Monday, November 30, 2009

The Holidays Are Upon Us

I can't believe how quickly Thanksgiving snuck up on me. First we were preparing for the half-marathon on Nov. 1, then the trip to Costa Rica followed just a few days after. Once we got back from Costa Rica, I had barely dug out from class paperwork before we were jumping in the car, heading to Cincinnati for Thanksgiving.

And now, tomorrow is December 1. I feel like last year the holidays were a blur. For example, in November AND December last year, I posted 11 times, which is the same amount I posted in November alone, this year. I did all of my shopping online; partly because I enjoy it, but mostly because I didn't have any time or energy to wander the shops in person.

Eleanor has changed a lot since then, and I have made a lot of progress in my quest to accomplish the work of someone with five hands and two brains. Motherhood takes multi-tasking a whole new level, but that's a different story for another time.

The biggest difference for me this holiday season will actually be job-related. At this time last year, I was struggling to work about 25 hours per week (15 hours of office work at home, plus 10 hours of online tutoring). In contrast, this is my last full week of teaching. Next Monday is the final day of class, and then the final exam will be on December 16. I see December spreading out before me, filled with long naps, getting lost in books, and fitting plenty of cooking, cleaning, and organizing into all those many spare minutes I'll have on hand.

I know I need to take a step back and realize that reality NEVER matches my fantasies. I will not have nearly as much time as I imagine. But still ... it will be more time than I've had since Eleanor was born. I didn't work at all the first 6 weeks, but I still had my hands full. Now we have a manageable schedule, the house actually has been cleaned relatively recently, and the pile of mail hasn't migrated from the mail slot to the coffee table onto the floor.

And I've gotten a lot better at giving myself permission to take 5 or 10 minutes and relax. Read a book, nap with the cat, or watch TV. Even if everything on my to-do list isn't checked off yet, I have accepted that I am human and relaxing is a necessity, too. So even though we all know that I won't get EVERYTHING done that I would like to during December, I do think that a lot of it will get done .... and a few books will be enjoyed, too.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 8: The Aftermath

After the wedding ceremony, Keith and I stood and looked at the sun setting over the ocean. Eleanor was asleep on Karen's shoulder nearby.

"I think it's been worth it," Keith affirmed. (Of course, this was before the whole passing-out incident.)

I nodded. "I'm glad you think so," I said. "I'm not convinced yet."

We've been home for a few weeks now. During the trip and after, I've been asking myself that pointless, unanswerable, yet unavoidable question: If given the chance, would I do it over again?

I do think that it was the right decision to go. We wanted to be there for the wedding, and I also want Eleanor to experience travel throughout her life. I firmly believe that travel both makes us appreciate what we have, and what can be. It keeps us from getting too complacent in the quotidian details of our lives, and also reminds us of the excitement of both new experiences and meeting challenges head-on.

As a child, I traveled around the country with my family. Not counting Canada (because it's closer to my hometown that a majority of the U.S. and because it doesn't present the culture shock that I associate with foreign travel), I didn't travel abroad until I was 21. I loved our family trips, and I look forward to doing many more with Keith and Eleanor. But if I can, I also want to give her the opportunity to experience traveling abroad at a younger age. I hope that, through travel (among other things), she will see her world without boundaries, and her potential as limitless.

So yes, I am glad we chose to travel with her. I would do it again, and I do hope to do it again. Conversely, this experience actually makes me eager to travel again with Eleanor. I want to prove to myself that traveling with Eleanor isn't always going to be so disastrous. It was just bad luck.

In the meantime, we have a lot of good memories and entertaining small talk from our trip. I like to imagine we'll go back to Costa Rica someday. Maybe in five years, or 10 years, or maybe for Keith's and my 25th wedding anniversary. Whenever it may be, we'll go back and have a fabulous, illness-free time. And we'll laugh about the misadventures of our first trip to Costa Rica, but also talk about the rich experiences and new ideas that travel has given us.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Days 6-7: Taking It Easy

After Eleanor was sick, and I was sick, and THEN I passed out, our motto was "take it easy."

