Old News: Past Blog Posts

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mommy Resolves

Mommy's 2016 resolutions 

1. More patience. Mommy will remember that  little developing brains have alarmingly egocentric tendencies and those attention spans last about the time it takes to flush the toilet (unless in the act of actually flushing the toilet, which can provide whole minutes of wide-eyed entertainment). She will keep these things in mind when her day has been spent running around like a lunatic before and during work to get home just in time to bare witness to the witching hour when the wrong color sippy cup can ignite Oscar-worthy meltdowns. She will take her own advice and breathe deeply before she hears herself spouting parenting cliches ('because I said so' and 'keep your hands to yourself') at a volume that easily reaches the neighbor's house, five octaves higher than her normal pitch. 

2. Less social media. Don't get too excited. There will still be a nauseating number of posts, oversharing the glorious madness we've created. Mommy just promises to spend less time with her face behind articles about what the Saved By the Bell cast is up to these days or fuming over a pile of idiot-comments stacking up under an article about gun violence or women's reproductive rights. And she will absolutely, under NO circumstances watch even part of one more video featuring the Nae Nae. 

3. More asking for/accepting help. Thanks to sharing a roof with a 2-year-old who thinks he's completely capable of independently handling all aspects of his self-care needs (including making an egg breakfast, pouring a glass of milk, and fastening his 5 point harness), Mommy has now witnessed the pathetic futility of a person insisting on completing a task that's simply outside of their abilities or unnecessarily difficult. It took over three decades, but she's finally realizing that asking for help or accepting it doesn't mean she's lazy or incapable; and dashing between five household tasks while trying to complete an online continuing education class and keep three kids alive doesn't necessarily make her look like a brainiac. Quite the opposite in fact. Watching that 2-year-old thrash wildly around under his seatbelt screaming 'I CAN DO IT!!' sometimes hits a little too close to home for this mommy and while that Apple may not have landed particularly far from the tree, doesn't mean that the tree can't decide to flip over a new leaf in honor of a new year.

4. More time with daddy. Mommy loves her boys beyond what words can describe, and that's why she thinks it's important to keep things running smoothly with daddy. There's just no chance in hell that she could keep it together without him. Also, she'd like to give her boys their best shot at eventually forming healthy, meaningful relationships with their partners, and she's told that they're watching their parents closely and those spongy little brains are constantly filing information away. Finally, in all fairness, he provides stimulating conversation, even occasionally reaching for topics more sophisticated than stinky shoes and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. It's a refreshing change. 

5. Less hurry, more savor. There's just so much hurry in Mommy's life, she's starting to wonder how much she's missing out on while she's busy shifting in and out of warp speed. This year, mommy promises to pump the breaks a bit and admire the passing scenery before it's all hidden behind bedroom doors, glued to some future version of an iPhone or Xbox, silently resenting her. 

6. Less Netflix, more blogging. As much as Mommy feels the draw of binge-watching all 7 seasons of 30 Rock (for the third time), it occurs to her that writing about her life makes her more acutely in tune with it. She suddenly puts on her 'looking-eyes' with more enthusiasm while seeking out the beauty and humor that comes along with parenting her boys. 

And naturally, mommy also plans to eat better and sleep through fewer workouts...maybe even floss more.  But, let's not get too carried away. 

Now let's break open the champagne and drop that ball. Happy New Year team. Resolutions, out. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

So Glad They Told Me to Wear Running Shoes

NOTE: When your submission for an anthology is not accepted for publication, the silver lining is the fact that your long-silent blog suddenly gets to speak again. And perhaps I will even muster the energy to write sometime again before Christmas. Maybe

I was a ragamuffin grade schooler with long, thick ponytails, under-appreciated homemade dresses, and a deep desire to please my teachers. I read paperback fiction under my desk during math class and loathed the two days a year when the federal government mandated that I run a mile as part of the Presidential Fitness Testing. 

Somewhere along the way, in spite of my early aversion to running, I became a passable athlete. By high school, I competed on school teams and a traveling volleyball team and in college, I found myself voluntarily visiting the gym regularly and suddenly not hating the sensation of repeatedly bounding from one foot to the next. 

Running soon became an integral part of the tedious task to shed the 30 lbs I had gained since freshman year and by graduate school, I was routinely hammering out five or six miles before classes started each morning. Physical therapy students tend to be among the most enthusiastic exercisers, so I was in good company and quickly learned the joy of running with friends. In the spring of my first year of PT school, I decided on a whim to run a half marathon, and I was suddenly smitten with the idea of distance running. 

And so, the little girl who had loathed the idea of relying on her feet to carry her just one mile was suddenly handing over precious money (borrowed, as I basically lived entirely on student loans at this point) to cover 26.2 miles. On foot. On purpose. 

