Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Puddin' Boob

What’s funny about making the decision to put Ditto into Hospice care, is that I thought the internal post generation process would also slowly die…and yet, I find myself writing blurbs/quips/stories in my head all of the time. Especially while running, in the shower, or commuting. I call it my mental floss time. I clear out the plaque through story telling. And much of the time, I still write out posts, but I keep them in unpublished format. The difference is that now I don’t feel pressure to post, or pressure to be funny. Or pressure to give equal “face time” to all of my kids (someone once accused me of playing favorites and that the frequency of each child’s representation on my blog—and their images on IG--was commensurate with how much I love them. #ouch).

And I’m still doing my 52 weeks of pictures challenge, but it’s kind of a Facebook thing because all of that cross posting made me cross-eyed. And when talking bang for your buck, my network (most importantly the family segment) is most saturated on Facebook. But then I have moments that I want to transfer some of my thoughts in this space. Coupled with an unsolicited “I miss your blog” from an old friend (hey K!), I am reminded that it’s okay to still make a footprint from time to time.

 I wrote the following last week and figured, why not post...we all could use a little diversion from the daily grind.

***

It’s world breastfeeding week, and as the mammary jungle starts to age and show signs of wear and (it’s like the Annie E. Fales Funspace—amazing in its heyday, but eventually doomed for destruction after lots of loving. And if you get that reference, you also probably had a crush on Mr. Gatley and used the word “bubbler”.), I figured I might as well join in on the conversation. 

Gus still nurses about 1 time a day. It’s not nutritional. It’s a little more Ninja Warrior than I’d like (can a toddler actually deviate your septum? Because I think Gus has tried a few times), but he’s my last kid and it’s some special 1 on 1 time I rarely get having 3—needy—children. And he’s not sending me into preterm labor like Miles, or biting like Felix, so we are just going to keep on keepin’ on until he refuses…or does reconstructive surgery on my face…or goes through puberty (I kid). 

 So, yeah. This whole boobhaha brouhaha over Olivia Wilde and her magazine cover image? First, I have no idea who Olivia Wilde is, but she sure is purdy. Second, before I make my official statement on the image, let me remind you that my journalistic integrity is a hair above US Weekly, so let’s consider this a very biased Op-Ed piece. 

 I feel like the conversation is just another iteration of the mom wars, and part of me just wants to tune it all out and sit down with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and watch Naked and Afraid (please tell me you’ve seen this). It’s not that I’m not passionate about breastfeeding. It’s not that I don’t care about how others feel about the image, it’s that I get overwhelmed by how complex it all becomes when people talk about how we to feed our babies. It’s like all I can see is a big ole word cloud with entries like: commoditization, alienation, beauty, inappropriate, natural, glamorous, necessary, sexualization, irreverence...and the weight of the words changes from person to person. With such high attention/anxiety/scrutiny, I get confronted with the fight or flight response. And I’m a FLIGHTER. 

Ultimately, it just feels like women frequently walk away from discussions regarding breastfeeding feeling misunderstood, unsupported, angry, confused...because really, the right way to feed a baby is by your breast

…or with an SNS system 
…or under a Aden and Anais blanket 
…or with a bottle 
…or a syringe 
…or an NG tube 
…or with formula 
…or using a wet nurse
…or with half formula half mother’s milk 
…or on the floor of your minivan in the Target parking lot 
…or in plain sight on the NY subway 
…or with powdered infant soylent…AMIRITE? 

I’m creating a new movement, and I’d like you to join.

It’s called BIBU: 
BREAST IS BEST UNLESS 

I really do think breast is best unless:
…you have an adopted baby and are using formula 
…you are on medication that prevents you from nursing
…you are suffering from a raging case of yeasty mastitis and it’s like torture nursing (or pumping) 
…you went back to work and it’s just too much to keep it up 
…you have low milk supply and you are just overwhelmed and stressed by it all 
…you just don’t want to 
…[fill in the blank with whatever your personal reason is—it’s not for me to judge] 

So this about this “conversation” the interwebs got into over Olivia’s picture. I get it. Sometimes you have to make a big deal out of things in order for them to eventually NOT be a big deal. But I just want to be at the point where I can get an “amen” from other moms who relate to puddin’ boobs (see below) without others accusing me of indecency or conceit. I had an acquaintance say to me the other week, “I’m sick and tired of women complaining about breastfeeding when so many of us couldn't even do it. And honestly, it makes me uncomfortable when you talk about it.” I was all “ruh-roh”, and thought “please don’t ever find my blog.” 

I want to get to the point that even if someone doesn't have experience with nursing a child, that me mentioning it doesn't send them into a rage, or want to hide under the towel with all those kids eating cereal whose lactavist mothers are making an example of what some feel to be the cruelty of nursing under blankets. I want to get to the point that on world breastfeeding week, I can reach out to the universe and bemoan the fact although (almost) post-nursing boobs make exercise and the decision to opt for a rash guard top at the pool far easier, that there is a little sadness when I realize that my anatomy resembles used bags of space pudding. 