On Monday, Keith's entire family went on an all-day tour around some islands. We barely left the house. We spent a lot of time on the bed pictured on the left—aka the biggest bed I've ever seen. I don't know if it comes across well in that picture, but it's far bigger than just a king-sized bed. On the first night, we laid Eleanor down to sleep in the middle of the bed. Then Keith and I "squeezed" in together on one side of her, rather than risk moving her. We still had plenty of room.

We napped and read and played with Eleanor. We sat on the edge of the pool and dipped our feet in, but I don't think we even went so far as to actually swim in it, and it's just 15 feet behind the house.

Oh, and we drank lots of water. Lots and lots of water.

On Tuesday, we were heading out. Rather than do the entire trip in one day again, we split it up. Tuesday we drove back to San Jose and stayed in a "boutique hotel" there overnight. Our flight left early Wednesday morning.

There was time for a surfing lesson early Tuesday morning. Keith, Jeremy, and Anna took the lesson. Jessi and I went along for the ride. We did take the ATVs into town. I was glad to get to ride them one more time. I'd had so much fun on the way into dinner the other night and, for obvious reasons, didn't get to ride it back home.

We left the ATVs parked next to the surf shop and walked with the instructor down to the beach. As soon as we hit the shoreline, he turned and started walking up the beach, back towards our house. By the time we all stopped walking, we were closer to our house than we were to the surf shop.

As Keith and Anna and Jeremy surfed (or attempted to), I tried to decide if I was sorry to be missing out. When surfing lessons were originally mentioned, I had definitely been interested. But those were not gentle waves. At least the passing-out incident took the decision out of my hands, so I could still pretend to be wild and courageous at heart.

After the lesson, everyone was checking bags and pockets for money and keys. Keith couldn't find his ATV key anywhere. He looked at me.

"I may have left it in the ATV," he confessed. "I don't remember taking it out."

And suddenly I realized that the other shoe had dropped. This was the final nail in the coffin of our cursed trip. The ATV would be stolen, and we were going to have to buy an ATV in Costa Rica. I started wondering: how much do ATVs cost? What's our credit card limit? How, exactly, would this work?

Jessi and I walked down the beach to our house, leaving Keith, Anna, and Jeremy to return their surfboards and pick up the ATVs. When we got back to the house, I don't think either one of us said anything about the possibility of an ATV going missing. I know I didn't. I figured whether it was gone or not, it would become apparent soon enough. So no point in worrying anyone else until we knew.

Finally, the others returned. Keith had left the key in the ATV. And yet it was still parked exactly where he had left it. Some good luck, for a change!

And the good luck continued. The trip back to San Jose was uneventful. We had a delicious dinner in town that evening—Indian food, of all things. The flights back were fine and we were back home on Wednesday evening.

Although I had been imagining sleeping in my own bed ever since the first day of the trip, it was even better than I could have possibly imagined. Eleanor was fast asleep in her crib across the hall. I felt Keith's arm holding me close, and the softness of our flannel sheets. We warmed up under the covers, especially once Beckett curled up at our feet, as the night air in the room grew chilly. It was quiet; no need for a noisy air conditioner like in Costa Rica. Even with my eyes closed, I could still picture every piece of furniture in the room. It felt familiar and comfortable.

I was so glad to be home.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 5: Surprise!

Okay, it's now Sunday. On Saturday was a beautiful wedding and a fantastic reception. The food was amazing, the music was fabulous, and of course, the location was one-of-a-kind. It was a great wedding.

But now it's Sunday. The wedding is over, and we're ready to really have a good time. Up to this point, we've made it to the beach one time for an hour or so. We're want to really enjoy our vacation!

From the beginning of the day, however, it seemed that things—again—were not going to be according to plan.

Eleanor woke up early and went down for a nap again by 9 o'clock. At home, her schedule was very regular. She always slept on her own, in her crib, and she was down to just one afternoon nap a day. But with the traveling and the sickness, anything went in Costa Rica. Until Sunday, every time she had slept had been with me or Keith or Karen, either in the bed, in the hammock, or even just in our arms. We could tell that she was still tired, but it was hard to convince her to nap properly when there was just so much going on.

Finally, her Sunday morning nap was on her own, in the Pack n' Play. Everyone else left for the post-wedding brunch from 10-12, but Keith and I stayed behind. Eleanor was finally sleeping, and I was not going to let anything interfere with that.

