Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hellish Boy

HellBoy/AngelBaby is turning two soon. I know I complain about him a lot, so in honor of his birthday (and in case he ever learns to read and stumbles across this blog), here are:

10 (Relatively) Good Things About My Boy
  1. While he's still doing ... that, he refers to nursing as "milk please," which is convenient when we're out someplace and I'm not in the mood to get into a discussion of the pros and cons of Extended Breastfeeding. I can just say cheerily, "Sure, you can have some milk when we get home!" (I've semi-deliberately refrained from teaching him any words for the equipment; his phrase for breast is "milk there." He'll also say "switch sides," which I think is rather polite.)
  2. He has not gotten more hellish. I've noticed that some easygoing babies become rather less so when they become toddlers, and their parents are left flatfooted. HB hasn't gotten easier, but at least we're in shape now. And the more he can do and say, the happier he is. Which is awfully nice, since he used to spend so much of his time in a fury.
  3. He's a good sleeper, provided he's not in his own bed.
  4. His sentences are in pretty decent working order, and include the depressing "Mama pager answer it"; the informative "HellBoy make a mess"; and my personal favorite, "Dog penis touch it" (he did).
  5. He can be bribed with candy, but he doesn't eat it. He will stay strapped in his carseat gazingly lovingly at a lollipop for long enough to get across town, then trade the lolly for a slice of tomato.
  6. He loves to take medicine as long as he can drink it from a little cup, first rolling it between his palms like a lush about to take a shot.
  7. Being so small, he wears out many of his clothes before growing out of them, which is economical. He also doesn't require large quantities of food.
  8. He can spell his name. (He believes he can write it too, but unless you're a connoisseur of performance art/interpretive dance, it's not recognizable.)
  9. He likes to pee in the potty sometimes. And only peed on me once tonight.
  10. I had been worried about his tendency toward violence, but he's become quite gentle—with babies, animals, flowers, books, his mother. In fact, he appears to be becoming something of a pacifist.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Class Report

I went to an overpriced, overrated, and patriarchal university that was a spectacularly poor fit for me. (I happily got credit for AP tests and managed to get out in three years.) I knew only a tiny fraction of the people in my class, I remember even fewer, and I remain in touch with none. Yet when I recently received my class report, I was mesmerized. I am fascinated by what people choose to say to sum up their lives so far.

The really cool people never say anything about themselves, of course. I dutifully sent in the requested info: my address, job title, and the names of my husband and son. Since I enjoy reading this stuff, it seemed unfair to say nothing about myself.

Of the people who chose to write something, almost all wrote about only those three things: job, spouse, and children. Now, the form requested that information up front, so it makes sense that most people would assume that's what they're supposed to write about. But it seems terribly incomplete, especially after reading blogs. Of course there's a space issue, but I think that most of my favorite bloggers would be able to come up with a couple of paragraphs that could provide some insight into their souls. (I couldn't, but then who said I was one of my favorite bloggers?)

The descriptions of the children made them seem interchangeable. Most three-year olds mispronounce words in cute ways. Most six-year-old boys have an obsession with some category of toy. Most twelve-year-olds play soccer. All children "keep you young but make you old!" I was sobered, however, by the number of people who had sad stories to tell. One classmate has three children who all have autism. Another lost her second pregnancy to a fatal neurological disorder and her third to uterine rupture (followed by a diagnosis of metastatic cancer in her husband). Another had a two-year-old who died of a brain tumor. These latter stories made the breezy descriptions of the boringly normal children seem callous, though I know they weren't meant to be.

A surprising (to me) number of people married young and stayed married to their original spouses. Many had sweet things to say, but some of their comments distressed me. For example:
I'm still married. That's saying something, isn't it? After so many years, I observe that one must work hard at a marriage relationship, and one must be committed. I have found that love is a decision, not a feeling. Effort does seem to pay off.
I mean, what the fuck? I read this entry to TrophyHusband and said, "I'd kill you if you wrote this way about me." "You shouldn't care if I said that," he said. "You should be upset if I felt that way."

This reminded me of how several people pulled either my husband or me aside at our wedding to tell us, very soberly, something along the lines of "You should know that marriage isn't a party. Marriage is hard work."

The spectacularly poor timing of these pronouncements aside, we both found this to be a bizarre way to look at things. We have always "worked" at not taking each other for granted, saying please and thank you, and considering each other's feelings. But the reason we knew we wanted to be married was that none of this felt like work. So it became an inside joke for us—"I feel like having Indian food tonight." "I was thinking Chinese." "Work of marriage!"

Things were harder once we had a baby, but the work has been more to try and figure out how to spend time with each other while working full time (and that's a work in progress). I've had to work at remaining pleasant despite fatigue and stress (not always successfully), but that's in general. There have certainly been ... challenges, but they've always seemed to be about one thing at a time, not about the marriage as a whole.

Our suspicions about the reliability of the "work of marriage" advice have been borne out in that everyone who gave it is now divorced. This past weekend we celebrated our fifth anniversary, and we asked each other, "Does this feel like work?" And we both said no.

Are the folks who talk about the Work of Marriage just in bad marriages? Or am I misunderstanding the concept?

