Category Archives: Parenting

The Hardest Workout I’ve Ever Done

No, it’s not what you think.

The hardest workouts I’ve ever done only last twenty minutes, and I don’t even break a sweat. I don’t breathe hard, I don’t even get warm in my extremities. My heart rate has to stay in a specific, low zone. Last week I was in the 130s. This week I am in the 140s.

This is the hardest workout mentally and emotionally. To go to the gym, seeing all the people doing all the things I want to do, I used to do, I CAN DO, I miss doing. To have no one know why you’re pedaling at a gear three on the recumbent bike with your hair down. To make the effort to drag the kids to the daycare, with puffy coats and logistics, so I can “work out” without even any endorphin rush, without any training effect on my body.

Why am I doing this? Why am I undergoing this difficulty of self-control and disciple? Because this is my best shot at getting better.

At being able to exercise normally.

If everything goes WELL, I can increase my heart rate by ten beats per minute each week. And at some point down the line, I can double up on my twenty minute sessions, doing two a day at the target heart rate. So if I don’t get any symptoms back during this, I am looking at best case scenario of eight weeks. No weight training. Just this.

I cried a lot when I saw the reality of this. I mean, I am happy to have a plan. I am happy that it seems to be working. I am excited that maybe in a couple of weeks I will be able to sloooowly jog. Once I get into the 160s heart rate zone I think I can jog. (I have a very high heart rate in general) But it seemed daunting, it seemed like a sad mountain to climb, after I just got down conquering a mountain, the peak of staying positive and not surviving two and a half months of total rest but THRIVING during it.

I’ve done so well! I did all my homework and then some. I am a Better Person. I am Humble. I Learned My Lesson! Do I get my reward yet?

But of course it doesn’t work out that way. Or not quite. I am very sure, however, that I will carry these lessons on with me permanently. I see so many errors in the ways I used to think. I was always judging people. I never stopped to think,

maybe they had a story. Maybe they deserved benefit of the doubt. Compassion.

I forgot to be grateful. I don’t mean I didn’t appreciate what I had/have/will have. I forgot to be Endlessly Grateful. I mean, truly, truly grateful. I always knew doing the things I loved, like running and exercising, was a gift, but I didn’t know it was also a responsibility. I’m not sure what that really means, right now. Good thing I have more down time to find out.

photo(19)

 

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Filed under Life & Style, Parenting, Running and Racing, Weight Training

Retiring and Responding

I’m trying to retire. Nope, not from running. On the contrary, I’m eating, sleeping, reading (the hilarious Let’sRun.com forums mostly) breathing and talking running. And running. I’m running way more than I ever have, six days per week, 35 miles or so, a lot for me, my first double digit long run in there, and I love it. I’m on a running binge.

But I’m trying to retire my boobs. It’s going…slowly. I’ve been trying to decrease day nursings down as far as Henry will allow without making a big deal over it. I figure it has to be a gradual process, and he’s only 13 months old. I don’t want a traumatic abrupt process, I just want to be done. Soon. Even if the whole thing takes six months. Night weaning is another bear, and I haven’t gotten to that yet. I’m happy to leave the going to bed nursing for a bit. There have been a lot of days in the past two weeks that he didn’t nurse at all until 6 pm or so. He eats a ton of food but doesn’t love whole milk.

I know they don’t need whole milk, but I tried the vanilla organic milk boxes and he’s so-so on those. He’d rather drink water and juice and eat cheese and yogurt. The problem is nursing is not just about sustenance. It’s all about comfort and going to sleep. I never realized when I was so eager to be successful at breastfeeding a year ago that once you’re in…it’s not so simple to get OUT. He doesn’t take a pacifier and doesn’t sleep without nursing. It’s going to a long, complex road I’m sure but I’m heading down it. I’ve even considered giving him a BOTTLE, anything to as an interim step to get him used to sleeping OFF of me, somehow.

I’m still not really sure how to do all this. None of my friends have any advice. They either supplemented a lot of with bottles early on, so that by the time their babies were a year old they were already weaned in the sense that they weren’t used to nursing in an on demand way. The standard advice to “reduce feedings one by one for a week at a time” is useless, bordering on the absurd for me. Henry is 13 months old, he never had a feeding schedule to begin with, never mind now. And anyway the problem isn’t just reducing FEEDING, it’s not even about feeding. It’s about attachment, and comfort, and habit, and sleep. It’s hard.

Although now that it’s getting cold and he had his bad breathing virus experience I’m thinking if he gets even a bit of breast milk over this winter it won’t be so bad. The spring may be a better time to go completely without the immunity. Who knows how much immune boosting he gets from the amount of nursing we do now though? He is croupy coughing right now as I type this. I’m getting worried it’s going to be one of those winters.

But I really want to sleep all night. It’s been 13 months. Blegh. Anyway, running. I love running. I think my training plan is working. Whenever I run without the jogging stroller I hit my paces and feel pretty good. Stringing together seven something miles in the middle of longer runs, on tired legs, or as repeats in a speed workout gives me some confidence that on a taper in a few weeks I can reach my goal: a 10K PR.