Six years after completing my first marathon, I was still running regularly and was now married and pregnant with my first baby. Eleven weeks into the pregnancy, I shuffled through a half marathon (with the blessing of my OB) and went 'facebook official' with the big news later that same day. I kept right on running and working out regularly -- albeit with a little less gusto than usual -- until the day my water broke, nine weeks before my due date. This happened no thanks to what turned out to be an unfortunate combination of a chronically weak cervix and an uncooperative and irritable uterus. Twenty hours after my membranes ruptured, the tiny little stinker kicked his way out from his breech in utero position in a very quick, very dramatic, very unmedicated vaginal delivery. It was not how I expected to enter motherhood, but it did the trick.

Once the shock wore off and the elated new-mom smell set in (that smell, if you're curious, is a putrid combo of poop, spit up, and the inability find time to shower) I found myself running again. Only now, the running wasn't just a few mornings a week. It was every minute of Every. Stinking. Day. 

The race began between our house and the NICU. Within a week, the course expanded to include work (thanks to a job without PTO) and the pace picked up. Six weeks later, we were discharged and the running was concentrated to the confines of our house for a few months. During this period, my speed slowed to a manageable trot and I caught my breath a bit. Then, work resumed and I was forced to push the pace again.

Over the next three years -- in a move that might have me mistaken for a more devout Catholic than I really am -- our family grew twice more, adding two more preemie boys to the chaos of our little three ring circus. 

If Motherhood has taught me anything, it's that there is nothing that moves fast enough in this universe to keep up with three boys under three years apart.  

The gun goes off between 4 and 6am with feeding the baby and/or pumping a bottle so I can squeeze in a workout. I sprint through the first leg of the course: showering (but only when totally necessary), clothing myself and the little guys, serving breakfasts, negotiating temper tantrums and herding cats, I mean, toddlers into car seats, out of car seats, then pumping breast milk on my way to work. 

The second leg happens at work and productivity expectations generally necessitate maintaining the cruising speed I initially generated chasing toddlers out the door. 

My favorite leg is the third. I arrive home to be bowled over by enthusiastic smiles bouncing and teetering towards me at full speed, as well as a home-cooked meal prepared by my unquestionably better half. I try to enjoy a few quality moments with the little monsters before bedtime routines kick into full swing and they are sprawled out and snoring to the whooshing of sound machines. 

My day ends with a sprint through the logistical necessities of being an adult; emptying and filling the dishwasher, replying to emails, taking the trash out, watering flowers, paying the phone bill, and engaging in the ultimate Möbius strip of household duties: folding and putting away laundry. All those menial tasks didn't previously seem so daunting and tiresome, but now they're done under complete duress and with a total lack of enthusiasm. 

You might imagine that army-crawling, exhausted and disheveled into bed and burying my face in a pillow for the five seconds it takes me to fall asleep my would be my version of crossing the finish line, but it's really just the beginning of the final leg of the 24-hour loop. The baby is not yet six months old, but has already discovered that his only chance at some quality one-on-one mommy time is between 10pm and 5am. A sticky and persistent mucus presence in recent weeks has only made the nighttime snuggles more necessary and more frequent. I love the baby, but do not care for the mucus.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 

So you get the metaphor. Life. Rat race. Etcetera. Etcetera. It's a tired metaphor really, overused and predictable. But it fits the bill so perfectly it's difficult to ignore.

Almost every other day, someone (usually over the age of 50) reminds me how quickly life moves when you're a parent. You've heard the sentiment: 'They grow up so fast!' Well sure. How could they not? We are essentially sprinting our way through life right now. At this rate, my boys will be smelly teenagers by the time I get my next water break. 

And yes, I am terrified that by the time I stop long enough to catch my breath, they'll all be off someplace working in middle management and paying mortgages while their father and I sit around listening to Harry Chapin and watching the clock tick until 5pm when we feel it's safe to call and bother them. Then, I'll be the one stopping young mothers in the grocery check out line, telling them to cherish every moment. 

Yes. Motherhood is a race. (Have we established that yet? Have I beat that poor dead horse long enough?) It is a distance course complicated by Pinterest and social media, which demand that everyone dress in coordinating outfits, while munching on organic peanut butter sandwiches shaped like minions, and working our way through the list of Ten Awesome Ways to Use an Empty Paper Towel Roll. These demands make parenting feel even more like an impossible competition. Now we are expected to run like hell so we can be crowned the winner. Yup. The prize is an uninterrupted eight hour stretch of sleep and an all-expenses-paid trip to the inpatient mental health facility of your choice.

