Thursday, December 29, 2005

Running Away from Home

Last Saturday, I went for a run with another mom friend. Running with her was great, but the run itself felt treacherous--the sidewalks were coated with ice and we ended up running on a fairly busy street (I live in a 'burb of Boston and the weather has been nasty). The run felt physically great (she pushed me to an 11:11 mile for 5 miles, which is much faster than I generally go), but it wasn't the catharthic run I like. I have to say, lately there haven't been a lot of cathartic runs. My runs have felt like obligations, something I need to do in order to just meet a bare minimum to keep my sanity and to keep myself from putting weight on (to really lose this pregnancy weight, I'm going to have to add weight work, but ha ha ha ha! Like that will ever happen).

Yesterday, I had my perfect run. I'm on vacation in my hometown, which is warm and tropical. I left both kids with my family, popped on my ipod (oh how I worship my ipod! It keeps "Toot Toot Chugga Chugga" out of my head"), and took off. Running here means water. And there is nothing I find as soothing as water, a trait I apparently passed on to Doodles who can't let a fountain, pool, or water bubbler pass his notice. Listening to a shuffle mix, my mind was able to truly wander instead of thinking, "How will I get Doodles and Sweetie Pie to music class on time and I've got to remember to drop off the library books and I need to pay the bills this morning..." The way was flat (my own neighborhood runs are hilly) and I kept pushing myself to go just a little bit faster (and I did close to a 10:30 mile--I know these numbers aren't impressive to most runners out there, but for me, it's a feat!). Those runs are magical and they're so rare. It's like running in the middle of a Jimmy Buffet song.

By the way, a word to the wise for those planning future vacations: For those of you planning a trip with a two year old... don't! In fact I hear my two year old stirring from his nap. Which is my cue to head out on another run....

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Activity #271: Make a memory game

I'm an activity-do-er (if that's a word?) so my posts will be in the format of activity suggestions. Most of them are not exercise-related, but I acknowledge that it's one of the greatest challenges of parenthood: prioritizing one's own health. I'll be looking to this site for tips on how to make that happen!

Here's my activity of the day, which is fairly sedentary and relies on having a child whose napping or with Dad. It's a gift idea. Are you ready?

Make a personalized version of the game Memory. You know, where you turn over two tiles to try to make a match. Each time you make a match, you remove the tiles until you have matched all the pairs.

I made this for my grandparents this Christmas. It is about half-way done in this picture. My sister is painting it before we gift it to them.

To make something as awesome as this, you need to spend a little money on supplies.

We bought blocks and the tray at a craft store (Michael’s). I cropped and resized the photos until they were all 1.5 inches square and all on the same document. If you are not proficient at any graphics program, you can actually do this in Word. Cut out the images and use something like Mod Podge to adhere them to the blocks. Put another layer of Mod Podge (stuff in the decoupage section of the store) on top.
My sister is going to spray them with a shiny protective coat when she’s done.
We actually also typed up directions for playing the game, just to make the gift a little sweeter, and titled it Family Memory.

We hope my grandparents will have hours or at least a few minutes of fun with this.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Starting from scratch (sort of)

Tomorrow morning I'll be heading out for my first run since before Thanksgiving. I have been recovering from a sprained back (me: "you can sprain a back?" mr. MOM: "apparently."), and the combination of ibuprofen, a heating pad, and a little dramatic license have all helped get me back to some semblance of normal activity. After two weeks of yoga and walking, I feel ready to head back out on the trail for a run.

Sort of.

Last time I was out for a morning run, it wasn't too cold. But in the intervening weeks, the temperature has dropped significantly so that most mornings are well below freezing. Now, I grew up in a warm climate, and I've never quite developed the thick skin necessary to survive a winter where the temperatures dip lower than 40 degrees. I have tried to compensate with fleece running gear and a can-do attitude, but that only works for so long as ice crystals form on your eyebrows, nose, and lungs.

But I have to do it to get ready to coach a running group beginning January 7 and to set a good example for the beginning runners in my office who are looking to me for advice. And the power of other peoples' expectations is the most motivating force of all.