So we read and napped. We snacked and waited. We were planning on taking a Zip-line tour with the rest of the family and Cousin Anna, while Grandma Karen graciously offered to stay home with the baby. But Eleanor's fabulous nap meant that everyone else left while she slept on, and Keith and Karen and I hung around the house.

But it was worth it, because when she woke up she was finally herself again. So happy! We again went through the extensive preparations and set off for the beach. This time, you would think that Eleanor had been born near a tropical beach. She played in the sand, and she even let me put her down in the water for a few moments. Real progress!

Then Karen and Aunt Lily sat with Eleanor and let Keith and I go play in the waves. I can't really blame Eleanor for being scared of the waves; I got knocked off my feet a few times, and it was definitely alarming to be ass over teakettle, and we weren't very far into the water at all. I have only been to the ocean a few times in my life, and it is always exciting and frightening to realize how powerful the waves can be.

Meanwhile, Eleanor played and snacked on the beach. She did not let a bit of sand and who knows what else deter her from her goldfish and Yogurt Melts. She dropped food and immediately picked it back up to put it in her mouth. Delicious! Plus, she contaminated our one water bottle with regurgitated goldfish, so after a few gulps she no longer had any competition for the water.

Aunt Lily left, and we headed back to the house. Eleanor fell asleep on me while we were catching up with the Zip-line crew and talking about our days. We had glasses of white wine on the veranda and shared our stories. Keith got Eleanor settled in the Pack n' Play (her second time sleeping by herself that day!) and cousin Anna mentioned that she, along with some wedding guests, would be heading into town for dinner that evening.

I'm not sure if we were invited or not—it's entirely possible she was just talking about her plans. But we were in! Keith and I jumped at the chance to be out of the house and doing something. Since Eleanor was already asleep, we just wore what we had on and raced out the door.

In getting to the Zip-line tour, everyone had decided the easiest, fastest way to get over the bumpy dirt roads would be to rent ATVs instead of dealing with taxis or cars. So Keith and I got to ride an ATV to the hotel to meet Anna and her friends and then into town. It was awesome! I had a stupid grin on my face the entire time. I felt the wind past my body, I held tightly onto Keith, and I could feel the heavy weight of responsibility lifting off my shoulders.

Dinner was nice. We ended up at an Israeli restaurant, of all places. Over hummus and pitas, we got to know Gene's friends. I was glad to see that Dr. Nick was there, since he was one of the witness to my initial meltdown over Eleanor's fever. I was glad to have a chance to show that I wasn't always the neurotic, overprotective, underprepared mother. I also talk about work and culture, I swear!

Things were going swimmingly until, oh, about 5 minutes after the meals arrived. Many of us had ordered a plate of traditional Costa Rican food. Each plate had several small servings of things like white rice, black beans, salad, cole slaw, and french fries. (Random, I know.) I knew not to eat the salad, because of concerns about the vegetables being washed in water that would make me sick. Instead, I started with the cole slaw.

"Hey, has anyone tried the coleslaw?" Dr. Nick asked the table at large, after mine was pretty much gone. "It looks like a G.I. tract nightmare. I give it 50/50!"

I swallowed hard. I was already starting to feel like this trip was cursed for us, and this confirmed it. At that point I knew: I was absolutely going to get violently ill and be in bed for the rest of the trip.

I whispered my suspicions to Keith, but otherwise kept quiet. Throughout the rest of the meal, I kept feeling worse and worse. But it was all in my head, right? Right?!?

When we got up to leave, my suspicions were confirmed. I felt AWFUL. I was dizzy, and sweaty, and pretty sure I was going to throw up. We were walking down the sidewalk, leaving the restaurant, and I called to Keith who was a few steps ahead of me.

"I really do not feel good," I said. "I'm going to go back in to the bathroom. You can tell everyone to go ahead if they want," (because I might be awhile is the part I didn't say) "but I can't leave right now."

Keith looked very concerned, but nodded. I turned to go back inside .....

.... and the next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground. My toe hurt. Dr. Nick was looking down at me. I was seriously confused because, during the few minutes that I was passed out, I had thought I was back at home. So all I could think was, Where am I? And that's the guy from Costa Rica--why is he here?!?

