Review: Legoland Discovery Center Chicago

This year, we decided to take a Spring Break staycation, after doing the Disney thing last year. We’d like to do Disney again but it just wasn’t in the cards this year…2015 hopefully! So we were looking for fun things to do close do home when coincidentally, we were offered free tickets to Legoland Discovery Center Chicago in exchange for writing this review. It was on our list of things to check out anyway, so, COOL. Let’s do it!

We headed down there from Milwaukee yesterday and it was an easy drive, about 90 minutes. I didn’t realize that the Legoland Discovery Center is located in the Woodfield Mall, but hey, cool, next to a Jamba Juice and a Starbucks for Mom. Bonus. :)

The entrance to Legoland Discovery Center Chicago…LeLa the Giraffe

Once you walk in, you walk past Lego Barack Obama (heh) through mini-land Chicago, which is kind of cool (“OK”, G says). Then you go through the Jungle Expedition, which we liked, enough to go through it a couple of times. The Lego tiger, a hippo with a mouth big enough to fit your head in, and moving monkeys are pretty neat. Then you’re in Star Wars mini-land which G says was “boring” and I’d have to agree. As much I do like me a Lego Vader, it had a lame death star game that held G’s attention for about three seconds and could be waaaaaaaaaay cooler.

Lego Darth Vader

Obligatory selfie with Lego Vader

Let’s face it…it doesn’t really matter what I think…this was not for MY entertainment. So here’s the rest of G’s review:

The 4D Chima movie was awesomeness. Pro tip: sit in the middle of the theater for maximum 4D effect. The Kingdom Quest ride and Merlin’s Apprentice ride were fine. (Editors comment: he liked these at the time. Enough that we rode Kingdom Quest twice.) The Factory Tour was not that interesting and the playground area was for little kids. The Lego shop was AWESOMENESS (yelled). (Also: duh. Of *course* the shop is the best part.)

Bottom line from the tough 8-year-old critic: totally worth the drive.

Bottom line from Mom: not really worth the drive/$18 cost of admission ($16 if you book online ahead of time) if you have big kids with higher expectations, but if you have younger kids and/or are in the area for other reasons, I’d recommend checking it out for a couple hours of good solid fun. You can follow Lego Discovery Center Chicago on Facebook too.

As for us, we’ll be looking forward to checking out Legoland Florida next year. I’ll need to work on my theme park endurance before that one…two hours at Legoland Discovery Center Chicago and I was WRECKED. We had fun. :)


More sunrises

I’ve always been partial to a beautiful sunrise. When traveling anywhere near a coast or a good vista, I’ll almost always get up at an absurd hour to drive or run to see it. Like…this one.

Gulfstream Park, Florida, 2011

Boy, there’s something to be said for the “real” camera. I need to pull that out more often. But anyone who knows me Facebook or Twitter knows that I *love* to run at sunrise whenever possible and share Instagram photos. Like…this one.

South side Milwaukee, somewhere near the infamous “Vomit Hill”

And this one.

South Shore Park, Milwaukee. Where all good sunrise runs start.

So, I was thinking recently about how to meet my fundraising goal for Racers Against Childhood Cancer this year, beyond the usual “incessant begging” strategy that has worked in the past, thanks to your generosity.

What could I do? Shave my head? Still not quite ready for that…

What event could I have? Working on some possibilities, but with all the training, don’t have much time for planning…

What could I give?

Inspired by Drawing Support on my friend Mickey Gomez’ blog, I found the “sunrise” connection.

This year, if you support RACC through my page, I will send you a special sunrise card. And if you donate $100 or more, I will send you a special framed version of the sunrise of your choice.

Together, we can help fund research so the 46 kids who will be told they have cancer today see more beautiful sunrises.

(Yes, sort of like the American Cancer Society “more birthdays” campaign. But way cooler ;) )

THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart, to those of you who have already shown your support this year. I promise to work my ass off to make you proud.

So much love.


Weight gain is *not* actually the end of the world? Weird.

Me and my bestie Erica after rocking our St. Patrick’s Day races.
She ran the Lucky Leprechaun with ease and I finished 2nd AG at the Luck O’ The Irish.

Well, Spring is here, in spirit if not in temperature. We’ve survived quite an *interesting* winter…and interesting is a euphemism for a bunch of words that I would only use if I swore like a sailor (which, let’s face it, I do, but not here). It’s been interesting from a fitness training standpoint, too. I’ve learned a LOT working with my new triathlon coach, Jenny. It hasn’t always been pretty; in fact, it mostly hasn’t been pretty (she’s a strong, tolerant woman). But now that I’ve gone through it and had my little “a-ha moment” it seems worth passing on.

