok, my mom specifically requested this post so that she could, as she put it: "put it on the refrigerator in the kitchen next to where judah eats when he is at my house so that he can see how wholesome foods will make him big and strong and lean and mean." my question: is this picture the motivational carrot or the stick? is the caption on her fridge beneath it, "reach for the stars!" or "chickfila: a cautionary tale?"

also: not pregnant. trick of the light.

jesse and i had to check our bags for the the race and saying goodbye to my georgia tech sweatpants was HARD. not only because it exposed my ample, ultrawhite thighs amdist a sea of runners' legs and mostly long-pants, but also because it was eerily familiar to when i had to take them off when i checked into the hospital to have layla. just like then, i knew i wouldn't be reunited with my friendly, beloved pants until i had gone through the fire and was on the other side again.

my special christmas burglar elf bandit

jesse and i took one last potty break and the great wall of port-a-potties (ashley kirnan texted me to see where i was since we thought we'd be in the same starting corral since i am slow and she has a a million almost-stress fractures and had strep that day, and i texted her back, "i'm bunnying." thank you judah for years of poop humor).

we took one last pic, said goodbye-- him heading to his 9 minute mile pace group and me heading to my 13 minute mile one.

we arent equally yoked in the running department. i'm at peace with it.

farewell, hottie, see you on the other side!

i headed way, way way, back in the throng of people to my corral. i spotted my pace team leader hold his sign. i had looked him up online a few days prior by putting in my desired finish time (under 3 hours) and was pleased to find a group for we the turtles.

his bio listed him at 63 (whatEVER!!!) and when asked why someone should run in his pace group, his answer was, "to experience the fun of racewalking!"

what in the HAY-UHL!?!?!? my pace leader is a geriatric walker!!! and i am going the same speed at my fastest run. i dropped a few pounds in ego weight at that point which i figured would make me more aerodynamic.

since we were so so so far back from the actual starting line, i had a long time to wait by myself. this is where my emotions got the better of me.

when i signed up for this race, i must admit that it was more because it was near-ish and convenient and to do it with rae and friends, and not because i was crazy passionate about the cause. OBVIOUSLY i detest childhood cancer, but it isnt super, extra-personal to me.

i do happily know two amazing survivors: my sister in law elena who kicked leukemia's ass over 20 years ago and audrey, the daughter of our mentors, who was the flower girl in our wedding, who finished treatment almost a year ago and is cancer free right now. i knew i wanted to take them along with me during the run so jesse and i both wrote their names on our arms in sharpie to honor their battles in our own teensy way.

repping those chicas!

me and audrey at some event...cant quite place it (please remember that i looked like this once in my life...it will help you get through the rest of the pics)

just getting a taste of what a shit-bomb cancer was for these familes--hearing about it from jesse and his parents, and visiting and talking with audrey and her family in 2010 and this year as she went through her battle-- was enough to really make me believe that childhood cancer is one of the yuckiest visible stains that the brokenness and carnage of sin and the fall have left on this earth. but even still, audrey and elena's stories have happy endings.

they got hit with the bomb, but the nuclear payload didnt detonate.

i have never seen or experienced firsthand the very worst of what this disease can do to happy healthy children who werent born "cancer kids" but whose lives end that way.

my place in the corral. the starting line if left down that intersection

in the corral, all alone as i looked ahead and saw the backs of thousands, i started to see and read the shirts that everyone was wearing. lots of them were funny, "dear god, please let there be someone behind me to read this, " and "if found, please drag across the finish line."

but the first one that grabbed me was a full color picture of a little boy with the dates October 11, 2008-March 13, 2011 underneath.

it was like getting punched in the stomach. this gorgeous two and half year old boy had died, had been snatched from his parents arms because of this disgusting disease. he was judah's age.

i looked at the pavement as the tears built.

it got real at that point. i knew st. jude already had my money and that my actual running of the race didnt really do anything for the families affected by cancer, but the two became linked at that point.

i looked around some more, praying every time as i saw a birthdate listed that it wouldn't be bracketed by deathdate; praying for an open hyphen but not finding lots of them:

"running for my 6 year old son elijah: 11 surgeries, 7 brain surgeries, wheelchair bound, completely blind due to tumors"

"team lucy"

"missing our angel" with a picture of an infant girl about layla's age, looking miserable in a hospital bed.

i was a mess. even the st. jude logo on people's shirts was getting me: a little child with his hands together and head bowed in prayer.