That means I have to break 50 minutes, and run 6.2 miles at about 8 flat pace, maybe 7:50. I know I CAN do it. The question is, can I on that day? Will I be up 45 times the night before? Will I have a good race? Can I finally get a new personal best after almost two years of pregnancy and then lackluster post-partum running?

One weird thing I’ve been doing lately on runs is kind of mentally envisioning myself as what I want to be: a good runner. An athlete. A runner. I say to myself, you are a runner. You have the ability. You have a good Vo2 Max (lol). You are a good training RESPONDER.

That's a Destiny's Child song, no?

You can get fast.

And for better or worse, I believe it.

I came across this test that can supposedly measure your genetic potential to RESPOND to aerobic training. I pitched it as a story idea to a magazine I write for, which would then mean I’d be the guinea pig and would get the test done.

But I wouldn’t want to know. What if the test results came back and said: You are Low Responder? How demoralizing would that be? The test makers defend the utility of this, arguing that if you know you are a low responder, you can focus on other things, like weight training or cross training or overall fitness and not a futile kind of quest to run 80 miles per week and then wonder why you aren’t getting faster.

But me? I don’t want to know. I’m going to run through the woods, pretending-believing that my potential is unlimited.

I’m going to keep getting better. Even if better goes in a circle and it just means I keep coming back to where I was before, but with more wrinkles, and gray hairs, and war stories behind me. Even if it means a measly seven second new personal best, this time with no sleep.

I’m a responder.

 

How about you? Would you take that test? Would it bother you if it said you were a LOW responder?

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Gosh Darn It I’m Good Enough

I’m currently working on an article about New Year’s Resolutions and why we fail so spectacularly at them.

I spoke with Tara Newman, who is a healthy lifestyle blogger by night but an organizational psychologist and goal setting coach by day. She had a lot of really thought-provoking things to say about what goals we set, how we should approach making changes and common pitfalls. It got me to thinking.

See, “my friend” has a little problem with yelling sometimes. Well, not really a friend. A little birdie that lives in my yard and has my face and name is what I mean.

Yelling.

Now, I have to preface this by explaining that yelling seems normal to me. I grew up in a half-Italian family where yelling was just one setting on a vast dial of emotion, one that could slip momentarily into happiness, elation, anger, sadness, and myriad other expressions and then back as if it had never happened. Like a loose dial that could spin around and around. You were never meant to be upset about the yelling because kissing and love and tomato sauce were around the corner. It never meant anything. Just an opera of unmediated human expression.

The problem is other people don’t experience it this way, people like my dad, and my husband, and the vast hordes of pale Northern Europeans that have mostly populated North America, and even me, even with that upbringing, I know it’s not quite right. It’s not the way to be. But at moments of stress, exasperation, overwhelmed, I revert back to what I know. The easiest path. The worst response. I’d like to not yell as much.

Tara brought up the point that a good way to start is to do a little research. Why do I yell? What happens right before it, both externally and inside my brain? What are the circumstances surrounding it? Do I really mean to say something else, perhaps:

UNCLE!

Or I GIVE UP Or I NEED TIME ALONE Or I’D LIKE TO GET ON THE FIRST GREYHOUND BUS TO FUCKING ALBANY I DON’T EVEN CARE WHERE IT’S GOING BUT THEN I’LL MISS MY KIDS SO I BETTER STAY HERE AND YELL BECAUSE NO ONE IS GETTING DRESSED AND I HAVEN’T BEEN ALONE IN THE LAST 500 HOURS

Or whatever. And then instead of just setting the goal to “not yell,” which is way too big and unwieldy and non-specific, I should set action-oriented smaller goals like 1. Plan for a small mental break each day to keep sane and avoid getting overwhelmed 2. Express my feelings in other ways and so on…

So I’m going to try this jazz. Me and Stuart Smalley, we up in this bitch.

Yell Free 2014, here we come. This is going to require a lot of drinking, but please note I did not say Drink Free 2014. I’m good enough, but I’m not a saint.

 

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Hell Week

Hell Week is kind of like Shark Week, but instead of sharks, it’s filled with trips to the pediatric emergency room.

I’m going to write this in the past tense in a hopeful/defiant middle finger to the universe and a way to proclaim that it’s over. That THAT was last week, and this week will be a spectacular return to the mundane.

Like the week before last, when I was just worried about getting my runs in each day, and what time the kids napped and went to bed at night. And that my four year old didn’t like soccer that much.

This week we didn’t even try to go to soccer, or preschool for half of the week. It was pure survival mode.

Last weekend we celebrated Henry’s first birthday with a trip to the farm with hay rides and giant swings and cupcakes decorated like pigs, cows and duck-chicks, and on that day it became known to me that there was a family health crisis going on, no not Henry’s, ANOTHER one, then I spent the next few days stressing, but then started to come up for air on that one, Tuesday Henry started having a runny nose, no big deal, Anna had had a cold a few days before, wasn’t a bad one, just involved copious amounts of nose running, he was running around happy as can be, went to bed Tuesday night, then at some point when I was nursing him around 5 a.m. the next morning, I felt him making a weird thumping with his stomach against me. He was asleep so I figured he was dreaming, you know how you can sometimes make involuntary movements while you dream? But then I turned on the light to check and realized he was having a little trouble breathing.

