Being a Sunshine

I know I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog complaining about my daughter’s bad sleeping and other stressors associated with being her primary care-taking parent, and I feel like overall I’ve barely expressed the amazement and in-love of my days with Anna.

Not that I’m going to forget any time soon.  How could 15 months not be 15% percent more hilarious and gorgeous than 14 months, when it seems every week bring more delightful mannerisms, funny words, and a shocking increase in her toddler beauty?

I mean, she’s the Arm & Hammer baby for God’s sake.

And that was when she was only 7 months old.  She’s on track to displace all Gerber and Old Navy models by the time she hits 2.

But cuteness only gets you so far (very far).  Personality and fun and a liking for hugging and kissing Mommy get you the rest of the way.  Charming all humans, amimals and some cadavers with pure sweetness is just a typical day for Anna.

She loves anything fun, happy, shiny, sparkling, musical, exciting, or new.  She loves dogs, tigers, lions and cats.  She loves people.  She loves people loving her.  Center of attention is too mild a term.

She starts the day by calling “dog…dog…dog!” meaning it’s time for me to come and take her out of her crib to visit Finn on my bed.  We cuddle and kiss Finn until he can’t take it anymore and jets away.  I find her in her crib after a nap with red cheeks, messed up bed-head curls, and a happy disposition.  If I leave her for any amount of time, as soon as I return and she sees me, it’s a full-fledged run and fall into my arms.  Happily muttering “dada, dada” since she calls both me and my husband “dada.”

If there’s a joke and anyone laughs, she’s chiming in with the world’s worst-faked “ha ha ha. Ha ha.”  If there’s something pretty, unusual, or interesting to see, she’s there, pointing her finger at it with a face of wonderment.

What’s life going to be like with a child like this? Fun, maddening, special, warm, cozy, happy, exciting, comedic.

Good thing I’ll get to be there.

When she’s not a cute baby monkey clinging onto Momma’s fur, she’s a little birdie, squawking and receiving bits of food into her mouth.  We ask her to show us her teeth and she happily sticks her tongue out at us (we don’t get it either).  “Itsy-bitsy Spider” is requested, often, with a command consisting of her little fists tangling about themselves in the air and a musically mish-mashed phrase “witsy witsy witsah.”  Grandma is excitedly anticipated at the door with an exaggerated peering around the corner and a “Goy??  Goy?? Goy??”

Life is made new.  Holidays, places to go…it’s like the reason the Thanksgiving Day Parade was ever invented in the first place is for us to experience it with Anna this year.  Could it have bothered to exist before?

Yup, that’s for you.

Somehow Daddy knew to make “You are my sunshine” your official theme song, and it couldn’t fit more perfectly.

Sure, there are the rumblings of tantrums to come, and if any small person grabs a toy you are into, you’re sure to yell “nonono Anna nanana” meaning “get the hell away from me before I push you and I will, I’ve done it before” but really? This is you.

Crafty

So I’ve never considered myself particularly crafty. Artistic, yes. Creative, definitely. But craftiness implies a level of…patience and detail wrangling I just don’t have.

When my daughter was less than a month old, in some kind of hormonal haze, I bought a Martha Stewart scrapbook kit. The idea was that this would be her baby book. It was part of a shopping spree only explainable by being freed from my breastfeeding house arrest.

It turns out this is kind of fun. Now don’t get any ideas that I’m some scrapbook maven. I’m sure it’s cheating to use one of the kits, and I know people do amazing work with little bits of paper, doilies, and glue. Did I mention I hate using glue sticks? I mean, I graduated nursery school for a reason. I also got my only Below Average mark on a report card in all of elementary school for cutting. “Cutting” was an evaluated task and I wasn’t good enough. Patience! Details! Little bits o’ things! Not my forte.

When I got into drawing and painting as a teenager, these limitations did come back to haunt me. Patience and a sort of neatness are virtues in painting and I would always hastily declare something DONE! ART! It’s done because it’s art and I say so! before I should have due to a severe lack of patience.

Anyway, lifetime failings aside, here’s my daughter’s baby book in progress. I want to mostly finish it so I can leave it out at her 1st birthday party and awe people. With my awe-inspiring awesomeness at life. And paper bits.

