Sunday, September 25, 2011

Addie, In Short

Addie is this little note, left for me after a long day at work:

You should try this recipe some time.  I hear it's delicious.  We'd be happy to lend you the large Milo toot and 90 Huge Addie Toots, but you're on the own for the rest.

Addie is also this, a self-portrait titled "Your Kiss:"

And she's this, a Grecian Goddess:

Yes, I finally sucked it up and made a Halloween costume for one of my kids.  Mostly because I had all the material and wasn't about to shell out $30 for something I could make in a few hours.  Of course, as always, she complained instantly that it was itchy:

That's my girl.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Today is a good day, because, you know, I'm ALIVE.  And also, I got my hair colored, and getting rid of all that gray makes me feel a little more cheerful.  Also, I finished TWO things on my to-do list that I didn't really want to do, and I have to time to read and maybe do a little puttering before the kids get home.

I've been reading blog stories to Addie at night--old ones, like from when she was two-and-a-half.  I've never seen that child pay so much attention as she does to stories about herself, and it reminds me of how hungry I felt as a child for stories about myself.  We have lots of pictures because my grandmother was such an avid photographer, but because of the struggles my mom went though when I was young, there are not many stories.  Which I totally get.  As you know, I have swiss cheese brain.  If it weren't for the occasional musings of this blog, I'm pretty sure most of my kids' childhoods would be forgotten over the next few years.

[Side note that should not be a side note:  My avid-photographer grandma, who you know as Ruby, is back in the hospital again.  She was resuscitated, again.  She had a car accident a few weeks back, bumped her head and got stitches a few days later, and then passed out without her oxygen in last week.  Things are getting interesting].

Anyway, it occurred to me that in the early stages of this blog, I wrote a lot more about parenting.  Mostly because I was miserable at it and couldn't figure anything out and just need to write and let it all out merely to survive.  Things are so much easier and I feel so much more like myself now, after these last seven years, that it's hard to fathom.

In any case, I thought I'd post briefly about a parenting-related topic known as "Dealing with Sibling Rivalry."

Dealing with Sibling Rivalry in our house has primarily consisted of the following steps:

1) Sibling Brutality.  Sibling brutality in our house usually looks like Addie and/or Nolie hitting, pushing, tripping, being mean to, saying something about, looking funny at, ignoring, and or otherwise annoying and/or assaulting one another.  It leads to the next step, which is
2)  Rivaling One Another for Mommy or Daddy's Attention.  Otherwise known as tattle-taling, I'm Telling, or Mommy, Guess What Addie and/or Nolie Did To Me, and/or Wailing in Outrage.
3)  Mommy or Daddy Flying off the Handle.  At the end of his or her rope at these kids-who-won't-stop-bickering when all I'm trying to do is finish-this-article or boil-the-hops-for-this-homebrew, mommy and/or daddy attempts to adjudicate and/or figure out what really happened (good luck), yells at the kids to knock it off, separates them, sends them to their rooms, says unkind things under one's breath, and/or engages in the hallowed practice of the time-out.  To varying degrees of failure.
4)  Fallout.  At this stage, kids pout, scream, fuss, and/or complain of things being "not fair," whatever that means.
5)  Parental Guilt.  In this culminating stage, the parent returns to whatever task was at hand, flustered and flushed, angry at his or her children for being inconsiderate buttheads to one another and angry at one's self for yelling and inflicting punishment because, after all, that sort of models the behavior one is trying to stop.

And, repeat.  Sometimes, five minutes later.

This happened a lot in the spring.  A lot.  But I've been parenting enough now to believe pretty strongly in this little wisdom nugget:  if something in your family dynamic is making YOU unhappy, YOU are the only one who can change it, and that change has to be in YOURSELF.  Don't like how many socks are on the floor all the time?  Well, you can drive yourself crazy trying to get people to pick up their socks, or you can just suck it up, pick them up, and then hide them in a secret spot and see how they like having cold feet all the time, tee hee.  See, my problem was that I was trying to get my kids to change, and that is one particular effort at which I am doomed to fail.  I also believe in modeling the behavior you want to see in your kids.  This is so easy when you're engaged in bad behaviors, like sarcasm.  I'm sarcastic, and then my kids model my sarcasm, see?  But it also works for positive behaviors.  It just takes longer.