Am I overreacting? Am I delirious? Please don’t be this breathing shit, God knows I can’t handle this, can’t handle watching stomachs and necks and fingertips and lip color like we did when Anna was three months old and sick with RSV bronchiolitis do I wake up my husband? Yes I do, check Henry, yes he agreed he was wheezing a bit, do we watch him, do we go to the after hours urgent care do we go to the hospital where are your shoes do we call someone to watch Anna no get her in the car no warm it up I think cold air is bad for breathing or is it warm? I can’t remember is there time for Googling no, no Googling, that’s panic inducing let’s go, call the pediatrician on call my phone is dead get your phone Anna is crying where are we going is it morning no it’s not morning yet

is henry getting worse in the car why yes yes a little bit

drive to the urgent care, they are closed, who invented an after hours urgent care clinic that is closed ever?

and so on. ER visit, diagnosed a reactive airway situation, gave steroid shot, three treatments of Albuterol, sent us home with a nebulizer. Second night, rinse, wash repeat.

So Thursday morning we got back from the ER around 6 a.m. The kids wouldn’t go back to sleep, because why would they possibly sleep after being up at 4 a.m.

By nightfall the following had transpired:

My phone had gone missing. I assumed it fell off the roof of the car somewhere between our house and the hospital.

That morning the street sweepers came through. They come through maybe twice a year, but of course they came Thursday and sucked up my phone (?).

Henry managed to throw his mesh feeder into the toilet just as Anna was flushing it. A plumber and $300 later the rubber gasket blocking the pipe was removed.

I went into the backyard and realized the ground was squishy beneath my feet. I had turned the hose on to water the trees THREE days before. The hose had been on since Monday.

Henry peed on Walt’s sandwich.

We were too tired to make another one.

And that was just Thursday. You see how this is going.

I’m glad the week is over. I will never take health and sanity for granted ever again. Right now Henry is still on the nebulizer but I’m hoping he’s finally on the mend. I also got sick and couldn’t run so I was even more of a basket case of stress than you’d imagine, and I just tried to run this morning and had like a lack of air/asthmatic type coughing afterward so who the hell knows when health will return to my house.

I’m doing woo-woo crap I don’t normally believe in, anything, kale shots, burning mugwort, positive thinking, all hands on deck, get me to health week.

Hell week is for the sharks.

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La Mia

Today is Henry’s first birthday but I haven’t yet written about Anna turning four. It’s been a busy whirlwind since traveling, coming home and jumping back into the preschool year and routine, and both birthdays. The school year has been off to a rocky start. Jet-lagged, overwhelmed, Anna balked at the five mornings of institutionalization (plus soccer on Sundays!) and we are slowly getting into a new groove.

Wake up, preschool prep, walk to school. We walk every day we can, which is the best new ritual ever. I run with Henry in the jogging stroller while Anna is in preschool, so Anna hitches a ride on the end of the Bob, or walks a bit.

Henry’s not sure he likes it. He kicks her and she screeches in mock annoyance which is actually joy. She loves when he pulls her hair, when he wrestles her and they roll around on the floor, when he sits on her head and grunts. She’s pretty much the best big sister that ever could be, and he can do no wrong in her eyes.

Now that’s she’s four her eyes are all brown. They’ve lost all the hazel of her babyhood, and even though she’s a petite flower of a four year old, clocking in at 32 pounds and 36 inches tall, four years old can no longer be mistaken for a baby’s age.

Except it can, and in between her adult-like interactions, hobbies, loves, dislikes, habits and conversations a wide-faced baby lives. One that gets way too tired after being forced to go to school five days a week and wants to be carried upstairs, cradled on her way to pajamas and a book.

Anna the baby is there, but now she just shares space with Anna the mini person, Anna the artist, Anna the athlete whose body sometimes gets ahead of her (“I can’t calm down, Mom!” She laments after whirling and screaming through the house or yard for an hour). Anna the thinker and Anna the girl who loves her princesses and her dress up clothes, who fashioned makeshift Rapunzel hair by finding a long white ribbon that she demands we tie onto her hair, just so, that she then flounces around the room like a Disney heroine on stage.

Anna the ham.

Anna the artist shows the most. Left-handed, right-brained, anti-authoritarian on a tricycle, she refuses to be quizzed.

“Do you know what number this is?” A well-meaning lady at the park asks.

“No.” She answers, factually, even though of course she knows, she’s known since she was two years and zero months.

Her ditto sheets from preschool come home all wrong, all right, with the doodles all over, mermaids and suns and dogs and people with eyebrows and the drawing that’s supposed to be colored in ignored, with the spaces empty and the backside covered in elaborate artwork.

She doesn’t want to be tested. She wants to be loved. On her birthday I read her all the nice comments people left on Facebook about her, about how she was special, and funny, and super kind, and she considered it all, mulling it over in her little doll head, and then she asked, “What else did they say?”

But they couldn’t say it all, and neither can I. I’m just here as co-illustrator, ghost writing credits. I’m still looking for enough words for my love, for the world’s love. What else? What can I say?