If you know me, you know that I think about my weight occasionally (*cough. cough*). I struggled with being overweight for most of my life. Over the course of the past almost-two-years during which I’ve lost 35-ish pounds and gotten in rather good shape, I’ve generally counted every. little. calorie. And…it worked for me. Until it didn’t.

When I started working with Jenny in December, she pointed out that I was always putting in my daily workout logs how tired I was, how I didn’t feel energetic during my workouts. It’s so obvious in hindsight, but it hadn’t occurred to me that perhaps I wasn’t fueling adequately. She questioned whether I was eating enough (how could this be possible?! I am not the kind of girl to undereat) and strongly recommended that I stop obsessing about calories and just…eat.

*incredulous pause*

Talk about having your safety net pulled away…that loss of tight control was a scary, scary place to go. But I went. My workouts IMMEDIATELY felt better. Go figure.

Very gradually, I started gaining weight, and FREAKING. THE HELL. OUT.

I can laugh about it now. At the time I was not amused…I was a mess. Even though I’ve read repeatedly in my Racing Weight “bible” that it is perfectly normal, even HEALTHY, for athletes to gain up to 8% over their “ideal” racing weight during the off season…”healthy weight gain” was such a foreign concept to me personally that I just could NOT get my head around it. But I was determined to give this crazy concept a chance.

I did solid, consistent base training all winter – mostly biking and running (and rehabbing a pulled tricep, so no swimming). I added new leg/core strength workouts and weekly Pilates. I feel more “solid” in my “powerhouse” (a Pilates term for basically everything between your mid-thighs and your midsection) by far than I ever have before.

I ate before workouts and drank protein shakes after workouts. I ate good food, and, yes, a *few* too many baked goods (a weakness of mine…I do love me a good ginger cookie.) I was very far from perfect. As of March, I’ve gained – *GASP* – FIVE WHOLE POUNDS. Maybe even seven, if I go by the low end of my “normal” range.

Shameful, right? Mortifying. Hideous. I’m Jabba the Hutt over here.

Except yesterday, I ran my first race of the year, a hilly 5K. I had NO idea what to expect. It seemed possible that, since I’ve been doing base training, not speedwork, and since I’ve gained FIVE WHOLE POUNDS that my performance would be…abysmal. Yet, somehow, it seemed equally possible that, since I’ve been training very consistently, and have thighs like freaking tree trunks and a firmer core, that my performance would be fine. Maybe even better than fine.

Well guess what? I ran my my ass off and finished SECOND in my age group (out of 33) whereas in my 5Ks before this uncomfortable experiment I was sixth and seventh.

So, I gained five pounds. AND IT IS FINE. *mind completely blown* I’d still like to see them go, and they will over the course of Spring training. But right now, today, I am completely 100% OK with them. They DON’T MATTER. Not a whit.

Thank you, Jenny. You were right. All that time I spent being pissed because you told me to stop counting calories was wasted. :)

I frequently see people recommend ‘throwing away the scale.’ I don’t necessarily agree with that, at least not for everyone; research does support that ongoing tracking creates accountability that helps those who lose weight to regain less than those who don’t weigh themselves regularly. Not all of us are skilled at holding ourselves accountable without the numbers. Instead, I think it should be about learning to create a healthier relationship with the scale. And sometimes it takes trying something wild and crazy like this to learn.

What do you think?

Stronger body, Stronger life

How Taking Great Care of Your Body Can Strengthen Your Mind, Your Spirit and Your Purpose

Recently, I had the honor and pleasure of speaking on this topic at a women’s retreat. I really enjoyed having the chance to meet these wonderful women and share my story. My hope was (is) that it might inspire even one woman to make positive changes. So here ’tis…


This is my mother, Eunice. When she died in 1995, she was morbidly obese, chain smoked, had drinking and gambling problems (at least I considered them problems…she considered them hobbies), and hadn’t been to a doctor until her cancer was too advanced for her to stand a chance. She was also a terrific mother, with a huge heart, who went to church religiously, delivered meals to the elderly and was greatly loved by many for her outgoing spirit and absurd sense of humor. Who knows, perhaps if she had taken better care of her body, my son Griffin would have had the chance to know her spirit. Or perhaps not. Regardless, I’m certain that witnessing her terrible physical decline has been a powerful influence on where I am today, at 45, in by far the best physical shape of my life, talking to you about the power of a strong body in building a strong life.


If genetics and environment are responsible for one’s bodily strength as an adult, I was in serious trouble on both counts. My brothers and I grew up with a kitchen pantry that magically replenished itself with Captain Crunch, Lucky Charms, Cheetos, Doritos and all the other -itos. Fried ring bologna and liver sausage were permanently on the menu, along with a German delicacy of bacon wrapped in beef slathered in gravy. I had learned to swallow carrots whole, but didn’t know green vegetables existed until I was 20. It’s not shocking, then, that by third grade or so, I was wearing a combination of clothes from the “chubby” section at JC Penney, and clothing made *specially* for me.


