Inspired by a Book

Standard

From his second day of life, Ben has loved his pacifier. Loved it with all of his tiny being. Husband and I started calling it his “button” (short for mute button) on a whim and it stuck. For nearly two years, the button has been a part of him. At the hand-offs, caretakers always ask, “Do you have the button?” For nearly two years, he was his button and his button was him. Until today.

Baby Ben on his way home from the hospital with his first button.

Baby Ben on his way home from the hospital with his first button.

Generally, when I think of being inspired by a book, I think of great literature and people over the age of 10. Today, Ben was inspired by a surprisingly graphic and sad Swedish-translated-to-English book called Benny and the Binky. I picked up the book yesterday when we went to the library and I saw the title and thought it had something to do with giving up your pacifier. Seeing as Ben is sneaking up on two at a rapid pace, I thought I might get it and read it a couple of times to get him used to the idea of giving up his button.

I didn’t pre-read the book to ensure it for quality, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway. It was horrifying. The book, as a whole, isn’t about getting rid of your pacifier, it’s more about growing up once you have a new sibling (no new siblings for Ben for a long time!).  This poor little pig gets a new brother, watches the brother get a binky, feels jealous, then takes the brother outside and steals the binky before going on a tour of town. On this tour of town, he gets mocked by a daycare saying that he is “too old” for a binky and then he gets punched in the nose by three bullies for having said binky. Then, when the pig (Benny), gets home, he gives the binky back to his brother and grows-up into not needing it. Horrifying. To make matters worse, in the course of the first reading, I changed the names to “Ben” and “button” to give the real Ben the message. Sadly (or, not so sadly), he got it.

This is a devastating book. The Swedes do NOT mess around with getting rid of pacifiers.

This is a devastating book. The Swedes do NOT mess around with getting rid of pacifiers.

When we got to the last page, his little face crumpled into the saddest expression you have ever seen and said, “It’s gone.” On the spur of the moment, I decided to go with it and said, “Yes, honey. Button is gone.” He was devastated and wailed. For the rest of the day, he has asked for his button a couple of times and I have informed him, “It’s gone.” His expression changes to sadness and he repeats, “It’s gone.” After a few minutes or so, he resigns himself to his fate and moves on. It’s both sad and heartening to see how resilient a kid can be.

So far, this has been one of the most devastating things I’ve had to do as a parent. I’ve had to take away something that he loves in order to help him grow-up. It has been one of those days that feels both like a triumph and a defeat. I’m helping him become a kid, but erasing some of the vestiges of babyhood that I held so dear. Being a parent is both beautiful and terrible. In loving someone, you have to do things to make them sad (at least temporary) and it breaks your heart to do it, but you know that when he’s seven and no longer using a pacifier, he’ll silently thank you.

Italy 2: Adventures in Running

Standard

Before I left Maryland, I had every intention to keep to my marathon training. I was going to run all the miles! Yeah. That didn’t happen. The best laid plans…As a “blah blah blah” excuse, I started having heel issues after I ran a 13 miler and decided to do some resting. However, as lovers of endorphins, Husband and I made a pact to run at least once in every city. We succeeded in that regard.

Running 1: Sorrento

Sorrento is absolutely beautiful. It is right on the Bay of Naples and built into a cliff. Gorgeous, but not very runner-friendly. When we told the hotel employees that we were looking for a good place to run, he looked at us like we were crazy, but pulled out a map and showed us a route. Basically, he was like, “Ok, here’s what you could do.” Side note, when we were outside getting read to run, an American man confused me for a small Italian child and asked me if some random cat were my cat. I got that a lot. Not the owning a cat part, but the thinking I was a young Italian girl. There are worse things.

At this point, you might be expecting me to say how awesome our run in Sorrento was. That it was filled with gorgeous sights and awesomeness. Nope. It was terrible. My legs felt awful and I was pretty much ready to retire from running. We ran a little over 2.5 miles due to the running course (not ideal) and my legs. Generally, I think that running anything less than 3 miles is a waste of my time, so this was a huge defeat for me. It was actually an auspicious decision, because when we got to Rome, Husband and I walked all the way from the train station to the Vatican and back. That was about a 6-7 mile walk. We ended up getting our work-out in!

