Friday, December 8, 2017

A Beautiful Weekend

On Thursday, I met my mom at her office as she walked out the door for the last time as an employee of Citizens Bank. After 21 years, I know that she will truly be missed, but the bank’s loss is our family’s gain. Too soon, I’ll be back to work at West, and HQ will get to spend her days with her Grandma JoJo! 

Friday night was Mom’s retirement party. And while it made me slightly more anxious than I would like to admit to leave Harper, it was really nice to spend the time celebrating Mom. And it was lots of fun to be back at Kelly's Bleachers, the scene of many family shots, family softball games, and other shenanigans. I can't complain about getting to spend time with cousins or with our little Badger game/concert crew.  

The next day, my birthday, was filled with many of my favorite things, at least those that don’t involve mountains or international travel. I set an alarm (not my favorite) to ensure I was at the gym with some of my favorite people for one of my favorite classes of the week. Sixty minute of cardio and a bit of lifting were a great way to start my day and to balance out the weekend’s birthday treats, including the donuts I *had* to bring to the gym!  

I headed home for birthday snuggles with our little lady, some time with Brian, and some vacuuming (one of my most favorite things!!) before we joined my family for traditional birthday weekend fun, picking out our Christmas tree. This year, we took advantage of the excellent weather and cut down our own. And while Harper slept though a good portion of our outing, we’ll give her credit for choosing the perfect tree. I’ll take credit for finding the perfect treat - chocolate caramels with sea salt - at our stop at The Elegant Farmer (haven’t been there in ages!). Now, to exhibit self control and ration them... 

We drove west that evening (one of Brian’s favorite things...though we didn’t make it nearly as far west as he would have liked) on what turned out to be a really scenic drive for an excellent dinner (with veggies cooked exactly to my picky liking). The ambiance was as great as the drive and the company, and the smell of the fire reminded Brian and me of being in Turkey, which was a birthday bonus treat, kind of like when Bri let me have the last bite of our shared dessert.  

And while the outcome was not what I had hoped for (but sort of expected), we closed out my birthday gathered in our living room taking in the ups and downs of the Badger game. Even a loss is tolerable with family gathers around - I love me a full house. 

Thanks to our fabulous little sleeper, I woke up well-rested Sunday, which meant I was ready to do some climbing, and I did a lot of it. And after, while HQ rested up for another evening of celebrating, Brian and I enjoyed a nice little lunch date, and he didn’t even finish the last sip of our shared drink (happy birthday to me!).  Later that evening, we met my in-laws for burgers and custard (it’s a good thing that working out is also one of my favorite things). They’re so good to me!

I went to bed Sunday feeling blessed beyond measure - and a bit older. So many wonderful things filled my weekend: family, friends, blueberry donuts, tradition, physical activity, ice cream. And the icing on the proverbial cake was that I didn’t have to spend any time thinking about work or going back to it on Monday. I’ll save that for the New Year. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Different Sorts of Game Days

Saturdays sure have always kept me on my toes - what lucky Badger gear should I wear and what items  should I avoid (those super cute but oh-so-bad-luck-inducing Bucky socks).  What time should we head to Madison and in what order to hit the bars?

And with an undefeated season on the line and the bad guys of Michigan coming to town, this weekend will be no different....except now it's ensuring burp rags coordinate with Badger gear.  The past few Saturdays have been really nice ones, and not just because of the Badger victories.  We got to spend game day with family.

Two weekends ago, HQ and her cousin Tommy got to take in their first game together, and Tommy and I got to share popcorn and chips.  With Badger alums for parents, both Tommy and Harper are sure to receive lots of not-so-subtle hints that THE University of Wisconsin is a great and honorable institution and the school of choice - cheers to my favorite member of the Class of 2039. While we missed Uncle Jeff, it was so fun to see the rest of the Kaminski crew and to share some HQ time with them.  And it was really nice to see my cousins and hear what will surely become classic work stories (Thanks, Annie, for keeping us laughing!).