In progress. It’s a messy business. Note the quesadilla maker box is used as a platform for coloring for my daughter. It’s not part of her baby book. Yet.

Oh, yeah. I guess I didn’t do the cover yet. I forgot I had to do the cover, too. This is time-consuming.

Labor page. The midwives said I was awesome because I pushed (from fully dilated to birth) for 7 hours with no epidural or pain medication.

Hmm, this page looks a bit crowded. I will amend!

First Halloween and Christmas. All my photos are digital so if I happen to have anything printed, I’m adding it to the book. If I don’t have any physical prints this very moment of an event, like oh, say, my first child’s first Thanksgiving, it’s going to get skipped. Wow, I’m a great scrapbooker.

Love needs a mention.

Gotta brag record for future generations when your baby does everything early, right?

This page isn’t done. I couldn’t handle any more assemblage of minute ephemera by this point.

I’m up to Easter! I could conceivably finish by the time Anna gets married!

Dairy Free Dinners

I’m on week two of a dairy free diet, and so far it’s been slightly challenging to find meals that leave me feeling full and satisfied.

Thanksgiving leftovers, the only dairy I’ve had in 2.5 weeks

I keep feeling like I’m missing something. Not sure if it’s the richness/ taste of dairy or the fullness from saturated fats. I’m not a huge red meat eater so I think I’m missing that…animal fat, I guess.

Foods I’m using to try and satisfy this feeling:

Avocado, on everything

Almond milk (in cereal and oatmeal)

More nuts

More eggs and meat

Peanut butter

Mayo

Tonight I had regular old pasta with tomato sauce, and I didn’t miss the Parmesan cheese too much. I wanted pizza, so this had to do.
Other weeknight meals this week: chicken sausage and peppers and ground turkey and avocado tortillas.

I’m obsessed with Frontera Foods flavoring packets from Rick Bayless. Did you know he’s a fitness junkie?
And hot?

Anyway, with avocado and warm corn tortillas, I didn’t miss the cheese.

I chopped up half an onion, two potatoes, and cooked them with ground turkey then added the simmer sauce. So easy it works with a twenty-minute napping baby.

I’ve also been trying some really expensive dairy free products like this chocolate chip cookie dough. I was just craving yummy baked goods.

They definitely didn’t have the consistency or look of standard cookies, but they tasted good!

Since I’ve cut dairy, Henry seems much less fussy and gassy, but his diapers are still really full of mucus. I know, it’s gross. I’m not sure if I should cut soy next, or if it will just take more time.

Things That Are Stupid At the Playground

I spend a lot of time at the playground.

I see a lot of stuff that explains why America is doomed as a superpower and how we deserve our inevitable decline and eventual future eating cat food from China in our post-first nation hovels.

We suck.

Today I saw an eight year old who didn’t know how to pump her legs / swing herself on the swings. She wasn’t delayed or special needs in any way. She wanted her mom to push her. She may have even been ten years old. She was practically menstruating and she hadn’t learned to push herself on a swing.

I’m pretty sure the Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese are building swing sets at eight years old.

Today I saw a nice grandmother repeatedly admonish her nine year old granddaughter to be careful and not fall off a tiny little rocking car that BABIES go on. It was like the height of this girl’s knees. I’m pretty sure she’d be okay even if she did fall.

I see kids who can’t play because their parents are telling them what to do next. Go on this swing! Now go over here!

I see huge children of varying advanced ages being followed by parents who hover over them as they climb like three steps.

There are a lot of good books written about this.

A Nation of Wimps is one. Free Range Kids is another. But I don’t need to read an entire book to see the absurdity. This was just TODAY at the playground. One afternoon at a playground makes me feel like either the entire world is nuts or I am.

I think we know the answer here.

Do you see things that boggle your mind at the playground?

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.

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.

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?

Spartacus Matris

I don’t know how to conjugate Latin. If anyone does, please correct my stupidity above. Do I keep it Spartacus Mater? Nominative? Genitive? Mommy brain? I used to know this stuff.

Anyway, perhaps a linguistics exam will be part of my Spartan Sprint this Saturday in Blue Mountain, PA. I wish there were academic portions of most road races and mud warrior events. I would win things! Someone please invent a Mud-Jeopardy-SAT Question-5K.

