Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Too stunned to speak

Conversation between me and an acquaintance (also on maternity leave) yesterday via text:

her: Stevie starts daycare today, only for 2 hours. How am I going to kill two hours?
me: (assuming sarcasm) ha ha ha
her: no really, what am I supposed to do for two hours?
me: (assuming she is unfamiliar with daycare process) do you mean are you supposed to stay with Stevie at daycare?
her: no, I am supposed to leave. What do I do for two hours?

I was too stunned and disturbed to respond. Nevermind the mental imagine of "killing" two hours (as opposed to living, enjoying, relishing, making use of) but the thought that an adult could not find a way to make use of two hours was so very disturbing to me. I don't think I know a single person (okay, except her I guess) who, if gifted (yes GIFTED) two free hours IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, would not immediately think of three dozen amazing things to do and probably waste the first 20 minutes in a delirious daze wondering where to begin. This is true of everyone (ok,almost everyone) I know, parents and the child-free, runners and the more sedentary, educated and not.... what adult would not somersault backwards with joy if granted two free daytime hours?

It's the most worried I have been about someone in awhile.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Race Report: 2 of 2

As it turns out, I'm not 20 anymore and need more than 24 hours to recover between races. I felt every spike clad kilometer of yesterday's XC race in my hams, quads, calves and gluts as I warmed up this morning. Aside: how is it that swimmers can swim a half dozen events in a single day let alone week-end and do them all well without, it seems, there being any cummulative fatigue effects? Missy Franklin swam a heat of one event in the Olympics and came back twenty minutes later to win the gold medal in a final of another... at the Olympics! And while I really don't mean to compare myself to a world class athlete, I am really curious about the differences between the two sports. Swimmers can get away with doubles, triples, quadruples... they are the fertility clinic of sporting events. Why can't runners do that? I don't think there is a middle distance runner in the world who could run heats of a 1500 m and then come back 20 minutes later and win an 800 m at a world class event. Is it the lack of impact in swimming? Is it that swimmers heart rates are typically lower than runner's heart rates? Is is the duration of the events? I don't think even runners who do sprints could get away with running as many events as a typical world class swimmer swims.

Anyhow needless to say 24 hours was not enough for me to begin recovering from yesterday's effort and I found myself rapidly revising my goal during the warm-up from "break 38" to "break 40". I actually offered to run with Thing 1 to give hubby a break and to make it clear to myself that I could not really race but there were bouncy castles at this race so Thing 1 was sooooo not interested in being strapped into the Bob for 40 minutes.

It was a weird race body wise because for once my breathing was not a factor... the rate limiting stuff was all going on muscularly in the legs, they simply could not turn over and I felt like my nervous system was not firing properly. The splits tell the story, despite always feeling like I was expending the same effort on a windstill, flat course, they were all over the map:

4:03 (slowest km of the race)
3:38 (fastest km of the race)
3:43 (seriously, no change in perceived effort) - 19:22 at 5 km
3:49 - total time 38:41.

So I am officially raced out. I am good. No need to rouse the family out of bed on a week-end morning again anytime soon. No more racing until Oct. 14.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Race Report: 1 of 2

This week-end was supposed to be my attempt to re-break 38:00 in the 10 km and by break, I mean decimate but then I got an e-mail from the coach of my club telling me he was one woman short of a competitive team at a cross country race this week-end, and our exchange went somewhat like this:

me: I can't, I'm running a 10 km.
him: Bah!
me: I already paid.
him: Can't you do both?
me: I can race twice but I can't leave hubby wrangling the kids two  mornings of the week-end.
him: My wife will babysit.
me: I'll see you Saturday.

Which is how I wound up in the playground next to the cross country course at 8.30 am this morning with Thing 2 sleeping in the marsupial around my neck while Thing 1 handed me spikes to screw into my seldom used cross country spikes (because really nothing screams "I'm a great mother" like letting one's toddler handle brand new, razor sharp, 9 mm cross country spikes). Despite my documented dislike of racing cross country, anticipating the race summoned long forgotten feelings of team and togetherness though I would be meeting many of my teammates for the first time on the start line.