I always knew that parenting was tough business. I guess I didn't realize that all those miles I ran in my 20s were actually training runs for motherhood. 

So, how do we manage the rugged race course without letting the whole experience get away from us completely? People, that is the million dollar question. 

I had this one running buddy in PT school who I regrettably haven't stayed close with, but whom I think of often. She always had this contented smile on her face that just radiated an air of satisfaction, but not in a 'bitchy' way. She wore it whether she was sitting poolside or in anatomy class. It was there at 6am cramming sessions on the day of an exam and at mile 18 of a marathon training run. I remembered her once droning on and on about how beautiful the rolling woods were during a particularly challenging trail run. In that moment, I was half annoyed because her lungs were clearly handling the terrain much better than mine were if she was able to take the time to enjoy the scenery. Graduate school was no cake walk, as we went to one of the most demanding programs in the country.  I have classmates who still talk about how miserable it was. If she could do it all with a satisfied smile and a deep appreciation for the scenery, what's stopping me from appreciating the beauty of motherhood? 

The other day, when hustling my children into the car, my three-year-old dragged me by the hand over to our neighbor's recently bloomed bright pink peonies and gestured to them dramatically, smell mommy! We were already running late and I was annoyed by the delay tactic, but his dimpled cheeks are my Achilles heel so I sighed, bent down, and put my nose against a bloom. The aroma stunned me a little. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks, my son had literally just made me stop to smell the flowers. It's almost too sappy and cliche to even wrap my brain around. 

As young parents, there is great temptation to roll our eyes at the generation of mothers and dads who keep pestering us to stop and smell the peonies. But you can't very well ignore a little hand dragging you over to them. 

Any runner will tell you that the 'runner's high' is a real thing, but it is evasive and infrequent. We chase after it, often coming up short, but we relish it when it happens. The high doesn't usually come when you're running at full speed, but instead when you settle into a strong, comfortable pace. 

Isn't that true of motherhood too? Somewhere between time outs and potty training and 2am feedings, there really is beauty in this thing, sometimes you just have to slow down a little to notice it. 

I am still learning to do this. I allow my boys to drag me under blanket forts and into their playhouse. I gaze at them in those rare, quiet moments when they sit and flip through books with their brows furrowed solemnly like they vaguely disapprove of the primitive plot lines or underdeveloped characters. I watch their eyes widen above giant smiles and their bodies bounce happily over the mere suggestion of bubbles. I swoon over baby giggles and grins, burying my face in his round belly to coax his chirpy laugh, marveling at his emerging personality, expressive little face, and gummy smile. When baby falls asleep in my arms, I breathe in that soft, milky baby scent and chuckle at his tiny gaping mouth and squishy nose. There's something magical and mesmerizing about a baby. I didn't realize that until I had my own; and I almost missed it because I get so focused on the illusion of a finish line. 

Motherhood is tedious; trudging through the triage stage of parenting infants and toddlers in particular. I salute that pig-tailed little girl who thought running was stupid and unnecessarily hard, but I also carry with me my old friend who could find beauty in the last few miles of a marathon. And the next time a grandmother smiles at me as I stand helplessly over a screaming 3-year-old, with a grinning 1-year-old on my hip and a hungry and fussy baby in my shopping cart, I think maybe I will smile back and tell her that yes, I know these days will soon be gone and yes, I am trying to love as many minutes of them as I can. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Letter to my Boys Regarding Gay Marriage,

Dear Sons,

I want to talk to you about Gay Marriage. I know you're not even old enough to wipe your own asses, let alone understand the complex legal and ethical nuances behind this somewhat abstract and (sadly) sometimes divisive issue, but I feel compelled to bring it up. I want to talk to you about it because it may be vague and complicated, but at it's core, the topic of gay marriage represents something very basic, something every parent should teach their children from the very minute they begin interacting with the world. 

Marriage equality, at it's core, really just means 'equality.' It means treating everyone fairly and nicely. It means sharing your toys with your brother. It means you are polite and kind to all the children in your preschool class, regardless of how they look, or speak, or dress, or behave. It means waiting your turn in line for the slide. It means speaking up when you see someone who is being mean to someone else. 

Here's a little history lesson to help me explain: in 1996, long before you were born, US Legislators decided it was necessary to adopt a law that effectively excluded a healthy chunk of our citizens from the Institution of Marriage (Defense of Marriage Act)

Those guys?? They're essentially big ol' bullies. For the sake of simplicity, let's think of marriage as a swing set that these dudes just didn't want to share with everyone. See, there were some others on the playground who made these politicians -- and a noisy, somewhat hateful group of their constituents -- very nervous. The lawmakers and their buddies didn't like the way this group dressed or acted and they felt somehow threatened. These guys claimed that the swing set would be somehow ruined if everyone had access -- ignoring the fact that many were abusing and making a total mockery of the damned thing already (re: Kim Kardashian, Brittany Spears, that network that airs "Married at First Sight")

Luckily, this line of thinking didn't make much sense to a lot of people and by 2013, the law was repealed.  Still, there were enough bullies left out there feeling threatened and insecure (these being the standard-issue bully emotions), that not all states were willing to share their playground equipment with the gay community. Even California couldn't get their sh*t together (sorry, mommy sometimes curses when she thinks adults are behaving like children).

