Thursday, October 27, 2011

Finding the Awesome

I am not always very good at being positive. It's just not something that comes easily to me, especially on days with little sleep, many demands, and patience all but gone. I get crabby. I get negative. When a friend texts me to ask how my day is going, I furiously type some snarky comment about my children's frustrating behavior.

Sometimes those days pile up on each other.  Those snarky comments may stand innocent on their own but when combined they create a giant ball of negativity. That negativity makes it easy to lose focus of all the things that make my life and my kids awesome.

As we maneuver through a bit of a rough patch in our family, I decided I wanted a reminder of how great my kids were for those days when I was convinced they were out to get me. I know that the very traits that drive me to the brink of insanity are the ones that will catapult them to success in adulthood.

Here's a look at my kids in all of their spirit and intensity...

My kids are awesome.

While I was working on these collages (which took far longer than they should have because life is life), I came across two blog posts that hit the mark on the shift I was trying to make.

How to Parent - What's Your Meaning?
Mission Possible: Are you up for it?

There's power in seeing the best of people, assuming the most positive intentions, and beyond assuming, taking the time to really figure out what's going on from another person's (especially your child's) perspective. There's power in immersing ourselves in the gifts each person in our family and in our life brings to us.

I'm going to blow up these collages and hang them in my boys' room so that we can all be reminded of how awesome they are on a daily basis.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Holiday Fitness Challenges

I've been in a funk since my half marathon a few weeks ago. I've only ran 3 times in the last 3 weeks! Along with not running, I've found myself back in some old and terrible eating habits. I've got to shape up and get back into my good habits because I have a 10K race in only 2 weeks. I'm working on that, but in the meantime, I'm looking forward.

Source: None via Erin on Pinterest

Halloween is just a week away with Thanksgiving and *gasp* Christmas not far behind it. I've learned that being active is a key to my healthy lifestyle in more ways than one. Of course, being active is important for our health, but I also find that being active informs all of my other behaviors. When I am running regularly, I make healthier choices. When I am running regularly, I look at food as fuel. It doesn't mean I eat perfectly by any means, but my eating is balanced. When I am running regularly, I make sure to get sleep so I can run hard in the morning. And when I am running regularly, I feel more capable, more confident, and more in control.

The holidays can mean a lot of food but also a lot of stress. If I don't plan now, I will undoubtedly get swept away by the stress and the junk food. I want to feel good about myself and my journey on Christmas morning. I want to be able to enjoy the holidays without finding myself trying to dig out of a hole I've dug. With that in mind, I'm joining not one but TWO holiday challenges!  I hope you'll consider joining me..

First up, is Pile on the Miles 2011 hosted by Run Eat Repeat. This challenge is pretty straight forward, but here it is in Monica's words...
The Goal of the “Pile on the Miles” Challenge is to encourage us to pile on miles instead of pounds in November. We’ll do this by having everyone keep track of the number of miles they walk OR run each week. If you do at least 5 miles each week you’ll be entered in a drawing every Friday of the challenge.
Image Credit

Pile on the Miles will start on November 1 (right around the corner!) and end on November 24 (Thanksgiving!). 


Next up, will be the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge 2011

This one is a little more complicated. It will run from November 19 to January 6 so it covers the major holidays. You get points for all activity include strength training, yoga, etc. There is a point system to let you know how many points you earn with various activities, and when you sign up, you sign up at a certain level (Builders, Doers, or Advanced). This is to separate those folks training for marathons and triathlons (Advanced) from those just starting out getting active (Builders) and those of us in between (Doers). It's so that the points system is more fair, I guess. I'm excited to get in as many points as I can. Just like running, I focus on competing with myself and supporting others to hit their goals! But there are some prizes at stake if you're into that kind of thing too!

Source: None via Emily on Pinterest

So there you have it. I'm motivating myself to beat the slippery slope of the holidays so I can feel good, stay focused, and enjoy myself! I say all the time that we work to set our kids up for success and this is the first step of setting me up for success. Next, I'll have to work on planning how I'm going to pile on those miles and accumulate those points!

What's your plan for the holiday season? Join me for a challenge!

Friday, October 21, 2011

International Brachial Plexus Injury Awareness Week

This week is... almost over. But it's not yet, and it is International Brachial Plexus Injury Awareness Week.

What is a Brachial Plexus Injury?
From the UBPN...
The term Brachial Plexus Injury (BPI) refers to an injury to the complex set of nerves that control the muscles of the fingers, hand, arm, and shoulder. The nerves originate at the spinal cord and are formed in 3 trunks located in the upper shoulder: the upper trunk from spinal cord segments C5 and C6, the middle trunk from segment C7, and the lower trunk from segments C8 and T1. Other Terms for BPI.

