Tuesday, November 25, 2008

boy or girl?

This is what happens when you don't find out whether you're having a girl or a boy: everyone buys you lots of safe yellow and green. Where's Claire?
Yea for pink! Claire watches her Papa open a long awaited box from Wisconsin.

she's learning what a camera is all about

Claire is starting to realize that there's a connection between sweet grins, oohing parents, and a bright flash. Doesn't take long, does it? This Wednesday, she'll be eight weeks old.

Monday, November 24, 2008

we all scream for ice cream

Ice cream should not have vegetable oil listed in its top three ingredients. That's why we don't buy ice cream here anymore. Anytime we'd treat ourselves to a carton of ice cream, I'd think of that Breyers commercial of the little kids trying to pronounce all the chemical additives of their ice cream.

So I decided to make our own. This isn't my recipe but it's the same as about fifty million others you can find on the web. Super easy to make. A good treat.

1 c. cream (half & half or your own mix of cream and milk)
1-2 tb. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
Put the above in a small ziplok bag. Place that ziplok bag into a gallon size ziplok half filled with ice cubes. Dump half a cup of rock salt into the large ziplok. Since Colombia has no need for rock salt, we use table salt and that works just fine. Shake the bag. Shake, shake, shake. Shake your baa-aag. Shake your baa-aag. Okay. You might want to wrap a towel around the bag - it gets super cold. Takes between five and ten minutes.

We're growing mint leaves. I might try making my own mint ice cream sometime. We're also growing basil but I don't think that'd be nearly so yummy.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

running during pregnancy

I've wanted to put this together for awhile. We'll see how far I get. When I found out I was pregnant, I googled "running during pregnancy" to see what I could expect of my body, how to take care of my growing baby while still enjoying runs. I found good information and two blogs that I followed regularly. The first and most moderate was Running for Two, posted by Lisa and hosted by Runner's World online. She continues to post for Runner's World - her blog is called Baby Steps and tracks getting back into the running sport with a postpartum body and interrupted sleep. Check her blog out at http://www.babysteps.runnersworld.com/. The second blog I found was interesting but not one I could agree with completely. Posted on blogspot by sealegsgirl. You can look her up if you like. She ran high mileage through her entire pregnancy, slowed only by an injury during her eighth month but returning to five miles every other day for her last month. And there are other stories. A few women runners I talked with said they ran through at least their fifth month of pregnancy. Lisa's Runner's World blog was encouraging partly because of all the comments posted by pregnant runners and moms who shared their own experiences. What it comes down to is listening to your body. Running is a sport that teaches you to do that. Doubly important when you're running with such a little partner.

I ran through pregnancy and this drew various responses from people. Justin was always very supportive and encouraging. He understands that running is important to me but wasn't blind to the challenges of running pregnant. I was open with him about my precautions and worries and was honest with him about my mileage and pace.

So here's my experience as a pregnant runner:

Prepregnancy: My weekly mileage was around fifty or sixty miles a week. That seems a bit much considering I wasn't training for any races. During the week I'd run eight or nine miles four or five times a week. On the weekends I ran with a Colombian running club; we ran between ten and fifteen miles on Saturday and Sunday mornings. That's what bumped my weekly mileage. My pace was 8 - 8:15 minute mile, relaxed, and around 7:15 - 7:30 when I pushed a bit. I was running injury free until shortly before finding out I was pregnant when I pulled a calf muscle and slowed my pace.

First & Second Trimesters: I'd slowed down because of my tender calf but I kept the same mileage for the first two months. I ran maybe seven 10+ mile runs during the first couple months before cutting weekly mileage to about forty or forty-five miles a week. Running felt good. I was careful about my heartrate. Since the calf muscle had already slowed my pace, it was easy to stay there and not fret about pushing the mile times.

At the start of my pregnancy, I started breathing in a new way - my friend Sonia recommended I try breathing in through the nose, out through the mouth. Before, I'd always been a mouth breather during my runs. Breathing through my nose was awkward at first and slowed me down a little until I found a good natural rhythm. This practice was so valuable when I was preparing for labor. I'm still breathing through my nose on my runs and it's great. Try it.

At about month five, my center of balance began to shift as my belly grew. I enjoyed running. The laps around the Bolivar track were centering - time to daydream and pray and think about the changes ahead. I felt connected to the baby I was carrying and found myself talking to him or her, telling the baby about my hopes for our new family.

