Thursday, October 30, 2008

NaBloPoMo


Yes! I am going to do NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) again this year.

For the uninitiated, NaBloPoMo is an event where bloggers the world 'round - despite the "national" descriptor - attempt to post in their blogs every day in November. It's a spin-off of the famous NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, where would-be authors hunker down to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Both events feature networking tools, message boards full of support and comisseration, and prizes.

I completed NaBloPoMo successfully last year, but I'm thinking that this year might be a bit more of a challenge. Let's review:
November 2007: three months pregnant.
November 2008: mother of a six-month old.
November 2007: 'working' at a job that practically guaranteed me four hours of uninterrupted web time daily.
November 2008: staying at home with a baby who practically guarantees me no time to myself whatsoever. (And supposedly, this is not 'work' ...)
November 2007: my main computer is located in my 'work' office, which I share with no one. Entire days go by when I don't see another human being.
November 2008: my main computer is located in my kitchen, where I am constantly distracted by ... pretty much the entire world.
November 2007: the ability to pontificate and ponder at great length about my pregnancy and my future as a parent.
November 2008: the inability to string two coherent thoughts together due to sleep deprivation.

It's odd, of course, that the busier and fuller your life is, the more you have to blog about, and the less time you have to do so. I seriously don't know how real bloggers do it.

Nevertheless, I'm going to give it a shot, renaming it "NapBloPoMo" in honour of the time when I will be composing the bulk of my posts. Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Raising a Girl

From the time I started seriously considering having kids, I knew I wanted a girl. I told anyone who would listen that, in fact, I would only have daughters. After trying (and failing) to take care of two teenage boys, I felt the Universe owed me some feminine energy. I’ve heard all the arguments about why and how boys are easier in the long run – girls have hormones! it makes them crazy! – but ultimately, I’ve ­been­ a girl. I’ve had those hormones. I get it. A daughter would probably never believe me, would no doubt sigh and yell and slam doors in my face, but at least I would understand her while she was doing it. A son would want to blow things up and take things apart and just generally act like the alien being he is, and that didn’t sound so easy to me. I wanted – and felt I deserved – a daughter.

Be careful what you wish for.

Since becoming mother to a daughter, it has struck me that there is a whole other side to raising girls that I didn’t think about. The fact that Gwen will someday slam her door on me and tell me she hates me, I’m prepared for. The part that breaks my heart is the near certainty that someday, she’ll hate herself.

Girls have it rough, is what I’m saying.

Gwen will worry that she’s too fat or too thin. She’ll worry that she’s too tall or too short. She’ll worry about wearing the right clothes. She’ll worry about how to make the popular girls like her, and how to make the cute boys notice her. She’ll feel pressured to dress older than her age, including makeup and piercings. She’ll feel pressured to dumb herself down in order to appeal to boys. Years before she’s even in high school, she’ll be exposed to enough media images to make her seriously question her physical appearance, which will in turn make her question her worth as a person.

How do I know? Because I’ve been a girl. I get it. Even so, it breaks my heart to think of my daughter – who is surely the most beautiful, amazing, and perfect daughter ever to be born – feeling these things.

And that’s the easy stuff! What about rape? What about abuse? What about misogyny and sexism and being treated differently by everyone from primary school teachers to potential employers? How on earth do I prepare my daughter for this world? How can I protect her?

