Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ultra Doesn't Even Come Close

I haven’t said much about triathlon since Matt did the Eagleman in June.

There was a lot of hemming and hawing. Should he or shouldn’t he? What dreams are just that, dreams, and which ones can be achieved?

He didn’t stop. Once the 70.3 was over he just kept going. Driven for the 140.6.

140.6 miles.

One-hundred and forty point six miles people. Miles. Under your own strength. Your own gumption. Via your own legs and insanity.

And that is where he is headed. To the insanity of the ChesapeakeMan Ultra Triathlon, exactly 4 weeks from now. Standing between him and the event is a visit from my mom, a week long vacation, a 4 day conference and a boat load of unforeseen parental responsibilities.

He will be OK though. The sites where Matt tracks his work outs says that he has logged 280 miles running, 1,061 miles biking, and 21 miles swimming so far this year. This is approximately how many miles it is from Baltimore to Key West!

So yes, I am proud. I hate that he’s doing it and the toll that 14 hours of continuous exercise is bound to have on a body, but I am insanely proud of his ability to do it.

Stay tuned, one month – and a few recovery days – and you’ll have a full report of his eminent success.

Friday, August 28, 2009


My mom is in town. She flew out on Wednesday for the sole purpose of getting as much face time with her granddaughter as possible. Given this, we were afforded a night out.

Matt and I went to my new favorite restaurant, the Brick Ridge Inn. This place is fabulous. Understated elegance, the rustic charm of an old school house now surrounded by beds of wildflowers and the herbs used in the kitchen, all the produce they serve comes from local farmers markets, affordable wine, and courses that make you want to lick the plate. I am still full the next morning.

But that is not what this story is about.

As my senior year progressed and my University had be selected my mom put down an ultimatum. I was not going to be allowed to go unless I chose a major. So I chose. Speech Communications with a specialization in Public Relations. You want to know how I settled on this? General Hospital. There was a character in the soap opera who career was ‘public relations’. I had no idea what that meant, but it looked glamorous, you know being a soap and all. Mom apparently never made the connection between my choice and the TV show, so off I went.

The major consisted of a lot of public speaking, interpersonal relations and journalism classes. It was interesting, but easy. I zipped through at a pace to allow graduation in 3 years. I wasn’t going to let that happen, there were still a lot more parties to go to. So I added a second major of Political Science. I loved it. It was pre-law and American government courses galore. Honestly, this time I took the classes as a conversation building block. I had always doted on my Great Uncle Jim and I thought the more I knew about government, the better perspective I would have on our conversations. He died just before I graduated college, but I know he was pleased with me. The Poly Sci classes wound up serving me well in the end, as my career was made possible by those American government classes.

One of the big things I learned during that last year of college though that was I don’t like talking politics. It is so emotional. Some people thrive on that raw nerve, heart on a platter conversation. I avoid it. I am a big believer that unless you ABSOLUTELY know (and are sensitive to) the views of your companion, religion and politics are not for polite company. Thank you Miss. Manners.

So moments after Matt and I placed our order, a table of 6 was seated next to us. Despite the stomach turning wafts of old lady perfume, I paid no attention to the table of late 50/early 60-somethings.

Then they started in on Politics.

At first it was humorously (from our prospective) boastful. Some guy was claiming to be 3 times removed from the Kennedy family. “I went to a Kennedy event and Eunice was seating at the next table. The wait staff came around taking orders and I said, ‘I have Kennedy blood damnit and I want a lobster!’ – Well, OK, I didn’t quite say it like that, but you get the picture.” They discussed Teddy’s passing and Chappaquiddick and all the great things he did while in Congress.

But then, they moved onto September 11th. I couldn’t believe it. They moved onto such a sensitive topic with the same jovial tone. The same hardy attitude while telling there own ‘When I Heard the News’ stories. It was horrible.

To quash the scene we wanted to make, we started loudly discussing all the times we were seating next to obnoxious people in restaurants. The ocean front Bahamas restaurant when we were seating next to a NYC couple exchanging rattlesnake gifts for their anniversary; the lady who valued her $40 buffet admission more than the modesty (and sanitation) of not having menstrual fluid soak though the back of her dress; the old lady in Vegas the ate ¾ of her dinner and then complained about it…..

