December 31, 2015

making peace with having one child

Now that I've been a mom for a while, my mothering instinct has exploded and my family life is the center of my being. I can envision us being blissed out with two point five kids, fulfilling the nuclear family dream. And so, early this past year, I fervently prayed for another child. If God would choose to make the lightning strike once, why not again?

We took off the guardrails, so to speak. Or rather, I did.

A couple months later, I awoke during the night. I walked into the bathroom and the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly to me: You're playing with fire, He said. It nearly stopped my heart. It's not really fair to your husband, is it? He said. I wept silently before returning to bed.

In the months after that I backed away from the desire for a second child. The yearning didn't really leave me, but I paid less and less attention to it and started seeking God's will more. This past fall, three of my friends gave birth to first or second babies. I was so eager to bring a meal and help in any way. And then, suddenly I felt like I needed to leave them all alone.

At 46, I realize now that what I have is all I will have. It's my age, it's my body, it's my circumstance. Adopting has never felt like a path we were meant to take, so there it is. We are raising an only child. It's not like this is a bad thing, just different. If we hadn't been so terrified of parenthood back in our early 30's, we probably would have had three kids and not just one (assuming my eggs were of good quality, that is. The specialist surmised we would've had trouble even then). Instead we focus on the blessing of our son.

As 2015 ends tonight, so does my desire for a bigger family. But acceptance leaves more room for grace and peace, and so I am not sad. Not really.

October 22, 2015

spd and a new school

Let me start by saying last week blew green donkey chunks. My full-time job was wearing me to the bone, and my son was miserable on a regular basis. Then Wednesday, while I was supposed to be in an eight-hour meeting, the head teacher left me a voice mail. We need to talk, she said. He's become aggressive, rebellious, and doesn't listen to instruction. She didn't feel comfortable taking him on a field trip for fear he'd run in another direction. In tears, I called my husband and asked him to pull the boy out of school for the rest of the week. I declared a family emergency and headed for the school.

Within 15 minutes of my talk with the teacher, it became clear to me that the things we were doing to help him just weren't what he needed. What he needed was a different school. If his actions have been giving me information, the information is "I hate it here and I'll do whatever it takes to tell you!"

It broke our hearts and strained us to the point of breaking. My son has been with these lovely people since he was eight weeks old. In fact, everything was great until he walked (or rather refused to walk) into his most recent classroom -- a large preschool room with at least 15 kids and oodles of play stations. It was a bit louder, a bit more structured, and a lot more than he could handle. Sensory overload.

By Friday afternoon, we had toured and decided to move the boy to a Montessori school within walking distance of home. More than one therapist has told us that Montessori schools may not be a good match for a kid with sensory processing disorder because it's less rigidly structured, but it depends highly on the child and the individual school. We talked at length with the director about our son's struggles, and learned that they are well-versed in bringing in kids with similar issues. We came away feeling like they could offer him just enough freedom and individual attention to get what he needs when he needs it.

Today is Day 4 in his new school, and he LOVES it. I mean, we look at our son as if he's a different person. We are continuing his SPD therapy, of course, and he's still human with struggles and moods. But he is remarkably happy. What more can a parent ask for?

September 29, 2015

sensory processing disorder

First, someone said my son is hyperactive. The term ADHD was tossed around (really? at two years old?). Our parenting techniques were judged. Then the boy's teachers remarked on his increasing aggressiveness, and we certainly noticed it too so we banned the phrase "Star Wars" from our house.

Then, after a month of hell in his new preschool class, the head teacher had a long talk with us and mentioned words like sensory processing issues, spectrum, and diagnosis. It's a Christian school and I asked her to pray for me. I continued praying and waiting for God to show me what to do.

This morning, my husband and I got the results of a sensory processing disorder (SPD) test that we took our son to last week, and oh boy is it positive (pun intended). It's also apparently a growing trend (it's commonly first detected in three to four year olds), and is often misdiagnosed and unnecessarily medicated.

What is SPD? Think of your senses as buckets. If you get too much in one bucket, you feel overloaded, and if you don't get enough in another bucket you do your best to fill it whatever way you can. Most people can filter sensory information with no problem, but others have bigger buckets for some senses (they want more) and smaller buckets for others (they get overloaded fast).

Our son has sensory over-responsivity (SOR), and to a lesser extent sensory seeking/craving (SC). With SOR, he gets overwhelmed fast by sensory stimulation (loud noises, unfamiliar situations, etc.), and it triggers a fight response - like a tiger cub (he has red hair so it's pretty fitting). With SC, he craves jumping around and touching everything and everyone (I called him a space invader).