Friday, December 16, 2005

running early (bags under eyes)

In order to get a peaceful, non-crammed run in, I have been waking myself up at 5:15 a.m. (beating 20-month-old Iz to the punch by at least an hour or two). Abraham (that lovely husband of mine) is a teacher and leaves the house at 7 a.m. I time my wake-up so I can be out the door by 5:30 and back before Abe leaves. Well. It has been cold lately. Very cold. But I still do it. I don’t mind the cold too much. And I enjoy the time. I can get a 6-8 mile run in. Then I feel like I have extra time all day. No worries! (Well, some worries. Fewer worries?)

When I was young(er) and single and baby-less and living in New York City, I used to do the same. I ran in snow, in rain, in 10-degree weather, in the dark, and without a dog. Now I have the dog, so loved ones worry less about my safety. (Though the dog, Zi, is a wacky, friendly hound/lab mix who has never bitten a soul. He does have a mean bark.) I don’t know why it took me so long to do these runs again.

The first time I ran in the early morning in my PG County neighborhood, it didn’t occur to me to be nervous. Heck, I wasn’t nervous doing so in New York City! But I grew up there, so I knew not to run in the lower depths of Riverside Park until the sun was up.

On this particular morning in PG County, a white van seemed to be following me. The van was moving slow, right behind me. I would turn, and the van wouldn’t follow me, but it would pop up again on another turn. This went on for at least two miles before I noticed the newspapers flying from the open window. Ah. Now I see the van all the time. I recognize The Washington Post white van and The New York Times burgundy SUV. The SUV driver is friendly and waves. The van driver looks at me as if I am crazy and in the way.

I am a little more tired (but not dramatically so). But I don’t wake so early every morning. But Iz does compound the tiredness. Recently, he is not sleeping through the night because he is teething viciously. Are these bags under my eyes permanent?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Here I Am (And There I Go)

I had grand notions for what my first blog post was going to be here, but those grand notions went up in snot. (Hipsters can have their ideas go up in smoke; us moms have ideas that disappear in much more mundane places.) I'm too tired to formulate a brilliant first post. My darling angel, my Sweetie Pie, has her first cold. Now Sweetie Pie isn't such a sleeper as it is. Let me rephrase that: Sweetie Pie is a fabulous sleeper. She does it quite often. Just never for very long. We cosleep with her (yes, yes, I know what the American Academy of Pediatricians has to say about it, but it's what works for our family) and she's a grazer as it is. Give this child a runny nose, and she's up every hour (instead of every two hours), wanting to pacify herself on my br*east. (It's my main profession these days; I'm thinking of having business cards made up: Jenny Brown, Human Pacifier.)

So let me just say hi and tell you who I am and let that suffice for my first posting here. My name is Jenny, which you, smart person that you are, figured out from that first paragraph. I have a son, Doodles, who is two and a daughter, Sweetie Pie, who is three and a half months (my kids are two years and two days apart--August is going to be a very expensive month for us). I've chosen not to use their real names because they have enough ammunition to use in therapy against me already; Doodles doesn't need to add to the list, "My mom wrote about my p*enis and the whole world knows about it!" which I've done on more than one occasion. Doodles is in day care a few days a week, while I work from home as a writer/editor, and Sweetie Pie will be joining him there next month, which I'm majorly angsting over. I'm a runner, but a slow one. I've run one marathon and hope to run another. I've been back running for about eight weeks and it's slooooow going, but I've signed up for the Covered Bridges Half Marathon next June, so I have a goal, which for me is half the battle.

I'm sure there's more to say, but Sweetie Pie is asleep on me and I'm thinking I need to join her. I can already see that little mouth going, trying to lunge for my chest. So I now I must perform my nightly ritual of shedding my persona as mild-mannered mom and assume my super hero identity of... The Human Pacifier! (I hope you heard the thundering music that went with that sentence. I heard it. Or is that just the sleep deprivation humming? Either way, good night!)

Common Threads

Punk kid in skull cap
Jogging mommy in pink fleece
Ipod cords for both

How do you like my Haiku? It seem to be the only poetry I can actually do. And it gives me something to occupy my brain with on my runs- something other than To Do lists.
I wrote this particular piece when I was running down my street the other day. The high school had let out and the kids were walking home. I was feeling a little bit old as I ran past a few packs of mostly boys. Luckily it was boys and not girls with pony tails or I would have worried more about how my thighs looked in Under Armour tights. Anyway, I got a nod from one particularly punk looking kid. He was the type that didn't appear to smile at much, but he recognized our matching Ipod cords and I got a nod. I was so excited! The best part was I was listening to Green Day at the time and not Tony Bennett's Greatest Hits!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Weighty Issues

I just returned from spending way too much money on myself. I went out for a sweater and returned with 5 sweaters, a camisole, a pair of gray chinos and 2 pairs of jeans. Happy Birthday to me!