There is so much I want to teach her, and I don’t feel even vaguely qualified. She might be just like me – a frumpy, unspecial girl with the wrong clothes and a great brain who didn’t get any social skills until the age of 17. The type for whom the elementary school playground is a particular kind of hell. I’ve reflected often on the fact that I don’t want Gwen to repeat my mistakes. I want her to grow up with confidence, with a strong sense of who she is and the utter conviction that who she is is great. But I don’t know how to teach her how to be that girl, because I’ve never been that girl. On one level, I can’t teach her how to wear makeup or style her hair or choose the right clothes, because I’m thirty-three years old and I still don’t know. But on the deeper, hopefully more important level, I don’t know how to give her the unshakeable faith in herself that goes beyond makeup and hair and clothes, beyond freckles or glasses or braces, beyond big feet or unusual names or funny accents and fills her up so full that she’s buoyant with the sensation of self-acceptance.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dear Gwen: Month Six

Dear Gwen,

Yesterday was our last day at the 0-6 month drop-in, which we have been attending quite faithfully since you were about six weeks old. I remember our first day there as being quite overwhelming (in a good way). I remember looking at the older babies, the ones who were getting close to six months old, wondering at their size, their skills, their personalities ... and feeling completely amazed that the little lump on my lap would someday be one of the big kids.



And now here you are. Next week we start the "big kids" group for those who are 6-12 months old. And sure enough, you have grown in size, in skills, and in personality!



You can do so many things. You like to stand and play in your exersaucer, and are very competent with all the exciting toys (your dad swears that you are pushing the button for music with full intent, that you completely understand what you are doing). You can roll over from back to front, and somewhat infrequently from front to back. You can roll over in your sleep, and that's not just a glib expression. You can pick things up with your hands and are starting to understand what your opposable thumbs are for. Your favourite toy is Sophie the giraffe. You love people, especially other babies and kids.



This past week, we started feeding you rice cereal, which you seem to enjoy. Despite my feeling that you weren't going to be "ready", you have taken to this new way of eating fairly well. The next few weeks will be even more fun as we introduce more new foods and start encouraging you to feed yourself.



It's been a big month for social activities. First of all, you got baptized just before you turned five months old, and many friends and relatives came to be with you on that special day. Then a few weeks later, we travelled to Victoria so I could complete a half-marathon and we all had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with our close friends Mike, Jenn, and Zoe. Since you are becoming more and more social, both of these events were very enjoyable for you, and you brought a lot of joy to those around you. I know Mike and Zoe are very happy to be your Honourary Uncle and Cousin.



It's only been in the past two weeks that it finally began to feel "normal" that I was a mom. That is a nice feeling, exciting and yet peaceful at the same time. Finding our "new normal" means that I feel confident getting out and about more with you, and we are finding lots of great activities to do together: swimming, storytime at the library, and even Baby Boot Camp. You are just so social, and love being around people (provided they pay attention to you!) and exploring different environments. Your social calendar is getting quite busy, and I can't even imagine at this point having the time to go back to work. That's something I try to think about as little as possible.



You seem to be shifting from a two-nap pattern to a one-nap pattern: taking a long (2.5 to 3 hours) nap in the late morning or mid-afternoon. This isn't what The Experts say you should be doing, but it seems to work pretty well for you, and it does allow us to spend more time getting out to all those fun activities. You have also recently decided that the swing - once beloved and cherished - is now a torture device, and you will not deign to sleep there no matter what we do. That's all well and good, since you will be growing out of it soon anyway, and it's high time we made your nap routine more consistent with your bedtime routine. It does mean, however, that if all our "go to sleep" mojo seems to be failing, we can't just throw you in the swing with perfect faith that a nap will be forthcoming. There's no more Plan B, and that's a little scary sometimes.

Nighttime sleep has been kind of off the map lately. You tend to wake up 2-3 times a night (sometimes more), with the first wakeup being anywhere from 20 minutes to 6 hours after you go to bed. There was this one night you slept for 9 hours, but sadly, that has not been repeated. We are starting to work on encouraging you to fall asleep on your own, building your confidence in your own abilities to let you know that you don't actually need to be nursed, rocked, shhhed and so on back to sleep every time you wake in the night. This is a long and painful process, but I know we will get there, and we will all be happier (and better-rested!) when we do.

