Connor’s Birth Story

It’s 6:55AM on Mother’s Day. My 3-year-old daughter is sleeping, Matt is downstairs prepping a chorizo breakfast hash, and I’m sitting in the nursery with 7-week-old Connor. He’s laying on his back in his gym, batting at a ball hanging above his head and twisting to the side to see his reflection in a mirror.

Three years ago on Mother’s Day morning I typed out the story of Mackenzie’s birth. This morning seems like the perfect time to document Connor’s arrival.

I was sure Connor would come early. Mackenzie had arrived at 38 weeks, 5 days, so after Kenzie’s 3rd birthday (and 3 birthday celebrations!) passed in early March I woke up every morning ready to have a baby. My ankles had ballooned beyond recognition and even my normally loose, comfy Vuori joggers left deep indents around my swollen calves. I struggled to bend over to pick up the dozens of things Kenzie seemed to drop on the floor every hour (ha), and I even woke up a few times in the middle of the night and prepped her entire breakfast and lunch, certain that that day would be the day we’d need to rush to the hospital to give birth.

But Connor was in no rush to arrive. At my 39-week checkup Dr. Wu and I discussed induction, which I eagerly scheduled for the following week. I still fully expected my baby to arrive before then, but it was comforting to have an definite end date in sight.

I was instructed to call Bryn Mawr Hospital at 6AM the morning of my induction to see what time they wanted us to go in. But, surprise! I woke up at 3:39AM and realized my water had broken. My water hadn’t broken with Kenzie so this was a new experience. I woke Matt up and called my mom to let her know we’d need her on Kenzie duty a few hours earlier than expected.

Matt and I were on our way to the hospital by 5AM. On the way we reminisced about our 5AM journey to Bryn Mawr three years ago. At that time, I was in active labor and urging Matt to drive faster, frustrated every time we got stopped at seemingly unnecessary red lights on the deserted roads. But this time was different. Yes, my water had broken, but beyond that I felt completely normal. I was excited today was the The Day, but I wasn’t having contractions or any pain.

We parked in the same parking garage spot we’d occupied three years ago and soon we were settled into a spacious room on the Labor and Delivery floor. The doctor wanted to wait and see if my labor would progress naturally since my water had broken, so I spent the morning wandering around my room dressed in a hospital gown and boots. (I felt more comfortable and supported in the boots versus just wearing the grippy socks the hospital had provided.)

Here I am, taking care of some work emails in my gown and boots. While we waited, Matt and I also re-watched the finale of Book of Boba Fett to prepare for season 3 of The Mandalorian.

Several hours into our stay Matt’s mom, Rosemary, offered to bring him lunch. I was technically allowed to have one support person so we invited her to join us in the delivery room. Rosemary is a retired Nurse Midwife and, while I hadn’t planned in advance to have her join us in the delivery room, it was very nice to have her company.

At 12:15PM the doctor started me on Pitocin. An hour later I was having contractions strong enough to cause me to pause my conversation with Matt and Rosemary. The contractions intensified quickly and by 2PM I had to focus hard to get through each one. (Although I had given birth three years ago without an epidural, at that time I had labored overnight at home and went through the worst of the contractions in the car. Laboring in the hospital was new to me!)

Rosemary helped give me tips on how I could stand and hug Matt’s shoulders during my contractions. The nurses checked my progress as I went from 5cm to 7cm to 8cm at what felt like an agonizingly slow pace. I was in excruciating pain during each contraction and looking forward to pushing, which Rosemary told me would give me some relief. (Or at least a different type of discomfort!) After a particularly tough set of contractions, I thought maybe I was starting to feel the urge to push. I asked the nurse to check me again and, hallelujah, I was fully dilated.

Dr. Cheston wasted no time getting into the room and the nurses rapidly broke down the bed. Rosemary held my left leg and Matt held my right and I started pushing at around 3PM. As I remembered from Kenzie, pushing was HARD. But I also remembered how amazing that final push was with her and I wanted to get to that moment of relief as quickly as possible. I pushed like my life depended on it and appreciated when Rosemary showed me how to reposition my head and neck to curl towards my lower body and make each push more productive.

My baby was born at 3:11PM. As his head emerged, I heard Dr. Cheston matter-of-factly state something about the cord and his arm being wrapped around his neck and I felt her deftly maneuver him around to free his little body. Moments later he was on my chest, feeling surprisingly heavy and solid. I think one of the first things I said was, “He feels SO much better out than in!!!” I also thanked my team of nurses, Rosemary, Matt and Dr. Cheston for their cheerleading during pushing. They laughed, joking that that was what I was thinking about moments after giving birth.

At 8 lbs. 3.8 oz. and 21 inches long, Connor was heavier and longer than his sister. He started nursing right away. He was perfect, with steely blue eyes and soft light brown or blonde hair.

By 5PM we were on our way to the Maternity floor in a little rolling caravan: me in a wheelchair, Connor in his bassinet and Matt with our overnight bag. We ordered dinner from the cafeteria and settled in for the night.

The next day was Thursday. Matt got us bagels and coffee from Spread Bagelry and my mom visited us before lunch. Connor was circumcised, and he was delivered back to our room for a long nap. Everything was good. Until a tech stopped in around 3PM to take my blood pressure, that is. It was through the roof at 186-over-something. They took it again, 197-over-something. Uh oh.

A nurse and then an IV tech tried and failed to give me new IV line three times before one was finally inserted into a really uncomfortable spot on the inside of my right wrist. I was given a dose of Procardia and the doctor sent our little family back down to the Labor and Delivery floor for more intensive monitoring overnight.

