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Exchange Brother

July 22, 2014

No, “exchange brother” doesn’t mean you can exchange your brother for a different model or nice car. I’m certain there are many teenagers who wish that could be possible though!

My “exchange brother” is a former exchange student who lived with my family when I was younger. This particular one lived with us for a year when I was… uhh eight maybe?

Meet Francisco, AKA Frank, from Venezuela:

Frank - July 2014

He visited us once shortly after his year in the States but we hadn’t seen him in about 17 years. It was so interesting/fun/incredible to catch up, even though it was just for breakfast right before we left for vacation a few weeks ago.

Frank was my big brother for a year while he lived with us, and we supported him in soccer games and dates (he was very popular with the ladies!) and anything he wanted to get involved in. The guy is straight up hilarious. Talks a mile a minute, is always making you laugh, and wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s also the inspiration for my mother’s famous line, “keep your pencil in your pocket.” haha. High school boys: take note.

My family truly got lucky with the exchange students we hosted. Frank is one of 10+ who lived in our home for various amounts of time and all of them are in some way part of our family.

My Mom is brilliant for hosting exchange students. She probably thought it (or she?) was a little nuts at times, especially the few times we got a dud (it’s rare but it happens) but we came out of our exchange/hosting experiences with the most ridiculous, funny, and zany stories. And my brother and I acquired a few more siblings.

If you ever get the opportunity to host an exchange student, for one week or one year, do it. Sure it’s another mouth to feed and another schedule to work around but it’s worth it. Learning a different culture and language first-hand, opening your heart and family to another person and their family, exposing your loved ones to the whole experience… that’s worth a million bucks.

My Body

July 21, 2014

I have a love/hate relationship with my body.

It does some pretty cool things like breathing, playing soccer, healing, propelling me through an untrained-for 5k, and providing all of my physical senses. I am very grateful for that. But I’ve never really liked my body (just my red hair and green eyes) and I think at almost 29 years old, it’s about damn time I learn to like it. For me, for right now, that means getting my body to a shape and size where I can like it.

Right now I’m in the “hate” phase with my body, although hate is a strong word that I don’t like to use so “I’m unhappy enough with my body that I’m motivated to do something about it” is more accurate. What is that something? I’m not sure yet. I weigh more now than ever and while I still feel confident in what my body can do, I also feel chubby as hell and super self-conscious.

How do I want to feel? STRONG is the word that’s been sticking in my mind. I did a brain dump to get out the raw emotion of how I’d like to feel if I can shape my body into something I appreciate and enjoy.

my body

I’m currently in the process of researching activities and weight loss/muscle-building options. I’m enlisting friends. I’m scheduling events in the future that will motivate me.

my body

Hanging a bikini on the fridge isn’t going to work for me. Watching American Ninja Warrior might (as long as I do a mini workout during the commercials). Training with someone might. Competing against someone might. I don’t know. What I do know is that I need to figure it out. I WANT to figure it out.

We’re getting healthy and strong up in here. I’m pretty sure the boys are coming along for the ride because we could all drop a few LBs and be better for it.

I have zero answers at the moment. I know practically nothing. I guess that means there’s only up! Forward progress, my friends. When I know more, I’ll share. Till then, pleeeeeeeease share with me any tips you have, suggestions for workouts or classes, fitness blogs you follow, workout videos you love, and where to find kale that tastes like a brownie.

Web Wandering

July 18, 2014

web wandering

Woohoo! It’s Friday! Killing time at work till 5pm? Or want to read some fun things this weekend? Let’s wander the web together!

The World Cup is over (sniffle) but I’m still gobbling up all the news coverage and analysis of the games. The most fascinating event of the World Cup wasn’t Germany clobbering Brazil, it was that the Netherlands subbed their keeper for penalty kicks to win the game. The article is more psychology than sports so even if you’re not into soccer, it’s a great read.

John and I have been scarfing this caramelized peach caprese salad lately. It’s insanely good. Make it this weekend!