Here's the kicker though: the sweaters and chinos are my usual size, but the jeans are a size 8 and a size 10. Now, I'm a little person. I'm just barely 5'2". I can still be chubby in a size 4. All bodies are different. I am not some super obsessive anorexic type that must be a size 2. But, if I eat right, don't run, and am religious about my yoga and Pilates, a size 2 is comfy. I like to run though, so I can accept being a size 4 or even a 6.

I am a pretty solid person, so I don't pay THAT much attention to the scale. At least, I try not to. The way my clothes fit is usually how I judge my size. That being said, if they weren't so comfy, I would be on the verge of freaking out over these Size 10 jeans!

I was squeezing back into a size 4 this time last year, 8 months post partum. Since then, I ran a marathon, paid more attention to my diet and I exercise a lot. So why am I bigger? I weigh less than I did last year. I feel a lot stronger. Could it be I was just, well, squishier last year? Has anyone else had this problem? Is it me, or has it been so long since I bought jeans that they have bumped up the sizes without telling me?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Another item for your To Do list

In the September 2005 issue of Working Mother magazine, children's author and humorist Sandra Boynton wrote, "Working mothers are not realistic about the number of commitments they take on." (An aphorism that I believe applies to ALL mothers, not just those who work outside the home.) This is particularly true during the holiday season. At last check, here are the items on my To Do list for this week:

* Send out holiday cards. (Completed this afternoon!)
* Bake mother-in-law's famous Rum Butter cookies.
* Make mother-in-law's famous fudge.
* Thank the heavens that my mother wasn't much of a baker.
* Purchase (and ship) holiday gifts for assorted in-laws, nieces, and nephews.
* Purchase gift cards for cleaning lady, hairdresser, preschool teachers,
* Purchase hostess gifts for the approximately 426 holiday parties we are attending over the next few weeks.
* Keep up with a three-year-old.
* Prep a magazine to be sent to the printer.
* Scan an entire photo album's worth of photos to put on CD-ROM to send to relatives. (Note to self - I promised that this would be done for the holidays LAST YEAR.)
* Meet with architect to figure out why we can't get a contractor to work on our house for less than $300 a square foot.
* Prepare a dish for the preschool "family dinner" on Friday.
* Get a haircut.
* Attend office holiday bacchanalia.

The point here is that we all have a ton of things to do, but the one thing that gets left out is taking care of OURSELVES. This leads to holiday stress, mass consumption of sugared foods, and the feeling of being overwhelmed. Rather than sacrificing our workouts to make time for this onslaught of activities, it is more important that ever to carve out the time that we need to listen to our bodies and to - yes - spoil ourselves. That is why my yoga classes are even more sacrosanct than ever, why I still venture out for runs and walks in the early morning hours despite the arctic chill, and why I am looking forward to a pedicure at the end of the month.

As the cliche goes, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!" So, take the time to move your body, find your inner om, or paint your toenails a color that makes you smile. Your family will thank you for it.

The CD-ROM can wait another year.

extra time?

I must be forgetting what I need to get done (and I keep lists all over the place about all sorts of things) because I felt somewhat relaxed this past weekend. Strange. Unheard of. I got in my nine-mile run, had some fun with my 20-month old son Iz without watching the clock, read some New York Times, and finished an editing job. And the house does not look a wreck.

(The house being wreck-free is probably because Abraham, my husband, was home on Friday – he’s a teacher and had a snow day – and went into a cleaning frenzy. I appreciate his actions, but when he cleans up he makes me nervous: What will he throw out? Where will he put that all important doo-dad that I need? Will he remember where he put it when I pitch a fit because I can’t find it? Okay, okay, I know I am lucky that he does it at all.)

Now that I think about it, I have a million digital photos to organize and clear off of my computer. I plan to copy them on to CDs, but I am too nervous to delete them from my hard drive. But I must! (Are digital photos a curse?)

And I have some laundry to do. Ah, laundry.

