Tuesday, September 18, 2012

All About Ben

Baby Ben turned 1 on July 21…and the fact that I haven’t written anything about it is a testament to how busy life has been.

But this isn’t a post about juggling kids and work, workouts and my addiction to certain reality TV shows (including, but not limited to sports). It’s about Ben.

This happy, giggling, super-active baby boy (and his big brother Sam) is the reason for this blog; and though it’s easy to focus on life with kids, however many, and what weeks look like with them, this post is purely about my little/big guy who’s getting older every day. As a tribute to Ben, I’m simply writing out his wonderful traits:

-       happy
-       healthy
-       giggly
-       wiggly
-       loves his big brother
-       loves to eat
-       loves to play in the garden, picking his own tomatoes, and eventually he’ll figure out that the green ones don’t taste very good
-       loves picking his own strawberries and knows to get them when Sam is in the other part of the yard
-     loves eating apples off the tree...a couple of bites, anyway
-       loves throwing a ball
-       loves to dance, and can not sit still when he hears music of any kind
      - loves his blanket his Grandma Sally knitted him, and sometimes dives for it out of my arms and into his crib
-       loves playing with water in the bathroom sink
-       loves playing with the hose, pretending to help me water
-       is very proud of walking
-       likes to climb up on the chairs at the dinner table and pretend to eat like mom, dad and big brother Sam
-       is pretty darn tough, considering the wrestling that goes on
-       loves to say “uh oh”
-       loves to throw food on the ground from his high chair and then say “uh oh”
-       likes to use big, adult-sized spoons while eating yogurt and cottage cheese, instead of a baby spoon
-       loves to organize things, put things in, take things out, put things in, take things out
-       likes to try to blow the fluff off dandelions, like his brother Sam taught him (“pheuh”)
-       likes to smile at me, sleepily, in my arms when I hold him before he goes to bed, eyes at half-mast but smile at full grin

In my next post, hopefully sooner than months away, I may go back to writing about how I’ve resorted to 2-n-1 shampoo/conditioner for the pure time-savings of it, and maybe the adventures of getting into cyclocross racing and its efficient, family-friendly nature.

For now, Happy Belated Birthday, Ben.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Training for Disneyland

I recently left Mark at home for a week and flew with Sam (turning 4 tomorrow) and Ben (turning 10 months in a couple of weeks) to San Diego to visit my family.

From there, my parents, the boys and I drove to Disneyland for two days, staying in a motel for a night.

First, let me say that I’m one of those adults who loves Disneyland. As a kid living in Southern California, nothing was more exciting to me than a day spent at Disneyland. We'd drive up to Anaheim for birthdays, special occasions, and because my dad (now 75) loves it just as much as I do…just as much as I did as a kid.

So now, with my own kids, I have this new reason (or, “excuse”), to go back to the Magic Kingdom. But that said, taking two young kids to Disneyland without my spouse – albeit, with my parents – is no easy task…to say the least.

It dawned on me mid-day: Standing in line for the Buzz Lightyear ride with both Sam and Ben, grabbing a half-eaten granola bar out of a specific pocket in my backpack -- I'd saved it and put it right there for a reason, earlier that day -- to curb a hunger meltdown, while simultaneously pulling out a toy for Ben out of a different, yet, also specific pocket in my pack without having to frantically fish around for either. All those years adventure racing made me well-prepared for things like tackling Disneyland with two young kids.

For one, there’s the living out of a backpack. Snacks in one pocket, Boogie Wipes in another. Diapers ready, plastic bag from the popcorn saved to stash stinky diaper. iPhone -- Disneyland map and wait-time for lines App installed -- in a diaper- and snack-free pocket, easy to access at any moment...just like my racing compass. (And subsequently, Sam is now interested in maps and navigating, due to the Disneyland map on my phone and memories of where rides are located.) Water bottle, sunblock, chapstick, more snacks, money, credit card, extra layers for all three of us, hats for all three of us... ready at all times, and in specific places in my bag that I can quickly access without wasting too much time, or losing my mind.

Another racing skill that comes in greatly handy as a parent: Being prepared for anything that could happen (and will happen), and not wasting energy fretting about things that do. Flat tire on my mountain bike mid-race? Don’t dwell, just change it and move on. Blow-up in Ben’s pants nowhere near a bathroom? Don’t dwell, just change it and move on. I've found that rolling with the punches is fairly imperative for staying sane as a parent.

Strategy also comes into play. In an adventure race, route choice is key...It's even more key at Disneyland, if you want to minimize crowds and fatigue, hitting as many checkpoints...I mean, rides...as you can before burning out completely. One of my biggest strategic moves was parking my mom in Toon Town with Ben, allowing him to crawl around for an hour and sitting her down with a cold drink while my dad, Sam and I hit the Peter Pan ride.

