Saturday, October 30, 2010

Quigley and Fred

Earlier this week, at the beginning of my solo parenting gig, I told the big girls that if they were helpful and extra good this week, I’d get them pet hermit crabs. We all mostly survived the week, and the girls were mostly good, so we trekked to the pet store yesterday and picked out our new family members.




Quigley – he is Ella’s crab. She looks unhappy in the picture because she was convinced he was going to pinch her.



And Fred – Lily’s crab. Lily, my animal lover, desperately wants to hug him, and squeeze him and call him George, but Fred isn’t cooperating. I have to stop her from opening the tank and poking Fred 20 times an hour.

Turns out hermit crabs don’t do much, at least not during the day. The sand in their tank was covered in tracks this morning, so they apparently explored every nook and cranny during the night.

My idea, which wasn’t a brilliant one as it turns out, was that the kids would SHARE the hermit crabs. But since Ella and Lily have each claimed and named a crab, Campbell wants one, too. So I’ll be going back to the pet store for the 4th time – if I include the 2 trips it took to get the hermit crabs for Campbell’s class, which I do – in seven days. I don’t think I went to the pet store four times in the entire 13 years we had a dog.

My next goal is to find a permanent place in the house for Quigley and Fred. Right now they’re in the living room on a table, entirely too close to Elizabeth’s little hands for my comfort. Each time one of the big kids climbs on the arm of the sofa to check on the crabs, she’s right there behind them. I’m afraid I’m going to walk in the living room and find Elizabeth with a crab in her mouth.

B’s suggestion was that now that we can’t hold getting crabs out as a bribe, we can threaten to have a crab boil if the girls don’t behave. I knew I married him for a reason.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

All new low

This is day three of my solo parenting gig, and I’m mostly holding it together. Mostly.

But this morning I hit an all new parenting low: I sent Elizabeth to preschool without shoes.

I searched the house and the car high and low and couldn’t find the either of the pairs that fit her, and I had to drop the kids off on time because I had a work meeting to get to, so I put socks on her and called it good enough. When I explained to her teacher, she just shook her head and laughed. It’s a good thing she’s known me forever, otherwise she might call the authorities.

I’m offering a bounty to the big girls for finding the shoes. That usually motivates them to look.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Solo parenting

This is going to be a rough week. B is in Santa Fe, NM seeing specialists about his severe neck problems. He left yesterday and doesn’t get home until Saturday. It’s going to be all I can do to get the kids up and fed and out in the mornings – and this morning I failed at the feeding portion of the list. It was my day to work in Campbell’s preschool class, which means we have to get there early to set up. When we got to school, Campbell looked at me and said, “Momom! I never had breakfast!” I was in such a hurry to get out the door that I forgot to feed my own son. That’s some winning parenting right there. I rummaged through the school kitchen and rounded up left-over snack stuff for him, which he then refused to eat.

I don’t know how single parents do this. The constant whining, asking, needing are what wear me down. There are only so many times I can applaud Ella’s magic trick before I’m ready to hand her off to someone else for a while. And there are only so many times I can answer Campbell’s zillion questions.

I’ve told the big girls that if they behave and are extra helpful this week, we’ll get hermit crabs as pets. I bought some last week for Campbell’s class, and we were all fascinated by them. The bribe is working on Ella and Lily, but not so much on the little two. Campbell is choosing not to listen to anything I say, and Elizabeth opted not to nap this afternoon.

I’m worn out, and it’s only day two.

Someone send in reinforcements – or wine – please.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I’m starting to panic

So, the ING New York Marathon is a mere 15 days away. I leave in 13 days. And I am starting to freak the heck out.


Because I haven’t run since Monday.

I had my great 18-mile run on Saturday, took Sunday off, and had a horrible, rotten, miserable run on Monday. I wrote it down as a hang-over run from Saturday. But then on Tuesday I woke up with a fever. I finally caught whatever illness the kids have been sharing for the past two weeks.

I started mega-dosing on Vitamin C and sleeping as much as I could given the fact that I had a huge work load this week, not to mention four kids who get upset if I don’t feed them. B was great about sending me to bed early most nights and taking care of bedtime solo, which is no small task.

By Thursday I was feeling better and had every intention of doing a short run Friday morning and then a 12-miler on Saturday.

But then I went in for a check-up with my pulmonologist. I have asthma, which is mostly under control, but I still need to go and let him listen to my lungs every once in a while. During my appointment, he asked if I wanted a flu shot, and I said yes. Then he recommended I get a pneumonia shot. I’m at higher risk for pneumonia due to my asthma, so I said yes. The nurse gave me the injection in my right arm.

Big mistake. Huge mistake. Ginormous mistake.

By Thursday night, I couldn’t raise my right arm without horrible pain, and all the lymph nodes in my right armpit were inflamed. Friday morning I woke up again with a fever and all-over body aches, and the pain in my right arm had spread to my shoulder and back. I felt like I had the flu.

