Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Banana That Wouldn't Back Down.

I knew when he was only little that my son was going to be a bit on the stubborn side. Kind of like me, actually. Determined, wanting to be right, and irrefutably unwilling to back down in an argument. And I guess that's why the conversation about who was going to dispose of his half-eaten banana went on for a full thirty minutes.

He perched on the edge of an armchair, his face tired and pouty, worn out from being outside all morning in unseasonably warm April weather and a kids' birthday party in the afternoon, the remains of his banana in his outstretched hand.

"Who is going to throw away my banana?"

The question was so pensive it could have come from a senior-ranking army general, deciding whether or not to attack the other side.

J and I, being the type of parents to encourage our kids to help out around the house, and not under any circumstances to be pushed around by our offspring, immediately produced the same response.

"You are going to throw away your banana."

My son threw back his head in displeasure, letting out a sigh.

It's a tough life when you're an almost-five-year-old your only real worry in life is about which Hot Wheels cars to pluck from the toy bin today, or which nose to stick on Mr. Potato Head. 

"I'm not throwing it away."

"Then there are only three options:" Said J. "You can throw it away, eat it, or hold it. All night."

About ten minutes later, J and I were reading when suddenly we heard a great sigh.

Still with the banana.

"WHO is going to throw away my BANANA?"

"Er. Didn't we just answer that question? No one is going to throw away your banana, except you. The end." I said.

My son has a particular way of glaring at me that only a child of his age can, with a perfect combination of cute and cross. Lips pursed, brow furrowed.

"Take your banana to the bin. You know where it is - under the kitchen sink. That's all you have to do."

I carried on reading, unwilling to carry on the discussion about the flipping banana.

More minutes passed and there was another sigh.

"Good God. Seriously. Are you still holding that banana?" I asked my son.

"I still don't know who is going to...."

"That's it! Go and put it in the bin right now."

But he didn't. He lingered, hovering near me on the sofa, lying, then sitting, then lying again, his banana-hand still outstretched, obstinate and unrelenting.

And I realized, this boy is not only as stubborn as me, he's even more stubborn than me. Oh boy.

Some minutes later, as the banana became increasingly disgusting and now had dog hair stuck to it, he quietly took it to the bin and without a word tossed it in there. 

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Monday, April 9, 2012

I Won't Be Rich Or Famous But I Will Be Happy (And Tired).

In this other life, I had this career - one I'd have done anything for, burnt my candles at both ends for, bent over backward and done a somersault for. Newly graduated I was eager to get ahead. I wanted the whole career thing - the package I'd dreamed up in my head that was going to lead me to status and wealth and happiness. Several years in my enthusiasm was still going strong. I moved around from company to company, using each position as a stepping stone to something better. With each move I was more confident, more capable, more experienced.

I'd sit in the back of a taxi (black cabs - one of my favourite things about working in London), spinning through meeting plans with colleagues in hushed, excited voices, before arriving to present and win over some client.

It was all very interesting - all the dashing around to meetings, dashing back to my desk, dashing to the gym to work out, dashing back to grab lunch, dashing to catch the train. And the dashing rarely ceased. Because when it did cease, I could feel it inside me, outside me and all around me - the unhappiness. I ignored it for a long time. I had this great job, this money, this stuff, and I was unhappy. But how could I be unhappy? Wasn't this everything I'd wanted?

Somewhere around this time I convinced myself it probably wasn't possible to actually enjoy working. Working was something you did because you had to, you were supposed to. If it made you sick, if it exhausted you, well so be it. You need to make money, you work. You need a house, you work. You need chairs and candlesticks and weekend vacations, you work. You don't like it, well damn it smile and say you do!

I never, not in a thousand years, would have predicted the career change I'd make in years to come. I'd never have believed, if you'd told me then, I'd later work as a massage therapist.

(Back Then me: a WHAT?!?)

When I go to work today I don't feel sickness in my stomach before I leave the house. I don't dread the day ahead and all the terrible, heart-racing disasters and stresses it might bring. I go to work and I simply do my job. Sometimes I'm prepared, sometimes I'm not. Sometimes I use my intuition, sometimes I rummage through my text books for medical reminders or answers to problems I might need to fix. Sometimes, as I'm into my third or fourth hour, I grow weary, my hands aching and my body silently groaning and begging to sit the hell down, and I remind myself that I'm grateful to have this job that I love, and I carry on.