What else will they say?

 

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don’t call it a comeback

September is my favorite month of the year. The weather, the low humidity, the beginning of fall, the freshness. The light is finally diffuse. Summer is for summer people. Sure, I like it. At times I even love it. But summer people are the raging extroverts of the climate world. They are the too much at once, more sunshine is a good thing, more is more people.

I’m a fall person. I like a little bit of sadness in my happiness. I need some melancholy in my beauty, or it’s not as meaningful. If we don’t know the year is going to die soon, we can’t quite appreciate its absurd majesty before it’s over. Fall reminds of you that, as it astounds you with dusks, inspires you with energy of cool mornings, makes you want to cry and laugh at the same time.

I’ve always loved fall, perhaps criminally. In fact, any criminal behavior I may or may not have engaged in always happened in the fall. I always had a new haircut, a new romance, a new school year, a newly-remembered lust for life that grew in September, peaked in October and then declined into the hangover of winter. The would-be academic I once was thought there would always be a new school year, that I would be lucky enough to be in school, in some capacity, learning or teaching, for the rest of my life.

That ended up not happening. But then both my children were born in the fall, as if to somehow find out the answer to the question: Could I love the season more? And I can. I do. I love seeing Anna start new school years now. And there are always new haircuts.

 

See? New haircut.

I have a lot of autumnal plans. After we come back from a two-week trip to California, operation weaning Henry in several stages will begin. Sleeping has to be better for everyone. Races, work, ideas, family fun, it’s all on the agenda and it all starts, of course, in September. This is the second time I’ve written this post. The first time I wrote a practical-minded listing of goals and to-dos for this fall, and a detailed explanation of our upcoming trip and my sleep training plan. WordPress didn’t save it and so I guess that’s a post for different day. Because today was the first day of school.

I think I might have a lot to learn this year, another year to get older and find out how much I didn’t really know, after all. Another three seasons of stumbling and trying and at least doing something. One thing after another. Because that’s the only direction we know how to go. Forward, for better or worse. For older or older. Here we go.

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City Mouse, Country Mouse

It’s not a secret I’m a cityfied, dandified type. I was born and raised on a sea level island packed with seven million people. I like conveniences and fine dining options yet a part of me has always craved the country…

Open space, natural beauty, stars and wind and air and the feeling of experiencing weather and seasons more directly. Room to be alone, room to relax down to a more human scale of time and space. When I travel I always want to go further, farther, away-er, I want to keep driving until I find nowhere fast.

Camping should fit into this desire right? Well, theoretically. I’m relatively hardy and low maintenance. I can handle not showering, bugs, hiking, discomfort. But when it came time to fall asleep our first night in a tent in the Catskills, my body was like no.

My brain and body rebelled. We had tents and blankets but no air mattresses. The kids conked out immediately which was pleasantly surprising. My husband was snoring, yet I could not sleep at all. Our nearest tent neighbors were playing some sort of Forest Bocce Ball game or something, I couldn’t tell, all I knew was that there was this God-awful clanking noise every few minutes until 1 a.m. and cheers or boos. I was close to marching out of the tent and yelling that there was a quiet time policy dammnit! But then I must have fallen asleep, all contorted with my hip bone painfully digging into the ground until some noises woke me up.

“Did you hear that?” Husband: “Yes.” Roll over. Snore. “How can you sleep with those noises?!” “Easy”

It sounded like animals snapping twigs all around the tent. I knew it was nothing since Finn was passed out ignoring it and he has a good nose (being a hound dog and all). But then my irrational yet hyperactive brain started going into overdrive, at this point I was fully nauseously exhausted, and I decided there probably was an animal out there but Finn was so tired from being unable to sleep the whole drive up because he had no room and had to stand up and since he normally requires 23 hours sleep in a 24 hour period, he was too tired and defeated to care that we were about to be attacked by the only mountain lion left in New York State.

Then I realized I was hearing rain drops. I think. Or rabbits. Or mice. But whatever it was was a big fat nothing. Yet after that I just couldn’t sleep. I was so physically uncomfortable and irrationally scared.

Then the kids were up with the bugs and light around 6. So I was really badly tired all day, to the point I could barely function. I tried to nap in the tent but did you know tents are mini greenhouses?

As the afternoon went on (after a trip to a town for air mattresses) and we were cooking our burgers on the fire Walt pestered me to make a decision. If I was up all night again I’d probably lose my mind. I needed to sleep. Do we leave or do we go? I didn’t want to ruin our trip but I also didn’t want to sleep in the tent again. If only we were somewhere with no black bears. This campground had bears near the dumpsters on a regular basis. I know I have more chance of encountering a plane crash lightning bolt winning lottery ticket magical sparkle pony. But try telling someone scared to fly that it’s safer than driving a car. They know that. They’re scared anyway. Everything is cool during the day, but then in that tent…with the dark and unknown out there that you can’t see…my brain is just like Rihanna watching Miley Cyrus as the VMAs.