This is a view of the city walls in Sorrento. Not taken on our run, but on an epic walk to our restaurant on the marina.

This is a view of the city walls in Sorrento. Not taken on our run, but on an epic walk to our restaurant on the marina.

Running 2: Rome

Hands-down, this was one of the coolest runs that I have ever done. Husband and I got up early to go for our run. Many in Maryland talked about how hot it was in the DMV while we were gone. It was pretty darn hot in Rome as well. On our run, we ran around the Forum, on the Circus Maximus, and past the Colosseum. So. Awesome. This run finally felt good and I was able to power up one of Rome’s famous hills. These hills. They are not joke. It was a 4 mile jaunt and Husband I walked another 6 miles later in the day. We were walking machines.

Yep. This was part of our run. We took this later in the previous day, but how awesome is running past the old stuff?

Yep. This was part of our run. We took this later in the previous day, but how awesome is running past the old stuff?

Running 3: Florence

This was the best run of the three. We were feeling good and Florence is surprisingly runner and cyclist-friendly. Unlike Rome, where you are pretty certain you are going to die at any moment on the road, Florence has designated runner/cyclist lanes and many streets that are too narrow except for scooters to cruise down. This jaunt took us over the Arno, through the streets, past the Palazzo Vecchio, back over the bridge, past the Pitti Palace, then along the Arno and back to our hotel. It was an amazing run that really made me feel fantastic…and the hotel had delectable pains au chocolat to “refuel.’ Overall, an incredible day. 🙂

Running in Florence. This was taken after my run and I'm repping the high school XC team. Hooray, Florence! Hooray, Ponte Vecchio!

Running in Florence. This was taken after my run and I’m repping the high school XC team. Hooray, Florence! Hooray, Ponte Vecchio!

While I didn’t keep to my training schedule, I enjoyed my trip and most of the runs that we did. Sometimes you need to break from training and really enjoy your surroundings.

Italy 1: Italy, You’re Doing It Right

Standard

Recently, Husband and I were lucky enough to take a trip to Italy. Fortunately, Grandma agreed to take stellar care of Ben so that we could have a nice trip in honor of our anniversary and birthdays. I have been to Italy a couple of times before (yes, I do find myself lucky!), but it was Husband’s first trip and there are few things I love to do more than travel. As a grown-up,  I noticed that Italy does certain things better than other places. Even though the economy is in the pooper, here are some things that Italy is doing right:

  1. Food. Italian food is always and will forever be amazing. They do things with the humble zucchini that I can’t imagine. Tomatoes? Amazing. Don’t get me started on gelato. Holy cow.
  2. Really old stuff. Husband and I invent imaginary pass-times for the various cities that we visit based upon what we see. Paris’s motto is, “Hey, I’m bored. Wanna go build a cathedral?” D.C.’s is, “Hey, I’m bored. Wanna go build a monument?” All of Italy’s solution to boredom is, “Wanna go find some really old stuff?” I love walking down the street in Rome, turning my head and, “Oh hey! This is the spot where Caesar was killed.” You can’t see that on the streets of D.C.
  3. Water fountains. When I went to London and Paris with school over spring break, I was perpetually dehydrated. There were no water fountains anywhere. However, Italy had an abundance of water fountains everywhere. At first, Husband and I were a little nervous getting water from the fountains in Pompei. They did say that the fountains used to be supplied by lead pipes. We didn’t quite relish the idea of getting lead poisoning, but we chanced it and filled up our water bottles everywhere. Fantastico! We didn’t have to buy bottled water for one bazillion Euro.
  4. Parenting. I love the French, but French children are practically feral. French parents are cool and let their kids “explore” and learn for themselves. This leads to children that remind me of mildly tame squirrels. Italians, however, are very hands-on, which I totally appreciated. Even the dads are all about their kids. One Sunday morning, Husband and I sat on a park bench in Trastevere in Rome and we watched kids and their dads play in the park. The moms must have all been home making Sunday lunch, but it was adorable to see the dads swinging their kids up into the air and giving them big kisses. Very endearing. Italy, you’re dong it right.
  5. Weather. While it was hot and humid, I prefer heat and humidity to cold and darkness. ‘Nough said.