Terms used to describe a BPI include Erb's Palsy (an upper trunk injury), Klumpke's Palsy (a lower trunk injury), Brachial Plexus Palsy, Erb-Duchenne Palsy, Horner's Syndrome (when facial nerves are also affected), and "Burners" or "Stingers" (usually associated with sports-related brachial plexus injuries). Torticollis is another term sometimes used in conjunction with brachial plexus injuries.
 While Brachial Plexus Injuries can occur from all sorts of traumas, one main cause is birth trauma often associated with shoulder dystocia.

How can it be prevented?
It can be prevented? Oh yes, it can be prevented. Inform yourself about how to avoid a shoulder dystocia and be sure your care provider is confident in how to handle it properly without harm to the baby.

The UBPN website flashes these tidbits on their front page....  
2-3 Injuries for every 1,000 births: More occurences than Down's Syndrome

Not your fault mom! Nearly all obstetrical cases are preventable with proper delivery techniques!

Do NOT give birth on your back: Laboring in the sitting, squatting or standing position and squatting to give birth is the best method to prevent shoulder dystocia.

LEAVE the TOOLS in the GARAGE!  Forceps and suction assisted deliveries may increase injury incidences and/or the severity of injuries.

Birth is NATURAL, not a medical procedure.
 Why does it matter to me?
This matters to me, because I am sick of doctors not being educated on things that matter. This matters to me, because I'm sick of mothers being told their bodies don't know what to do and being attacked with interventions that are outright dangerous when not used judiciously. This matters to me, because I'm angry the medical community is not being held responsible for the results of their decisions based on convenience.

It matters to me because of this little boy.

 That's my nephew. He suffered a brachial plexus injury when his birth was mismanaged. His mother was forced to push on her back in a position despite her desire otherwise. When his anterior shoulder did get stuck, instead of using a variety of other techniques (including but not limited to the Gaskin manuever which involves flipping the mother onto her hands and knees helping open the pelvic opening and shift the baby's position)  that are less invasive and very effective, the doctor cut an episiotomy and pulled on his head and neck damaging the nerves until he came out.

When he was born he couldn't move his arm at all. He has been blessed with a great network of support and a less severe injury than many. With countless therapy and specialist visits in the 3 years of his life, faithful daily exercises, and the mom that made all that happen, he has progressed wonderfully. But his journey has not been easy and is not over.

The simple fact is these injuries can be prevented with educated doctors and midwives, mother friendly birthing environments that support the mother's ability to give birth, and educated parents who demand their care providers wise up.

So please spread the word, learn about brachial plexus injuries, and help prevent these outcomes.

Injury Awareness Week Starts
LETTER: Learn about brachial plexus injury this week
United Brachial Plexus Network, Inc.
BPI is a preventable injury to babies

Friday, October 14, 2011

It's not easy, but I know it's right.

This child has always pushed me beyond my limits, forcing me to constantly grow and evolve as children often cause us to do. He makes me question everything, over and over again, weighing my instincts against the endless research and information while trying to tune out the pushy judgments everyone else is throwing at me.

Via Pinterest

When he was born, he was jaundiced. He was taken from me and put under the lights to help him process the excess billirubin. I was only allowed to see him every four hours to nurse him for twenty minutes. They told me he needed formula when I was done. I knew then that it didn't feel right. I knew then that this is not what I'd learned about breastmilk and treating jaundice. But I was scared, and they told me they knew what was right for my child. They didn't know, but I defaulted to them. We made it out okay resuming exclusive breastfeeding once he was discharged, and I learned about myself and what my child needed in the process.

It started in the hospital, but it continued when we got home. It continued months and months after that. He would scream. He would scream and scream and scream. He rarely slept and never slept without someone holding him, rocking him, or snuggling him. I was told that he'd get over it. I was told he needed to learn to self soothe. I was told he needed cereal in a bottle, lots of  formula, and a host of other ridiculous things. I knew that he needed me. I knew it was my job to do whatever in my power to help him. I knew he didn't want to scream and that he had no idea what manipulation was let alone how to do it. I learned to listen to my gut and respond to the needs of my child.

When he still wasn't sleeping by 6 months or a year, the advice continued to pour in. Sometimes it was suggestions or a sharing of experience which for the most part I welcomed. Sometimes it was just plain judgment. If you would just do xyz, he'd be fine.... You created this problem....  What's wrong with your kid, my kid doesn't do that. I knew I had to listen to his needs, but it was hard. It was hard when I hadn't slept for months upon months. It was hard when everyone else seemed to have things so much easier. It was hard when it meant my needs and desires were put aside. I remember being away for a weekend with two other moms and their kids. When it came time for bed, I dutifully put my son in the stroller and walked him around the hotel parking lot for at least an hour, sometimes longer while they quietly put their children down to sleep and enjoyed chatting together. I remember the tears streaming down my face as I walked lap after lap around that hotel imagining the things these women, my friends, must have thought of me and my kid. I remember the tears just kept coming because I wondered if all the things they might be thinking were true.

