Sunday, January 31, 2010

Party Foul

Yesterday afternoon I got a bit of a laugh when I spotted my neighbor's SUV trunk. Like us, they had a Graco infant stroller frame folded up in the truck. Difference was the objects on top of the stroller frame. They had a case of shiner and a case of paper towels on top of theirs. Ours had a bag of swim equipment and seat cover towels on top. The difference between the two cars does a pretty good job explaining why I feel a bit different from a lot of the other mothers out there.

A minute later the neighbor and their 3 yr old were out to say hello. As the neighbor walked over, the toddler hopped into the trunk, he needed to get his towels out. "Careful" his dad said as we all spotted the accident waiting to happen.

Sure enough, almost in slow motion, we saw the case of beer tumble out of the trunk onto the driveway. Within seconds foam was oozing from the box. It was quite comical.

We opened the box to check the damage:

There were few survivors.

"That's messy," replied the toddler. He did not seem to care at all about these useless beer bottles. They were merely in the way of his paper towels.

Our other neighbor came over and joked, "That case of paper towels is now worth $30 instead of $10."

Of course, the true value of something is what it means to the person who has it. To a little kid the fun factor is the most important thing to consider. That's pretty cool.

... and a picture of Leah looking at her orange flower:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

10 Happy Things

Clea tagged me in her blog note about 10 things that make her happy. I had a disturbing revelation when I read this; I've been so worn out lately I haven't given much thought to things making me happy. Therefore, I had no choice. I sat myself down and wrote down the first 10 things that popped into my head.

MICHAEL - I met Michael in the fall of '96 as a result of buggy (see a few posts ago). There is some debate about what our actual first date was. That does not matter much, we have been practically inseparable for the past thirteen years. It would take pages to write all the things about Michael that make me happy so I'll just keep it simple, I love Michael.

LEAH - The product of happiness is more happiness. Leah has not been with us too long yet but she easily made her way to the top of the happiness list. I think it has something to do with the unconditional love which you don't truly understand until you're a parent. Of course, I'm sure I'll learn a lot more about it in years to come.

PHOTOGRAPHS / PICTURES - That old phrase, "A picture is worth a thousand words" is true. I like to see what people manage to catch on film. I like to look at old pictures that bring back good memories. I also enjoy to seeing the world through another person's eyes and learning about that person from their viewpoint. I really enjoy looking at the work of all my talented friends, I have a lot of them.

DARK CHOCOLATE - What can I say, it's true. It's so true that we actually made a party around the idea of eating a sheet of dark chocolate bark.

CLOUDS - They have made me happy my entire life. One of the most enjoyable, relaxing, activities is looking into the sky and finding cloud shapes. I enjoy finding cloud shapes so much I've even found animal shapes among the clouds we painted on Leah's wall. I also like clouds because they protect my fair skin from the sun a bit. Clouds on race day make me happy.

GOING OUTSIDE - I have always enjoyed being outside. I try to do something outside every day. I was that kid who tried to convince the teacher we should have class outside every time it was nice. Lucky for them, we grew up in Rochester NY and the weather is not always nice there.

WINNING - This might not be the most humble one on the list but it's true. I like to win, I don't like to loose. I like to win so much I make up stupid competitions just for the opportunity to win. I need to make up stupid events because I'm not as smart or athletic as many of my friends. I'll never win a spelling bee and I certainly won't ever win an Ironman.

FRIEND ENCOUNTERS - It makes me happy when I unexpectedly run into a friend. It always feels good when this happens because you have a chance to catch up with someone. Random encounters are almost always enjoyable. There's something special about realizing you can still run into a friend in such a big world. The stranger the place, the happier it is. It's great to run into someone when you're on a trip outside the country or on a bad day when you need a friendly face to make you smile.

SMILES - Those things are contagious. How could you not feel happiness when someone smiles. A friend smiling at you during a 6 am workout, A random cashier at Whole Foods wishing you a good day, or your baby who does not in realize what a smile is - they are all good!

LAUGHING - Even better than smiles is the ability to make someone laugh. There was a guy who worked at the Squirrel Hill Giant Eagle that used to tell jokes to all the customers. One day we were behind an old lady who told him, "You are so humorous." To this day, the scratchy old voice and the cashier still make us laugh, no matter what type of day we're having.

So there it is... my list of 10 happy things. Apparently I'm supposed to tag 10 people to write their own list. I'm not convinced there are actually 10 people who read this blog, at least not 10 people who are willing to admit they read this blog.

I have set the goal of getting 10 people to write back a comment about something that makes them happy. If that happens, I win, and therefore I would be happy :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Peak Physical Shape

While I was pregnant I heard some nasty rumor about achieving peak physical shape 4-6 months after giving birth.