So yeah. I didn't fall victim to the coleslaw, but I did pass out. Apparently from dehydration, according to the Costa Rican doctor that I saw at the local emergency clinic. He made me drink about 20 gallons of water and an electrolyte drink. Finally, after getting my pulse checked many times first by Dr. Nick and then by the Costa Rican doctor, drinking more than I ever thought my body could contain, and passing the very official test of being able to stand without swaying, I was released to go home and rest and keep drinking.

This was turning out to be less than the dream vacation we had pictured. But I was actually very lucky that Keith caught me as I fell, or else I think I could have done a lot more damage.

We got back to the house a little after midnight. Keith's parents were excited that we had been gone so long, happy that we were finally getting to enjoy ourselves. Eleanor slept the entire time we were gone.

She did wake up as we were brushing our teeth, however. From the bedroom, we heard rustling and then a very distinct call of, "Up!"

She was in a great mood, well-rested and happy to see us. We just wanted to go to bed. We eventually compromised by all ending up in bed together again.

Even though they told me to rest, I wasn't sure if I was ever going to fall asleep. First, I was getting up every other minute to go pee. Second, I never sleep as well when I'm Eleanor's mattress. And third, I was still worried. What if it wasn't just dehydration? What if it was something more serious? The nearest hospital was a two-hour drive and one-hour ferry ride away. But I had it on good authority that it wasn't a very good hospital—if I really needed a hospital, I would want to go all the way back to the capital city, San Jose, which was a 7-hour trip over land, but only 20 minutes by air.

Just how badly jinxed was this trip? Was passing out from dehydration bad enough? Or was it going to get worse? I guess I didn't do a very good job of showing Dr. Nick or any of Gene's other friends that I can be a normal, funny, intelligent person. I was so tired, and I wanted to fall asleep. But there was also a part of me that was afraid that I wouldn't wake up. I haven't had many health scares in my life, and being in Costa Rica for this wasn't helping any. I couldn't imagine anything better than being safe in my own bed at home, or anything that seemed further away.

As I decided I would never be able to sleep and would be in even worse shape the next day, I blinked and realized it was early morning. Apparently I had made it through the night. I still wanted to be home, but I felt a little more certain that I would get there eventually.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day 4: Wedding on the Beach

Finally, a sickness-free Saturday dawned. Eleanor was all better. My stomach was still tender, but the throwing up seemed (fingers crossed!) to be done.

We awoke to torrential rain. As I think I mentioned, we were in Costa Rica for the end of the rainy season. So it rained at some point on most days. But this, the day of the wedding, it rained a LOT. It rained first thing in the morning, and it poured again later in the day, leading up to the planned sunset beach ceremony.

But in between, we finally made it to the beach. The beach was only a few minutes' walk from our house; at times we could hear it as a faint roar when sitting on the back porch. However, with all the sickness Eleanor and I had barely been there for more then a few minutes since we arrived.

Once the sun broke through we, decided today was our day. And a mere half-hour later, after getting everyone into bathing suits, lathered in sunscreen, and all beach towels, hats, water, snacks, etc. packed, we were on our way.

In our earlier, brief jaunts to the beach, Eleanor had liked the idea of the ocean, but didn't want to get too involved. She made the excited face and pointed as we approached, but cried if we tried to wade in at all and held onto my neck with a death grip. I did set her down in the wet sand for a bit, and she spent the entire time holding onto my finger with one hand, and using the other hand to try and brush sand off her feet. She'd pick up one foot and brush futilely at the wet, gloppy sand. Then she would put that foot down, and try to clean the other one. Repeat.

However, on this day we did manage to convince her that playing in the sand was enjoyable, rather than something to be dreaded. Eleanor and I sat on a beach mat while Grandpa Jim piled sand in front of her. First we buried my legs, and then Eleanor started knocking down Jim's sand pile. As Eleanor got sand between her toes, on her legs, in her bathing suit, and under her fingernails, her delight grew.

"Ha-ha!" she laughed with glee as she knocked down another of Jim's sand piles. We buried her legs and she helped uncover them. We didn't manage to change her mind about the ocean, but it was time to head back to the house and get cleaned up for the ceremony.