I've wondered lots of times what attracted me to massage therapy, having come from a completely different field. What happened to all those things I'd be striving for? Those things I'd told myself I absolutely needed to achieve? Apparently those things we want in our twenties don't hold the weight we think they will in our thirties. All the old aspirations went up in a puff like a cigarette smoke doughnut, up into the clouds, never to be seen again. Basically.

On the first day of my first massage therapy class, I remember quite clearly (it was one of those moments that sticks with you) my instructor saying that she'd had several careers, but massage therapy was by far the best career she'd had. Maybe it was that I found her to be inspiring, or perhaps that I was in a good mood that day, but what she said hooked me. I knew her words were going to hold meaning for me too.

I'm oddly grateful of the old, stressful job, that made me think all jobs were simply drudgery, because it taught me to appreciate what it means to have a job I enjoy. I understand the difference. A simple thing, really, but a good and important thing.

Now, if only massage therapists could be millionaires....
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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter On Hold.

Happy Easter! Hope yours was good. This morning our Easter plans went off course when everyone in our house woke up with a horrid stomach bug. We were supposed to do an early Skype with my parents in England, then head over to my in-laws' for an Easter egg hunt. Instead we spent the entire day in bed.

Thankfully we had already enjoyed a little Easter last week, decorating the house with flowers, doing crafts with the kids and baking treats. But for the first time in probably forever we didn't eat our eggs today. We'll have to wait until our tummies have stopped misbehaving to tuck in our chocolate goodies. And oh boy am I going to make up for it.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Flattering Spring Outfit For A Curvy Lady.

Over the years I've come to understand my body shape and what kinds of clothes suit me. I know that bright colours make my skin tone look warmer, that accessories can make or break my outfit, that buying good quality items is a far smarter investment than buying cheap ones (though I still do now and then) and that a really good pair of dark denim jeans is an essential wardrobe item.

I also know that the looks I used to wear - the skinny jeans with waist-high shirts and high-heeled boots, and the short, spaghetti-strap dresses - they don't look good on me anymore.

I'm no fashion expert - I just know what works for me. I catch glimpses of style trends in magazines and on blogs but I don't rush out to the stores and buy into them - at least not in the way I did when I was a single working woman. Now I basically just go with what's flattering and functional for me.

So here's an outfit that works for my body shape. I wear a size 10/12. Below, I'm wearing dark denim jeans from Gap (I love their jeans - they always fit me perfectly), with flat black ballet pumps, a pink shirt, blazer and chunky turquoise necklace. 

What makes this outfit work? It's a combination of things: First, the dark, slim jeans are flattering to my legs/thighs/bum; second, wearing ballet pumps that peek out from beneath the jeans really helps to elongate my legs; third, my pink shirt is long - coming down to my hips, which I think gives the appearance of a slimmer waistline; lastly, the blazer - the most genius and necessary wardrobe item ever invented (in my humble opinion), which pinches my waist in, draws attention away from my stomach, and pulls the outfit together. The necklace is simply there because I love colour and I think the turquoise really adds warmth to the bright pink top.

Blazer, Zara. 
Turquoise necklace, a gift.
Pink shirt, Joe Fresh. 
Jeans, Gap. 
Black pumps, Gap.

How about you? What outfits work for your body? 

The opinions expressed in this post are my own. No compensation was received for any brand or product mentioned.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Weightloss And The Average Food-Loving Woman.

For the past few weeks I've been attempting what I would call a half-diet. Not a full-on, proper diet that requires me to follow a strict plan and a calorie limit or anything like that. More like a general movement toward cutting back on sugar and carbs. And believe me, even that - the simple thing of cutting back - is hard. Oh so HARD.

I once tried to go on a real diet and failed miserably. My colleague, who was doing the diet with me, stuck religiously to the rules, measuring and counting every morsel that passed her lips. I, on the other hand, didn't take it seriously, sneaking in little afternoon treats (that I would surely have died without!) and generally not doing it properly. Needless to say, my colleague lost weight and I didn't.

I just really love food.

And once upon a time, before the yo-yo weight gain / weight loss / weight gain / weight loss of having two children in three years, I had a sense of humour about it. I could laugh about my terrible inability to not eat too much food. Because it didn't matter.

Before I became pregnant the first time in 2006, I weighed 150 pounds and wore a size 8 or 10 US (I'm 5'8"). I'd been that exact weight for a while. It was the weight my body sat at comfortably, the weight at which I didn't diet, didn't deprive myself of anything (within reason), exercised regularly. At that weight I wasn't thin. But I was slim and I was happy with slim.

