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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Confession Time

Here's a confession, and one that I haven't said aloud to anyone. Not Todd, not any friend, nobody. It's time for me to be completely honest.

I don't really want to run anymore.

I feel terrible about this, and I've been lying to myself about it for a few months. I finally started really thinking about why it's been so hard for me to get my runs in. It's not just that I lack the motivation to run, but also that running has gotten less fun and more difficult.

Running is less fun for me now. I miss my running group, and I run alone the vast majority of the time. I cannot run on the weeknights from my running store anymore because doing so would get me home at 7:45 at the earliest, and Owen's bedtime is 7:30. I need to be home by 6:30 in order to start the going to bed process (his last meal is at 6:30). I'm tired of running alone. I'm tired of always having to run in my neighborhood, which is the hilliest area that I ever run. I'm bored with the hills, I'm bored with running in the same place all the time. But, running elsewhere is too much trouble. Plus, since I've been away from running, I have lost a lot of my stamina and strength. I ran 7 miles in early November and it was miserable and knocked me out for most of the day. Ugh. I know if I run more, I'll get it back, but in the meantime, I'm hating it.

For various reasons, I had to miss both of my potential goal races this year - I had two different 10Ks I was thinking about, and I ran neither. Now, I have nothing that I am training for, and no reason to really push myself. No fun.

Running is more difficult. It's more difficult because, like I said, it's harder because I've lost so much of my stamina. It's also logistically difficult. Running in the morning during the week is nearly impossible because Owen's day starts at 6:30am and I am not getting enough sleep at night to get up earlier than him. Todd leaves fairly early in the morning, so I have to watch Owen in the morning. It's been too cold to take Owen out in the jog stroller, and my neighborhood is so hilly that I don't like the idea of pushing a stroller there while I run. Running in the evening? Well, like I said, I need to be home by 6:30. In order to both be home to run and be home to feed Owen, I would need to leave my office before 5pm... And I'm already taking 1 to 1 1/2 hours away from work a day to pump. I can't spare any more time away from work, so the best time to run during the week is after 7:30pm, when Owen has gone to bed, getting me done at 8:30, meaning that I don't get to eat dinner until after 9pm, most likely. And I go to bed around 10pm.

How about running on the weekends? Well, I need to devote my first part of the day to Owen, and most of my running venues are a minimum of 30 minutes away. Plus, then I'm away from Owen for a minimum of 1 hour, but more likely 2-3 hours depending on how far I run. I have to find people to meet me later in the morning, since my old time of 7-7:30am just doesn't work for me anymore. And, I'm way slower than most of my previous running partners. Not to mention my lack of sleep, which has meant that I just plain don't have the energy to run lately.

Plus, did I mention that I have been sick for three weeks? And I was sick for a week two weeks before that? And I had a stomach virus in between those two illnesses? That hasn't made me particularly excited about racing or running, and it's also the reason that I missed the two races I'd been thinking about.

Honestly, I went to a half marathon with Todd last weekend. He was running, I was just watching, and for the first time, I went to a race and had no feeling like I was wishing that I was the one running.

I've been seriously considering giving up running indefinitely and going back to step aerobics. Step is so much easier to do at home, and so much more fun to do alone. I don't have to worry about weather, and I really enjoy it. That doesn't mean I'll never run again, but if I want to get exercise in, I'm wondering if running just isn't my best choice. This entire year has been a giant bust. I haven't run since Thanksgiving.

Feeling sad about the whole thing...

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

What I'm Thankful For This Year

Five years ago this month, my former boss passed away. His passing helped me to learn that sometimes you lose people when you just aren't expecting it, and so you should cherish every single day.

Last week, I had actually been pondering the anniversary of my boss's death a few hours before I got the call that my cousin, Paul passed away very suddenly and very unexpectedly. His funeral was on Tuesday, and I spent the day surrounded by my family, passing Owen around as a way to add a little bit of happiness into what was a ridiculously terrible day. As I sat there, I looked around at my cousins, aunts and uncles and thought about how happy I was to have them. Paul's death was preventable, and I know that in a heartbeat any of those people would have stopped it if they had known that they could have. I know I certainly would have.

I am going to miss Paul like you would not believe, but his death has made me stop and think about my family and how incredibly happy I am to be a part of it. There are people out there who hate their families, and I cannot understand this. Mine rocks.

So, this thanksgiving is for you, my cousins, my grandmother, my aunts and my uncles. I love you guys, and I'm there for you, if you find that you need me. Please don't forget it.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Why I Used a Doula

If you've never heard the word "doula" before, you're not alone. I hadn't heard of it until a friend of mine used one several years ago. The organization for doulas, DONA International, defines a doula as a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. The use of a doula seems to be mostly kept to what I like to call crunchy/granola types,which I sometimes identify with.

Services for using a doula can be prohibitively expensive, though. The doula that I used for the birth of my baby was $900. Not cheap. Would I use her again, though? Absofrickinlutely.

I had never seen myself as a person who would use a doula or a birth coach until my father was terminally ill in the hospital in mid-2012. He was in the ICU, and our situation was complicated due to the fact that my dad had remarried and had become close with his wife's children, but his own children had not shared that closeness. In fact, during July 2012, the two families spent more time together than ever before in the 18 years that my dad and his wife had been married. I hadn't even seen some of his children in about 15 years. So, the two families had differing opinions about the approach we should be taking for my father's care. Since he hadn't created a living will or advance directive or anything, we were kind of all shooting in the dark.

To make matters worse, the ICU doctors were rotating, and in the 3 weeks that dad was in the hospital, I never spoke to the same doctor twice. They probably felt the same about us - we were all in and out at various times due to work schedules and they never spoke to any of us twice, either. Each of us was getting different information from different doctors, and each doctor was practicing a different specialty. Most of them seemed to think that he was beyond hope and was going to die. They did their best to guide us, but we were in uncharted territory and didn't have enough of an understanding of the situation and of medicine to make an informed decision. I can't say with any certainty that we made the right decisions about his care, and it will linger with all of us forever about what might have been different if other choices had been made.

What we really needed, I decided, was someone who did have an understanding of end of life care and who was familiar with the doctors, the hospital and the ICU. When a doctor asked us a question and wanted us to do something, we needed someone there to explain to us what the risks of each of the options were, and why we may or may not want to choose each option. That person wouldn't be there to convince us to make one decision or another, they just needed to inform us about what the decision meant. That person should also be with us through the entire thing - from the moment my dad entered the hospital until his body was released - so that they had a full picture of the entire situation. The doctors never had a full picture, they just glanced over his chart, talked to us, maybe ordered a test or something, and moved on to the next patient.

This, what I just explained, is what a doula does for you when you are in labor. She (I am using she  because most doulas are women) meets with you before your birth and discusses your birth preferences. I didn't feel like I had any particular birth preferences early in my pregnancy, except that I didn't want a C-Section, but as time went on and I learned more about birth, I learned that I had very specific birth preferences. The thing is, that you don't know that you have a birth preference until you understand birth. Just like with my dad, when we didn't know the right answer for him because we didn't understand the question.

So, there's a second part to this also - the best birth patients are those who are informed about the birth process. It always floors me when I hear women saying they're just going to "wing it" and go to the hospital without taking any classes. The argument is that women have been giving birth since the beginning of time, so it will come naturally. That works, except that for a very long time, women have had help while giving birth, in the form of midwives or doulas, and birth these days tends to be less on the natural side of things - a hospital isn't particularly "natural." What happens when the doctor comes in and says you're not progressing fast enough and something needs to be done? What often happens is that doctors tell you what they are going to do, when they are really ok with you saying no. So, if they say that they want to give you pitocin, you can actually say "can we try this other thing instead and see if it works to speed things along?" Quite often, doctors will say sure.

Doulas can help with such issues. They can help you make the choices that you need to make in order to have a safe and healthy birth. Safe and healthy are the most important words here - not drug-free. I was willing to try a drug-free birth, and through my childbirth classes, I learned coping methods to try and get through birth without an epidural. In the end, I chose to have one. My doula, contrary to what you might think, was completely supportive in my desire to get an epidural and walked me through it. My informed childbirth class was invaluable in helping me to know what to expect when it was time for the drugs.