The diagnosis found, our next step is weekly occupational therapy which we start tomorrow. It happens to be just a few blocks away from home.

We're still questioning whether a different school like Montessori could be a better fit, but right now the therapy is more important. He needs help getting confidence and strength in these areas so he can handle transitions and unfamiliar situations, so we're going to do the therapy for at least a month before we consider moving him to another school (another huge transition).

If information is power, I finally don't feel so weak.

September 24, 2015

full time = no time

It's been weeks since I've been able (let alone willing) to squeeze in a blog entry. That's because I left my lovely-but-extremely-boring, part-time contract job for a short-term, full-time contract job. Let's just say I am no longer bored.

My mind is busy busy busy. When I'm not at work I'm pedal-to-the-metal through the rest of life. I typically show up for work looking like death warmed over because I have to leave the house by 6:30 for a three-hour meeting three days a week. The pay is good and the work is very good, so I push forward. Otherwise I'd wonder why in the hell I'm putting myself through this.

Being tired is probably my least favorite state of being. I get stressed, I back out of social opportunities, and I withdraw behind the battle lines of life to redraw my personal margins so I can rest. If it weren't for the fact that I work from home two days a week, I would have crumbled and conceded defeat.

I have no idea how other moms actually pull off working full-time without driving themselves into the ground.

July 26, 2015

pure love

Last night we watched Brother Bear together, an animated story about a native American pair of brothers who get separated when one gets turned into a bear. At the end of the movie, there is a touching scene of restoration and love. But that's not what I'm blogging about.

Now that my son is old enough to sit through at least half a movie, we're enjoying the occasional movie night. We gather on the big sectional downstairs, there's usually popcorn involved, and the boy is typically ready to go to sleep afterwards. As we snuggled into the couch, he looked up at me with a big smile and said "I love you." I touched his chin and said "Oh, thank you sweetie. I love you too."

As the closing scene unfolded on the screen, I watched the wonder in my son's eyes as he commented on the brother who decided to remain a bear to take care of a motherless cub. And the words pierced my heart as they took shape in my mind: There is no love so pure in this world as that of a child.

I am blessed beyond belief.

July 23, 2015

homemade chicken noodle soup and banana ice cream

Last week I bought a rotisserie chicken for an easy dinner. The boy took a few bites of a drumstick.

This week I used the carcass to make chicken stock, then used the stock to make chicken noodle soup. Verdict = semi-fail. I served breadsticks with it, and he enjoyed dipping the breadstick in the soup, but we had to lure him with the promise of dessert to get him to take actual bites of the soup.

Dessert was, of course, a big winner: banana ice cream. Not ice cream with bananas in it, but the soft serve you make yourself by putting frozen sliced banana in a food processor and continually processing it until it becomes a fluffy, frozen, delicious wonder. Just for fun, I added a couple tablespoons of powdered peanut butter. So there's almost no sugar. And it's vegan, though that's not my concern. And there's more in the freezer waiting for me when I get home tonight.


July 14, 2015

tortilla pizza and chocolate spinach smoothies

Last week I made pizza using tortillas as the pizza crust. Sacrilege! But it's so good, crispy, and easy to make it will be on the regular rotation. Verdict = meh. My son may have eaten half a small slice. No idea why, but I will be making it again and will try to rope him into the topping process in an attempt to pique his interest. Here's the recipe I used as a template.

Since my son avoids most vegetables, I snuck them (in full view of him) into an amazing chocolate smoothie! Here's the recipe. Veridict = win! He loved it. He wanted "a bunch." Actually, so did I. Next time I'll throw in a few ice cubes.

Then the other day I found an unused, expired, but perfectly good container of ricotta cheese. I think I bought it in hopes of feeding it to my son with a bit of honey for dessert (the best laid plans...). To avoid throwing out such bounty, I made lemon ricotta cookies and put most of them in the freezer. I believe in health and balance, but sheesh. Ya gotta have a cookie now and then, and I have decided that if I'm going to the trouble of making cookies I will make the best possible instead of trying to make it "healthy." Because it's a cookie. Verdict = are you kidding? It's a cookie. Of course he liked it.

two months into potty training

Please don't tell me about how your 2 year old girl trained herself without an accident. Boys don't just take longer; they are perfectly content to wallow in their own filth until you continually lie to them about diapers not being available in their size. Potty training in a week? My ass.