So a funny thing happened on the way to the Spartan Forum: We accidentally signed up for the hardest of all the Spartan Sprints, the one dubbed “Mini Beast,” and a race that although advertised as a 5K is actually a five-miler. Did someone over at Sparta HQ mix up their measurement systems? Do they not know about the wacky metric systems those Frenchies are using in Commie Land?

Doing this was meant to be a fun family fluke. I convinced my sister, husband and my sister’s boyfriend to sign up. If we expire in mud, they will most likely blame me in their final throes. They are 25 years old and are P90X enthusiasts and although they only started running to train for this race last week (good job, guys) they are young and spritely and innately athletic so I’m sure they will do fine. Me and my husband on the other hand are of advanced age, which has been accelerated by the process of nine months of slow death by sleep deprivation torture (my hair is turning white as we speak. Oh wait, that’s the dry shampoo I don’t have time to brush out.)

Well, really, I’m mostly affected by the baby’s 1,500 night nursings. But my husband is 12 years older than me and only suffers from couch sleep. He is one year away from the Sexy 45-49 year old age bracket (seriously, that’s a sexy damn age group. Check ’em out at your next Firecracker run) and he is worried he’s too old and crotchety and fragile-of-lower-back-vertebrae to make it through all the obstacles. But with my sleep torture, I figure that ages me a decade so we are roughly on par. Also, there are no Instagram or Tweeting or Googling obstacles because then he would be doing burpees for the next year. The man is 44 going on 104 when it comes to the Social Medias.

We did track work in the heat once. We’re ready! RAHHHHHHH

I also had the brilliance to not change my training at all in preparation for this race since it’s just for fun! Oh so fun! and now I’m not really sure we are ready. It’s kind of like gym class redemption except I don’t know if I can climb a rope any better than I could in 1993 (hint: not well!). But in 1993 my only exercise was eating Pecan Sandies and drinking Schwepps Dry Grape Ginger Ale inside while reading Jane Eyre for the fifteenth time on 75 degree sunny days (hey, that book was not going to read itself for the fifteenth time). I’d like to insert a shout out to my mom for buying my favorite snacks in the dwindling twilight of our unhealthy grocery years. That was before we had whole wheat bread even.

Now I can do three chin ups and 75% of one overhand pull up! I’m good at brute suffering (carrying things, slogging up hills). I am not sure I am bad at aiming javelins but I suspect I am.

I’m going to run in a sports bra so all the 22 year old Spartans will swear off childbearing and the world’s population will stop increasing. I’m running for a cause. Please donate.

Luckily enough we will be traversing our ski slope gauntlet as a team, and my husband is six feet tall so I’m planning to be boosted over walls like a small child. Walls=check. I’m kidding, I’m sadly and misguidedly competitive, so of course I am going to try to do every obstacle by myself, and my goal is not do any burpees.

We have a three hour drive to where we are staying so that’s sure to encourage excessive daytime napping in the children, which means excessive wake-ups the night before, and along with my daughter hating to sleep anywhere besides her own bed (“I miss my dog!” she wails, as soon as we are going to sleep away from home despite not having noticed his existence for weeks before) I will be adding my own personal, highly advanced, add-on obstacle for my Spartan Sprint test of mettle and looking good in mud test:

Racing up a mountain in 90 degree humid heat after being woken up every twenty minute the night before and every couple of hours for the last two thirds of a year.

Beat that, Spartans.

Speaking of nine months, Henry has been taking his first steps. He started with one the day before he turned nine months old and now is doing three or four. He is nine months and four days old. I’m applying for his Junior Spartan race now.

Spartan Race Recap

This post is not sponsored, and I entered the race the plebian way (I paid) but I will be offering a free race entry to a Spartan Sprint later this week in an upcoming post. Check back and be cool and muddy like me.

If you don’t like to read (you should probably find another blog if that’s true then, maybe one with rainbow text and more chocolate Chobani) I offer you the upfront, immediate, Cliff’s Notes upshot of it all:

As expected, I am good at brute suffering, and bad at gym class.

The long version starts with the most challenging of all obstacles faced over our weekend: Traveling with my baby who hates the car.