Your personality is fantastic: you make your dad and I laugh all the time, even in the same breath as we express our frustration with you. You have this new habit when we're nursing, where you blow into my nipple as if you were trying to blow bubbles through a straw. I'm not really sure what you hope to achieve with that, but it's pretty funny. You also hum and babble and squeak to yourself quite a lot, which is greatly amusing to those around you. And when you do get fussy or upset, we just make fun of you, so that's amusing too.




We love you so much, Gwen: you bring us so much joy and we just can't imagine our lives without you. We are so glad you chose us to be your parents.
Love,
Mama







Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gwen Eats!

So, you're all sick of hearing about Gwen's (lack of) sleep, right? And how these habits impact her parents' (lack of) sleep?

Right about now, you'd really love for me to talk about something else, right?

Or maybe post an unedited three-minute video of Gwen's first experience with solid foods? Is that what you're after?

No? Hmm. Too bad, that's all I've got for today.

video

(Sorry for the uneditedness. I have some nifty software that is supposed to help me edit videos, but so far all it does is crash my computer every time I open it, which is very unsatisfying for me and not at all helpful for you the viewer/reader. I hope you enjoy the video anyway.)

(This was taken last Friday. Gwen is eating powdered rice cereal mixed with breastmilk. This Friday she will be 6 months old and will start getting "real" food and also the opportunity to play with it and feed it to herself.)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sleep Wars

Two nights ago, Gwen's Angelcare alarm went off. This is the monitor that has a sensor under the crib mattress, sensitive enough to read her breathing movements. If there is no breathing for 30 seconds, the alarm goes off. This happened at 2:45am.

EVERYTHING IS ABSOLUTELY FINE. But at the time, it was without a shred of exaggeration the most terrifying moment of my life.

Gwen was on her side pressed up against the crib bumper (more on this in a minute). Chris started unswaddling her, saying "Wake up baby, wake up" while I turned off the monitor. By the time we got there, though, she had already started breathing on her own: the alarm wasn't sounding anymore. And despite Chris's pleas to wake up, she was already awake, blinking in confusion at the light and the sudden appearance of her frazzled parents.

She was absolutely fine. She didn't even cry. Chris finished unswaddling her and then we took turns holding her to make sure she was alright, and sitting down to encourage our heartrates to return to normal. I nursed her for a while. Chris gave her a bottle he'd already had waiting since it was supposed to be his night to take the night feedings. Gwen showed no interest in sleeping, but then again she'd slept for nine hours before the alarm woke her up.

(NINE HOURS. SOB.)

We were up for a couple of hours at that point, too anxious to get back to sleep. We finally got Gwen back to sleep sometime around 5am, and I made Chris move her from our bed back to the crib because there is no Angelcare monitor in our bed.

At 6:30am, the alarm went off again.

I'm ashamed to say that this time, I barely reacted, except to spit out some choice expletives. (It seems that the more I actually care about something, the milder my language is: the first time the alarm sounded, all I could say was "Oh my goodness" over and over.) Chris went into the nursery and found Gwen flipped onto her tummy. He brought her back into our bed to nurse.

So, here's what we think happened.

The Angelcare sensor rests on a piece of plywood that is, for some reason, not quite the entire size of the crib mattress. At 2:45am, Gwen had rolled over far enough to be off the plywood, thus out of range of the sensor. She didn't stop breathing at all.

At 6:30am, however, she was smack-dab in the middle of the crib and thus fully in the sensor's range. We think she actually did stop breathing briefly, because she had flipped herself onto her front and her face was pressed into the mattress. Why babies don't just open their mouths in cases like this is beyond me. But I guess that's why products like the Angelcare exist.

(Yes, I do feel like the ultimate crappy mom for responding to the first (false) alarm and not the second (true) one. I suck.)

