Thursday, August 23, 2012

Slides 'n Slips.

So far, there's not much I would like to import from my son's childhood back into mine but he's only nine months old.  Those lovey-dovey rags with a head wouldn't survive time travel.  I have learned that there are some things my mother would have pined for back in the 80s had they existed.  Exersaucers, those strange mesh teething bags that look like condoms but safely entertain babies for minutes at a time, and babycenter make the short list.

Oh yes, and perhaps a playground or two that wasn't an episode of Wipeout waiting to happen.

Seriously, folks.  How are any of us who grew up swinging from the monkey bars of the 80s even alive?

While at my parents' house, I took the little boy for a stroll down memory lane to the playground from my childhood. 

Taking photos of him in the swing, I noticed wood chips underneath his little feet.  "They've mulched over the gravel or concrete that used to be here," I thought to myself followed by, "why were the swings over gravel or concrete?  That doesn't seem safe."

When I came up for air from the "baby on swing" photo session:

I noticed a wide open expanse of empty playground where slides and a jungle gym used to reside.  Looking at it 28 years ago, I'd seen only fun.  Now the one manning the stroller, my mind's eye saw a take-no-prisoners obstacle course of hot metal and three-story falls.  Had my parents been absolutely insane to let us romp around on what was once there?

Let's start with the old metal monkey bars, a metal igloo-shaped apparatus that I used to scale up and hang from.  This was the safest use of these bars.  Many more adventurous kids climbed the inside and clung to the top like Peter Parker post-bite.  I am certain I watched more than one classmate crash down to the compact dirt below.  Not even mulch chips could soften those blows. 

Since the equipment has been ripped down by zealous PTA moms, I can't provide pictures.  Instead, I've sketched the apparati out as I recall and am sharing my sixth or seventh attempt at each one. Were I writing an Individual Development Plan this year, I'd include "Drawing" under my "Area(s) of Opportunity."

I've digressed.  I give you The Monkey Bars.

 Up next is The Slide; a giant piece of erect metal glistening under the hot sun and beckoning innocent children.  I was more terrified of slide bum burn than the Wizard of Oz flying monkeys.  I would check my shorts half a dozen times before going down to be 100% confident my bum would not be exposed to the slides wily ways.  When open flesh meets a hot slide tilted at a precarious angle, it can really ruin a six year old's day.  This is my artist's rendering of it:

The final playground structure I recall is classified under the "so dangerous I think my childhood playground was a playground test market and this particular plaything never launched nationally because there were so many injuries and/or deaths" category.  I wouldn't be surprised if this was the only one in North America.

The Saucer.

"What is the saucer?" you ask because you don't recall one from your own childhood.  Let me tell and show.

The saucer was comprised of two ladders, one on the right and one on the left, each leading up to half of a giant dome or "saucer."

The children who climbed the caved in side were good to go.  They could have grand old safe time as long as they avoided the hole where the ladder came up.

The children on the other side were not so lucky.  They clung to the side for their dear little lives and either scrambled back up to the top to grab the ladder or closed their eyes and jumped down.  This is, of course, if the brown lead paint covering the saucer wasn't heated up to 114 degrees under the treeless sky.

I'm glad I grew up with ridiculously unsafe playgrounds!  They built character!  They taught our generation how to overcome challenges and scorching hot metal!  I wouldn't trade scabbed knees and tumbles for the perfectly plastic playgrounds of today.

I would, however, love to import this old playground into today and watch my reaction as my son approached the saucer.  Who's talking about character now?  Not me, I'm on the phone to the city planne rdemanding they rip that deathtrap down.  What?  They're busy.  Then that's me in the Home Depot rental bulldozer.




Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Innocence Lost.

Is anyone else BLOWN AWAY by the fact that "The Alphabet Song" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" are the same song?

I'll give you a second to sing both in case you've spent the past 33 years not noticing and it took 87 hours of Pandora Toddler Radio for things to start getting real.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Travel Challenge. Oh Screw That. Travel Nightmare.

When I ran long distances, people would frequently ask, "How do you do that?"

In a self-deprecating matter, I'd shrug my shoulders and say, "I just do it."  I was never intentionally quoting Nike which speaks to the genius of their 1970s marketers.

