Monday, May 16, 2011

Ghostwriting

(enters small, dark wooden box, with silhouetted man on other side of screen)

Forgive me, for it has been 2 weeks since my last blog.

(enter years of Catholic guilt piling up to only be rectified by a few prayers, a dry wafer and a lot of holy wine)

That’s it! I’ve been drunk for 2 weeks.

I WISH! I think that’s called vacation. College? RAGBRAI! Alas I’ve been mostly confined to the 4 walls I call home that sits nestled behind a car dealership just a short jaunt from the expressway. If I close my eyes hard enough, it’s just like the sound of the ocean.

I live in Illinois, folks, work with me.

Is this thing on? Because I’d like to blame this silence on something. Microphone malfunction. Laptop broken. Internet down? Certainly the silence is not my fault. I’ll blame it on the weather (yup, still winter!), my child (pretty sure he’s been sick for at least 4 weeks now), my husband (when all else fails blaming the husband is just too easy), the dog (know what – I’m gonna kick him too).

Put all of that together and you get the collective package I call…

"Life"

It’s been busy. And I’ve got dozens of thoughts running mad circles in my head. Know what I need? A ghostwriter. Someone to just write the blog for me. What do they call those people who take dictation. I need one of them. Can I scribble a bunch of thoughts on a coffee shop napkin and have someone piece it together into something eloquent and blogworthy? Come on. Someone needs a job out there. I pay well!

(crickets)

FINE, I’ll do it myself. I’ve got some freetime which means I’ve locked myself in the bathroom, yes actually closed the door and demanded that no living thing is within 10 feet of me for AT LEAST 10 minutes. As a parent this rarely happens. At least 90 percent of the time I am naked or making potty in front of something and….oh god. Did you hear that? I just said making potty. I have not only lost my dignity but my marbles. I’ve started talking in parental kidspeak.

But it could be worse. I could be babysigning.

Speaking of BABY!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you…

Separation anxiety

(in this scene, the subject briefly leaves the kitchen to get a towel to wipe the child’s mouth)

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

(in this next scene, the subject turns her head to look outside to locate the dog who has gone missing for the last 20 minutes)

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

(in this final scene, the subject makes a desperate attempt to momentarily leave the child so she can just take a pee already)

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

There you have it.

It’s not like I’m going exciting places, people. I am simply going somewhere else to meet the child’s needs. And the moment I turn, he screams. Repeat for roughly 12 hours of the day. I read that separation anxiety starts to make an appearance around 9 months. Max is now approaching 10 months and has decided that he will not skip through the separation anxiety phase. He will embrace it with open arms and sit himself on the floor, every time I turn away, with arms raised over head while screaming mamamamamamamama in the most annoyingly cute way ever.

And that is how children get their way.

Know what makes it stop? The pacifier. Tool of the devil, I agree. Yet, when pinned against the devil and peace-and-quiet-or-just-the-opportunity-to-take-a-pee, I’ll admit:

I’ve sold my soul.

Along with this phase comes a new behavior I call “the anti-nap.” I’m guessing that most of this is Max waking up 30 minutes into his nap and realizing – GASP – I’m not there. I’m never there but until now I don’t think his brain could process that. It’s true, in this phase they become aware that they are a separate person from you and –

That’s pretty scary.

He’s becoming his own little person. He has opinions. He is not afraid to voice them. Being strapped into the stroller, wearing a hat, having his nose wiped: not a fan. HE CAN SHAKE HIS HEAD! He echoes what we say. He has conversations with us. He babbles, we babble, he babbles back. He stiffens his body into a concrete slab of protest to tell us I DON’T LIKE THAT. Occasionally he bursts into tears upon hearing the word no, that’s how I know he’s listening. And – learning.

All of this evolution of going from strange baby form to person is amazing. It gets you connected to your kid. Because, honestly, sometimes you look at your baby and think…alien? They don’t talk, they don’t say thank you, they don’t notice when you leave the room. And then all of a sudden one day it changes. They become more human, more real.

Ah, enter good parenting endorphins.

Good parenting endorphins happen all day long. Make no mistake there are some shaky moments throughout the day that are downright frustrating but in general, parenting feels good. It’s the feeling of falling in love. You get googly-eyed. You think about them. I still look at him and think – I cannot believe he’s mine. Sometimes I watch him laying in his crib at night and say to myself “that is my son.” It’s like pinching yourself. Yes, it’s real. It makes you want to have a dozen more children and in your head you start naming them until you remember the fact that you didn’t sleep for 6 months.

It can wait.

Sometimes I step back and can’t believe I’ve spent nearly a year parenting. Like training, the more you do it, the fitter and faster you get at it. I can put a diaper on with one hand before the child even has time to think of rolling over. I like to think I’m getting better at parenting. Yet there are moments in my day where I think to myself that no matter what someone does they will never be prepared for parenting.