around 8:15 (the start for the #1 corral of elite racers was at 8) we starting moving forward. i could hear music playing and the announcer talking up ahead.

we turned left onto the actual street that the starting line was on--yes i was so far back that i was on a different street to begin with--and i could finally make out the starting line way up ahead.

see the start waaaaaaaaay off in the distance?

they were releasing the corrals a few minutes apart to spread out the crowd. so we fell into a nervous shuffle rhythm of walk. wait. walk. wait.

as i heard #8 and #9 released, i knew jesse was on his way. godspeed, my man!

i looked up and could finally make out that the starting line said "get ready to run for THEIR lives." more tears.

10, 11, 12, and finally 13 (there were actually 16 total corrals). we came up and waited for our countdown.

i checked my ipod and my laces one last time and savored my final moments of no exertion or movement. for the next 3-ish hours i would be running or walking or limping or crawling.

blammo. we were off.

where's wald-eight?

i knew that ryan would be taking pictures at .5 miles and again at 3 miles and he would also be available to grab any clothes we didnt need anymore as we warmed up. my peasant hat and gloves i didnt care about and bought them cheap to be disposable, but so help me, i wasnt going to lose my long sleeved 15k shirt. i worked hard for that mess and if i had to wear it as a sassy belt for 13 miles, i would, but i would prefer to leave it with a friend (who would hopefully not sniff it).

at maybe a quarter or a mile, i was rounding the basketball arena where the grizzlies play (or dont play, as it were, thanks NBA players, you are heroes fighting for the little guy!). there were parking decks and garages nearby to support the arena. hilariously, as i am just getting my rhythm sorted out and finally getting some space, i see a blinking red sign flashing, "SLOW SLOW SLOW."

it was calling me out! i thought it was a practical joke, then realized that is was for cars entering the garage so they didnt scrape their bottoms on the incline. ha. in my head it had been green and said "FAST" for the first corrals of runners and then gradually faded to red and SLOW for the rest of us.

at .5 miles i was still pretty chilly so i still had on my hat and gloves and was obviously feeling fine. i spotted ryan and broke stride momentarily to flash an adorable julia roberts-esque smile and cute little jumping wave to the camera. or so i thought:

what i actually gave was: drunken feudal serf/mime doing a star jump and deranged albino performing a breast self-exam and enjoying it a little too much.

clearly there is some disparity between what i actually look like versus how i picture myself in my head. going to need to work on merging those.

just after i passed ryan and ryan (ashley k's husband who was also amazing support staff) i started to have a stomach cramp- like a stitch. i have never had one of these ever. ruh-roh. i hadnt even gone a mile yet! i tried to lean to the opposite side and stretch it out but it was still pretty uncomfy.

i felt my palms break out in panic sweat, picturing my result: "Reight Dullees-DNF withdrawn after .75 miles due to tummy ouchie." that's what it would say, yall! oh the shame.

luckily, just as i passed the 1 mile marker, a fit of horrified laughter blasted the stitch away. this middle aged man was running with a female companion in the most inappropriate shorts. they were SO SO SO short and also breezy and slit up the sides. i was getting an eyeful of rear man-thigh. hairy, pale, in-motion man thigh.

he was talking really loud and was kind of a goober to me. his friend coughed and he turns around to her and says in a horrified voice, "oh that's a WET cough!" something about that was so yuck and intimate (paired with his man thighs) that i just bust out laughing. awesome. stitch gone.

mile 2 was GORGEOUS! we wended our way down a hairpin turn and all of a sudden there was the mighty mississip' sprawled out before us with bridges and barges and boats. it was really freaking huge and surprisingly gorgeous. on the other side was a steep hill, at the top of which were really pretty riverfront houses.

i ditched my gloves and hat at this point and started to resemble a female again.

mile 2 highlight: the spectator holding a sign that said, "run fast: i farted." i laughed, because, joke's on you, i did too!

mile 3 and i was feeling good. i was warming up and doing a great pace. 9 minutes running, 1 minute walking. i wont lie, even at this tiny distance, i was looking forward to those walk intervals every time.

i took off my long sleeves, made my sassy belt and started to look out for the ryans. we headed into the famed beale street area and there were TONS of people and bands and signs and photographers. it was awesome.

warning: if you flash a peace sign behind me to a camera man, i will make fun of you a little bit on my blog. consider yourself warned

my pony was having a BLAST! after it was set free from it's feudal serf cap of bald-dom

swear i wasnt walking here. also i dont remember ever being this friendly looking in my life, much less at the race.