Seven weeks later it still stresses me out to write about the next 48 hours. The nurses would politely but urgently ask me if I felt OK and if I had a headache or blurry vision. The automated blood pressure cuff on my arm would tighten and render a verdict (still high!) every 15 minutes or half hour. After spending Thursday night on the L&D floor, we were transferred back to the Maternity floor on Friday, only to be transferred back down to L&D Friday afternoon. I cried in the elevator on the way down.

At 5PM on Friday Dr. Wu ordered I be started on a magnesium IV to reduce the chance of seizure. This seemed Serious. A second nurse had to come in and check the first nurse’s IV setup in what clearly was some sort of two-factor verification procedure. They started the medication through my wrist IV only to realize it was clogged or otherwise not working properly and the liquid was accumulating under my skin. Another IV line was inserted (in a MUCH more comfortable spot!) on my left arm and the magnesium began. I chewed crushed ice while the bolus (larger initial dose) of medication was dispensed.

I was on the magnesium IV for 22 hours. During that time, I wasn’t allowed to walk around because the medication can cause dizziness and other side effects. Fortunately I did not seem to experience any side effects, but I was still confined to my bed. They put massaging sleeves on my calves so I wouldn’t get a blood clot. I had a blood pressure cuff on my right arm, a pulse-oximeter on my left big toe and, of course, the IV on my left arm. I had to use a bedside commode (extra fun at two days postpartum!) and a nurse had to listen to my lungs and check my reflexes every two hours. It was not a fun 22 hours.

Fortunately baby Connor was perfect throughout this entire ordeal. He was healthy, hungry and snuggly. I couldn’t get out of bed to change his diapers or retrieve him from his bassinet, but I was allowed to nurse him and his presence was comforting. I tell people now that Connor was the easiest part of our time at the hospital because he was. What a perfect little baby.

They stopped my magnesium drip at 3PM on Saturday and two hours later we learned we’d be released that night. I was given a prescription for a double dose of Procardia along with instructions to take and record my blood pressure twice a day and by 5:40PM we were in the car, driving home to introduce Connor to his big sister.

Kenzie was very happy to meet her baby brother. She proudly presented a big yellow “Welcome Home Connor James” sign that she had made with my mom, and she carefully held him on the beanbag in her room before bed. She comforted him when he cried, saying “calm down, baby, I’m here, baby” and confidently offered to carry him to his nursery for a diaper change. (After the events of the past four days it was tempting, but, needless to say, we declined!) 🤣

At around 3 weeks postpartum my blood pressure levels settled back down, and at my 6-week checkup Dr. Cheston told me I no longer needed to monitor my blood pressure at home. I’m extremely relieved to put that ordeal behind me.

Seven weeks into life as a family of five (I’m including Piper, of course), we are all doing well. Mackenzie loves helping with Connor and has even shampooed “his little head” in the shower, a task she took very seriously. She rocks Connor in his bouncer seat and is careful not to bounce too hard because of his “very delicate” neck. Piper is super relaxed about the whole second-baby-thing. She snoozes at my feet while I nurse Connor and doesn’t seem to be bothered by his presence at all.

For his part, Connor is starting to sleep for 6-7 hour stretches in the 9PM-4AM timeframe which is amazing. He loves being “worn” on my chest in the Solly wrap and he’s already been to far more public events and places than his sister attended in the first 18 months of her life. (Thanks, Covid.) He’s a perfect addition to our family and I feel so lucky to be a mom-times-two on this beautiful Mother’s Day.

It’s now 8:51AM. Piper is outside listening to the birds sing their morning songs while Matt fires up the Ooni pizza oven to cook our breakfast hash in a cast iron skillet. Mackenzie is still asleep in her big girl room across the hall. Connor is now laying on a pillow across my lap where he’s snoozing with his little cheek pressed against my chest. His head is heavy on my right arm as I type. All is good in the Thorne home. Happy Mother’s Day!

How I Became a Mom

It’s my first Mother’s Day. I’ve been wanting to type out the story of how I became a mother but (surprise!) with a 9 week old baby I just haven’t found the time until now.

This morning baby Kenzie woke up at 5:56AM, a full 8 hours after going to sleep in her bassinet next to our bed last night. Kenzie, Piper and I snuck out of the bedroom without waking Matt. I nursed the baby, let Piper out and fed her, made coffee, drank said coffee, pumped more milk for a practice bottle later, and now, at 7:30, I’m happily settled in my recliner in the nursery typing away as Kenzie gurgles and goos at her new crib mobile.

A few minutes ago Matt emerged from the bedroom to say good morning. He thought he was waking up before me and he had quietly slipped out of bed, only to turn around and realize that Kenzie and I weren’t there. Ha! He’s making breakfast strata downstairs so I have a strata’s worth of time to get some of Kenzie’s birth story down before my Mother’s Day breakfast feast. 😀 Onto the story!!

My due date was Friday, March 13th. I felt great for most of my pregnancy but by early March I was starting to feel really uncomfortable. Thinking I still had another 2 weeks to go, I continued to push through my runs, walks, and Pelotons, but bending over to put on my bike shoes was becoming increasingly difficult and my normally boney ankles were puffing up. I remember doing a quad stretch after a short run and being slightly alarmed when the imprints of my fingers were still visible on my ankle afterwards!

On Sunday March 1st I ran a mile and a half. On Monday I did a 30 minute Peloton and on Tuesday I walked and ran while watching the final action scenes from Captain America. On Wednesday morning at work I felt my first contraction. But I wasn’t sure it was a “real” contraction.

