Tuesday, August 5, 2014

cascade lakes relay 2014

The 2004 LA marathon was a misery. I'd agreed to run it with LD, but when he started walking we got into an epic fight. The story of our fight, in the water station of mile 13, would be retold time and time again, and became so well known to those around us that, a few years later, the friend who married us used the story in our wedding ceremony to illustrate the point there might be some tough times still ahead.

It had been 90 degrees and on the black asphalt heat rose in waves so thick it made the air visible. The course was along the major thoroughfares of downtown LA, without shade and crowded. I can't remember the actual words we exchanged as part of our fight, only that I had been feeling anxious before he insisted we walk and that anxiety became panic when I started to contemplate how long 13 miles of run/walk would take us. It was only late morning, the temperature was going to keep rising, and walking would prolong the time we spent exposed under the sun, I'd try to make him understand. He yelled at me to JUST GO THEN, and I took off to finish the race without him.

Although there was a band at each mile marker, the only sound I remember was of ambulance sirens as they raced up and down along the course. I didn't know it then, but Mayling was one of the runners-turned-patients who was taken off the course when her dad saw her staggering as if she was drunk. She doesn't remember her dad leading her to the sidewalk, the ride in the ambulance, or her arrival in the ED of LA County hospital. She does, however, remember waking up naked in c-booth. LAC has a massive ED (it's where the Navy trauma teams train), and c-booth is the where the most critically ill patients are assessed and stabilized (hence the "c" of "c-booth"). There are many problems with waking up naked in c-booth, not the least of which is the large deck behind c-booth where medical students and other trainees stand to look down on what's happening below. This might be considered especially distressing when one is a medical student at that institution and classmates with the some of the onlookers. 

Of the group that had run the marathon that morning - all of whom reported they'd had to adjust their expectations and performance to compensate for the temperature - the one that I could have correctly predicted to land herself in the ED with heat stroke was Mayling. She was then, and remains still, the most competitive person I've ever met. 

So when I invited her to join the our CLR team, I felt the need to be almost insultingly explicit when making the point that she could not push herself into heat stroke during this race. It was at altitude in the desert at the height of the summer heat.  We'd be exhausted, dehydrated, and operating on 1-2 hours sleep over the time period it took our team to run a total of 217 miles. There was almost zero phone reception and if she fell over in a ditch it was very likely she'd stay there. I thought about getting her a shirt that read THERE IS NO PR to remind her of this, but was certain she wouldn't wear it.

Thursday was predicted to be 100 degrees in Diamond Lake. As I packed the last of my things - including naprosyn, Maxalt, Peptol Bismol, imodium, and an outdated bottle of Cipro I'd received for a trip to Mozambique five years ago, I got a text from Tia that one of our fastest runners was out due to family emergency.  She had been assigned to our van, so on the ride south I redistributed the three extra legs amongst those of us who remained in van #2. I gave myself, Tia, and Hillary a fourth leg, and moved the longer legs to Mayling and Kelsea.  My mileage now totaled 23,  including the last leg of the race which would occur under the full measure of August's afternoon sun. 
I worried about the heat and the extra distance, about getting lost at night and my leg 36. I worried that Tia would freak when she saw I assigned her leg 32 - a mid-day 4 mile stretch with 1000 ft elevation gain. I was the only one who knew everyone else in van #2, and wondered if the different personalities would get along over the day and a half we spent living out of a minivan, without regular meals, sleep, or bathing facilities. 
the starting line, Friday morning 
I need not have worried. 

The first clue that I need not worried occurred Thursday night. We arrived at our campsite near the starting line much later than we'd planned. The sky was dark and clear and so no one bothered with the rain fly. When the first drops fell, Kelsea and Mayling rushed out of our tent to get up the fly. Tia and Hillary emerged from their own tents (both in their underwear) to help out. The only person who didn't help was me. I was wearing ear plugs and a face mask, sleeping deeply under 10 mg of Ambien and not responding to external stimuli. Luckily no one seemed terribly put out in the morning. 

And, even though we ran short of a full roster, we won. Again, which made for the team's sixth win in as many years. The team averaged 8:03 min/miles, finished 21st out of 187 total teams, and 1st in the open women's division. I ran better than last year and was very happy with the 7:09 min/mile I averaged over my 22.6 miles. 

waiting for us outside Mayling's home on our arrival late Saturday night 
But it might have been the last victory for Emily's Truckers. This was her sixth year as team captain, and she made mention that she's ready for a break. Despite the Trucker's winning streak, it was difficult to put together a team of 12.  Only 6 of last year's 12 were available, and so we all did a lot of recruiting. Last minute family emergency notwithstanding, this year pregnancies, injuries, and unexpected moves for work and school led to a rather large attrition in the weeks leading up the the race. Although we all know a lot of runners, I think it's hard to recruit for CLR because it attracts a similar type of athlete as Hood to Coast, and both races are conducted within weeks of each other.  H2C is shorter, closer to town, requires fewer provisions and overnight logistics, and is without the extremes of temperature, terrain, and altitude when compared to CLR. CLR also doesn't have H2C's non-stop party vibe, but makes up in vistas where it lacks in costumes and nudity.  