On the Saturdays when my training calendar said 20 Miles I didn't think about how I'd do it.  Thought would have kept me in bed, quivering under the covers.  Instead, I got out there and and muscled my way through it and at the end, was usually amazed.  Many times, I felt as if I'd levitated above my body and watched someone else take the reins, hence the, "I don't know, I just do it," response.

I spent most of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning levitating.

***********************************************************************************

After watching the movers cart our worldly possessions out the front door, after tearfully saying goodbye to our neighbors and the little boy who will not be my little boy's best friend, after boarding a direct flight to Dallas to finally be together as a family and start the new chapter, after buckling myself in for the short 90 minute flight, and after watching the boy fall asleep with a bottle during takeoff I thought, "Ahhhh.  This one is easy."

If you are flying with a small child never, ever, EVER think that.  EVER!  I don't care if you're a battered pro.  I don't care if your child has been on dozens of flights.  I don't care if it's a direct flight or a three segment haul.  If you dare to think it will be easy, the travel gods will come after you with avengeance.


"We'll have you on the ground in 20 minutes," the captain said.


"Successsssssssssssss!" I thought as I held the sleeping baby and closed my eyes to revel in my accomplishment.  Out of 70 minutes, he'd slept for 67.  I was certain this would be a stat I would quote.  Frequently.

 Hubris was my first mistake.

Thirty seconds after the announcement we hit some extra rough air.  Not enough to begin reciting Hail Marys, but enough to hold the baby tighter in case I was ejected from my seat.  Just as quickly as it began, it stopped.  I closed my eyes again and waited for touchdown.

"This is your captain again," I heard, "the storms in Dallas are too bad to land so we are heading to Austin to wait it out."  My blood turned to ice.  Diversions are airline code for, "Good luck fools!  You're on your own!"

"Well folks," the captain said once we were in Austin, "there are no flights to Dallas tonight, so call the 800 number and rebook for the morning."

I will admit, I almost panicked.  I was traveling with four bags, a stroller, a carseat, and a baby.  I had no more formula and was down to my final two diapers.  I've been to Austin a handful of times but don't know the city well.  The situation was not stacking up in my favor and I uncharacteristically called my husband near hysteria.  Surprised he did not appear before me in a chariot that would fly us back to Dallas if Delta could not, I levitated and watched as I began mechanically managing the situation minute-by-minute.


I interrupted my husband in the middle of an expression of sympathy.  "I have to get us to a hotel.  Re-book my flight, ok?"  I hung up and turned to the guy in front of me who said earlier he'd gone to college in Austin.

"Is there a CVS near the airport hotel?"

"No, why?"

"I need baby formula."

"You have to go downtown to find a drugstore, but all the hotels around the airport will be booked.  I'm staying downtown.  Do you want to share a cab?"

I weighed my six bags against the scenario from the movie "Taken."

"Yes, but we have to stop at CVS." 

At CVS, with a cab waiting outside and the baby in my arms I grabbed formula, diapers, and food and moved up one notch closer to the top of Maslow's hierarchy.  Shelter next.

At the hotel I dumped approximately 432 pounds of baggage onto the bellhop wheely thing.  "What is the last name?" the bellhop asked looking at my traveling partner.

"No, no, no," I sternly said, "we're separate. That's mine."  The bellhop, seeing I was not one to be messed with at this particular moment, fell in line behind me.

The room is a blur of formula, a pack 'n play, a happy slash sad slash confused baby, room service, a hot shower and a six am wake-up call.

Back at the airport, I turned into Hercules and lugged all of my baggage and the baby from the cab to the check-in stand.  I was tempted to throw it down at the Delta employee's feet and let out a roar ala a professional waitlifter but opted instead for a loud exhale of relief.

In the security line, I pushed a stroller with a diaper bag in it and held a baby who would not stay strapped in another baby-carrying device.  This was not the time for discipline.  A kind woman asked if I'd like her to push the stroller. "Nope, I got it," I told her, my eyes laser-focused on the other side of security.

Shoeless, waiting by the x-ray machine, a warm, wet feeling creeped down my shirt.  "Are you doing this?" I asked the boy, "how is this even possible?"  In a family restroom, I stripped him down and clothed him in a dry outfit.  I remained soaked.  I didn't care.  Dallas was so close I could practically taste the concrete.