So I decided my tack for getting out of the 5-stage sibling rivalry merry-go-round would be to model the calmest, most sympathetic, most compassionate and/or faux-compassionate behavior I could muster.  I would no longer try to adjudicate the spats, nor would I punish anyone, nor would I get angry myself.  Instead, I would become the lovingest and kindest comfort-giver you can imagine.

Treacly.  Awful.  Insincere.  Totally against my fierce, honey-badger-like nature.

I know.  But it has totally worked.  So here's how it looks now, communicated via a sample dialogue:

Nolie:  Mommmyyyyy!  Addie just told me I don't look as cute as I think I look!  And then she poked me in the arm, and look!  I have a pinpoint-size owie there!  Waaah!

Mommy:  Oh, Nolie!  I'm so, so sorry!  That must have made you feel really, really awful.  Give me a big hug.  Do you need a bandaid?  So sad!

Nolie:  Wha...??

Mommy:  You poor, poor thing.  I love you so much.  Addie, isn't it so sad, what happened to Nolie?  Should we give her a hug?  Nolie, what are you going to do now?  Go work on your puzzle?

Nolie wanders off, completely befuddled, does puzzle.  Addie wanders off, completely befuddled, goes to read.

Sometimes there are permutations, where you have to give them both the big compassionate whizbang, and you all end up hugging and oh-my-goshing, or where you have to deal with someone who is really hurt and then also give compassion to the one who really hurt the other one, which is hardest of all and makes you secretly wonder if you're going to raise a sociopath.  But I don't think so.  It mostly just diffuses everything, and I've noticed both increased peace in my neck of the woods and a slightly elevated respect for and kindness towards one another between the girls.

Problem of Sibling Rivalry Solved.

There.  That's all you'll get from me on parenting for a while.  Back to our regularly scheduled program.

Did I mention it's my seventh day without dessert?  I know Pioneer Woman happens to be doing this, too, but that's a total coincidence, because I am my OWN WOMAN, dammit.  I also believe this is some sort of Davies family record.  I'm feeling very sugar-free.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Running the Denver Half

Warning:  This post is not for the squeamish of heart or body.

Derek helps me finish my first half-marathon, while Addie, Nolie, and E cheer me on.  I would have died otherwise.

Here's the good news:  I ran the Denver half-marathon this morning.  I did this four weeks before finishing my actual training, and I ran the whole time (except when I walked for a few seconds at water stations to have a drink).  My time was around 2 1/2 hours.  I've never thought of myself as a runner, and certainly never thought I'd run a race like this one.  So I'm proud of myself and happy I did it.  I sharpied "Run with Love" on my arm, and "9/11:  13.1" as motivation, and those mantras really did help, especially at the hardest parts of the race, when the mantra changed to "love is running you."

The bad news is that for the forty minutes after the race I was sicker than a frat boy during pledge week.  I threw up and shat out everything in my body.  I'm still marvelling at how much waste one body can contain.

Lest you think I'm exaggerating, let me tell you that between 5:30 this morning and noon, I lost 7 pounds.  The last time I lost that much weight, I shot a baby out my hoo-ha.  I feel fine now, twenty minutes after throwing up six gallons of yellow gatorade, but would like to do a postmortem to figure out why this happened, because I want to do more races and want to be able to enjoy finishing rather than spending my celebratory time destroying a port-a-potty.  Here is my analysis:

1.  I wish I had had the few extra weeks to train, not just because I could have used some more endurance under my belt, but because it would have given me time to work on and think about some of the dietary/fluid issues that ended up being a real problem, and to do some more research about what actually happens at a race (this was my first race, other than that impromptu 5K at the girls' school last spring).