I used to run cross country for Mc.Gill U.nivers.ity and have raced several times on this particular, brutal 4 km cross country course which is laid out on the flanks of Mount Royal. As I walked over to the appointed meeting spot with hordes of thin, fit uni girls, their calves, temporarily tattooed flashing in the gleaming sunlight and school colours twirling in their hair who were, on average, 18 years younger than me, I couldn't help but feel way too old to be doing this again. It's hard not to feel out of place at a predominantly university cross country meet with an infant in a marsupial sucking on your boob and a toddler in a stroller.

After an argument about going to the bathroom (Thing 1 wouldn't), eating some cheese (same) and having a cookie (done!) I left Thing 1 with the gracious babysitters and headed out to warm-up with Thing 2 in the Bob. On the course I felt the ghost of myself past wooshing by me on her too-fast warm-up in a herd of identically dressed, equally frenzied girls.

After a too-strenuous warm-up (Bob in cross country course, 'nuff said) I checked back with Thing 1, donned my spikes and realized oh... my feet DID get bigger during my last pregnancy. Socks on? Socks off? Minutes ticked by... start in less than 8 minutes with the start line a solid 700 m away, uphill. Finally I left all the offspring behind and ran for it to avoid making one of my recurring anxiety dreams (missing the start of a race while I fiddle around with logistics) come true.

I met the women on my team at the start line. They were all extremely friendly, one of them also had offspring hanging out on the course (with mine in fact). We did a team cheer (team cheer... so fun!) and it was only then that I started to become cognisant of the fact that I was lined up with approximately 180 women all wearing presumably razor clad spikes all of whom would shortly be bearing down on the same 90 degree turn about 100 m in front of us. Cross country is freaking scary. So off we went, I chose a pace that was a compromise between not going out too fast and not being in the middle of a tangle of women trying to negotiate the corner.

I honestly barely remember anything else about the race. First off, 4 km is short and painful and I spent a lot of time trying not to step in a hole, trying not to get spiked and always questioning my effort and pace. I probably went out too hard (7:22 for the first 2 km) and then just tried to maintain my position in the second lap which despite slowing significantly (7:43 for the second 2 km) I managed to do. In the last 500 m I made a conscious decision to shut it down. I could see I was surrounded only by girls from two teams who were clearly going to beat us and likely by their "B" teams whose scores wouldn't even count. I promised myself I would not let more than 3 people pass me in the last 500 m. Normally no one passes me in the last 500 m of a race (and if that sounds arrogant it's only because it is) but I wanted to avoid lactic acid and give myself a small chance of running fast tomorrow.

So I finished up 23 out of 180 girls, 4th on my team running 15:07 for 4 km on a tough course. Our team placed third out of 13 teams and I think I was able to contribute a small part to that result so very satisfying. I don't think I will be running more cross country anytime soon, about which I can only say thank god! but it was a fun albeit somewhat terrifying experience. Onwards to sub-38 tomorrow!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Age of Id

Only after the ink had dried on Thing 2's birth certificate was it pointed out to us that we had unwittingly given both of our daughters names from the phoenetic alphabet. This was completely unintentional on our part but I like the feel of it; individuals that are part of a larger set. Hubby likes the finality of it. There are no more girls names to be had in the phoenetic alphabet unless one runs to weirdo, flaky celebrity baby names (no offence intended to any readers who may have named their girls Foxtrot or Golf... though I suppose India has potential so perhaps I am being too narrow minded). I guess I have de-facto given away the names of Thing 1 and Thing 2 but I have, over the years, come to feel pretty safe among my tens of readers.