At a minimum, if you choose not to have a doula or birth coach, do go to an informed childbirth class. I recommend going to one that is not taught at a hospital. I attended classes with Emily Pelton of Baltimore Family Beginnings and was awesome. While a hospital class will focus on the medical interventions and give more of a doctor-centered instruction on birth, classes like Emily's will focus on understanding the natural process of birth and the medical interventions. Emily considered epidurals and other medical interventions (even c-section) to be tools that are necessary and useful at times. For example, epidurals, when used well into labor, can help mom to relax so that she can dilate more easily. That is exactly what happened when I had my epidural - after 8 or 9 hours of labor, I had only dilated to 6 centimeters, but after the epidural, I was at 10 centimeters in under an hour.

During the labor, Bobbie (my doula), helped me so very much. She allowed Todd to have a break during labor, and certainly made him more comfortable. I knew she was there to help me make decisions and help me through things. Most of all, she was there with me at my house at 6am, working on turning the baby so that he was facing the correct way, and helping me deal with the pain. She followed us to the hospital, and she stayed by my side to help me change while I was having crushing contractions. She was there to help talk me through the epidural, and was by my side while I was resting after I go the epidural. During the pushing phase, she held my leg (Todd had the other) and gave me the pep talk that I needed to get the job done right at the end. I cannot express how much she helped me. Money well spent.

Of course, the hospital where I gave birth was important also. I gave birth at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, which was very open to working with patients that had doulas and birth plans. This is VERY important - the hospital matters. In Baltimore, GBMC is known as a hospital that does not tolerate patient requests during birth and is very doctor-centric. Not surprisingly, it also has a very high c-section rate. It's a very nice hospital, but I would never give birth there.

So, if you are pregnant, do educate yourself on informed childbirth. Do consider getting a doula. Consider the hospital that you choose and the doctor or midwife that you choose to make sure that they will work with you on what is best for you during your birth. Most of all, enjoy this time :)

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Monday, October 14, 2013

10 Second Book Reviews

Keeping Faith: I bought this one because it was on sale for Kindle and I have liked other Jodi Picoult books that I have read. This one is about a little girl who, in the midst of a family crisis, begins speaking to God. Or, does she? It's an interesting story, and it is very much like most of the other Jodi Picoult books that are out there. She's an easy author to read. Of the three I've read, this would probably be my second favorite, after My Sister's Keeper.

The Dog Stars: I've been reading quite a bit of dystopian fiction. In this one, it's post-apocalypse, and the apocalypse was caused by a disease of some sort. The main character lives on an airport with another (slightly crazy) man. We basically follow his life as he deals with the death of his wife, and basically, the death of basically everyone. The writing is a little strange, but you get used to it. I very much enjoyed it.

The Light Between Oceans: This one was a page turner. A lighthouse keeper lives on a remote island off of Australia with his wife. The two of them suffer a series of miscarriages when a boat washes ashore with a baby in it. Their prayers are answered, and they decide to keep the baby. The story goes from there - what happens to them as they raise this child that isn't theirs. It's a bit of a tragedy, but very very good.

Spinning Forward: Ugh. I bought this one for my Kindle because it was a free book and I wanted to have a few free books on my Kindle in case I ever needed to start a book without having access to buy a new one. I decided to give it a try, and it was just awful. The writing was terrible, the characters were annoying, the story line was predicable and boring. I slugged through it and finished it, but please don't bother reading it yourself.

The Secret Keeper: I loved this one. For whatever reason, over the last year or two I've been reading a lot of books that take place during WWII. This one does as well, and tells the story of a young girl searching for information about her mother's past. It's hard to say a lot about the story without giving away some spoilers. I will say that this is a love story, this is an exciting story about the war, and it's also a bit of a mystery. I didn't see the ending coming, even though I"m sure many people did.

11/22/63: Stephen King is one of those authors that I rarely read, but when I do, I really love his books. This one was recommended to me by a running friend, so I thought I'd give it a try (she also recommended Under the Dome, so that one is on my to read list). Basically, a man finds a portal that allows him to travel back in time to 1958. He decides (for many reasons) to use this portal to go back and try and stop the assassination of JFK. It sounds weird and far-fetched, but I found it incredibly interesting. King obviously did a ton of research on the Kennedy assassination and on Lee Harvey Oswald. This book is super-long, but it was well worth the read.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

St. George's Dragon Run 5K 2013

I'm back to racing!

On Saturday, September 28, I participated in my first race since my pregnancy, and my first one of the year! It was the St George's Dragon Run 5K, which I've done twice before. The race is great because it takes place within running distance of my house. So, I didn't have to be away from Baby Owen for very long.

I didn't know anyone else running the race, so I headed over a little while before the starting time. Yes, it is within walking/running distance of my house, but I chose to drive. I knew I would be painfully slow, so I purposely wore a marathon race shirt so that I could tell everyone "yes, I do run."

The race started and ended at the high school near my house (which is a new course for this race). We did two laps around the school and then headed (very downhill) to the nearby road and did and out and back, ending in front of the school. The course was hilly, but not as bad as I'd expected. Since I've been running almost entirely near my house, I am used to hills at this point, but I'm still slow.

My goal was to be under 40 minutes, which would put me at better than my first few 5Ks that I ran in 2005. I would like to think that I am at least better than I was when I first started running. I ended up finishing in 36:55, which was better than my goal. Not my best, not my worst, and it puts me a minute faster per mile than I ran the Mount Dora 5K when I was 17 weeks pregnant.

Who knows when my next race will be. I was going to sign up for the Baltimore 5K, which is this weekend, but it sold out before I got the chance to sign up. So, maybe something else soon.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

Yesterday was our anniversary! We spent it at home, having a Hawaiian Dinner (Kalua pork that I made in the crock pot, grilled pineapple, coconut rice, and some spinach for added veggies). Friday, my sister comes into town and she's going to babysit the little guy so that Sunday we can have a night out to a nice dinner! We've kind of been taking him out anyway, but it will be good to get away on our own.

Anyway, here we are four years ago on our wedding day in Little Cayman, with Southern Cross Club in the background. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may know that we typically return to Little Cayman every year for our anniversary. This year, we moved our trip to January. We're hopeful that next year we can pick up that tradition again, but it's hard to tell right now if we'll be able to.

July 2, 2009

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Birth Story!

I decided that during the last weeks of my pregnancy, I really liked reading up on others' birth stories. So, I thought I would go ahead and write mine. Like I said earlier, I am being really picky about what I post about my son on the internet (I want him to make the final choices about his level of participation in the internet), but since this is really kind of about me and not him, I think it's ok.

Note for the squeamish: this post will be really TMI, so feel free to skip it, I will not be offended.
In Labor & Delivery. The oxygen is because the baby's heart rate kept dropping.
This was post-epidural.
Before Labor

Baby was due on Tuesday, May 28. The week before, I was starting to feel like I really wanted him to come before his due date, mostly because the 27th was Memorial Day and I wanted Todd to have an extra day off to be at home with us. I'd been having cramps and Braxton-Hicks contractions for a couple of weeks, but nothing was really telling me that things were moving along.

I had been to the doctor on May 16, and she had found that I was 2cm dilated and 50% effaced. Of course, like all of the other symptoms I'd been having, that either meant the baby was coming that night or 2-3 weeks from then. I went to the doctor again on Friday the 24th, and the doctor told me I was 3cm dilated and 50% effaced. So, things were progressing. Todd was with me at that appointment and both of us kind of decided that the doctor had swept my membranes without telling me. I would actually have consented to it, had he asked, but he did not. Of course, maybe he didn't, but it did seem like it took him a long time to figure out how dilated I was.