As an adult, although I learned better nutrition in college (thank you, God) and always liked exercise, I hit the big “200″ on the scale in the year 2000, shortly after I moved to Milwaukee with a Moroccan who liked to feed me and throw things. Fortunately that chapter was short. And all photographic evidence has been systematically destroyed.

I hired a nutritionist and a personal trainer. I love the nutritionist to this day for helping me fit in my dress…that I wore when I married the personal trainer.

I found the lost weight again when I was pregnant with our son, two weeks later. I went from a full on vegan diet to summer sausage and pickle sandwiches, and gained 60 pounds. I don’t know what the statute of limitations is on calling weight “baby weight,” but I’m fairly certain it’s less than 8 years. Yet as recently as 18 months ago, I remained 40 pounds overweight, mostly sedentary, and not a happy camper. (Oddly enough, there are also few remaining photos from this time period…)

Seeking a healthful weight and a strong body has been a life-long roller coaster ride. And then..a light bulb went on.


Everyone’s bodily gifts are different. And everyone’s journey to find the light will be different. In my case, I was asked to run a half marathon on a charity team in honor of a beautiful baby boy named Paxton Andrews, who was battling cancer. I wasn’t a runner, and hadn’t attempted it in over a decade. But, the right inspiration can overcome almost anything, and four months later, I crossed my first half marathon finish line.

My run raised over $2,000 for MACC Fund, to fight childhood cancer. Sadly, however, Paxton ended his battle with cancer that July, at just four months old. And pediatric cancer research remains woefully underfunded. NOT. ACCEPTABLE. I encourage you to learn more about the Paxton Andrews Foundation and support their amazing work.

Last year, I joined the Racers Against Childhood Cancer running and triathlon team, to continue doing what I can to help raise funds. (My page is here and your support in any amount is appreciated from the bottom of my heart.) In the past six months, I’ve done my second half marathon, ridden a century (100 miles) on my bike, and learned to swim. I’m in training for the Door County Half Iron Distance triathlon this July…a 1.2 mile swim followed by a 56-mile bike ride followed by a half marathon…and for a fall marathon. With every intention of doing a full IronMan triathlon one day. Maybe soon…maybe when I am 70.


The ability to do all of this is a HUGE GIFT. For many people, including some of my friends, it is sadly not a possibility. Which makes it that much MORE of a gift. I am trying to keep that top of mind. And I am trying to make the most of it while it lasts.


If running is your thing, when you start, your body might only want to run a block or two. If you persist, it can run like you never thought possible. It can run three, five, ten, 13.1, twenty or more miles. And, in doing so, completely change your view of WHAT IS POSSIBLE. Which is the real magic. If running is not your thing, try biking or swimming or roller derby or anything that intrigues YOU. Just try something, and then try something else, until you find some things you love.


My happy place…the weight room

I cannot recommend it highly enough. For anyone of any age. But particularly as we age, it is VITAL to help us maintain muscle mass and metabolism and bone density. You don’t necessarily have to go to the gym and pump iron, if you aren’t comfortable doing that, though I recommend it. Use your body and do pushups and squats and other body weight exercises, at a minimum.


You can exercise all day long, and if you’re pumping junk into your body, you’re still going to feel like junk. Eat real, unprocessed food. And do what you need to do to hold yourself accountable for the quality and the amount of what you’re eating. There’s an app for that…it’s called MyFitnessPal. Answer to question asked in retreat: NO, LEAN CUISINE IS NOT REAL FOOD.


I promise you, as your body gets stronger, your life will be stronger in sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many ways.

Foremost among them: even when you think you CAN’T do something…there’s NO WAY…you will come to learn that you CAN. I can remember thinking “there is no way I will ever be able to run 5 miles.” Then, eventually, I ran 20. This new knowledge that you CAN will replace the conversation in your head about why you can’t, and create all sorts of new possibility.

As my friend Lynn, who just added a strength training program to her world, said, “Staying fit and strong means there are less “no”s in your life.” I LOVE that thought.

As Heidi, who just lost 100 pounds, said, “I just can feel my strength…when I work out, I feel strong. It’s a feeling of confidence that I can accomplish big things because I have gotten myself to be really healthy.”

Then there’s Deb, who ran her first marathon in 2012: “The biggest benefit was increased confidence and the knowledge that I’m strong enough to take on just about anything. At one point I could not run a mile, but then I ran 26.2. Slowly yes, but it took a lot of physical and more mental strength to do it. You gain confidence that the next step will be a steady one. You gain confidence that the next step will bring amazing people into your life. You gain confidence that what you’re doing isn’t selfish or self-serving but that you’re actually influencing others.”

