Thursday, February 25, 2010

How to get in shape after a winter of gastronomy.

Every year I get caught up in a cycle of bad eating habits. Right now, I'd say I'm at the worst point of the cycle. If I were to compare this point of the cycle to something, it'd be the shortest day of the year: dark, cold, listless, very far from summer - but, with a little tiny ray of hope.

To explain, here's an example of a typical year for me.

Summer
I'm in a routine of eating healthy things that are not deep fried in butter or covered in chocolate or cheese, and I exercise three or four times a week.

Halloween
The mini Halloween candies appear on store shelves, and here marks the end of all good habits, and the decline of my general health and muscle definition.

Thanksgiving
Turkey and pie. Turkey and pie. Beer and wine and turkey and pie. And now it's dark in the evenings and I can't possibly run in the dark.

Christmas
It's too late. Willpower is a distant memory. Cookies, cakes, tarts, squares, breads, cheese platters, pies and alcohol have taken me hostage.

Jan, Feb
New year's resolutions? Yeah, no. My new, unbreakable routine consists of chocolate cake for breakfast, cheese fondue for lunch and donuts for dinner. Exercise is no longer. And an unknown number of pounds have been gained, but I don't know how many because I've hidden the scales in the attic and refuse all knowledge of where they are.

March
I try. I swear, I do, but then..

April
..to add insult to injury, that plump furry bastard with the hop - the Easter Bunny, turns up with the eggs, all oh hello, it's me! Look what I brought! More sugar. You need more sugar in your diet.

May
Finally, with the threat of summer and strappy, sleeveless dresses, sandals and, dare I say - swim suits (horror) - I slam my fist on the table in a masterful kind of way and declare enough is enough, and go for a jog. The jogging leads to guilt about eating bad stuff. And the guilt leads to eating less bad stuff and more jogging.

June
A pound or so is gone. I know this because my jeans are at least a whole millimeter less tight and I could swear my bum is not as big. And I jump in the air as though I've lost thirty pounds and am now certainly swimsuit-model material.

Summer
I'm in a routine of eating healthy things that are not deep fried in butter or covered in chocolate or cheese, and I exercise three or four times a week.


So, what does a person do when they're in the bad place? (see Jan, Feb)

Why, sign yourself up for a 10km race of course! Never mind that your running shoes have not felt the hard concrete of the running path for over four months.

I mean, how hard can 10km be? (insert laugh of mad person)

It's in September, which means I have plenty of time to train. And I'll be running with friends, which means they probably won't let me duck out half way through the race and find the nearest pub...

But yay!

Wish me luck. And a miracle. 10k here I come.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Yeah well I had four kids in two years so ner!!!

I have to admit, I kind of like telling people my kids are 19 months apart. Usually, the statement is met with an impressed response and something along the lines of "you must be busy!". And I feel a surge of pride that - yeah, I coped with that. See? We're all still here!

And now that the boys are 2 and 1, I can say "I have a 2 year old and a 1 year old" and sometimes I get a sympathetic smile and occasionally, if I'm lucky, the offer of a cup of tea and a nap.

Note to self: must remember to look a little more disheveled next time.

But sometimes, the desire to show off one's closely-born children becomes a little, let's say, competitive.

Today I found myself caught in a four-way competition conversation about how close together each of our children was born.

One woman had three kids in two and a half years. One had two young kids thirteen months apart and two older kids as well. One had each of her three children fourteen months apart... or something like that. I think I lost track.

So clearly, I lost the competition those other women had it far worse than me!

Each statement was met with expressions of awe and empathetic shaking of heads as we each contemplated the demands of coping with such trying situations.

But, having had two children close together myself, and having faced the challenges of this, I have to say, I'm impressed, but... I'm equally impressed with those parents who choose a wider spacing of sprogs.

Because, however small or large the gap between your kids, it's my belief that there are going to be challenges. Whatever the age gap, you're still going to have to deal with more than one child entering different phases of development, each with their own set of emotional, educational, growing needs. Whatever the gap, you still have more than one mouth to feed, more than one schedule to attend to, more than one person to fret about.