Nicole at A Life Less Bullshit has been killing it recently with deep, motivating posts. I guess that’s what happens when you’re tackling a dream: you learn all kinds of lessons about yourself and life and want to share the wisdom with the world. If you’re struggling with procrastination, she sheds some light on the cause and how you can overcome it. (Procrastination is my middle name, by the way).

If you’re into music and art, you’re going to want to snatch up a few of these pieces by LyricalArtworks.

I’m loving Elise’s reflection posts on speaking at Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit (here’s my review on his book, The Art of Non-Conformity). Part Two of her reflection is about getting out of your comfort zone to do something big and scary that can have a huge impact on yourself and others.

I read everything I can about relationships because marriage freaks me out. Masters of Love tears relationships down to the basics so you can learn what you’re doing right and what you might be doing wrong.

I struggle with wanting to run but not actually enjoying it. If you’re the same, this might help you too: the 7 Most Common Roadblocks to Running (and How to Overcome Them). Missing from that article: the “fear” of being bored out of my gourd during a run. What’s the fix for that?

My real-life friend Elise bakes amazing zucchini bread so I want to try this award-winning zucchini bread recipe. Between chocolate chips and a crumble topping, how could it go wrong?

Sometimes I have to practically force John to hang out with his friends or brother. It’s weird. Now I have an explanation: Why Men are Bad at Friendships.

Have you been wandering the web too? Got something to share? Link to it in the comments!

Southern Travels: North Carolina Zoo

July 17, 2014

Look! John made a new friend!

NC Zoo - John made a friend

It’s a baboon. haha. Fitting.

NC Zoo - baboon

Two weeks ago we took our annual summer vacation. We normally visit my Dad in Georgia with a stop in North Carolina to visit John’s brother, sister-in-law, three nieces, and nephew. This year we decided to just stay in NC and travel around the state. You already heard about our visit to the U.S. National Whitewater Center and today I’m sharing our trip to the zoo.

The North Carolina Zoo is located in Asheboro which I know zilch about and had never been there. What I do know is that the zoo was inexpensive, large, and easily took up five hours to see everything. It definitely requires a full day to truly experience all of the exhibits fully.

NC Zoo - polar bear

I can’t remember the last time I went to a zoo. My Mom might know. It was probably Philly, Baltimore, or DC and most likely we took an exchange student so I was pretty young then (age 6-11 maybe?).

These cougars were the most active of any creature we saw and were super playful. My kitty Gavin would probably have fun playing with the cougars if we could supersize him.

NC Zoo - cougars

Since I haven’t been to a zoo in well over ten years, I didn’t know what to expect. Cages? Boredom? Our nieces, nephew, and J-slice being our only entertainment? So not the case. (Although the kids are entertaining!)

Niece B with flamingos at NC Zoo

I was thrilled to see the creatures were in “natural” habitats with lots of space to roam and play. Look, I’m not getting into the politics of zoos here, I’m just saying the animals all seemed happy and well cared for. And that made me happy to fork over a few bucks to enjoy them and learn.

Plus… ELEPHANTS! They had so many acres of land to roam on that I only saw two of the six elephants. They’re such majestic creatures. I could watch them all day.

NC Zoo - elephants

Almost equally exciting: zebras and giraffes. They’re just so darn unique.

NC Zoo - zebras and giraffes

The zoo tried to keep this wild animal in captivity but we decided to take her home with us:

Niece K at NC Zoo

Doesn’t she look like the princess of the woods or something? Future queen on her throne.

My favorite aspect of the zoo was that it wasn’t just walking around looking at animals. They had all sorts of creatures from all over the planet who live in various habitats. There were little learning stations spread throughout the zoo staffed by volunteers who showed off skeletons, antlers and horns, skins, cacti needles, and taught passers-by the differences between animals we often confuse.

sign at NC Zoo

It was hot as hell there (duh… North Carolina in July) but I loved that we could take our kids somewhere that offered a fun learning environment. Maybe one of them will grow up to be an animal-lover, a zookeeper, or an animal rights enthusiast. Who knows. For now, my only goal is to squeeze as many experiences as possible into their lives while all five kids still like being around us adults.

nieces at NC Zoo

When was the last time you went to a zoo? What was your favorite thing to see? The NC Zoo has a glow-in-the-dark scorpion! Do you sprint past the snakes and spiders like I do?