In early March we were all just realizing that Coronavirus might be a serious threat, so on that Wednesday I had printed out several signs from the CDC for our workplace about Proper Handwashing and Staying Home When Sick. Every time I had a contraction I got up from my desk and walked to a different area in the office to tape up a flyer. That helped get my mind off of the cramping pain.

By lunchtime I’d posted two or three flyers. Matt and I would usually go home for lunch with Piper, but on that Wednesday I requested lunch at our favorite new Mexican restaurant, Rey Azteca. I figured this might be my last lunch out for a while. (Little did I know… it’s now May 9th and that’s still the last restaurant we went to!!!) I ordered my favorite pork burrito with refried beans and rice and it was delicious.

I posted several more flyers throughout the afternoon at work but didn’t tell anyone except Matt that I was having contractions. A few days before I had downloaded a contraction timer app but all that told me at this point was that my contractions were not coming at regular intervals and were not close enough together to get excited about. After work Matt and I walked up the giant hill in our neighborhood, then I finished off the evening with another walk on the treadmill.

By the time we were watching Jeopardy! my contractions were becoming slightly more regular. I think I timed them at 40-ish minutes apart at that point. This was still a far cry from the “5-1-1” pattern that we had learned about in our birthing class a few weeks before. I needed to wait until my contractions were 5 minutes apart and lasting 1 full minute for 1 whole hour before calling my doctor and going to the hospital. So wait I did.

We went to bed. I got a little sleep until around 11:30 when a contraction woke me up. At first I tried to stay on my side in bed as I timed the contraction (1 minute!) and breathe through it, but that was really painful. Taking a cue from my flyer-posting walks at the office earlier that day, I began to pace around our house during my next contraction at midnight which made the painful minute go by much faster.

By 12:30 I had my pacing routine down. I figured out that it took me almost a full minute to walk a lap from our bedroom down the hallway around the perimeter of our second floor great room and back. I kept up this routine through the next several contractions. By 2AM they were 15-20 minutes apart. Although each contraction was painful I was really hoping the intervals would speed up so I could get this over with!!

Finally at 3:15AM I had a contraction just 5 ½ minutes after the last one. Hurrah! Now to hold out for another hour of this pattern. I did NOT want to go to the hospital too early only to be turned away!!

Shortly after 4AM I woke Matt up to tell him that I was nearing the 5-1-1 pattern. At 4:15 I called my doctor’s office to say things were getting serious. The call center said they’d give the hospital a heads up.

Our plan was for my mom to pick up Piper and watch her for a few days. As Matt got our go-bag into the car I specifically remember thinking to myself “Piper needs a bed for mom’s house!!” so I carried her dog bed down the stairs. That was HARD. Putting on my sneakers was also hard. I asked Matt to tie them. He says I moaned they were “too tight!!!!” even though he’d made them very loose for me.

By 4:47AM we were in the car, making our way towards Bryn Mawr Hospital at what felt like 10 miles per hour. Usually I am a huge stickler for not speeding on the narrow country roads around our house, but on this particular Thursday morning I kept urging Matt to go faster. We saw multiple deer lurking in the shadows next to the road and he wisely pointed out that if we hit a deer it would take a lot longer to get to the hospital. Good point, but that didn’t make the drive any better.

The contractions in the car were the worst yet. I obviously couldn’t walk around to take my mind off of them, so I sat in agony as we got stopped at what felt like every single red light between Newtown Square and Bryn Mawr. Why on earth would a shopping center get the green light at 4:55AM??? Matt was on the verge of going through a red light for a construction zone on Bryn Mawr Avenue when it happened to turn green. Longest drive ever.

We had toured the hospital’s maternity wing two weeks before so we knew right where to park. Matt offered to drop me off but I said I’d rather walk. After all, walking had been the only thing getting me through this long night so far. We parked in the garage and I made sure Matt grabbed my computer bag (who knew how much time we’d need to spend in the delivery room??!). The walk seemed to last forever but thankfully the L&D department knew we were coming and had already opened the big security doors for us. They whisked us to a room and gave me a gown and a stretchy sleeve to put over my abdomen that would hold the various monitors.

By 5:30 I was on the hospital bed and I was REALLY uncomfortable. No one had checked me yet, but I explained that I had hit 5-1-1 around 4AM. From our birth class I understood that it would probably still be HOURS before I delivered my baby. Considering how much pain I was already in at that point I was not looking forward to the next several hours. I had originally thought I would hold off on an epidural and “play it by ear” before making a decision. But when the nurse asked me if I wanted an epidural I figured I’d already played it by ear all night and I readily agreed to one. She said she’d let the Anesthesiologist know so they could start getting it ready for me.

I still hadn’t actually been examined by anyone at this point to see how far along I was. When the nurse finally checked she made sort of a funny face and went to get another nurse. The second nurse checked and they conferred between themselves, saying something along the lines of “Where’s her cervix? Is she complete?” They explained to me that they couldn’t feel my cervix at all. The meaning of this wasn’t especially clear to me and I was vaguely worried, but the contractions were so painful at this point that I didn’t have time to think through what they were saying. They said they were going to call the doctor in for him to have a look.

It felt like it took forever for the doctor to arrive. I think he came in around 6:10AM. He checked and confirmed what the nurses suspected… no cervix. But what did this mean?? Apparently that I was already fully dilated. The doctor casually asked if I wanted to start pushing. I understood THAT!! No more hours of contractions, waiting for incremental dilation centimeter by centimeter. It was go time!! WOOHOO!