As soon as I left the doctor, I started having cramps and some mild contractions. Todd and I went to dinner, and I had contractions all through dinner. I finally decided I should time them. They were 6-8 minutes apart, but they were still kind of what I would consider Braxton Hicks. Later, I drank a bunch of water and rested and they went away. I was trying to finish up some stuff from work because I felt like things might be happening soon, but the fact that everything went away made me feel less confident.

Saturday morning, I had an appointment for a prenatal massage with the most awesome prenatal masseuse out there, Jessie. She was super gentle, but also did some accupressure to help induce labor. The biggest thing I'll miss about pregnancy? My prenatal massages with Jessie. She really does rock. After my massage, I went home and Todd and I just hung out at home for the rest of the day. We had pizza for dinner, and Todd hung up our new television in the basement. We were playing with the TV, and I kept saying "It's getting late, we need to get to bed, you never know what will happen and when it will happen!" but Todd was certain I would go at least a week late. We finally got to bed around 11pm.

The Night Things Started Happening

Around 1:15am, I got out of bed to go to the bathroom. I had been getting up 3 times a night for about a week (up from 1-2 times a night earlier in my pregnancy). I evaluated how I was feeling and I felt pretty normal, maybe a little crampy (which had become normal, quite honestly). I got back in bed, and thought about how I couldn't wait until I could sleep through the night again (yes, knowing that the baby would make that impossible for months).

I was still trying to get back to sleep just before 2am, when I heard a *POP*. In that split second, I thought, holy crap was that my...  and then GUSH! I was leaking everywhere. Out loud, I said "Oh, Sh*t!" Todd, half asleep kind of said "huh?" and I said "My water just broke!" At this point, Todd jumped up out of bed and ran out of the room. I've asked him since where in the world he was going and what he was doing, and he can't remember. I had to call him back and ask him to bring me a towel, because when your water breaks, it keeps breaking, like you're leaking a lot, all the time and it is uncontrollable and weird. Many thanks, by the way, to my friend Kristen, who supplied me with a waterproof pad for the bed, which I had been sleeping on for about 2 weeks.

Now, the doctor had informed me that if my water broke, I was to call right away, and they would want me to come into the hospital immediately. However, I had a doula and I wanted to labor at home for as long as possible. So, at 2am, I called Bobbie, my doula, instead of my doctor. Bobbie suggested that I try and get some sleep, since I wasn't having any contractions. I agreed and Todd and I got back into bed.

It only took about 20 minutes after my water broke for contractions to start. I was having difficulty sleeping through them, and so we started timing them. They were really close together - only about 4 minutes apart. But, they weren't that strong. Being in bed made them worse, so I got up and got into the shower. The shower was awesome. I knew from my birth classes that showering in labor would be great, and it really was!!! I stayed in there about a half hour. Todd was sleeping, and I wanted him to get his rest, so I tried to eat a little canned fruit, and I started packing my hospital bag (which I'd had half-packed for a week or two). I sat on my exercise ball and watched an Arrested Development marathon on IFC (since this was the weekend the new season was coming out).

I kept timing contractions and I was really surprised at how fast they were coming. They were 2-3 minutes apart, but still not super strong. They were getting stronger, but the pain was really coming in my back more than my front. Dreaded back labor. I called Bobbie again around 5am to ask her opinion about my contractions. She suggested that I get on my hands and knees for a while. I did that, and also continued using the exercise ball. I got in the shower again, but since the contractions were stronger it wasn't working as well. Around 5:45, Todd called Bobbie and asked her to come over, because my contractions were getting worse.

Bobbie arrived soon after (she lives nearby) and examined my belly. The baby was turned around causing my back labor, so she did some techniques to help turn the baby. I labored on the ball, and on my hands & knees and Bobbie encouraged me to eat. Todd made me some toast with strawberry jam (homemade). I did my best to eat it, but it was so difficult. I was really starting to feel bad. Bobbie asked if I wanted to get in the bathtub, and I did, so Todd went upstairs and filled up the tub for me. It took FOREVER. While we were waiting for the tub, I started throwing up. I didn't throw up at all during my pregnancy, this was the first time. So, that sucked.

Finally, the tub was ready. I tried to get comfortable, but the tub just wasn't the awesomeness that I expected it to be. I was starting to get upset and I was starting to really get worried about the car ride to the hospital. No matter how I positioned myself in the tub, I was still feeling terrible. Then, I started throwing up again. Bobbie held a bucket on the side of the tub for me. What was coming up smelled like strawberry jam and I couldn't help but think please don't let this ruin strawberries for me... (it didn't). Todd and Bobbie were trying to help me get more comfortable, but finally I just announced that I was ready to go to the hospital. There was an "are you sure" conversation, and yes, I was sure. I was ready to go to the hospital. So, I got out of the tub and we got everything together and headed out.


It was about 8:30am when we began our drive to the hospital. I had been in labor for 6 1/2 hours. The hospital was about 45 minutes away, and what followed was a horrible 45 minutes. I had discovered very early on that lying down or sitting (besides on the ball) made my contractions worse, so being confined to a car seat with a seatbelt on was misery. I called the doctors office and left a message, and the doctor called me back within a few minutes. My contractions were coming every 2 minutes or so, so I couldn't have a full conversation with the doctor and had to hand the phone to Todd to talk to her. After that, I had Todd call my mom and tell her we were on our way to the hospital.

When we got to the hospital and checked in, we found that they did not have our pre-registration paperwork. Now, I had been warned about this before hand (Jenny!), but I'd actually checked and been told it was fine. However, it wasn't. They still had my old insurance from Todd's previous employer, which wasn't right. So, we had to wait a ridiculous amount of time for them to get the insurance straight. Then, they sent me to triage.

Triage... was hell. I mean HELL. Forget waterboarding or other torture devices, simulate labor on people and then put them into triage in a hospital.

Basically, you get put on a stretcher in a room the size of a closet (oh, and I had to change into a gown and give a urine sample, thank goodness for Bobbie for helping me get out of my clothes - you have to do all of this while being slammed with contractions every couple of minutes). Then, they hook you up to all kinds of machines to check on the baby and check on you and see if you're really in labor (because some women show up at the hospital not in labor). The woman putting in my IV screwed it up the first time, and then a resident came in and knocked her stuff on to the floor, so that everything had to be set up again in order to get my IV in. The resident checked me and found that I was 4cm dilated, which was a disappointment to me.  However, Bobbie has since told me that she thinks I was 5 or 6cm dilated, and that the resident seemed weirdly uncertain about what I was. We really didn't like the resident. We saw her again before leaving the hospital and I was totally like "YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" and all angry at her. It's a good thing that I was so focused on my contractions or else I might have killed her.

Apparently, they also did an ultrasound, but I was so out of it at that point that I didn't notice. I was keeping my eyes closed while trying to focus. I was confined to bed while I was being monitored, and I was hoping that things would be better once I was in L & D and could move around again. I wasn't talking to anyone, except one word here and there. Todd was answering my medical questions for me.

The monitoring revealed that the baby's heart rate was dropping with every contraction. That meant possibly that the cord was wrapped around the baby's neck. They needed to put me on oxygen in order to keep the baby from being in distress. So, from that point on, I had to wear an oxygen mask. At this point, I knew I was not going to be able to move around in L&D, and I knew for certain I was getting an epidural. My birth plan stated that I wanted to wait until I was at least 5-6 cm dilated to get an epidural, so I was within that. Part of me was disappointed to not be going natural, but honestly, I really just wanted someone to get themselves to anesthesiology and drag someone there to make me feel better. The back labor was unbearable.

Finally, I was taken to labor and delivery (after the triage person announced triumphantly "You are indeed in labor!". I wanted to respond "No sh*t, Sherlock," but I could only get one word out at a time and saying "No" would have sounded like I was protesting leaving triage, so I just said nothing). Can I say that my L&D nurse was totally awesome? Between her and Bobbie, I had the dream team helping me to deliver my baby.