Okay, space pudding. Take a snack bag and fill it with pudding. Gather 3 ends up, and snip off the end filled with pudding to create like a homemade pastry bag. Dress your kids up in cosmonaut outfits (the space program ended in the US, right? Gotta go with the Russians), and ask them to pretend to be on MIR, eating dessert. It’s a twofor: snack and make-believe. But once the pudding is almost all sucked out of the bag, you get a weighty, wrinkly, almost empty bag that I can only say is a great description of a (my) body post-nursing. 

I don’t regret a moment over the past 6+ years of nursing and pumping for my boys (and I can’t bring myself to use the last of the frozen supply I have), but I would like to feel license to talk about the changes and new realities without issue, judgment or concern. Offer up a: “it’s been fun, but sad you took your elastin and excessive oxytocin with you…” without a blink of an eye. 

Going back to Olivia, personally, she looks GORG. Do I think she is normalizing the actual act of breastfeeding? Eh, not sure. I think the if nothing else it is that the conversation is slowly normalizing. Of course, it is not lost on me that A) the magazine’s intent, in part, is to sell issues, and B) I’m sure Olivia has the money to buy cruelty free, gluten free, paraben free, wrinkle free, reality free unicorn salve to get that flawless appearance (or in plebe speak: Photoshop). Hey, rock on with your bad self, girlfriend! If I had a legion of help to make me look like that, I’d whip off my shirt and nurse my 6-year-old in Waffle House if you asked me to. So I’m giving her a full on round of applause (for which there isn't a vestige of cleavage in a 100 mile radius as my hands hit together sadly) for looking so flawless while feeding her child. While my milk ducts tell me that the majority of nursing moms have never looked like this, I don’t begrudge her for making the process look so beautiful. And let’s be honest, puddin’ boobs never sold a magazine. 

PS- Olivia, if you are reading this, throw some of that unicorn salve over here!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Week 22 of 52: SCHOOL'S IS OUT!

I sense lots of popsicles and sprinklers this summer.

It's great to be a kid, no?

This photo makes me smile. Felix is pure energy (and muscle) and the lighting and the simplicity of loving a sprinkle is so evident.
Ready for take off! 
This picture is from the same night as the first two, but I decided to keep it in color. Amazing how it has such a different feel. Even more amazing, if you know my kids, is that Miles is far more comfortable with the sprinkler than Felix.
Splash day--eating cookies!
Jump!
Splash day pops! Anyone else remember those nasty cuts you get on the side of your mouth?

Lest we forget Gus. He will scoot over to his crib (yes, it's a travel crib) and gnaw on the side and "ask" to go in for the sole purpose of securing a pacifier and his stuffed penguin. 

How can you resist that face? (I was hiding on the bed trying to avoid eye contact. Fail. Also, notice the 3 different kinds of black and white that I toyed with. Such different moods for each!

I have a feeling our summer is going to fly by, but until then, we will enjoy sticky Popsicle elbows and hemorrhaging lots of money on our water bill.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Weeks 18-21 of 52

The past few weeks in pictures...not sure my abilities are getting better, but the boys are certainly getting bigger!
Notice Felix's winter boots that are 3 sizes too big. I love this picture.

Gus's diaper is hanging out and I am teasing him with his "lovey" Douglas

Teefers! We actually have another 0.5 of a tooth on the bottom now. 

This picture cracks me up because I can see him at a metal concert screaming to his friend, "this song is EPIC!"

Please. Mid-air photobomb. CLASSIC FELIX.

Popsicle face. 

Playing around with Lightroom presets
I love this one, too. I feel like it's straight out of a magazine. For crazy kids.

Another classic Felix. 

...and classic Miles

Eye injury.

Where Gus spends his time dreaming about...my guess is breastmilk or pacifiers. Or Douglas.

GAK BATH

Yogurt Bath

Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel. 
As you can see, I am still toying around with all sorts of filters and sliders in Lightroom. It's fun, but I honestly need to take some sort of course because I feel like the biggest challenge is figuring out how to adjust the white and black balance. I've learned that just amping up exposure does bad things. And I think I have a good sense of what kind of "style" I like. I'm a little more "moody" than most, and like things to have less "luminance" and more "sharpness." But with all that income I get from the release of my new book (see previous post), I am going to take a photography class. Right after paying for therapy. I'm not quite sure for whom, but it's been one of those weeks I'm pretty sure someone in this house could use some.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Transformer Nutrition

Oh, hi there...

It's been about 20 some odd days, no?

We've had a birthday (how do I have a 6 year old?), school's out, childcare is almost ending, and I STOPPED PUMPING. Can I get a Moo Moo? While I'm still nursing, you have no idea how liberating it feels to stop pumping. So now I begin to pen my book *on* pumping since I have so many more hours in my week when I am not cleaning membranes and microwaving nipples (like, the synthetic type, not mine), and harmonizing with Medela's rhythmic hum.