Today, however, our nation has finally decided to share the swings with everyone. The Supreme Court (#SCOTUS #ThanksGuys!) has issued a ruling that same sex marriage is protected under the 14th Amendment, setting a precedent for our entire nation to recognize that marriage is marriage, love is love, and it's time to start being a little nicer to one another. 

Does this mean that the bullies are gone? That they will be silenced? Nope and nope. As long as there is insecurity and some degree of hate in this world, there will be bullies. I am sad to acknowledge that this is probably a pervasive reality that you will certainly encounter more than a few times in your lives. 

Someday you will be old enough to begin to understand and discuss sexuality. It will mean a lot of awkward conversations and a fair amount of discomfort for all parties involved. When that time comes, I hope I will provide you with the right sort of information and that I can help you to have a healthy attitude about sex and sexuality and thus you will behave properly, respectfully, and safely -- despite whatever you will have already learned from the internet and the soccer team. 

For now, however, the thing you need to understand is that all people are special and unique; that all people deserve to be respected and cared for. Even the bullies...maybe even especially the bullies. Call me naive, but I think that if we could all just remember that and be nice to one another, the world would be a lot less scary and disappointing. 

Today's Same Sex Marriage win was a big win for humanity and a big win for niceness. I am glad there is a little more niceness out there in the world for you, because I love you so much and I want the best for you. In the ongoing battle between love and hate, today #LoveWins.

Love you always, 

'In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were...It would misrepresent these men and woman to say they disrespect the idea of marriage...they ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The constitution grants them that right.

It is so ordered.'

- Justice Anthony Kennedy 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Good Dad

My husband recently spent a week away for work and I was left home facing the harsh realities of single motherhood. This Father's Day, I find myself appreciating him more than ever. 


...because sometimes 3am with a baby feels like it might break you. Add a wakeful toddler into the mix and the situation may seem especially bleak. Without the loving, patient, and capable arms of a good dad, there just simply aren't enough arms.

...because a little boy needs to be able to drag his father to the middle of the living room to dance with him.

...because sometime there's a rat in the basement or a squirrel in the kitchen and that shit requires a brave and clever soul to remedy. 

...because it is so important that small boys see grown men showing affection. 

...because having that time alone to run or spin or practice yoga or whatever makes for a more patient and happy mommy. And for him, watching the children is not ever considered 'babysitting,' only 'parenting.' 

...because having a second set of hands to dress the children is crucial. And sometimes those hands chose clothes that even sort of match. 

...because it takes a special kind of magic to turn a screaming toddler into a laughing toddler.

...because not every man could handle a wife who can't cook without a little crispy burn around the edges, can't keep an iPhone screen from cracking for more than a week, and refuses to assist with rat disposal.

...because we created this messy, loud, ever-moving, obscenely-enthusiastic three ring circus together and if it takes two to tango, it takes at least that many to raise three boys. 

As my mother would tell you, I kissed a lot of frogs before I found my prince, and maybe it was dumb luck, but I couldn't be happier with my choice of partner and the man who my children call (with gusto) 'daddy' 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Longest (wettest) Mile

The Longest (wettest) Mile
AKA That Time I Completely Miscalculated My Mom-ability

Several weeks ago, my sitter alerted me to a school trip for her son which she was hoping to attend. The women is a total saint and her rockstar immune system aside (ONE sick day in 3 years!! One!) she really never has asked for a day off. I assured her I could work my schedule out (re: work Saturday, because it's not like I have PTO available after having the audacity to deliver a baby and chose to care for it for one hot minute) and began looking forward to a rare day off from work with my boys. Finally! The SAHM moment I so often dream about! 

As the day approached, I called up one of my favorite SAHM friends and we began planning a play date. The Midwestern springtime weather forecast was predictably unpredictable and we quickly formulated an outdoor plan with an in-case-of-rain Plan B option. When the morning arrived, it seemed the stars had aligned as the forecast promised sunny skies until nap time. 

The sunshine plan was to visit Grant's Farm, an iconic St Louis attraction owned by the family who founded our favorite homegrown corporate giant (Anheuser-Busch). The historic plot of land was once owned by Ulysses S. Grant but now promises visitors a train ride ending with animals both exotic and barnyard and two free beers. It's probably just exactly what Mr Grant envisioned. 