Here's what our potty training life looks like (because yes, our lives consist of feeding and potty training our son to reach the holy grail of self-sufficiency):
  • Get up in the morning and remove the overnight pull-up.
  • Note: said pull-up may be filled to overflowing with piss, or might be dry. Also, if the pull-up is dry, there might be a really lazy one-hour gap between waking up and removing the pull-up.
  • Encourage the first potty.
  • Take note every time the child grabs himself, and ask if he needs to go.
  • Witness the child run to the bathroom when he starts to have an accident.
  • Give two treats for #2, and one for #1. Reinforce this guideline every time. Every. Time.
  • Occasionally forget to give treats. Occasionally get reminded by the child to give treats.
Okay, so I would say he's about 80% trained. Most of the time he avoids accidents, but I am learning to let him accept the responsibility instead of freaking out when he has an accident. I usually start getting nervous if it's been more than an hour or so since he went last, and if he says he doesn't need to go, then I remind him to listen to his body and go before he really really has to. I think this is starting to sink in.

I still consider overnight a separate thing, though my husband and I agree now that we need to tackle this next. We've been pretty lazy about getting that overnight pull-up off of him first thing when he wakes up, but I guess that's what we need to do. I say "guess" because nobody -- nobody! -- tells you how to complete the overnight potty training. Wake him up at 2 a.m. to go? No freaking thank you. Control his liquid intake in the evening? Absolutely. Beyond that, we can only assume the rule is to remind our son the importance of going first thing in the morning while actually making him do it.

July 9, 2015

dinner last night

Since I'm the chief cook, meal planner and food gatherer, I'm fairly obsessed about feeding my small family. Yes, Dream Dinners has saved much of my sanity, but I can't eat it every day. Mostly because I actually want to cook now and again. At the end of the day though, my biggest concern is feeding my toddler dinner. More specifically, feeding him something he'll eat besides mac & cheese. Finally, since I know I'm not the only parent in the world who struggles to feed a picky toddler, I'm going to start posting my dinner experiments.

Last night I made mac & cheese. But hey, at least it was organic and I didn't stop there. I also nuked a package of frozen broccoli with cheese sauce and added that to the mix, using scissors to cut the broccoli up as small as I could. And to make it even more irresistable, I added a couple dollops of low fat sour cream. Verdict: Success! The boy ate quite a bit of this.

I also had a separate plate with cut-up bbq chicken breast and turkey hot dogs so we could pick off small bites. Verdict: Success. I believe he ate about half a hot dog and maybe an ounce of chicken (normally he doesn't touch meat but loves soft-textured meat products).

Finally, I served steamed carrots and piled some butter on his. Verdict: Semi-fail. He might have eaten one small carrot stick, and ate the butter instead.

This morning I actually made smoothies for breakfast (I have this habit of buying the ingredients and then forgetting to use them). This contained plain yogurt, unsweetened almond milk, peanut butter, chia seeds, banana and frozen blueberries. No added sugar. Verdict: Success! He drank nearly two cups.

July 1, 2015

supporting the person with dementia

Yesterday I talked about my dad and mentioned his diagnosis of dementia/Alzheimer's. As it happened, I had an appointment with my therapist later that day. And as it happens, she specializes in geriatric depression. Divine appointment?

I expressed my feelings of sadness, helplessness, and frustration at my lack of ability to help him. I wish I could offer him more than a phone call or visit. I wish God would heal him. But until or unless that happens, there is fortunately something I can do to support him. That is to engage his mind.

Supporting a person with dementia is all about meeting them where they are. Putting oneself in their shoes. Understanding the emotions that they grapple with, which in my dad's case must be deep depression, unresolving anger, and utter fear and helplessness that I can only imagine. What if someone told you that, as of now, you can expect your memories, awareness, and comprehension of life to slip away from you slowly, one day at a time, like a dripping faucet until at last you don't know your family or where you are? How do you live for today, for right now? What can you hold on to?

My therapist likened the daily life of a person with dementia to Swiss cheese: On good days, you're in the cheese and you're able to remember things and participate in normal activities. On other days, you're near the edge of a hole in the cheese, just holding on to pieces of conversation or struggling to remember your birthdate.

Engaging the mind is one of the best ways of holding on to it, and two ways of doing that are through activities and memories -- tapping into the past.

My dad used to be a pool shark. He and my mom used to go out and play pool before they had kids, and rarely had to buy their own drinks. He taught me everything I know about pool, and I got to play with him last month. He didn't make too many shots, but he was keen enough to point out the mistakes I was making and congratulate me on good moves. He genuinely enjoyed himself and remarked on how he had more stamina than he thought he would. So, every time I see him from now on, I will take him to play pool with me.