No joke. I'm going to write a book. Right after I get my hormones re-balanced. Because what I totally forgot about was how any sort of drastic lactation change can set one's hormone into a tantrum. Lawdy. In the past week I have diagnosed my entire family with things ranging from diabetes to acute hearing loss. And I think almost lost it over a load of laundry. And work stress is like a nice anxiety appetizer to a thanksgiving meal of panic and stress. And that license I gave myself to eat whatever I wanted because I was nursing and pumping needs to be revoked, because despite exercise, my body is not doing that thing that I dare not mention to get droves of other moms angry at me. You know, right before our first legit vacation to the beach. #timing

And then after that book on pumping, I am publishing a book of all the funny things my kids say. I thought that once you passed the 3 year mark, the insanity that pours out of their mouths abates. Felix is proving me wrong. Like all of my kids (save Gus--he is still an innocent baby who can do no wrong), they drive me absolutely CRAZY, but then say or do the funniest things and I'm all, "okay...you can stay."

The other day as I bore (beared?) witness to Felix's morning bathroom visit (brother holds court on the potty. Yawn! Stretch! And let's work on that valsalva maneuver speeding up, m'kay?), he informed me that he wishes he was as small as a strawberry seed. Like when he was little (um, what would that stage have been blastocyst or zygote or something?)...because he wants to play with ATOMS. Right. Okay. If that's the case, who do I call to set this said playdate up--a Mommy molecule? An element? If that's the case, I'm hoping for Mommy Molybdenum. I'm sure Eric could come up with some ridiculous pun regarding covalent bonds or something.

Last week Felix informed me his "penis doesn't work inside" after I told him that he couldn't pee on our azalea bush and needed to go inside to the bathroom. Then I thought about the rusting radiator and toilet that no matter how hard I scrub retains a bread crumb trail of little boys. And by bread crumbs, I mean urine droplets. So I ushered him over to the big pine tree and told him to go at it.

And then today I was schooled on transformer nutrition. Felix asked me, "do you know what transformers eat?" Well, of course my go to was "oil." And then Felix told me, "no, they eat fruit. Green grapes, purple grapes, orange grapes and apples."

So I was all "wow. They certainly are healthy. How do you know that's what they eat?"

And then Felix told me, "because that's what's on my transformer underwear."

Well played Fruit of the Loom. Well played.

***

I'm behind on posting my 52 weeks of the boys, but do have the pictures to share. They are just taking a nap in iPhoto. Until then, last week I decided to capture a quick picture of each of the boy's eye. Eric and I joke that people always comment on their eyes "wow, they have such amazing eyes", because their public behavior leaves a lot to be desired. But I also think they really do have some pretty epic irises. And one of each. We certainly purchased the variety pack on many fronts.





Monday, May 5, 2014

Car Talk (ie, an upgraded "kids say the darndest things")

I've mentioned before, but I have books that I keep on the shelf where I write down all the crazy things the boys say. Right now Felix is owning the crazy talk, while Miles's questions and conversations err on the side of, dare I say it, mature. (And you have to pronounce mature like mah- tour.) You know, things like "will you wait for me at the gates in heaven?" (I mean...kick to the gut on so many levels), and "what if a kidnapper comes into the house at night and I am asleep and don't hear him entering?" "Are fairies real?" "What happens to sewage after it goes down in the pipes under the house?" In comparison to Felix's "knock, knock" (who's there?) "alligator in your BOTTOM!" (mass hysterics ensue while Mom rolls her eyes and walks away.)

More than not, Miles and I have solo time in the morning as I drop him off at school before 8am as Eric drops the "littles" off at childcare. During that car ride, Miles and I have some really epic conversations.

Last Friday, Miles and I discussed politics. It stemmed from him asking who was President, and then we talked about elections, campaign funds, senators, pork barrel legislation, and even medicaid. And then Miles asked if when I grow up could I be president. So then I went all women's studies on his 4T briefs and talked about Hilary Clinton (and also thanked him for thinking I hadn't grown up), and somehow I tried to explain the differences between republican, democrat, and libertarian. Miles said he wanted to be President some day, and I told him "absolutely. You just have to make sure gay marriage is legal in all 50 states and run under a democratic ticket." Okay, just kidding. I said that he had to study really hard and get involved in local level politics--even run for student council when the time comes. Of course, Miles's next comment was classic, "okay, but I just need to make sure I get enough time off." Work-life balance, kid. Work-life balance. Maybe I can get him to pass some sort of law requiring all new moms to get a year paid maternity leave. It was almost surreal talking to him about politics. And one thing is for certain--it exposed how little I know. Somehow I feel very adept at talking political shop with adults, but the line of questioning he had really had me rattled.

Would someone ever want to be a democrat after being a republican?
What is foreign policy?
Why can't I be president more than 8 years?
What if I don't want to be President anymore, can I quit?
How much money do you need for the voting game? (love that he called it a game)

Sometimes I'm like, can't you just ask me about how babies are born or something? I actually feel better equipped to talk about that!

During this discussion, we started to talk about homeless people. I realized that I don't think Miles has ever really heard about homelessness before. He knows about kids who are less fortunate (why we donate old clothes, toys, etc), but I could sense the idea that some people don't actually have a home got him thinking. I told him homeless people live on the street. And as a "preK literalist" he asked, "but what happens if they get run over by a car?" I explained that by "street" I meant sidewalks and parks and even homeless shelters. Then I talked about soup kitchens, at which point he said "what if they don't like soup?"