Elizabeth and Campbell had check-ups Friday morning, so turned into one of those patients and asked our pediatrician about the pneumonia vaccine. He confirmed that what I was feeling was a side-effect of the shot and said that I’d probably feel miserable for 48 hours.


I cancelled running for this morning and crawled off to bed as early as I could.

This morning I woke up with my right shoulder completely locked up and continued flu-like symptoms.

And now I’m starting to panic. I haven’t run since Monday, and that was a terrible run. I need to run this weekend, but unless I wake up feeling miraculously better, tomorrow’s run isn’t going to happen. I’m worried that my fitness level for the marathon is disappearing by the minute. My training was sketchy as it was – I don’t have any fitness to spare.

This is not good.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Being Marilla*

Yesterday I sent an e-mail to my sister and my mom about Lily’s being excited about the wheelchair she saw in the American Girl Doll catalog. Lily already has the first-aid kit for dolls, complete with crutches and a cast, and now she wants the wheelchair. My sister sent this in response:

i feel like you have anne of green gables for a daughter, and sometimes you're very marilla about it.

At first I spluttered in righteous indignation, wounded to the very depths of my soul, as Anne would say.  I am NOT Marilla, not at all. I read and re-read the Anne of Green Gables books over and over again. I wanted desperately to be Anne. I wanted to be tall and willowy. I wanted red hair (still do). I loved that I had green-gray eyes like Anne. I loved that I had freckles. I loved Anne’s independence and spirit of adventure and imagination.

How could I possibly be like calm, practical Marilla?

But the more I thought about it yesterday, I realized that what I loved so much about Anne were the qualities she had but I didn’t. I had a great imagination, but I never shared it with anyone. I never wanted to go on great adventures, preferring instead to read about them. I never took dares or broke rules. Unlike Anne, I would have never walked the ridge pole on a dare or cracked a slate over Gilbert’s head.

Lily, on the other hand, really is like Anne. She has a wonderful imagination and regularly involves her friends in her play acting and dramas. She is always up for an adventure. Like Anne, Lily can go from the depths of broken-hearted despair over an incident to the highest of highs over an accomplishment or treat. Puffy sleeves would send her over the moon with joy. All of these things are what make Lily Lily and are what make me love her so much.

So here I am, Marilla to Lily’s Anne.

And like Marilla, I’m going to love Lily with all my heart and do my best to keep her on track without squelching the very things that make her so wonderful. As long as she doesn’t break a slate over some boy’s head.

*This post will really only make sense if you’ve read Anne of Green Gables. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

In praise of running friends

This morning was my last long run before the NYC Marathon (22 days, not that I’m counting). My plan was to do 18 miles, and I knew I wouldn’t make it on my own.

On Thursday, I sent out an e-mail to the Running Chicks, as B calls them, asking for company. And I am so glad I did; I had company for every step of the 18 miles. And what’s more, I actually had a lot of fun while we ran.

One friend met me at 5:00 am for an early start. We ran 2.5 miles as a warm up and then met two other friends at the Rock at 5:30. The four of us did the five-mile loop at the Trail and made it to the Rock in time to meet up with four more friends. We decided to run the seven-mile loop – it’s the first time I’ve done that loop in years. One friend, the one who met me at 5:00, peeled off for the five-mile loop, but the rest of us pushed on.

I had one scary moment when I took a tumble on a curb along Riverside Drive. Fortunately, other than a banged up shoulder, I’m fine. But as I fell I had visions of my goal of running NYC being dashed by falling on a run.

As we ran along the north side of the Trail, one friend came up with the brilliant plan of running up Congress past the Capitol and to one of the dorms on the UT campus for water. The detour added about three miles to our run, which meant that when we got back to the Rock, we wouldn’t need to do another loop on the Trail. While I don’t like running UP Congress Ave., I love running down it. The ever-so-slight decline makes me feel very speedy.

I finished up feeling amazingly strong considering my mileage. I tacked on one little half-mile loop at the end, just to make sure I had gone the full distance, and one friend, who is doing the Panama City IronMan the same weekend as NYC, ran the last loop with me. She pointed out that my form was good, I was able to talk, and I was holding a pretty good pace. Her reassurances really helped me.

As strange as it may sound, I had a blast on this morning’s run, and my running friends are what made it fun for me. If I had been alone for even part of the distance, it would have been a very, very different experience.

Thank you J, K, A, S, M, C, and H. You carried me through the miles.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bubble and his Bean


Campbell and Elizabeth, whom we call “The Bean,” have a complex relationship. She absolutely adores her big brother, but she also gets so mad at him when he takes away his toys or locks her out of his bedroom so that he can build Legos in peace and quiet. Likewise, Campbell absolutely loves Elizabeth and is very protective of her, except when she is messing with his Legos.