Siblings share, on average, 25% of their DNA. The sharing of DNA between parent and child is fixed at exactly 50% (yes, we are doomed to become our mothers and fathers) however siblings can vary theoretically from 0 - 50% shared DNA bc the DNA a sib inherits from parent is random. With Thing 2 still being so young it is difficult to know how similar in temperament she will be to Thing 1 though photographic evidence shows that they are very clearly related:

Maybe this is the expression shared by all babies when they are plucked from the warm, whooshy womb and dumped on the cold stainless steel scale:

I call this one "She has more hair, I have more chins but we share the same straight jacket":
Not really pertinent, just a gratuitous inclusion of this picture (hint: the bald ones aren't real):

But I sit on the edge of my seat wondering if Thing 2's toddlerhood will resemble Thing 1's. Time for the standard parental disclaimer: I love my child blah blah blah, best thing that ever happened to me blah blah blah, wouldn't change anything for the world blah blah blah (ok yes, I actually do mean these things but OMIGOD do parents realize how overplayed they sound when they preface their complaints with The Disclaimer??). So, that probably makes it somewhat obvious that I find myself struggling with toddlerhood. And by struggling I mean morphing into a yelling, impatient, red-faced, strident, irritating monsther (cross between mother and monster).

Back when Thing 1 was a smiley, drooling infant I decided to get ahead of the curve and started reading "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" by "the brilliant" Dr. Karp (really, he's brilliant, there are pages and pages and pages of anecdotes talking about how brilliant he is... in fact if you skip the "I'm brilliant" content the book shrinks from about 300 pages to 10 pages of rather good advice). He advocates child rearing approaches based on the toddler's particular temperament and neatly divides toddler temperaments into three broad categories: shy, easy and spirited. Unsure as to what temperament your child has, just do this simple test. Go to a crowded mall and let go of your child's hand and pretend you are not paying attention. The easy toddler will hang out near you, the shy toddler will cling to your leg and hide his face and the spirited toddler will be gone in a flash. I remember looking at my still immobile, speechless infant wondering what flavour I had. By the time Thing 1 was mobile enough to run the test, it was a moot point given that I spent most of my days 10 feet behind her fast retreating behind yelling and pleading and cajoling and generally being thankful I am a fit runner.

So we have without a doubt a spirited toddler, spirited being a highly euphemistic term. I struggle with the 30 pounds of id that IS Thing 1. (As as aside, I stole the "30 pounds of id" line from this article which, if you have ever had to fly with a toddler you MUST read because it is pee your pants hilarious). I do realize that my impatience and frustration with the id-ness of Thing 1 is really a reflection on ME and not at all on her... she is exactly what toddlers are supposed to be: self-centered, limit-testing, danger-seeking, noise-making agents of chaos. Toddlers can be thought of as sub-civilized aliens... they have a code but it is not one that is generally appreciated by the rest of society. The role of parent is to be the toddler's ambassador to the world. Parents exist to act as buffer between the toddler's frustrations and the world and the world's annoyance and the toddler. I know this. Things with Thing 1 are exactly as they are supposed to be but OH do I find it frustrating.

Frustrating that she has twenty thousand toys (give or take) but if Thing 2 receives one toy she must immediately claim and monopolize it because she must have All Of The Things All Of The Time. Frustrating that we can spend the whole morning pleasing her with trips to the park, loads of focussed attention, little treats but she cannot let us have five minutes to listen to a song we want to hear because "Moi aime PAS ca" and if MOI doesn't like a certain thing than that thing MUST cease to exist. Frustrating that we cajole her to try to go to the bathroom and she adamantly refuses, throws a temper tantrum telling us "Moi n'as PAS de pipi" and then she goes and pees in the bouncy castle causing it to be shut down for cleaning for the next hour (And yes, I offered to clean it and was refused given instead the humiliating job of guarding the entrance and turning everyone away. And since when did "it's closed" become not enough information??? I swear every toddler jonesing for the bouncy castle AND their parent NEEDED to know WHY). Frustrating that she cannot share with anyone, ever... not even say a seat on the bus with me... kind random dude gives up his seat, Thing 1 takes it, won't move over to share and mom is left hanging onto the pole with one pinky while trying desperately to keep Thing 2, stroller and daycare bag from poking people's vital organs.