This was just a different kind of tacky. So distasteful.

Monday, August 24, 2009


For the first time EVER I think I am jealous of Matt's shoes.

I just bought him these. (At his request!)

They are the controversial Spira Stingers. I could care less what they are called though, I'm just kind of pissed that Matt has a pair of yellow shoes before I do. I've been shopping yellow flats for the last year and a half with no luck. Matt reads an article about the springs in these sneakers and BAM!, yellow shoes.

I've been searching for a pair of yellow flats that I love forever. Not fair.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fish Lips

One of my first solid memories of Matt is at a house party in college. My brother and I were each in our respective Sophomore years, and I wanted to take him out. Pretend like I was cool.

I know that I knew the host of the party, some such friend of a friend scenario, but those details are fuzzy. I remember both Jerry and I being handed plastic cups for the keg of beer, a persistent friend insisting that my brother chug beers with him (which I instead chugged and handed him back the empty cup) and Matt being by my side (helping chug the occasional beer too) for the majority of the night whispering Portuguese in my ear. As much as someone can whisper in a crowded, drunken, college house party anyway and he has still never told me what he was saying that night.

That night I learned that Matt was an adventurer and spent his Junior year of high school as an exchange student in São Paulo, Brazil. It was over the subsequent years that I discovered how much junk/memories he was hanging on to from that time too. I have badgered him down to one box of mementos, now stored in our basement.

Except for this fish.

I liked it, so it stayed out and it now resides in Gracie’s bathroom. So now that carved wooden fish is deeply engrained in our nighttime rituals. We start the bath, sit on the potty, play in the bath, brush teeth, towel off and then stop and give the fish a big hug and kiss goodnight.

It is an adorable ritual. Watching herself in the mirror, she hugs it sideways then flips it to face her and greets with a big kiss right on its fishy lips.

Isn’t it funny how memories from 20 years ago can be reborn into something even more beautiful today?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Home & Hearth

My not so little, little brother, Jerry, is buying his first home.

I like to think I've helped him into this adventure. OK, I'll even take 40% credit for it. I have been quite a pest.

Years of prodding and teasing are paying off. See, the males on my mom's side of the family tend to... ahem .... not leave the nest very willingly. Currently, my brother is 28 years old, making good money as a firefighter / paramedic and still has never lived on his own. I will cut him some slack in the full knowledge that my mom has never made it easy for him to leave. She cooks, she cleans, she buys the groceries *and* while she would never, ever come right out and ask him not to leave, I know she is quietly panicking about it.

This is where I come in. I understood that there was no reason for him to leave during the first 26 years. He worked retail jobs until he was 21 and then made the decision to go to school for his EMT licence. At 23 he started applying for paramedic schools. At 26 he got his first above minimum wage job. Way above minimum wage. That is when my quips about turning into Uncle (pick a name) started to come into the picture.

This past March Jerry, Gracie and I went house hunting. Feverish and dripping sweat, we went house hunting. It has been a roller coaster of a hunt since then, but I think he finally has a winner. I don't want to jinx him, the closing isn't until September 11, but he was able to pick up this beauty for under cost and with all the furniture you see in the photos thrown in.

Oh, and don't get TOO excited. It is the end unit, not the whole thing. I just figured he wouldn't appreciate me posting his house number on the internet.

I am so proud of him. I know this must be a hugely scary proposition. I had Matt by my side for every move and purchase post college. Jerry is standing on his own two feet with this one.

More than that though, I now have a place to stay when I go home that doesn't smell like cat pee.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Yesterday, when I picked Gracie up from daycare I was greeted with a story. Mrs. Hagi was so tickled that she’d apparently tried calling me for an immediate recount.

Gracie and her best friend (which, by the way, they’ve been teaching her to say- best friend) were fighting and L pushed Gracie to the ground. Upon her ‘not nice’ scolding L had a melt down and threw herself onto the floor flailing and crying. Mrs. Hagi scooped Grace up for a diaper change and injury inspection.