That was 1,000 times more difficult than the race. Obviously. I guess I should start with an overall recap though.

The Stats

The race: Spartan Sprint, Blue Mountain, PA. Five mile obstacle race.

The team: Me, sister Jess, husband Walt, sister’s boyfriend Alex

The time: 2:23. So at some point it became clear we didn’t care about our time any longer. I tried to do the monkey bars three times for instance. Other times we watched people try to do things like the javelin before we tried, hoping to benefit from hive mind. My good Samaritan husband held the net climb for like ten people after us. Stuff like that. At one point, Walt and Jess spent five minutes trying to open a packet of electrolyte thingies. I yelled “What is this, brunch at Sarabeth’s on the Upper West Side?!” to the amusement of people who probably didn’t know what I was talking about, as we were in the middle of BumbleCowMountain, Pennsylvania. Maybe they were politely laughing at the crazy lady in the muddy sports bra who was breastfeeding her baby at the starting line earlier.

I figured I could make up for agility and coordination with jokes. A crowd favorite was my quip that the cement pull was like being married (well the one person in the vicinity who was over the age of thirty laughed). I thought Take My Wife Please jokes were apropos as were in the Poconos in some deranged summer camp for the slow. Moving. Slow moving people.

The burpees: Alex was the no burpee champ. He didn’t do a single burpee the whole race. Go 25-year-old good at sports guy! You rock. This was made for you. And also you’re a good athlete. I hate you. Except for the part with the hills (we will get to that).

I did the most burpees: monkey bars (this really disappointed me), the rope climb, the javelin, the transverse rock climb wall, and the stumps. Yes, that’s right, I couldn’t do five obstacles. Not impressive.

Jess missed the rope climb, the javelin and the transverse rock climb. Walt also missed the javelin, the stumps, and the transverse walls. So they did 30 x 30 burpees and I did 5 x 30 burpees. That’s 150. 150% suckage.

The training: We just did whatever we normally did. My husband was inspired to do some monkeying around at the playground a few times and was following some silly man Navy Seals YouTube workout with pushups, pullups, burpees and squats but since I’m giving him the award for the Best All Around Spartan Sprint Performance, it must have paid off. Alex and Jess ran once or twice. I just ran and did my normal stuff. I thought I was golden because I can do a pullup now again! Wooo! Shouldn’t I be strong enough to do any obstacle? (No.)

The hard: The hardest part of the race in terms of exertion was definitely the first half hour or so, as we ascended the double black bunny star death star diamond rattleback snake hill or ski slope thing.

You can see it kind of in the photo above. It’s where the ski lifts end. So first we hike up a steep hill and it’s a decent hill. No one can run. We were behind some guys who were kind of huffing it already and they thought they had jokes. They need to take it to the Catskills, buddy, because you ain’t got jokes. Also, they were blocking me. Because, you see, I was ONLY good at the hill part. I needed to keep booking it. My husband called up, slow down, pace yourself, since we didn’t know what we were in for. Now that we did the whole thing, we know we should have went WAY WAY WAY FASTER. Nothing after the top of the hill was aerobically very taxing. Yes, it taxed my embarrassment muscles, as I had to do burpees like a little nerd girl that I am, since I couldn’t even do the damn monkey bars, but no, I did not end the race feeling exerted like I sprinted a 5K or something. Walt did 50 pushups at the end to make it a workout. I see why people did it twice. Once you knew what it all was, you knew where to go fast and how to pace it.

We theoretically could have ran down the hill for the second half but I was slipping and sliding just trotting. My Saucony Mirages were kind of slippery. Maybe trail sneakers would help me run? I also tittered like a lady when I started slipping and my sister and I refused to run down the steep slopes, turn an ankle, only to stop at the next obstacle and wait in line. It made no sense. During the little mud lake we all swam instead of walked to try to pick up the pace.