On the very full plane, we sat next to a man in a wool sweater.  The baby was fascinated and got very grabby.  Had the wool-wearer been friendly I would have asked if he was continuing on to Calgary, the plane's final destination, since there is no good reason to sport a wool sweater in Texas in August.  The man looked straight ahead and put in earplugs.  Point taken.  I stayed quiet.

Once we'd landed, I bent down to grab my diaper bag with the baby still in hand.  "Owwww!" the woman in front of us screamed, "Shit! That hurts!" 

When I popped back up, the little boy had a big grin on his face and several pieces of her hair in his hand.  "Sorry," I said, trying to stifle a laugh and starting the descent back to my body.

Once myself again, I noticed I was limping.  Don't ask me when or how, but at some point during my arduous journey I injured my left knee.  I still can't put weight on it.  Thanks Delta.

My husband had never been so happy to see us nor I to see him.  "I can't believe this happened!" he said exuding both shock and pity.  "How did you even do this?  Why are you limping?"

"I don't know," I said back, looking and feeling eerily similar to the way I did at the end of the 97 degree Chicago marathon "I just did it."

We walked out, all of my luggage in my husband's hands.

"Remember the other day when you asked me if I wanted to fly home this year for the holidays?"

"Yeah," my husband replied.

"The answer is no.  No, no, no, no, no, no!  I am never leaving Dallas again."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Performance Gear.

I have to admit something I'm kind of embarrassed about  in a "where's my moral fiber" kind of way.
While I was hemming and hawing back in April about whether or not to quit my job one of my primary concerns was clothing.  "If I quit," I thought to myself during the darkest hours of the night, "I won't be able to buy the clothes I love as frequently as I love to."  Toss, turn, repeat.

Of course, the benefit of taking some time for myself as well as spending some time with the newest (and most important) man in my life greatly outweighed my concern about not being outfitted in the season's finest, but I look back on those materialistic worries and cringe the same way I do when I remember the night my college roommates and I jumped in a car with someone we didn't know and made him drive us 45 miles back to campus. 

I was so stupid! 

In the latter example, stupid for going with someone who could have driven us into the woods never to be heard from again.  In the former, stupid for being a materialistic cow AND believing a fabulous chartruese pencil skirt would be a necessity for the summer of 2012. 

What I didn't know during my J. Crew panic attacks was that I'd have nowhere to wear the clothes I once coveted while on mommy duty.  Making bottles, rolling around on the floor, going for walks in 110 degree heat, and acting as a spit-up sponge are not best performed in silk dresses, wedge sandals, or giant coral beaded necklaces.  My worries were for nothing.

When maternity leave internship morphed into a full time job, I discovered that I spent another part of my life building a wardrobe for this role.  When I was running I thought its purpose was to keep me in Olympic shape (ok, a bit of an exaggeration but I'm in the spirit!) and make me faster.  I had no idea it was really to provide a wardrobe for child-rearing.

Marathon, half-marathon, 10K and 5K race shirts used to be reserved for the drive to the gym.  Not anymore!  Sure, they wick away sweat away from the overheated athlete's body, but they also withstand spit-up, drool, and the surprise diaper change attack.  They can be pulled, bitten, and grabbed with zero damage!  They can be washed half a million times and retain shape and color.  Why hasn't this been an infomercial?

THANK YOU performance gear for being my, oh so sensible, Summer of 2012 fashion statement.  I know, I know, you are at your peak during races and probably a bit embarassed by my ode to your baby-shielding properties, but having an eight month old is is more trying and requires just as much endurance as any of those marathons we encountered.

I'll leave you with some hot pics from the Summer 2012 Line:

Versatile gray shirt that goes with ANYTHING and I'll wear with anything! 
A must for your summer wardrobe.

This is my choice when I want to step it up for my Target run.  Sure, it's technically a golf shirt,
 but it fits into the "performance gear" category and works hard on and off the course. 
(PS - I'm never on the course.  Even if I didn't have a baby I wouldn't be there.
 This is from a summer I tried to get into golf to replace running.  Major fail.)

This little number doubles as a baby toy!  The boy loves trying to bite the hair on the little runner girl.
 Look close!!  It sparkles.  Could Chanel do this?  I don't think so.