I am told that Gracie tried to escape in order to go comfort her friend, then she turned her comfort to her teacher.

‘Is OK Hagi. L fussy. Is OK.’

I’m sure the look on her teachers face was much like mine when I was told this. How on earth can a 22 month old show such compassion and understanding? How did she communicate such a direct and semi-complicated thought? Where did she learn the word fussy?!? – Especially to know the meaning and use it in a sentence.

On the heels of one more example of how Gracie is developing beyond her age, this morning we received the paperwork. The one little standardized form that will bring a whole other host of opportunity and development into her world.

As of September, Gracie will graduate up to the two year old room in daycare.

This means the real teaching will begin. She will have lessons in writing the alphabet and her name. She will be exposed to Spanish language classes. She will get to tussle in the big pop-up Dora tent, complete with a ball pit.

And she will be a little kid in a sea of giants again, the baby once more. I will hold my breath for the first few days hoping to have her returned to me unscathed. I know she will be fine. I know she will flourish. I know the teachers truly do love her and that the bigger kids are old enough to know right from wrong, which makes her inherently more safe….

But still, almost two years have past. My baby isn’t a baby any more. I keep trying to stop calling her my baby. I know she’s a big girl now, but it is hard. With each graduation I have to give up a little more control. Give Gracie a little more independence. This graduation makes my stomach do flip flops for the changes that will come in the next few years.

She is brave though. She is smart. She will excel.

She is ready for this. She is.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Discipline Sucks

We’ve been going through a new phase in our house.

It is the ‘mine’ (as in the remote, my shoes, the dog's food) and ‘I want it’ (clutching her pj's all the way to school, the entire box of Cheerios, the dryer lint) and the ‘no mama, not nice’ (pulling her off the kitchen table, putting sunscreen on, insisting she wear a diaper) phase. The response to EVERY question is ‘no’ right now. The gut reaction to every frustrating situation is to hit. She knows it is wrong. Sorry has become solidly ingrained in her vocabulary. She is able to catch herself mid-strike at times and turn it into a pet, but it is running rampant.

No’s and defiance have been around for awhile, but lately it is becoming savage and are usually followed with threats of a time out.

Ahhh…. The time out.

It usually works. The threat alone puts her in check and she backs down. For a few minutes anyway. There have been more and more cases lately where the intentional aggression is just too much.

You know, like hitting me for no reason, at least that I can figure out. Then after several warnings of ‘We don’t hit. Not nice’ she looks me right in the eye and throws puzzle pieces across the room.

Then she pushes us too far and we have to follow through on the threats.

We’ve only actually given time outs 3 or 4 times, and they’re never very long. Usually 20 seconds on the couch without toys or books or hugs. She sits there looking so forlorn, our eyes locked, while I count to twenty. After the walls crumble and we move on with hugs and books.

It kills me to do it. I wish she knew that. I guess that is why I am typing this.

Yesterday, my friend Kelly tweeted this:
Just made the boy stand in a corner facing the wall for a one-minute time-out. Seems very Dickens-esque, but I was pushed.

It made my heart sink for her, but made me feel a little better.

I keep second guessing myself with discipline. It makes me feel better to know that others struggle with this too. I keep worrying that Grace is to little for discipline. That we are somehow harming her and will be repaid for our efforts with an out-of-control teenager that denounces authority because of latent memories of time outs. (And all the other punishments that I’m sure will be in her future.) Or, almost worse, that she’ll be like me and is so afraid of being told no or getting in trouble that she never pushes boundaries.
I know that boundaries are good at this stage though. Without being told that hitting isn’t OK and standing on chairs is dangerous, she might as well be running around feral, and I know there is no right or wrong answer to my questions. I just hope we pick the right path for us. And her.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Love in Hot Pink

We had a whole light socket die in Gracie's room the other day. There was no sparks or other assorted danger, just the realization that we couldn't turn on her noisy humidifier and the night light was no longer lighting the night.