In any case, my boys go bananas over animals (exotic or otherwise) and while I love our zoo, you gotta shake it up every once in awhile.  And the zoo doesn't have free beer.  It has beer, just not free beer. (Is that weird? I'm so accustomed to St Louis beer culture, I honestly have no idea). 

So I loaded up the toddlers and the baby into their total of 15 points worth of car seat harnesses and did this thing that only started happening recently: I left my house way earlier than necessary. 

My husband will verify, I am not naturally a punctual person. Which is perhaps partly why I presently carve out an excessive window of time before leaving the house when it means taking the entire circus along. So when we agreed to meet at 930am, I started the getting ready process the minute I walked in the door from spin class at 645am. Three time outs and countless mini-meltdowns later, we were pulling away from the house and I was realizing we had a full 45 minutes to drive a little over 5 miles and make one stop at the bank.

That's when the worst idea in the history of ideas crossed my mind and I was so stoked by it, I didn't give it more than four seconds of consideration. See, my inlaws live just down the street from Grant's Farm. When it comes up, that's what we say, 'Oh them? They live right by Grant's Farm.' So I think to myself, we have all this extra time, why don't we just park there and walk? In my head, I am thoroughly convinced it is just under a mile door to door. This is a distance that a healthy adult can cover easily in under 15 minutes. I was congratulating myself for my genius plan as I strapped the toddles into their double stroller and settled the baby into his carrier. 

I texted my friend before we started our trek to keep her abreast of our plan. She replied and called it 'impressive.' I am aware that in some cases, there is a very thin line between impressive and stupid. This is one of those cases and possibly also an appropriate title for my memoir. 

As we began our ascent, I quickly made two important realizations: 1) I just called it an ascent. There's a big ass hill between the park and us. 2) The sidewalk (along a pretty major thoroughfare) at best meets the very minimum requirements to be called 'a sidewalk.' 

This is actually the point in the scary movie where viewers are shouting at the screen for the hero(ine) to run out the door rather than up the stairs. In my case, the shouts sounded like this: 'Abort! Go back to the car. Park at the farm!! You idiot!' I heard them even, reverberating in my head. Still, I ignored all such instinct and pressed on. 

It was perhaps halfway or maybe a bit further when the threenager began his stoller protest. He skillfully wiggled out of the straps and stood up on his seat, causing a major disruption in the delicate physics of a front and back double stroller with a diaper bag hanging from the back (packed snuggly with three kids worth of ground support equipment and weighing approximately 15 lbs) 

Given the speed and proximity of the traffic, it didn't take me long to turn into one of those angry, shouting moms I used to judge harshly back in my carefree days as a childless adult.  

The full body protest that resulted from my ineffective shouting caused an even greater imbalance in the stroller and I was forced into to negotiations with the terrorist: we finally agreed that he could be allowed to walk if he would keep one hand on the stroller to 'help push,' and thus preventing him from wondering into traffic. Now that I was forced to match my pace with that of a three-year-old, the fact that we were now on the downhill portion of our trek was totally negated. It also became quite obvious that my prediction about the distance was most likely wrong, much like my choice to wear jeans and the (very minimal) time spent on my hair in the mounting heat. By the time I finished wrestling both boys back into the stroller, relying heavily on bribery with both screens and fruit snacks (another parenting move I used to ignorantly shun), I was literally a hot mess. We all looked completely wrecked by the time the trip was over, particularly the one-year-old who somehow managed to acquire what was left of my coffee and dump it on his white shirt. The trip took somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes in total. The baby maintained his favorite child status by sleeping quietly in the baby carrier and other than throwing off my center of gravity slightly, he was essentially a non-entity. 

He's a good baby, mostly by necessity. I think he senses that if he caused a disturbance, he runs the risk of being given away quietly to a good home, so he generally behaves as a polite houseguest might; a houseguest whose only inconveniencing behavior is that he wakes once or twice a night demanding a meal. 

Once we got inside the gates, things actually went relatively smoothly, or at least without significant disaster. While my friend's children politely sat in their double stroller, my boys took turns sharpening their skills as a miniature escape artists, crawling out of their respective seats like little Houdini offspring and wandering in opposite directions. Still, they were adequately impressed by the variety of animals around to view and only mildly annoyed that the goats were apparently over-fed and over-tired and genuinely uninterested in the bottles of warm milk we purchase to feed them. The animals' lethargy was a bit disappointing, but a better situation than my children being trampled by 15 ravenous baby goats over three ounces of milk, which has been our experience in the past. 