I don't know if Miles will ever remember all these mornings the two of us shoot the $hit in the car, but I know that it will go down as one of my favorite parts of the day.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Week 17 of 52: My Lightroom Tutorial

In case someone reading this doesn't have the "tongue-in cheek" filter (camera pun intended), this post is not meant to really be a tutorial, but to exploit my inability to know how to use Lightroom beyond a novice.

I thought I would show you all a before and after of my weekly pictures for week 17. This week was a great example because I had so little to choose from. I usually have about 70 pictures for a week, but this week I took 23. And then my external flash wasn't charged so the 23 pictures I did take were terrible SFTC. (Oh, that's photographer language for straight from the camera. Actually, I don't know if anyone uses that abbreviation, but I like it.)

Here is my Lightroom process: Open Lightroom. Drag pictures from iPhoto into the application. Click "develop" Scroll through the pre-sets on the left side of the program. Adjust the "contrast" slider and the "sharpening" slider (I have a heavy hand on the sharpener, which I know is apparent...and bad), export to a folder on my computer drive and post.

Pretty easy, no? Call Clickin' moms! I actually also go all "pro" on myself and crop sometimes...or even take out huge under the eye shadows (for the over 30 crowd, that's code for BAGS) with the healing tool. 

So here you go. Before and after. The preset filter I used was B&W High Contrast. 

Oh, and that is Envirokidz Leapin' Lemurs cereal shoved in my children's noses and ears. #proudmama

AFTER:


 BEFORE

AFTER

BEFORE

AFTER

BEFORE

Don't worry...I'm keeping my day job.

Weeks 15-16 of 52: post-apocalypse

Lent is over!

Which means that the Publix Greenwise organic chocolate ice cream I had for dinner tonight at 9pm is totally on God's "approval" list. And as we all know, "organic" is swahili for "healthy." #truth

This picture has nothing to do with the above. Just makes me laugh.
The past few weeks of the junior varsity detox I did from my personal computer and iPhone have been liberating. Some interesting things have happened. I've become more acutely aware of the absolute time suck that is Facebook and my Feedly reader. I've self-demoted myself from a chronic Facebook poster to efficient lurker with just an occasional post regarding things I can't capture with a picture (like recalling the unfortunate event when a stranger called me out for wearing maternity pants in the waiting room of the ENT office. And by called me out, I mean she asked me if I was pregnant after spying my skinny pants' maternity belly band.) I enjoy seeing pictures more than anything, or quick and witty posts, but at night when I'm scrolling through my feed I've realized that I haven't missed that much. I've also realized how incredibly biased Facebook can be. And how it truly contributes to a mother's (ahem, my) feeling inadequate or that there is something wrong with my children because I am not blowing up your feed with only the slice of perfect that is my family. And while I will still post my weekly photo challenge to my feed (wait until week 17's pictures I'll post tomorrow), I have realized that my heart belongs to Instagram. And I do have to thank Facebook, Instagram, and Feedly for being my constant companions during last year's lunch pump dates. Currently, I am still weaning from the pump (cruel, cruel situation that my last pump experience and I am actually having to wean versus the more cold turkey I was able to do the first 2 times), and if and when I pump (about every 2 days), it's at lunch time when I hook up and take my mind off of the fact that I am merely a bale of hay away from a dairy cow by scrolling through social media on my phone while I shove my face with whatever lucky food was thrown into my bag for the day.

I've also realized that an angel does *not*, in fact, lose its wings when I leave messages in my GMail unread. I have some slight residual OCD tendencies and analities (made up word) regarding things like my e-mail inbox. I have to keep my unread messages below the number 11. And if at all possible, I prefer to keep an odd # of unread messages. So if that means I forward myself an e-mail to make the 4 a 5, then so be it. But the past few weeks I just couldn't keep up with my personal e-mail (and those darn multiple tabs in Gmail are not helping me), and at first it was incredibly overwhelming and uncomfortable and I kept referring to the e-mail detox as a modern day version of my own hair shirt...but then I discovered that if I just shut off---shut off from everything that can be plugged into the wall to some capacity, I can actually go to bed before midnight.

Our family has the proverbial phone parking lot where we put away our phones after work through dinner, bath, and bedtime, but we've been known to take our devices out for a spin with excuses like "so and so *had* to text me how the rest of the kids' work out went" or "I need to respond to this work e-mail." And I am the first to own guilt because I am slightly obsessed with taking pictures of my kids with my phone. But my camera app is way too close to my e-mail app and even things like the weather app. And next thing I know, I'm looking up weather in CA just to see if my best friend is probably wearing shorts or long pants...because that matters at 5:30pm when your children are going crazy and reenacting Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant's epic match. (They had an epic match, right Eric? Wait...Eric doesn't read this.)