So, to sum up sleeptimes recently:
Tuesday Oct 14 (swaddled, in crib and sometimes swing): 3 hrs - 2 hours - 2 hours - 2 hours
Wednesday Oct 15 (swaddled, in crib, and with a serving of rice cereal for dinner): 6 hours - 3 hours - 2 hours
Thursday Oct 16 (swaddled, in crib, and with rice cereal for dinner): 9 hours, alarm goes off, 1.5 hours, alarm goes off, 1 hour
Friday Oct 17 (unswaddled, in crib, rice cereal): 2.5 hours - 1.5 hours - 2.5 hours - 2 hours

Anyway, last night Gwen slept all night in her own crib with no alarms sounding, so we are fairly certain we've correctly decoded the events of the previous night. So here is our dilemma.

When Gwen is swaddled, it is more difficult for her to roll onto her tummy, but she can still do it. However, if she does roll onto her front, she cannot roll back again. (She has a hard time rolling from front-to-back even when fully awake - it's a very rare occurence.)

On the other hand, if we leave her unswaddled, she is more likely to roll from her back to her front, and had only a slightly improved chance of being able to roll back over again. Oh, and also, she sleeps like crap.

After two full days of sleep logging (we're only supposed to do one, but the alarms going off inspired us to start from scratch the next day) the one thing I'm sure off is that Gwen is getting super-resistant to sleep. She is taking longer and longer to "put down" either for naps or for bed - sometimes three hours or more. I keep telling her that this is unacceptable, but she's just not listening.

(Yes, we need the crib bumpers, because before we put them on we would often find her with her leg through the bars or hear her crying from bumping her head on the wood. We reasoned that since she is old enough to roll over, she's old enough not to get herself in stupid situations. Yeah, not so much.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

We'll sleep when we're dead!

Overnight, everything that we've used to comfort Gwen since she was a tiny wee thing has become completely ineffective.

She hates the swing. Loathes the swaddle. And is incredibly offended by your suggestion that she eat.

Here's what last night looked like for us:
6-9pm: try absolutely EVERYTHING (short of brandy) to get Gwen to sleep.
9pm-12am: Gwen asleep in her crib.
12am: Gwen into bed with Mom for a feeding.
12:30am-2:30am: Gwen asleep.
2:30am: Gwen screaming bloody murder at the suggestion that she nurse.
2:30am-3:30am: Chris walks the floor with Gwen.
3:30am-5:30am: Gwen asleep in the swing.
5:30am: into bed for another feeding, then back to sleep.
7:00am: up for the day.

It took Chris and I three tries to do the math on how much sleep that adds up to, because we are so exhausted. And I can't remember the number and I'm not adding it up again. Suffice it to say, NOT ENOUGH.

This morning has been more of the same. She woke up at 7am and didn't go back for her nap until 11:45am.

I'm losing faith in the sleep training we had planned (which we haven't even started yet), because I realized that the step-by-step plans will take not only fortitude but patience and I am the most collosally impatient person I know. What was I thinking?

In the meantime I have NO IDEA what is up with Gwen, or the more apt Screamy McScreamypants. She screams whether or not she's in our arms, whatever we happen to be doing, no matter what we do to soothe her. I've never seen her like this. Six months is a little late for the onset of colic.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Success!

(My weekly "life outside motherhood" post.)


Lisa and I shortly after crossing the finish line at the 2008 Royal Victoria Marathon, where we walked 21 kilometres.


My support team and biggest fans.

Lisa and I finished the half-marathon in just under 4 hours (3:49:39 to be exact), which I was thrilled with as I felt anything under five hours was just golden. It was a great race, the opposite of the Rome Marathon in many, many important ways.





It was a beautiful day and the route was gorgeous: the fall foliage was so rich and the spectators were cheerful and many in number. There were hundreds of volunteers keeping us fed, hydrated, safe, and on course, not to mention motivated as they cheered us on. What I appreciated best of all was the organization of the event. Half-Marathoners started an hour earlier than Full Marathoners, and at a certain point the routes divided which meant the Half-Marathoners did a smallish loop while the Full Marathoners did a larger loop. Then the routes rejoined again later. This resulted in runners and walkers, fullers and halfers all being on the same course together for much of the race, which in turn made those of us walking feel like we were actually part of an event, not just stragglers stumbling in hours after the race was over. We watched the top ten marathoners race by us during our last hour of walking, aware that we were witnessing the race's winners: how often do you get to say that?