Things were terrible in L&D though. I was in so much pain. I can't even think of another time in my life where I'd been in as much pain as I was then. I was not recovering in the 2 minutes between my contractions, and pretty much all of the pain was in my back. I was begging for the epidural, but they had to get a full bag of IV fluids into me first, and then they had to get the anesthesiologist to come. I really didn't think I was going to make it, and if someone had offered to shoot me in the head, I might have taken them up on it. When asked what my number was on the pain scale, my answer was 9. Back labor, people. Ow. Bobbie and Todd were taking turns pressing on my back during contractions, and it was helping, but it wasn't enough.

After what seemed like forever, the doctor finally came in to give me the epidural. I had always feared the possibility of becoming paralyzed from an epidural, and that was one of my big reasons to try to avoid one. However, when the time came, my biggest fear (and I mean, I was TERRIFIED of this) was that the epidural wouldn't work, or that it would only work on one side of my body. Thankfully, the anesthesiologist was as awesome as my L&D team, and once she finished, I only felt 2 or 3 more contractions and then my pain number went down to zero. You know who seemed even more relieved than me? Todd, who clearly was crazy-worried.

The doctor came in and checked me, and I was 6cm dilated. She told me she would come back to check me every hour, which my doula didn't like. I decided to cross that bridge when we got to it. My mom had arrived while I was getting my epidural, so she came in and we chatted for a while. Then, I decided to get some rest. I couldn't feel my contractions at all, and I wanted to save up my energy for what was to come. I did get a tiny bit of sleep, but not a lot.

After an hour, the doctor came back and I decided to go ahead and let her check me again because I was curious to see if I'd progressed. Indeed I had, the epidural had helped me relax, and by relaxing, my body had been able to go from 6cm to 10cm dilated in an hour. I was ready to push.

The doctor decided to let me rest for a little while, so I relaxed for another hour. So, at 2:00pm, she came back and we set up to start pushing. The problem? My epidural was so strong that I couldn't feel anything. I didn't know when I was having a contraction and I couldn't feel myself pushing. We tried pushing for about 20 minutes, but I wasn't making progress and the doctor had my epidural turned down so that I could feel something. We stopped and waited about an hour or so for it to wear off.


Then, the real fun began. Pushing for real! Bobbie held one leg, Todd held the other. The doctor and my awesome nurse were down at the end. The baby was turned so that he couldn't get himself under my pelvic bone, so I was having trouble progressing. Two hours of pushing went by, and the baby was still trying to get under my pelvic bone (see this picture if you want to see where he was stuck). Despite how long that sounds, I was fine. I had plenty of energy and I didn't feel like I was wearing myself out. Yet, I started hearing the doctor say something about the baby being too big. Bobbie leaned down and whispered to me that I needed to push harder or else they were going to start pushing me to get a c-section, which was something I completely didn't want..
The best Daddy out there... :)
Bobbie's pep talk helped. I was surprised because I was totally like I'm an ENDURANCE ATHLETE. I can push for SIX HOURS if I need to, I am NOT ready to give up pushing this baby out! I mean, they'd told me that I should push 3 times per contraction and I'd spent two hours pushing FOUR times per contraction! I was full of energy!! I was exceeding expectations, as far as I was concerned. With less epidural though, I was in a lot of pain and I could feel the baby coming out. The weird thing is - it hurt SO MUCH more between contractions than during them. Anyway, I started taking pushing to the next level. I pushed HARD, and the baby made progress (you can tell by the expressions on the faces of people in the room that things are progressing). Things went from "you're not progressing" to Todd telling me that the baby had blonde hair in what seemed like no time. In fact, once the baby turned himself, he was out in a single push. Stubborn little guy.

The umbilical cord was indeed around the baby's neck, so I had to stop pushing and then start again (I wasn't aware of why at the time, although maybe someone told me and I was just thinking "ouch" too much to hear them). Then, I saw a foot. And I was like "hey, was that a foot? Because that baby was head first, so that means he's out!" And oh, the relief....

In the lobby of the hospital as we were
leaving 2 days after the birth.
I had wanted the baby to be placed on my chest as soon as he was born, but there was meconium (baby poop) in my amniotic fluid, so he had to be taken over to the nursery (in the room) to be suctioned and examined by the pediatric team. It was something like 5 or 6 pediatricians, there were so many people in my room - you know you're close to having the baby when suddenly the room is really crowded. In the end, I was able to catch my breath and deal with the weirdness that comes after the baby is born while he was being examined. Todd went off with the baby and Bobbie stayed with me. I could hear the baby crying, and then I could see him looking around.

**TMI ALERT - skip this paragraph if you want** The umbilical cord had broken off, so the doctor had to reach her hand up into my uterus to get the placenta out. OMG. That was one of my fears, but they'd kicked the epidural back up right before the baby was born, so I didn't actually feel a thing.

Finally, they brought my little boy over and I was able to hold him and nurse him. His eyes are so blue and so clear - I hope they stay that way. One of my big wishes was always for him to have Todd's eyes. He's got Todd's hair at least, which is good.

Baby is perfect and wonderful, and we are so happy. :)

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Baby!

I wasn't lying - cutest newborn ever.
My baby boy arrived on Sunday, May 26 at 6:29pm. I am still debating how much about him I want to post here publicly, so I am still uncertain whether or not I will post a birth story or not. I will post a picture though... I won't lie, he is the absolute cutest thing ever and I married the best daddy in the whole world. Things are great so far. We got home yesterday afternoon and this is the first time I've really had a chance to touch my computer.

More to come on post-baby life, I'm sure.

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Home Stretch

Yesterday, 38 Weeks
At this point, I'm just waiting for this baby. We are ready. I mean READY, there is nothing left to do to get ready for it. Yesterday was the wedding of one of my college roommates. Sadly, it was in Philadelphia, so at this point, I could not go. This was so sad for me and I hemmed and hawed about it from the moment that I found out that I was pregnant. In the end, last week's doctors appointment showed that things are getting started with my body, so traveling 2 1/2 hours each way in a car wasn't the best idea. I was still really sad, though.

So, that's why I have champagne in that picture. It happens to be Ariel Brut Cruvee, which is by far my favorite non-alcoholic beverage for my pregnancy!

I've started walking again, and I've been trying to get on the treadmill for 30 minutes at least every other day. This resulted in some leg pain, which has less to do with my pregnancy and more to do with the fact that I haven't had my feet in supportive shoes in months. I made it up to a whopping 1.2 miles at 2.5 miles per hour! Woo! I'm a long way from the half marathon I ran at 7 weeks, or honestly even the 5K that I ran at 16 weeks.

And so, we wait and wait and wait. That's all that's going on now... when will the baby come? Who knows! (Well, sometime before June 11).

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Grey Areas of For-Profit

Last week, I published a post about For Profit vs Non-Profit races. In it, I mentioned the Nike Women's Half Marathon, which made its debut in Washington, DC last month. Is this a for profit race or a non-profit race? It does, after all, team up with Team in Training in order to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Here's my thought on this. I would say that, yes, the Nike Women's Half is a for profit race. Nike is putting on the race to make a profit. If you look at the fine print of the website for the event, you won't find anywhere that states that race proceeds are going to any type of cause. Races are expensive, but I find it hard to believe that a race with an entry fee as competitive as the Rock & Roll USA race (meaning, it's really high) is not turning a profit. Let's look at a few races that all take place in Washington, DC with very similar courses:

  • Nike Women's Half DC: $160-185
  • Rock & Roll USA Half marathon: $85-120
  • Marine Corps Marathon: $92 (2012 price, I had trouble finding the 2013 price)

The Marine Corps Marathon is not only 26.2 instead of 13.1, but it also has a goal of breaking even and does not turn a profit. I believe it also does not raise money for a specific cause, but supports TNT and other organizations to raise money just like the Nike Women's Half, except it charges half the cost and is twice the distance. You can't tell me that Nike Women's Half is not turning a profit, and a big one. And, if they are giving any of those race entry fees to charity, why doesn't it say so on their website. The 26.2 with Donna Marathon does give race proceeds to charity, and says so in big red letters on the front page of their website. 