Crater Lake
(not actually on the course but twenty minutes from the start at Diamond Lake)

Diamond Lake 
And still, it isn't without its own festivity. 
Leg 33 beer run, courtesy of CLR


Friday, July 25, 2014

since 1994

I was surprised that Wow let me feed him a small wedge of pickled beet. When he reached for his milk, the pink juice that stained his chin and shirt front smeared across the top of glass tumbler, ran to the bottom, and turned the remaining finger breath of milk a shade of its own color. I remembered the brief period when we could get Munch to eat beets by describing them as "princess beets". The same had been true of salmon. I wiped his face with a white linen napkin, which was immediately made as pink as his chin and shirt. It was a color that moved like wildfire. I set the napkin down amongst broken crayon ends, damp bread crusts, salad bits, oil droppings, and coloring books that stretched out over the dining table. He announced the need to PEE PEE NOW and the two of us got up, fetched the key from the magnet next to the door, and visited the restaurant's small bathroom for a second time during this meal.

Marie's family visited last weekend. Marie is my best friend from high school whose food obsession drove her from San Francisco to a rural farm in Ohio. Because she spends most of her days growing and preparing food for her family, I felt no particular pressure to cook while they were visiting. What she wanted most of all on her vacation were restaurants. 

Although together we haul four children between the ages of 5 years and 6 months, she was not interested in the family friendly venues where Wow's milk would have been served in a plastic cup with a straw and the napkins would have been disposable. She had a short list of restaurants with even shorter menus, menus likely printed on paper the weight of wedding invitations and known to generate enthusiastic chatter on chowhound message boards. 

I ordered a plate of quail eggs that were served over a patty of serrano ham and thin crusty bread. Seeing for the first time something he recognized as food, Wow took one of the exceedingly small offerings, put it in his mouth and bit down just enough to push liquidity egg yolk down his fingers and onto the table in front of him. He decided it wasn't to his liking and handed the decapitated egg patty back to me. 

It was a delicious meal, and I was glad to we'd finally - after two failed attempts - made it to one of these restaurants that Marie had so wanted to visit, but if I am honest with myself I have to admit I don't always enjoy eating out with my children. I spent more time wiping up spills and butts and protecting glassware from sharp elbows and fast moving hands than I did appreciating the food before me. We'd gone on bathroom breaks and for short walks outside. I liked it, but I'm not sure I can tell you how that (half gummed) quail egg tasted different than a normal chicken egg. 

Marie and I met in the fall of 1994, the start of ninth grade at a new high school where neither of us had any other friends. She once told me that she hadn't wanted to be my friend at first, but she'd had no one else to hang out with. Despite this initial hesitancy, we'd had a pretty intense friendship through high school. We drifted apart in college, reconnected in our early twenties, and have remained close since. Although our friendship is now entering its 20th year (brief hiatus notwithstanding), part of me feels 14 when I'm around her. It's an odd sentiment considering we spent much of the weekend comparing notes on the chasm that's opened between what we thought we wanted in our adulthood and what we do now that we're in it. In these deep days of early motherhood and fledgling careers, where the only thing that prepares you for the day that's coming is the day that just passed, she's felt like a constant.  

the next generation 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

wow's week

I started moving towards the sound of Wow's deliberate foot falls on the narrow upstairs steps, but could not reach the landing before two dense thuds filled the space between us. The thuds were followed by a brief but gaping silence into which flooded every fear I'd had ever had about raising my toddler in a house with two sets of unforgiving stairs. And then he started screaming.

We've been in this house for eight months and so it's a bit of a wonder that this fall was the first of its kind - for any of us. And it could have been a lot worse. When I got to the top of the stairs I saw that he'd tripped over a long foam pool noodle he'd been pulling up behind him.  Judging from the position of the noodle and the fact I'd heard only two thuds, I think he was three quarters of the way up and had fallen only three of four steps back. He held his hand over his eye, which was already turning pink. In the next hour the orbit would be raised and purple.

It was the beginning of what would be a difficult week for little Wow. He started a new school last Monday. We changed schools for a few different reasons, the foremost of which was geography. When we moved here in December we'd enrolled Munch and Wow in a school closer to my parents, but a bit of a commute for us - and in the opposite direction from my work. When we pulled Munch out for summer school it became too lengthy of a drop off process for LD. BIL (LD's brother and in need of a new blog name) recommended Factor V's school, which was closer to our home, advertising an open spot in the toddler room, and, as a huge bonus, Wow's attendance there would allow the cousins (only a month apart in age) to spend their days together. 