I found myself deep in this thought while sitting on the kitchen floor last week, Friday, at 12 pm, still in my pajamas, meowing at my son with a kitty tub toy on top of my head. We were playing. And as often playtime goes with Max, he is laughing and I am…looking like a complete ass.

This was the culmination of a week of something I was not prepared for: Rotavirus. If your child gets this, do yourself a favor: get a box of gloves, a face mask, cover all bedding in plastic and wear a rain slicker. Every time he ate or drank he either pooped or puked. It was kind of like being with a drunk friend but a lot less fun.

In situations where I have no idea what to do, I call the nurse at the pediatrician’s office. She warns me the diarrhea can last an entire week.

Holy sh**………A WEEK OF THIS!?

I got off the phone with a pit of ON NO in my stomach. I’m not sure you can truly appreciate the destructive properties of poop until you put your shoe into it while you are standing in the bathtub with your fully clothed child because you’re not quite sure where else to begin. Once wasn’t enough. We did this several times throughout the week. In fact, it’s safe to say Max has enough bath’s banked up for the next month.

When your child is sick you realize that when it comes to raising another human being, there are times you have no fucking clue what to do. If he can’t eat, what do you feed him? If he can’t drink, how do you keep him alive? God invented Pedialtye for such situations. Grape Pediatlyte – super yummy. Like grape jello. Might not be a bad part of an Ironman hydration plan. When I found Chris “polishing off” the bottle of orange Pedialyte, I knew I was not the only crazy one.

Eventually, time exorcised the demons from Max’s pooper. He felt better and returned to his normal “fun” personality. Unfortunately he seems to get sick every other week so there’s a lot of unfun in there too. The most recent unfun: kennel cough. We don’t know where he got the cough from but he coughs – ALL NIGHT LONG. It’s true what they say, kids get sick – a lot. I seem to get a mini version of whatever Max has too. Go through this enough times and you find yourself wanting to shake someone by their neck when they come around you and say “I’m sick”. You feel like calling them up when your foot is in poo and screaming you couldn’t stay home, could you, you had to infect the rest of the world because whatever you were doing was so damn important!

Yeah, you get a little bitter. But only because you’ve spent your day trapped in the house for fear that the minute you’ll leave, the diaper will explode and you’ll literally be shit out of luck.

The irony is: I never anticipated any of this. I used to think I knew what I was getting myself into. I’ve taken care of kids all my life. I know what I’m doing! That is nonsense. You sort of know if you have a dog because at some point that dog was a puppy and probably shit itself in the crate in the middle of the night or ate an iPhone. It’s sort of like that but not really. You don’t know it until you’re in it. And when you’re in it you think to yourself – this is why no one tells you about this. Any teenager thinking of having a kid should spend a week watching a baby with Rotavirus. Add to that some teething and you’ve got yourself some solid birth control.

Those are the rough moments of motherhood. But there are far more highs. In fact, the yearly highlight of being a mother – no, it’s not the day you convince your husband that plastic surgery will make you a much better wife/mother/person to live with – it’s Mother’s Day. I got to celebrate my first mother’s day last weekend. I thought about how life has changed, how I have changed in the space of one year. One year ago I was huge (and my mom gets great pleasure in reminding me how huge I was: you were huge, Elizabeth, HUGE) and waiting. I was also hot. I remember getting hot in April and pretty much staying that way until I night sweated out the pregnancy hormones 3 days post-partum. I remember feeling all googly-eyed about Chris because that’s what parents-to-be do. You fall in love all over again, the relationship deepens, you forget about every dropped sock, they forget about every time you backed into the other car on the driveway. I remember the feeling of waiting. Waiting for Max.

Flash forward (snap out of dreaming, yes, I’m still in the bathroom with the door closed and no one has bothered me which is either a miracle or a sign that something has gone terribly wrong outside the door). Max is here. It’s been 10 months. Wait a minute….it’s only been 10 months? You mean I’ve got 17 more years of this? Maybe more if he decides to take some time off college to find himself? What comes after separation anxiety…walking? Tantrumming? Driving the car? Too soon for that…?

I try not to get too far ahead of myself. The other day I thought too far ahead and realized that one day he will be in school and need help doing homework and THIS is why I should have paid attention in history class. Spanish class. Science, math and English. Which means the only class I paid attention in was….gym.

One day at a time. Like one mile at a time, one foot in front of the other. Yeah, I learned something from all that training. And now it’s time to emerge back into daily life. Which means I’m going to open the bathroom door now and…

MOMMY WILL BE RIGHT THERE, SHE’S MAKING POTTY.

God help my adult verbal skills.

Along with my waistline pre-pregnancy, they seem to have gone missing.