Whatever the gap, it's hard work.

My brother and I are ten years apart. That doesn't mean it was easy for my parents... just different. A whole different set of challenges.

What do you think about this? Do you think closer is harder or believe any age gap is hard?
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spring trends for a thirty-something mum.

I realize there are some mums who can pull off the cutting edge trends I read about in magazines - the kind of outfits better suited to fashion fairs than grocery stores. But I'm not one of them.

The me that used to frequently swap cash for fashion and spend ages putting myself together, now spends forty five seconds yanking miscellaneous things from my wardrobe and hoping they look vaguely presentable. I used to like to think I was like Kate Moss - edgy, trendy, eclectic. Now I like to think I'm like Audrey Hepburn - classic, timeless, stylish.

Ahem.

But still, I can dream.


Spring trends I can't pull off.


Bold prints...
Carrie Bradshaw may be able to pull off peacocks and polka dots and hyacinth prints, but I suspect I'd look more like I had fallen in a vat of finger paints if I attempted anything like this.




Short shorts...
Because I am not fifteen. And I have two kids.


Denim shirt...

I love my denim jeans - a person can never have too many. But denim shirts? The line dancers would be bringing me in with their lassos.


Jodhpurs...
I'm sorry, there are no horses in my paddock presently.



Spring trends I can pull off.

Bright colours...
After a winter of grey and black, I'm ready for colour. Insects will swarm to me like moths to a flame, people will shield their eyes and squint, but still I will insist on wearing yellow. It's my fav.



Shoes...
Flats are in. Yeah! See, I told you I was like Audrey Hepburn!




Accessories...
Floaty scarves in neutrals and silvers. I have too many but I need more.

Earrings...
New earrings do it for me. Seriously. Like these lovelies.


Earrings from robertachiarella.com


What are your Spring must haves? (or must nots?)


Photo credits: searlenyc.com, fashionfame.com, bananarepublic.gap.com, gap.com, instyle.com, marieclaire.com, topshop.com

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

No such thing as a Benylin Day for parents.

When you get a cold, a dose of flu, or a stomach bug, you should go to bed, get as much sleep as possible, drink plenty of fluids and generally rest.

It's like that TV ad says... take a Benylin day!



See? That woman - she's getting ready for work. Uh-oh, she's not feeling too well. She tries to dress... nope, nope, it's not going to work. She's too ill. Eventually she slinks back into the warmth of her comfy bed and stays there for the day to recover.

I watched this ad and honestly, all I could think was... it would be so nice to have a cold and just curl up in bed for the day dosed up to the eyeballs with cold medication, with that mildly ill feeling that renders you so drowsy you sink into the pillow and sleep for hours and hours, and wake for short periods to watch TV and read magazines and eat the cakes and chicken soup that are delivered to you.

You know?

Unfortunately, there is no Benylin day for parents. Sob.

If there was a TV ad for cold medication for parents, it would show a mum coughing and wiping her nose with whatever is in her pocket while wrestling her kids into their carseats and simultaneously attempting to sanitize everything within reach.

Unfortunately parents aren't tucked up in bed with the luxury of recovering in peace. Just getting on with life and hoping, really hoping it goes away, fast.

It's why I dread getting a cold these days. And why I'm sitting here right at this moment under a blanket with a cup of tea, crossing my fingers and toes that this tickle in the back of my throat is just a fleeting irritation. Ugh.
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Elastic band parent.

When I left for massage therapy class early on Saturday morning I felt something like a release of pressure. After a week spent almost entirely inside the house with two kids (half of that time with both of them sick), stepping out into the chilly, foggy morning on my own was like a coming up for a huge gulp of air.

I sometimes think being a parent is like being an elastic band - you're stretched and twisted to work efficiently, you agree, you resist, you go with it, you want to snap, all the time indecisive. I love this / I struggle with this. I hate being away / I need some time away. I want to be at home / I need to work. Etc.

I drove to class, listening to my medical terminology CD and squinting to see through the fog, and despite my eagerness to get there, felt a tiny pang of melancholy as I pictured the boys waving bye bye to me in their pajamas, probably wondering where the hell I was off to before they'd even had their breakfast.