Listening to and meeting his needs in all of these ways was never easy. Often, it made our lives a lot harder. Less sleep, declined social obligations, and sincerely thinking my nipples might fall off if I nursed him one more time.  But I did it, we did it, because we knew it was right for him. Over the years it got easier. Maybe not as easy as everyone else seemed to have it with certainly less sleep than everyone else was getting, but easier nonetheless. And with that, dealing with the judging, both perceived and real, got easier. We'd found our groove.

Suddenly, it's not easier anymore. Suddenly, it's a lot harder. I find myself crying in the car wondering whether to decline a social obligation or to possibly push my son beyond his limits. I know my friends don't understand why it's even a decision, but they also won't understand when he loses control. I cringe as I actively problem solve with him knowing that the people around me think I'm a push over or that he just needs consequences and punishments. I get impatient and angry when every other adult can sit and enjoy dinner but I have to put my needs or desires aside to fully engage in meeting his overwhelming needs because they can't wait. And I'm reluctant to share our struggles knowing that I'll wonder, no matter how outwardly supportive someone may be, what they actually think, how thankful they are that their kid is not screwed up like mine, and what part of me or my parenting they are secretly deciding caused this all.

 My nights are easier. I do get a little more sleep though still not through the night. There is less babywearing, nursing, and singing to calm crying babies and toddlers. There are less stroller laps around the parking lot. But my days are still filled with choosing to put his needs before mine, his needs before whatever society thinks he needs. Now that means spending my days practicing hitting our 'reset' buttons when things get tough (mine's my nose while his on his tongue - always good for a giggle). It means seeing how many imaginary candles we can each blow out when we are getting overwhelmed. It means dropping everything to run laps around the backyard or throw rocks down the hill. It means attempting to perfectly model skills for coping with life, stress, and emotions that I haven't yet mastered... and owning up with honesty and apologies when I'm not perfect (which is often).

And it means learning to stop judging myself so that I can accept the love and support coming from those around me who may not really understand it but are there to listen and love. Finally, it means forcing myself to stop wondering who is judging me and to continue trusting my instincts along with what he and I have learned about each other in the past four years. Together, we're learning.

Edited to add: Let me be clear that I am surrounded by some amazing people who support me and my decisions. This is not knocking them in the least. Sometimes the judgment I feel is completely in my head. Sometimes it's just me judging myself. Sometimes it's hard to be vulnerable and let others support you. But I am so incredibly thankful for the people who reach out, who lend their support, and who simply listen.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Just Have to Try Harder

I haven't been writing much lately. It's not that there isn't stuff to write about or that I don't want to write. It's that I can't seem to find the words to write about the biggest thing on my mind right now. It's that I can't seem to find it in me to write about other things when I all I can think about is this.

I worried when I wrote about my depression how I'd be judged, but I got over it because I felt it was important to put my story out there. This time, yes I worry that I will be judged, but even more so that he will be judged. I worry that my sweet little boy will be judged, and I'm not sure that's something I can handle.

I couldn't handle that, because I have the most wonderful little boy. I have the most wonderful little boy who doesn't deserve to be judged. He is sweet and affectionate. He is funny and articulate. He is sensitive and acutely aware of his surroundings. He's the one who spots the great blue heron flying in the distance and the turtle hiding in a shadowy pond. He completely throws himself into everything he does getting lost in elaborate imaginative play with pirates, superheros, princesses, parades, and more.  He makes piles and piles of books to read and sits seemingly forever while we read them. His favorite color is pink, and he makes up songs about random things throughout the day. He loves to learn and has always been the first kid at circle time for any organized activity we've ever done. He plays a good game of UNO and is a fabulous sous chef. He adores puddles, mud, and climbing trees. He runs laps around the outside of our house trying to beat his fastest time. He is a bundle of joy, energy, love, and cuddles.

And that's why I knew he was right when I laid in bed with him last night after a difficult evening and found myself unable to stop the tears.... he snuggled in and told me, "mama, maybe we just have to try harder."

So today, I will take a deep breath, shake it off, and remember why trying harder is the only option.

Monday, October 3, 2011

OCNJ Half Marathon Race Recap

This is what I doodled a few days before the race. I was determined to finish under 2:30:00 and dreamed of finishing under 2:25:00 but I knew it was a reach.

Official Race Time 2:21:23. Average pace 10:48 min/mile

That's right, 3 minutes and 37 seconds faster than my REACH goal!  I'm thrilled with how everything went to say the least. Four and a half months after my first half marathon, I took 25 minutes and 25 seconds off my race time. That's 1 minute 56 seconds faster PER MILE!