Although we've gone through a number of preschool transitions, this one was by far the most involved, if not downright annoying, in its specificity.

Wow would attend the new school for only 15 min on Monday, two hours on Tuesday, half days Wednesday and Thursday, and to be picked up immediately post nap on Friday. I can't imagine many families - for whom the need for full day daycare necessitates enrollment in said school -  wouldn't find this period a transition a huge, if not insurmountable, obstacle. MIL, here for the summer to help LD set up his office, spent a good portion of the mid day shuttling children between school and my mom's house. Wow seemed more clingy at home. 

But I liked the few teachers I met on the one occasion I did picks ups, and the shorter commute made the mornings less hectic. In this house less chaos translates into more naked time and so Wow was without a stitch of clothing when I left in the morning and again when I returned in the evening. I'm not sure if being naked makes Wow happy as much as it makes him look happy. 

As part our bedtime routine I ask Wow to tell what what the best part of his day was, and every night he gives the same answer -  teacher-Ashley-part-of the-day (coincidentally the name of both his primary caretaker in Davis and of his teacher in the school we just left) On Thursday I asked again. He seemed to take a moment or two to think it over, but never offered up a new answer. I laid my head down next to him and, with our faces nose-to-nose, observed that at least the black eye had healed. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

4th of july

We spent most of the July 4th weekend with my parents at the beach.
Fifteen years ago my parents bought a 700 sq ft cabin in a small fishing community on the Oregon coast. At the time the nation's renewed interest in surfing was still in an infancy and the town was better known for its estuary and dory fleet than for its beach break. In the last fifteen years the town has become swollen with weekend warrior types, young families in search of a quieter and less expensive destination spot, and the dory boat fisherman who live there, work there, and occasionally launch their boats into the swarms of surfers whose wave riding can obstruct passage into the open water.

We celebrated my mom's birthday Thursday night with crab legs and coconut cake. Friday morning LD and my dad surfed while mom and I drove south with the kids to a bake sale and book fair being held in conjunction with a parade in the next town over. Munch ate pound cake for breakfast. When the parade got underway she jumped in front of the flag team and scout groups to scoop up the candy being thrown towards the crowd.

In the afternoon Munch played with a new friend who goes to her same summer camp and whose parents own the cabin next to my parents'. I'd hoped to snuggle next to Wow for an afternoon nap and was a little put out when I returned from my run to find LD had beat me to it. It's going to be a sad day when Wow grows out of the afternoon nap.

Although the official firework display wasn't until Saturday the 5th, we built a bonfire in the soft sand above the water, roasted marshmallows, and waited for the sun to set.

 do you remember your first s'more?

When night fell the coastline erupted with small fountains of firelight.

Happy birthday Mita. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

summer is here

Last week I came home from work to find Munch and Wow in the backyard, sitting in the middle of a small flurry of five hundred confused ladybugs. Tiny helmets of black and red sprung out of a plastic container and flittered from brick to bark to bud. A few clung to bare forearms or fell into the fold of a pant leg.

The ladybugs - natural insecticides and (momentary) PETS - were part of LD's final preparations to ready the yard for summer. 

And despite the late June-gloom and my recent 11-day work week, we've making the most of the first weeks of the new season. 

For Father's day I got LD a grill, which triples or quadruples the cook space of our two-burner stove top in the kitchen. Grilling and eating outside has reduced dinner prep time and post dinner clean up, and allows LD and I to finish our meal in peace while the kidlets scrounge for any remaining ladybugs in the flower pots on the deck. When it's time to go inside for a bath, their clothing is pealed off and left at the back door.

(that's my vegetarian husband grilling steaks) 
Thursday we went to Sauvie Island for Rh+'s second birthday, an outdoor concert, snow cones, berry picking, beers, and bratwurst on the bbq.

On Sunday Tia and I ran a 5K. I'm not sure if I should be pleased or disappointed. My only goal was the run the first mile in 6 minutes. I did that - 5:57 actually - and went on to bomb the rest of the race. Mile 2 was 6:30 and mile 3 was somewhere north of 7 minutes. I finished in 20:10, 20 seconds slower than my last 5K. Tia wasn't feeling great before the race started, and dropped out when it wasn't coming together by the half way point. Really? In a 5k? were the words of incongruity expressed by her boyfriend (a two-time Olympic trials marathoner himself and her new coach) when he saw her step off to the side.

The first week of summer school went well - Munch is coming home with the names of new friends and the words to new songs. The week was hardest on LD, who found his 45 min drop off routine expand to 1.5 hours by the need to shuttle the kids to locations across town from each other. The longer commute meant an earlier wake up call for everyone. Munch can already be a bit of a grouchy camel in the morning, and I myself am not at my best before coffee. Most of our AM chatter went a little like grump Grump GRUMP grumpgrump I WANT CEREAL grump Grumpgrump NO, CEREAL grump GRUMP grumpity grump.  