In the shuffle to find new places to plug things in, we made a discovery. Well, I remembered and Gracie discovered. The wicker hamper that we'd been using as a stand for the humidifier held treasure. It is where I had shoved, and promptly forgotten about, all the pink stuffed animals I'd received as baby shower gifts.

Oh, and the hot pink kitty my mom bought. Let me break off and tell that story.

Like many first time parents, Matt and I went to a lamaze class. Having a birth plan was a necessity, right? I had almost signed up for the super-duper two day class. I was so glad I didn't in the end. Four hours turned out to be more than enough. The most beneficial thing that came out of the class was a clarification of my wants. Beyond the counting and breathing, the instructor kept adamantly insisting we decide on a 'focus point' before labor. Something that calms you, she said, like a photograph of your favorite place or person.

She went around the room surveying all the big bellied people as to what their focus point will be. It was all answers like ‘ my husbands face’ ‘a picture of the beach’ ‘a picture of a flower’. When my turn came around I said – ‘nothing’. That didn’t go over very well. The instructor demanded an explanation. I just want to keep my eyes closed and focus. I don’t want to look around. I don’t want to use a mirror to see the birth process. I just want to keep my eyes shut and push until she pops out.

The instructor shook her head and said she didn’t think that sounded like a very good plan. Matt on the other hand, said that sounded good to him and he should have known that would be my answer. That is how it happened too. I’m sure I opened my eyes in the 40 minutes it took during heavy labor, but I don’t recall looking around very much. Eyes shut and focused.

My mother though, wasn’t in on the plan. To cut her some slack you must know the following:
1) Generally speaking, she doesn’t sleep and had been awake for over 48 hours at that point.
2) I was delivered via a heinous, horribly rushed and therefore horribly cut c-section, which meant Jerry was delivered via a scheduled c-section, so she had no idea how to help me through a birth experience that was completely foreign to her. I don't think she ever even experienced labor, just the gush of a hemorrhaged placenta 3 weeks too early.
3) She had no idea of my wants, other than the fact that she was emphatically not invited to stay in the room during delivery, which I knew made her very sad.

So at some point my mom wandered down to buy vending machine cheetos and coffee. The gift shop must have opened and she heard the siren scream of hot pink fur. She emerged with a plush stuffed cat as her gift to me and the grandchild destined to arrive shortly.

In the throws of growingly intense contractions and shortly before she was asked to leave the room, Mom grabbed that hot pink kitty, stood at the end of my bed waving it back and forth like a flag and started exclaiming “Focus on the kitty, Shan! Focus on the kitty! Focus on the kitty, Shan! Focus on the kitty!”

Matt quickly squashed the enthusiasm, which is one of the million reasons why I love him and ‘focus on the kitty’ is now a frequent call in our house.

So now Gracie has discovered the little hamper filled with random bears and the hot pink kitty. And she is IN LOVE with it. Last night she didn’t want to go to sleep because she wanted to play with the cat. This morning she refused to put it back in her crib, so it wound up in the car with us.

Every time I look that the cat I will be reminded of that story. At least it’s funny. Now. And at least Gracie is taking the same amount of joy in the toy that I’m sure my mom intended for it to bring.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dancin' Machine

Music and art is an emphasised standard for Gracie at daycare. Matt and I would like to take more credit for her growing love of dance and art and different from the everyday, but I know I have her teachers to thank.

Despite the credit going to us, spontaneous dance parties have become standard in our house. When Gracie was in inconsolable wailing newborn, two songs would calm her down. Matt bobbing like a mad-man to Peanut Butter Jelly Time with her and gently rocking while forcefully crooning (in Italian I might add) Con Te Partirò by Andrea Bocelli. I know, it was in fact a war of two worlds.

These days, we moved onto more - umm - mainstream pop songs. Particularly Matt's pick of Sexy Back and Gracie's pick of Single Ladies. I know, but dude, she knows the words. She sings along. It's not like I've played these songs a million times in repeat. She just likes them and at least Single Ladies have a semi positive message.

So last night there was a Timberlake/Beyonce dace party. I finally took some good pictures.
It starts with manic Blues Brother's esqe dancing and stomping.....