Lunch was 'peanut butter roll-ups!' My kids will eat damn near anything folded onto a tortilla and labelled a 'roll up.' They were smuggled into the park via the monster diaper bag and happily consumed in the gazebo reserved for birthday parties, in blatant disregard for at least one posted park policy. Next, we enthusiastically visited the camels and after that, we noticed a menacing cloud cover moving in our direction. 

Annoyed that my phone was still predicting the storms would arrive hours later, I tried to convince myself that the foreboding sky was merely a hallucinatory byproduct of a brain that has been sleep deprived since 2012. However, the massive line that had accumulated to board the train which is necessary to exit the park indicated that the impending weather was indeed a reality. 

We had progressed about halfway to the front of the line when the sky broke open and began dumping heavy droplets of rain on us. I cursed my optimism/lack of foresight to bring an umbrella or even the sunshade to the stroller. I also cursed my smart phone for being dumb and giving me false hope. Our little party of seven had little choice but to just stand there and let our clothes soak in the rain. My friend's children were cozy in their double stroller under a rain shield and the knowledge that their mother was clearly the superior caretaker. My boys quickly (and astutely) decided the stroller wasn't providing any comfort or shelter so they resumed their escape and wander routine, generating looks of pity from other young parents in line and amusement from those a generation removed from their child-rearing days (grandparents tend to think everything toddlers do is adorable, mainly out of a sense of nostalgia and perhaps some long-term memory loss). 

Still, I managed to scurry around the wet pavement after them to keep their faces off the sides of milk cartons, with the exception of one brief moment when I lost sight of the big guy. It was very brief, but totally terrifying. I must say though, I was impressed by the code red level of alertness that is aroused in a crowd when a child goes missing. He was spotted and herded my way in about 10 seconds. I would really appreciate that sort of group effort whenever I misplace my car keys or my cell phone. 

We eventually made it to the front of the line and were leaving the park just as the rain picked up it's enthusiasm and achieved full-fledged thunderstorm status. My friend and I have both earned post-graduate degrees, so between the two of us, it only took about 5 minutes of scheming to figure out a way to get my boys back to our car safely without breaking any traffic laws. The plan was primitive, but seemed like it would do the trick. I would walk the boys to a nearby parking lot (one that would not require payment for me to enter) in the direction of my in-laws' house and she would load her kids into her car and meet us there. Then, the boys would sit in her car with her while I ran (literally) to get our car. 

First, I had to drag the stroller up a short flight of concrete stairs to reach the trail leading to the nearby lot. I must've looked like a lunatic dragging the stroller up with one hand while supporting the baby's head with the opposite hand and simultaneously instructing the toddlers to move slowly on the wet steps. Thankfully, our destination wasn't far and there was a covered entryway and a tall, friendly man in a park ranger hat who took pity on us and allowed some illegal parking for the brave woman who had agreed to supervise four toddlers and a baby in a Ford Flex.  

Still convinced the distance couldn't be much more than a mile, I assured my pal I could be back in 10 minutes or so. The minute the boys were safely in the car, I took off, my flip-flops flip-flipping along the saturated pavement and kicking up water onto my already soaked jeans. It occurred to me that I didn't look at all like a woman who enjoys running, but instead like a maniac who was running out of sheer necessity. I imagine more than one passing car slowed slightly to determine who or what was chasing me. I leaned into the hill and braced myself for the additional spray of water that came periodically off the traffic that failed to notice me. 

Still, there were small favors along the way, like the fact that the wet air felt cool and even refreshing at times and that I did not slip out of my poor choice of footwear and eat soggy pavement. I felt surprisingly strong on the incline and was suddenly grateful for my Wednesday morning hill-repeat workouts. There was even a moment it occurred to me that the whole fiasco had essentially secured me with a free sitter for a quick impromptu workout. (Ha! Sucker!!)

When I finally coasted into the home stretch and climbed, soaked and panting into the driver's seat of our 2012 Explorer ('Dora' ... You get it the joke) I was jarred by the fact that the trip had taken me 16 minutes. Curious, I watched the milage as I drove back to my starting point: 1.8 miles.  

Hashtag face palm. 
Hashtag terrible at guessing distances.
Hashtag using hashtags incorrectly is funny to me. 

Once back to the lot, I was relieved to find my boys had not caused major damage to life, limb, or property in my absence. In fact, they all seemed perfectly content and happy. The 3-year-old had even somehow conned my friend into allowing him to keep a plastic rhino he'd found in their car) probably, he charmed her with his magic dimples -- or he possibly threw a fit). I crisscrosses the distance between our cars, loading drenched little bodies into their respective car seats one by one, in between expressions of gratitude for my superhero friend. Then we took off into the storm.