The finish line was fantastic, with hundreds of people cheering and shouting as we jogged down the final stretch. Volunteers took good care of us from then on, removing our timing chips, giving us medals, and directing us towards a giant food tent with fruit, carbs, and drinks. The only blip in my day was that Chris and the others didn't make it downtown in time to watch me cross the finish line. Still, it was an incredible day and I would definitely do this race again. I'm pondering alternating between Thanksgiving-with-my-family, Thanksgiving-with-Chris's-family, and doing-the-half-marathon. Which would mean racing every three years. Sounds about right!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sleep Training

It's becoming increasingly obvious that we need to do some sleep training in this family.

Now, since everyone has their own definitions of that term, let me explain what exactly I hope to accomplish with Gwen. I subscribe to the theory that every person - adult, child, baby - has several brief awakenings throughout the night. This is normal. When an adult has a brief awakening, he or she may turn over, adjust a pillow or blanket, glance at the clock, take a sip of water, or do some other similar thing to comfort him or herself, then promptly go back to sleep. When a baby has a brief awakening, though, he or she doesn't know how to get back to sleep without help. So the baby cries, and the parent enters, and the parent puts the baby back to sleep.

Although some babies learn how to soothe themselves back to sleep without help, most need training. Sleep training. And that's what Gwen needs.

I am absolutely positive that Gwen believes, with all her heart, that she cannot fall asleep without sucking on either a breast or a bottle. Last night Chris put her to bed, and she didn't drink a drop out of the bottle he offered - she just sucked on it for a few minutes and then went to sleep. Fine enough, until you consider that every time she wakes up for the next twelve hours she is going to need to suck on bottle or breast again to get back to sleep. And that means parental involvement, involvement we are becoming ever less willing to offer. We are exhausted.

We are following The No-Cry Sleep Solution for our sleep training. The first step is to take stock and do a 24-hour sleep log to see what's working and what's not. The next steps will be more challenging: to gently and slowly break the suck-to-sleep habit.

If you are interested in knowing more details about this, read on. If you're not a parent to a young baby (or don't plan on being one anytime soon), feel free to skip the next section.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
The first trick to master is the "gentle removal plan", which removes the nipple from baby's mouth before s/he falls asleep. Quoting from "TNCSS":

"When your baby wakes ... nurse him. Let him suck for a few minutes or until his sucking slows and he is relaxed and sleepy. Then break the seal with your finger and gently remove the nipple.

"Often, especially at first, your baby then will startle and root for the nipple. Try to very gently hold his mouth closed with your finger under his chin, or apply pressure to his chin, just under his lips, at the same time rocking or swaying with him. If he struggles against this and roots, or fusses, go ahead and replace the nipple, but repeat the removal process as often as necessary until he falls asleep.

"How long between removals? Every baby is different, but about ten to sixty seconds between removals usually works.

...

"Repeat this process every night until baby learns he can fall asleep without nursing."

Once this is mastered, the author suggests a plan with several phases to "shorten the duration and vary the technique" of nighttime parenting. The examples given are as follows:
Phase One: Comfort until baby's nearly asleep
Phase Two: Baby's settled and sleepy
Phase Three: Comfort without pickups
Phase Four: Soothing pats
Phase Five: Verbally soothing baby
Phase Six: Comfort from outside the doorway
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As you can see, with each phase you are reducing the parental involvement and helping baby learn one more step towards falling to sleep herself. Each step includes the instructions, "If she wakes and cries, repeat the process. You may have to do this two, three, four, maybe five times, but that's OK - really. ... When you feel that the new routine is working, go on to the next Phase."