So I decided to stay. Then some storm clouds rolled in, and we heard ominous thunder in the distance. Anna started freaking out. We made the decision to pack up, and packed our ENTIRE camp in ten minutes flat. Food, tent, clothes, sleeping bags, everything, in a mad dash. We packed it comically quickly into the car, and because it was such a rush we couldn’t squeeze it all in well. It was like Griswold family vacation level of frenzy. The kids were in the car crying, the dog was quivering, and then the skies opened on us as we frantically unstaked the tent.

We drove through torrential rain to a hotel. I had to sit on the hastily folded tent, there was so little room in the car. So that was camping. The rest of the trip involved more in a series of unfortunate events including trying to camp AGAIN only to find this sign when we pulled up to our new campground (Taconic State Park).

So 6% of ticks in this area carry an encephalatis-causing disease that’s 30% fatal that’s transmitted in 15 minutes. So. Um. That’s a 2% chance if you get a tick bite you DIE? No. Girl, no. You can’t even see ticks that size.

We left because we didn’t want to worry about ticks on the kids with that shit out there. So at that point we drove to Northwestern Connecticut (the trip was awesome in the sense that everywhere we wandered was beautiful and new to us, so it was like a fun road trip anyway). But the only campground that took dogs was really shitty, like a Van Down By The River RV parking so we hoteled it again and then just hiked and ran and explored some nature areas nearby.

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Colds, Caffeine and Camping

Colds

Remember how I detailed my brilliant plan for keeping busy when my husband travels for work?

And how it involves lots of play dates, outings, and kid fun things?

Well he left this morning and Henry has a raging cold. Like one of those gross, booger face ones that always disgust me when other kids have them, but not my own?

So now I don’t know what we will do. My other plan to leave him with a babysitter to work out didn’t work so well. I went to the gym for an hour on Monday and he cried himself to sleep off and on the whole time with the hysterics breathing.

Oh the sadness of not working out whenever and however I please! My life is so hard.

But the problem here is that he’s not sick enough to be, like, laying around all day and Anna feels fine. We spent almost all Monday home (it rained) and we were all stir-crazy and couldn’t stand one more minute inside. But we couldn’t go around friends with babies and apparently all I have are friends with babies. So we  did errands and went shopping for entertainment (I never do this! I hate this!) and Anna got a shirt with a glittery mermaid on it. She’s obsessed with mermaids, if I haven’t already mentioned that. I bought shorts at Old Navy simply because I enjoy Old Navy being the only store on the planet that I fit into a size negative 12 in. Never change, Old Navy!

Note to self: make more friends without kids.

Caffeine

I’m a huge coffee drinker and I’m almost immune to the effects. When I was in college, I worked at a Starbucks (yes, I was annoying, and yes, I wore nerdy glasses and had a piercing, sorry you hated me) and I would do many shots of espresso at closing time when we were cleaning up at like 11 p.m.. Then I’d go home and close my eyes and go right to sleep.

I’m not THAT tolerant now but I figured I was safe to have half a cup at 7 p.m. (I know, but I needed energy to run and I didn’t have any the natural way like from my body) and then I was awake until midnight which sucks when you sleep in 45 minute increments until seven a.m. And also, when you’re an ogre who needs like a million hours of sleep at night.

So yeah. I have to balance needing to caffeinate for late evening workouts and needing to sleep. Maybe 6 p.m. should be my cutoff. Cause that’s normal.

Camping

So besides my sob stories, this summer has been really fun. Every weekend we do a baby buttload of really nice things, lots of outdoor exploring, eating out, kids stuff, parties, BBQs, beaching, pooling, parking.

The only thing missing is…

camping!

My husband and I have never gone camping together. We traveled a lot before kids, but he never relented to my whining to “take me camping.” He wasn’t that into it, and we didn’t have gear, but I want to go every summer/fall.

I’ve only gone once in my life, anyway, after college, when my then boyfriend and I drove to the Adirondacks in his breaking down truck to get his crazy Russian survivalist father’s gear, along with a lecture from him on the evils of CARBOS, repeated in a thick accent all weekend.

“What’s CARBOS???” I finally whispered in an aside to my boyfriend.

“Carbs,” he said, obviously. Oh. This was 2001, no one was really talking about low-carb diets in my circles, except this man in Utica, N.Y. who was a doctor and studied heart damage from CARBOS and who had just married his second wife, brought her over from Russia, and then promptly had a baby boy who he…gave the same name as his older son to.

Anyway, my boyfriend’s truck broke down, and we had like $100 to our names and we had visions of working off the repair work in this dismal upstate town (I figured I could sling coffee at the truck stop diner) but then his dad dropped us off anyway, with all our gear, on the side of the road in the middle of the state park, with a map and $100 and said he’d pick us up in five days. I do think we had cell phones but probably no coverage.

So then we hitchhiked (also the only time I’ve done this) to a campsite, but then decided after one night it wasn’t remote enough, so we walked to a further one down a trail for a couple of hours, carrying all our water and everything and made camp next to a lake that was awesome except apparently all the fauna of the Adirondacks would come drink out of it at night and we heard everything from what sounded like the rustling of adorable bunnies nibbling grass outside our tent to the deafening homph-gomping of stampeding (what we could only imagine) was a horde of wild boars in the night.