I've been calling him at least twice a month, but now I will make sure to call once a week. And when I do, I will ask him questions about his past. What is his favorite 4th of July memory? What was it like during the Depression for him and his brothers? What is his happiest memory? These questions tap into those precious pockets of long-term memory and engage him beyond the present. It's also a safe bet that no one else is asking him such things. Not because they don't care, but just because it's not something most people think of doing.

Oh yes, and the next time I see him I will give him a big, long hug and cook him a good steak.

June 30, 2015

the slow death of my father

The other night I had a dream about my dad. He was youthful, and we were going to an amusement park for the day. We were smiling and talking together as we walked. My dad loves roller coasters, and especially loves to sit in the front row since he can't see very well (which scares the crap out of me). The last time we did this was probably 10-12 years ago.

In the years since, he lost his business. Then lost his big, beautiful house. Then had brain surgery. Then had a stroke during that surgery. Then suffered balance, vocal chord, and short-term memory problems that he cannot recover from. Then received a diagnosis of dementia/Alzheimer's. Then started giving the middle finger to his meds, his wife, his diabetes diet, and just about anything that would give him a better quality of life with the years he has left.

The morning I woke up from that dream about him, I stood at the kitchen sink and cried. My dad is losing his body and his mind.

How do you help someone who's suffered one load of shit after another in life, and is giving up trying anymore?

As much as I love Colorado and can't imagine living anywhere else, I'd give just about anything to be close to my dad who lives in southern California. So I'm making more frequent trips there starting this year. I've been there twice so far this year - once on my own, once with my family. If I could swing it, I'd go out there once a month for the rest of his life. I don't know how realistic that is, and it depends on whether I could stay at his house. But visits with me and my extended family seem to be the only thing that helps to pull him out of himself. What wouldn't I do to help him?

I also am determined to make sure my son knows who his grandpa is, and one day be able to tell someone who he was. I also just miss him terribly.

I guess this is the heartache of growing older. Surviving your parents and trying to serve them as they approach the bridge that we all will one day cross. If he won't pursue quality of life, then I will do what I can to enjoy it more with him.

May 18, 2015

2 weeks after potty training: "if you think he's doing well, he's doing well"

We went to a barbecue yesterday and reunited with a former small group. Most of this group included the friends who prayed with me during my miscarriages, encouraged me through my pregnancy, and brought meals to us when our son was born.

I was standing outside with one gal, watching my son scramble around the bushes. She asked how the potty training was going, and I remarked how I generally thought he was doing well. I started to stammer over why I thought he was doing well, and she gracefully interrupted me saying "If you think he's doing well, he's doing well". Comparison doesn't help anyone, least of all the child.

Every child is different. Yup, boys take longer and don't care much about wallowing in their stuff. But at least they can pee standing up in the backyard. I'm now so used to cleaning feces off of surfaces and skin that another accident doesn't bug me all that much. That's why God invented germ-killing cleaning cloths.

In the meantime, I'm a little miffed at the fact that the boy doesn't think any of our chosen rewards are good enough. It took me three days to figure out that his idea of a reward was something specific and had nothing to do with toys. I've since run to Target to find more interesting candy.

May 12, 2015

guess who took his first potty poo?

It happened last night, just before bathtime. There was much celebration, toy giving, high fiving, and chocolate eating. I'll take it for what it is, and not assume this will happen from now on.

I am one excited mama. And I need a more interesting hobby.

May 11, 2015

1 week after potty training

Last weekend we took the boy out of diapers and announced, with much fanfare, that he's a big boy and doesn't need them anymore. Nine days later, I'd say that's about 65% true. I've since discovered how best to balance lessons and expectations.

Nobody ever told me that potty training really has three distinct steps, which might have helped (at least mentally):
  1. Learn to pee in the potty
  2. Learn to poop in the potty
  3. Stay dry overnight
Once he got a handle on avoiding accidents (especially since he could go anywhere in the backyard), he didn't mind taking care of #1. However, I've yet to see him volunteer to take care of #2. I have since learned that this is a completely separate hurdle, and no amount of bribery (stickers, candy, new toys, whipped cream in a cup) can convince him to drop a load. It's a mystery to me, but for now we're going to shut up about it. I'll just count myself lucky that they've all been hard as a rock (thanks, yogurt and bananas!).

After doing some research, I think the best thing I can do is gently give him the option of pooping in the potty when he's ready and just don't mention rewards or anything. Some suggest offering to give him a diaper to poop in. Not sure how I feel about that, but what have I got to lose?