At this time, my hips and groin began to ache at the start of each run. The pain eased after a mile or two but returned post-run. These aches were due to the hormone relaxin which increases during pregnancy, getting the body ready for the stretching its ligaments and tendons need to do to accommodate and then deliver a baby. This is one reason why women are told not to lift heavy things during the later part of their pregnancy. Some women also notice their ribcage expands or their feet grow a size during the course of pregnancy. After pregnancy, hormone levels eventually return to normal but some women runners may still experience aches due to looser ligaments and tendons.

When I started showing I drew stares on the streets as I ran through Cali. Here, there aren't many women runners. And pregnant women are revered and pampered and considered too delicate to do much of anything. My doctor was not supportive of me running despite my assurances that I was careful about pace and hydration. Many Colombians felt free to tell me that what I was doing was not good for the baby, that I should stop running. Soon enough I limited my runs to the Bolivar track. Even running there brought comments. Oh well. I trusted myself to be good to my baby and good to my body.

Moving from second trimester into the third, my mile times were about 9 minutes. I felt comfortable - though I had to pee all the time - and was again, happily injury free.

Third Trimester: We traveled to Canada and Wisconsin at the start of my third trimester. In Ottawa, I ran by time, heading out for thirty or forty minutes, taking a walk break, and returning. I loved running along the river and enjoyed feeling like no one was staring at me because I was a. a woman and b. pregnant. In fact, I saw moms out with jogging strollers and there was a little sense of camaraderie, shared smiles. See: I'm not crazy.

In Wisconsin, I discovered the treadmill. My parents unearthed theirs from their basement storage and set it up for me. I hated running on the treadmill at first. Staring at the bookcase, going nowhere. But it didn't take long to realize the advantages: I knew my pace; I avoided buggy, muggy weather; and, most importantly, the bathroom was five steps away. Ahh.

When we returned to Colombia, I looked into joining a gym and learned that Colombian law requires doctor's permission for a pregnant woman to exercise. Hm. So we bought a treadmill. Cost about what a year at the gym would cost and is more convenient. Especially now that Claire is here - I can fit my runs in between feedings, during naps. I feel better being more available to her than if I was off at the gym or out on a road run.

The last two months of pregnancy I was running between 10 and 11 minute miles and my weekly mileage was between thirty-five and forty miles. I used a Gabriella maternity support belt and felt comfortable except, as is the pregnant lady's lament, having to pee all the time. I'd also invested in a couple of maternity running shirts made by Born Fit but found that my regular running shorts fit fine, getting a little tight at the waistband only during my last month as the baby grew heavier and lower.

I ran until a week an a half before delivering. I'd been walking to school with Justin in the mornings and still keeping up with my running and just reached a point when I was ready to be done running. I felt like my body was heavy, the baby was low and I was tired. So I rested. I'll also admit that I felt sorry for myself. I was getting tired of waiting for the baby to arrive. My doctor and our friends were surprised that for all of my exercising, the baby hadn't arrived. I was surprised too. And I finally just felt like: what's the point? I'd managed to run through most of my pregnancy and didn't feel like I needed to run the day I delivered just to say I did.

So I took to scrubbing floors and moping.

Postpartum: I waited about ten days before trying a run. I actually enjoyed the rest. It felt good to let my body heal. Gentle. I walked. I stretched a little. Finally I felt like trying a run. I ran just a mile, two half miles broken up by walking. Mileage built up quickly. For a week I was cautious with my pace and mileage, running at about a 10 minute pace for three to four miles at a time. Soon I was up to five mile runs. By the end of the second week of running, I was managing seven miles. I took breaks as needed to rehydrate.

During the past two weeks, now comfortably running about forty or forty-five miles a week, I'm focusing on time. I currently run between an 8:30 and 9 minute mile pace. I'm very conscious of not wanting to push my body too far too fast. I don't need a super fast pace to feel good about my run. What I love is how it feels for my body to find its old balance again, to run with more of an ease. The nose breathing is fantastic too - really keeps me calm during running. I think when you breathe through your mouth, you tend to gasp when you're overexerting yourself; nose breathing seems to hold me to a manageable pace. If I can't breathe deeply and calmly, I probably need to slow down.

I'm also doing pilates once or twice a week to strengthen my abdominals, so necessary to strong running.

My goal is to be running 8 minute miles by February. I think that's reasonable.