Ah the joys and challenges of parenting, served in equal measures.

But then I sat in class, writing my test and listening to the lecture, and became lost in what I was doing, and the little pang dissipated without my noticing it.

Coming home on Saturday and Sunday night on such a high and so refreshed reminded me how important this is. Time for me, time away - if only for a little while. Coming back home I felt as though I'd gained something that I could use to be a better parent. I felt like I'd found another part of me again - like I was once again someone with other things going on - things I really enjoy.

I've feared the idea of going out to work and leaving the boys - if only for a few hours, or a few days each week. But I'm learning my fear was merely a consequence of having spent the past few years at home - of not being in the habit of leaving them to do something for myself.

Now I know it's right. I need to work. I need that for myself.

And anyway, as I discovered, they - they boys and J - did incredibly well without me. A little too well actually... (Harumph!)
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

How we learn to let go of the small things.

I was never good at letting go of the small things. I would fret if my son missed a nap, certain his sleep routine was irreversibly wrecked. If I suspected he hadn't eaten enough for dinner I'd lie awake worrying he wasn't gaining adequate weight. A tantrum in the middle of a store was as humiliating as realizing I'd been walking around with my skirt tucked into my knickers.

I wanted to be in control and believed that if I wasn't, then I wasn't being a good parent. I didn't know at the time that I simply couldn't be in control of everything, and that that was okay.

Then, some time after my second son was born, I slowly began to let go. There wasn't time to fret over trivial issues, and I didn't have the energy or patience - instead I was focused on more basic goals like making it through the day alive.

So, if crayon marks appeared on the wall, if bedtime was pushed later or naps skipped, if lunch was a muffin and half a banana, I learned to say oh well, okay, not the end of the world.

Instead of sweating over the fact that my house wasn't spotless, I ditched the housework and began spending more time reading and playing with the kids. And, amazingly, the house did not collapse around me! It was okay.

Where once I would have snarled at someone giving me unwanted parenting advice, I found myself instead nodding and politely saying, oh right okay sure (and then discarding it).

I don't know about you, but I've found that with time I've become less affected by these insignificant things. Take yesterday, for instance: I was on the phone with my school. Oliver was in one arm chirping down the receiver like a bird, Matthew was glued to my leg, tugging and interrogating me over a missing toy car, and I was trying to scribble down notes from the conversation - barely audible over the noise - on a notepad on the fridge.

A few years ago I would have been in a flap. I probably would have locked myself in the bathroom with the phone to continue the conversation. But yesterday I apologized to the secretary about the noise and carried on the conversation. I realized afterward that this scenario, which must seem chaotic to others, is just ordinary for me now.

I've learned it's good to let go of the small stuff because you save energy for better things. And besides, there'll be plenty of opportunity for stress as the kids grow up. But let's not think about that right now...
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

They're kids, not idiots...

I have this great little book of piano music to play and sing to with the kids. The songs are about all the things young kids like - dinosaurs, elephants, firetrucks, puppies, teddies, bubbles, housework....

Wait... what?

Housework...

A song about housework, discreetly lodged between flying bears and puppets. The writer obviously snuck it in there thinking it would be good for parents.

It goes:

Let's clean the floor

Polish up the floor

Why should the grown-ups have all the fun?

Let's clean the floor

Polish up the floor

When the children do the dusting then the job's soon done!


I sung the song to my toddler with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, all the while trying to resist the urge to snicker out loud.

He stared at me with the stoical expression of someone who'd been offered a brussel sprout instead of a piece of cheesecake.

Then. "Mama, do dinosaur song again?"

He may be only two and a half, but he can detect the scent of trickery from miles away.





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Sunday, February 7, 2010

The no-solution sleep solution.

I know I'm not the only one who can't remember what it feels like to get a whole night's sleep. I'm not the only one to wonder what it's like to feel rested, normal, lucid. I know there are others out there like me, feeling the dismal effects of months or perhaps years of sleep deprivation.