And while I still have my Canon camera out and ready for use, the struggle I have right now, outside of my global drive to disconnect to anything I either didn't marry or push out of my body, of getting real pictures is two-fold:

  1. Gus can stand on his own and even take a few steps, but has zero interest in actually walking. And so we are embroiled in the battle of hand walking. I call it the Miles Maneuver because we did this song and dance with Miles from about a year until he actually walked at 15 months. Although Gus could be considered your exceptionally unexceptional 20 lbs of averageness (ie, textbook on most things), he seems to be following the same walking trajectory as Miles and prefers...no, DEMANDS, that you walk with him around the house while he white knuckles your pointer fingers.
  2. After school the big boys pretty much only want to do one thing: make a stream. What that means is turning on the house and letting it run down the driveway. I'm already thinking of skimming off the top of their piggy banks to pay for our water bill. Outside of the money and environment issue, the other issue is that I'm doing the Miles Maneuver with Gus, who enjoys playing in the pollen filled water. And guess what--I may be pretty strict in some areas, but over the years, I've learned that it's easier (and perhaps better?) to let your kids just GET DIRTY! So I let Gus drag me through the water and mud and let him sit his soggy bottom on the driveway and splash and crawl all over the wood chips while Miles and Felix play lord knows what in the water. So I just keep my fingers crossed Dekalb County hasn't found Giardia or cholera in their water supply. And I thank my local Goodwill, flanked by and donated to by excessively wealthy families, for the cute clothes that at $2.95 a piece, I don't care if they get stained with communicable diseases. 
So while I'm no real photographer, I do know that Cannon EOS rebels don't like hose water. And as the camera was a gift a few years back and we were not and are not in a financial position to replace if it gets ruined, I have no intention of compromising the integrity of its functionality when we are outside most days. That being said, I am still committed to my mission of getting "real" pictures of the kids every week. It's just that my library to choose from and filter through Lightroom is, as I always say, anemic. (That's my new favorite word.)

And poor Gus's first birthday fell during my detox. So his birthday was barely documented in photos. It didn't help that he slept through most of his little party we held at our house. Later we realized his somnolence even after waking up after a nap was due to a yet to erupt coxsackie (hand foot mouth) virus. Or as I call, coxSUCKIE.  Hmmm...maybe Dekalb should look and see if coxsackie is floating around the water supply?
Gus. Not feeling very "Gus"-like on his birthday. 
But we got a few pictures of him before he absolutely rejected anything related to this giant cupcake I slaved away over. (And by slave, I mean used a Trader Joe's cupcake box mix and a giant cupcake mold.)



I am hoping all our other "little friends" had fun despite the "Gus" of Honor feeling under the weather. 
Finally, my Lenten detox has allowed me to reflect on the changing of the season in life. My "material" for the blog doesn't come as naturally, which I guess is a good thing as it's reflective of the fact that part of life is hitting a sweet spot with the kids (tantrums excluded), but also as I have been discussing with a friend who hosts a much more "legit" mom blog, that you hit a crossroads regarding whose story it is you are sharing. And honestly, does anyone really want to hear me complain about fighting with the county over my eldest's speech therapy services? Snooz-a-roonie. But potty-training? Sleep issues? Breastfeeding challenges? Peeing in a used Starbucks cup in the parking lot of a private school? There is a reason "mom blogs" have a shelf life and most of the popularity focuses on the first 5 years of life. The stories, the laughs, the development. Heck, I joke with my best friend at work that we live an entire life before we walk into the office at 8:30am. 

I have lots of feelings on this, but right now am allowing this space to enter what I call hospice. I will continue to photo-document the boys through my 52 week mission with a wordy post like this now and then, but after that would really like things to just end peacefully. Never say never (No NEVER, to a Neverland Pirate--sorry Jake fans, had to), but this all just feels right. 

Until then, see you on the flip side. And by flip side, I mean Instagram.



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Boston 2014

I interrupt my usual musings and histrionics for a guest post. The following is Eric's (unedited) account of his Marathon Monday experience in Boston. Kinda makes you want to run a marathon, huh?

Congratulations to all who ran the Boston Marathon this year. #Bostonstrong



Boston was simply an incredible experience.  I was blessed to have family nearby and they treated me like nothing short of royalty the entire weekend and that just added to the event.  The entire city was buzzing with positive energy.  I knew it was going to be a special weekend when the lady at the Delta counter in Atlanta bent over backwards to help get me up there for the race after some mechanical problems delayed things.  The race was getting 24 hours news coverage and the anticipation had been building for a full year.  It was going to be something special.    