I hadn’t had any medication of any kind at this point. A nurse asked me again if I wanted the epidural. She said something like “Are you sure you still want the epidural? You’re fully dilated so the hard work is already done.” With that hopeful thought in mind I declined the epidural and got ready to push.

The doctor broke my water at around 6:30AM. And then the real work began. In the birth class it seemed like all of the focus was on how difficult contractions and active labor and “transition” were. We had learned that you would spend hours laboring to get to full dilation, then POOF! you push and Ta Dah! here’s your baby! Maybe that was just my emphasis, but I had no idea how hard the pushing stage was going to be.

Luckily a team of supportive nurses made the process easier. Like birthing cheerleaders, they enthusiastically chanted 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10!! during each push. They showed Matt how to hold my left leg and a young female nursing student held my right leg. I watched Matt’s face as I pushed. At one point his eyes got really wide. “I can see her head! She has hair!!” he exclaimed. This spurred me on and I kept up the relentless pattern of two sets of pushes during contractions with what felt like a very (very!) brief rest between.

The time simultaneously dragged on and went by in a blur. There was a shift change at 7AM and a new doctor came in. Two of my original intake nurses said they’d stick around for a while longer even though their shift was over. The TV in the room was tuned to channel 6ABC (my favorite!) and at one point I looked up and there was a picture of a cruise ship and the words Italy and Coronavirus on the screen. I felt sick during a particularly rough contraction and threw up into a baggie that someone shoved into my right hand. And I kept on pushing.

Matt became increasingly excited which really helped motive me. He explained again how they could all see the baby’s head and made a small circle with his index finger and thumb to show “how big” the visible portion of her head was. His circle was about an inch in diameter. “That’s all!???!?!” I asked. I had been picturing much, much more head visible after all of that pushing. “Well yeah, but it was only this much before,” Matt replied, shrinking his finger circle down to the size of a blueberry. Fair enough.

After the hardest physical exertion of my life I gave my final pushes and at 8:07AM my baby girl was born. Everything happened at once. I pushed, her head emerged, her body slipped out behind it, and suddenly my tiny daughter was laying on my chest as everyone in the room cheered. I kept repeating something like “Hello Baby, I’m your momma” over and over again as she started to nurse. She held her lovely, goop-covered little right hand over her face, tiny fingers curling into her eyes as she adjusted to her new surroundings.

Our moms both visited us in the delivery room and then helped carry our gear (including my computer bag!) up to the recovery room. We spent the day getting to know our tiny baby and settled on her name, Mackenzie Grace, at around 5PM. For dinner Matt walked to Wawa and brought me back a meatball hoagie and we had chocolate-covered coconut Easter eggs that we’d brought from home for dessert.

The rest of our time in the hospital was a blur. I had blueberry pancakes from the cafeteria for breakfast, my step-father made a surprise visit, our moms visited again, I figured out how to nurse (which took 45 minutes every 3 hours!), we met Kenzie’s pediatrician, my brother brought us dinner from La Cabra Brewing Bodega restaurant, and before we knew it, it was Saturday morning and we were being discharged with our teeny tiny baby girl.

And I’ll stop there… Piper has come into the nursery and is happily squeaking her fox toy at Kenzie like she wants to play. Time to get our day started for real.

Happy Mother’s Day!!

Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta

SNOW DAY!!!! I am currently sitting in my cozy living room drinking a giant cup of tea while the winds of Winter Storm Stella (aka #blizzard2017) howl outside. Knowing that we would be home from work today, Matt and I decided in advance that we’d make a big dinner last night that could serve double-duty as an excellent lunch after shoveling today. We settled on a riff of Ina Garten’s Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel, a warm, stick-to-your-ribs pasta dish with a creamy, rich sauce.

Our riff originates from the first time we made this: we didn’t have the heavy cream that Ina called for but we DID have ricotta cheese so we subbed that in. The ricotta melted into the sausage and pasta and tasted amazing. So good, in fact, that we never even considered going back to heavy cream for last night’s meal.

A note about the pasta for this dish… we made it ourselves!! Matt and I got a pasta machine last winter and we make fresh pasta all the time. Like, multiple times a week. Good thing I’m a runner and need my carbs!!! Homemade pasta tastes fresher and has a chewier, more complex texture than the boxed stuff. For our pasta we combine semolina flour, AP flour, eggs, salt and water and the Philips machine does the rest. It’s really crazy to watch it pump fresh pasta right out the front of the machine. I really should have taken a video but here are some photos. I never knew fresh pasta could be so easy to make!

Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey; serves 4 Continue reading

New Kitchen!!


Ever since moving into our house 5 1/2 years ago Matt and I have wanted to knock down a wall and renovate our kitchen. The timing was finally right this spring, so after months of figuring out “our” style, finding the right contractor, and selecting critical components like the flooring and appliances we were ready to get started!

Demolition began on June 3, 2016. Matt and I actually missed the excitement because we were out of town in San Diego, but this made the change even more dramatic. Here’s how the kitchen looked before we left versus on the day we came home… what a difference 3 days of work makes!!

Construction moved along quickly during the months of June and July. My favorite milestones occurred when the floor tiles were laid, the countertops were installed, and the kitchen faucet was hooked up to running water. There were a few bumps along the way (like the time I turned on the tub in the master bathroom only to realize that the drain wasn’t hooked up… water dumped straight down into the unfinished kitchen!) but overall the process went very smoothly.