Mid-Week Mix

July 16, 2014

Happy Hump Day! Today I’ve got a random smattering of what-we’ve-been-up-to updates.

On Thursday, I lost count of how many times I squealed. Because this happened:

Garth Brooks announcement

Garth Brooks announced that new music is coming, his old music will be released digitally for the first time, and he will announce tour dates soon that start this Fall. I’m not a huge country fan but I have loved Garth since the moment I first heard him when I was a kid. To this day, “Standing Outside the Fire” is my favorite song of all time. I am SO EXCITED!!!!! Like, five exclamation points excited. Probably ten. Hootie is a Garth fan too so obviously my life dream is to see Garth perform in Germany with her then have her come to the States to see Garth perform again.

Following that excitement, John and I celebrated our fourth anniversary on Friday. That’s dating, not marriage, so some say it doesn’t count but I say anytime a relationship goes that long, it’s worth celebrating. This is our “holy crap we survived four years without killing each other!” look:

Janelle and John

John got me a new Oakland A’s shirt since he’s massively into the A’s again and I am massively into elephants. And moderately like the team/baseball.

Oakland A's shirt

I blew his gift out of the water though. I got him an A’s pint glass as well as a sampling of baconlicious items from the appropriately named baconfreak.com.

John's bacon haul

The Great Bacon Haul of 2014 included bacon jerky, a chocolate bar with bacon and smoked salt, a bacon ice cream cone lollipop, maple bacon popcorn, and chocolate covered bacon.

I’m not kidding… John devoured half of that within five minutes of opening the box. Then proceeded to hide the rest so that J-slice didn’t see it. haha. It was hilarious. Ladies, take note: if you want to please your man, buy him bacon.

Saturday we ran the 5k Foam Fest together. It’s an obstacle run featuring foam, mud, water, slides, cargo nets, and more. This course was HARD. The obstacles were fine but the venue was a dirt bike track so we were constantly running up and down hills and along berms. Plus the course went into the woods which went uppppp and dowwwwn and felt like we were constantly going up. And steep! There was one hill that was so steep that they offered a rope alongside to help you up. That’s steep, my friends. I’m sore.

Oh and you learn something about your kid(s) every day: J-slice doesn’t like to be dirty. Surely he could be my child! After my first Dirty Girl though, I realized that you can hate being muddy while still enjoying yourself.

5k Foam Fest July 2014

Sunday I worked, cheered for Germany’s World Cup victory, and attended the Can-Am Fire-Police Games opening ceremony. The Games are being held all throughout York PA, where we live, and we wanted to show our support. The opening ceremony had the coolest exhibition from the Pennsylvania State Police Mounted Unit. Horses! We got to see several different maneuvers that the mounted police use for crowd control. Again, you learn something every day!

Can-Am Games Opening Ceremony

What a packed several days its been! It might be annoying to hear about weekend highlights on a Wednesday but I think it’s fun to relive the events and start planning for the next adventure. Hope you agree!

Do you have any fun announcements, gifts, or events going on in your life right now? What’s been the highlight of your summer so far?

Currently – 7/15/2014

July 15, 2014

Lexie July 2014

Teaching Lexie to use the toilet. (Kidding. I wish!)

Feeling sore from a 5k this past weekend and probably will feel worse tomorrow because I took BodyPump at the gym this morning with BFF Lauren.

Wearing my glasses. Still. Ugh.

Working on a video at work that I’m pretty excited about.

Cooking exciting adult meals since J-slice has been in camp over dinner. HOORAY!

Taking advantage of every spare weekend moment to squeeze in some fun.

Wanting all Haribo candies. I bought four bags of Haribo Peaches last nite. (Don’t worry, I also bought five real fruit peaches to balance out).

Missing the World Cup already.

Eating a sprinkle donut. My method for selecting one is pretty much “okay, which one of you has the most sprinkles?”