2.  The race-diet mantra is "don't do anything different on race day."  I knew this.  I read it a million times.  And yet, this morning when I woke at 5:30, I drank a cup of coffee.  You all know I've mostly given up coffee.  I usually have a cup of decaf green tea before my long runs.  But for some reason I thought I could use the energy boost a cup of coffee would give me, and I also thought it would be great to ensure that I'd poop before the race, which I was worried about.  Because trying to run with a brownie playing peek-a-boo sucks.  This worked as planned, and I was happy, innocent, even.  Then, after the race, I drank a bunch of yellow gatorade.  Also not what I do after a long run, usually.  I usually drink a water bottle full of water, take a shower, stretch, and then have a bottle of red gatorade later in the day.  But I was really dehydrated when I landed on the finish line, so I hastily drank like a camel after crossing the Sahara and then inhaled way too much yellow gatorade, thinking it would help with the nausea.  I fucking hate yellow gatorade.  It makes me sick even when I haven't run a race.  So I think these are the two big culprits for the subsequent shit-and-spin.

3.  I didn't bring my own hydration to the race.  Big mistake.  According to the pre-race map, there were water stations every two miles.  Not so on the actual course.  Plus, I didn't stop at the stations and actually drink the whole cup of water (or two).  I'd take a gulp and keep running.  Dumb.  I should have slowed down, walked for a while, and had a bunch of water.  Or, better, run with my camelbak, like I usually do.  I think I would have been able to keep my 10-minute mile pace had I done this.  But I didn't, and I slowed way, way down the last five miles.  Plus I had the post-race dehydration problem to contend with, which led to me throwing up an insane amount of yellow gatorade and pooping out everything I've eaten in the last four days.

4.  Salt.  I need to find a way to incorporate some salt into my runs.  Probably just bringing a little bag would do it, but I didn't want to do anything new on race day that I hadn't done on a training run.  Ha.

5.  Experiment with different training styles.  A lot of folks were doing a kind of 6-1 split, where they'd run for six minutes at a pretty good clip, then walk a minute to recover.  I hung with these folks for most of the race, pace-wise, but I didn't see them lining up at the port-a-potties afterwards, so perhaps they're on to something.  I'll experiment with some of these approaches next time I train.

Now that I'm sitting in bed, having showered and thus fully cleansed my system from the inside and out, I feel much better.  I'll stretch soon, keep hydrating, and hopefully go for a mellow walk later.  It was awesome having E. and the girls show up at mile 9 and at the end of the race, even though I couldn't even look at them because I was trying not to hork.  I'm so grateful my friends Derek and Esther ran with me.  I couldn't have kept running that last 2 miles if it hadn't been for Derek running with me.  And I'm really, really excited to run the Bourbon Chase in a few weeks, another half-marathon in the spring, and maybe a marathon in the fall.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Some Things That Make Life So Much Better These Days

Boy, I am feeling good these days.

Could you tell?  I don't blog as much when things are really good, or really bad.  It's hard to find the words, or too painful to write them down.

But not now.  Things are humming at work, E is in a good place, the girls are doing their thing in the loveliest of ways.  It's nice to be in a place where things feel good.  It's not that everyday is easy, or even pleasant.  That day a few weeks back where salary adjustments came out and there was some gendered hanky-panky PLUS we found out our after-school childcare situation was going to be twice as expensive as we had planned on and therefore we were going to have to pull out of it are just two examples that come to mind.

But things have definitely shifted in some profound ways, and I'm trying to put my finger on why.  Here are my guesses:

1.  We hit some sort of magic age-shift with the girls.  You try not to hurry your kids along with the growing-up process because everyone tells you to "treasure these moments" and all that stuff.  But I personally think those people are baby fanatics, and it's good to acknowledge that not all of us are baby fanatics.  I mean, I loved my babies.  I loved my toddlers.  I miss their fat little hands and their warm, sleepy breath on my necks.  But I don't miss the constant pull on my attention, my health, and my intellect that they had as super-young kids.  I love that we can go to parties and the kids will go off and play with their friends and have a good time and I can do some talking to grown-ups.  I love that I can have a conversation with them that leaves me interested and laughing rather than bored to death.  I love that we can listen to pop music together without somebody melting down from sensory overload.  They are much easier to take care of and much more fun to be around.  And because I'm not so exhausted and depleted, I am more interested and active in their lives, rather than constantly trying to escape just so I can breathe.