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From a homeowner’s perspective I found the following to be hardest parts of the renovation:

  1. Dust and dirt everywhere. Those plastic sheets only go so far when the whole first floor of your house is being ripped apart.
  2. Not being able to boil water. (I’m a runner, I NEED pasta.)
  3. The last 2 weeks when the kitchen was almost done… Being patient with the end in sight was extremely difficult!

Our contractor estimated that the job would take 2 months and he was spot on. I moved all of our dishes, pots, pans, and food into the new kitchen on July 31st and Matt and I have had a blast using the new space in the weeks since. Without further ado, here it is!






Kitchen Details

After months of gathering ideas from Houzz and Pinterest I now realize how helpful it is to have a list of exactly what components are in any given kitchen. If you have questions about anything else you see in the photos feel free to ask!

  • Contractor: Hazley Builders, West Chester, PA (
  • Floors: Porcelanosa Houston Copper Tile 8×47” (#V59201241)
  • Countertops: MSI Stone Q-Stone Fossil Grey Quartz
  • Backsplash: Soho Tile Crystal Super White 2X8 POL (#SOHCRYSSPWTP2X8)
  • Appliances: Jenn-Air Cooktop, Downdraft, Micro/Oven Combo & Wine Cellar; Bosch Dishwasher; LG Refrigerator (existing)
  • Table: Room and Board Rand Table 30×60
  • Chairs: Mobital Tarna White Leatherette Dining Side Chair (#MBDCHTARNCA117)
  • Stools: Mobital Loto Hydraulic Bar Stool (#DBSLOTOWHIT)
  • Lights: Feiss Joplin Chrome Mini Pendants & Chrome Drum Shade Pendant
  • Cabinets: Century Kitchens Carriage House Avalon
  • Cabinet Hardware: Top Knobs Square Bar Pulls in Brushed Satin Nickel (#M1152, #M1155)
  • Paint: SW 7073 Network Gray (primary, darker color); SW 6253 Olympus White (lighter color in foyer & room w/ fireplace)


Bradford Pear Down

Guess what? On Sunday Piper finally mastered “headstand.” We’ve been working on this trick for months and I’m SO proud of her!928 Headstand Piper

Oh wait, just kidding. Nope, the real truth is that a violent windstorm uprooted a perfectly healthy, beautiful tree on Saturday night, leaving a white wall of flowers and a giant sideways stump in our yard. Boo! 😣

943 The tree, Piper and Matt

And if you’re still trying to wrap your head around the first photo, maybe this will help:

699 Checking out the fallen tree

On Saturday night a storm front swept across southeastern Pennsylvania, bringing heavy rains and 45-60 mpg wind gusts. Despite the wind our power stayed on and Matt and I went to bed, blissfully unaware of the damage happening outside. We woke up early Sunday morning, looked out the window and BAM!! WHITE FLOWERS EVERYWHERE. Our Bradford Pear tree had tipped over on its side, taking a sizable chunk of lawn along with it.

649 Matt and the Tree

Piper was initially wary of the changed landscape, but she has quickly realized that the tree’s new position means she is MUCH closer to the birds and squirrels that hang out in it.  She’s been keeping a close eye on it ever since.

1008 Fallen Tree

Here’s what the tree looked like in its glory, back in 2014.  RIP, Bradford Pear Tree.

Bradford Pear in its former glory

Matt and I are getting estimates for the tree’s removal now. In the meantime, I’m sure Piper will keep herself very busy watching over the fallen white blossoms.  Like most outdoor activities, it’s a job that she’s taking very seriously!

1041 Piper and her fallen tree

Triple Dog Weekend

Triple Dog Weekend

What’s better than enjoying a gorgeous Spring weekend outside in the yard? Sharing that yard with your two best friends, of course! I’m pretty sure that was Piper’s attitude a few weeks ago when Hershey the Chocolate Lab and Bella the GSP spent a long weekend with us.

Piper is 8 months old and full of impish puppy energy. Having two friends over at the same time meant that Piper could keep playing at her usual warp speed while the older dogs took turns resting. Piper would eagerly goad Hershey into a game of tug, then zoom around the yard a couple dozen times with Bella, return to instigate a wrestling match with Hershey, and finish off the rotation with a game of frisbee keep-away with her GSP twin.

During the rare moments when Piper needed a break all three dogs lounged around, blissfully chewing on sticks. SO many sticks! I never knew how many sticks were in our yard until we had three dogs scouring every inch of the lawn in an effort to find the biggest and best specimen. At one point Piper showed up with a small log (where did THAT come from??) and Bella gave her tips on how to position it just right to get the best chewing leverage. (Click on the photos to zoom in and see Piper’s funny expressions – priceless!)

I’m pretty sure that our triple dog weekend was the absolute highlight of Piper’s life thus far. Not only did she spend it with two friends in PERFECT mid-70s weather, she was also finally able to run loose in the yard without a leash or long line attached to her collar! We were in the final stages of training her to our underground “invisible fence” and, since the older dogs both know the boundaries of the yard, this was the perfect opportunity to see what Piper would do on her own with less direct supervision. Piper thoroughly enjoyed her freedom and never once showed any interest in leaving the yard.  Success!

Can you tell how much fun the dogs were having? 😀 Except in that one photo up top where Piper got totally crushed by Hershey… I didn’t realize how hard Hershey fell on her until I saw the photo afterwards!! Luckily none of the dogs sustained any permanent damage over the weekend and everyone went home tired and happy.

Love this pup.

I love this pup. ❤️

A Review of 2014 (Plus, what didn’t make it on the blog the first time around!)

