Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Summer of Love

I realize that it's November 2nd. I've been meaning to write about summer adventures with Sam since, well, my last post in August when it was actually still summer.

Anyway, with Sam turning two last May, I guess part of me feared what everybody calls the "terrible twos." They really haven't come yet. Instead, I felt (and still feel) like now that Sam is two and two+, I have this little buddy to hang out with. He's active, mobile, has a great little personality shining through, and can communicate with me in his funny little ways.

Over the summer, my little buddy and I did fun kid stuff together like ride the Chariot (which, set up to my old 29er mountain bike, is dubbed the "Mama Mobile" by me, and "Mom's Bike" by Sam) to go to the outdoor community pool. There, we'd play on the slide, swim in the pool, wrap ourselves in towels and sit in lounge chairs eating popsicles.

We rode the Mama Mobile downtown Boulder, and took the free train ride. We took long walks through the Community Garden with our dog Hannah, and picked cherry tomatoes ("nomaynos"). In our own garden, Sam sat on a chair in the shade eating a popsicle in the afternoon, and I'd bring him peas from the garden. Late in the summer, we dug up carrots and ate those, too.

We had a breakthrough with him liking vegetables this summer, and I'm certain it's because it's fun to pick them from a garden and eat them.

We walked, and Sam rode his Strider bike, to the playground often. We rode "geen bike" (it's green) to the stream by our house and threw rocks in the water, and let Hannah cool off by going for a swim.

We visited with family on a lake on the east coast, and family on the beach on the west coast. It's particularly fun for me to see him play in the waves and love sand. And it turns out he loves food from my favorite cheap taco stand in San Diego, too. We'd get lunch to go, bring it to the beach, and play there all day.

Maybe what all this is really telling me is that, in a lot of ways, I am still a kid at heart and love doing all the things that my child loves to do. But it's also that I just love sharing things with him, and seeing him explore and discover. And it seems that hanging out with him on days he's not in daycare (when I'm working) adds fun and balance to my week in a way I never would have known without him. It kind of forces me to slow down and...play.

So maybe the terrible twos will come. Maybe we'll have terrible threes. But for now, well into fall after a fully fun summer, two is pretty terrific.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Confessions of a Traveling Mom

I have a confession to make: I went on an 8-day trip to the Alps. Without my son or husband. And I liked it.

Let me clarify/justify: It was a work trip, and I did almost cancel the trip when I figured out it was eight days long. I had agreed to go when I thought it was a six-day trip, and even that seemed long to me. The longest I'd been away from Sam in his 2-year, 3-month-life is five days, and that was hard. But eight days away, and so far away...I just didn't know if I could do it.

Yes, I missed him terribly, but I got into the groove of traveling by myself (until meeting up with the others, but even then, I was traveling more by myself than usual) and enjoyed the change of pace. The trip included running/hiking on the Trail du Mont Blanc which circumnavigates the Mont Blanc Massif, crossing over into Italy and Switzerland and then back into France.

There were a couple of hard days out there. One day, in particular, I thought I'd be hiking/running 10 miles and getting in a van. Due to logistical difficulties, I ended up having to hike/run 26 miles instead on a sore big toe and sore knee. But as we climbed into a storm atop the Col de la Seigne, crossing from the French to Italian border, I was pretty happy to be out there suffering. It'd been a long time since the whole purpose of a day was getting from point A to point B by foot, and that, I cherished.

Another highlight of the trip for me was sitting in cafe by myself in Chamonix for the better part of four hours. I alternated between working on my laptop, reading a book, writing in my journal, and...just sitting there listening to people speak French. I switched between Orangina, Perrier and coffee, after eating lunch. Just to have the time to think, or not, was fantastic.

Now back at home, a month later, I'm back in the swing of family life and juggling everything.and I really dig that, too. (Sam and I rode a little train in downtown Boulder this morning and had some lunch--a very pleasant couple of hours.)

I do feel a little guilty for having gone on that trip to the Alps, but Sam and Mark were totally fine, and I came back having a little more sense of self that I'd missed.