Aside from #2, the only other remaining issue is overnight training. This I'm more than willing to take our time on, because this kid is a deep sleeper (and I'd rather not deal with the morning revele just yet). Always has been. As in, 12 hours a night since he was 4 months old. I imagine it'll be another year before we see him dry in the morning long enough to jump that hurdle. Until then, we can all relax together in the early morning while he hangs out in his squishy diaper for just a few more minutes.

May 4, 2015

our big fat potty training weekend

Saturday morning, after breakfast, we took off our son's diaper and announced he'd be going diaper-free from now on. We cheered and smiled and patted him on the back. The rest of the first day left me more exhausted than I've been since he was born.

I never found the courage or self-discipline to use charts or follow books. It was time to just cut the cord and go cold turkey (where in the world does that saying come from anyway?). We did prepare by doing these things:
  1. Cleared the schedule and did not go anywhere except to buy him new underwear.
  2. Stocked up on whatever motivating treats and cheap toys he might like.
  3. Pushed the fluids so he had plenty of opportunities to go.
  4. Got ready to clean. A lot. All day long.
  5. Set aside a bucket to put soiled clothes in (after rinsing)
  6. Made a big deal out of shopping for underwear. He now has about 16 pairs.
I set the timer for 20 minutes every time (unless he didn't go, in which case it was shorter). The first day felt like a complete disaster. He pooped in his underwear and it went down his pants. He dribbled in a chair. I texted "I'm in hell" to my mom and friend. He tried. He sometimes refused to try, and soon after had another accident. We praised him for every effort and never punished him for accidents. We called Grandma to share the great news when he had success.

That first day, he was so worn out from going potty at least 10 times that he passed out in my arms at the dinner table before 6:00 p.m. My husband and I sat in a daze on the back patio, cocktails in hand, and were grateful that the first day was over, and over so quickly!

Then the second day came, and we prepared by drinking a boatload of strong coffee so we could smile even more broadly. He pooped in his underwear again, but tried on the potty anyway. By afternoon, he finally turned a corner. We were outside, and I was sweeping when I noticed silence which scared me. I found him, pants down, getting ready to pee on his own in the grass. "Look Mommy!" he said, as he went all on his own. I was so excited I wanted to cheer. I did. We gave him a toy. It went uphill after that. He went to bed half an hour earlier than usual (with the overnight diaper, of course).

Today is the third day, and I can see he's internalized the weekend's lesson. He started to have an accident, but told me he needed to go so I dropped everything and he finished in the potty. GOOD BOY!

Two days and he's on his way to being completely rid of diapers. This tells me that, really, we could have done this months ago. But oh well, I won't punish myself. Raising a kid is hard enough without self-imposed guilt.

Here's to the start of a great week.

April 28, 2015

quadrophenia, magnolias, and the puzzle box

I flew out to Orange County, CA to stay with my dad for three days while my stepmom has been in the hospital for a couple of weeks. I wanted a chance to keep him company and make sure he's okay. Mission accomplished. I fly home tomorrow.

This is the first time I've been away from my husband and son overnight. I thought it would feel like a vacation, but instead it's been a quiet journey, inside and out.

My flight got in Sunday morning, and we spent that day doing nothing but talking and hanging out together. I went to the grocery store. I cooked dinner. We enjoyed the first one-on-one company we've kept in about 15 years. We went to visit my stepmom today and hung out with her for a couple hours before the impending doom of traffic sent us back to home base.

Early this morning, I went for a walk before my dad got up. Not knowing the area, I just headed north (uphill) and kept going until the street ended. I found The Who's Quadrophenia on my phone and decided it was the perfect soundtrack for my journey through the wilderness of my youth. You see, I grew up around here and moved when I was 18. From the magic of childhood through the torrents of the teen years, I lived for Disneyland and the beach and parties. But I was ready when I decided to migrate to Colorado with my mom - away from the crowds, the peer pressure, and the culture of pleasure and plastic. I've never looked back.

On my walk, I swooned at the constant wafting scent of magnolias and jasmine. I stared at the succulent trees and bushes (!) of poinsettia. It was like walking on a different planet.

Meanwhile, the lyrics from the album sank into my head: "The heat is rising... the past is calling. Is it me, or a moment?" Memories of the things I enjoyed most about this place came back and filled the corners of my psyche.

Nothing like the grounding of your past to lend perspective to who you are.

My stepmom told me about a box she'd packed for me of some of my deceased grandmother's collector plates. I found the box and, in addition to the plates, found the most interesting assortment of things. Pictures of me. My dad's birth card with date and time hand written, plus his resume from about 1964 (a different time in the Los Angeles area, that's for sure). A plastic hinged box with one gold ring -- presumably my (divorced) grandmother's wedding ring. Together, they are pieces to a puzzle I know little about.