So running through pregnancy gave me reason to pay closer attention to my body's signals, breathing and pace. I learned to be kind to my body - so to be kind to my baby - and not feel guilty or upset at cutting mileage or slowing my pace. Be less obsessive. I learned to enjoy running for its own joy again and loved the time to think about my baby and hope for her all good things.

Friday, November 21, 2008

one recipe a week

Claire and I have a routine. We go grocery shopping on Tuesday or Wednesday each week. The taxi drivers want to know if Claire's papa is Colombian and seem disappointed to find out, no. Perhaps she makes up for her lack of a Colombian papa by being born in this country. Colombians love that. They love their country. At the grocery store, old women click their tongues and coo at this white white baby. "Que linda," they say. When I see other young moms, we smile, maneuvering our carts, peering at each others' baby and asking, "How many months?"

Here's what else happens: everyone feels obligated to tell me that my baby is cold. "Ooh, frio, frio," one woman says, touching Claire's little arm. I'm reaching for the butter at the dairy case. Claire probably does feel a little chill. I feel a little chill. Then the woman looks at me like I ought to do something, I've allowed this to go on long enough. Sometimes I feel defensive. Sometimes I want to unpack Claire from the baby carrier and point to my sweaty stomach: see, she's a heater. She's like her papa. Which is welcome during Wisconsin winters but just sweaty in equatorial Colombia.

So this week when we went grocery shopping, I put pants and a sweatshirt on her. She looked like a linebacker on top and a weeble-wobble on the bottom but no one said she looked cold.


One recipe a week. That's what I've been doing, finding and cooking one new recipe a week. This only started three or four weeks ago. I've made beef stroganoff sans egg noodles since I couldn't find them. Justin about died to find me standing over a pan of browning meatballs when he got home from work. I followed that with Greek steak pitas which were missing the dill in the yogurt sauce but still tasted good. And last night we had a super delicious chicken curry with vegetables and coconut rice. Roll your eyes heavenward good.

I can only take credit for following recipes. Sometimes I modify.

Here's one recipe I won't modify. From Cooking Light.

Coconut Banana Bread
(I walked with Claire to Carulla for the rum. All I bought was a bottle of rum and two chocolate bars for my birthday cake frosting. While standing in line, a retired doctor asked me if breastfeeding was working out okay. Hope he didn't think I subsist on rum and chocolate).

1 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. mashed banana (2 or 3 bananas)
1/4 c. plain yogurt
3 tb. dark rum
1/2 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. coconut

Beat the sugar and butter. Add eggs one at a time - I beat the batter for about a minute after adding each. Add the banana, yogurt, rum, and vanilla. Then add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the coconut. Bake in greased bread pan at 350 for one hour, mas o menos. Cool on a wire rack. For the glaze, mix 1/2 c. powdered sugar, 1 tb. coconut and 1 1/2 tb. lime juice.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

afternoon nap

Claire is sleeping. I am not. Before she arrived, moms told me to rest when the baby rests. Take naps. Leave the dishes (for the maid). At the beginning I was blinded by exhaustion and would lay flat on my back in the hot afternoon, listening to Claire snort and gag her way through a nap. My eyelids glued shut but my mind still on high alert. Now, while I don't nap much, I pass out at night. Klunk. Out. Last night, to ward off a breast infection I was up every three hours to feed or pump. Justin set the alarm. I never heard the alarm go off. Justin told me to get up. My sleep at night is dead - until I hear Claire wake. She's my alarm clock.

I had this idea that maternity leave would stretch out as an opportunity to read and write and prepare for second semester. I have a drawer full of Moleskine notebooks that haven't been touched. I covered maybe thirty pages in two and a half months. But our days are balancing now. There's a sort of schedule. I think I might finish a notebook before Christmas. And I'm finding time to get schoolwork done too. Just modifying what has worked before. Making it better. I hope.

Last week I realized that if we lived in the States I'd be back at work already. That was startling. Claire is only just starting to sleep five or six hours a stretch in the night. I don't think I'd be high functioning at school. My students would love me. No homework again, Mrs.? Because you're too beat to grade sixty essays? We'd be eating frozen pizzas and potato chips for dinner. Or, rather empanadas and yucca sticks. I have a little less than two months before I'm back in the classroom. Enough time to find a firmer routine. That's what I say now.

But that's two months away. I have that time to enjoy a few more afternoon naps.