Seriously?... Who are these women that showed such remarkable physiological results? Were they human? Are we sure they were raising the children they gave birth too?

If the conclusions were actually valid I'm pretty sure the experimental protocol has more holes than my overused trainer tire. I just can't believe these conclusions could be valid.

After four months of sleep deprivation I doubt there are many people who would preform well in a physical test. Factor in the nursing (complete drain of your system every few hours) and you'll start to wonder how any new mom would contemplate any type of physical test. If you think about it longer, the bone and ligament movement will make you wonder how anyone could even hypothesize physiological benefits at this point.

What good does higher blood volume give you when you can barely find the energy to swing your legs out of bed in the morning?

But... I still believed this rumor when I heard it. I had it stuck in my head that I'd be back in full force by now. I actually assumed I'd be trying to hit a PR at 3M this past Sunday. Don't waste your time looking for results, I didn't even attempt to run it this year.

Even after all the logic I still have some dilution of getting myself into good shape in the next two months. My last race of 2009 was at Galveston, when I was 15 weeks pregnant. I reluctantly decided to do the quarter and the sprint instead of the half Ironman. This year I want to do the 70.3. I'm fully expecting this peak physical strength to get me to the finish line faster than when I raced there a couple of years ago. I have no clue how I'll pull it off but I'm ignorant enough to believe it could happen. After all, I keep hearing parenting gets easier after 4 months. ;)

BTW, If I do pull off some super performance at Galveston I'll be sure to share my postpartum training routine with everyone. Who knows... maybe this sleep deprivation really does benefit triathlon training. Doubt it!

Friday, January 22, 2010

What is a BUGGY?

I feel the need to clear something up for everyone...

This is not a buggy:

This is a buggy (Haraka):

For those of you who are asking, "What in the world is that?" I will explain...

Sweepstakes (a.k.a. Buggy racing) is a Spring Carnival tradition at Carnegie Mellon. Every year, short girls are shoved into these carbon fiber, torpedo shaped, buggies to practice for the races in April. On the weekends we wake up at 4 am to be ready for free roll practice the minute the sun comes up. During spring semester we head out to the hills at 2 am to practice pushing, in sub-freezing temperatures.

It sounds pretty crazy, which it is, but that is only the beginning of the insanity of it.

Seriously, I am inside of this:

The race starts from a dead stop at the bottom of Hill 1. The first pusher gets the buggy going and pushes off to the Hill 2 pusher. Hill 2 is short and quick. The Hill 2 pusher uses a load of fast twitch muscle fibers to shove the buggy off for the free roll.

(I'm inside the green buggy in the second picture of this group)

At this point the driver (that's me) is racing down the road, past Phipps Conservatory, barreling towards the chute, mere inches off the ground.

The rush you feel while driving a buggy is a bit hard to explain. You fly down the road at 30 mph, on your belly, at eye level with the squirrels. Yes, I actually hit one once. It is better to hit the squirrel and turn to avoid it, that might kill the driver.

I'm only half joking when I write that. Buggy is not quite the safest thing. Drivers are required to wear a safety harness, a bike helmet, safety goggles, and gloves while they drive. The only day you drive against people is race day, it's too dangerous to do so all the time.

After passing Phipps Conservatory, a flagger from the driver's organization signals her to turn into the chute. At the fastest part of the course, a sharp right turn is made to flick you into the chute, past the tunnel of hay bale lined sidewalk, past the Mech-E building, past the fire hydrant plug, up to Hill 3.

The hay bales (see left side of picture above) are there to protect drivers who loose control in the chute. They are necessary! I was hit by another buggy my junior year and flew into the hay bales sideways. During my last race senior year, a few spokes broke in my rear wheel and I fish-tailed into the hay bales head first. I'm pretty sure the outcome would have been bleak had it not been for all the protection.

As the buggy slows the race is completed with pushers for Hill 3, Hill 4 and Hill 5. At this point the driver just needs to keep the buggy straight (with the sun rising in her face) and avoid the pot holes that riddle the back side of the course.

Ten years after graduating, I can still visualize the entire buggy course in my head. I know where the paint stripes begin and end, the slant of the road, and the location of the potholes. I know the angle I had to turn my steering system to make it through the chute. I can recognize the smell of the grease we used and remember how to make my buggy pass a drop test when it's breaks were acting up.

For that reason, I can not call a baby stroller a buggy. They are not the same. Almost all babies in developed nations will ride in a stroller, there are very few of us who have ever raced a buggy.