Italy does other great things, but these are some instances that stick out. Later, I will report on the running in Sorrento, Rome, and Florence and present some tips to future Italian adventurers. Hooray for la dolce vita!

The Accidental Half Marathon

Standard

It sounds like the title of an Anne Tyler novel, but alas, it is not. Marathon training has really started and yesterday I was planning to run 12 miles. Ugh. I haven’t run that in the heat in a year. In any case, I have a series of loops around my house for which I generally know the mileage. Note that I said, “generally.” There is one loop that is 12 miles if you take it one way and 13 if you take it the other. Unfortunately, I forgot about the dual-loop nature of the run.

Everything started out just fine. Yesterday was a beautiful day. It wasn’t too hot or humid, the sun was rising, there was mist on the fields: a lovely, Maryland morning. I was trucking along at about 15-30 seconds slower than goal race-pace. Little Gamin was doing her job. I even went up my giant hill with no problem. There were only two near-death experiences on the roads with no shoulder, so I counted that as a win. When I turned through historic Downtown Sandy Spring (it’s super adorable and reminds me of Stars Hollow on Gilmore Girls), I noticed that there might be a problem. Garmin had clicked over to 9 miles and I thought, “There is no way that it’s only 3 miles to home.” Truth. When I reached the stable where I used to ride (former equestrienne here) and Garmin clicked 11 miles, I was very sad because I knew that I still had 2.5 miles to go.

What’s a girl to do? My fitness isn’t quite up to 13.5 miles at that pace, so I had a choice to make. Should I push it or should I stop at 12 and have a 1.5 mile cool down? One of my colleagues recently wore a shirt that said, “If I stopped running, how would I get home?” I took that to heart in my decision-making and made a compromise. I ran 13.1 miles and then walked the remaining .4 mile home. During the last .1, I thought that this was a bad decision, but it turned out to be a good choice. When I said that the morning wasn’t too humid, I meant for Maryland. In reality, I was so sweaty that my running shorts had morphed into compression shorts. You’re welcome for that mental image. The extra cool down allowed me to not be as sore and calm the sweat factory, which was excellent. In all, it was a happy ending to a potentially sad story!

Vegan Indian Meal

Standard

In an attempt to get my child to eat anything at all, I’ve been cooking as much Indian food as I can, which is slightly challenging. One thing I’ve learned about cooking is that watching someone cook is really important. Having only served as a sous chef to my bestie as we made channa masala during high school, I make a lot of things up as I go. I’m working on it, though!

Dinner tonight was an accidentally vegan meal. Accidentally, because I don’t intend on ever becoming vegan and the recipes just happened to not have animal products. Trust me. I love dairy far too much. This meal was spawned from a desire to get rid of a lot of the produce that I had in my fridge. My dad found the eggplant recipe after two HUGE eggplants arrived in my Washington’s Green Grocer box. Getting rid of produce will be a theme this week.

Baingan Bharta and stuffed Kale Parathas. Yum.

Baingan Bharta and stuffed Kale Parathas. Yum.

For the main dish, I made Baingan Bharta, which is an eggplant and tomato curry. Think of it kind of like an Indian ratatouille. Fun fact: Indian food is not quick to make. I used Mark Bittman’s recipe and was really pleased. It was probably one of the better curries that I’ve made so far. I followed it to a T and it came out really well. I recommend using only one jalapeño with the seeds mostly removed. We like heat and this was a pleasant amount.