Tomorrow I'll fly home to kith and kin, working and family, punch and grind. But I have decided that I do not want to stay away for years at a time anymore. Not when my dad's body is 20 years older than it should be, and not while I can give my son a chance to know him as well as where my side of the family comes from.

April 22, 2015

random thoughts on perfect parenting

Even perfect parents can't raise perfect children. So don't bother trying to be perfect.

April 15, 2015

my son's first lie

Yesterday morning was a battleground. At stake: an unearned potty treat (fig newton). Somehow the boy rationalized that, since he peed in his diaper, he gets a treat. Um, no son, that's not how it works.

We went back and forth several times, but I held my ground even as he wailed endlessly through breakfast and toothbrushing. I went on about my business, getting ready for work.

As I was about to head for the front door, he asked again for the treat. I asked him point-blank if he peed in the potty. He said he did and, knowing this was probably not true, I gave him the treat. A few minutes later my husband asked whether he'd used the potty and he said no. We took this opportunity to explain the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie, and emphasized that this is wrong. I did not take the treat away from him, believing that to do so would set him off and he'd just forget what we were trying to say.

We caught him in a lie.

So now, when he insists on a potty treat I really have my hands full helping him to answer wisely and truthfully. That, and I don't think this reward system is having its intended effect. Ah, parenthood.

April 9, 2015

week 1 on the weight loss journey

So apparently I cannot have beer for dinner. That is my first lesson. The second is that, to avoid starving to death, I am buying every fruit and vegetable in the plant kingdom so I don't have to look at bagels with puppy-dog eyes. (mm! mmm! she whines)

I still don't know how I'm going to feed my notoriously finicky 3 year old who's idea of the perfect meal is anything beige. I put the veggies in front of him. I make sure they're at least somewhat delicous. That's the best I can do. I thank God he loves milk and green smoothies. At least I've found out that I can make the box of mac & cheese with just pasta water instead of milk and butter, and add salt to the boiling water. It honestly tastes every bit as good.

The journey of wellness/fitness/whatever you want to call it is meant to last a lifetime, so I am working on reframing my mind and habits. At least I can still have beer for dessert.

April 7, 2015

sleeping in is not an option

I took a sleep aid late last night. I slept WAY past my alarm this morning. What ensued was undercaffeinated insanity with bad attitudes. When will I learn that the whole freaking household falls apart if Mommy sleeps in?

On a good day, I'm showered and dressed with hot cereal cooking on the stove before my son gets up. How often does this happen? Maybe twice a week. Other days I'm playing catch-up, juggling the morning rush with my husband while trying to pack a lunch. He's actually pretty hands-on and helpful in the morning -- it's me who has a hard time asking for what I need to get us out the door. I have this stubborn independent streak that guides me to acting like a single mom instead of communicating what I need when I need it. Ahem.

Today I weighed myself. I am trying to push away the shame and feelings of unworthiness that come with being overweight. Lord help me.

April 6, 2015

weight loss and the working mom

I haven't weighed myself for a month or more, and though I'd rather not know what the number is I will weigh in tomorrow morning. I finally rejoined Weight Watchers (WW) an hour ago and have already used most of my points for the day. Ahem. I think I need to lose 30 pounds.

I've resisted joining the program for more than a year. Just thinking about measuring portions and consciously seeking healthy foods has felt like more than I can handle. Exercise has been easy to excuse myself from due to mental, if not physical, exhaustion (despite the fact that I know good and well that exercise gives a person energy). And excess consumption has been all too easy in a constant pursuit of stress relief.

Between working, mothering, wifing (not a real word but it should be), and being the meal director of the household, weight loss and fitness have been on the backburner along with many other kinds of self care. However, I have finally reconciled with this part of me and I accept now that my whole approach to being in shape is different than before I became a mother. It's about being the best 'me' I can be so I can also be a better wife and mother (and meal director).

Back to WW. I chose them because I've been successful before and they have a comprehensive set of mobile and website tools that make it easier to pursue wellness. I don't want to bother with meetings since there aren't any good times or locations near me (and I honestly don't want to take the time).

This morning I cranked on the stationary bike for 30 minutes and then grabbed a nasty fast food breakfast combo on the way to work. Oh well. Morning has passed and it's a new day.

March 25, 2015

random thoughts on the hundred foot journey

Yes, I will take a 20 minute walk at work. And yes, I will wash my silverware in the bathroom sink with the hand soap rather than make the hundred foot journey to the kitchen.

