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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Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Colours Of Parenthood.

Motherhood is sunny yellow, fire engine red, sugary pink, crazy purple, delicious green, wonderful blue and bursting orange, with occasional hints of moody gray and frazzled beige.

Across our house we try to maintain the cool, sophisticated shades that help us remember we're not all about the kids, but our children's colours creep through, cannonballing out of every gap, peaking cheekily around corners and out from under chairs and tables, laughing at our attempt at grown-up decor.

There are lime green and vivid blue ride-on cars on the dark-brown hardwood living room floor, revealing it as the playroom it really is. Silver swords and viking hats sit on the kitchen table alongside vases and candlesticks. Primary-colour jigsaw puzzle pieces are scattered in the front entry way, welcome people into our mess house. The master bedroom with its pretty orange and white bedsheets is brought back down to earth by little red and blue race cars, stuffed animals and multi-coloured action figures that somehow make their way into our bedroom at every opportunity, spreading their hues all over the place.

Dinner time is a medley of lettuce greens and bright orange carrots, crimson radishes and mauve kidney beans, ivory rice and pasta and brown meat, as we endeavour to smoosh as many nutritionally-required foods onto one plate. Sometimes, there's a very superficial bubbly pink in a glass.

Winters, once gray, white and black are now flecked with cherry toboggans, navy winter hats with green bobbles, yellow vests embroidered with little engines, turquoise shovels against the white snow.

The black of nighttime is more welcome than ever, pulling sleep down over me like a cloak of luxurious rest.

As for my sons? They're sunshine and bulldozer yellow with splotches of chestnut mud, mint-choc-chip green dripping down sleeves, bouncy-castle red, popsicle tangerine. They're the colour of finger paints, fireworks and rocket ships.

They're every colour you see when you shine light on water.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On Giving Myself Permission.

After reading this post over the weekend I got to thinking about the whole subject of giving myself permission when it comes to spending money. Where once I gave myself permission to spend on things that made my life better / happier / easier , I now have a hard time with it. So what happened?

Well, money - for one thing. But also, something else: some kind of mental road block that has demoted me in the ranks of worthiness and which I'm having a hard time defining. 

Let's start at the beginning. Rewind eight or ten years: I was a single, working woman, self-sufficient and in the privileged position of being able to spend my money selfishly on whatever I wanted, whenever I felt like it. This afforded me all the things that made my life nicer: clothes and haircuts to boost my self-confidence; holidays to help me unwind and regroup; take-out and restaurant food when I didn't feel like cooking; an abundance of things - essential and non-essential.

Years later I went on maternity leave for the first time and slashed my spending habits. I severed my ties with the consumer world as I'd known it, exchanging my weekly clothes shopping sprees for quarterly ones, the restaurant food for home-cooked meals, and holidays for staycations.

Over time my mindset shifted from this: I want something therefore I will have something, to this: I want something therefore I will weigh up all my options, hunt around, research it to death, check my bank balance and then maybe not end up with it at all because instead we need diapers, dog food, electricity and toilet paper. 

Ten years ago I was reckless with my money, to put it bluntly. Now I'm careful. And though once the idea of being frugal seemed dull, one good thing has come from having it: I'm now in-control of my money: I know how much is available, I'm on top of paying bills, and I feel satisfied in the knowledge that we're doing okay with our money even though it has meant cutting back.

But there's another side to all of this: I've become scroogey. I tirelessly hold onto things around the house that might be re-used and recycled in other ways; I look twice, three times at a t-shirt - even if it's on sale - asking myself do I really want this? Do I really? Do I?; I look in fliers to check for promotions and I make meal plans so that I'm not wasting money on food we won't eat.

And out of the scrooginess has grown the inability to let myself have certain things. One example? A snow shovel: We've had this wooden/metal snow shovel for years. I've always hated it but always used it in some deluded dutiful way. I even used it to shovel when I was pregnant both times, even though it's heavy before the added weight of snow and I almost always end up with a twinge in my back. I've coveted a plastic snow shovel for a while and yet I cannot bring myself to get one. Because as I'm looking at the thirty-dollar price tag I'm thinking about all the other things that we might need before we need the snow shovel. And of course there are always a million and one other things that take priority. And besides, we already have a snow shovel that works, so how can I justify buying another one if we don't really need it?

This leads me to another question. Actually two questions:

1) When did I become such a bloody martyr? and;
2) How do I stop being such a bloody martyr?

Somewhere along the way my preoccupation with keeping our finances straight has gotten twisted up with the notion that I shouldn't buy things for myself - even small things that we can afford that will clearly make my life easier. And don't I want my life to be easier?

I do! I do! (she shouts meekly)

It's not really about the money because I'm quite happy spending it on other non-essential things. It's about the way I feel about spending money on myself. I need to snap out of it, to rethink priorities, reshuffle things a bit, become more aware and more thoughtful about the way I spend money. And I need to learn to once again give myself permission.

How about you? Do you give yourself permission?
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