My father-in-law dropped me off at the Hopkinton roadblock about a mile from the high school where I enjoyed a gentle razzing from a local constable.  He identified me as a southerner instantly from my six layers of clothing that were ably fending off the 40 degree chill. A short walk later found me at the runners' village surrounded by officers, volunteers, and military-types.  Yes, there were snipers on the roof and metal detectors and no, I didn't mind.  I felt safe but a bit cold.  The runners were all very nervous evidenced by the 20 deep lines for the hundreds of port-a-johns.  Seriously, hundreds of them.  I found a spot in the tent that I declared my own and waited until our wave and corral were signaled to line up.  It had warmed up by the time we started walking to the line and runners were dumping extra gear by and clothes by the thousands.  40,000lbs of clothes were collected and donated!  The walk was more controlled and organized than the loosey-goosey years past.  Formerly, you kind of went to your corral when you wanted despite having specified times.  Now, you marched and went when you were supposed to and you couldn't leave once you started.  They did have another set of 100+ port-a-johns at the start thankfully.  It warmed up considerably and I got rid of my garbage bag wind-breaker, goodwill pants and fleece, and winter hat.  In the corral I dumped my vest and shortly into the race I tossed my second pair of gloves and long sleeve shirt.  Yes, I am a southerner.  The start featured a flyover, the anthem, and the palpable anticipation of thousands of tapered runners.  It was great.  The gun went off and 3:30 later I crossed the line around 5800th or so.  I slapped a lot of hand that first mile or so and quickly learned that I couldn't as it set my heart racing.  It was a blast, but not good for a marathon.  Too much adrenaline early on resulted in no energy at the end.  I sacrificed for selfish needs but it was worth it in the long run.  Those first 5 miles I was probably passed by 1-2000 runners without exaggeration.  They flew down the early downhills with reckless abandon and I don't blame them.  It felt so good to be running at Boston in 2014 in front of these crowds, but it was a recipe for disaster.

The first hand slaps had put a smile on my face though and it stayed there for 24 miles.  Ear to ear my grin stretched seeing the supportive signs, the kids with flags, and the love for this event that brings so many disparate peoples together in a triumphant march against terrorism.  The pride in Boston and the marathon in general was seen at every street corner and you just smiled seeing the joy and life in the people of Boston.  An entire city and state took back their city in the span of a few hours.  Some were not very eloquent (David Ortiz?), but the sentiment was the same:  this is our city, our race, and we will not stop living because of some depraved loonies.  It was incredible.  The crowds were incredible but the race too was amazing.  At mile 8 I crested a hill and could see thousands of runners in front of me.  Not to sound arrogant, but at basically every race in my life I have started at or near the front.  Even at Peachtree I was only a few rows from the front and finished in the top 200 or so.  Last time at Boston I was in the first corral as well.  This time though I could see 5000 runners in front of me and it was breath-taking.  I turned to the guy next to me and said "this is why we run Boston." 
It turns out the guy was a graduate of Woodward Academy (a competing private school in Atlanta for those outside the city) and we spent the next 12 miles together.  He works for Google in San Fran.  We tempered each others enthusiasm that bordered on the unbridled at times and calmly began to work our way through those crowds.  Wellesley was particularly difficult as the noise was deafening. I had to run on the opposite side of the road because my ears were ringing.  By mile 15 we weren't being passed anymore and I was only passed by one guy I think the rest of the race.  We calmly worked toward the hills when in the midst of an uphill I saw my good friends Dave and Marybeth.  Dave went ballistic yelling "Team Heintz!" and MB soon joined the chorus.  It was the highlight of the run.  You get a lot of cheers in a marathon but they are quite anonymous.  Loud, but anonymous.  Seeing a friendly face and hearing your name changes things and that brief moment lifted me up those hills.  My Athletic Director would say it was the angels that carried me and Tom Marier might say it was Hermes, but it was something and it made heartbreak merely another blip on the course elevation profile.  When I reached the top I smiled, said a little prayer, and celebrated.  It was the first time I had conquered the course.  It was figuratively all downhill from here and topographically as well.  My 22nd mile was my fastest as I knew I would be able to finish strong.

Running through Boston now I had some demons to face.  In 2008 I walked much of this part of the course.  For those of you interested, I had trained harder for that marathon than any other and it did not go well.  I had severe stomach cramps that prevented me from eating or drinking and after 20 miles the wheels came off.  I went from 20 miles at 5:59 pace to 6.2m at 9:15 pace.  I walked in a race for the first, second...and eighth times.  It was terrible.  In 2014 I was flying by runners and spectators.  At this part of the marathon you can only do two things to get the attention of spectators: look terrible or look great.  I got a ton of cheers in 2008 but even more in 2014.  My singlet said "machine" on it, a left over from our 2013 cross country mileage awards, and I was greeted with "come on machine!" and "go machine" for the next 4 miles.  By mile 24 my legs were fatiguing but I knew I could make it.  The smile was gone but it was soon replaced by determination.  The crowds were now 8-10 deep in some places and it was like running in a tunnel of love - noisy, screeching, sometimes a little tipsy love from folks that can't say "car" or "yard" the right way.  Right y'all?  I turned on to Boylston street and the finish was in sight.  All the emotion of 26 miles, plenty of long runs, and months of anticipation combined with the spirited crowds celebration.  I was filled with the raw experience and I tried to take it all in until I heard my name.  They announced my name as I neared the finish.  I had passed a chip reader and of the dozens of people finishing every few seconds they picked mine out to announce.  I pumped my skinny arms as I crossed the line.   It was a perfect ending.
For those numerically inclined, I ran negative splits.  My second half was about 3min faster than my first half.  This is not common at Boston.  My slowest mile was my first (7:12) and my fastest three were 22 (6:16), 24 and 26.  I finished 1835th.  This means I passed about 4000 people from my starting position and closer to 5000 or 6000 from my furthest position back (mile 5 or so).