Happy New Year!  My 2014 was bookended by two huge events. In January Matt and I suddenly lost our beloved Bailey, the affable, energetic, wonderful dog that was the original inspiration for this blog. Then, in late October, we brought home Piper, a wacky, awesome little GSP puppy who, of course, will never replace Bailey but nevertheless immediately made us feel whole again.

Although I spent much of the days between January 30th and October 26th mourning Bailey’s loss and awaiting Piper’s arrival, I still managed to find time for a healthy dose of running, cooking, photography and adventures. Here’s a recap of my year.


Matt and I froze our way through the coldest January ever, blissfully unaware that we were enjoying our last days with Bailey.  We kicked off the month by running a 5K in 10° temps (and kudos to both of our little brothers who still showed up – and beat us – on race morning!).  Then Matt, my brother and I headed to Las Vegas for a work trip.  We returned to freezing Pennsylvania in mid-January and, twelve days later, had our hearts utterly broken when Bailey died.

What didn’t make it on the blog? The last photo I ever took of Bailey.  This was January 26th and she was hanging out with her best buddy, Hershey, on Hershey’s extra-large bed in our mud room.  When I went through my iPhone camera roll last night to find this photo it still made me so sad to see Bailey’s beautiful little face.  😦

Bailey and Hershey (1/26/14)

January Races: Just one, the Athlete’s Closet January 5K (26:19)
January Miles: 153.3


February began in a dark, cold, snowy blur.  An ice storm hit eastern PA early in the month, knocking out power for days and severely damaging several of our trees.  There were, however, two silver linings to the ice storm.  First, it gave Matt and me a reason to take refuge at my mom and stepfather’s house (yay for back up generators!) where we got to spend some much needed time around loving family.  Secondly, all of the ice and snow DID make for some cool photo ops.  The goose photo is still one of my favorite shots of the year.

After the ice and snow melted Matt and I enjoyed a wonderful getaway on Virginia’s eastern shore with friends for an all-you-can eat Oyster fest.  After weeks of frigid temps I was very grateful for this mini vacation and the chance to stretch my legs with some outdoor running.  A good end to the month!

What didn’t make it on the blog?  This photo of our mailbox, obscured by a ridiculous amount of snow… all personally shoveled by myself and Matt!  (It still makes me tired thinking about it.)

Snowy Mailbox

February Races: One again, the Athlete’s Closet February 5K (26:02)
February Miles: 144.9


I kicked off March with my first 5 mile race ever, then ran 10 miles in mid-March (still my longest run to date!) and finished the month with another local 5K.  Matt and I also ate like kings this month.  We enjoyed Shrimp Scampi (which first made an appearance on the blog in February but was too good not to make again immediately!), Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya and, perhaps my favorite stew ever, Cassoulet.  YUM!

What didn’t make it on the blog?  Matt flew up to Montreal for a weekend bachelor party in late March (lucky him!) and I spent a quiet weekend at home with both of our parents’ dogs, Hershey the Chocolate Lab and Bella the GSP.  After being dog-less for several weeks it was nice to have four-legged companions in the house again.

Hershey and Bella

March Races: Two official, the Athlete’s Closet 5 Miler (42.47) and the Color Out Cancer 5K (28:13).  I should have run a third race, the Pickle Run, except that I got the time wrong and showed up several hours late!!
March Miles: 143.1


In early April Matt and I escaped from the east coast’s terrible winter weather with an 8-day work trip that took us from sunny Las Vegas to the L.A. area.  We spent a blissful, amazing, perfect weekend in Temecula, California, a mini wine country paradise not far from L.A. and San Diego.  I would go back in a heartbeat.

What didn’t make it on the blog? We roasted an entire chicken… on the grill!  For some reason this Tex-Mex recipe never appeared on the blog (I guess I was still in a post-California haze?) but believe me, it was delicious!

Grilled Chicken

April Races: Three, the Security 5K in Vegas (25:26), Rick’s Run 5K (25:56) and St. Tim’s 5K (26:22)
April Miles: 136.9


In May Spring finally arrived.  FINALLY!  Matt and I spent a few days in Baltimore for work where we ran in the Inner Harbor and enjoyed a complementary 5PM happy hour wine reception at Hotel Monaco.  I also ran a huge new personal best at the Victory Brewing Company 5K in mid-May.  Woohoo!

What didn’t make it on the blog? In May we fell madly in love with an $8 bottle of oaky Chardonnay, only to find out shortly thereafter that it was a special Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board “Chairman’s Selection” that had subsequently sold out throughout the entire state.  Apparently the PLCB buys up the complete year’s worth of wine from the vineyard so our new favorite wine was no longer available anywhere in the world after it sold out in PA.  Boo!  But at least I learned that if I like a PLCB selection wine I should buy ALL OF IT!

Aura Chardonnay

May Races: Three, the Elwyn 5K (26:17), Run for Victory 5K (24:17… NEW PR!), and Rocky Run Trail 5K (27:40)
May Miles: 138.1


We spent June on the go, traveling to the Hunting Camp with family before heading out on a work trip in western PA and then journeying east to New Jersey for a friend’s wedding.  In the middle of all of this road-tripping we still found time to celebrate our first anniversary over a glass (or two) of wine at Sweetwater Farm’s Grace Winery.

What didn’t make it on the blog? On June 3rd I took Bella out for a jog and discovered that she clearly had previous experience running in a perfect heel position.  Matt’s parents rescued Bella so we don’t know much about her history, but she definitely was somebody’s running partner in the past!  Following this discovery I happily took Bella on several runs while she was staying with us in early June.