But, none of this is a black and white issue. Take the New York City Marathon, for example. It started without a doubt being a non-profit race. New York Road Runners may even have lost money on that first NYC Marathon. Now, though, it has big corporate sponsorship and I'm pretty sure NYRR turns a profit on the race, making it seem like a profit race... But, the NYRRs are a non-profit. So, it's a non-profit race. But, the CEO of the NYRRs makes a six-figure salary. So, profit?

How about the Baltimore Marathon? It's put on by Corrigan Sports Enterprises, which also runs the Frederick Running Festival, the Baltimore 10 Miler, the Preakness 5K and a bunch of other races and events. This is not a non-profit company. So, I would say it goes into that same bucket as "for profit." Does that even matter in this case? After all, the Baltimore Marathon is such a big race and there is not NYRR equivalent in Baltimore to put on a race of that size. Without Corrigan Sports, Baltimore would not have a marathon, and no one wants that.

Here's what I think the bottom line is. If you want to race with a good conscience, then there are some questions you should ask about the race you're signing up for. It's not even a matter of whether or not the race is for profit or not, it's about what you are getting for your race entry fee and how that race organizer is handling themselves. Did the participants of the Nike Womens Half get their $185 out of the race ($14 per mile)? I don't know, I wasn't there, but that's a really expensive race.

What exactly are you getting for that race entry fee, and is it important to you? Do you need bands on the course? Do they need to be bands that are paid with your fee or are volunteer bands like high school bands ok? Are you going to be disappointed if you run past and the band is taking a break (as is what always happens to me at Rock & Roll Races)? Do you care that the race offers a giant medal or some sort of other bling? Is the bling worth the cost? How many water stops are on the course? Are they providing amenities like bag check, a big expo, etc, and do you need that? What food will be offered at the finish line? What about port-o-potties? Will any of your race entry fees be given to charity? Who is profiting off of your race entry fees?

Of course, as I write this, I remember back to the Hot Chocolate 15K, where the chocolate was worth the race entry fee, if it had been as described, but it wasn't. Or, the fact that they ran out of water and didn't have enough volunteers on the course. Or, the Rock & Roll USA Half that ran out of shirts well before the expo finished. Or, many other races that I mentioned in my last post that did not exceed expectations. So, I guess there's another question - are you ok with surrendering more than $100 to run a race when the corporation putting on the race may or may not come through with the things you want and need?

And there's my biggest question:
Is the race company actively pushing local races out of the area? 

Just more food for thought.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

For Profit Races: Good or Bad?

The Color Run is the latest trendy for-profit race. A couple of months ago, a friend asked me (and a bunch of other people) if I wanted to run it, and of course, since I'll be almost 38 weeks pregnant on Saturday when folks are running it, it's not really in the cards for me. But, when I gave it some thought, I don't think I would run it anyway. Why? I've simply had it with for-profit races.

Everywhere you look these days, there are companies sprouting up with a new shtick to get runners to fork over cash to run in some sort of themed race. Some examples:
  • The (already mentioned) Color Run is a 5K where people throw colored powder at you during the race. You wear a white shirt and come out at the end looking all colorful. Besides the for-profit issues that I have with this one, I also wonder about breathing in that powder, and how much it stains if you don't get it all off of your skin before you get into your car. Cost: $50.
  • The Warrior Dash is an obstacle course the people run through and get all muddy and stuff. Cost: $70-90.
  • Tough Mudder is just like the Warrior Dash, only longer and more difficult. Cost: $85-180.
  • Run for your Lives is like a normal race, but you're apparently getting chased by zombies.
  • The Hot Chocolate 15K is a race where you get chocolate at the end.
And there are more and more and more and more... the Zooma races, the Rock & Roll race series, the recent Nike Women's Half Marathon... they're all for profit.

So, why have I "had it" with these races? My major concern is that they are squeezing out the other, traditional non-profit races. I know there is a little bit of an attitude of "the more races, the better!" in the world of running, but that's not really true. In order to have a race, organizers have to close the roads of a city. They have to use resources, such as EMTs and police. They have to find volunteers. And, cities are only willing to do this so many times for so many races. In the end, the profit races tend to win out over the non-profits, because the non-profits don't have the cash behind them to win their case.

It's already happening. In Raleigh, NC, the RunRaleigh Half Marathon and 5K, a non-profit race raising $30,000 for charity every year, has been bumped in order to allow Raleigh to host a Rock & Roll Half Marathon in 2014. 
Raleigh police have already had 82 applications for road races scheduled this year, nearly double the runs held a few years ago. Most race organizers want the city’s most picturesque route: generally a lap around downtown coupled with a trek out Hillsborough Street. And they want a weekend when other races aren’t competing for runners. But as the number of races grows, neighbors along the most popular routes are getting fed up with roadblocks that can last all morning.
EXACTLY. So, 2013 was likely the last year for the RunRaleigh Half Marathon. Those $30,000 in charity dollars? Gone. Rock & Roll runs for profit - you're paying that hefty registration fee to line someone's pocket.

Last year, one of my favorite races, The Annapolis Ten Mile Run, was forced to change its course due to too many for profit races coming into town and applying to run similar courses. The Annapolis Striders, who organize the race, wrote:
As noted, we are no longer "the only race in town." It is unfortunate that a number of for-profit events have caused this situation. The Striders, in sharp contrast, are an all volunteer, non-profit which has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to local charities over the years.
The thing is, for profit races aren't that great. I've already expressed my frustration with Rock and Roll races,  and I mentioned how disappointed I was with the Hot Chocolate 15K. Others have had similar issues - in 2011, the Rock & Roll Las Vegas Marathon had huge problems with lack of water and illness. In 2012, the Maryland Tough Mudder was forced to cancel their second day due to the fact that poor planning made it impossible for people to park or even get to the race. The most shocking? This year's Tough Mudder resulted in a death where EMTs did not react very fast to the fact that someone had slipped below the water and did not come back up.

My experience with for-profit races is that they come into town, totally unfamiliar with the area, and set up a race with 10 to 20 thousand participants in the first year. They do everything to maximize profit, which leads to crowded courses, lack of water stops, difficulty with traffic and parking, and frankly dangerous situations for runners. Do you really trust these companies to put on a quality event and keep you safe? I no longer do - and even if I did, it is coming at the detriment to good old fashioned non-profit races. You know, the races we've all come to love.

Is this really how we want racing to go?

What about Disney, though? I have to address this because I'm a fan of Disney races, as many know. Yes, Disney races are generally for-profit. They do not, however, have the same issues as other for profit races in that they are mostly (yes, I know that they have problems too) well run, they happen in an area where race organizers are familiar, and they do not compete with non-profit races for resources or street closures. If Competitor wants to buy a 44-square mile private area to host Rock & Roll races, I think that's a great solution!

I would LOVE to hear more examples of for-profit races having issues because they have either not prepared properly, or because they tried to include far too many participants. If you've run one of these, please let me know in the comments!

Update: Jen commented on Facebook two things: 1) Pittsburgh booted Competitor out of their Rock & Roll event planned for August, due to possibility of heat (and of course Competitor had already taken a bunch of registration fees even before the permits were finalized!). And 2) There's a new shtick in town - Running with the Bulls. Seriously? That's not an Onion article?

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013


I have been back and forth about posting about Boston. In the end, I felt like I couldn't continue to ignore it on my blog. Now, it's been 3 weeks and anything that could have been said has been said, and by people who are better at saying it than I am. It's hard to write about it and NOT try to connect it back to myself, which is wrong because it's not about me at all. I could say "I could have been there" or "that could have been my family" or "my friends" or whatever, but honestly, if we're talking specifically Boston, I doubt I'll ever go there for the marathon unless by some miracle I qualify for it, which I won't. So, it really couldn't have been me or my family. At another race? At Marine Corps, or New York, or any of the other high profile races I've run? Yeah, then it could have been me, I guess.

I had even been ignoring Boston this year, just like I'm ignoring most spring races because I can't run them and it makes me feel sorry for myself. I've even hidden people from my Facebook newsfeed who post too many running things for me to handle right now. So, I wasn't really in the Boston mindset.