I do realize that I'm lucky to get opportunities to go on trips/adventures like this for work, and this was a big one. But even small outings -- a two-hour trail run, or going to do a race with a friend -- seem really valuable in maintaining life balance between being a mom, and everything else.

I do think adventures are always good, even when they're bad. This one just happened to be pretty darn good.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Dipsea

My favorite running race of all time, the Dipsea, was about a month ago, and I’ve been so busy with work, travel, and … life, that I’m just now writing about it here.

Yes, I had been trying to rehab my hip/hamstring/back injury just enough to be able to run, really run, my favorite race.

And I was really very happy to be there, at the starting line, with minimal aches and pains. I was raring to go. (And I was ecstatic that friends of ours agreed to drive our little Sam from the starting line to the finish line, and that he didn’t cause too much trouble for them.)

What happened over the next 7.5 trail miles was both fun and extremely painful. I just didn’t have any gusto off the starting line. I ran those 676 stairs okay, walking up the steepest ones and trotting when I could. But I felt slow. On the downhills, the first, through Windy Gap, I had a blast. I charged and passed people, riding the line between just barely in, and totally out, of control.

All the downhills that day were equally as fun. I tore down Suicide, the steepest, roughest of descents about midway through the race, and charged down the Swoop, a rutty singletrack with falling into tall brush as your consequence. But on the uphills, and on the gradual downhills where you can really stride out, I just didn’t have it. I slogged through those portions, and it hurt.

My husband, who started five minutes behind me in the uniquely handicapped race, passed me about mile five. I’m pretty sure I said the F-word, followed by, “Oh, Mark!” followed by… “Go Mark!” And I meant the latter (and the prior). I wanted him to have a good race, even if I was having a bad one.

When I crossed the finish line, I about collapsed. But I also cried. I was in so much physical pain from the effort, but I was also pretty bummed I hadn’t had a good race. I finished much further back than I had in the past six times I’d run the race, and I guess I just hadn’t realized I was that far off where I’d been.

Then I got a big hug from Sam. “Mama,” he said, and reached for me from my friend’s arms. I had this overly sappy sentiment that no matter how slow I was, my son still loved me a whole lot.

Supportive friends and family members have since said things to me like, “You’re older now,” to which I say: “Phooey.” They’ve said, “You have a child now,” to which I say: “There are plenty of fast moms.” There’s the whole: “You’ve been injured” thing, which I can stomach—I have, and that one means there’s hope I can regain speed.

I am happy that I’ve been so busy being mom, working, going to physical therapy, traveling (more on that later), and running. As long as running is in the mix—even if it is slower than I’ve been, and like to be—I feel…like myself. And that’s good.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Running Wild

Sam turned two last Sunday, on Mother's Day, which means a lot of things around here.

Firstly, I now know how to clean ball point pen off of wood doors, and am getting good at cleaning crayon off walls. I also know that when Sam says, "Rwaock" when he's leaving for daycare with his dad some mornings, it means he wants to "walk" to the car himself. And I know that when he closes the doors to the armoire that houses the television, he wants me to put on music really loudly so we can have a dance party in the living room.

I've danced more in the last six months than I have in the last six years.

The kind of dancing I do with Sam is actually perfect for me. It's silly, goofy, almost ironic. Dancing normally makes me feel like a fool. Dancing with Sam makes me a fool, and that's the point. It works for both of us.

Lately, little super-active Sam and I have been playing out on the sidewalk some afternoons. We walk along the street in front of our neighbors' houses, and sometimes he stops dead in his tracks. For a milli-second. Then he kind of swings his arms and yells, "Ggooe!" And then we run. We do these little 15-meter dashes down the sidewalk, me chasing his little silliness.

It's pretty fun hanging out with two-year-old Sam. Sure, we have our moments—some longer than others—of fits and stubbornness and...still taking up to 90 minutes (though sometimes 20) to go to sleep in the big boy bed at night, but this little person and all his new words and personality traits is really fun to get to know.