June Races: Two, the Radnor Conservancy 5K (25:49) and the Media 5 Miler (42:57)
June Miles: 142.8


July marked the completion of several of our household projects.  Matt and I had spent much of the spring and summer digging up and replacing all of the shrubs and perennials in front of our house as well as repainting and fixing up our living room.  Everything came together perfectly just in time for the fiesta-themed bridal shower that we hosted in late July.

With the household projects finally out of the way, I started focusing more on running.  I began doing group runs with The Running Place on Mondays and joined the West Chester Running Club for their speed workouts at a local track on Tuesdays.  The extra running work started paying off quickly, which brings me to what didn’t make in on the blog for this month… on July 26th I ran the entire 4.3-mile Ridley Creek multi-use trail loop without stopping!  This loop includes an enormous uphill section so I was extremely excited to finally be able to run all the way up it!

July Races: Two, Cam’s Moonlight 5K in the rain (24:46) and the Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (40:28… NEW PR!!)
July Miles:  148.4


I kept busy in August with lots of running, participating in three 5Ks (including a huge PR!) and more group runs and track workouts.  I also spent a weekend in Philadelphia and managed to drag myself out of bed early enough to get in a great 5 mile city run that included the section of the Schuylkill River Trail that passes by Philly’s famed boathouse row near the Art Museum.  Although I’ve walked up the Art Museum’s steps many times I took this opportunity to run up them and then took pictures of the city stretched out before me like a total tourist.  😉

What didn’t make it on the blog?  My brother and his fiance got a puppy in August!  She is a German Shepherd named Lady and she’s beautiful.  She and Piper have played together several times and really seem to feed off each other’s endless puppy energy.

Lady Puppy

August Races: Three, the Riddlewood 5K (25:01), the Radnor Red Steeplechase (27:49) and the prediction-style Pickle Run 5K (23:41… NEW PR!!)
August Miles: 157.5


September was much like August except with nicer weather.  I ran in three more 5Ks and Matt and I spent a lot of time outdoors.  We also hosted an epic Beer Tasting Party mid-month, which only didn’t make it on the blog because we were too busy having fun and drinking beer to take a single photo of the event.  We had a blind IPA tasting, 20+ types of beers, soft pretzels, sausage, pepper & onion sandwiches, and lots of friends and family there to enjoy everything with us… it was great!

September Races: Three, the TALK 5K Trail Run (25:40), the much-anticipated Run-A-Muck Trail Run (28:08 on a long course), and the Haverford Township Day 5K (23:50)
September Miles: 158


In October we drove to Wisconsin and brought Piper home!! That was at the very end of the month, so first we had to make it through a few more long weeks of waiting for our little pup.  I kept myself busy by making delicious Italian White Bean Hummus (I made more last week… so good!) and Apple Crisp.  I also ran in a few more races, including a dog-friendly 5K with Hershey in tow.

What didn’t make it on the blog?  After logging hundreds of miles in three different pairs of Mizuno Wave Rider 16s I finally took the plunge and upgraded to the new WR 18s.  I love them!!!  I now have 200 running miles on my October pair and they still feel as springy and supportive as the day I first put them on.  Yay for new shoes!

Mizuno Wave Rider 18s

October Races: Three, Martin’s Run 5K (23:54), the Fueled Up 5K (23:56), and the Bark in the Park 5K (26:21)
October Miles: 158.6


Piper kept us very busy in November.  Crate training proved to be a challenge, resulting in us having to let her out to do her business pretty much once every 3 hours, be that during the work day, night, or anytime in between.  Needless to say, all of this was totally worth it and we didn’t need potty training as an excuse to spend every possible moment with Piper.  We hiked, trained, snuggled, and even got to play in the snow with her in November.  A good month!

What didn’t make it on the blog?  Matt got me a Garmin Forerunner 220 which replaced my ancient Timex stopwatch.  My birthday was a few days after we brought Piper home so I joke that I got a GSP and a GPS for my 30th… ha.  Anyway, my new Garmin is awesome and so far I’m really enjoying having more pace and distance data available to me during runs and races.

Old Watch and New Garmin FR 220!!!

November Races: Three, the Trinity Berwyn 5K (23:32… NEW Birthday PR!), the Metal Run 5K (24:18) and a local Turkey Trot 5K (23:40).
November Miles: 149.4


Our adventures with Piper kept getting better and better this month.  She is growing up FAST and she’s clearly enjoying hiking and exploring the parks, preserves, and trails we’ve been taking her to.  Piper also started Puppy Class and is eagerly soaking up every new command as quickly as we can teach it.  She takes “down” very seriously, making a big deal of dramatically flinging out her front paw as she descends from a sit to the down position.

What didn’t make it on the blog?  For the past week Piper has been sharing her car, kitchen and yard with Hershey while my mom and stepfather are out of town.  Piper has adjusted to this change well and seems very content to go quietly to her crate when it’s time for the two dogs to be separated.  Hershey has also been doing a great job of tolerating Piper’s nonstop puppy antics.  What good pups!

December Races: Three, the Jingle Elf 2 Miler (14:33), Brian’s Run 5 Miler (39:11… NEW PR!!!) and an unofficial prediction fun run at The Running Place (2.8 miles/20:54).  I was planning to run a NYE 5K but just learned that the race I did last year is not happening this year.  Therefore the fun run was my 30th and final race of 2014!  I’ll pick things right back up again in 2015 with a New Year’s Day race tomorrow morning.
December Miles: 142


So yeah, that was pretty much how my year went!  I should probably change my blog tagline to “Dogs, Races, Food, and Photos,” don’t you think? 😜  Thank you to all of my readers for following along with my adventures.  Here’s to even more fun in 2015!