While we were back at the house, and driving to the ceremony at a nearby hotel, it was still pouring down rain. Everyone anxiously watched the rain as the appointed hour grew near. About a half-hour before the ceremony was to start, the skies suddenly cleared for a beautiful sunset wedding.

Eleanor was supposed to be a flower girl, but that wasn't happening. I tried to set her down at the end of the aisle and the closer my arms got to the ground, the further up her legs curled so there was no way she was going to voluntarily stand and walk. I gave up and we went to our seats.

Once we were at our seats, Eleanor was perfectly willing to stand on her own. I set her down in front of me. She looked down and then looked up at me with big eyes. There was more SAND down there!!!

She spent the entire ceremony digging in the sand, getting it all over her wedding dress and eventually on me, once I picked her up. But she was happy and quiet, and let the rest of us enjoy the ceremony. So I was glad that we had made it to the beach earlier in the day and turned her into a sand-o-phile.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Days 2-3: Sickness

Once we were done traveling, we had thought the worst was over. We were wrong.

On the ferry, I had noticed that Eleanor was starting to feel warm. I told myself it was just from traveling, and she would be fine in the morning. But she wasn't. She definitely had a fever and was miserable.

The night we arrived, the groom (Keith's cousin Gene) and his mother stopped by to say hello and help us get settled. Wonderful people they are, they brought us food and potable water. Gene, who also happens to be an ER doctor in New York City, mentioned that he was surfing at 7am the next morning with his friends, and anyone would be welcome to join him.

Well, Eleanor woke up at 5.30am, crying and feeling like she was on fire. We groggily got up and did the best we could to appease her, but she was clearly very unhappy.

And we were also unhappy. How could she be sick already? And how could we forget to bring a thermometer and children's Tylenol?!? We were so focused on travel-specific items like getting her Hep A shot, and filling a prescription for diarrhea medication (just in case!), and bringing plenty of sunscreen, band-aids and Neosporin .... we completely forgot to be prepared for the usual baby illnesses. I felt so worried and like a horrible mother, because I wasn't prepared.

After worrying myself into a serious funk, Karen and I walked to where Gene was staying, just one house further down the beach. The house looked completely quiet, but we figured someone had to be up. Right?

Finally, on a bench behind the house, facing the infinity pool and the ocean (which I barely even saw), we found Gene's two surfing buddies. Who are also ER doctors with him. I couldn't be bothered to learn their names or introduce myself before launching into "My daughter is sick and I don't know what to do!" I even found myself getting choked up as I talked. As I tried to hold back the tears, I thought about how embarrassed I was to be this crazy stranger-lady who is having a meltdown in Costa Rica, and they just want to go surfing. It only got worse when their medical advice was to give Eleanor baby Tylenol, keep her hydrated, and keep an eye on her ... and I had to admit I was also a bad, unprepared mother because I didn't bring any baby Tylenol.

By this time, Gene had shown up so he offered to run over to his sister Teresa's place. Teresa has two young daughters and is also the most organized, efficient person in the world, so there was no doubt that she would have a thermometer and medicine that we could borrow. I thanked him profusely and retreated back to our house, to hold Eleanor and apologize again for being such a terrible mother. I'm sure the doctors sighed with relief, and hopefully went surfing.

As promised, Gene delivered the medical necessities, courtesy of Teresa. Once we had the thermometer and the Tylenol, I calmed down a bit. We spent most of the day relaxing in the bedroom or swinging in the hammock. We briefly attended the rehearsal dinner that night, but there was too much heat and noise and people, so we left before dinner was even served, and long before the party really got started.

By the next morning (Friday), Eleanor's fever was waning. After much discussion and debate, more logical minds prevailed and we all agreed that there was no way she could have gotten sick in Costa Rica, since she was already feeling warm within a few hours of our arrival. Maybe she could have gotten something on the plane? But even that would mean an incubation period of less than a day between getting infected and showing symptoms. So was the most likely explanation that she was actually sick before we even left Cleveland, and it was just poor, dumb luck that she got sick on our trip? Somehow, that seemed like the most far-fetched yet logical explanation.