And Tracey: “I feel like it has given me confidence more than anything. I went from being a shy, introverted stay-at-home mom to not only running ultramarathons, but organizing races, teaching bootcamps, coaching, and actually getting excited about meeting new people. I think it translates to so many more things in life outside of just being physically strong.”

So, yes, a stronger body CAN bring NEW CONFIDENCE and POWER and PURPOSE and MEANING to your entire life.

If you’re a parent, it can help make you the kind of positive, energetic parent that you want to be. And you will pass the knowledge that you CAN do big things on to your children. If you’re a professional, it can help make you the kind of positive, energetic, confident professional that you want to be. Whatever you are, whatever you do, I promise you that discovering the power and strength of your body will make you a better one.

I don’t know about you, but I want to see just how strong and beautiful my body can get before I die. And what more I can do with it.So, regardless of what your bodily gift is and what your journey of choice is – I encourage you to not waste it.


Dear Nadia: STFU

So last weekend I gave that talk, that I think was fairly inspirational and very positive (which I will edit and post this week, I swear). This weekend, I’m busy dealing with the negative voice of me, inside my own head, which is super LOUD and uncooperative and not even remotely helpful right now. She’s been beating the CRAP out of me, actually.

No, I’m not developing a split personality…no need to start calling me Sybil. The voice is just…me. The younger, fatter me. The me that was a fat kid and couldn’t dive like the other kids could (and still can’t…or rather doesn’t know how). The me that didn’t know yet that I could run well and bike well and swim well. Yes, even freaking SWIM.

I think this voice should have a name…so I’m calling her “Nadia”. She sounded something like this, this morning on the treadmill, where I was attempting to do a relatively speedy 5K (somewhat naively, as I am still getting over a cold).

Nadia: “God, you’re fat. There’s no WAY you can hold this pace.”
*stops treadmill*
*long pause*
*starts treadmill*
Nadia: “Seriously? You’re trying this again, just at a slightly slower pace? Not happening, fatty. You should really just walk or something.”
*stops treadmill*
*long pause*
*starts treadmill*
Nadia (laughing): “REALLY? Still trying, huh? That’s admirable but you’re NEVER going to finish this. Just give it up.”

After 10 minutes or so of this, I realized something…I’m really, REALLY tired of Nadia.

In fact…I’m done with her.

She makes me sad. (Truth be told, I sobbed for about 10 minutes after finishing the run. But I DID finish the run, and at a good pace for the last mile, to make sure she didn’t win.) She makes me tired. She brings me down. I don’t know why she has been there for SO long, but she has outlived her purpose, whatever it was, and she needs to go now.

So, right here, right now, I am telling her once and for all: SHUT. THE. F$&!. UP.

I am good.
I am fit.
I can run.
I can bike (HELLYEAH I can bike. EVEN HILLLLLLLLLZ.)
I can SWIM, bitch.

That doesn’t mean I can’t get better, and fitter, and faster and….swimmier. It just means that there is NOTHING WRONG with me right NOW. GODDAMMIT.

Hasta la vista, Nadia.

How do you get rid of YOUR negative self talk?

Trying something new: #YMCAMKE

Pumped to be adding a new workout home to my roster…YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee. Disclosure…I’ve been given a free family membership to the YMCA to try it out for six months and share my experiences there. Even though I’ve never been a member before, I’ve always heard great things about the Y, so I’m super happy to both try it out and to help.

I’ve always wanted to try the Y. I’ve belonged to the WAC (Wisconsin Athletic Club) since I moved here ten-ish years ago. I met my husband there, and he still works as a trainer there. I also belong to cheapo-gym-that-says-it’s-not-a-gym, Planet Fitness, because it’s right across the street from my office…well, now the Downtown YMCA is, too, and it’s a LOT nicer than PF. So, YAY. With three places to choose from, and a home workout room that is shaping up to be pretty sweet, too (thanks for the treadmill, Santa!) I really can’t make any excuses, like, EVER. EV-ER.

I’ll be going mostly to the Downtown YMCA, where I’m excited to use the track (six laps to a mile) and hopefully get in some TRX and kettlebell classes. Strength training FTW! I’ll also be taking G to the West Suburban YMCA to swim and for swim lessons…they are a pretty great deal. He wants to try martial arts classes, too, and they have a ton of other great programs. He is going crazy to go in and get his very own membership card.

Lately I’ve been noticing that a LOT of my friends go to the YMCA of Milwaukee…more than I realized. Erica and Kirsten, go there. Eileen in my bike group the Bella Donnas teaches a great Y-Cycle class, I’m told. Deb swims there. Tracey and Sun are trying it out too. So, here’s to trying new things!

Like (*gulp*) triathlons…Olympic and Half Iron distance. More about that later.

Trying anything new this year? Have you tried the YMCA?

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