Harper spent her most recent game day meeting her Jarvis family.  Like Tommy, Winston is quite the handsome little man, and he surely will show HQ the ropes when it comes to all things little human. We had lunch, caught up on life, and managed to get some pretty cute pictures of the little cousins in their Badger gear.  There is something especially heartwarming (and game day anxiety erasing) about watching the people who knew you when you were your baby's size - your baby: gosh, will that ever not sound like the craziest and most awesome phrase?! - snuggling up with your little one!

With the holidays - and my birthday - fast approaching, we'll surely have more time with family, and I cannot wait -- for that time together and for more checks in the W column for Bucky!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Fall + Colorado = Happy Runnells Family

Lucky for us, we have a good traveler because we surely wanted to take advantage of the time off she provided us. So, last week we had to show H.Q. around one of our favorite places, Colorado. 

It certainly was a different trip with a little human along -  no late nights, for one thing -  but we were able to get out and enjoy the sunshine and the fresh mountain air. We saw friends, summited mountains, shopped on Pearl Street (someone got her first Patagonia gear), drove about in our rental mom-van, and survived solo air travel. 

As always, the trip was far too short, and we certainly didn't get to do everything or see everyone we wanted, but that gives us a great excuse to head back sooner than later.

mountain views from the mom van

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Recently, Brian suggested we take a short trip to New York. Now, talk of our upcoming Colorado trip made sense - it’s our place, after all, and we have someone new to share it with! - but heading east wasn’t on my radar. It was a short flight, much like to Denver, and Brian thought it would be a place I’d enjoy. It would be a perfect little getaway. He was right. Brian also thought it would be nice to bring my mom along, and, again, he was right! We are big time in debt to her, so it was the least we could do! 

The Unti-Runnells crew flew into New York as the city lights lit up the mid-evening sky; from our seats we could see the Statue of Liberty, 1 World Trade Center, and the Empire State Building - this trip was off to a great start. 

Our first full day in NYC involved a leisurely start. We tested out our subway traveling skills, ate lunch at an expansive Italian restaurant and shop, which made me feel like I was truly back in Italy, and visited the 9/11 Memorial, which, like Normandy and the Anne Franke House, was a powerful and poignant experience. 

We closed out our first full day in the city  with a trip to Times Square. Oh, the sights...and the man signing his ‘iTunes hit, “Ignore”....

That night was mom-daughter date night for JoJo and me. When we planned our trip, Brian suggested we take in a Broadway show - he’s full of good ideas that BR. The Carol King  musical, Beautiful, was playing: We were sold! And we had a blast! The show was fantastic, and I haven’t stopped singing those “Tapestry” tunes since then. I couldn’t help but replay bits of my childhood, for which Carol King, James Taylor, and Meatloaf form the soundtrack . Mom and I ended our day with a dinner date - and manages to avoid buying a giant cherry cheesecake, which was no easy task as it looked sooooo good. It was such a blast to share this experience with my mom! 

The next day, while Brian explored one part of the city, Mom and I navigated the subway and another part of the city together. We stopped for coffee (for me), strolled about, and ultimately made it to our destination, the 9-11 Museum. Again, what a powerful experience. There really are no words for it! 

After our visit, we made our way back uptown to Central Park, where we ambled about before enjoying a Turkish dinner. Then, thanks to my awesome husband, I got to enjoy a second night of excellent music, this time at a Tedeschi Trucks Band show.  It was our first official Mommy-Daddy night out, and we enjoyed ourselves (TTB is amazing, so how can you not have a great time?!), though both of us could barely hang after 10pm (we didn’t get back to the apartment until midnight - go, us!).   

We got to do a last little bit of NYC exploration the next morning, our final morning in the city. After some good people watching and plenty of picture taking in Rockefeller Center, it was time to grab lunch, pack up, and head home. 

What an excellent trip - now, to convince Dad to join us on the European excursion Mom and I began loosely planning during the much appreciated time we had together! 

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Zone

Some two years ago, my amazing cousin and run buddy, Jenna, invited me to join her for a weight lifting class at a gym she attended.  I was instantly hooked.  Jenna and I spent a lot of time at the gym together, and I count that time among some of my favorite with her - honestly, though, any time with Jenna is great: she kind and loving, funny, and has the best and most contagious laugh! 