I'm amazed, proud, shocked, and excited about it all. I'm really learning what it means to push a in race. A few weeks before the race, I found this popular running calculator where you put in a recent race time and it calculates what your approximate race times should  for other distances. I put in my recent 5K time and quickly said yeah right! when I saw the estimated half marathon time of 2:20:54. What?! A pace of 10:46 for a half marathon? That's so far from where I'm at. I even relayed this story to Kristie while we were running the race. Well, apparently I was wrong! I was just seconds off that pace and less than a minute from that time.

Another way to look at it is that last March (less than seven months ago), I ran a 5K in 33:58. I wasn't thrilled with the time but it was 30 seconds faster than the 5K before it. Well, that works out to a pace of 10:55. I ran a half marathon at a pace 9 seconds faster than my fastest 5K pace from just half a year ago. For those of you non-runners out there, your half marathon pace is usually a good bit slower than your 5K pace because it's much farther.

Okay, now that I'm done obsessing about the time, let me just say, it was a great race!  For a small race with about 300 people running the half, it was well organized, great spectators, good food, and lots of water stops. I had a total blast running it. We ran out from the boardwalk to the Longport Bridge (only hill in the race) which we went over and back. It was a breathtaking view. After that it was around part of town heading back to the boardwalk.

I hit a porta-potty at some construction site on the side of the rode (after asking the police officer directing the race route if it was okay) somewhere in the 6th mile. We passed my mom and sister on the boardwalk not long after that which was comical because my mom was taking pictures, my sister was trying to get out of way, and I was trying to get my honey stingers from her.

From there we went down the boardwalk. The boardwalk was not closed, but at this point it didn't bother. It was only in the last mile that I was ready to kick some butts of people that would not get out of my way and might have cursed under my breath at some guy on a bike who nearly took me out.

We got off the boardwalk at the end and went a bit out before heading back. All the water stops were great, but the Ocean City High School Field Hockey team was the best by far! They were so many of them and they kept the energy up!  We passed Paula heading out the other way who took a fun video of us. We were at mile 10-11, and I was still feeling great. I mean, I was tired, but compared to the Super Hero half when I was stopping constantly to try to stretch my legs and find it in me to run the rest, I was on top of the world. I was in a great mood. Some good songs came on from my playlist and I was even singing! (I ran with one earbud in and it was a perfect combo of music and being able to talk to people and take in the race atmosphere).

We got back on the boardwalk for the home stretch. I was pushing hard and hurting. I told Kristie I didn't have a whole lot left to give as far as a final push. At this point, my music totally and completely failed me. When making my playlist, I didn't know where my final push would be so I just threw some stuff on there. The last mile I listened to:
 Rascal Flatts - Still Feels Good
Rascal Flatts - Secret Smile
The Police - Every Little Thing She Does is Magic

It was awful. Every time a song ended, I was begging in my head for something good to come on to get me through and each time I was totally let down. It made it feel like slow motion, but I had no time to mess with it find better songs. Lesson learned - better engineer my playlist. 

The last half mile came up and Kristie yelled at me a bunch to keep up with her knowing I was too winded to swear at her, except I did swear when that bike almost killed me, but that was at the bike not her. We sprinted into the finish, and I made it!  The last push was not as strong or as long as it usually is for me, at least I don't think it was, but I think it's because I ran harder steadily during the whole race which is better! My last mile was still my fastest with a 9:30.

I quickly went to work scarfing calories, gatorade, and chocolate milk to try to avoid getting as seriously sick as I have been after my long runs. With soft pretzels, sticky buns, chocolate milk, gatorade and water, I was good to go for a little while. Combined with my increased fueling during the race this helped me avoid getting sick and I actually felt really good all day besides my legs aching like mad.

It was a great race. It was FUN. I ran hard (my max heart rate on my Garmin might have been 205, oops). I raced well. And I was smiling when it was all done!

A few thank yous...

Thank you to Kristie for being an awesome friend and coach! She chit chatted with me while the first six miles flew by. Seriously, one spectator yelled at us for making him feel bad as we were not only running but gabbing up a storm while doing so! She carried my last packet of honey stingers that we grabbed from my sister at the halfway point and dosed them out to me on schedule. And she pushed me the last half mile even though I didn't have much of a push left.

Thank you to Paula for sharing her running wisdom and support over the past few months and for cheering me on during my training. It was so great to meet you and take some fabulous pictures together! You continue to be an inspiration as you keep smiling and keep moving!

Thank you to my fabulous in-laws, Mom, Dad, and Sara for not only hosting Kristie, Paula, and I, serving us a fabulous pasta dinner, and watching my kids Sunday morning!  You guys are the best.

And thank you to my mom and sister who drove down just to see the race, carried all of gear around, cheered their heads off, took a billion pictures, and made sure I had the stuff I needed to not pass out post-race. They were so awesome!