"ahahahaha, we're having so much fun!"

ryan was supposed to be at the turn, but i didnt see him. then at the last moment, the other ryan sees me and pops out offering to take my shirt. glory!

no more special accessories. just me like i had been on all of my runs through the evil heat of georgia summer and fall: shirt, shorts, shoes, socks and ipod. oh yeah, plus some energy chews i had in my bra.

i'm the thoughtful-est

nope, still not walking. seriously

running full out.

just before mile 4 i had another emotional whomp. in one intersection there was a group of about twenty kids doing a choreographed dance in matching shirts. the tears came when i realized that they all had down syndrome, just like our sister elena.

i am in love with them

elena LOVES to dance and perform, so seeing these gorgeous, beaming faces dancing their hearts out totally reminded me of elena, and made me think of how i am SO blessed to have her in my life and that cancer didnt steal a single one of her dances.

i cheered and clapped (and cried happy love tears) with the rest of the runners who had instantly become the cheerleaders rather than the cheered on for this group of kids with a magical 47th chromosome.

at mile 4 the fanfare of the really touristy district of memphis was behind us and at some weird glass pyramid that i assume is not the tennessee branch of the louvre, we were making the turn to put the river behind us.

running past the luxor (?)

still not a walk

i had been seeing full color signs inserted in ground beside the course every now and then that said "run for jake" and had a picture of a really cute 2 or 3 year old little boy who had lost his hair from chemo on them. it was a total motivator. during this mile i saw another one, in the same purple and yellow colors, with his picture on it, a picture of him with all of his hair, clearly from before his diagnosis, that said, "run to remember jake." tears. fuck cancer.

at that point we entered the actual st. jude campus. there were people everywhere cheering like mad. i happened to be listening to coldplay's "paradise" at that point and it was like a slow motion montage.

the juxtaposition of the words of that song and chris martin's falsetto, playing in my ears and the sights of the happy, encouraging crowd, glittering pom poms against the visuals of why this place exists started to rock me.

this could be para, para, paradise

signs being held with names, birth- and death- dates of children who went from childhood to heaven because of cancer, of the huge buildings containing children going through disgusting, horrific pain, of the scenes that must unfold inside pretty regularly: parents watching their child take a final breath, holding them for the last time, knowing their beloved child's life, but also their pain, is over. sobbing and praying them into the arms of jesus.

this could be para, para, paradise

i honestly didnt see a lot of what was going on here because my eyes were flooded. i just ran on, looking down at the pavement. i wanted to hold my kids so hard right then. i wanted to hold those parents through the unimaginable. to say, screw cancer, screw the devil, it WILL be paradise one day, jesus has overcome even this.

and thinking that, this lyric hits me:

And so lying underneath those stormy skiesShe'd say, "oh, ohohohoh I know the sun must set to rise"this could be para, para, paradise
at this point, i am going to be honest, i hit my emotional high point. with 8 miles still to go, i was fried.
i had been going through the emotional journey of realizing, it's not about me running a race, that's nothing. it's about these kids and their families and this awful disease. but then i get the lightning bolt of, it's not even about that, really. this whole life and all of the gross suffering and pain is just because the sun has to set so it can rise. that's the story we humans have written for ourselves. jesus himself had to die so he could rise.
it's kind of a big thought to wrap your head around while trying to remember how to oxygenate your blood (answer: breathe).
on the way out of the st. jude campus i saw a twenty-something woman holding a sign that said, "because you run, i'm a SURVIVOR." that was awesome. it might not be 100% true in a causal or time-space sense, or according to her doctors, but i got the point and the encouragement enough to bring me back to operational.
at the water station of mile 5, i rewarded myself with 4 of my gummie chomps energy chews. the package was nice and humidly breasty from being in my bra all along. stuffing the half full pack back in was not fun. "stay out of the MAARRRSH!" it was swampy in there.
all of mile 5, 6, and 7 we were on a big straightaway into a residential area. i knew i had a steady pace because i could see that damned old race walker just ahead of me the whole time, looking like he was doing nothing more strenuous than heading to claim his bingo prize or water his azaleas.
between mile 6 and 7, just before the blessed halfway point, i saw a police motorcycle headed towards us on the other side of the divided street. i then realized that he was the front of the entire race, with the lead runner right behind him.
the course was set up so that the half marathoners and the full marathoners ran together from the start until after the 12th mile. the halfsters would then split off to their finished and those poor insane marathon bastards would go for 14 more miles on the extra part of the route.
since i knew our half route didnt include coming back to this area, like this runner was, i knew he had to AT LEAST be beyond his 12th mile and into marathoner-only territory. if he was with the #1 corral group, he had a 22 minute head start on me just due to the time it took me to get up to the line. and at this point in my run (6.5 miles in) i had been going for just under an hour and a half. so i was trying to guess what mile he was at.
with him being at least twice as fast as me and then with the extra 22 minutes, i guessed he was maybe on mile 16 or 17. this was mind boggling to me that he could get so far ahead in such short amount of time.
well, after the race, i checked out out the map and it turns out he was on MILE 23!!! i was on mile 6.5. with just a 22 minute head start, he had gotten almost 17 miles in front of me.
think about how long it takes to get that far in front of another driver IN A CAR. he was on foot!
so yeah, i clapped pretty loud for him and tried not to think about what that said about my speed.
it was at this portion of the race that i spotted another notable pair of racers. these two 30 ish women were dressed identically, in orange long sleeved tops and black running pants. they were the same height and i think they were running together to set some sort of guinness record for the most dissimilar body types. the brunette was the most apple shaped woman i have ever seen with toothpick legs and a very barrell-ish torso (not fat, just so stout through there) and her friend had a teeeeeny waist and then kardshian-esque curves leading to the most accommodating pair of birthing hips i have ever seen (i've i seen plenty...in my mirror). they looked like they had been in a magician's saw-the-lady-in-half trick and then he had mixed up the boxes and put the back together backwards. i marveled at how funny and different we humans can be from each other and still be beautiful.
mile 7's deep thoughts on the human form brought to you by asics. and delirium.
at mile 8 i started to feel yuck. we headed into overton park where the zoo is. when i saw the sign pointing our way that said, "zoo service entrance," i started to suspect that i would not be cavorting the miles away with happy penguins. this turned out to be the case. it was a hilly, twisty mile with a view of just the backsides of all the zoo buildings. color me bummed. at least i never smelled the zoo smell like some of my teammates said they did. that would have be insult to injury.
i was struggling here. walking more than a minute at a time, and even falling farther behind my pace guy, who had ceased to be some old dude in my head and had become a steely athlete to be admired. i should be so lucky as to touch his nylon fanny pack or white knee-high socks.
i slammed my remaining 4 energy chews as i passed a mean sign that said, "run, walkers, run!" it wasnt even being held by anyone...it was just sitting on a table. some people CANT run, ya big jackass sign! leave us alone, bully!
mile 9 hits and at the water station are a bunch of youths. they were playing booty rap and it was kind of funny. they sort of came out of nowhere and were so funny and alarming (remember i was still gun shy from the truants who had been running amok slamming doors in the hotel the night before) that i grabbed my delicious cup of gatorade and promptly dropped it right on my shoe.
lemon-lime toes. and no drink. curses.
right at mile 9.5 was when i entered the darkness of my run and the flagging of my determination. it featured a 2 mile straightaway through some of memphis's seedier areas and was almost entirely uphill.
it strangely started off by receiving a text from jesse saying he had finished and had hit his amazing goal of under 2 hours (he made it by 15 seconds!). i was so proud of him, but knowing for sure that we werent suffering through this simultaneously made me feel kind of lonely even though i was never with him.
fievel says, "it helps to think we're sleeping underneath the same big sky," and that was how i had felt during the whole race about jesse and me doing this endeavor together, it helped to know we were sweating ourselves swampy on the same course at the same time, and when that was done it was like he had had his baby and was cuddling it, and i still had an hour on contractions left.
here is a montage of all of jesse's photos from the race. he is a stud.
bad ass adonis
cleft chin blowing in the wind
the finish is in sightdown the pipe. notice how he passed that twiggy chick
final push
i think he got rabies right before this