This is part of Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writer's Workshop but I can't get the damn link to work and I have to head to the airport for (yet another) exciting travel adventure with my baby.  Sorry there's no pic, Mama Kat!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Top 40.

This is how I feel when I'm driving along and an awesome new song comes on the radio and I'm singing along at the top of my lungs with the windows down (read: with the AC blasting):
Via Getty Images

This is how I feel when I realize the song was new back in '99 and I’m listening to Gen X radio.
Via Getty Images
At least I'm wearing a sassy blue jumpsuit.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Travel Olympics.

As you may recall (or may not if you don’t hang on every word I write, although I can’t imagine who wouldn’t), my little boy and I traveled down to Dallas for some househunting and good old-fashioned Texas heat.  Overflowing with exuberance upon our successful arrival, I shoved thoughts of our return to the far corners of my brain until the night before the flight. 

Egads. On Monday I was dismayed that another husband-free, baby-full flight were on the next day's itinerary.

In what I have to believe was in honor of the Olympics, my little boy presented me with a travel program any judge would deem difficult.  Team USA better leave an empty chair for me on the morning talk show circuit because, dammit, my performance was golden.
With a new sense of confidence from the last go round, this time I charged through the airport like my former super-duper miles club elite self.  I wanted the world to know me and my baby were travel pros!  “Oh, his name?” I even said to one woman, “it means traveler.  We’re just bringing it to life!” 

Sometimes I am such an ass.
The first mid-air poop was for amateurs.  We were already free to move around and the plane had a changing table.  Easy-peasy.  It was during the second one that my program went from average difficulty to triple-lutz backflip dismount difficulty.

The first thing that surprised me about the second poop was that it was happening.  He had just gone!  With the beverage cart next to us, we were going nowhere until everyone in the vicinity had  tomato juices and peanuts in hand.  The baby seemed to understand the serious business of the beverage cart and continued happily bouncing on my lap and grabbing at everything on said cart. 

The next thing that surprised me about this poop was that it was all over his foot.  At first, I thought it was chocolate.  My first thought was, "How did he grab that from the beverage cart?" followed by, "They have chocolate on the beverage cart?!" followed by, "He can't have dairy!!!" 

Quickly, the smell revealed it was no Hershey bar. 

The third thing that surprised me was that it was also all over the upper part of his leg.  Foot and bum?  What kind of path had this poop traveled?  At this point, I went into fight or flight mode.  Since I was already on a flight and hate redundancy, my only choice was fight.  I ripped open the wipes and swiped as much as I could from his little body. 

My eyes got wide when I realized he had spent the last five minutes bouncing his little bottom in my lap.  I looked down and didn’t see anything.  THANK GOD I’d chosen an incredibly ugly brown dress that morning, the perfect poop camoflauger. 
The fourth thing that surprised me was that I’d thrown an extra outfit in the diaper bag.  Blowouts became a thing of the past, or so I thought, around five months.  Speaking of blowouts, how disgusting is that Huggies or Luvs commercial where the cartoon babies have blowout contests?  Guh-ross!!  An onstage poop contest?  No thanks, stupid brand managers.  Not really getting after Mom’s heart with that one.
Anyhoo, I ran to the bathroom and got him changed.  I also tried to wash my dress one-handed with a combination of wipes, airline handsoap, and hand sanitizer that I’d left in my diaper bag for the past week and had turned the color of milk in the Texas heat.  It was not a success.
Back at my seat, there was one more surprise in store: a giant smear of poop on the back of the chair in front of us.  “How the hell did he do that?” I thought.  His first finger or foot painting is not one for the fridge.
Feverishly, I wiped it away which was difficult because it dried a bit while I was in the bathroom managing Diaper-geddon.
A kind stewardess, of which there are only five left in the continental US, gave me a bag for his soiled clothes and we continued our journey back.

There was another leg without an inflight changing table and two more mid-air poops, all of which I spent smelling like a delicate blend of rubbing alcohol and shit.  Kardashians, there’s a fragrance idea.
The boy, couldn’t have been happier.  At the end he gave me a giant open-mouthed kiss and whispered, “I know you like challenges, mom!” as he sucked on my cheek. 

It is entirely possible I hallucinated that last part after six hours of smelling like poo.