Elizabeth’s vocabulary is exploding these days. She adds at least one new word a day. Sometime in the past two weeks she started calling Campbell “Bubble.” It took me a few days to realize that Bubble meant Campbell.

It is beyond cute when Elizabeth holds out her hand to Campbell and says “C’mere Bubble!”

The other day I made the mistake of calling Campbell Bubble, and he chastised me for it. “No, Momom. My name is Steven Campbell Gardner. Only Beanie calls me Bubble.”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ten Whole Years

Ten years ago today I became a mom. The years have gone by in a blink of an eye, but I can barely remember life without Ella. For weeks after she was born, I kept half waiting for Ella’s real parents to come get her, because there was no possible way that B and could be permanently responsible for this creature.

But here we are. Ten whole years with Ella.

She has really put us through the paces from the very beginning – sleepless nights, projectile vomiting, temper tantrums that could peel paint, arguments that could put a lawyer to shame. But she has given us so much joy from the very beginning – all the time spent with her asleep on my chest, her giggles, her wonder about the world, her rampant curiosity. We couldn’t have asked for a better kid to teach us how to be parents.

newella Brand spanking new – her very first picture

bday20 The princess phase – which she now rolls her eyes at

P1011382 The very long-lasting Hermione phase.

airport And now. Goodness I love her smile.

Happy birthday Ella-bella. Thank you for making me a mom.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In which I channel Goldilocks and have my ego crushed

I’ve been on the hunt for new running shoes for the NYC Marathon for several weeks now. Ever since they were introduced five years ago, I’ve been running in Nike Frees, and I love, love, love them. The knee and hip pain I used to suffer from has all but disappeared thanks to those shoes. Back in July I went to my new favorite local running store – Rogue – and picked up a new pair of Free 5.0s. While I was there, I talked to the salesgirl about what shoe I should switch to when my mileage got higher. She recommended the Free 7.0, which has a bit of a firmer sole and a teeny bit more support. In hindsight, I should have grabbed a pair in addition to my 5.0s.

Three weeks ago I went to Rogue for a pair of size 10 Free 7.0s. And they didn’t have them. I tried on a pair of men’s shoes in the equivalent size, and they felt awful. I was so desperate that I broke down and bought a pair of size 10.5 shoes, even though I knew they weren’t right. A day of walking in them confirmed my fears. There was no way I was going to be able to run a marathon in the shoes.

I went back to Rogue and asked them to order a pair of size 10 shoes for me, but the guy wasn’t optimistic that they’d be able to get them. So I started searching on my own. Turns out that not even has the 7.0s in my size. Apparently, Nike is getting ready to introduce a new version, so they aren’t making any more of the shoes. Damn.

Back to Rogue I went. And I probably drove the poor salesgirl insane. She pulled out every pair of shoes in my size that were similar to the Frees in terms of cushioning and support. I’d try on a pair, do a lap around the store and declare the shoes too small or too big or too stiff or too soft. Unlike Goldilocks, I never found a pair that was just right. I ended up with Nike Lunarlites, which are pretty minimalistic, like the Frees, but they have a stiffer sole. They are almost just right. I’ve run in them several times, and while it wasn’t instant love like with my Frees, I do like them. Mostly.

While I was at Rogue, I chatted with the two young kids (probably in their early 20s) who were working. I was feeling pretty good about myself – hanging out at the running store comparing training notes with the cool kids. When I mentioned that I was getting ready to run the NYC Marathon, the young man who was working looked up and said, “That’s awesome, ma’am.”

And my ego deflated immediately. The young man wasn’t being rude or snarky; he was just being polite to a woman who was old enough to be his mother.


On a more positive note – the change in the weather is making me feel like a kid again. I feel positively frisky when I head out for a run in the mornings. Saturday I knocked out 12 miles without a problem, laughing and chatting with friends the whole way. I just hope the weather holds through next weekend’s 18-miler. It’s my last long, long run before New York (I ran out of time to fit in a 20-mile run), and I want cool weather for it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Two years

It just doesn’t seem possible that it’s been two years since Elizabeth made her surprise arrival. Two years since I spent the day in bed trying to convince myself that I wasn’t really in labor. Two years since B drove me to the hospital convinced that we’d be sent right back home. Two years since I was more scared than I had ever been before – or since – in my life.

Elizabeth arrived 5 weeks early, weighing in at a whopping 4 pounds, 14 ounces. After the doctor delivered her, the nurses showed Elizabeth to me and then whisked her away to NICU. I had to wait another two hours before I could see her and 12 hours before I could actually hold her little hand. It was another day before I was able to hold Elizabeth and give her a bottle, and then another day before I got to nurse her. Those were three of the longest days of my life.


Here she is in NICU, about an hour after she was born.