March 24, 2015

dream of the house and bird

A few weeks ago I dreamed that my husband and I were downtown walking around, looking for a place to camp. He pointed out a shady spot on a sidewalk (ha!). We walked past an old, dilapidated timber house that looked abandoned. I was fascinated by it, wondering what it used to look like. So we stepped into the front room to look around, and suddenly it started morphing, like it was going back in time. I saw the original wallpaper start to appear - dark red with a velvet fleur de lis pattern - and then the structure built up around us. Suddenly a jeep pulled up and I thought "Someone lives here?" We got out of there before they saw us, and I noticed a young boy in the kitchen. We kept walking, and as I turned around to look at the house again I saw it was completely restored, remodeled, and there was a big family gathering going on. Further down the block, my husband walked up to me holding a little bird on his finger. It had pretty yellow feathers all down its back. I let it rest its feet on my finger and I fell in love with it, so we decided to adopt it. I remember wishing very much that I could give it my blood so it would be a part of me.

It's one of those dreams that are just crazy enough for me to pay attention. To what, I don't know yet.

March 9, 2015

beautiful interruption

Last night, my son was going to bed early (according to pre-daylight savings time anyway). The lights were out already. I sang to him a few bars of "Yes Jesus Loves Me" and then invited him to our regular prayer. I started reciting it and he interrupted me. "No mommy! Stop." I asked what was the matter, and instead of replying to me I heard him praying his own prayer. I couldn't hear most of it but I caught "... bless Mommy and Daddy... In Jesus' name. Amen."

I'm pretty sure I just sat there with my mouth open. Then I tucked him in and wished him sweet dreams.

How beautiful is that? Sweet dreams indeed.

February 17, 2015

extended tantrums and vocal changes

So, lately -- as in the last few weeks -- my son has been having extended tantrums. As in, no-holds-barred-screaming-for-ten-minutes tantrums. I do my best to be calm, to express love and support even as he tells me to "Go away!" and "Don't touch me!". I'm avoiding the trap of reacting and try to respond as wisely as I can. And it's not working. All I can do is hover a few feet away (if he'll let me) and wait for the storm to pass. My husband and I look at each other, baffled.

Why do I do this? To make sure he knows that I accept him every day, right where he is. To show him I love him even as he struggles with big, scary feelings and loses all control. I'm punctuating breaks in the screams and tears with phrases like "It's okay. You're safe. I'm right here when you're ready for a hug." He doesn't demand that I go away when I say these things, so I stick around and just let him empty himself. Eventually the storm passes and he does want to be close again, which is the best moment of all.

Meanwhile, the boy has been getting upper respiratory nastiness about every three weeks since before Christmas. This poor kid can't go a week without needing the humidifier. Last week, he was constantly clearing his throat and coughing phlegm. I wondered if he needed to see the doctor, but then one morning I noticed his voice just sounded different. It became a bit lower and slightly hoarse, but he stopped coughing. I plugged in the humidifier another night to see if he needed it.

Nope, he wasn't coming down with another cold. His voice dropped. Now it sounds more boyish and less little-boyish. I have to confess, my heart dropped just a tinge at hearing it, and he still sounds a little foreign to me. The boy is growing up.

To confirm his growing up, I measured his height against the wall. Sure enough, this kid has grown half an inch since December. December! And it finally dawned on me -- maybe all these massive tantrums are the signs of growing pains. I guess I need to listen more closely when he complains that his feet or back or legs hurt and let him have some medicine sometimes when he asks for it.

January 26, 2015

random thoughts on the toddler dinner

Can someone tell me why my toddler mushes his food into a pile on his plate, but refuses to even smell a bowl of soup or casserole or anything else that's already been combined?

January 20, 2015

3 tips for beating stress in the moment

Even though my antidepressant keeps me from falling over a cliff of emotions, I still experience very stressful moments. Sometimes this happens when my son is acting up or defying me, other times he's not even around and I'm just making dinner. My pulse races along with my mind and I can't seem to catch up with myself.