Thankfully, Leah and her stroller do not weigh nearly as much as I did in a buggy. If that were the case it would be nearly impossible to run 5 miles with her. I guess I should remind myself of this every time I am frustrated about my aching hamstrings.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Go Big Blue

Today, one of the Farmers at the market commented, "Wow, she has such beautiful blue eyes. I bet her dad is going to be on the lookout."

"Her dad has already told her she can't date until she's 30."

The farmer started to laugh, as if to say, 'Yeah right. Good luck.'

As you can see, her dad is already on the lookout. This picture was taken when we were meeting some friends for breakfast, in Miami. Michael was quite careful to keep Leah away from the 2 year old boy.

Two years older than her is no good. One year older earns opportunity to give her a kiss without any backlash from dad.

I haven't told him Jack gives her a kiss every time he sees her, I think 30 years older might be a huge problem.

I read something about these steel blue eyes she has. Apparently they may change on us up to 3 years of age. They may turn light blue, green, or light brown (poop color). We're hoping for less poop, more water.

Apparently she's going through the stage of keeping a watchful eye on mom. Or maybe she just thinks I'm much better looking than dad:


We decided it was time to start running with Baby G. We'd heard a lot of mixed comments about this. Some people start running the baby jogger a couple weeks after birth and others wait long past 6 months.

Our decision was based on our ignorant analysis of Leah's head stability and overall strength. When her head stopped moving from bumps at a walking speed we decided we could go faster.

"I have the Baby Jogger keys... Now why can't I make this thing turn on and go fast?!"

The other day I told my mom we'd started to run with her and she told me what she'd done when I was a child:

"I used to ride my bike with you on my back and Colin in the basket. Funny what you do when you're young."

I didn't even ask, I suspect there were no helmets involved in these adventures. Seems like I turned out okay so riding a bicycle with a kid on your back might be safe. I'd question the basket, that might explain a few things. ;)


Overheard conversations of the Garel household:

As Leah is crying Michael asks, "Is she H-U-N-G-R-Y?"

"I don't think she understands that yet," I reply.

[some time later] Michael comes into the room, "Seems like she's eating a lot. She must have been hungry."

Leah gives me a strange look as I reply, "I don't know. My internal flow monitor is broken."


A couple other videos from earlier this week:

Monday, January 18, 2010

4 months

"It gets easier after the first 4 months " seems to be one of the most common bits of unsolicited advice I've heard since Leah was born.

Yesterday was 4 months, this morning we went to the pediatrician for some more growth charting and another set of shots.

Leah now weighs 13 lb 10 oz. She's gained almost 7 lbs since she was born.

Here's Leah's shock when she finds out how much weight she's gained in the past few months and hears she's about to get some shots:

She did pretty well with the shots. There were four of them. The look on her face when the first one hits is priceless. Her eyes bug out for a second and then she starts crying so hard that her tongue vibrates in her moth like crazy.

Thankfully it's only a minute of pain before the shots are completed and she's back in my arms. Once that happens she calms down quickly and within 15 min she was asleep, probably hoping the pain would be gone when she woke up again.


The big question of the next few months will be when to start feeding her solid food. Leah's doing fine either way so our pediatrician said we can start her with some solids whenever we decide it's time. He recommends starting some time within the next couple of months because it takes a while to get used to it.

The positive aspect of starting the solid food is the decrease in amount of times I'll need to feed her. For someone who's not big on the idea of feeding in public (or can't seem to muster up the courage to do it ever) the idea of feeding food mid day sounds pretty appealing.

There are drawbacks though; smelly poop, messy poop, messy food all over, food preparation time, flying food, etc.

But I'm sure the blog posts will become much more interesting when we have all those new, fun, things to tackle.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tinker Rylee

My brother and I have had a chance to hang out a bit before UT classes start up again. It's a little weird to think we were driving around in his minivan with our two little girls, in Austin TX. It's freakishly weird to think some of the people we saw thought we were the parents of the two girls. At a couple points I wanted to blurt out, "He's my brother!" but realized it was completely irrelevant what other people thought.

We took the girls over to the Austin Children's Museum and got some good shots of Rylee making Colin proud. She may leave the house with a pink bow in her hair but she seems to have some tom-boy hidden within.

Dad explaining proper operation:

Rylee learns quickly:

Playing with trucks:

Building structures:
I learned many things about Tinker Bell that I did not know. Had no idea she was any different than the other fictional princesses and fairies. Wow, was I wrong. Tinker Bell is an engineer and happens to be one of the best ones. She also happens to be Rylee's idol at this point.

I believe Rylee is trying to bring a present home for her mom. Bright orange is Marissa's favorite color and I think Rylee was convinced she was strong enough to break this off the wall so she can make her mom proud too.