To go with the Baingan Bharta, I made stuffed Kale Parathas. Husband LOVED them. I used this recipe and altered the filling slightly by using fresh ginger instead of ginger paste and I didn’t use the chilies or the sugar. Instead, I used a dash of cayenne. They were superb, if I do say so myself. Highly recommended!

You Know You’re Another Mother Runner When…

Standard

You know you’re Another Mother Runner when…

…your almost-two-year-old says to you, “Mommy go run?”

…said almost-two-year-old has a “Go Mommy!” shirt that he wears to races (Thanks, Grandma!).

…you complete an inverted Toddler Triathlon by doing a solo run in the very early morning, going to Aquatots in the mid-morning, then “riding bikes” (or push a bike) all before naptime.

…the jogging stroller stays in the car on the off-chance that a run might present itself.

…you can’t wait to sign your kid up for his first race.

Reflections on Starting Marathon Training

Standard

Today, as my alarm clock struck 4:27 and I was startled by the noise, I began to reflect about my marathon training. I wasn’t regretting waking up so early; I actually don’t mind being up before the sun because it gives me some quiet time. This morning, it was 72 degrees at 5:00 a.m. with 100% humidity (No exaggeration. Keep being awesome, D.C.), but there was a BEAUTIFUL sunrise and, as an added bonus, Super Moon was still up. As a runner, I got to experience the beautiful sight of mist over the green fields and the first light of day glinting off of the neighborhood mosque. That was the nice part of my run.

The not-nice part of my run was the amount of sweat dripping off of my body and I wondered if marathoning had lost its magic. Training for and running marathons are still fun, and I still want to run long races, but the feeling of training has morphed. When I think back to my first experience training for 26.2, there was a mystique. I remember telling one of my friends that if I could run 5 miles by a certain date, that I would bite the bullet and sign-up for the Philly Marathon. It would be poetic: 26.2 miles on my 26th birthday. Every long run I did training for that race was “the farthest I’ve ever run”. It was an awesome feeling to know that I had accomplished a personal best that day. At the time, I totally paid for every single long run with hobbling around the house and icing my knees. After a particularly long run (some where in the high teens), Husband and I went out to watch a football game with friends in Baltimore. I could barely walk up the stairs to the bar I was so sore, but it felt good. I had accomplished a major goal. Husband and our friends were impressed. It was awesome.

People were really nice to me when I was training for my first marathon. They thought it was cute that I was training. When I asked my then-boss if I could adjust my hours to train, she allowed it. I guess that it’s kind of like being pregnant for the first time: people treat you really nicely because you’re putting your body through hell and you didn’t know what it was going to be like when you started. Not that people aren’t nice to me now, but it’s different. They don’t feel as bad for when I hobble around after a particularly long run because I knew the consequences to my actions. For example, after my 20-miler training for my most recent marathon, Husband encouraged me to walk the 2 miles to the Ukrainian festival. It was both a good and bad thing. It loosened my muscles, but I walked all that way in inappropriate footwear and wanted to die. Thankfully, Husband did feel pity on me and walked back to our house to get the car and drive me home.

I suppose that is one thing that adds challenge to subsequent marathons: you know what you’re getting into, but you do it anyway. You know how bad it’s going to hurt. You know that you are going to feel like absolute garbage, but the challenge of pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone is what drives you. I am amazed at people who are able to run marathons on consecutive days or even weekends like the Marathon Maniacs or the T-Rex runner. Some of my friends completed the Goofy Challenge this past year. They are amazing! I just don’t know if my mind and body would do that, but I think it’s awesome. They push themselves to a point that many think is “crazy”. I think the idea of running in all 50 states or completing seven marathons in seven days is pretty crazy cool and adds a little more mystique to marathons. The purpose of the marathon is to break through physical and mental barriers. One thing I need to remember is that there are always ways to Chuck Yeager-through some limit I have set for myself. It’s just a matter of getting there.

Quote and pic cribbed from Pacers' Facebook Page.

Quote and pic cribbed from Pacers’ Facebook Page.