Two days old and getting her first bottle. She drank it like a pro. I have never been so happy to give a baby a bottle in my life.

When we brought Elizabeth home after 7 days in NICU, she weighed 4 pounds, 9 ounces, and I was terrified at the thought of being responsible for such a teeny little thing. But I quickly forgot about how small she was. What she lacked in size, she made up for in sweetness.


And now my teeny beanie is two, which is just astonishing. She’s gone from being a tiny little bug to being a walking, talking, tantrum-throwing two year old. Elizabeth absolutely rules our house, and I’m doing my best to not spoil her rotten, but it’s so hard. When she’s not on the floor screaming, she’s just too cute and funny for words.

P9170091OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         eag_school

I’m giving Elizabeth lots of extra love today, feeling profoundly grateful that, after her scary start, she is as happy and healthy as can be.

Monday, October 04, 2010

I’m never leaving the house again

It’s too dangerous out in the real world.

First, I set my hair on fire. And then I spent four hours in a lock down. Then yesterday, Elizabeth and I were nearly hit by an out-of-control, speeding car.

B and the big three were still camping, and the weather was perfect, so Elizabeth and I took a leisurely stroll around the block. We stopped to smell flowers and point at squirrels and kick the ball we brought with us. As we turned the last corner before our street, I heard a car coming along way too fast. I turned in time to see the car swerve back and forth and then jump the curb about 10 feet in front of us. The car plowed through several small trees and then travelled another 30 feet or so before being brought to an abrupt stop by a metal bus bench.

I snatched Elizabeth up and pulled out my phone to call 911. While I was on the phone with the operator, several people stopped to check on the driver. My across-the-street neighbor came out and took Elizabeth from me so that I could tell the driver that the paramedics were on the way. I was amazed at how quickly the emergency folks responded. Police, fire and EMS were on the scene within moments of my hanging up with 911.

After I gave a witness statement to the police officer, I went to my neighbor’s house to retrieve Elizabeth, and that’s when I really started to freak out. I couldn’t stop thinking about the what ifs of the situation. What if we hadn’t stopped to smell some flowers? What if we hadn’t been kicking the little ball along? What if Elizabeth hadn’t decided she needed to sit down on the sidewalk? If we had been 10 or 15 seconds faster with our walk, we would have been smack in the block-long path of destruction this woman left in her wake.

Odds are, the woman was speeding down the road, talking or her phone, or texting, or putting on make up – everything except watching where she was going. I’ve resolved not to talk on the phone ever again while driving. From now on, my phone is staying in my purse while I’m driving.

And I am never leaving the house again. I’m a recluse by nature anyway.

car1 The car in its final resting place. This is the second time our neighbors have had a reckless driver end up in their yard.


The bench had been bolted into the side walk. The car pushed it a good two feet and mangled it beyond repair. Even though the driver had hopped the curb half a block back, she was still going really fast when she hit the bench.


The path of destruction. All the trees got sheared off at ground level.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

With a little help from my friends

According to my self-imposed training schedule for the NYC Marathon, I was scheduled for 16 miles this morning. I was dreading it a little bit, especially after having the wheels come off last weekend. I really, really didn't want to run endless miles alone in the dark again.

But then my wonderful running friends saved the day.

One e-mailed and said she'd meet me at 5:45 for my first few miles. And then Liz from Peace, Love and Guacamole volunteered to show up for the early shift, too. I ended up getting to the Trail early, so I ran a warm-up mile before meeting up with Liz and J. Then the three of us set off on the four-mile loop. It was just so lovely to be running with friends and having people to talk to. I didn't even notice as the miles went by.

We got back to the start of the Trail at 6:30, and Liz headed for home. But J and I were joined by several other friends, and we headed out for the five-mile loop. We were running east as the sun was coming up, and the Austin skyline looked so beautiful with its bright orange backdrop. And again, I didn't even notice the miles.

When we got back to the start of the Trail, it was filled with lots and lots of runners dressed in yellow in honor of Livestrong Day. After saying chatting with friends for a few minutes, I grabbed gatorade and gu and started my final six miles solo.

I really didn't mind being alone for the last bit of the run. In fact, I preferred it that way. I knew I would be slowing down and walking here and there, and I didn't want to have to worry about keeping up with anyone. So I popped on my iPod and enjoyed my run.

Having company for the first 10 miles got me through the toughest part of the run - the part where the little voices in my head start telling me that I'm not going to make it and that I am crazy for even attempting such a thing. By the time I only had six miles left, I knew I had the run in the bag, and I could ignore the voices.

After I finished, I stopped at a quickie mart for some grapefruit juice and headed home to an empty, silent house. B and the big three are camping for the weekend, and Elizabeth spent the night with my mother-in-law. I was able to take an hour-long nap in peace and quiet.

This was one of those mornings that makes me really love my friends, running, Austin and life in general.