More strategic moves, coupled with endurance on everyone's part: My parents had taken Ben back to the motel and had gotten him to bed. (This I knew from a call made with my iPhone pulled from the right, diaper-free pocket of my bag.) Pushing Sam in the stroller at the end of the day, we walked by a food stand without a line(!). I decided right then and there that was dinner. We grabbed our hotdogs (him) and veggie sandwiches (me) to go and kept on walking. Success!

Thinking we'd head back for bed, too, I returned the stroller I'd rented for Sam. But as we started walking out of the park, I realized that the opportunity to stay out late at Disneyland with Sam at his age was rare, so we turned right back around -- both of us excited -- for a couple more rides and to watch the fireworks (which was incredibly awesome).

Very-tired Sam was a trooper. We (strategically) took the train around (instead of walking) to the other side of the park, and endured another line in waiting for the Astro Orbitor Rockets…And we were rewarded with views of the castle lit up at night, and all the sights and lights from high up on the ride, not to mention the fun of swooping up and down (and Sam proclaiming, "Mom! I can see everything!"). It reminded me of enduring a long trek up a mountain to be rewarded with the view, and then realizing that the journey to get there was special, too.

It was an awesome trip, and I can’t wait for Ben to be old enough to enjoy things like this as much as Sam and I do. And I'm excited to maybe pass on some adventure racing skills to both of my boys so they, too, can navigate Disneyland – and life – with preparedness and a sense of adventure.  

For a related post on adventure racing and family, and again being the “girl” on the team, see this blog I recently wrote for Skirt Sports.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

It's All Worth It

A few weeks ago, I had a 24-hour work trip where I flew to San Francisco to cover The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship 50-Miler. I hadn’t flown by myself since having Ben, and as soon as I got in my car for the drive to DIA, my brain started working differently. Traveling with the kids, my mind usually cycles through thoughts of: “Do we have enough apple juice for the flight? Should I change Ben’s diaper before we get on the plane? Is Sam’s super hero bad guy toy in the outside pocket of my bag so I can get it easily? Do I have a lollipop ready to bribe Sam to stay in his seat with his seatbelt buckled until the pilot makes the 'ding' sound? Is Ben going to poop on my lap?”

But traveling solo, my brain was free of worry, inspired by work, and full of ideas. It was a brain I hadn’t used in months.

My giddiness increased as I drove toward the Marin headlands and Mount Tamalpais, headed for a run on one of my favorite trails of all time. By myself. In 75-degree weather (have I mentioned that part?).

Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, I had all windows down, music blaring—I think it was Green Day, which made me feel 25 years old.

Anyway, my excitement carried over a little too much into my run. My postpartum return to running has been slow, cautious and calculated. But on this day, this run, I just couldn’t contain myself. I approached the top of the big climb—a view I had been craving (see photo above) and unwilling to let go unseen—I felt like I could fly right over the golden hillsides and pine forests, soaring along the Pacific…But I also felt like my body might be suffering.

On the way back down the trail, a muscle in my shin flared up, which turned into an achy ankle and foot. Turns out I flared up an injury I’ve had off-and-on for the better part of five years. Normally, I would beat myself up over having pushed too hard, too far. I'd berate myself mentally for doing too much, thinking, "If I only hadn't gone that far."

But—and this is new for me—I decided that the run had been worth it. I decided to do the run that day, and I decided to keep going. It was a ridiculously enjoyable afternoon...Heck, I felt like I could fly. So I'm trying to just do the physical therapy exercises, cross-train and ease back into where I was with running, and not blame myself for anything.

And that’s a resolution: make everything worth it. I generally don’t like resolutions (why not just aim to be better every day of the year?), but this one might do me some good. Instead of over-thinking choices, regretting certain decisions, and live in an “if only I did” or "didn't" kind of mindset, I’d like to be more present. Own every decision. Live with less worry, less regrets. And I’d like to show my kids that you can remember to pack the apple juice, the super hero bad guy toy, enough diapers and a lollipop and still be a free-spirited, inspired, regret-less mom.

Happy New Year, everyone. Hope everything you do is worth it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Slippery Fish

Sam lately has been coming home from "school" (daycare) having learned songs. He teaches them to me, and we sing them together. The latest:

Slippery fish, slippery fish
Swimming in the water
Gulp, gulp,
Oh, no!
He got eaten by a tuna fish!

Tuna fish, tuna fish
Swimming in the water
Gulp, gulp,
Oh, no!
He got eaten by a great white shark!