2.  I now work on Thursday nights instead of Wednesday nights.  It sounds silly, but what a huge difference this has made!  Wednesday meetings can start in the morning and I don't have to hyperventilate at the thought of working a fourteen-hour day, followed by two more days left in the work week.  I can stay home and read and prep for class Thursday morning, or go for a long run, have my first class at 12:30, and then teach until 9 without feeling like I might die.  And I don't have to teach on Fridays so I can write or have meetings and not be responsible for shaping young minds when I'm tired out.

3.  I'm setting more of my own agenda at work.  Without going into too many details, let's just say I'm working on a bunch of new projects that I thought up or initiated or thought carefully about before committing to.  This reflects a new way of living in workworld for me.  It's scary and totally fulfilling.  I'm busy but it's a great busy, and that oogy feeling I used to have of feeling obligated to do something just because someone else thinks I should do it has really faded.  I still do stuff I'm asked to do, but because it's not the primary locus of my work, I can do it with good feelings and not bad.

4.  Running.  I'm running the Denver half-marathon on Sunday, and our 200-mile Kentucky relay is in October.  I don't run everyday, but I'm running pretty long distances, and while I hate that first mile every time I do it, I love the effects running is having.  I'm less stressed, I sleep well, I have energy, and there is something empowering about doing something physically challenging every other day and not quitting.  I feel physically fit and sometimes even powerful when I run.  There's also the commitment training requires to take some time for yourself everyday to do the run.  You commit to this even if you're facing a shitty, long day at work, or if it's raining, or 90 degrees outside, or if your tummy hurts.  This is a useful spiritual and physical thing to do, and reminds you that the demands of work need not reign supreme.  A running magazine I looked at recently said there is something valuable to be gained from forcing ourselves to be uncomfortable when most of our lives we work really hard to keep ourselves fed, temperature-controlled, well-rested, and pain-free.  I think this is a privileged perspective, but there's also some truth to it.

5.  Sleeping.  That said, it is so awesome to get to regularly sleep through the night.  I can't even tell you.

6.  Locking the door periodically.  It's not easy to find couple time when your kids are little.  Your boobs are leaking milk, or you're exhausted, or you smell bad, or the other person smells bad, or you've just had a massive fight over who had to put the kids down last while the other person gets to watch The Daily Show.  But then your kids get old enough to want to watch cartoons without you on Saturday morning or to sleep through the night, and you discover the lock on your bedroom door.  There's finally enough of you left over to want to share with someone else.  Having your bathroom redone to include a walk-in shower also doesn't hurt.  Hubba hubba.

7.  I take weekends off.  I probably shouldn't even write this.  People will judge.  But I work a really solid 8 hours a day four days a week, and a 12-hour day one day a week, and I'm much healthier and productive when I have a real weekend.  I know not everyone can do this.  I know people work really hard for what they have and they sacrifice a lot.  I did that for a lot of years.  And now I don't, and it's an important part of my happiness.  I'll keep it that way as long as I can, until I can't.

8.  The year of connection.  I remember my first year on the tenure track a tenured faculty member told me she had planned things this way:  her first year on the tenure track would be the year of getting publications started, her second year would be the year of getting things in print, her third year would be the year of the grant, and so on.  I was pretty impressed and terrified by this at the time.  But now I think she probably should have had a "year of being a better friend and colleague" in there, too.  Not that she isn't.  What I mean is that I need to have a year of being a better friend and colleague.  In fact, every year should be that year.  So I'm really making that effort, and am constantly reminded how rich my life is in friendship and love.

I think that's it!  There's also Boden's fall line of corduroy dresses and the weather cooling off enough to wear sweaters and boots and the amazing stack of books I'm parallel reading on my bookstand and facebook.  These are all fun.  And there's a lot of pain in the world, too.  I know that full well.

I'm just saying things are good.  That's all.