So by mid-Friday morning, I could stop worrying so much about Eleanor and concentrate on me, because I felt horrible. Jeremy had brought back some champagne from the rehearsal dinner the night before, and I decided to have a mimosa. There'd been some rumblings in my stomach area during the night and early morning that I had tried to ignore, but somehow the mimosa brought these minor cramps to full force. I went to the bathroom and puked up everything I had eaten so far that day.

Instead of laying in bed as Eleanor's mattress, I laid in bed of my own accord. Keith made Costa Rican style "gallo pintos" for lunch—black beans and rice. I had really been looking forward to trying it when he started soaking the beans the night before, but at this point I knew it was not a good idea. I took a few antacids that were helpfully included in the wedding bags and curled into a ball on the couch. Was it something I ate? Did I catch a bug on the plane? Had all of my worrying from the previous day actually turned into physical illness? I didn't know what I had; I just knew I was tired of feeling like crap and wanted to actually start my vacation!

After that, I risked eating a few tortillas chips because they were the only things that didn't make me want to vomit as soon as I looked at them. Just kidding! I still threw them up a bit later.

By the evening, I was still feeling shaky and weak, but not as vomitous. Cousin Teresa and her husband Nic had arranged for a chef to prepare a meal at their rented villa, and close family was invited to eat and spend time together. So I did manage to eat that meal and keep it down. I hoped that meant that the sickness was passing.

I went to bed that night feeling sick and incredibly irritated. We had made it all the way to Costa Rica, we were only there for 6 days (not counting travel) .... and I had spent the first two days in bed. Time was running out for the vacation of my dreams!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Day 1: Travel

Before the trip, both Keith and I had been pretty anxious about all the travel. First hurdle: two legs of a plane trip from Cleveland to Houston, and Houston to San Jose, Costa Rica. Each leg was about 3-4 hours, luckily we were meeting up with Keith's parents, sister, and brother-in-law in Houston for the flight to San Jose. We told ourselves that we just needed to make it through the first leg, and then we would have reinforcements.

After the flights, all six of us hopped into a large van. We drove for about two hours, then waited an hour for the ferry. The ferry ride (pictured) took another hour, and then we had about another 2-hour drive once we got off the ferry. The last couple of hours in the van, in particular, took a lot longer then we had anticipated. The "roads" were not in good shape. "Pothole" doesn't even begin to describe the massive craters our driver gingerly edged around and through—particularly once the road changed from paved to dirt. It was at the end of the rainy season, and so my guess is that there's not a whole lot of road maintenance done during the rainy season. So these roads were probably at their worst, all year. Lucky us! The final 11km (just under 7 miles) took an hour. We were so ready to be done.

But really, the travel itself isn't what made us so nervous. We figured, one way or the other, we would reach our destination. We were concerned about how Eleanor would do, particularly in the confined space of the airplane. How would she handle not being able to run around and play?

She was amazing. She was a much better traveler than I am, all smiles and excitement. We ran her around the Cleveland airport as much as possible before boarding the first plane, but that was about the only time we could do that all day. For our layover in Houston, our second flight was already starting to board when we got off the first one so we went to the bathroom and straight back onto the plane. In San Jose, we literally walked out of the airport and straight over to the van. On the ferry she could move around some, since we got out of the van and sat on benches on an upper deck. But there was still plenty of trouble for her to get into, so we had to keep a close eye on her. For her, the close confinement of the car seat (as opposed to the airplane, where at least she's sitting in someone's lap) was the worst. But even then, she wasn't bad.

As soon as we boarded the airplane, I felt like all the passengers' eyes were on us, willing us NOT to sit near them, so they wouldn't have to endure a screaming baby. When we did find our seats, Eleanor's first order of business was to make friends with everyone around us. She smiled, she waved, she played peek-a-boo behind the seats. She did her very best to put everyone in a good mood, so that once she started screaming on the flight, they didn't get annoyed quite as fast.

But the screaming never started. She had a few fussy moments, but we either managed to distract her with a different book or two, or she passed out. And it was the same on the second flight. She also spent some time with Grandma and Grandpa, looking out their window and seeing all the toys and books they had brought to keep her entertained.