That’s when I learned I was irrationally scared of wildlife. We had our food in the tree for bears and I was terrified to go pee next to the campsite. I was sure there were lions, tigers and bears lurking in the immense darkness. I grew up on Long Island. There’s no real darkness at night here. My parents never took me camping. I loved everything about camping, except at night….when the darkness and the ANIMALS came. Or came in my mind at least.

So then one day we were hiking around and we must have surprised a giant turkey who started charging me. I guess he figured we were equitable opponents. I’m 5 feet 4 inches. He was… a turkey. My boyfriend had to throw rocks at the turkey’s head to get him to retreat. I was attacked by a turkey! I knew this was dangerous.

But I want to camp again. I’m fully confident that my husband can also protect me from giant fowl with impromptu missiles but I don’t want to be freaking out with my irrational fear that bears are going to paw down our tent at night, especially with the kids.

Don’t they always go for the kids?!

Have I mentioned they smell like cupcakes? Bears love cupcakes!

We are looking at some campsites in the Catskills that look perfect, except all the Yelp reviews say that there are tons of black bear that roam around and even bringing dogs doesn’t keep them away.

I don’t know if I can handle bears. I know, I know. But…the turkey…the boar hooves…

Have you gone camping with babies, toddlers, or preschoolers? Am I insane? Should I stay on my sea level island with extirpated wildlife?

 

 

 

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A Day in the Life

This is one of those mandatory posts that I really enjoy reading on other blogs. I like finding out how moms with young kids who also work at home, or exercise, or both, organize their daily schedules. I’m fascinated by how different all of our days are, yet how common the denominator of trying to balance all the Many Needs at once is. Flexibility seems to be key, as is knowing your own particular proclivities and strengths, and the idiosyncrasies of your kids. What works for my friends’ kids just doesn’t fly with mine, and vice versa.

I was also inspired by Tara‘s recap of how she survived a solo parenting weekend. My husband travels a fair bit (not as much as many, and luckily he hasn’t traveled too much since we became a family of four) and those weeks are always the most challenging. The mental energy of wake-up to bed-time single parent duty is somehow so much more draining than parenting 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. That’s only one measly hour or two hours of help before the kids are asleep, so you’d think it wouldn’t matter too much to go it alone all the way through, yet something about the psychology of it seems harder.

We prefer life with Daddy to life without.

For instance, this week Walt will be gone Wednesday and Thursday nights. Not  a huge deal, I’ve done ten nights alone when I just had Anna. But that means I have no real way to even work out those two days. I only want to take one rest day this week, so how can I finagle the other day? Anna isn’t in school right now, so no jogging stroller runs. No 7 p.m. runs because no husband. I don’t really have any family who babysits. I’m iffy on the gym day care with Henry at his age, so I might actually hire a babysitter to work out. Crazy, right? But I know I will feel better if I get even an hour to go to Spin class, alone.

Not that there’s any time off from stressing about the kids. Is Henry crying because I’m gone (he’s a little attach-y lately)? Is he about to eat something he shouldn’t? I don’t have One Amazing Babysitter right now that allows me total relaxation, that the kids are okay, that I get when my husband is with them. Not that I’m leaving them with anyone that would be unsafe in any way, it’s just that Feeling of being totally free from worry. That’s why I’m admittedly pretty jealous of people whose parents or in-laws watch their kids for them. When it’s family, you just know your kids are safe, and happy, and with people they love, and who love them. You just don’t get that with a non-family member, as caring as they may be.

So anyway, the day in the life struggles (this one goes out to my homies out there) do get increasingly complicated when you throw in a traveling spouse. But it’s kind of fun, in a perverse way. It’s like a game: Here are your Limiting Factors, and here are your Things That Must Get Done. Now go! Besides the occasional sitter, when my husband travels, we also schedule as many playdates, friends, and outings as we can to make the time pass and we eat out once somewhere kid-friendly like the diner.

Or we just share ice cream.

I thrive on deadlines, and pressure, and stress, and multitasking, and OMG Can I make it moments? So I don’t mind (except for when I mind). And I’ve reduced the list of Things That Must Get Done out of necessity. I can’t make a babysitting grandma materialize (although I’m not gonna lie, I’ve in-my-mind invented an exchange bureau where lonely elderly types can Adopt a Grandkid) and I can’t–for now, at least–make my baby nap in his crib, or make my husband get home at 5 p.m. So the list of non-negotiables has dwindled down:

Kids gotta get fed. Me too. I need to eat. Everyone has to brush their teeth, and floss, and take vitamins. The baby has to nap SOMEHOW, SOMEWAY, even if we have to go through drive-thrus and sit in the car with him, or I have to sit my butt down on the couch to hold him while giving Anna something quiet to do (read: iPad or movie).

Screen time has to be kept to a minimum. I’m pretty stickler about this. I use TV, movies or iPad very sparingly (and tactically). Want to watch Charlotte’s Web? I need to run that request through my Napoleon Machiavellian Mommy brain to figure out how to best to wring the most out of that time.