I'm not totally sure what the moral is here. Perhaps it's just simply: don't be an idiot. I have a tendency to be just that sometimes. My dad used to become frustrated with me when my absent-mind-ism caused me to wander out of the kitchen without closing the cupboard or leave the bathroom light on. I just want you to think!! He'd plead. The problem was never that I wasn't thinking, it was that I wasn't thinking about the task at hand. My brain has a tendency to wonder around in all directions at times and having three children in so many years hasn't necessarily improved that condition. This is perhaps a case of just not thinking about the right thing at the right time.

I expected my husband to be upset with me when I recounted the story, highlighting my poor decision-making. See, in a totally predictable move, I married a man who has lots of similar qualities to my father (this is a good thing BTW). Instead, he just laughed. He pointed out that his workday was light and he could've come to the rescue, but that wasn't something I knew at the time. Also, had I called for help, I wouldn't have learned how awesome I am at running in flip flops. 

It may have been a day defined by making one or two bad judgement calls (and one really inaccurate weather forecast), but it was action-packed with adventure and excitement for me and my guys. They're pretty small yet to be forming strong memories, but I will not soon forget the time we didn't let a little rain ruin our day together. 

Nice going Mom.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Back in the Saddle

It didn't seem like a good omen when I couldn't find the spinning room at my gym. The room I had been accustomed to teaching and attending spin classes was mostly vacant, spare for a few giant tires and hefty ropes. Those damn cross-fitters had apparently pushed themselves into even the darkest corners where we had previously hidden the gym's red-headed step child they call group fitness classes. Finally, I opened the correct door (ding, ding, ding!) and was pleased to find an even better version of our old spin studio. 

Disaster averted. 

I breathed a sigh of relief, pleasantly surprised to find that even my cycling shows had made the transition to the new space unscathed. I shed my winter garb to expose my ill-fitting workout attire and instinctively climbed onto the instructor's bike at the head of the room, facing two wide rows of empty bikes. I turned the lights off, save two weak rows of rope lights along the side and back walls. There was a brief moment of gratitude that the room is free of mirrors as I started the music. 

My hips felt immediately too wide for the seat, my butt bones (ischial tuberosities) struggled at first to support and balance the weight of my expanded ass. Quietly, I gave this foreign body basic instructions on leveling the pelvis and dipping toes slightly to connect with the pedals. It was a struggle, but eventually I was able to ignore the uncomfortable sensation of my thighs connecting with my flopping belly with each pedal stroke. 

I settled into the music and coached myself to keep with the pace. The first few tracks, I found myself bombarded with excuses that have been offered so readily by others over the last few weeks.

t took me six months to get back to the gym after my c-section.
Take it very slow.
Don't push your body.
Be careful not to overdo it.
I tore my incision doing housework. (WTF??)

These thoughts clouded my brain and slowed my speed (oh shit, what if my incision busts open?) until I remembered the only advice I should really concern myself with: listen to your body, it will tell you when you're overdoing it (my doctor/the man who sliced me open in the first place).
The sensation I felt on that bike wasn't pain. It wasn't the sharp unzipping sensation I'd felt early in my recovery when I walked too fast or moved wrong in bed. What I was feeling was good old fashioned fatigue of both the legs and the lungs; the unavoidable affects of months of inactivity. All normal. All okay. All totally understandable and completely manageable.

By track 2, I was more relaxed. I nodded and spit some banter at the bike in the back left corner, dedicating the next climb to it's invisible rider. I winked at the center bike. The dialogue I typically bring to my classes played along in my head as I challenged them (me) to give just a little more and push just a bit harder. I assured them (me) that they (I) could do *anything* for 30 seconds (so sprint dammit!!). I smiled because I was unwrapping a part of myself I thought might have been dead and gone, and because I probably looked like a lunatic. 

Track 4 left me feeling exhilarated, like I could kick this workout right in it's good-for-nothing pants without giving it a second thought. By the end of track 5 however, I was begging myself for mercy and wondering if I shouldn't just pack it up and go back home to my sweatpants and maternity tops. With only two more 'working tracks' left, that seemed a little silly, so I put my big girl pants on (which are significantly less comfortable than my sweatpants) and powered through the next two songs, falling a few beats behind at times and easing way up on the resistance. 

When the cool down was done and the stretching was over, I mopped my bike and face with a towel and squeezed back into my workout jacket. The damage that my body incurred over the past 8 months suddenly seemed less debilitating and way less permanent. Sure, the hips will stay wide and wobbly in the saddle and the belly will flop around for a nice long while, but my determination and desire haven't suffered more than a few bumps and bruises. They have lived to fight another day. 

And they will. 