Both on the way there and on the way back, she traveled exceptionally well. She was born to travel! We were so proud and relieved.

After getting up at 3:30am to get to the airport, we finally rolled into our rented house around 7pm, I think. I did lose track of time a bit, especially once the sun went down. But no matter: we had been traveling for a long time and were very happy to be done. The worst is over with! We congratulated ourselves. Now we can enjoy our vacation!

Friday, November 13, 2009

We're Back!


We are back safely from Costa Rica, and very glad to be home. Everything is, of course, a bit out of sorts. We're washing piles of dirty, sandy laundry and trying to figure out where all this STUFF that came from the suitcases normally resides.

And our usual schedule is nonexistent. Before the trip, Eleanor had pretty much made the transition from one nap a day to two. During the trip, she took at least two naps a day. And now .... who knows? As you can guess, maintaining the level of excitement you see in the picture is hard work, and she was that excited about a lot of things. She didn't sleep great our first night back, but last night she conked out. She was in bed between 7.30-8pm, which is right on schedule. The weird part is that she's still asleep, and it's nearly 10 o'clock the next morning. This is BY FAR a record for Eleanor. I'm fast approaching the point where I unglue my ear from the baby monitor and just go in the room and watch her sleep, making sure she's still breathing and okay. She's really weirding me out.

Anyway: more about the trip coming soon!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Preparing to Fly the Coop

I don't know if I've mentioned it much here or not, but we're going on vacation. Keith's cousin is getting married in Costa Rica, and we're all going! By the time you read this, we will probably be on the plane, headed South to warm weather and gorgeous sunshine.

We haven't traveled outside the country for a few years, and definitely not since Eleanor was born. The furthest we've traveled with Eleanor is weekend trips to Cincinnati. So we are a bit apprehensive about what traveling for an entire day with a 15-month-old will be like. It will involve getting up around 3 o'clock in the morning, two legs of airplane journey—each lasting about 3-4 hours, followed by a shuttle van trip from the airport to the small town where we'll be staying, which will also be at least 3-4 hours.

I love traveling. But preparing for this trip has been so different. One of my favorite parts of traveling is all of the planning that goes on beforehand. Learning about the countries, its customs, places to visit, makes the trip more real and exciting.

This time, I did no research at all. We were lucky in that the bride and groom took care of so many arrangements for us. Obviously, they had chosen a location for the wedding so our final destination was set. Plus, they gave us information about how to get there, and where to stay once we're there. All we had to do was send a few emails and our reservations were made.

Typically, I would also like to make plans for day trips to visit areas outside of the perimeter of our housing. But I've been stressed out lately. Learning how to be a parent (or trying to be a good parent, at least) is hard work. Plus changing jobs and the other bumps and hiccups of daily life makes me loathe to create additional plans and work once we're on vacation. I just want to be On Vacation. Maybe once we're there I'll be tempted by a trip to the jungle or surfing lessons, but right now, all I want is to hang out with Eleanor and Keith and the extended family. I want to sit in the sun and read for hours at a time. I want to have long conversations over bottles of wine and catch up with everyone. I want to nap in a hammock. I don't want extracurricular activities and, therefore, have planned none.

This trip is also different because, well, there's Eleanor. We had no idea what to pack. I have this image of us as pack mules trudging through the airport, slowly bending under our ridiculous loads of baggage, toys, books, diapers, and baby food until we collapse under the weight.

The reality, so far, seems much more reasonable. We think we have most of the items that we'll need, and are still only planning on 2 small carry-on bags, plus two larger checked suitcases. (It helps that we're going to a tropical locale!) I am fully aware that, after the trip, I will probably write a post entitled "These Are All The Things I Failed to Take Into Consideration Before the Trip." There will be a learning curve. But hopefully we can at least make it through the airports and onto our final destination without collapsing beneath the weight of our most-necessary possessions.

After all this complaining, let me be clear: I'm very excited about this trip! Our first family vacation—hopefully the first of many. I know that traveling with a child is going to be much more complicated. But I am also looking forward to seeing her eyes as she drinks in all of the new experiences. We're going to have a great time, and a lot of good memories.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Race Results

Well, it's over. And I finished! Let's start with that.