I don't know, I guess I just feel sad and numb about the whole thing, especially because in the end it wasn't even about running. So pointless, so senseless. A terrible thing to have tarnished our sport.

Run on, Boston runners. I doubt I'll ever be there with you, but I stand with you to keep running once I can, and to not let this tragedy spoil the races that I love.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sea Things #37: Mantis Shrimp

Mantis Shrimp
Todd Krebs, Above and Below Photo
I haven't done a Sea Things in a really long time, but since The Oatmeal posted this spectacular cartoon depicting one of our favorite creatures, the Mantis Shrimp, I thought I would elaborate.

First of all, if you want to know about a beautiful creature that is also terrifying, look no further than this one. I won't rehash what The Oatmeal already said (see the link above), but I will add a couple of things.

The "death sticks" that The Oatmeal refers to are either spears or hammers. So, there are spearers, who use spears at the front of their face to stab prey. There are also smashers, who smash their prey with tremendous force. It's crazy. No, I have never seen a Mantis Shrimp do this in real life, although I have seen Mantis Shrimp on more than one occasion.

The Mantis Shrimp depicted by The Oatmeal is a Peacock Mantis Shrimp, found in the Indo-Pacific, and is the one that we observed in Indonesia on several occasions. We would see one, and then we'd gesture to each other something to the effect of "get away from that." Todd was especially cautious because a Mantis Shrimp can easily break dome on his camera housing, causing thousands of dollars in damage and rendering his camera useless for the rest of the trip.

We also saw a HUGE Mantis Shrimp during a safety stop in Bali. This guy was seriously the size of my arm from my elbow to wrist, if not bigger. Usually Mantis Shrimps are down in holes, only poking their faces out here and there, but this guy was out and about, looking all menacing because he knew he was a killer and dangerous.

There are also Mantis Shrimps in the Caribbean, specifically the Ciliated Mantis Shrimp. These tend to be smaller and not as pretty as the ones in the Pacific (which is generally true of all Caribbean creatures, and is why divers travel to the Indo-Pacific like it's Mecca). I don't mind getting close to Caribbean Mantis Shrimps, although they are still pretty brave. I've been known to coax them out of their holes by taunting them with my metal pointer that I carry with me on dives. You can hear them snapping at the metal pretty easily underwater. I would never do this with an Indo-Pacific Mantis, who would probably go on a killing spree as a result.

You also find Snapping Shrimp in the Caribbean, which are pretty tiny relative to the Mantis, but are no less fierce. I've been "snapped" by them before. They basic are found in holes (often near cleaning stations, which is what gets me into trouble), and will use their little claws to SNAP at you if you get your finger in there. You can hear this underwater, too, and it hurts, trust me. They are not friendly, and I have never successfully gotten one out of its hole.

Side Note: Todd and I often play the game of "which are you more afraid of?" and then name two fish species. Are you more afraid of a Great White Shark or a Blue Ring Octopus? Are you more afraid of an Irukandji Jellyfish or a Mantis Shrimp? Of the fish I've actually seen, (I've never seen a Blue Ring, Irukandji or Great White, for example), the most frightening is not the Mantis Shrimp, but the Titan Triggerfish. I'm not kidding, a Titan Triggerfish will seriously mess you up. Maybe The Oatmeal should learn about them. They were nesting in Indonesia and I was terrified of them. Not so much the Mantis, although I did avoid them.

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Third Trimester Update

This is me at work
at 27 weeks
On Tuesday, I reached my Third Trimester! Time is flying by on this pregnancy, that is for sure. So, I thought I'd give an update on what I've been up to...

How's the Exercising Going?
Nada. Well, not totally nada. But, I haven't really been able to run since about 21 weeks. I finally gave up after an incredibly painful run in early January. No amount of walk breaks helped. I moved on to walking, still only on the treadmill because I don't have winter exercise clothes. I found that I was able to walk at a reasonable clip - 3.8mph - as long as I didn't try to run at all, and I was pleased with that. Six weeks later, and I can do 30 minutes at between 3 and 3.2 mph and that is even a struggle. I went to Ikea on Friday and had to sit in one of their living rooms to rest partway through. Short answer: exercise is a struggle.

Last week, the contractor started working on our basement finishing, and to prepare for this, we completely disassembled our basement home gym - took up the flooring, carried the TV upstairs, piled the treadmill full of stuff and wedged it into a section of basement that will remain unfinished. So, for the next 6 weeks I either have to use the treadmill in my office or make my way to the gym. Just another barrier to working out.

As for swimming - I did have a wonderful swim a couple of weeks ago. I love love loved it. But, I haven't made it back since. Sigh. We've just got so much going on.

Yoga? Well, some furniture that was in our basement that had to be moved out for the finishing project has moved up into my yoga space, making it (you guessed it!) that much harder for me to practice yoga. I've been trying to at least do kegels.

How are you feeling?
The whole world wants to know this. Do you know how I know? I get asked this question like 30 times a day, by people who see me everyday. I'm not complaining, I think people just want something to talk to me about, but since my answer is always "fine," it gets kind of old. I haven't really experienced nausea or anything since around November, unless I stay up too late. I'm starting to feel sort of uncomfortable at times, mostly at bedtime or on long car rides. I do have some TMI symptoms that I don't feel like talking about. I don't know, I'm used to being pretty quiet with people and I'm not used to so many questions all the time.

Are you having any cravings?
Another question that everyone wants to know! I have cravings normally, as a non-pregnant person. I am not really having cravings to that degree now. I am finding that while at first I totally didn't want sweets (unusual for me), I've been craving sweets little by little more and more the farther into my pregnancy I get. I really go crazy for salad.

Are you having any food aversions?
Broccoli and chicken. I've been eating a crazy amount of red meat as a result. I don't care. Todd made me choke down some broccoli last night, and it sucked, but it's good for the baby. Chicken I've been able to tolerate sometimes, but in general I find it gross right now.

Have you chosen a name?
This is probably the second most popular question. Yes, we've chosen a name, although we're not 100% on the middle name. First name is pretty much set. We are not telling until the baby is born, much to the chagrin of our parents.

Can you feel the baby kicking?
Yes, all the time. And, while I totally think it's awesome and I like feeling it and I'm excited about, it can also be pretty distracting when I'm trying to work. It's like, ok, baby, calm down, I need to focus. 

Have you finished the nursery?
OMG, no. This is the funniest thing that people ask. No. Because - to finish the nursery we have to get the office furniture out of there. To do that, we have to finish the basement. To do that, we have to put in an egress window. To do that, we have to actually get a decent contractor. To move things out of the basement, we needed to redo some storage in the laundry room and kitchen to move the stuff out of the basement that was down there. Upon doing that we found that the builder in our house had drilled through a drain pipe in the wall and not ever told anyone... So, it's turned into a money pit-like chain reaction. This whole thing is what is taking up so much of my time right now, and is creating a lot of stress.

That being said, if you're curious, the nursery theme is going to be Finding Nemo, probably not much of a surprise. We are pretty excited.  :)

Is it a boy or a girl?
I've announced this already, but in case you missed it, here is the Youtube video where we cut a cake to reveal the sex of the baby. No, we did not know the sex of the baby until then. We had the sex sealed in an envelope, which we gave to the staff of the resort where we were staying. They baked the cake. The video was shot in Little Cayman. We told our family later. There was a lot of confusion about this on Facebook and elsewhere, so hopefully that clears it up.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: Les Miserables

I finally got to see this movie! I was initially hoping to see it on December 26th, the day after it opened, when I had a day off of work. But, I ended up with a cold and it snowed, so I spent December 26th at home wrapped up like a burrito on the sofa playing World of Warcraft and sleeping. Then, the opportunity just did not happen again until the last week or so (we have been beyond busy).