If you read between the lines, there are two things to be learned here. First, sleep training without resorting to "crying it out" takes a loooong time. (Even if Gwen were to proceed through each phase at the rapid and unlikely speed of one phase per two weeks, that's six solid weeks.) Furthermore, proceeding through the phases and lessening the parental involvement actually takes more work than what we do now: putting her right to sleep on our laps and transferring her to her crib. This is why people end up putting off sleep training, because it's so tempting to just keep doing what "works" to allow the whole family to get rest. And that's how you end up with three-year-olds who still wake their parents up in the middle of the night... unless you have one of those miracle children who figures it all out on their own. We don't have one of those.

So, my interim step - in between doing a sleep log and starting the Phases - is to get some non-nighttime sleep myself. It's been months since I napped, but if I'm to have the stamina to put Gwen in her crib "two, three, four, even five times" every time she wakes, I'm going to need to feel more well-rested than I currently do. Which means not only less time to myself (for reading, blogging, needlework, dicking around on the 'net), but also less time to do the things that "need" to be done: laundry, dishes (especially the damn bottles), preparing and eating meals, social commitments, and so on. It's going to be a real challenge, and the reward of getting a good night's sleep seems so nebulous and far-off that it's hard to use that as motivation.

So, I might be posting less in the coming weeks - or if I do post, it'll likely be about this topic. It's bound to be a bit all-consuming for the next while.

Gwen's Big Day

Gwen had a really big day yesterday.

First of all, it had been fourteen full days since I'd weighed her, so I got to take her to group and weigh her in. At the orders of her pediatrician (the one who isn't an ass) she needed to have gained at least 8 ounces in that time.

She'd gained twelve. She is now 13 pounds 14 ounces, just 2 ounces shy of 14 pounds. Hooray!

To make matters more fun, her dad came along to group with us and got to meet some of our friends. The dental hygenist was there, and she checked Gwen's mouth for incoming teeth - sadly, no news there. The way she is chewing and drooling (and fussing) I expect teeth to pop out any day, but according to the hygenist there's nothing on the horizon. Damn.

Gwen and I then went home, where she had a nap and I puttered around the house and had a visit with a friend. When Chris got home from work, we packed Gwen into the carseat and went to the pool - we took Gwen swimming for the first time! We were prepared for her to scream the whole time (since she screamed all throughout her first three months' worth of baths) but she didn't cry at all. The only time she fussed was when she unexpectedly got splashed in the face by some bigger boys roughhousing (with each other, not with her), and I think she was more startled than anything. She got over it almost immediately.

It was great fun to watch her kicking and splashing in the water. I'm so glad she enjoyed it! The Mommy and Me Walking Group goes to the pool once a week so I think we will be joining them from now on.

After a quick bath back at home to rinse off the chlorine, Chris tucked Gwen in to bed. At my request, he left one of her arms unswaddled, as this is the recommended method to test whether she is ready to sleep entirely unswaddled. We'd tried this a few times before and every time, she'd woken up after about 20 minutes. Last night, she slept for 2.5 hours. I count that a success! Tonight we will try leaving the arm out again to see how she fares.

So, three big exciting events in one day. Good thing we have absolutely nothing planned for today, I think we all need some downtime - especially since tomorrow afternoon we are headed down to Victoria for the marathon. Wish us luck!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

And now for something completely different!

Hey, how about I just take a week off from posting? Oh wait, I just did that. Huh. What do you know.

Oops.

The thing is, I have these posts kind of working their way through my brain, but they are all Big Deep Thought kind of posts, not the sort of thing I can just dash off in the 20 minutes or so I usually have for blogging. So the posts remain unwritten, the topics jotted on a piece of notepaper right next to my lappy where I can look at them every day and feel vaguely guilty.

Anyway, none of those posts are going to be written tonight, either. Tonight I'm going to write abut something that has nothing whatsoever to do with motherhood.