But back to the first hill. I was kind of passing people on the hill part and feeling good. It was heart pounding in a good way. Then we picked up our sandbags for the final ascent. Men had 40 pounds and women 20 although some of the women were doing MAN BAGS BABY. I considered doing a man bag but I figured I only weigh 125 or so, it’s only fair for me to hoist a delicate ladybag. I stuck that sucker on my belly like a baby and leaned forward so I wouldn’t fall down the slippery grass and gravel. People were falling and stuff so it was legitimately dangerous. So here comes my moment of glory. Don’t worry, it was all downhill after this, literally and figuratively. I was kicking ass on the sandbags. 250-pound muscle dudes were stopping and resting, Alex was dying somewhere halfway down the hill and I just kept going. My strategy was not to stop and it worked. Little clumps of guy teams were like Okay, now let’s rest for ten seconds and then take three steps! Only three steps and then we rest again! And so on. And they weren’t muddy so it’s not like they did it already. Maybe the 40 pounds for guys was exceptionally harder even if you were 200 pounds than my 20 pounds of baby stand-in? Or MAYBE I JUST HOLD A TWENTY POUND BABY EVERY DAY FOR A YEAR? AND BEFORE THAT ROCKED A BIG ASS BABY IN MY BODY? Yay for being good at something.

So I got to the top and generously waited for my husband who did great. Then waited. And waited for the rest of our team. We were all team-like and yelling you can do it! If I was alone I would have been way down the hill by that point and then karma would have come kicked my ass when I needed help on the one hard wall climb and no one would have been there. So it all evened out in the end, but it’s interesting that my favorite part was the part everyone hated? I could have done that like three times in a row. It was awesome.

But the bad thing was that we thought there was MORE stuff like that later in the race, like a bucket carry I had heard about, but there wasn’t and so we were pacing ourselves for no reason.

Other hard things were sports.

I don’t know how anyone did the transverse wall rock climb. This was post mud-pits, post-lake swim, post everything wet and slimy and muddy. I couldn’t even grip one foot on the first nub. Some bearded mountain man appeared (I think he lived there and emerged once a year for the Spartan race) and wisely advised us to pull a clump of grass out of the ground and use it as a glove grip. This helped Alex get across, but none of the rest of us could manage. This seemed to be the hardest of all the obstacles, as 85% of men and women couldn’t do it.

The javelin was also hard…maybe 35% of the people got it? It was kind of a crap shoot. I mean, it’s a target. You either get it or not.

I was really, really bummed I couldn’t do the monkey bars. All the guys could and probably half the women. I just could not for the life of me reach the third bar. It was so far away. I think it was in Pittsburgh. My sister is shorter than me and she did it. She is a monkey-like hominid though, so she had an advantage. Just kidding, she’s just really strong, like if we are in a dark alley and strangers accost us she will flex her biceps and they will run screaming. But I still didn’t GET why I couldn’t do it. I made my team wait as I tried again and again and then did my first burpees of the day. It was a bad moment because I kind of realized once I did the first set of burpees, I wasn’t going to conquer the rope climb, and who knows what else.

The easy: The tires were way too easy. Maybe I accidentally picked a way too light one? There were several of different weights but no way to tell what was what.

The barbed wire crawls were easy. I could have done that all day. I developed a (patent to come) half drag, half crawl method, similar to that weird-crawling baby you know, and it worked well. I didn’t get scratched up badly.

The walls weren’t as bad as I thought. I did the girl versions (used the notches) and the one hard wall was tilted toward us, above a semi-deep mud pit. So you had to scramble over it, leaning sort of backwards, with wet hands. Some girls were falling off and landing underwater in the mud. Jess and I did it the girl way, using the brackets holding it up and a boost to the butt from our significant others. That’s the real world in action, folks. Do you think in a real zombie apocalypse I’m not attaching myself to a capable man and eating his underground bunker baked beans?

The ugly: I ate mud. Yup, I bit it on the rope climb. Made it a few notches and slipped right down, no way to break my fall, face under mudwater. Mud on the teeth, and a mouth full of grit. I think my sports bra may have even migrated. I hope there are no race action shots of that moment. Hopefully someone at Sparta HQ will take mercy on me if so.

After my spectacular rope climb attempt, my sister tried it, made it pretty high (halfway maybe?) and then…yup, slid down, huge splash, face under water. I think I jinxed her. We both thought we could have done it strength wise and yet our skillz were a fail. If we ever do this again, I am training on ropes and monkey bars while it’s raining. It’s the only way.