But I’m hopeful in 17 years, both will come back!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Travelogue

Because racing isn’t stressful enough, we decided to travel to this past weekend’s race with Max, 9 months old.

Before we set out on the trip, I considered asking other parents for advice. Advice other than 1 – don’t, 2 – ear plugs, 3 – medication. I then realized I probably wouldn’t get much advice. When I asked my sister in law, she advised me not to take a Xanax and leave the spouse to care for the child. That does not go over well with spouse, she informed me (but you need only spend a few minutes on a long flight with a crying child WHO IS YOUR OWN to understand why narcotics are very attractive).


When I asked the doctor, she said to bring lots of toys and snacks. She added that their ears are actually better equipped to handle flying and that the old wives tale of giving Benadryl would cause the opposite effect. I packed a bag full of toys, snacks and diapers. Then I said three Hail Mary’s, an Our Father and put on my rosary.

Just in case.

There is a fine line between brave, crazy and stupid. Traveling by air with young child crosses all of those lines at some point in your travels. It actually might happen early on in the trip. Say, when you are at the airport before 7 am and realize you’ve forgotten the child’s pacifier.

(crowd gasps in horror)


I suppose the answer is to not start them on the pacifier in the first place. You tell me that when I’m 6 weeks post-partum, woken up every 2 hours and still look like I’m 5 months pregnant. The pacifier brought us peace. Now, honestly, it’s just a pain in the ass. Or mouth. When child number two arrives (by way of stork, by then they will have the technology to do so), there will be no pacifier.

When we realized we forgot the pacifier, the words out of Chris’ mouth were HOLY SHIT. Yes, we feared not for the child but for the other 200 passengers on board the three-and-a-half-hour flight to Tuscon. That’s a long time in the air with a crying child. There might be an air rage incident. I did not want to be responsible for grounding the plane.

So Chris did what any father would do. Travel tip for new parents – always carry cash. You never know when you’re going to need to buy the spare pacifier off a mother holding an infant.

(side note: they do not sell pacifiers or bottles in airports but they sell about 1000 other useless things like silver jewelry and little license tag key chains!)


The flight was uneventful. Max had his moments of fussiness, quiet and playfulness. A few pages from a magazine were eaten. A stranger’s hair was pulled. A surprise poopy was dropped 20 minutes before landing. Perhaps the most uncomfortable 20 minutes of my life – and probably uncomfortable for everyone seated around us with a decent sense of smell.

We were in Tucson for Duathlon Nationals. Jennifer was generous to let us stay at her comfortable condo. Now, I’ve known her long enough to know she has a chocolate problem. I’ve been to her house and seen her secret drawer filled with chocolate CLIF bars in case of emergency but I did not anticipate finding chocolate IN EVERY FORM everywhere; freezer, pantry, fridge, in the change bowl...


No I didn’t check under the bed.

I was excited to be in Tucson – SUNSHINE! – and do this particular race, my last duathlon for the year in a 5K/35K/5K format. In case you’re wondering, that adds up to fast, ow, it's gonna hurt. I knew it would be a balls to the wall as hard as you can go for about a hundred minutes. I’ve worked hard lately and felt ready to handle it.

We arrived the day before the race, so it was busy. Add Max and you get even more busy. We had his schedule to consider plus our schedule plus the schedule of the race – packet pick up, a trip to TriSports.com to pick up a borrowed pack n’ play, bike check in. They canceled bike check in due to high winds but still driving around Tuscon on Friday during “rush hour” was rough. Tucson is the land of a thousand stoplights that always seem to be red. Other than that, it’s a slice of southwestern beauty set against tall mountains with a lush spring green in all of the trees right now. A cloudless sky, temperatures in the 80s. A nice diversion from the cold spring in Chicago!

Race morning I woke up after not sleeping much. Max was in the room and he’s a snore machine! I woke up every hour on the hour until I finally decided to start the day. The nice thing about being a mom is that when you wake up on race morning, sleep or no sleep you feel pretty close to your “normal.”

It was a gorgeous morning. The sun was warm, the sky was blue, the mountains were an amazing backdrop to the race. In all of my years of racing, this felt like one of the most well organized national championships I’ve ever done. Everything was intelligently placed, convenient and flowed without problem. Kudos to USAT.

I warmed up. It was warm out but dry. Nothing like the heat we feel in Chicago which is like a hot and heavy blanket that you can’t shed. My wave went off late so I was able to watch the earlier waves. When I finally got to the start line, I was slightly nervous but feeling ready. The voice of Tim Yount reminded me that this race was serious. The 10 minutes waiting for the start felt like forever.