Today I'm 154 pounds. And believe me when I say it's taken a long, long, very long time to even get back to this point. And, admittedly, not with much effort on my part. Getting back down to here has come mostly through time and a little exercise. I'm getting there but there are still those last few stubborn pounds and those last few extremely stubborn inches.

My son took this picture of me before I left for work, yesterday. 
I realize I'm standing in kind of an awkward way, but this is 
the most recent full-length shot I have of myself!

Of course, even when I lose these last few pounds and inches my body won't be the same as it was before. A small price to pay for two beautiful children though, I'd say.

I'm okay with the extra curves, the not-so-perky bits and bobs, the parts that are no longer taut. Honestly? I don't really care about them. They're just part of who I am, now.

What I really want?

To feel good in a pair of jeans again.

It's not much. I'm not asking for a bikini body, legs that can pull off a mini skirt or an abdomen that can carry a midriff-exposing t-shirt.

Just the jeans, please, fairy god-mother.

So I'm doing this half-diet thing. I'm cutting back. I'm eating more protein and less carbs. Eggs instead of toast for breakfast. Salads and soups instead of sandwiches for lunch. Dinner - a little bit of everything. And little or no snacking in the evening (only almonds or Japanese rice crackers). I'm being sensible. But not all the time. Because being sensible all the time is just not for me.

And after all, I'm just a woman, standing in front of a plate of pastries, asking the pastries for permission to one day eat them again.....

How about you? Do you diet? Or do you find them impossibly hard like me?
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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Soothing Bedtime Song Fail.

A few nights ago we were getting our kids ready for bedtime, helping arms and legs into pajamas, encouraging good teeth brushing and tucking them in, snug as a bug. It was nearing eight o'clock (a whole hour later than their usual bedtime) and it was the kind of night that saw us reaching our final strands of energy, patience and the ability to stay upright. As I kissed my older son goodnight he turned to me.

"I don't want to go to bed, mommy." He said.

"I know, honey, but it's getting late and you need your sleep. Goodnight." Again I kissed him.

"I don't want to go to sleep because I'm scared."

"Of what, sweetie?"

"Of my room. Sometimes it's scary to be alone in the dark."

"But you've got your moon." I said, gesturing to the crescent-shaped wall-lamp.

"But it's still scary."

"Okay." My body was telling my to be horizontal, but my mind told me to think quickly and creatively otherwise our eight o'clock bedtime was going to turn into a nine o'clock bedtime.

"Oh! I know!" I said, suddenly with an idea.

"I know what will make everything better!" I said, convincingly. "I know a song that will make all of your fears go away. Once you hear it, you'll realize there's nothing to be scared of! Have you heard it?"

My son shook his head, brightening up at the idea of the song.

Neither had I. There was no song.

Why do I do this to myself?

Lucky for me I'm good at improvising, so I sat for a moment, conjuring words and melodies in my head while my son stared at me wide-eyed and expectant.

Then I begun.

There's nothing to be scared of in your room.....
Even if you hear a crash and boom...
If you think there's a monster in your closet...
Just close your eyes and think nothing of it...
'Cause there's nothing to be scared of in your room....

As soon as I heard myself mention the monster, I knew the song was headed in the bad place, but it was too late - the monster was part of the story, so I just kept going.

There's nothing to be scared of in your room.....
Even if you hear a crash and boom...
 If there's a gremlin under your bed...
Then just clobber him over the head....
'Cause there's nothing to be scared of in your room...

Now Gremlins. Time to stop? Nope.

There's nothing to be scared of in your room.....
Even if you hear a crash and boom...
If you hear something tapping at the window...
 Just pretend it's a friendly backhoe....
'Cause there's nothing to be scared of in your room....

At the end of the song I sat and waited for my son to tell me I'd succeeded in making him even more scared than before. But, bizarrely, the song seemed to have hit the nail on the head. Content, he turned over, wished me goodnight and we didn't hear from him again until the morning.

Later that night, I repeated "There's nothing to be scared of in your room" for J. I'm not sure whether it was the initial look of disbelief all over his face, or the laughter that followed, or the "are you TRYING to give our kids nightmares?" question, but we came to the conclusion I should probably think up some new words for the song.
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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Weekend Glorious Weekend.

I remember adoring the weekend back when I worked full-time. During the week I was climbing a steep hill, a slow, steady climb to the top, all the while keeping the summit in mind. I'd talk about the weekend, dream about it on the bus and the train, conjuring in my head all the wonderful ways I'd spend it. When finally I reached the summit I'd revel in it - in the ability to lay in bed until ten, sit around drinking coffee and reading the papers, and generally doing whatever it is young single people do at the weekend (you'll have to remind be because I can't actually remember what that is....).