Aside from growing the bond I have with my cousin, the gym has also become a second home for me. Brian jokes that I spend more time at the gym than anywhere else, and it's probably true (I set an alarm Saturday mornings so as not to miss a gym session after all). Much like with the climbing gym, I've met some amazing people who have become an irreplaceable part of my tribe: we laugh just as hard as we lift (and I work out with some really strong women!); we confide in one another; we find ourselves encouraging the dancing antics of total strangers (Juice, Juice, Juice!). 

And while a few great men share space and workouts with us, one of the truly special parts of the gym is the way it brings us women together. Working out along side and being coached by women is extremely empowering. We all have grown our muscles and our voices while at The Zone. The women I work out with are wonderful friends and role models - as women, wives, mamas. They've helped me navigate and celebrate some of the biggest moments in my life and are among the people I miss most when I'm traveling. Their kindness is matched only by their toughness. How lucky I am to have found them! 

I measure the success of my weeks by the number of workout days I'll have at The Zone (and the number of days I survive life with 150+ teenagers) because, with company like that, where else would a woman want to be?! 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Back to School 2017

Well, it's that time of year again. For the eleventh time, I'll be welcoming a new group of young people into my life and doing my best to ensure they leave me in June better and wiser than when we met in early September. 

I recently did the math - as best I could considering block scheduling, A and B day classes, and semester courses - and I think I have had the distinct pleasure of working with somewhere near 2,000 students. And I truly do consider it a pleasure, an honor, that I've been able to do what I love, to face new and unique challenges with each class and each year, to meet some of my favorite people - colleagues and students (those Acadec peeps, I tell ya!),  and to grow in my practice and perspective. 

There have been days, and not that long ago, a whole year,  where I am more defeated than I'd like to admit, times when I worried I wasn't the best at what I was doing or that my best wasn't good enough, but then I hear a student say something like, "don't be a miscreant," and I think, "They remember my vocabulary song and dance." And I pick up a pen and scratch some notes in my lesson plan binder and think that I may just have a chance to make a little bit of an impact, and the day is better, and I'm sure, once again, I'm doing what I'm supposed to do. 

To all those educators out there, our profession may not be glamorous or even well-respected, but we know what we're up against and what we're able to accomplish each day and with each kiddo, so keep fighting the good fight, my friends!

And now, with a little bit of nerves and a lot of anticipation, bring on year 11, West High School. I'm as ready as I'll ever be :)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Starting August Right

I headed to the Fox Valley on Wednesday evening for a literacy conference, and while it meant I was one step closer to the end of summer (August, why must you always come so quickly?!),   I got to English teacher nerd-out for two full days.  And if that wasn't enough, I also got to spend a few, brief moments with my bestie.  Imagine my surprise - and excitement - when I saw Katie in the hotel lobby and then got to steal quick conversations with her during caffeination breaks.  Next conference, we'll have to road trip together in order to have the whole drive home to talk about how great our hero, Kelly Gallagher is!

Post-conference, Brian and I headed to Appleton to attend my cousin Dane's wedding.  Even though it had only been a few months since the Unti family got together, it felt as if it had been ages, so our family Friday evening was fantastic.  And everyone - yes, every one of us - was there!  We probably should have gotten a picture of the whole crew, but that would have interrupted the drinking, dancing, laughing, and storytelling that filled our evening.  My cousin was in my wedding 100 years ago, and it was especially touching to be present for his - and to see my handsome brother all dressed up.  The ceremony was really sweet, the cupcakes were delicious, there was plenty of room to Cupid Shuffle, and the Old Fashioned fountain flowed freely all night long.  What more could one ask for at a wedding?!

After recovering from a night of dancing, Brian and I joined my parents for a lap around High Cliff State Park Saturday morning.  None of us had been to the park before, but all of us enjoyed it and the exceptionally nice weather. Before heading back to Waukesha County, we met my brother for lunch, which gave me a bit more time to check in on him and offer unsolicited life advice (ever the overbearing....err...protective big sis), which was hard to do between the drinks and dancing the night before.  

What a fantastic weekend with family and influential English teachers!!

my brother is the cutest! 

Family photo

me and my Bs

We've been a trio since forever