you'd foam at the mouth too if you were that awesome
realizing he hit his goal with 15 second to spare. what a monster!!!
my husband, hotter than elvis. i cant even imagine what the shoulders of that costume must have smelled like after everyone's photos
so i am all alone on the course, representing the dukes family.
it started to really hurt. not so much my joints, since i have the joints of a mountain ox, but just my upper leg skin. all of a sudden i realized it was my cellulite aching. that mess does not take kindly to extended jostling and it was crying out for relief. but since the only thing that makes it happy is a block of sharp cheddar and me on a couch, i couldnt placate it at that time.
i started settling for 4 minutes running/ 2 minutes walking. even that seemed like torture.
at mile 10 i realized we were passing the target house: a place that families can stay while their child is receiving treatment. i really thought that the most stark reminders of that sort of thing were behind me, but as we are passing this sprawling estate facility i hear a band playing and realize what this place is.
there werent a lot of people there, less than 10 total cheering us on. but the only ones i saw were a mom with a six or seven year old daughter sitting in her lap on the sidewalk against the main gate. they were quietly encouraging us and clapping us on. i looked at the little girl a little closer and saw that she had on a head scarf and a face mask to keep germs out.
she was a current patient.
this was too much. i had figured if any patients were going to be out at the race they would be at the st, jude campus, so this totally tackled me by surprise. i dont think i even completed my smile and wave to her before i had to look down at the ground to keep from falling apart.
i had been deep in my own hole of pain and fatigue and "this is oh-so-hard"-ing to myself and here was this little girl in the midst of fighting for her life, risking infection out in the world with her suppressed immune system cheering me on.
i started to think of how far i would be willing to run to take away my kids' pain. their diseases. their deaths. once again, my 13 mile road race shrank back down to its appropriate place in the world rankings of human suffering.
i made myself run from here. i was going so slow and grimacing like a freak the whole time. my hips actually started to hurt as i hit mile 11. we were now in new territory since an 11 mile run was the longest my training ever required.
at this point i saw my favorite sign of the day: "this is still a good idea." i laughed out loud quite a bit. it had read my mind.
you know you arent going to quit at this point, but it's just a matter of living through the really hard wanting-to-quit part where your body hurts so bad and you just want it to stop until you get to the other side where you can say, "that was a good idea," that is so daunting. just like childbirth.
i sent jesse a text from the glympse app of my phone so he could track my location to be sure to be there for my finish. i would prance joyfully into his arms and we would embrace and kiss and be awarded "race king and queen." note: this was clearly before i saw my star jump pictures and realized i have an overly optimistic imagination.
on mile 12 we made our final turn back towards the stadium and finish line. with just a mile to go, i knew i could gut it out and go faster. i kept hitting my powersongs to give me more health units. powersongs come across a little diluted after 12 miles.
at mile 12.1 my time according to nike+ was 2:42. i had 18 minutes to run one mile. i knew that i could and should totally be able to do that no problem, but my understanding of speed and time at that point were so out of whack that i wasnt sure and really started trying to move faster just to be sure.
i saw the sign up ahead directing marathoners one way and half marathoners the other way. it was like the fork in the road for heaven and hell. i looked at those poor souls who had 14 miles still to go and whispered, "youre all heroes!"
according to my tracking, i have less than a half mile to go, but i see no signs of the finish line. i knew we were finishing on the warning track of the minor league baseball stadium, and baseball stadiums tend to be pretty visible from far off, so this was unsettling.
i ran and ran and ran. someone decided that cooking fresh smelly pizza right along that street was a great idea and i wanted to hurl.
i just keep stumbling onward through the deserted street that looks nothing like a finish line.
and then like the wall of jericho before joshua, there rises up before me the stadium. i can make out the seats. all i have to do it run to there and it will all be over.
i started sprinting. i am passing dozens of people. i am flying. i am sort of looking like a punk who sandbagged the whole time just to turn on the afterburners at the end. but i am a sprinter, not a distance runner, and with the end in sight, my speed returned to me.
i fly past the 13 mile sign. just one tenth to go!
down the hill and over a sensor that would bring up our names in the stadium as we crossed. here come the barricades to keep spectators off the course.
down and around and into the stadium. i am churning up the dirt of the warning track, passing hoes like whoa. i am thinking to myself, "oh jesse is going to be so turned on to see me sprinting like mother flipping hussein bolt here at the end! i am a warrior princess made of fire and wind! a supermodel dolphin made of lightning! my strength and beauty at this triumph will launch a thousand ships!"
here is what that looked like:
thinking i might throw up but executing perfect form
thinking, "why the hell is someone who is done walking around smiling in her blanky, with her medal on the final 100 feet! i shouldnt have to waste my sweet dodge moves on someone who's already done!!!" my pony is sympathetically frenzied
thinking i can track down one more person before the finish. pony is in attack formation.
oh. my. gosh. was i going so fast that i gave myself loose armskin? or am i secretly that baggy. this is upsetting. really just so proud of this pic.
i wasnt going to look around for jesse, i was just going to let him appear before me, dazzled by my amazingness.
i crossed the finish line. ceasing to move forward was a strange sensation. i immediately needed to be horizontal. but, dammit, i had to keep walking, shunted along by the barricades away from the finish line, around the stadium to collect my insulated blanket (really, guys? it was 61 degrees out? i know cooling down to quick is dangerous, but come on!) and finishers medal.
i could do it. i just leaned up against the wall of the field. some officials came to make sure i was okay and not going into the light. i said, "oh no, i am totally fine," while my brain screamed, "LIAR LIAR LIAR!!!"
there was a gap in the fences and i busted onto the grass of the outfield before collecting water, though my medal was forced upon me (it weighed a good 50 lbs, i swear). there were other finished racers all out there in clumps. i collapsed in the grass.