These days I love the weekend even more than I did back then. I'm not climbing a steep hill anymore, I'm speed-walking a marathon that has no finish line - not even at the weekend. The weekend doesn't bring relief from the things that need to happen to keep the house afloat. It doesn't forgive me from middle-of-the-night potty trips or (way-too-) early morning conversations about dinosaurs and the Easter Bunny. But the weekend does bring one brilliant, magical thing that outweighs all other things: another parent.

For me, having my other half around is pretty much equal to solid gold. It's like the troops have arrived and we can take on anything together; we're unbeatable when there's two of us. Suddenly an undercurrent of calm has overtaken and now the fortress is much more difficult to shake.

So the weekend is great. Even though I go to work on Saturday mornings. Even though some Saturdays I wish I wasn't heading out early, missing out on leisurely breakfasts and weekend activities with my kids and husband. But the weekend is still great, because I come home in the afternoon, pleased with my morning's work (I love my job - did I mention?), still with plenty of quality hours and just enough energy to enjoy the rest of the weekend with my family.

And now that the boys are getting a little older (three and four) it's becoming possible to do more things together - like going out for dinner. On Saturday night we took the boys to a sushi restaurant for dinner. We actually sat at a restaurant table, the four of us, ordered food and ate together in a civilized manner, without any raised voices or cries. Then we paid our bill and went home to watch the hockey game, throughout which the boys would cheer when our team scored.

Now the weekend is over, the kids are in bed, the dishes are cleaned and put away and all that's left is to curl up in front of a movie. And as we head into another week I'm exhausted but laid-back and happy.

Hope yours was great too.
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Unrushed and Present.

"Unrushed and present." I read this line in a parenting book and it really stuck with me.

I noticed this morning after I'd dropped off my older son at school and was out shopping with my younger son, how "unrushed" I am when I'm with just one of my kids. I'm so much more calm and unruffled. It's as though time slows down to accommodate our conversations, our schedule, our interactions. I thought, later, about how I could make time slow down like that when I'm with both of my kids.

Unfortunately my time machine is all out of magic bean juice at the moment.

So often I'm rushing through time, steering everyone through one thing and onto another, talking in fast, impatient sentences with the end goal always in mind like a programmed mom-bot. Coats on, coats off, dishes away, list ticked, emails sent, next. (Side note: I honestly think parents could teach organizational skills in colleges.) Sometimes that's just the way it is - we're often surging from one thing to another. I'm dropping off and picking up; I'm preparing the house before I leave for work; I'm packing bags for the following day; I'm squeezing a grocery run in between drop offs and pick ups.

And by the time I flop onto the sofa at eight in the evening I wonder where the heck the day went. I've been trying - really trying to enjoy more of those precious moments that happen during any given day, but there's still an awful bloody lot of rushing around. I'm resigned to the fact that that's the way it's going to be for the next few years at least.

But back to the book I'm reading: It's called Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected, by Susan Stiffelman, and it's really good. I picked it up at the library one day when I was having one of those Oh Gawd What Am I Going To Do moments that resulted from several weeks of fierce parent-child struggles.

I haven't made it all the way through the book yet (the disadvantage of trying to always read six books at once) - but so far it's given me lots of positive encouragement and sensible ideas. Especially in regards to not losing your sh*t every time your children challenge your authority. Honestly, it's really worth reading and I'd recommend it to any parent.

And - as is the proof of any good parenting book - I've been actually putting some of the ideas into practice: I've been using a no-nonsense, this-is-the-way-it-is-like-it-or-lump-it approach to situations, and as a result have been feeling much more serene and in-control about things generally. And when it comes to parenting, SERENE = GOOD. Always.



"No sorry, you're all done."


"Nope. We're done with shows for today."



No engaging in conversations about why or if, just straight-forward clarification. 

Of course the calm doesn't always happen, but it's good to try.

And when that fails?

I'll give you a clue: it has four letters and rhymes with "mine".

The opinions expressed in this post are all my own. I received no compensation for mentioning the book.
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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Do These Crutches Make Me Look Fat?

Doctor: "So when did the accident happen?"

Me: "2:45 this afternoon."

Doctor: "That's pretty precise!"

Me: "Yes. I remember because I started my run fifteen minutes later at 3:00."

Doctor: "Um. You fell down the stairs and then you went for a run?"

Me: Defensively. "I didn't realize I'd done any damage! My leg felt okay after the fall! And I was on my way to the treadmill so I just ....went!"

Doctor: "Mm hmm."

Me: Embarrassed silence.