I was picked up by my father-in-law, road the T back to his car, and finished the night at Harry's Diner on route 9 and then with nearly a quart of butter crunch ice cream and a Boston cream pie donut (Lent ended Monday night for me!). 
It was an incredible experience.  I could not have done it without my wife Alison who not only let me do my long runs each weekend but stayed home with our three boys.  She is a saint and an awesome lady.  Love you kiddo!  I also could not have done it without Anne and Bob, my in-laws who housed me and treated me like I was Meb Keflezghi, bro/sis in-laws Seth and Shirley who picked me up from the airport LATE Saturday night, bro/sis in-laws Nich and Tracey who got me to the expo, and my school which so graciously gave me the time off to go run (I know other employers would have balked at this).    It was a truly special experience and I really didn't think that doing something for the third time could have been better but it was from top to bottom.  Thank you guys for supporting me and indulging me by reading this rambling piece of ego-boosting selfishness. 
Always Boston Strong,
Eric



*Thank you to my sister-in-law for the iPhone photos. And for being a kick-a$$ sister-in-law. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

One.

I'm too emotional right now to even write something poignant about my last baby turning one, so I default to the amazing Kate T. Parker's work capturing our sweet August's face, lil nose scratch and all:


bee tee dubs: check out Kate's amazing work on "Strong is the New Pretty" chronicling her daughter's youth with some pretty bad ass photography. Yeah, that's right. I did a full on curse word without the $$ signs for esses. It's *that* good, and we have been lucky enough to use her in capturing our family over a few photo sessions.

In my incredibly biased opinion, this boy is like way wicked totally amazingly dreamy. And despite the serious mug, I'm not sure there is a happier little person out there.

There is so much to say and so much to reflect on regarding not only Gus, but also our family of 5. While I let it all marinate in my head and heart, let me just say to you, August Meyer: thank you for giving me the pleasure of being your mom. While I've learned so much over the past 5+ years mothering your older brothers, you've given me perspective I never had before. And hope. And have been a light in our lives after some pretty dark, scary and anxious pockets of time.

As is your tag line...#ohmygusness



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Week 14 of 52: Really?

As normal, I am 2 days late in posting because days and nights have been busy being super productive and cleaning my house top to bottom. And forcing my children to clean the pollen off of my car (thanks Dad for your staff management--how's that book on the history of spices?) while simultaneously auditioning for a Wes Anderson movie:

Okay, part lie.

Truth?

Despite daily maintenance cleaning, my bathrooms still smell like a urinal, I'm pretty sure there are Gus poop particles encrusted on the bath somewhere (darn kid is my first and only chronic bath BM-er. Ew. BM. Yeah, I went there solely for alliterative purposes), we've lost a sippy cup full of breast milk somewhere in the house (glass half full: perhaps we can make a killing on breast milk blue cheese), and laundry has barely migrated from the dryer to the couch.

But I had 3 "girls" nights in a row and there was a good stretch of time I actually felt empowered by my ability to take care of my emotional self...until today when I started panicking that my children may come down with some fecal disease or that they may tell their friends that their mommy says she is going to replace the potty with huge urinal troughs and force them into child lavatory labor. (I mean, what imaginations; I would *never* say that. At least not more than 5 times a week.) I also had a nightmare that the air conditioner service man who comes into the house was also a casting agent for a new NBC show called "worst homemaker on the country" and I was anonymously entered.

But the good news is my Lenten promise to disconnect more is actually going pretty well. So much of the week my photos sit on the camera and the drive to get out my personal computer on Sunday to process isn't as great since I try to avoid the soul suck of Facebook and Googling things like "are you doing permanent damage to your 1-year-old by making them sleep in a portable crib?"

Oh yeah. I am getting a 1-year-old this week. Insert denial. Thankfully, we have bigger problems to keep my mind off of the sadness of my baby growing up. As Felix announced at dinner:

"MOM! DAD! WE HAVE A BIIIIG PROBLEM...DINOSAURS ARE EXTINCT!"

Hide your children. Hide your wives. (Remember that viral sensation?)

So life keeps chugging away over here. I'm just as neurotic and anxious and overwhelmed and prone to making enormous plans that I completely fall short of. I just don't document it as well anymore. And while nothing catastrophic, our family has hit the emotional moguls of sorts. You know, those little life bumps where your knees look like they are sliding in and out of socket and you have to steady yourself just enough to allow for the speed to get you over those snow bumps (that's a technical term for someone who was raised in New England and only skied once) and over the finish line without a complete wipe out necessitating life long orthopedic co-pays. You know, like when it's not that everything is going wrong, it's that nothing is going right. Wah-wah. Sad trombone.  Pockets of disappointment regarding life plans, financial dilemmas, scheduling hiccups...material not exciting enough to detail and catastrophize on the blog, but life not unblemished enough to nauseate you with our seeming perfection. (You know the type of blogger.)

And I've found as Miles and Felix age, it's harder to write about them. So this space will continue to be my sounding board, but as you've noticed, the focus is on the lil one more than anyone else. And the truth is, he's a pretty easy going, non complicated guy (outside of the bath poops), so my default is just cute pictures of him pretending a tape roll is a crown.