The deep thoughts:

Okay, so from what I understand, the Spartan is the only timed obstacle race. It seems more serious, and I think it is, and it’s definitely a fun, well-made race. It’s challenging, it’s varied in the fitness demands it makes on runners, and I like that there are penalties for obstacles.

But. I don’t think it 100% makes sense for it to be timed, the way it’s set up now. The only way timing makes sense is for there to be a time penalty for obstacles. Otherwise, there’s really no way to know if running to obstacles and doing 30 burpees is faster than waiting in line and doing the obstacle. If you’re running for time, it might make sense to do the former, but then what the heck is the point of that? The 30 burpees were faster than many of the bottlenecks. Besides the elite racers I’m not sure timing means anything. People stay and help people get over the rope climb, there are lines, there are places you can’t pass people, there is no real monitoring of burpees. People could totally cheat and just not do burpees (why one would do that escapes me, but still).

The sleeping: Henry wasn’t horrible. He slept decently (woke up three times or so between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.) out of apparent solidarity with our team. So I didn’t feel extremely tired or anything.

Other obstacles: The cement pull was pretty easy. The net climb scared me at first but was easy. The other walls weren’t bad. Oh, the stumps. Those stupid, stupid stumps.

They were slippery. I have pretty good balance. But slipping was almost like the luck of the draw (or sneaker). The pulley weight was pretty easy but I was so paranoid about being such a spaz that I went really slow so it wouldn’t slide out of my grip. The gloves we wore were so helpful for this one.

One part of the uphill was so vertical that we had to use a rope to climb up. That was fun, especially because the bigger people below me holding it were making me sway side to side. I was riding it instead of climbing it. The lake swim was no big deal, and felt really good. There were two or three water stations and one had electrolyte packs. The slip and slide down the mountain into the lake was fun but Alex got a little hurt on a rock under the slide. The mud pits were fun, getting muddy overall was fun. Our weather was really great. 70s and overcast, no rain. Free beer.

Overall, I liked it, and doing a race as a team was a new experience for me. I don’t truly feel like I raced though. I didn’t feel like I pushed myself to really see what I could do. Now that I have one of these under my sports bra, I think it would be easier to know how to push it. I would practice the skills a lot more before the next one. Rope climbing (while wearing Crisco) and monkey bars.

Me and the monkey bars have a grudge match. And I’m glad to know if push came to shove, I can cart my children up mountains, while the frat boys play their paintball games. Just kidding. It wasn’t like a bunch of guys playing games in the woods. Well, it kind of was. I’m making my team do a straight race next time. One of those pump and runs. Bench press and then run.

I’m a crotchety old racer. I will even demand we run in 1970s running sneakers and cotton. Give me an old fashioned foot race, and perhaps a fisticuffs showdown. It was a great day, and I would do another one, but doing the triathlon I did felt much harder. Much harder to sustain a true effort across three sports and the mental challenge of the open water swim felt like I truly accomplished something difficult and comprehensive fitness-oriented. Take this with the concession that we went really slowly and should have probably pushed it more, but we didn’t particularly know what the hell we were doing. And also, I would have broke a leg going downhill any faster. I need my legs to carry my real life sandbags.

Nap Nonsense

When my oldest was a baby, I rocked her, gave her a bottle, laid her in her crib and then she slept for 45 minutes or an hour and a half, in the morning around 10 and the afternoon around 3 p.m. Then when she was around eight, nine months old she started taking one nap around noon for two or three hours in her crib. If she fell asleep in the car, I unbuckled her, carried her droopy warm sleeping body (I love this tactile memory, the smell of her matted hair, her sugary skin) up the stairs, laid her down, closed her door, success…I ran down the stairs and began the race. How much could I do in two hours? Three????

The answer was: a lot. I even briefly held down a full-time work at home job. Naps and play times. I work fast.

Little did I know how lucky and spoiled I was. Fast forward to now.

Henry has acted like his crib is made of hot coals (Damn, shouldn’t have bought the Nest of Rattlesnakes Pattern) since he was first born. He never would nap in there, or go there at night, so I never was able to get him used to it. He wouldn’t go in there awake, he wouldn’t go in there asleep. Almost nine months later the most I’ve gotten out of him was twenty minutes sleeping in there, after something like four hours of putting him down and picking him up. Swaddled, white noise, voodoo chanting, it didn’t matter.