Doctor: Scribbles notes about patient being total lunatic.

Doctor: "And when did the pain begin to set in?"

Me: "About two hours later - at my sons' swimming class."

Doctor: "And have you taken anything for the pain?"

Me: "Yes." Floating up to the ceiling. "Some lovely Tylenol with codeine. It's made everything magically feel better."

Doctor: Raising eyebrow. "And now why would you have Tylenol with codeine sitting around?"

Me: "I didn't! My mother-in-law gave them to me! She had them leftover from the dentist!"

Doctor: "Oh I see. Pretty awesome mother-in-law you got there."

Me: "Yup."

Doctor: Feeling around my knee. "Ooh, so you're hyper flexible!"

Me: "Yes." Winking at J who pretends not to notice.

Doctor: "Well, you haven't broken anything. Looks like you've torn your meniscus."

Me: "Oh God no! Not my MENISCUS!"

Me: "Wait - which one is that?"

Doctor: "The cartilage in between your patella and shin bone."

Me: "Oh God!"

Doctor: "And I'm afraid you've probably just given yourself arthritis in the knee."

Me: "Really? Arthritis? Really?"

Doctor: "Yup."

Me: "Bugger."

Doctor: "And you're going to need to take it easy for a while. What do you do for a living?"

Me: "I have a three- and four-year old and I'm a massage therapist."

Doctor: "Okay, so not much rest then. Just rest when you can."

Me: "Hahahahaha. Okay. Rest. Absolutely."

Doctor: "And obviously no more running."

Me: "Right. For the next week."

Doctor: Again with the eyebrow. "It's probably not a good idea. Period."

Me: "Oh. Okay." And then, to J, in what I imagined to be a whisper but was more like a quiet shout. "I am totally going running again in two weeks!"

Doctor: "In the meantime, here's a prescription for some more T3s if you need them. And grab a pair of crutches on the way out."

It took a while to get the hang of walking with crutches, but finally I did. I even tried to show J some dance moves using my new crutches. He wasn't all that impressed - something to do with it being midnight and us having been in the hospital all night and needing to get some sleep. But I'm glad to report that four days later I'm up and about again without the crutches. Hurray! And there's nothing quite like an injury to make you genuinely appreciate working limbs.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Threads Of Contentment.

I'm looking out of the kitchen window. It's Sunday afternoon and the first signs of Spring are materializing. The grass is now only half-covered in snow and the air still holds a snap of cold but also now enough warmth to be outside for hours at a time. The boys' boots are drenched in mud but they don't care because it's just lovely to be outside, sliding and swinging and running around with all the buoyancy that childhood permits.

I stir the dinner and pour two glasses of rum and pineapple with wedges of lime, because that's what summer tastes like and I'm impatient for summer to come quickly now.

It's these moments of unblemished contentment that I'm learning to let myself into. The longer I'm a parent the more I realize that it's necessary to let myself into these moments - really let myself into them, because they're the ones I'll remember when I'm looking back on this in ten years. 

Any given day in our house is filled with countless ups and downs and expecting it to be any other way would be nothing short of madness. The trick - I'm finding - is to enjoy the moments that are about happiness and let go of the ones that are about frustration. Easier said than done, though.

These days are a tangle of goods and bads, smiles and tears, thrills and disappointments, logics and crazies, grins and grimaces, kisses and punches, acceptances and rejections. It's all part of the complicated tapestry of family life.

And I have my ups and downs, too: I love dinner time, sitting around the table with my family while everyone tucks into their food and chats about the day; cleaning up the dishes, not so much. I feel relieved and calm when my house is clean; I hate the cleaning part. Reading bedtime stories to my kids is one of my favourite parts of the day; brushing teeth beforehand is almost always a struggle. I'm proud of my son as he rushes into his preschool classroom to get right on with playing in the sand; getting there on time in the morning isn't always a breeze.

Life's like that.

But when I let myself into the good moments, the not-so-good ones are more workable.

I imagine the good moments to be like a piece of red thread. It weaves through the tapestry strong and thick, locking the whole thing together as one. It rides over the bumpy pieces and comes through the other side in tact. It's subtle enough to blend in but bold enough to still be recognized among the other threads if you look hard enough.

The red thread is always there, winding its way through time, stringing together a pattern of memories. It's watching my sons playing outside in the mud. It's the surprising and hilarious conversations. It's seeing them become more confident in the water, on their bikes, on ice skates. It's looking into their eyes when they're describing something. It's the moment when my husband and I close their bedroom doors in the evening and pour each other a glass of wine.

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