Or him perfecting the "REALLY??" face:

...that he learned from his superiors:
(May I just mention that we don't use our front grass as a trash yard; this was a fort from the day's UPS delivery. #diapersenmass And let me also mention that Felix's red Lands End windbreaker was worn for over 48 hours straight. Naps and bedtime included. Okay, he didn't wear it in the bath, but he would have if I let him.)

While the big boys have lots of joy and chaos and silliness going on...


...it seems the second I attempt to take a picture, I get the "really?" glare:


Whatever little dudes. Just remember who still wipes your bum.

Now. About that little one turning 1...oye. To be continued!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Week 13 of 52: Experimenting with Lightroom's black and white filters

I'm a junkie for filters. And I love that Lightroom has a bunch of preset ones that I can apply and then go rogue and fiddle with the sliders in the develop section. It's kind of like archery in the dark, but at times I really do feel like I hit the unprofessional bullseye. This week, ehhh...

Last week and this week I have done some more black and white processing. Before having Instagram and Lightroom, I never realized that black and white isn't just as simple as removing the color from a photo. It's bonkers how many ways you can make the same picture look completely different by adjusting highlights, brightness, sharpness, etcetera etcetera.

In the next few years, I really do want to take a photography class to hone my skills. I've done a lot of experimenting on my own but am still a slave for presets and shooting on automatic. I'm just not good at manual. (Ask my friend Studs about manual car driving...)

***

We had a great afternoon recently of jumping off the bed and landing in a pile of blankets and pillows (we call it a "jumpy house"), but I couldn't seem to get my act together to get a good DSLR shot. So I have some pretty awesome fuzzy ones. Awesomely fuzzy that is.


And then my external flash drive decided to have a stroke this week and I couldn't find the battery charger, so the picture of Felix had to be converted to B&W because it was so washed out and my actual camera's flash decided to take over. And if I was a real photographer I would have figured out how to do something with a setting, but I'm not. I'm a lazy photographer. But you can't tell me this picture isn't cute.

While these onion goggles haven't been used more than a handful of times for actually chopping onions, they are a staple in Felix's dress up repertoire. And in the event we ever let him wield a pairing knife, his amazing eyes will be protected.


Finally. The baby. Who is turning one in a little over a week. And you should *see* the plans I have for his celebration. Actually, if you have any ideas please send them my way because at this point we will probably heat up leftovers and let him eat scraps off the floor. (In the words of Miles, "Gus contributes to this family because he eats food off of the floor. He's dedicated." Preach it, brothah.



And just in case you think that I've completely lost my sense of humor and ability to post anything of significance. I will leave you with a little story that I am titling: "the convenience of boys."

After I picked Miles up from school one afternoon this week, we all get in the mini (van--not cooper obvi), and as I am finishing strapping Gus in his seat, I see Miles doing what we affectionately call in this family "the potty dance." I had Felix and Gus already in their seats and didn't want the pomp and circumstance of unbuckling, going upstream against all of the carpool traffic, and buzzing ourselves back into the school to find a lavatory to shuttle in 3 crazy boys. (Notice how you have to say lavatory when referring to school bathrooms?) So I asked him if he could hold it until home.

Pause.

Why on earth did I ask? Right? I mean--is there an option?

Oh wait...yes, yes there is. Miles informed me that he couldn't, in fact wait, and was going to have an accident if he didn't go right now.

Option 1, suggested by Felix was to pee outside on a tree (not that we have ever suggested they do that when we play outside at home...ahem), which I didn't think the best decision in the parking lot of a very well manicured private school.

Option 2, which only came up in my head and I didn't officially offer it, was to find a diaper and let him pee in it in his seat and let him have a soggy size 3 diaper be a lesson to him for not asking to go to the bathroom while at school. (Another day, another story. But his anxiety comes out in an unwillingness to ask to use the bathroom when he is not with his mom and dad. Probably due to the hell I put him through to get potty trained.)

But then I remembered Option 3: I have boys--and they can pee with great aim into small containers and spaces. Unless they are at your home potty, then it's like they have Jackson Pollock penis and splatter urine all over the damn bathroom. There in front of me was my Starbucks reusable cup from the morning. So...Miles dropped trou in our van, in the parking lot of his school with everyone carpooling around us, and peed on the leftover inch of my nonfat vanilla misto. Do you think the development of "coffepee" makes me a barista?

Oh, but it gets better. Felix assured me that he was about to pee in his pants. Because once you see your brother pee in a cup, you realize that it could be great fun and who cares if your mom is mortified and just wants to get home. So, I crossed my fingers that the volume of his contribution wouldn't be greater than a venti, because then I would be looking at some sticky, smelly minivan weather mats. Aaand, I might just want to chop off my own hands that would be sure to get a warm tidal wave of the slurry.

After Felix unloaded successfully, I put the lid back on and slowly placed the warm cup back in my driver side cup holder. For some reason, feeling it warm just made it *that* much grosser.

I smiled at Gus and said, "kid, thank God you have a diaper."