I have work calls that have to be taken, sometimes, maybe one to five times per week. I have at least three stories to file per month, which is not a lot at all, but because I never know when I will get the time to work, I start early and well ahead of my deadlines. I could work way more, but I don’t think without a regular child care arrangement I could do much more than I do now. I guess I could bite the bullet and set something up, and then dedicate those hours to pitching and networking and getting more work, but I haven’t made this decision yet. Partly because I don’t know who I would hire. If something extra falls in my lap (someone calls me, looking for a writer for a specific project) I absolutely take it and make it work. But I haven’t felt a pressing urge to Push, work-wise right now. I do periodically work on pitches and emails, and I stay on top of networking groups. I mostly work when the kids play. Henry is fabulous at playing. My older one, the extrovert to the core that she is, wouldn’t play independently until she was three years old. She used to cry for me to play with her, all day, unless we went out and played with friends or went on outings. We never stayed home because that meant her asking me to play pretend All DAY. I worked during her daily three hour naps. Then she stopped napping at 2.5 years old, but by then, she had undergone a major change in playing (on her own) and became an excellent player. I briefly worked a full-time job around that time (editing a local online paper) with her at home and no child care at all.

Luckily, Henry is great at playing. There are many days (non-teeething weeks) when Henry and Anna hang out, playing Legos (the big favorite here) for two, three hours in the morning while I bang out my work, interspersed with feeding, playing, talking to, caring for them of course. I’m pretty okay with that kind of interrupted work, I can go back and forth quickly, and I work fast, but I know some work at home people hate this. I also use Henry’s car naps to do work calls, edit things, and I even splurged for a Mac Airbook for this express purpose.

My workouts. That’s the other non-negotiable, because it just is. Sanity and all. This week I will: use the gym day care or  baby-sitter twice, run after my husband gets home at 7 p.m. twice, and take advantage of him having summer Fridays to make it to a class on Friday, for my sixth workout of the week. When summer ends, I’ll have to figure out another way to get that other weights day in. Do I like running at 7 p..m? When it’s dinner time, and my husband just came home and I’m totally tired? No way. But I hate not running more. Fall will hopefully bring an easier schedule, as Anna will be in preschool five mornings, and I can run with the stroller every damn day. That will be a lot easier on our family’s schedule.

Besides those Musts, we fill the rest of our weekdays with fun stuff. In one summer week, using last week as an example, we went to the beach twice, the pool once, a farm festival, errands, a bookstore story time, a library class, walks, play dates, lunch out, and several playgrounds (whew!).

So what are the flexible things that may or may not happen?

The dog has to get walked, but not every day. That’s one of those things, that not ideally, I’ve relaxed on. Sorry, dog. I do what I can.

Baths? They do not happen every night, or even every other night. Just doesn’t happen in my house. Every three days is a good estimate, and the kids are fine. They smell like roses and My Little Ponies anyway. My showers? Best left unsaid.

My husband’s workouts. This is bad. He needs to work out more, for his health (and happiness). I’m nagging him lately to run before work. He sleeps all night away from the baby so he gets uninterrupted sleep every night. Before Henry was born I worked out at 5 a.m. before he went to work and I will again when the baby sleeps through the night. I know it sucks, but he’s even more of a morning person than I am, and if I did it, he can too. At least one or two days, so with the weekends, he gets 4,5 days of workouts in. He could theoretically work out at night after work, but it’s really hard, he’s tired from commuting, and I admit I don’t love having him gone again after I just spent 12 hours alone with two kids, with zero breaks (no naps in the crib blah blahblah). But we need to get better at figuring out a way for him to exercise regularly (besides the weekends). Before Henry (B.H.) I would bring his gym clothes and sneakers to the gym with me, he would meet us there and we would both work out with Anna in the day care from 7 to 8 p.m. It was late, but it worked. Anna got to play with her friends, after I fed her dinner earlier. Maybe when Henry gets older we can do this again. I kind of forced him to start, even if he was tired, by having his clothes there, and he would thank me later. (told you so)

Cooking is also not a Must. I like to cook, and I try to do it most nights, but other nights we eat pizza and bagged salad or leftovers and I’m perfectly fine with that.  I never got the whole, OMG, my husband and kids can’t eat leftovers horror I hear about. Like, leftovers are good. Sometimes they are even delicious. I also stopped making some things from scratch I used to. I used to make my own salad dressing (so much better than bottled) and I used to get lettuce from farm stands that I used to have to soak and spin…Now I just use shortcut things. Frozen veggies are good, they are healthy, and I do still cook from fresh ingredients, just not every night.

He likes when I cook, or don't.

Cleaning obviously has to happen. I am by nature a clean freak, but I have to be honest, and say my house was cleaner B.H. (before Henry). I can’t devote the three hours of hardcore scrubbing to a heavy clean like I could when I had a napping kid. I kind of clean as I go. Like, literally. I clean things AS I PASS THEM BY. Also having a Roomba vacuum is the best thing ever, especially with a dog that sheds. So worth the money.