I finished, but it wasn't pretty. I ran with my mother-in-law, Karen, for the first couple miles. But they were both under 10 minutes per mile and I knew I wouldn't be able to maintain that pace, so I bid her farewell and slowed down.

Like with my 12-mile training run, the first six miles were pretty good. I sped up one mile, slowed down the next, but I averaged just over 10 minutes / mile, because at the six-mile mark my watch said 61 minutes and change.

Unfortunately, I had 7.1 more miles to go. I don't know exactly what happened. All throughout my training, I kept wondering if I was doing enough—putting in enough miles—to be truly prepared for the race. In the end, I don't think I was prepared. From mile 8 onward, I kept slowing down. It was just as much of an effort to do an 11-minute mile as it had been to go at a 10:15 pace a few miles back. Everything started to ache, and then my stomach cramped up again around mile 10.

But, as I said, I finished. Two years ago, I ran my first half-marathon in 2 hours and 13 minutes. Best-case scenario for this race was to be near to that time. Second best would be to finish in under 2:20. Third best would be to at least finish in under 2:30. So I did manage that part—I finished in 2:25, averaging just over 11-minutes per mile.

I think I'm glad I did it. I know that I couldn't have done any more; I felt awful after the race was over. Dizzy and ready to throw up. I was completely out of commission for several hours, and just curled up in a ball on the couch and fell asleep until I felt a little better.

So, overall, no regrets. I didn't know how it would go, but it was important for me prove to myself that I could do it again. I'm glad I set that goal, I enjoyed doing the best I could with the training, and I did finish the half-marathon.

However, in the future, if I'm not sure how much time I can devote to training, I think I'll stick to 5ks and 10ks. My opinion now is that you can kinda "fake" a 5k or 10k and muddle through, but you can't fake a half-marathon. My body wasn't fully prepared, and it showed.

Now we're headed off to Costa Rica. I'm ready for a break! I'm not packing my running shoes; if I want to get in some exercise, I'll swim in the gorgeous, warm ocean waters.

But once we get back, there's a 10k Thanksgiving Day Race in Cincinnati. I have been doing a lot of speedwork and tempo runs during my half-marathon training. Currently, my 10k PR is a 10:21 min/mile pace from the Flying Pig 10k in 2007. If I finished a half-marathon at an 11:04 pace, maybe I can set a new 10k PR in a few weeks....

Monday, November 02, 2009

Presenting the Sushi Chef

I am proud to introduce Eleanor, Sushi Chef Extraordinaire!

I really wanted to sew Eleanor's Halloween costume this year. I have many fond memories of costumes that my mom sewed for me and my sisters over the years. It was a million times better than getting a store-bought costume and looking like everyone else (except for those few middle school years, when all I wanted was to be exactly like everyone else). We would go to the fabric store and look through the pattern books to find the perfect costume. Then I could pick whatever colors and fabrics my little heart desired. After we got home, I watched the costume turn from weird, unreadable patterns and bolts of fabric into the finished product, just as I'd imagined it, through my mother's skillful hands.

I've always wished to be better at reading patterns and sewing, and now I want Eleanor to have the same wonderful, personal experience I had with my mother. So I picked out a chef pattern and roped my mom into being my sewing mentor. One Saturday my Mom, Eleanor, and I all went to the fabric store and chose various fabrics, notions, accessories for the costume. The best part was picking out a fun pattern for the pants. Obviously, it would be something food related. But what?

As soon as I saw the sushi pattern, I fell in love. We got orange accents for the jacket to match the splashes of orange on the pants, and stuck with the traditional white jacket and black buttons, otherwise.

I have to confess: My mother did most of the sewing. We worked together for an entire day, cutting and sewing. She was teaching me a lot about reading patterns and using the sewing machine, but we just ran out of time. We had only finished the pants and part of the collar before we had to quit for the day. She finished all the rest of the sewing, and I just added the black buttons on the jacket and ironed the collar.

Hopefully next year I can do more of the work, and my mom can be more of a supervisor. I was halfway tempted to go to the fabric store today and see if I could get a pattern on super-duper post-Halloween sale. But then I remembered that, next Halloween, Eleanor will be over 2 years old. Maybe by that point she'll have an opinion on her costume!