My therapist (who happens to specialize in anxiety) gave me some tips for beating stress in the moment; things I can try to stop a stressful feeling in its tracks and cool down right away. After a few weeks, I've had several chances to try them out. Here are the three tips she gave me:
  1. Practice paradoxical intent. Developed by Dr. Viktor Frankl, the crazy idea behind this is to focus as hard as you can on an emotion in order to sort of confront it and break it down. In this case, when I feel stress I focus on being as stressed out as I possibly can: I can clench my fists, shut my eyes tight, and think "Stress! Stress!" It's so silly it actually works.
  2. Change the temperature. This is another technique that interrupts the cycle of stress or anxiety. Options include stepping outside to breathe cold air, running cold water over the wrists, or in extreme cases dunking an elbow in a bowl of ice water. Case in point: A few days ago, my son was clamoring at me begging for gummy candies and generally falling apart for several minutes. I wasn't going to give in just to make him quiet. So there I stood, with cold water running over my wrists, looking out the window and breathing deeply while he continued to cry at my feet. It really helped. After about ten seconds, the tense feeling in my gut eased and I felt more in control. My son? He got over it eventually.
  3. Do something intentionally. Even though I can feel stress just cooking, I actually enjoy doing it. It's the closest I can get to a creative hobby right now, and when I have time I really dig in. So sometimes I bake bread intentionally. I focus on the process -- weighing the flour, smelling the yeast in the dough, watching the mixer knead it into a smooth pattern in the bowl, feeling the texture on my fingers as I lay it out to rise. Using intention in doing something small makes me feel calm and centered so I'm less fluttered by the crazy moments that come later.
I'm not sure I have a preference for one tactic. I'm just not that organized. And sometimes I forget that I have these tools, but I can look at my son and remember that he's in a lot of pain when he can't communicate and doesn't know how to handle such big emotions. So I focus on softening myself instead and just stay near until the storm passes.

January 15, 2015

random thoughts on talking about dinner vs eating

I should know by now that, when I tell my son what we're having for dinner and he says "Mmm that sounds great!", it does not mean he will eat. In fact, it virtually guarantees he will hover around the table like a bee that can't decide whether it likes a flower.

January 12, 2015

new year's resolutions of a working mom

Disclaimer: I'm not a fan of making random or even carefully-planned New Year's resolutions. I do, however, believe in making changes when it seems necessary. In fact, I have seen the need and desire for some adjustments start to emerge over the past several months -- enough to declare to myself that I am willing to make some changes.

Unless a person is truly ready to take initiative, change is hard. In addition, what the resolution optimists don't talk about is that real change takes time. It takes initiative and intention plus a series of small steps to accomplish something bigger. In my case, the changes I want to make stem from awareness of things and people around me along with a desire to please God. After all, I am blessed in order to be a blessing. So here are the changes I'm making.

As a working mom, I will take time to incorporate different habits without putting pressure on daily life. Here's what that looks like for me:
  • Getting healthier. My relationship with food has declined, and I often eat for stress as much as hunger. Actually, I don't feel hungry very often because I snack long before I feel hunger pangs. I can easily be more mindful of quantity as well as quality. I am also getting more intentional with exercise. It's hard to squeeze it in, and way too easy to blow it off. But if I want to be healthy as I get older, I have to keep going.
  • Nurturing relationships. As my pastor pointed out yesterday, there is no cumulative value of allowing urgent things to interfere with the important things. How often am I browsing Facebook instead of making eye contact with my husband or son? How often am I watching a sitcom instead of checking in on a friend or loved one?
  • Organizing my home. It seems like I'm on a never-ending mission to get more organized, yet I have cubby bins that sit empty and my son's room continually cries out for underbed toy storage. I've started organizing my kitchen by (finally!) buying a real kitchen island that doubles as a breakfast bar, and implementing wall organizers so my kitchen drawers aren't bursting at the seams (see Ikea's Fintorp system). I honestly feel like my brain is less cluttered when my house is, and so this is part housecleaning and part therapy.
  • Nurturing myself. Actually, all of the above are things that nurture me but in a less direct way. At least a couple of days a week, I give myself permission to do something slightly indulgent that makes me feel more peaceful. That might be practicing guitar, taking an unscheduled long walk, or cooking something that looks too delicious to pass up (even if I think my family might hate it -- hello, green soup!). I have to remind myself that some days, putting away the dishes is just busywork, and sitting on the couch resting is more productive.
You'll notice I chose bullets instead of numbers, and that's on purpose. A numbered list might indicate priority, and the priorities shift every day or hour. I can never get everything done on a given day, but I can always choose one thing.

You may also notice I didn't create SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timed). This is also on purpose. Because, um, I'm giving myself the grace to do things gradually without the pressure of a timeline. In other words, that kind of structure just overwhelms me.

As my pastor also pointed out, there is a cumulative value to investing small amounts of time in small activities over a long period of time. So I'm taking my time.

January 8, 2015

random thoughts on conscious parenting

There's a new buzz-phrase going around called conscious parenting. Kindness? I'm all over it. But let me know when someone figures out how to accomplish unconscious parenting. I'm tired. Or subconscious parenting. Because I think my son's subconscious is the only one listening.