Great white shark
...You get the idea.

A couple days ago, I ran some laps around the woodsy and hilly property of my in-laws in rural Maryland. It was raining, muddy and puddly (fun). But despite waiting three months postpartum before getting back into running, my return hasn't been the issue-free comeback I was hoping for. During the run, I got the "Slippery Fish" tune stuck in my head, in Sam's little voice. But it went like this:

Slippery Mom, Slippery Mom
Running in the water
Gulp, gulp.
Oh, no!
She got eaten by a bunion!

(I think due to lax joints and ligaments, my left big toe has gone a bit astray, causing a bunion. Best solution so far? Strengthening my feet and ankles.

Silly Mom, Silly Mom
Running in the water
Gulp, gulp
Oh, no!
She got eaten by a bum left hip!

(Perhaps due to the bunion, or the other way around, my SI Joints—one loose, one tight—still seeming to cause my pelvis to rotate out of whack. Best solution so far: stretching the muscles around both my left and right SI Joint, gently strengthening supporting muscles.)

Silly Mom, Silly Mom
Running in the water
Gulp, gulp
Oh, no!
Her uterus is falling out!

(This one, well, when I have Ben sit on my lap too much, or when my body's just out of alignment, some crazy parts of my body feel out of alignment, too. Best solution so far: fire breathing and more exercises from this program.)

Silly Mom, etc.
Oh, no!
Her belly is still huge!

(And this one. My uterus either still hasn't shrunken back down, prolonged by this I had to deal with at 9-weeks postpartum due to retained placenta, or I just got way stretched out carrying Ben and it's just taking a while to un-stretch. Best solution so far? Patience. Mirror-avoidance.)

Silly Mom...
Oh, no!
Her hair is falling out!

(This happened after I had Sam, too, and only grew back when I got pregnant with Ben. Best solution so far? Taking supplements, including fish oil. And, hope.)

I'd say it was a depressing laundry list of postpartum ailments that maybe other moms experience, too, but it wasn't all that depressing. The run was particularly pain-free, and I liked having Sam's little voice in my head. I also feel like I'm being proactive about all the ailments, and they're all getting a bit better, day-by-day. And the muddy, puddly, soggy run made me feel like a kid...and then I got to see my two silly slippery fish when I was done.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sweaty Mama

I ran today. I've waited, and waited, and waited, until Ben turned 12 weeks old to take even one measly running step. I'm trying to be smart with my recovery this time, and the physical therapist I've been seeing said to wait three months postpartum to run because, she says, it takes that long for your pelvis to settle (and I've had particularly shifty SI Joint issues).

Ben turned 12 weeks today. And I've been looking forward to this day — and the beginning of reclaiming my runner self — since I was still pregnant.

My heart raced as I drove to the trail head. Once out of the car and approaching the trail, the sky looked bluer. The trees were more golden. I must have had a ridiculous grin on my face. I was about to jump out of my skin with excitement, but instead, I hiked up the path for the first 15 minutes to warm up. Then I did it. I ran...but just for two minutes, at first. I decided to start back with a mild walk/run/walk plan to see how my postpartum and oft-injured body adjusts. I ran for two minutes, walked for one four times. Then I ran for three minutes because I just couldn't stop. Then walked for one minute, ran for one minute three more times. It was 14 glorious minutes of running, total, during my 40-minute outing. I felt like I was flying, but I was probably running somewhere around a 12-minute-mile pace.

How'd it feel? Parts of my body creaked and crackled. I was aware of my still-not-flat belly, but the bliss of movement and semi-running on the trail on a 70-degree day put that right out of my head. I was so happy, that I sat through an hour-long session at the dentist office right afterward (changed clothes in the car) and didn't even mind it.

I was a sweaty mama, which made me a happy mama. I'm hoping to continue the progress.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Patience is a virtue of which I wish I had more.

Yes, I birthed baby Ben four weeks ago today. Creating — and then birthing — the human that he is took its toll on my body, that's for sure. And I know it takes a while to recover and feel...normal again.

But man, am I antsy.

I was feeling pretty good the first two weeks we were home. We'd go on family walks in the neighborhood. Sometimes I'd be carrying Ben in my arms, sometimes we'd be pushing the stroller. All-in-all, I was surprised at how good I felt following the natural delivery, and I seemed to be on-track for a better/quicker recovery than I had after birthing Sam.

But then two weeks postpartum, I followed the advice of an article written by...me. The physical therapist I interviewed had given the guideline of doing push-ups and planks during weeks two to four postpartum. So, anxious to get feeling strong and like an athlete again, two weeks to the day, I did 15 "girl" push-ups on my knees. Then I did 10 more. Then, I did a plank for 20 seconds. No big deal. Neither the push-ups or the plank bothered me while I was doing them.