Right now, it’s Sunday at 1 p.m. My husband’s at the gym, and I’m waiting for him to come home so I can go run. I can’t even get dressed to run, because Henry is napping in the car, with the a/c on, in the driveway. Anna is eating a Nutella on whole wheat bread sandwich and playing Legos inside (I can see her and Henry at the same time from the front lawn, where I’m typing this on my laptop). This is a ridiculous way, to live, this life I lead, yet it’s mine, and I somehow make it through. I’m sure some of it seems crazy to some of you, but I guess my point, if I have one, is that you really never know how your life has to work sometimes, or why something else works for another family. And the kids are alright. They’re happy, and healthy, and beautiful, and their hair even shines, and their brains are polite, inquisitive, creative, fun and friendly. We’re doing okay. Somehow.

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“How are you forming coherent sentences right now?”

Good question.

Let me back up. The other week, I made the mistake of over-sharing about my life on Facebook, and my status update was a count of how many times Henry woke me up the night before. There were a few bad nights that week as his first top tooth broke through the gum line, and I lost count at over 10 wake-ups. He has many better nights, and very few worse, but many are similar, or just slightly-better. I don’t know why I bother posting my complaints on Facebook, and I usually refrain, but I felt the urge that day. I don’t expect anyone to understand, since most of my friends just have babies that sleep, and anyone without babies probably just hears Charlie Brown WAH WAH COMPLAIN WAH WAH and other people are probably just like, shut up already, you have two beautiful kids and you’re not a medic in a war-torn country, so whatever, and yes, all valid points.

But back to woe is me. Someone asked how I could function on such broken sleep, and I kind of wonder that myself, at times. It’s now been almost ten months of this, and yes, I’m cranky sometimes, and yes, I am not operating on all cylinders, who knows what amazing things I could be accomplishing right this very moment if only I could sleep, all night, all by my lonesome in my bed with no little warm nighttime appendage of a baby buddy, but still…I could be functioning worse.

When Henry was first born, and I had to physically sit up and nurse him and it took a long time, I was extremely tired. Sometimes my three-year-old would wake me up as well, and those were brain-destroying nights. I had one or two articles a month to file, and I waited for a “good night” and then made sure I got all my work done as fast as I could. Because when you’re cotton-brained, stupidly-slow moving, clumsy-DEFCON-level of fatigued, writing is one of the harder tasks to accomplish. I just couldn’t make (admittedly light and fluffy) words flow. I couldn’t strike a light-hearted, engaging tone. I would write A. Word. At. A. Time, painstakingly searching for the right one somewhere in the lockdown of my brain. I’d wake up and know if it was going to be a Bad Day from the feeling in my mind. And Bad Days wouldn’t, couldn’t, be fixed from any amount of caffeine, try as I might.

Remember that old saw, how Eskimos have 1,000 words for snow, and it’s not even true, in fact aren’t they called Aleutians anyway? But I have many words for tired, because there are many different states and types of tired. Some are worse than others. Brain fog is my personal nemesis, the worst of the worst. It’s the one that doesn’t go away until you sleep another sleep, until the next day. I think it comes from REM sleep being shot to hell and back. This is the tiredness I hate. It feels like being handicapped in every nerve and cell of my body. I pour milk onto counters, I can’t drive. I move slow, like every life task and movement is the equivalent of not being able to find my keys at the bottom of an overstuffed bag.

Actual drowsiness isn’t as bad, but it’s not my favorite, because the feelings it gives you—lay down, relax, put your feet up, watch MTV’s True Life–are completely incompatible with my daily life of being responsible for two children all day by myself. It tells you to close your eyes, it lulls you into thinking you can take a breather, but you can’t. You never can. There’s no breather, no break.

Body fatigue, drained-ness, isn’t so bad. It’s just a body weariness that can easily be overcome through sheer willpower. Just keep going, lifting, hoisting, doing. It might get better or it might get worse, but it just is. It doesn’t dull my mind.

So, yeah, I know all types of tired. But really, it could be much worse. Most days I feel almost, or mostly, or wholly fine. The days that I brim and freak out with energy and ideas and mental clarity are few and far between but even those come. Some magic number of sleep cycles were strung together and I can write entire almost perfect drafts of things, I can exhale with the perfect next thing, I can move from one thing to the millionth thing that day, and still I feel I can go, go, go go, I could get in my car and drive to the North Pole and it would still be light out, lights on in my brain and nothing that I couldn’t hack, manage, finish, ace.

Maybe I have a touch of mania. But I’m not giving up those days, because they remind me what I can do, if only I could sleep.

I credit cosleeping for keeping me at the manageable, mostly-okay level most days. I feed, I briefly rouse, it’s not ideal, no, but I’m so much less tired than I was when Anna was a baby and we had to get up out of bed and go into her room, help her in her crib, a dozen times a night. That was tired. That was insanity making. Padded cell stuff.

So I’m reluctant to change something not so bad for something that could be way, way worse (trying to force Henry to sleep in his crib, which he despises more than any sentient being ever hated a non-sentient thing ever in the history of ever). But I have no clue whatsoever I will do when I want to wean him (hopefully at a year). In two months he will have to learn how to go to sleep and stay asleep without nursing. He can’t sleep alone, he can’t nap alone, he is not exactly easily persuaded, he gets hysterical beyond belief. I have no, no no no no no idea what I will do. It would keep me up at night, if I wasn’t tired.

 

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