First there are the early warning signs, which at first are quite funny really (at least they make good blog material). Then you become a bit desperate, and so you try one type of sleep training. And when that doesn't work you begin resorting to other strategies that might work. Then, finally, there's a break in the clouds and something works and sleep comes back to you in all its blissful glory like a long lost lover.

Then, it ends. Bang. Goodbye. Hahaha, I was just teasing. What? You didn't really think it was going to be this easy did you? You foooool!

I'm writing this, not because I'm looking for advice (although... anyone? I'll pay you... in, uh, cookies?) but because I feel confident that this phase, as difficult as it is, will pass. I'm not looking for an oh-my-gawd-how-did-I-never-think-of-that! solution, because I don't think there is one. Sometimes an answer isn't what's needed - just the willingness to be patient. The horrible truth, though I loathe to write it, is that I may not get a full night's sleep for a while... Like, another six months. Ouch.

To those who, like me, find themselves walking around in a state of semi-conscious delirium at 3 am., preparing bottles, soothing sobs, exhausted, alone: hey, hello, hi, I'm there too. And if you're silently beating your head against the wall, peeved by the unfairness of it all and wondering when it's all going to end - hello.

There's no shame in chugging the coffee straight from the pot. Or catching a few moments rest by telling the kids it's time to play let's see who can lie still the longest! Desperate times call for desperate measures.

A child development specialist recently warned me, during a discussion about sleep (ha), that all this lack of sleep, this go-go-go lifestyle, this never-resting, non-stop pace, would one day catch up to me. And I was all oh really? Oh great, that's very helpful, thanks so much! I'll just go right home and get eight hours sleep right now!

(That's sarcastic, in case you didn't get that.)

The truth is, there might not be a solution right now. It's hard to hear. The books say your child should be sleeping through the night by XYZ age. Your doctor tells you sleep training will answer all your problems. You want a solution, so, so bad. Because in every other scenario in life, there is a solution - minutes away: I need information - there's google. I need a medical diagnosis - there's my doctor. I want Thai food at 2 am. - there's a place down the road.

I want my kids to sleep. Sorry, this service is unavailable, please try again later.... beeeeep.

I'm looking forward to the day I don't wake up feeling like I've been backed over by a double-decker bus. And I'm pretty sure soon there'll be a time when I feel bright-eyed and bushy tailed. I'm pretty sure...

And until then there's always Red Bull.
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Friday, February 5, 2010

How dare you eat my chicken!

In a last-ditch attempt to convince my toddler to eat the rest of his dinner, I picked up a piece of chicken from his plate and ate it, exclaiming "Mmmm! Yumm!". It's a trick I've used many times to demonstrate that he's missing out on something good. Usually it works.

Not this time. I watched his eyes widen and his face become completely aghast at my maneuver. Then the breaking loose of hell.

"NO mama! No eat my CHICKEEEEEN!"

"I'm sorry honey!" I said, realizing my plan had taken a head dive.

"Give it BACK mama!" He demanded, approaching me and motioning for me to remove the chicken from my mouth. Unfortunately it was long gone. Gulp.

"Um..." I tried to discreetly pull another piece from his plate and pretended to make it appear from my mouth.

This just made things worse.

"No! Not dat chicken! Dat chicken!" He said pointing at my mouth. "Give back!"

Flip. Mummy Fail.

"I'm sorry honey, it's gone." I said and then, moving on quickly, "Let's sit down and eat some more dinner now."

"Noooooo!"

"Let's have some broccoli instead!"

"NO!"

"I know! Let's have some corn!"

"NO!"

"Toast with peanut butter?" (grasping at straws)

Shaking head.

"A muffin?"

Death stare.

"I know! Let's have some ice cream!"

"Okay." He said, suddenly over his outrage, climbed back up to the table and waited patiently for his dessert.

Lesson: never eat toddler's food. Ever again. Crikey.
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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Living simpler with less stuff in 2010.

By the end of last year I'd started to feel like there was too much stuff in our house, in our lives. By "stuff", I mean everything - food, toys, clothes, decor, electronics. All of it littering every corner of our home like bread crumbs on the kitchen counter.