Waiting rather impatiently for any news from 1) Garth Brooks and 2) Hootie about her next visit.

Planning a slew of activities with friends to get my butt active (I say as I shove the rest of a donut into my mouth…)

Trying to schedule a weekend with Ginger BFF this summer or early Fall.

What’s new in your world? Share it in the comments!

10 Fun Facts About My Soccer Career

July 14, 2014
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In the case of this post title, “career” is used loosely to represent my decades-long relationship with the game of soccer. It’s not like I’ve been hiding the fact that I went professional. ha. I wish. My Mom probably feels like she paid enough, drove around enough, and watched enough games for me to have gone pro. Maybe in my next life.

My TV has been tuned into the World Cup non-stop for the last few weeks. Yesterday we were glued to the screen – minus the occasional text to Hootie – cheering on Germany. Afterwards I asked Hootie how many Germans would be calling in “sick” today and she responded with “A LOT!”

World Cup 2014 final: Germany vs Argentina

After sharing a story about my soccer team last month, I realized that I’ve never written much here about me playing soccer. That’s a damn shame because soccer has been a huge part of my life! Between that and the World Cup rekindling my love for the sport, I thought I’d share some fun facts with you about my soccer “career.”

1. I’ve been playing for 20 years. I play mostly year-round and there were several years that I played on 2-3 teams at the same time, meaning I was playing soccer at least six days per week.

2. Most of my ability was acquired by playing “porch soccer” with my brother when we were kids. We broke many things on the porch and irritated our Mom but competing against my brother is what made me better, stronger, and tougher.

3. I’m not a star; I’m a team player. I don’t like to stand out and my skills don’t allow me to stand out anyway. I just like to support those that shine. In high school, my coach spent hours working with me on placement for free kicks and from then on, I took virtually every single free kick for the team. Corner kicks were my specialty; I scored at least twice untouched directly from a corner kick (this is quite difficult).

4. I hold records at my high school. Thanks to my interest and ability in creating scoring opportunities as mentioned above, I’m in the record books for most points in a season. Or maybe it’s most assists in a season. Or both? Either way, I’m very proud. I also won the Golden Boot award one year for most points in a season.

5. I went by the name Nelle Red Socks. A coach gave me this nickname because I wore red soccer socks a lot. They’re still my favorite even as a adult.

soccer - nelleredsocks

6. I suck at marking. I’m slow so my coaches usually put me in positions where I was the free-roaming defender. I don’t have that freedom as an adult player so I often get caught in a losing game of Chase The Opponent.

7. I’m fairly comfortable playing anywhere (keeper included) but my favorite position is defensive midfielder or stopper. If you’re not familiar with soccer, those positions are towards the middle of the field and really only exist if your team plays in a certain shape (yes, you can play in many different formations!) I like defense but I’m very offensive-minded (I want my team to score!) which is why those positions are best for me.

8. I’m chatty on the field. And not about boys or weather. I mean I read the field and talk to my teammates about opposing players, where the open passes are, and who’s marking who.

9. I coached for three years. That’s how I met John and J-slice! I even had two coaching licenses. I was official! I coached co-ed 4 and 5-year-olds, then co-ed 6 and 7-year-olds, as well as 17 and 18-year old girls. I enjoyed learning a whole new side of soccer but unfortunately I didn’t feel it was worth the time, effort, and travel. I met a lot of great people so I’m thrilled I gave coaching a shot. (ha. get it?!)

10. Soccer has taught me far more about life than sport. Through soccer I have made lifelong friends and memories. Through soccer I have learned life lessons, grown, become a leader, enjoyed success and overcome defeat, learned teamwork and working with difficult people, and worked hard for something I wanted. I feel extremely fortunate that soccer has taught me so much and that my parents (especially my Mom) supported my desire to play.

I hope sharing the soccer player side of me helps reveal a little more of who I am as a whole. Now I’m excited to hear about your experience playing sports. Tell me a fun fact or two! Did you have a funny nickname or embarrassing story? Were you known for something particular? Do you still play any sports? I’ve been thinking about taking up another sport just to learn something new. Got a suggestion?

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