And if you had to, would you be able to sum up your life so far in a couple of paragraphs?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Listen Up, Maggots

I'm gonna make runners out of all you sorry recruits. (At the request of

This is all you need:
  • Comfortable running shoes
  • Supportive bra (if applicable)
  • Half an hour every other day (NOT every day)
Here's the secret knowledge:
  • Running is different than walking. Yes, walking can be good exercise, blah blah blah. The difference is that with running, there is that marvelous fraction of a second when you break free of the earth's gravity and are floating in air. Then you come crashing back down. You cannot cheat on this, unlike with walking, which easily becomes ambling for most folks.
  • Everyone makes the same mistake when starting out: going too fast. When you start, you need to go SLOWLY. So slowly that you could probably walk faster. So slowly that you will feel humiliated if you see anyone you know.
  • Do not worry about (or even calculate) your speed or distance. Measure yourself only by time.
That's it. Put on the shoes, go out the door, and start running as slowly as you can bear to go. In the beginning, you might only be able to run for ten minutes of your half hour. Don't push it. Walk the rest. Over time you can SLOWLY increase the amount of time you're actually running until you're doing it the whole thirty minutes. If you actually do see someone you know, pretend you're just finishing an epic twelve-mile run: fake that you're "shaking it out" and dramatically wipe the sweat from your brow.

(As for stretching, meh. It's never really been shown to do much. I do a few yoga-type stretches and some ITB stretches (especially #3) beforehand, but if I'm in a real rush, I skip them.)

You will need to figure out if you're a morning runner, an evening runner, or a fortunate bi. I have never been able to run in the early morning, which is too bad, because it means double showering on weekdays. My favorite time to run is about 4 pm. During the week I have to go at 6 pm or so, but as long as I have a snack beforehand, I manage.

The following are NOT good excuses for not running:
  • I don't have time. Me neither. But I do it anyway.
  • I'm not athletic. Why do you think you have to start slower than an arthritic sloth? In fact, former athletes probably can't use this program. They can't wrap their minds around the concept of no longer being competitive.
  • My boobs are too big. Strap those puppies down. I admit I'm not the best qualified to comment on this, but some of my best friends are well-endowed runners, and they manage with industrial-strength bras. When I went running with a new and impressive lactation rack, I found the double-bra method effective.
  • The baby cries in the running stroller. So does mine. Sometimes I bribe him with candy; sometimes I leave him home with his father; sometimes I let him cry. But I still run.
  • I'm too fat. If you can walk, you can probably run. Not as fast or as far, but you're not measuring speed and distance anyway. And don't worry about what people might think (unless you live in L.A.). When I see someone of large proportions out running, I want to cheer them on.
  • It's too hot/cold/rainy/snowy. Oh, suck it up. (Also suck on an inhaler if you have asthma like I do.)
  • I can't afford the equipment. Really, the shoes and bra are all you need, and they don't have to cost a lot of money. You don't even need a jogging stroller; I used a regular stroller when I first started running again and just ran on smooth pavement. Babies like to be jostled anyway.
  • I'm too depressed/headachy/chronically under the weather. Running will fix all that!
  • Joggers are dorky. Oh, like you're so hip? I've seen you going to the store for Ben & Jerry's wearing those droopy pants and that stained t-shirt.
The following may or may not be good excuses for not running:
  • I have a bad knee/hip/foot/back. As long as running does not actually make you hurt more, it should be fine to do it. I have found that as long as I only run every other day, I remain injury-free.
  • I'm pregnant. Some people can keep running when they're with child. I was not one of them.
  • My neighborhood is too dangerous. Can you drive somewhere? Can you get a running buddy?
  • I hate running. If you give the above regimen a real try — say for two solid months — and you still hate it, ok. But if you just think you hate it, it's probably because you've always tried to run too hard and fast.
Let me know how it goes. Maggots.

(Update 2012: For more, here are all the running posts, or check the sidebar to the right for "Running FAQs/Maggot Files")

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Tagged As A Weirdo (6 Things)

  1. I like the smell of B.O. Both that of others and my own. Unfortunately I have never gone out with anyone who agrees with me on this matter, so I am forced to maintain personal hygiene. I do enjoy traveling in developing countries.

  2. I have nonopposable thumbs. I can only flex the first joint of my thumbs about 15 degrees, so unless I also bend my pinky/hand, I cannot oppose them. I am less evolved than a chimpanzee.

  3. But I do have outrageous facial muscle control. For instance, I can close each eyelid independently of the other. I don't mean winking—I mean closing each eye in an entirely relaxed fashion while keeping the other completely open. I can also wiggle my ears (in tandem and independently); raise my eyebrows alternately; wiggle my nose; and fold my tongue into the shape of a clover. I have not found a use for any of these talents beyond entertaining drunk people at parties.

  4. I do not watch TV. Not for any moral or philosophical reasons—I just never get around to it. I've never seen Gray's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, any of the reality shows ... how do people have the time? I think I must be less efficient than everyone else.

  5. I have never made out with anyone I did not also have sex with. I find tongue kissing more intimate than intercourse, so I could imagine having sex without kissing, but not the other way around.

  6. I will not wear navy blue. It depresses me.