Happy belated Mother's Day, everyone.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Newfound Freedom

Sam is one active little dude. He turns two(!) in a couple of weeks, and he's reached some big milestones lately...like learning to crawl out of his crib.

One night, a couple weeks ago, I heard his little feet hit the floor (at least he stuck the landing) and then pitter-pattering: thump thump thump thump thump. For a split second, I thought, "What the..." but then I shot out of bed like a rocket. I found my previously contained boy, standing at his door. At 2 a.m.

And so we bit the bullet, and switched him to a "Big Boy Bed." After debating between a toddler bed, a twin bed with a guard rail and just a twin mattress, we settled on the latter and placed in on the floor.

To make matters even more exciting for Sam, we moved back into our house after doing some remodeling. So there we were on Sunday night: new bed, new room, new house.

We tried to keep the same bedtime routine. We tried to put him to bed without much ado, aside from getting him psyched up for his new bed. But the little guy had something else in mind. For two hours after turning off the lights, my husband and I traded off laying in his bed with him...or, without him.

Sam, the active little explorer that he is, cruised around his room. He'd lay down for a little while, then shoot out of bed, rearrange some books. Lay down, shoot out of bed, move his sippy cup from the book cubby to the little table. Lay down, shoot out of bed and play with the ladybug that glows colored stars. Change from red ("wreee"), to green ("neeen") to blue ("booo!"). Lay down. After two hours, he just collapsed on the bed.

Once there, he slept...until about 2 a.m., when I heard him wake up. (I wasn't really asleep up 'til then anyway, worrying about him falling out, escaping from his room, etc.) I spent the rest of the night in his bed with him. We slept in his twin until 4:45 a.m. That's when we got up for the day.

I get it, I do. He's never had the freedom before to explore his room at night. He's been in a cage (his crib), and now he's free. He has things to do. Books need rearranging, sippy cups need moving. Stars need to change colors. I get it.

I can fully appreciate freedom--my running lately has given me that. I've had progress with a physical therapist treating me with dry needling (OUCH, big time) and nerve openers for my back/hip/hamstring, and strengthening exercises. Running, for me, is freedom. And I'm happy to have it back.

Hopefully, I'll soon have sleeping back, too.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mini Me

I'm in the habit lately of dressing like Sam, or, dressing Sam like me. It's completely subconscious. I only realize I've done so later in the day, when I'm running an errand with him on my hip, and suddenly become aware that we're both in brown corduroys and blue shirts. It's embarrassing. I feel like an overzealous mom trying to morph this little being into a mini version of myself.

I'm not! I swear! Sam, who's almost two years old, may have some personality traits frighteningly similar to my own. We both love to run (the dude is non-stop). We both want to be outside all the time. And we both get really bummed out when we reach the bottom of a bowl of ice cream.

But we have some differences, too. And I'm really happy about that.

I'm learning all about things I never would have, had I not had a Sam. I now know what a backhoe loader is, and how it's different from a regular backhoe. And I now know just how different a triceratops is from a diplodocus.

I'm sure I'll learn more about these things as my son grows older. We'll have full discussions about which dinosaur is the biggest and what trucks are the coolest.

What's funny is that my husband knows all about these things, and I never knew that before. It's not like you meet, date, get married and whatnot and often talk about trucks and dinosaurs. But raising a son together, I realize that my husband was once a little boy fascinated by these things, too.

Seems I'm learning about two new people at once these days: Sam, and my husband as a little boy just like Sam. I don't think Sam is just like his father (his dad is rather impartial to ice cream), nor is he just like me. He's this new little person who we're both having fun getting to know. And I'm going to do my best to dress him like Sam, not a mini me or mini Mark.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Waves of Anxiety

Writing from Hawaii tonight. Yes, the same Hawaii that was under tsunami warning on Saturday. And boy, was that a stressful morning.

Every time we have enough frequent flier miles from work travel, we book tickets for these islands. It's our family happy place, and we come here to play in the sand, the ocean, the warm air that always smells like flowers.