Farewell Summer Flowers, Hello Pumpkin Beer!

Happy October!  I love this time of year.  Cool, crisp mornings, changing leaves, lots of apples and, soon, pumpkin-flavored everything.  Call me crazy, but I like to wait until it really feels like autumn before going on pumpkin overload.  (My one exception is pumpkin beer… Southern Tier Pumking is the best!)

The only thing that I don’t like about fall is that my once-lush summer garden inevitably wilts and dies as the temperatures drop and the days get shorter.  Luckily it appears that my garden hasn’t yet gotten the memo about it being October because everything is still vibrant and perfect as of today.  It’s hard to believe that in a few weeks I’ll be tearing out those zinnias, dahlias, pepper plants and other summer growth as I prep the garden for winter.

I took numerous photos of the flowers in my garden over the summer and thought that October 1st would be the perfect day to share their summer beauty before the garden transitions to fall.  Farewell, summer flowers, and hello, pumpkin beer!!

Is there anything about autumn that you don’t like?
Does the arrival of pumpkin beer make up for it?  🙂
What’s your favorite pumpkin-flavored item at this time of year?

Our Snorting House Guest, 22 Laps on a Track, and other July Events

Hello blog world!  As July winds down I wanted to share some of the things we’ve been up to this month.  So, without further ado, here I go!

1.  We have a tiny house guest who snorts occasionally. (OK, a lot.)

Meet Spencer.  This feisty little pug belongs to Matt’s sister and her husband and he’s staying with us for a few days.  He has quite a personality and is constantly snorting and sniffing his way around the house and yard.  Quite a difference from the big GSPs and labs that I am used to!  There are more photos of this little character at the end of the post if you haven’t gotten your fill of pug pictures yet.

2. I chose to run 22 laps around a track yesterday.

Yup, that’s 5.5 miles in case you were counting.  Yesterday I must have gone crazy because I voluntarily joined a running club for their weekly speedwork at a local track.  This was my first time running on a track since 2007 and boy, was it different than running a hurdle workout!  The goal was to run the intervals at 5K pace and I actually did that surprisingly well, but apparently an 8 minute 5K pace is pretty slow because even the slowest of the women lapped me at least once during the workout.  But, I guess that’s why I’m trying speedwork… to get faster!!! 🙂  I’m not sure yet but I think I might just go back next week.

Tuesday night speedwork

3. On Saturday we hosted a party for 50 people..!

Did I mention that Matt and I have been crazy busy with housework and yard work since May?  That’s because we knew we were hosting a huge fiesta-themed bridal shower for our awesome soon-to-be sister-in-law and we wanted to get everything looking good.  “Looking good” included a complete overhaul of our front walk landscaping, tons of gardening, repainting and steam cleaning the room that used to be Bailey’s hangout, and a multitude of other self-imposed tasks around the house.  It all came together perfectly on Saturday when 50+ people arrived for the shower.  (That’s a lot of people, by the way.)  The party was a blast but I’m also kind of excited that it’s over… now I might actually find some time after work to sit down and relax! (Or, you know, blog!)

4. Pup of the Month, Miss July edition:

Way back in November I learned that Bailey was chosen to be featured in Purebread Deli‘s 2014 Calendar.  Purebread is a local bakery/cafe that has a dog theme and as part of winning the contest we got a free calender full of dog photos and coupons.  Bailey was named “Miss July” so her photo has been gracing the wall of my cubicle at work all month.  It’s hard to believe that she has been gone exactly 6 months today.  Matt and I still miss her a lot but we are at least fortunate to get to spend time with the other dogs in our family like Spencer, Bella and Hershey.
(The calendar photo was taken at a DockDogs event in 2012 – you can read about it in this post if you’re interested.)


And now, as promised, here are more pictures of Spencer.  He’s pretty cute, right?  🙂  Have a great night!

Spring is Here!

I’m pretty sure that the universe really wants me to post some photos of flowers today.  Why, you ask?  Three reasons, primarily.  First, Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge is FLOWERS.  Second, the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is SPRING.  And third (and most importantly of all), my yard is in full bloom!!!  Look at the beautiful spectacle I was greeted with upon arriving home from work today.  Spring is really here!!!

Cherry Blossom-lined street

In addition to the blossoming pink cherry trees that line the street in front of our house we also have weeping cherry, pear, and crabapple trees that are all blooming.  Combine those with my daffodils, viburnum, vinca, and potted dahlias and that makes for a pretty amazing Spring scene!

Unfortunately the deer have also realized that Spring has arrived and they are doing their best to gobble up the tasty tulips and azaleas as quickly as they can grow.  This was never a problem in the past because Bailey patrolled the yard like it was her job, but it has now become clear that the deer have learned that their german shorthaired nemesis is no longer around to harass them.

Here’s an example of deer destruction in my tulip bed.  Photo 1 is from last summer, 2 is what the baby tulips looked like in late March before we went to California, and 3 is what they look like now.  Ack!!  I have since pushed several pointy sticks into the flower bed (photo 4) to try to prevent the deer from wedging their heads in to snack… it’s not pretty but so far it has worked!

All deer issues aside, after the long, cold winter we had it is really wonderful to finally experience Spring.  I’m going to try to spend as much time as possible outside enjoying the weather this weekend, starting off with a 5K trail race tomorrow morning.  Wish me luck!

Springtime at our house