My arms weren't sore. My abs weren't sore. My pecs felt fine. But, I ached. I kind of felt like my uterus was going to fall out.

I didn't follow the most important part of that article, or, of any exercise-based guidelines of any sort: Listen to your body, and consult your doctor (my doctor later scolded me). Turns out, my body wasn't ready for push-ups and planks.

I've since seen a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor muscles, and pelvic alignment. I've had the issue of my pelvis rotating and causing pain in my left hip, and I think the push-ups strained some muscles and made me rotate yet again, pulling on some other muscles and causing the ache.

I'm more aligned now, and feeling a bit better, but have had to slow down. I'm just today getting back to going on mellow walks around the neighborhood.

As someone who's used to controlling a part of my day, my mood, and how my body feels by exercise, this is hard for me. I'm really anxious to get out on hikes, swim laps in the pool, lift weights, ride my bike and really work hard. Heck, I'd be happy even doing a few push-ups a day without wrecking myself.

The good news is that the walk today felt okay. And more good news is that baby Ben is doing great, four weeks-old today. And big brother Sam loves having Ben around, and is, so far, a super-awesome big brother (see pic above).

I'm just hoping to walk a little further each day, feeling good. And eventually I'll be able to break into a run. Patience, patience.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Meet Ben

A week ago today, I gave birth to my new baby boy, Ben. And here's how it all went down:

I was six days past my due date, with a looming induction scheduled for the next morning. I spent that Wednesday tearing my hair out between what I thought were more Braxton Hicks contractions, trying to decide if I was going to keep the induction scheduled, or cancel it and see if my body would go into labor on its own for another week. Sam had been two weeks late, and I had to get induced with him. I was really hoping to have a different kind of experience this time.

I did.

That Wednesday evening, I had pretty much decided I was going to cancel the induction. Sam got on his bike, and Mark, Sam's grandparents (Mark's parents) and I took a walk to the playground...with me waddling and having to stop every so often with a contraction. I laid down by the swing set, my head resting on Sam's helmet. We walked home and had dinner.

After dinner, I took a bath and watched some TV, still having contractions, but not regularly enough to know if it was really labor.

But about 9:30, I started timing them again on my lap counter (timing contractions is a good use of the lap counter, I've found!) as I tried to go to bed.

Three contractions, 11 minutes apart. Hmm. Three more contractions, 9 minutes and 30 seconds apart. OK, maybe this is labor. The next contraction was stronger than any of them had been. Me: "I think we're going to the hospital." A quick call to the nurse, a nudge to the grandparents who were thankfully sleeping at our house, a quick kiss on Sam's cheek as he slept, and we were out the door.

Nineteen minutes later (a speed record my husband is very proud of), we were at the hospital, and upon being checked in around 11:30p.m., I was 7.5 cm dilated. WUHOO!

I told the nurse that I'd love to have the baby naturally, but was open to the epidural and hadn't really decided yet. But since I was so far along, I decided to go without it for a while. A half hour or 45 minutes later, I was 8.5 cm dilated. An hour later, and with increasing pain and moaning per contraction, I was still 8.5. I was playing mind games with myself to manage the pain.

Each contraction was about 90-seconds long, I think, which was about 25 quick breaths so I was counting them out in my head, knowing that by the 25th, it'd be over. And I was picturing each contraction as running a 400 as hard as I could, feeling like I just might barf or fall over (I like speed work) when coming around the final bend, but knowing I'd be able to stop and recover once I crossed the line. And in between contractions, I went to Kauai in my brain. Warm air, clear ocean, green grass. That helped, despite the tsunami that I knew was coming...another contraction.

The doctor came in just after 1a.m. and said she could break my water, which she thought would help it along, to which I quickly agreed.

Water broken, three painful contractions about three minutes apart, and within nine minutes I was screaming, "I'M PUSHING!"

And from there I became a wild animal, screaming louder than I ever thought possible and probably scaring the rest of the labor and delivery patients to get every pain drug possible.

I screamed with every contraction, and I think it sounded like...well, like I was birthing an 8-and-a-half-pound human out my body. When the doctor and nurses came in and wanted me to move this way and that, I was thrashing about so badly that one nurse had to grab my head and tell me to focus.

I did focus, between screams, and about 15 minutes of pushing gave me my baby boy Ben. Hallelujah.

Immediately after, I wanted to break it all down, play-by-play, with Mark because I just couldn't believe what had just happened...something I find myself doing after a big race. Mark, on the other hand, was speechless.