I'd often find food in the fridge that was going bad because I'd completely forgotten about it. One time, I arrived home with a new sweater I'd bought for Oliver on impulse, and simply left it in the bag with all the tags on, deciding I'd return it the next day, because he already had a ridiculous number of sweaters.

It's easy to forget about valuing the things you already own when you're always focused on the next thing on your wish list.

And so, my unspoken new year's resolution was to accumulate less, waste less and begin living simpler and better in 2010.

Easier said than done! But, so far this year, with a little effort, I've adopted a few new habits.


Sticking to a weekly menu plan. Having a plan means I waste less money and food and don't end up pulling a face at the fridge mid-week because I've no clue what to make for dinner. I should note, my menu plan is not fancy. It doesn't use spreadsheet software. Picture a crumpled piece of paper with a scrawled list: Monday - spaghetti, Tuesday - pesto chicken, Wednesday - cous cous and peppers, etc., etc. Grocery list on the other side.


Making dinners that yield leftovers. We realized last year that a lot of cash was being spent on lunches. It adds up incredibly fast! (like that other addiction of mine - the coffee one) So, this year we've been choosing recipes that give us leftovers for lunch the next day.

I suppose you can do it with anything really... Here are a few I've made recently:

Broccoli cheese bake
Chili
Pierogies
Penne with sausage, wild mushrooms, spinach


Making, instead of buying things. We eat a lot of bread. (oh right - that's why I can never get thin...) Instead of buying it, I make it - all of it. And you know, it's not all that time consuming. The bread machine does most of the work for you. I make loafs, rolls, pizza bases, ciabattas and other baked yummy things.


The thing I like about making, not buying food, is that you know exactly what's going into your meals. Like tomato sauce for pasta - because really, it's just tomatoes (I use tinned, unsalted, whole tomatoes) and herbs.


Buying less and better clothes
. I've always loved buying clothes. And I've always bought too many - until a few years ago when I became a stay-at-home mum and suddenly had less money for luxuries.

Now, when I go shopping (and it's not often), I examine my wardrobe before I go out and figure out what I need, and what will compliment my existing clothes. Then I go out like a huntress on a mission.

And my rule when shopping now, is, I don't buy anything unless I love it.

Image from practicalprincess.com

Get rid of toys. Okay, admittedly I haven't gotten around to this yet. There are plenty of places to donate toys your kids aren't using: charities, community centers, second hand stores, Freecycle. Now that my baby (almost toddler) is increasingly disinterested in his baby toys, it's time to shed a few.


There's something satisfying about reducing and simplifying. I feel like there's less fuss and clutter, and more room to enjoy the things I love.
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

See you in another life, brother.

This post needs some kind of big, anticipation-building intro music...

So just imagine it please because I'm not very technical with the widget thingies.

Do you see that countdown timer over there on the right?

Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh yes!

Tonight, the first episode of the last season of Lost airs on telly.

If you're reading this, the likelihood is you're either nodding enthusiastically, or staring blankly at the screen.

If you're staring blankly at the screen, that must mean you don't watch Lost, are not interested in Lost, really couldn't give a hoot about Lost.

Which is fine. I'm fine with it. No really, I'm, totally fine that you don't watch Lost. We can still be friends.

Just, the only thing is, you see, YOU'RE MISSING OUT ON THE BEST TV EVER. That's all.

But, since I'm quite a nice person, I'm going to help you. Because you need help, trust me.

If you haven't seen Lost, you're missing out.

If you haven't engrossed yourself the incredible storyline, the bizarre concepts, the multiple plots that twist in and out of one another and cause sparks to fly from your head trying to work out what the hell is going on - you're missing out.

If you haven't encountered Sawyer's southern drawl and tough exterior/kitten interior sex-godliness, or Kate's vulnerable, mysterious character or Hurley's hilarious, lovable personality, you're missing out!

So, just for you, here is a recap of the entire first five seasons. It only takes eight minutes. Who doesn't have eight minutes? C'mon!


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