Total topic change: The Cherry Blossom 10-Miler online registration started this morning: I’m in for 2006. I think it will be my fourth time running.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Running Errands

I found more motivation in that same December issue of Runner's World. One article suggested, especially during this busy time of year, actually running errands, rather than hopping in the car. My running has been a bit slack lately, so I decided to put this idea into action. I had to pick the dog up from orientation the other day (for boarding over Christmas- long story) and my day was spiraling out of control. No time to fit in a long enough workout. So, I decided to run the 2 miles to get her and walk back. It wasn't much, but it was a start, and I felt great afterwards!
I realize not everyone is able to run their errands the way I can, but I suppose there is always that option of running them while you are there. Go for a run while you wait for the car at Jiffy Lube, go for a run while you wait for take-out from the Thai place or park a few blocks from the coffee shop and run there and back. It's not for everyone, but I think I am going to try it out. I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Born to Run

While thumbing through the December addition of Runner’s World today, I came across a Letter from a daughter about the joys of running with her father and everything they have gone through together during their runs, from job changes to new boyfriends. I have never run with my own parents, but I have forged lifelong friendships with other women through marathon training and early morning runs. Running seems to bond you in a way you only get from the passage of time, and time is relative. The same hour spent drinking a cup of coffee is completely different than an hour spent pounding the pavement.

I enjoy taking Harry out in his jogger, and while I struggle up hills, I remind myself that I am setting a good example for him, as well as getting him some fresh air and quiet time. Now, I realize, I am also paying it forward. I am instilling in my son a love of sport, so that I may have a lifelong running buddy!

Okay, maybe that sounds a little selfish. But how great will it be when Harry can really run with me? Think of all of the great discussions we will have. All of the bonding time! That is, if I can keep up with him. I guess I will also need to instill in him the joy of being a penguin! A whole new brand of guilt: I pushed you uphill in your jogger for 26 miles! The least you can do is slow down for your old mom!

Sunday, November 27, 2005


I have been maintaining my own blog now for over a year, yet somehow when I was asked to do one for, I panicked! It has been easy to vent, brag, log, or shout out to my hearts content on my own site, but with a more public outlet, I have suddenly developed stage fright. I worry that what I like won't be good enough, or interesting enough, or that others won't approve. I guess those feelings are sort of what you deal with when you are a parent, too.

When it comes to our children, everyone seems to assume that they have a say in their upbringing. Not just family, but strangers as well. Even when they don't, we worry on our own whether we are doing what's best for our children, what's smartest for our children, what others will approve of. Such is the case more often then not, but was especially true when I enrolled my then 6 month old in swimming, and again when 1 year old Harry started gymnastics.

Some people believe that you should wait until at least age 4 to begin organized activities. I obviously went in a different direction, but I still wondered if early enrollment was worthwhile. I found my answer when I took Harry back to the local indoor pool a few months after his first class ended and a few weeks after his new gymnastics class began. I was surprised to learn that Harry not only remembered the basic swimming skills he had learned 6 months earlier, which included kicking his feet, climbing out of the pool and "jumping" off of the side of the pool,but he also used his newly learned gymnastics skills, leaning his arms carefully behind him and rolling around in the shallow end of the pool (including putting his head under water) and hanging from the ladder the way he does on the parallel bars at the gym. I was amazed at how much "cross training" had paid off.

Harry's gymnastics instructor reinforced my theory the very next week when she mentioned how much the kids in the class had grown physically and emotionally since the beginning of class. They were more comfortable in their abilities as well as with the other kids and parents. They recognized what to expect in the class, and what was expected of them. The teacher also mentioned how activities learned at a young age do become so much easier for kids when they are older, more so than for other kids who are introduced the same skills later.

A good friend and running buddy was telling me just this afternoon how grateful she was that she enrolled her son in gymnastics. He has also learned many things, including how to go down the slide at the park, which no one had taught him and he must have picked up at gymnastics! He is proud of himself and his confidence is obvious. Coincidentally, this same woman and child became friends through Harry's swim class, so even if the group skills hadn't been the least bit beneficial, we made two priceless friends out of the deal!

I am not suggesting everyone go out and over schedule their kids before they are out of diapers, but this mom thinks activities are beneficial, whether the goal is to learn a new skill or to just get off of the sofa and make new friends. This is true for both little kids and big ones! New things can be intimidating, but the more things you try, the better you are at them. The more you work at something, the more confident you become. Besides, sometimes the only voice you need to listen to is your own- and also that happy little giggle that comes from confident little people!