And lastly, a correction. 
I guess what LD put into the ground wasn't passion fruit, but passion flower, which did indeed prove itself hardier than I had suspected. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

the days are long

the days are long ...

Earlier in the week Wow was waking up under a thick layer of dried mucous that gummed together his eyelashes and sent clumped strands pointing inwards towards the left eye. The material that formed along the tiny glands of the lid line clung like rubber cement. I tried wiping the lid clear with toilet paper, then wet toilet paper, then an unscented wipe, then a wash cloth dipped in warm water, until finally, I held him down on the tile of the bathroom floor with one hand and, with the other, pinched the dried mucous between the quick of my nails and worked it down the lashes. He kicked and squirmed, but I held him until he could open his eye without the lashes getting stuck. 

I can't remember which child, which eye, or even which bathroom floor, but I've done this before. Maybe two times before. 

I try to be mindful of how I spend my time, and the time I spend blogging here, in this small corner of the internet, is time I do not spend with my children or my husband. But I've kept coming back because it helps me understand how time is passing - the process of family, of having parents and being parents, and of my own aging. I keep hoping to realize how it is that all these small and perfectly ordinary proceedings of our daily goings-on - like Wow's blepharitis - will soon, and perhaps suddenly, amount to a life. How that it's going to be my life, and I'll be at the end of it. That might seem morbid, but I spend a lot of time thinking about death and talking about death, and the vapor of those experiences can seep into areas of my mind where it need not be. My job hasn't made me more afraid of dying than any other healthy 33 year old with two young kids, but it has made me very aware of time. Writing has made me aware of how time, in its passing, can become memory - if it becomes anything at all. 

So I record time as memory in short vignettes to remind me of who and how we were. When Wow is twenty and towering above me, will I remember what it was like to hold him down and pull crap out of his eye lashes?  Even now, a couple years after starting this blog, I can read some of my earlier posts about Munch and wonder what did I think I knew about her back then? Too soon I'll probably regard my anxiety around kindergarten and summer school with the same bleary recollection. 

But I want to remember it, just as it is because it's all only going to happen once. I'm getting more gray hairs. My children keep needing more pants. When my dad measured Munch on the pantry wall of the house I grew up in, she marked two inches above where I did, on the same wall, 28 years ago. Last night, when Wow came inside after playing in the yard, he smelled of grass and late spring. 

.... but the years are short. 

- Gretchen Rubin

Saturday, June 7, 2014


My first Stitchfix package was on the front porch Sunday when we got home from the beach. I left my sandy, bleary eyed family to piece together a dinner and promptly slimed (just a few) friends with pictures of me - frizzy post beach hair, no make up, cluttered bathroom - posing in my new duds.

(And about that. Sorry.)

I first heard of Stitchfix on the MiM website almost a year ago. I filled out a profile, including that I was a mommy MD who wanted to look professional, but not old, and scheduled my first fix. Then I cancelled it. I did this a few times, just not being sure that an online shopping stylist was really something I needed. Or wanted.

The shipment arrived in the middle of a record breaking squall of both brick-and-mortar and online shopping that has not gone unnoticed by my daughter, who grumbled that, once again, she'd been excluded from the wild clothing binge.

Truthfully it wasn't good timing.

Munch's dresses. In my closet. 
Last week Munch pitched a fit that landed her dresses on TIME OUT. She's been threatened with their permanent disposal if she doesn't wear exactly what we tell her to wear - without fuss or backtalk - for at least two weeks. Any lip and the clock starts over.

Although I buy 90% of her clothing, she wields near total control over what she wears day to day.
Pants and shorts are permitted only under skirts or dresses. Socks rarely match the outfit, and less frequently each other. Her favorite outfit is a long sleeved shirt under a short sleeve, paired over leggings and a skirt. It's ridiculous and sweet and really not-my-battle.

But on the few occasions when we need her to just &*$#@!!*%# wear it already (often brought about by the laundry fairy's prolonged absence) she will launch a counteroffensive so vehement you'd think we were trying to shave her head. The purpose of dress sequestration (dress-questration?) isn't to modify her clothing preferences so much as her intolerance for disappointment.

Stitchfix sent five items - three were prefect, the other two will do. Returns are free, but the 25% discount for keeping all five paid for the two items to which I was just lukewarm. They ask that costumers provide as much information as possible and so I should have noted that I do not wear hoop earrings - a look that does nothing for those of us with faces the shape of dinner plates. I've already scheduled my next fix for August 27, my birthday.

Dress-questration is coming to an end. Munch is getting taller and leggier and with the warmer weather back to climbing trees. Her shorts were too short before this most recent growth spurt and so it has been me who ordered her to go put a skirt on over that.