I have been a Les Miserables fan since middle school, when we took a group trip to the Mechanic Theater in Baltimore to see it. My friends and I were VERY into Les Mis! Each of us would love one of the characters for a while and really relate to them, and then move on to something else. I was so looking forward to the movie, and I wanted to give a character by character review of the movie. There are spoilers, and that is because if you are reading this, I expect that you have either already watched the movie or you have seen the musical on stage before and therefore your experience will not be ruined. If you have never seen the stage show OR the movie, you probably should get a background on it before seeing it in the theater anyway.

Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman, aka Wolverine): Hugh did a splended job playing Jean Valjean. I knew I would tear up during the movie, being pregnant and emotional and all, but instead of sobbing through the whole thing, I did manage to keep it together except for a few parts. One of those times was between "What Have I Done?" and "At the End of the Day", since it's the part that takes the prologue into Act I and has for some reason always been kick ass. Hugh didn't disappoint here. His voice was awesome, his acting was spot on. He deserved his Golden Globe, and I would not be surprised to see him collect an Oscar this weekend. Good for him!

Javert (Russell Crowe, aka Gladiator): Oh, Russell. Why were you cast in this part? You ruined Javert. There were all of these news stories about how you took vocal lessons in order play this part and my question remains - WHY not cast someone who can sing in the first place? Are we really that desperate for a Javert that we HAD to cast a major star in this part? There have been like 30 people who have played Javert on stage over the years, certainly one of them was better than Russell Crowe. I am not a huge Russell Crowe fan in the first place, but I don't disrespect him as an actor. However, he was REALLY focused on the singing - so much so that he forgot to act. So, both his singing AND his acting were bad. Javert's major solo songs - "Stars" and "Javert's Suicide" should have been emotional and moving, but they were cardboard. The words and the notes were there, but Russell just stared into space like he was too focused on hitting the notes to add any sort of emotion to anything. Big disappointment. Norm Lewis would have been my first choice to play Javert, by the way. I tried to find him doing "Javert's Suicide" from the 25th Anniversary tour, and this was the best I could do. Go to 4:30 to see it. And here's Russell Crowe. Ugh, so awful. AWFUL. Also, here's a play by play of other Javerts doing "Stars". You can clearly see that Norm Lewis is FAR superior to everyone else. Ewan Macgregor would have been another good choice if we HAD to go with a Hollywood star. Or, come on, how about Neil Patrick Harris even??

Fantine (Anne Hathaway, aka Princess Mia): Anne Hathaway NAILED IT. She made up for any suckage coming from Russell Crowe. As you may imagine, having been 13 when I was first introduced to Les Mis, my friends and I used to giggle and giggle over "Lovely Ladies," which the song where Fantine starts selling things (a locket, her hair, and finally her body) in order to pay for the care of her daughter. It's sung by prostitutes and has a lot of raunchy lyrics (I smell women, smell them in the air, think I'll drop my anchor in that harbor over there!) .... lots of things for an 8th grader to giggle at. But, WOW, Anne Hathaway took what was a giggle worthy song and added so much pain and desperation and misery that I cried through what I would have laughed at as a kid. She brought Fantine's suffering to the screen like nobody has before and really knocked it out of the park. People go on and on about "I Dreamed a Dream", and that was great also, but "Lovely Ladies" really did it for me. I have trouble deciding if she or Hugh Jackman played the better part overall.

The Thenardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen & Helena Bonham Carter, aka Borat and Bellatrix): First of all, if you have a screen adaptation of a show, it is not going to be successful without HBC. These two were both cast so perfectly, and I knew it when I heard they were cast. I was delighted! The Thenardiers have always been my favorite characters (I know, that's awful). It's unfortunate that some of their songs were shortened or eliminated. I've never loved "Dog Eats Dog," so I didn't miss that one, but I would have liked "Beggars at the Feast" to have stayed around.

Cosette (Amanda Seyfried, aka the oldest daughter from Big Love): Eh. You see, I've always kind of loathed Cosette anyway. I mean, everybody goes out of their way for her through the ENTIRE THING. Fantine, Valjean, Eponine, Marius... and she really doesn't do much of anything except sing in a high pitched voice for a bunch of songs that are syrupy sweet and about teenage love. She's not a bad person, but we really learn very little about her and therefore I feel very little emotion for her at all. Amanda Seyfried was a good choice, sure. But, Cosette (and to some extent Marius) is why Act II has always dragged for me, and why it dragged in the movie. I get it. You're in love. Now, let's hear Eponine sing "On My Own"!

Eponine (Samantha Barks aka Eponine): Samantha played Eponine on stage. So, yeah, they did with her what they should have done with Javert. She did a great job, I liked her as Eponine. She's not my favorite, Lea Salonga is, but Lea Salonga plays Fantine and a million other parts also and happens to be one of my favorite stage actresses ever. She's also too old to play Eponine now, so Samantha Barks is fine.

Marius (Eddie Redmayne, aka Jack from Pillars of the Earth, one of the worst book adaptations ever made): I've never had much love for Marius either. Like Cosette, his sickeningly sweet love songs always wanted to make me barf. You're in love suddenly right when your friends need you? Whatever, dude. Anyway, Eddie did a very nice job, and I had pretty low expectations. So, he exceeded them. He even made me like Marius a little, which is saying a lot. Maybe Marius has some redeeming qualities.

Everyone else (Enjolras, Young Cosette, Gavroche): They were all fine. No complaints, they seemed pretty true to what I would expect.

The Songs: I didn't hate the new song. I know it was only put in there just so it could be nominated for an Oscar, and it was fine. But, I honestly wish the Academy would create a category for best Adapted song so that musicals could stop doing that. It's tiring and it meant other songs got removed! "Do You Hear the People Sing" was spot on and PERFECT. AWESOME. "One Day More" is probably my very favorite song, and I liked it, but it was one of the songs that Russell Crowe ruined, and I was in the bathroom for the very beginning (I'm pregnant).

Overall: I thought it was good. I seriously wish Russell Crowe hadn't been cast, as you can tell, but the excellent singing and acting from everyone else made up for it. It was FAR better than the Phantom of the Opera movie a few years ago, and I still give it a solid "see it in the theater" rating.

My Movie Rating scale:

  • See it in the theater <-- les="" li="" miserables="">
  • Wait for the DVD
  • Wait for it to come out on HBO
  • Wait for it to come out on network TV with commercials and heavy editing
  • Don't watch it at all. Ever.

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Little Cayman 2013

On the pier at Sunset

... and I reveal the sex of the baby in this post, so keep on reading!

Our friends Ellen and Matt typically go to Little Cayman every November, and in 2012 we thought about taking a trip down to meet up with them in November. I called and found out that Ellen and Matt had actually decided to come down in January, and the dates of their trip happened to coincide with the Disney Marathon. So, that wasn't going to work. In the end, Todd got a new job in October and he really couldn't take off of work anyway, so we ended up not going anywhere.

21 weeks pregnant here
Then, I got pregnant.

At first, I thought I would still run a piece of the marathon - the first 8 miles, which would allow me to run from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom, up Main Street and then allow me to exit the course right in front of the Polynesian Resort, where Todd and I could get some breakfast and take the monorail to get back to our hotel. I am glad that we didn't go through with this plan because by the time marathon week came, I was struggling to get 3-4 miles in and Disney would have been a disappointment. Instead, sometime in November, I asked Todd if he would rather meet Ellen & Matt in Little Cayman, and then we could call the trip our "Babymoon."* We invited our friend Bill & Gerry to join us, and booked our trip to coincide with Matt & Ellen's. But, we didn't tell Matt & Ellen that we were joining them and planned to surprise them.

Another surprise? We'd had our anatomy ultrasound on the Monday before we left on the trip. We had the ultrasound tech put the sex of the baby into an envelope and brought it with us on the trip. The plan was to give the envelope to the staff, and then they would bake us a cake with either a blue or pink filling. We would cut the cake to find out if the baby is a boy or a girl.