Therapy Walk

(Written 1/9/15)

I should probably admit I've always secretly been a bit of a snob when it comes to walking for exercise.  Secretly. See, I tell my patients it's great. Top notch stuff. And I totally mean that...for them. For me, if I'm not huffing and puffing and moving faster than the next guy on the trail, then what the hell is the point?

Cue almost eight months of doctor-advised sedentary living during my recent high risk pregnancy. I replaced morning runs with greasy, calorie-packed fast food breakfast. Lifting and spinning away the stress at the gym became stress-eating on my way to and from my biweekly then weekly check up and ultrasounds at the MFM. The week I finally delivered (only 6 weeks early...I considered it a helluva success), the scale creaked beneath me at just a smidge over 200 lbs. It was distressing sure, but not surprising.

My little man came just in time for the holidays and his arrival was paired with more stress-eating as we anxiously awaited his homecoming from the NICU stay, not once but twice now. 

To complicate things, I am just 4 weeks out of an emergency cesarean section. And no, the irony of spending 30 weeks battling a weak cervix, then laboring for almost a week while the damn thing stubbornly refuses to dilate is not lost on me. 

My last two babies were both tiny and delivered vaginally. The physical backlash from their arrival was minimal and I was back to running and lifting in a matter of weeks. After 4 weeks, I am just now able to resume normal activities including lifting and carrying my toddlers. I realize I am lucky because many women take months to feel even remotely mobile and strong again. My doctor is a realist and he suggested listening to my body and taking it at my own pace. 

This pregnancy, I was blessed with both a weak cervix (something that I've apparently always had and is relatively symptomless) and an irritable uterus, which is exactly as ridiculous and annoying as it sounds. Over the course of my second and third trimesters, I was slowly rendered completely useless and basically immobile. Eventually, I couldn't manage stairs very easily, couldn't lift or carry my toddlers, and even the most benign activities like rolling over in bed and walking across a parking lot were a legitimate struggle. 

Resuming my ability to walk and basic endurance initially came as a necessity. I had to walk just over 500 feet to see my baby in the NICU from my hospital room for the first five days of his life. It doesn't sound like much, but it felt like light years at the time. The first time I attempted it out of a wheelchair (post delivery, day 2) I had to take a break halfway. After that, I waddled and huffed my way back and forth several times a day. Once I was discharged, the trek from the parking garage was probably 4 times that distance. Again, necessity drove my recovery. I had to see that kiddo and I stubbornly refused to succumb to the use of a wheelchair.

Today, he is in another NICU, in a different hospital and after months of pre and postpartum shuffling, I am finally walking almost normally again. As my kiddo figures out how to keep his temperature up and put on some much needed weight (someday...someday we'll reach 6lbs!!), I am struggling to reclaim my body and my identity as a strong, capable woman who can hold her own at the gym and fire up a room of group fitness class goers. 

Let me preface this by saying I am aware that this is gonna sound like a totally douchy thing to say, but being involved in fitness is less of a 'hobby' for me and more of a part of who I am. I have never been more aware of that fact than when I was suddenly unable to hit the streets for a run and had to step away from my fitness instructor job. The exercise was also my major outlet for any stressors that might arise. With past babies, when things weren't going so well, I would lace up my shoes for a 'therapy run.' Losing that outlet was tough on me over the past 8 months (mildly stressful--cue the ice cream!) Today, at 4 weeks post op, I found myself on a 'therapy walk' through the breezeways throughout BJC/Washington University medical campus. 

It a walk. I wasn't winning a race or setting any PRs. I wasn't even really breaking a sweat. But I'll be damned if it was totally liberating. 

During the walk, I would catch my reflection from a curtained window or some such reflective surface every so often and it still startles me. The hips are too wide and the gait is still a bit too lateral in nature. The belly still protrudes, an imposter of that of maybe a second trimester tummy. The boobs are totally unrecognizable. 

Still, regardless of what I saw and the fact that I was moving at an obnoxiously slow pace, the feeling was familiar, in a completely satisfying way. My breath was challenged and heavy. The movement was just repetitive enough to be hypnotic and totally cathartic. The tension dropped away from my jaw and shoulders (where I like to carry my stress, apparently) and moved into the muscles crossing my hips, knees and ankles, propelling me in the loop across the series of breezeways again and again. It felt so good to be moving again, I was reluctant to stop. I allowed myself the better part of an hour before I headed back to the elevator to see my baby.  
I wasn't panting or sweaty, but I was refreshed and recharged. It may have just been a walk, but it did it's job. Even better, the walk gave me hope that I hadn't totally lost that part of myself that's been suppressed for so long. I am still me deep down in there someplace, hiding deep in this squishy postpartum body, and I get closer to that me with each step.