Mornings usually start with listening to the birds outside before going outside to chase them across the lawn—a favorite activity of Sam's. Usually (lucky me), it's my husband who's up with Sam before 6, waiting for the sun to come up, playing carelessly. Not last Saturday morning.

"Um, honey," said my husband, waking me up. "I don't mean to alarm you, but there's a tsunami warning."

I shot out of bed like it was on fire.

"It won't hit here until 11:30 or so, so we have plenty of time." I later learned that this was his attempt to keep me calm.

It didn't. We packed everything up as quickly as possible, including 5 to 7 days of food (everything we had in the condo, anyway), which is what they were telling us to do on the news. It was 5:45 a.m. Just before 6 a.m., hotel staff called to tell us to evacuate. Minutes later, island-wide alarms sounded, and shortly after we had loaded the car. Sam in his car seat, headed...somewhere.

I was in full-on survivor mode. We didn't know what was coming. Thoughts of the Thailand disaster ran through my mind. It was much like a nightmare where it's up to me—and the decisions I make on the spot—determining the well-being of my family.

I'm certain that if it was just me and my husband, I would have been stressed out. But having Sam with us...well that was a whole other level of stress. To feel responsible for the life and safety of this little child of mine, who I love almost indescribably, was a heavy, heavy weight. And as we settled into higher ground—a basketball court three miles from the beach—I couldn't help but tear up wondering if we were in the right place. Should we drive to the highest spot on the island? Should we ditch the car and hike? Did we get enough milk, enough water? Are we doing everything we can to stay safe?

Had it been just my husband and I, I'm certain we would have put on running shoes and backpacks and been able to run to the hills, if we had to. But we had Sam with us, and I was overwhelmingly worried about making the right decisions for survival.

This is heavy stuff, I know.

Luckily, the day turned out fine. We played with Sam; he took a nap. We had a picnic. By the afternoon we were back in our room, back on the beach. But the gravity of a near disaster exhausted me, and made me...even more thankful for my family.

In lighter news, I'm thrilled that my husband finally has something to do on the beach. Fill the bucket, dump it out. Fill the bucket, dump in out, all the while Sam asking his dad for "More, more?" The two of them are in the water, out of the water. Jumping the waves, dodging the waves. Chasing the funny kid down the beach, across the lawn. My husband—who used to get antsy on the beach after 10 minutes—finally has something to do, and we're all happy about it.

All is well, thank goodness.

ps. I know it's been a while since I've posted. Life has been hectic, and then when I thought it wouldn't be (on vacation), it was...Thanks for sticking with me!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Predictably Unpredictable

I should have known. Despite all my grand plans of having one-hour escapes of guaranteed activity, joined with my supposed hours of guaranteed time to work when Sam’s at daycare, sometimes things change.

Last week, Sam had a cold and cough. He sounded part foghorn, part seal, and he was running a low-grade fever. We skipped swim class one night. We skipped the 90-minute daycare at the gym, where a couple times a week, I get my guaranteed workout. And we skipped his day at daycare, because he was too dang sick.

So I sat on the couch, with my little coughing, warm-headed, koala bear clinging to me with his head on my shoulder.

I do still cherish the cuddle time. I know pretty soon his insanely fast-growing body won’t even fit on my lap – it seems the length of him is already longer than my whole upper half. We sat and cuddled. I took care of my boy.

The problem was that I had a big story due—some details to finish—and I couldn’t do it. It’s hard to type (and think coherently) with a coughing koala on your chest. I was helpless, and stressed out.

Luckily, Sam fell into a deep enough sleep that I was able to slide him off my body and onto the couch. I built a landing zone of pillows, should he roll off quicker than I could react, and I got to my computer a few feet away.

I was able to do what I needed to, on the work front. But I wasn’t able to do what I needed to on the workOUT front.

Once my husband got home, I snuck out for a quick run through the neighborhood as the sun was going down. It was my time to unwind, and it worked. By the time I got home, I was ready to act as a human eucalyptus for a couple more hours as my sick koala hung on.