I went out to a "Moms' Night Out" last night at a pub with a couple women I've met at various mom groups. We had a FANTASTIC time. However, we found it nearly impossible to talk about anything other than our babies. Every time we started a conversation on another topic ("What do you do?") it quickly devolved ("It was a great job to have when I was pregnant because I wasn't on my feet"). As a result, I still know very little about these women other than the fact that they are mommies. I know many, many little facts about their kids - birth weight, birth stories, whether he/she had colic, sleep habits, eating habits, and so on - but it's hard to get to know the woman behind the mother.

So I think once a week I will try to post something *not* relating to Gwen or motherhood. Which is sort of the opposite of what I had in mind with "Blogging for Two", but too bad. I'll try it out and see how it works. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed that incredibly wordy introduction, because NOW I'm going to start the post proper.

Today, I walked 16 kilometres!

You see, in 2005 I walked a marathon. That was awesome. Last year I decided that I wanted to walk the half-marathon at the Royal Victoria Marathon, which happens to be next weekend. I wanted to think about something, plan something, have a goal that wasn't all about the pregnancy/the baby/impending motherhood. So I registered for the event, and for the past few months I've been training in earnest.

Sundays are the days when the training schedule prescribes a long walk. And 16km is definitely a long walk - it took me 3.5 hours, made even longer and more monotonous by the fact that my mp3 player died about half an hour after I started (boo!). I reminisced on the fact that in 2005 when I went to Rome for my first marathon, my mp3 player (which had cost me over $100) was one of the most valuable things I had, and I was terrified of losing it. Nowadays, with iPods and nanos and so on, my silly little mp3 player is gruesomely obsolete, and probably worth about 50cents, yet I keep using it. I'm either cheap, or stubborn, or woefully ignorant about new technology ... or all three.

So I walked on, music-less, thinking about all manner of things, and thinking sometimes about nothing at all. I was walking around Westwood Lake, a local lake that is 6km in perimeter. There was obviously a storm there in the last couple of days, because there was a lot of debris on the ground, and even a tree across the path at one point. For the most part, though, the path was carpeted with richly coloured leaves and foliage: reds, oranges, green, deep browns. You could hardly even see the dirt beneath.

Even though today was a gloomy, gray day, the lake trail was quite busy. I probably greeted over a hundred people on my journey. Some had kids, some had strollers, some had dogs, some had bikes. Some were couples, some were families, some were lone joggers panting so hard they could barely return my "good morning". Almost all were faster than I was, and I tried not to care about that.

The lake was still and silent, but for a few fishermen in boats floating on the surface. I also spotted a duck and a few Canadian geese. I've seen heron there before, but not today.

I did a lot of training at this lake for my first marathon, and I've done a fair bit there this time around as well. I've walked there with many friends, and I reflected on those walks and the conversations I'd had. Edd and Mogg; Mike and Zoe; Lisa and Janice; even Chris, a few rare times. I also thought about the future, about how I want physical exercise to be a habit for my daughter (see how hard it is to leave her entirely out of the equation?). I thought about creating a Sunday routine where we would go to church, then out for a walk.

Today was my last long training walk. The half-marathon is next Sunday, and between now and then I have only short walks (30 minutes or less). It's likely I will not be back to the lake until next Spring. Knowing this kept me motivated to complete the walk, despite boredom and a growing fatigue. "It's my last lake walk, I might as well complete it." The scenery looked so dull to me, as I've seen it so many times, but I tried to see it with new eyes, to imagine how I would describe it here, and to remember it through the winter.

The race, as I said, is next Sunday. I'll be walking 21km, and I will have a time limit of six hours to do so. I'll also have my friend Lisa by my side to keep me company and stave off the boredom. And after the race, I get to have Thanksgiving dinner with my best friend and his family - a fitting reward. One week from tonight, I'll be stuffing my face with delicious food and bragging about my shiny new medal. Wish me luck!

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