A quick side note - during the ultrasound, I felt like I saw boy parts and then I thought I saw girl parts (fyi, you DO actually see girl parts, it's not like you see a penis or nothing). So, I wasn't really sure what I saw. Todd felt like he saw girl parts and did NOT see boy parts. So, he INSISTED that it was a girl. He was convinced. He convinced me, too, so on the flights down to Little Cayman, we discussed girl names and girl nursery ideas (in the end, our nursery will be the same regardless of the sex of the baby).
With the cake

We arrived in Little Cayman in the evening of January 10. I jumped out of the car and ran around to the bar, where I knew Matt would be. He was surprised! We went over and knocked on their room door, and Ellen answered and she was surprised, too! It was too fun. Good times.

Since I am pregnant, I cannot scuba dive, so it was totally sad for me to go out to the boat and watch it pull away without me. I had thought that I would be able to go out on the boat with everyone, but our dive master told me no - the wind was sustained at nearly 20mph and the water was just too rough for me to be out on the boat. We were about to find out how rough it was.

The boat pulled away, I got into the hammock, and I was surprised a few minutes later when the boat arrived back at the dock. Going through the cut out of the lagoon, the boat had hit a series of a couple of very very large waves. It went up in the air and slammed back down, and Ellen had fallen onto her back. They had turned around and brought her back, and she ended up going to the medical clinic on the island and then spent the rest of the day in her room.

I ended up spending the day, and all of my days, in the hammock with some breaks for snacking, yoga, and little dips in the pool (which was freezing cold). I got lots of reading, napping and relaxation in while Todd was exploring Bloody Bay Wall with Bill.
Bill and Todd on the reef, be sure to check out
the rest of Todd's underwater photos at Red Bubble!

Friday night, Ellen was still in a lot of pain and couldn't make it to dinner. We (me, Todd, Bill and Gerry) visited her in her room. We decided to put off our gender cake reveal until Saturday in the hopes that Ellen and Matt could be there.

Saturday, though, Ellen was no better and they decided to head to Grand Cayman to get some more tests done (you cannot even get an X-ray on Little Cayman). Divers Alert Network (DAN) had her airlifted off of the island, and Gerry and I (Gerry wasn't diving either since she had a cold) spent the morning with Ellen at the medical clinic and at the airport to keep her company, since she was pretty nervous. HUGE shout out to DAN, by the way. I do NOT understand people who dive without DAN coverage. By Sunday, we knew that Ellen had a fractured vertebrae, and she ended up getting airlifted all the way back to Indianapolis. She's currently recovering from surgery that she had on January 17.
Gerry & Bill
So, Saturday evening we had our baby cake cutting party with Bill, Gerry and the staff and other guests of the resort. This was a special thing for us to do there, since we got married there in 2009. We weren't sure how this whole cake thing would go, but as it turned out, it was so special and wonderful! I am so happy that we did it this way - it was SO much better than finding out in the doctors office. Gerry took a video, so here you can see us doing the cake cutting... (and a special thanks to my co-worker, Jared, who was the one to tell me that this was even a thing that couples are doing now)

(Yep, I am making you watch the video to find out the sex of the baby)

Since I was unable to dive and pretty sad about it, the resort arranged to take the pontoon boat out for snorkeling. Seth Chwast, who is an autistic artist, was staying at the resort as well, and he was going out snorkeling every day, so it meant there were plenty of us out on the boat to snorkel. I did fine, although snorkeling did make me pretty tired (we were staying out for about 60-90 minutes at a time). I got to see lot of juvenile fish, plus an octopus and a spotted eagle ray.
Baby's first snorkel

One day, Todd and I went up to Point of Sand, which is a lovely beach on the island that we'd only visited once before. We were the only people there, so it was nice to snorkel and have some quiet time, plus we picked up a bag of trash while we were there. At Point of Sand, I got to see a nurse shark. I never did get to see a turtle, though, so this was my very first trip to Little Cayman where I did not see a sea turtle. :(

We ended up having a wonderful trip, even though it was clouded by the fact that our friends whom we'd gone down to surprise had barely gotten onto the island before having to leave. But, I am happy to report that Ellen is recovering nicely and she is expected to make it back to Little Cayman in July (although we will not, since we'll have a newborn).

* I've read that there are two meanings for the word babymoon, one is when you go on one last "couple" trip before the baby is born, which is how I use it, and one that means the time period right after the baby is born, which is the meaning that I feel kind of "meh" about.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

But, I Thought You Didn't Want Kids!

When my blog was in its infancy, I wrote a few posts about how I did not want children. These days, I tend to shy away from blogging about such personal subjects, but I wanted to talk about this one. It's not that I have to explain myself, it's that I want to.

It was 2005 and I was 27. I had converted from thinking that marriage means children, to thinking that marriage means marriage, and children come sometimes, if you want them. Honestly, I had gotten married young - I was 22 when I said "I do" to my ex-husband, and I'd had a plan to go off of birth control and start "seeing what happened" in that area by age 26. However, at 25, a year short of that goal, I started to freak out. I was not ready. My husband wasn't ready. And as a couple, we certainly were not ready. The problem was, I didn't think we'd ever be ready.

As I often do with life choices big and small, I turned to Google to see what advice others had about this, and I discovered a whole community of people out there who don't believe that children are necessary to live a complete life. I started considering the other option - not having children at all - and I liked it. I liked it so much, that instead of just going about living my life and not discussing my childfree status with everyone, I mentioned it to people. I discussed my dilemma and my eventual decision. I was happy with my choice.

The problem was, other people weren't happy with my choice. My family tried to talk me into having kids. My friends desperately tried to understand, and some became down right hostile. On my blog, I listed a lot of reasons why I didn't want to have children, and they were pretty typical of the childfree - I wanted to be able to travel, I wanted to keep working without the stress of daycare, I was concerned about money, I was afraid I would not be a good parent, and I was afraid I would have kids and then regret it and feel resentful towards them. Reaction was mixed.

The real, single biggest reason I didn't want kids in 2005? My marriage was not stable enough to bring a child into. I am a child of divorce, and I will not divorce a man with whom I have a child, and in 2005, I was not willing to commit to my ex-husband for life anymore. We had discussed having children, of course, and our conversations revolved around  the other reasons I mentioned. I don't think we ever really told each other "well, our marriage won't survive kids," but I think we both felt that way. It was all a huge strain - the stress and pressure of being in a not-so-great marriage, combined with the stress and pressure of friends, family and strangers to take that not-so-great marriage to the next level. Obviously, we did the right thing, because our marriage ended in 2006. Like magic, those voices trying so hard to get me to have kids were silenced.

So, now what? It's 2013, I'm 3 1/2 years into another marriage, and I'm almost 6 months pregnant. Clearly, my mind has changed. Eight years have passed since my initial foray into childfree land, and in that time, I have totally redecorated my life. My marriage is happy and strong, and I cannot see myself with anyone else other than Todd, ever. I have eight additional years of travel under my belt, and in that time I've traveled from London to Indonesia to Belize to basically the entire Caribbean, and I feel like I'm ready to start doing that travel with a third person along (yes, I insist that I can travel with a child. Maybe not the same travel we've been doing, but this baby already has a trip planned). I am, for the first time in my career, working at a job where I feel I will be staying for a while, and where I have the flexibility to work and be a mom. I feel financially stable, and I feel old enough and mature enough to take on raising a human. I am in a good place, and I was in such a bad place in 2005, that I couldn't possibly see myself ever getting here.

So, a word of advice for those people who feel concerned or insulted that someone has made the choice to be childfree. Having children is a big deal and not having them is a valid choice. What's more, those people who have chosen to skip child rearing may have some pretty wonderful reasons to have done so, but they may not be sharing all of those reasons with you. Finally, do not, ever, insist that they will change their minds. While I did, and many people do, it's still a rage inducing stance to take. I could have decided to stay with my ex, and if I had done that, I can say with certainty that I would not be pregnant now, or even considering it. Even after I got married to Todd, we still were uncertain if we wanted children. Sure, our marriage was strong, but we still needed to decide if children were what we wanted. And yes, the "when are you having kids" questions started up right away as soon as we said our vows, especially from those who didn't know me during my first marriage.

Just remember, things are not always what they seem.

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