And I say all of this is normal but a small part of me wonders as I guess ultimately all parents do... IS this normal? Parents OWE it to society to raise conscientious, thoughtful, confident, polite children. It is against all of our interests to have entitled, spoiled brats roaming around because although it may be normal at age 3, it starts to wear thin when the same behaviour is exhibited in say the workplace. So like all parents I want to release a kind, thoughtful person upon the world not only because it is my duty to society and but because kind, thoughtful people are happier than spoiled brats and more than anything else, parents want happiness for their children. And I am trying... but at age 3, the age of ID it is so hard to see around the corner and know if things are going to turn out okay. And in case it isn't obvious... I welcome the chorus of "it's normal" and "listen to what my child does"... please tell me I am not alone.

Friday, September 7, 2012

All the gifts that are granted

This post could more accurately be titled "Squeaker at Six Months" since that is the ground breaking topic I would like to address today but I wanted a post title to book-end the rather whiny post I wrote last time.

So Miss Baby of Many Names has lived outside the womb for 6 months tomorrow. During her short six months she has gone through many names: Squeaker - which was phased out when her vocalizations could no longer accurately be characterized as Squeaks. Question Mark - because really who is this little, toothless person who is suddenly sharing our house? Confusion - a companion name to Chaos which her older sister was branded as in, you got it, Chaos and Confusion. Thing 2 - a la Dr. Seuss, should require no explanation, and yes, her sister was branded Thing 1. Finally Loopa which is the current nom de plume she uses.

Th progress she has made is clearly illustrated in the monthly photos featuring baby and perspective-giving wine bottle:

Month 1 - slightly afraid of the wine bottle

Month 2 - fairly zen about the wine bottle
Month 3 - temporary switch to port when mom & dad had a fun evening and forgot to replenish the supply.
Month 4 - Oh, those thighs.... they're so delicious.
Month 5 - Me likey the bottle of wine.
Month 6 - no longer a fall down drunk.
Currently Thing 2's bag of tricks consists of sitting upright, rocking back and forth on all fours, locomoting...somehow. I am really not sure how she is doing it because she isn't crawling yet though she spends a lot of time on all fours and, strangely, in the plank position, yet I put her down in a spot and before long she is making a suicide run for the edge of the bed. She is adept at hair pulling, pinching, cooing and other vocalizations. Other vocalizations... when she is pissed she sounds remarkably like gollum only less intelligible. She growls something to the effect of: "awwwwrrrrrarrrrraawwwwawwwwaarrrr" and my sleep deprived brain imagines she is saying: "a curse be upon you! You who woke me up and is slow with the milkers... your crops will wither... the fields will lie fallow...the plagues will descend." Hmmm but maybe that's just my imagination :)
She is absolutely desparate to eat. I am getting to the point where I cannot eat in front of her, partially from the guilt as her eyes track my every bite from plate to mouth and partly because of the interference. When she sits in my lap at mealtime she will grab my fork on its way to my mouth and re-direct towards hers. The guilt... Ohhh the guilt. Her older sister meanwhile, not having yet developed a sense of guilt, will cheerfully make a list of all the things that Thing 2 is not allowed to eat (that would be everything not falling into the mush food group). We have started feeding her; it is a two spoon job. Much like a dog who will not relinquish his ball until it is replaced with another, she grasps her spoon in a death grip long after it is empty until another spoon is offered. At this point I would say the absorption rate when feeding is about 15%.
Thing 2 is not interested in a pacifier for which we are extremely grateful still being in the position of trying to wean Thing 1 from hers... at age 3! On the other hand, in the great tradition of the Toothless People, she is not adverse to having all manner of Dangerous Object in her mouth. Despite the $30 Sofia the Giraffe I recently purchased specifically for teething (yup, that would be thirty dollars for a plastic giraffe and despite the sales clerk's earnest assurance that the rubber was "all natural" - (what rubber ISN'T all natural anyway??) I am starting to question the sanity of spending $30 on a lump of rubber. Chalk it up to another moronic purchase made while sleep deprived), her taste runs to remote controls, telephones and dirty socks.
Yeah, Sofia is okay. But not as good to chew on as a mom's finger or a battery.
Luckily for us she is still lacking object permanence so when she does Houdini her way past all the obstacles and reach the dangerous Object of Desire we can whisk it out of her hand and she simply assumes it doesn't exist anymore so... no complaints. Similarly there have been no complaints the few times I have left her with other people. At this stage it seems that any warm, friendly set of arms will do and if the milkers aren't available than a bottle is just fine. Then again perhaps any warm set of arms is a welcome change from Cranky Mom.
So as was the case with Thing 1, Thing 2 must sneak downstairs in the middle of the night and read our well worn copy of "What to Expect in the First Year" because she is nailing all her milestones with military precision. Rolling, cooing, crawling, teething and yes, learning to drive:
And, of course to ride a giant blue dog:


Monday, September 3, 2012

All that you leave behind

I'm always surprised when people say, about having children, that they didn't realize how much their lives would change. Maybe it's because I was so uncertain for so very long about whether I wanted to have children that I spent ample time, too much time in fact pondering what life would be like if/when/once I had children. I tried to visualize in great detail the sacrifices, the sleep deprivation, the love, the responsibility... the responsibility... the unrelenting, never ending responsibility  (she types as her infant squirms next to her swallowing tissue after tissue from a box). I had children late, after probably almost a decade of fairly serious contemplation, periods of ambivalence, moments of paralyzing fear that all melted unambiguously into a deep, inexplicable yearning. But my point is, I had thought about it. Oh had I thought about it and as a result, I was not surprised by how much my life changed. It was and is as I expected.

Sacrifice, even the most uninitiated among us, knows sacrifice comes part and parcel with parenthood. We all leave things behind. And parents wind up missing the obvious and the more obscure. One of my friends who gave birth vaginally twice once told me, in the most mournful tone imagine-able, that she leaks urine whenever she laughs or coughs despite dozens of daily kegels. "I used to be able to stop the flow on a dime! On a dime!" she lamented. Others mourn the loss of a regular sex life. In a book once lent to me (unsolicited) parents were interviewed loosely on the topic of parenting and sacrifice, one of the fathers said: "It's never having sex anymore that gets me. I can handle everything else, the shitty diapers, the lack of sleep, never having time to myself, being broke but I cannot, CANNOT handle not having regular sex." I know tons of parents who mourn the loss of time to exercise. Others still just miss something as simple as going to the bathroom alone or being able to fly with carry on luggage only.

For me it is hands down, without question, the sleep deprivation. I expected it. Visualized it. And in the end, it is every bit as terrible as I feared and expecting it does not make it any less dreadful. I cannot handle the not sleeping. I prioritize sleep. Fantasize about it. Strategize over how to get some. I probably put as much thought and effort into getting sleep as a crackhead does over getting his fix. Still it eludes me. Is ripped away from me. Is denied to me. And I hate it. A few weeks ago I heard about Ca.sey An.thon.y for the first time. If you are living as much under a rock as I am, you can google it. There are tons of things to despise about this woman not the least of which is that she allegedly used to chloroform her baby so that she could go out clubbing with the assurance that her baby would not wake up while she was gone. After I got past the initial horror and disgust... I actually started fantasizing about using some chloroform, let me make this crystal clear, NOT ON MY KIDS... I fantasized about using chloroform on myself so I could finally, finally get some uninterrupted sleep. I'm joking, though not by much. I also regularly fantasize about needing surgery with a general anesthetic or having a condition that requires me to be placed into a medically induced comma. I'm not trying to escape my life... I just want 10-12 hours of uninterrupted unconsciousness.