i this point i am wondering where the heck jesse was for my big finish. what vantage point had he chosen to capture the most priceless pictures of me from?
i have been finished for a good ten minutes when i get this text from him: "go k8 go! you've got this!"
aaaaaand cue murderous rage. i didnt care that he had run the exact same race 55 minutes faster than me, i didnt care that it wasnt really about me, i was so PISSED that he didnt know i was finished and definitely didnt see me do it!
i threw my phone down and just kept laying there. the internet was not working since it was so overloaded by all the people on their phones so i couldnt even tweet about finishing. and when i finally tried to text jesse back, it wouldnt go through.
then i spot him. i am right behind third base and he is up in the stands waving in his big red elf shirt. like a true proverbs 31 wife, before thousands of onlookers i go ahead and flick him off.
not the most appropriate gesture for this moment.
i see him start working his way down the stairs and he is just so pitiful, limping and lurching that i have to laugh at myself for being so petulant and ridiculous (though i do shoot him a few more glares).
they had it set up so that you couldnt come back down once you had gone into the stands, and as a finisher, there wasnt really a good place to go watch others finish. and even if there was, his tracking of me wasnt working due to the overloaded cell service, so he wouldnt have known when to be there.
i finally got up to him (making people who have run 13 miles walk up stairs to get to their loved ones, checked baggage, and food, is unkind. just a thought) and fell on him. he was so wonderful and so sorry for having missed it. i said i was sorry for flicking him off and that it was 78% jokesy.
he tried to take me to the rest of the team, but i was in lone wolf mode and just wanted to be in pain and pretend to be special little hero who was the only one who had done something hard just in my head for a little while.
i kept waiting for the tears to come. that i had really done it. that i had run a half marathon after spending my entire life DETESTING running and choosing a life path that would avoid it at all costs. those tears never came. i had used up all the tears on bigger things earlier in my race.
all that came was mutterings of, "never, ever again."
i finished in 2:55:21. a hilariously slow time for anyone claiming to be an athlete, but there you go. there are different sorts of athletes, and the distance running type, i am not. i do wish there had been a volleyball digging obstacle at the very end, because i totally would have won that.
i got my free post-race food (soup, beer, donuts, awful pizza) and wandered back to our group. we had all done it.
i dont recall smiling for at least 48 hours afterwards.
and just like that, it was all over. we hobbled back to the car, our sweat dried to crystallized salt (this actually caused some eipc chafing for jesse), our legs humming with relief.
i drew the winning straw and got the first shower at the hotel. it was amazing. i had achieved new benchmarks for smelliest in the "keight" category.
a few hours later we were ravenous and looking to spend our calorie deficit. my heart was set on BBQ nachos, but when we got to the BBQ place, it was clear that they were traditionalists.
i was looking at the menu and jesse goes, "oh look, they do have nachos." i started out fake crying with happiness to be funny, but then it turned into real tears. real tears of happiness over cheese and sugar-sauce covered pig meat on top of fried flour triangles. i wanted to nachos something fierce. and i had my way with them.
saying goodbye to our teammates and new friends the next day was like leaving grownup camp. these are fun, awesome people.
i am so glad i accomplished a goal i never thought i would dare to even set for myself. the feeling of achievement is amazing. the endorphins of running are addictive. they all say after your first big race you catch "the bug," and before the pain even subsides, you are planning the next one.
i'm gonna be honest, i'm still living large on, "never, ever again."