My daughter was plaintively keening for me outside the door, like Mommy? Are you EVER coming back?

You just go run off into the fields and play, ya hear?

So I couldn’t keep doing that. So you might be wondering how does he nap? And oh boy, do I have some fun answers for you.

He used to nap in the swing, approximately 40% of the time. The other 60% of the time he acted like it was a Spanish Inquisition device. Strangely enough, he almost always napped in there for my husband with little to no fussing.
He naps while I hold him. I can walk around, make one-handed peanut butter sandwiches for my daughter, type on the computer with the finger peck method, and read my phone and he will sleep for 30-45 minutes. This is mostly what I do at home because it’s better than him not napping at all and being a cranky mess. This is a terrible option though because well, it’s terrible.

Also, almost-four-year-old girls are bad at being quiet, and if I go sit in another room to read, she invariably follows me (I think it’s like a Don’t Think of a Purple Elephant thing with her and her developmental stage is no match for the temptation) and the tone and pitch of her voice ranges from Minnie Mouse on helium to a sped-up Gummy Bear song vocal to Alvin the Chipmunk doing an exaggerated falsetto in a bad cross-dressing episode. It’s the only sound that can cut through his in-arms-sleeping fog and wake him up. Also, I think he’s only getting a single nap cycle and so he’s cranky anyway.

That brings us to the less worse option: He naps when I drive him in the car.

This is annoying because I can’t be home and doing certain things (housework, exercise) but I can do work because I BOUGHT A LAPTOP FOR THIS EXPRESS PURPOSE. I drive him to a deep sleep, then park at the docks or somewhere scenic (at least give me some scenery in this drudgery of a day) and as long as I leave the car on he usually sleeps. If he stirs, I drive somewhere and repeat. My town has free Wi-Fi, Starbucks has delicious caffeinated beverages, this is not so bad. It’s bad for the environment (sorry) but if I turn the car off, or try to transfer him to a walk (he’s in the Snap N Go) he wakes up. No bringing him into a store or friend’s house and having him stay asleep.

The other problem is my daughter. She’s a good sport, but it’s not really fair for her to sit in a car and unless she’s in preschool, this is a problem. If we are just driving, she might fall asleep and I don’t want HER to fall asleep because then she goes to bed late, wakes up early and is cranky (and she can’t just wake up POOF when we get where we are going, she has wicked big kid pot-nap stupor) and often my best-laid plans go awry and I have a sleeping four year old who can’t be woken up to go run an errand and a crying, not sleeping eight month old. But if Henry does fall asleep, he generally sleeps a FULL nap with several sleep cycles and is good for the day or whatever.

Forget that guy who walked across the Grand Canyon. This is advanced balancing.

I could theoretically give my daughter the iPad to play, but that’s like bottom of the barrel parenting. I try to avoid that. It happens anyway occasionally.

Another place he naps is the jogging stroller. This is fine with me, I run, he sleeps, BUT I have an older child and no double stroller. Shoulda bought the double Bob I guess. This works when she is in preschool only.
The final option is laying down with him and as long as my boob is in his mouth he naps on the bed. I can’t get up at any point or he wakes up. This is good if I want to nap but since I hate napping, can rarely do it no matter how tired I am, and I have the other kid and all, I’ve only done this once or twice. I have to give her a movie and then try really, really hard to fall asleep. (Cut the caffeine drip a few hours beforehand). This also has the drawbacks of all the other methods (I don’t get to do anything or get the psychological break I crave).

Isn’t this ridiculous? I wish there was a magic way to fix this. I guess sleep training is in the cards and maybe it will fix napping. But if there was an easy or only mildly hard way to get him to nap in the house it would have happened by now (see: evidence that once I wrangled a normal baby into normal sleeping). It’s not me, it’s him.

So only hard methods are left and there will be a lot of crying and vomiting (his and mine and his only, hopefully). I’m not looking forward to it, but then again I’m not looking forward to any particular day because…I have to do all these machinations to get a nine month old to take a single, damn nap.