Then the wild swinging starts .....

Followed by rhythm drums being pounding out on old plastic containers absconded from the kitchen ....

Finally, the collapse.

Because, after two songs at that pace you know you'd want to collapse too.

Welcome to our world. Won't you come on in?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Color Me Tickled

Her friends, I am told, store dolls in their toilet training potty.

Gracie seems to think crayons are a better fit.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sweet Home Chicago

Growing up, watching The Blues Brothers was like breathing air. It's something you just did without thought. It was on at least once a month on WGN, and it was the 1980's so there wasn't much else on given that we were forbidden to watch practally EVERY sitcome on TV during that time.

I always find it annoyingly amusing that the male persuasion tend to trade movie lines when intelligent conversation fails them. Very rarely do I have any idea what is being quoted, but I do speak Blues Brothers with little trouble.

Tonight, Encore showed the move sans comercial breaks and main stream editing. Honestly, I think that was the first time I have ever seen the movie uncut. More memorable though, it was the first time Gracie has ever watched any portion of the movie. And really, you don't just WATCH the Blues Brothers, you live the Blues Brothers, you DANCE the Blues Brothers.

So there we were, Gracie and I, all snuggled up on the couch and the James Brown preaching in the church scene came up. Maybe I started to wiggle first, but I like to tell myself that she reacted to the music all on her own. As the furvor and flips esclated on the television, so did her worm like shimmy in my arms all while working on her sippy cup of orange juice.

Suddenly, with the same intenisty as Elwood Blues, aka Dan Ackeroid, she jumped off the couch, flung her juice and did the same foot stomping frantic dance. It was AWESOME.

It is one of the first times that I've wanted one of my childhood reference points to be deeply intrenched into hers too.

What Little Girls Are Made Of

I’ve always talked about Gracie’s obsession with shoes. I really do think it is a predetermined genetic trait, that matches perfectly with her shade of Matt’s blonde hair and my Irish nose. There was no way to avoid this love, so why not encourage it. That way it is win-win, because everyone who knows me knows my love of shoe shopping.

In the last few months, her love has expanded from her own Pedipeds and pink sparkles (that she refused to wear at Easter but now loves) to my shoes. Particularly these shoes.

She has dozens of other pairs to choose from. She mixes and matches them all with her jewels. I own ballet flats in every shade of the rainbow. Metallic kitten heels. Black peep toe 4 inch slings with butter soft leather. She likes the rough textured canvas and rope wedges though. She shuffles around our second floor with them constantly. She insists I wear them while brushing my teeth. They are located in a different place in our room everyday.

I’ve also been having issues getting Gracie to wake up in the mornings. While her bucking our 6am departure for work/daycare has provided the wonderful side effect of her sleeping in until 7am on the weekends, it has made weekday mornings all the more challenging. She has been expanding her vocabulary greatly though in relation to the morning protests. She now speaks in relatively full sentences to portray her displeasure, "No Mama. Not nice. Still sleeping!" while she tries to smack my hands away.

This past week I’ve started opening her door to let hallway light shine in and turning off her humidifier (aka the background noise) before going downstairs to pack our lunch bags. Usually by the time I come back upstairs she is awake and waiting for me, or at least puts up a lot less fight when I try to pull her away from the beloved pillow.

This morning, she still had her face buried in the pillow when I went back upstairs. I was steeling myself for the kicks and whines when her eyes peeked open through the crib slats and she sat up like a bolt. "Mama. Mama! Soos! Sooooooooossssss!! Pity. Pity soos!" (Translation: ‘Pretty shoes.)

Then I looked down at my feet. I am wearing her wedges and she couldn’t be happier.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Just a Little Busy

Ever notice what time I post in the morning? Yeah, I do this first thing in the morning at work.

Problem is now, I've been busy at work. Like, really, really REALLY busy. Jerks. It sucks.

So anyway, that's why you won't see much from me right now. They are actually making me work at work. Again. Jerks.

I will do my best not to forget all the stories though and post later. Or maybe someone will volunteer to write one?