I knew who was in my age group, knew what I needed to do and what I wanted to do. I knew the first run would be fast. I went out at a controlled pace and worked my way up into the top 3 of my age group. The course was a few out and backs and finished going up a ½ mile long hill that slowed my pace by about 50 seconds per mile! Still, I was able to pull into 2nd in my age group before getting into transition.

I was ready to give it a painful effort on the bike. I knew that’s what it would take. Three women passed me nearly right away. I tried to respond but my legs were still protesting the first run. I kept them in sight and waited a few minutes for my legs to come back. Another woman went to pass me and I got angry. Clearly the effort I was giving was not enough. So the effort went from what I thought was hard to ok this really hurts now. My stomach hurt. I threw up a little over one of the bridges. The course was up or down. I pushed and pushed and pushed.

I got into transition thinking I was 5th in my age group. Time to repeat that run course. It was hotter out and for sure the effort on the bike would slow some women down. But not at nationals. The women in my age group were in sight but I was not gaining on them. My legs were there and I felt like I was giving it a lot but my splits were not where I thought they would be. I kept turning over but getting nothing in return. I saw a woman in my age group ahead of me and on the final hill started pushing hard to catch her but fell 9 seconds short.

I thought I was 5th in my age group. Results showed me I was 6th. It took me a few moments to catch my breath but once I did, I got really frustrated. My goal was to be top 3 in my AG. I worked hard for that in training. I fell short. I don’t like to disappoint myself.

I could make excuses – Max has been sick, I didn’t peak for this race, it was hot, it was dry, Tuscon sits at 2300 feet (that’s like high altitude when you live at 720 feet, right?). None of that really mattered. And none of those excuses make me feel better. Bottom line on race day – it’s you. Just you. You do it or you don’t. If you don’t – you have to look to yourself and your training to find the answer why. It's there.

A few hours later, the final results bumped me up to 5th in my AG which at nationals is on the podium. I was content to be on the podium in 5th but that’s not the result I worked for. I can’t even say 'hoped for' because I never “hope” I achieve my goal, I just work for it. When I can't put it together, I'm disappointed.


The rest of the day, we enjoyed Tucson. We went for a tram ride at Sabino Canyon and it was perfect. Something about being in natural areas is so serene. Whatever storm of feelings or worry you are feeling immediately fades into the landscape and all you are you left with is marveling at the rocks, the sky, the trees. It's very simple. The trip started to feel too short. The sun felt too warm. Chicago and real life were waiting back at home tomorrow, I just wanted to sit on that tram for a few days.

The next morning, we flew home. Max was unsettled for most of the flight – nothing that snacks nor toys nor holding could fix. Finally I got up to walk him to the rear of the plane and just when the stink of a disappointing race isn’t enough, someone decides to projectile vomit all over the rear galley. Then all over the lavatory. And lastly all over me.

Another travel tip: when traveling with young children, the best outfit is one entirely made of vinyl.

This was one of those scenarios in life I just didn’t have a script for. What do you do when you are covered in vomit at 39,000 feet? You walk back to your seat, you find a baby wipe, you hand the baby over to someone else while you wipe yourself (including your shoes!?) clean. Then, you get a bunch of paper towels from the flight attendant and clean puke up off the floor. I never thought I’d be on my hands and knees cleaning the floor of a Southwest lavatory but there’s a first time for everything!

Max threw up a few more times on the drive home. Later in the day, he threw a party in his pants – twice – with diarrhea. Poor little guy. We’re not sure if it was too much stimulation, something he ate or licking the seats at the airport. Hey, it kept him quiet at the time!

But the mother in me got upset for dragging my child to Tuscon. The mother in me said it was silly to think we could integrate him into our “other” life. The mother in me is sometimes harder on me than the athlete in me. Getting the two to coincide peacefully, at times, is honestly quite difficult.

But nothing a glass of wine at dinner could not mediate.

You have what feels like a bad race and you sit around tired, discontent, cranky. It easy to feel like all of the work, sacrifice and juggling life, baby, workouts, marriage was not worth it. But I know that is not true. Racing is good when it's good and when it's not good - it's still a good learning experience. I’m disappointed but not discouraged. I wake up tomorrow and I move on to the next thing.

So forget racing, let’s talk about my adorable child. Having him with us this weekend was challenging but worth it. He went on his first airplane adventure. He went into the pool and showed off all of the things he’s learned with Daddy at Diaper Dippers. He ate spicy chicken and liked it. He waved for the first time – we’ve been working on this! I got to see him proudly look up at the ceiling and point when I asked him “where is the light?” He’s also starting to say “mamamamama” which I know means nothing right now but one day, that will mean ME.

(heart melts)

Our next race is local and Max will come with us. Three hours in the car will be much easier than 3 hours on the airplane.

Right?

I should probably cover the entire backseat in plastic wrap and bring along a poncho. And pack a bottle or two of Febreze!