Sometimes, despite the seemingly predictable outings we plan, things just change.

ps. Reader Kimberly: You might want to contact the race director to ask what's allowed. (I assume you're thinking of walking the race with baby in an Ergo.) And: It looks like this Bay Bridge Run/Walk in May allows strollers. In general, if a race's website doesn't say anything about strollers being allowed or not, I think it's a good idea to call or email the race director to find out. You don't want to shcelp yourself and baby to a race to find out you'll be strolling on the sidelines.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Unpredictably Predictable

I've long had a commitment issue...with signing up for anything that happens once a week. What if I get an opportunity to go on a trip? What if there's a race I want to do? What if my free spirit just wants to roam (or, I have to work) at that time, on that day?

It's not that I'm over my need for adventure and spontaneity--not by a long shot. But something about being a mom has made me really look forward to things I know are going to happen once a week.

"The Bachelor," for instance. I'm partially kidding, but I do look forward to yelling at those girls on the TV every Monday night.

What I look forward to even more are the times I know I'm going to get out for a run or a workout during the week. I have certain days that are sure things (unless Sam is sick), where I go to the gym and he's happy in daycare for enough time for me to get in a workout, then we swim together in the pool. I look forward to that (and I think he does, too).

And, I used to be an end-of-day runner, but the end of most days are just less predictable lately. I now realize the value of the morning run, and I look forward to those days, too.

I'm also doing a beginner Pilates class, once a week. The little movements are hard for me, I think it's helping me stabilize my S.I. joint, my spine and my pelvis by giving me core strength, deep down. I think it'll help me get past this injury and back to the kind of running I want to do. I'm excited about that.

And then there's soccer morning with Sam, and volleyball night for me. Predictable.

In a time when so many other things are unpredictable and sometimes crazy (in a good way, but still), I've really come to appreciate these one-hour windows of activity throughout the week that I can count on.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Playing Games

Earlier this week, I played volleyball in a warehouse full of sand in the suburbs between Denver and Boulder. It’s what they call “beach” volleyball out here in Colorado, and man, was it a trip.

A sign on the door of the warehouse says, “It’s always summer when there’s Jose Cuervo!” and beach scenes are painted on the interior walls. There’s a bar. But there’s also six or seven volleyball courts, and a whole lot of people who can play.

As soon as I found my team (two guys and one other girl), and started warming up, I had a huge grin on my face. We played four games, and I had a blast.

There’s something about playing ball sports that makes me feel like a kid (probably because I haven't played much since being one). It's an escape very unlike running. I love the rhythmic motion of running for sorting through things in my head. But it’s also really fun to totally check out. There’s not really time to think about anything—other than what you’re doing—when a ball is coming at you on the court.

The night playing in that warehouse invigorated me in a way I’ve missed through pregnancy and the last 20 months (Sam is 20 months!). The last time I really played volleyball, or any ball sport, was in Santa Barbara when Sam was maybe four weeks old, and I didn’t yet know I was pregnant.

I had so much fun that I found myself feeling younger all week. Sam and I went to the gym the next morning, and even thought it was 20-something degrees out, I decided to ride my bike through the snow to get there. He was all bundled up in the Chariot. It was me who was a little cold, but happily having an adventure.

This morning, we took Sam to his first experience playing ball sports (aside from playing catch and "fetch" down the hallway and in the yard). They have Soccer Tots out here for kids as young as 18 months, and since our playgrounds are covered in snow, it’s tough to find something to do with a toddler in the winter.

It’s not like they were shooting on goal, juggling and practicing a set play. Sam’s “coach” led games and activities, and Sam ran around the indoor turf carrying the ball in his hands. Like his mother, he had a big smile on his face while playing.

Maybe it’s having a Sam that's making me realize new (and old, at the same time) ways to have fun. In the 10 or so years before baby, for years I was really focused on running and racing (running, adventure races, triathlons, etc). I still crave that kind of challenge—and hope to be healthy enough to do those things soon. But I also value the kid-like fun of chasing a ball around.

- lisa