Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Confessions of a marshmallow mommy

We have a few solid rules around here during the week that keep this ship smoothly sailing:
  1. No TV on school days, especially in the morning.
  2. Children must nap after lunch so moms can work.
  3. Only one snack after naptime, preferably a fruit or veggie.
  4. There must be outdoor playtime on sunny days.
These rules went out the window today. Sweet Boy -- who did not nap, which stressed me out because he turns into a total pest when he's tired so I had a hard time focusing on work -- finally wore me down. After about an hour of begging and whining, he cajoled me into putting on a DVD for him; he then used his charms to wrestle an early snack, too (and I know he will be whining for crackers well before dinnertime).

As I guiltily pushed play on the remote so I could guiltily get back to my laptop, he looked into my eyes, batted his luscious lashes, and started rubbing my back. Then came the words that just might define my marshmallow parenting style: "You're such a good mommy. You let me do whatever I want to do."

Yup, Supermom. That's me.

Just say no...to chain restaurants

In our efforts to skinny down this year, Big Daddy and I have curbed our eating out and takeout habits. This list reinforces the Why.

Some of these are no-brainers -- Denny's, Dairy Queen, Baskin Robbins -- but others surprise me. Lemme just say ew gross! to Macaroni Grill for duping us all these years with their "salads." And Baja Fresh don't sound so fresh to me.

Sadly, the two places we have "dined" in (and I use the term loosely) recently are Chili's and Applebee's because they both have lower-calorie menu options (and because they're cheap and kid-friendly). Who knew that even Chili's "Guiltless Grill" should cause so much shame?

And why haven't Applebee's (home of the Weight Watchers partnership), Friday's, and Outback yet published their nutrition information? Whatever could they be hiding? (The last time we ate at Outback, easily five years ago, I ordered a medium steak and the waitress came out to tell me they were all out of medium steaks. Huh? Can't you just throw a rare steak on the barbie for a few minutes longer? Evidently, the pre-packaged steaks are not so made-to-order as they'd have you believe.)

The big surprise on this list: McDonald's scored a B+ because of their salads and yogurt choices. Wonders never cease.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Old friends new

I drank coffee with an old friend this morning -- someone I haven't seen since around June of 1993 when we graduated from high school. We hooked up on Facebook a few months ago, and I'm so glad we did. She's smart and fun and kind -- always has been -- in fact, she was one of the two girls who befriended me immediately when we moved to my new school at the start of seventh grade. (I know...you and I both shudder at the thought of starting new school in 7th grade!)

Friday I spent an hour chatting online with another high school friend who I hadn't spoken to in over 10 years. We chatted easily, laughed about shared memories, gushed about our spouses, even talked abut mundane daily stuff like what books we're reading and music we're listening to. He revealed some interesting, truthful impressions of me in high school that made me simultaneously smile and cringe. There are a couple other friends I've discovered now live right down the road and have kids the same age as mine; others who now live in faraway states and countries and have fabulous careers.

I could go on and on about my recently rekindled Facebook relationships -- friends from as far back as kindergarten have appeared and I love getting to know them again. What strikes me most about these reconnections is that although I liked these people as their 16-year-old selves, they're really so much more interesting now. It sounds obvious and ridiculous, but really, we're all full-fledged people -- no longer masses of hormones and emotions centered on who likes whom or stressing about how long to study for Friday's test. We've all been shaped much more by the post-high-school years, and we all carry our own scars, large and small. We deal with similar challenges; we have similar humor and hopes.

Not many of us are where we pictured ourselves way back then, but I get the impression we all like our now selves much more. What I love most is that we're all reconnecting in the present -- not sitting around waxing nostalgic about the good old days. But it's really nice to have roots.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How to get happy...or at least feel better

So...it's been a tough couple of days. Mentally, physically, emotionally draining. Big Daddy and I stayed home together both Monday and Tuesday, just to get our heads back on and to spend time healing our tender family. Here's what we learned is the best way to shake away the blues:

1) Crank up the oldies station. Play it louder than your parents ever did. Motown is therapeutic. As are the BeeGees, Tom Jones, Neil Diamond, Earth Wind & Fire, and Prince. Sure it's tough that some of the songs from our own childhood are now played on the oldies station. But we love those songs! So turn it up, man. And dance til your old knees hurt.

2) Go out to lunch at your favorite pub, for which you happen to have a gift card, and drink a beer in the middle of the day. Even though you're certainly of age and you have no obligations to stay sober on a mental health day, there's still a little thrill that comes with drinking beer at noon on a Tuesday (a la Cheryl Crow).

3) Nap with your Sweet Boy in your arms. Breathe in his smell -- that special combination of outside air, earth, peanut butter, and baby shampoo -- and let him burrow his little body under your chin. Even when your arm falls dead asleep under his shoulders, you will feel good.

4) Play outside until it's too dark to see. Run in your yard with a soccer ball, let your husband tackle you into the mushy pile of leaves you didn't get around to raking up in the fall -- then beat him at a game of one-on-one in your driveway. Take photos of you and your husband and your kid making silly faces in the shadows of the giant oak tree. Draw fabulous gardens full of sidewalk-chalk flowers until every inch of your clothing is covered in pastel dust. Let the cool spring air purge all the badness away.

5) Eat ice cream for dinner...or whatever kind of junk food makes you happy. And let your child eat it too. In fact, just open the carton and each of you grab a spoon, then snuggle on the couch, licking your lips and making "mmm" noises.

6) Read your favorite picture book in your little guy's bed, kiss him goodnight, hear his little voice say "I love you, Mommy," and know that he means it more earnestly than anything that's ever been said before. Right then you'll know that you're going to be ok.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

To the little light we lost today

I didn’t know that love could grow so quickly. Or so unexpectedly. You caught us by surprise—we were stunned, in fact—but you moved right into our hearts. You made me believe in miracles, to believe in the possibility of the impossible. You brought your father such happiness and hope at a time when we were both so unsure of anything but our love for each other. I’ve never seen him smile the way he smiled when I told him about you. It was hard for us to keep this secret.

You changed everything in just a few short weeks. We started to see our other child in such a different light: He was suddenly a big brother, no longer the baby, now the protector and the teacher and the grown-up boy. I started imagining how we’d rearrange furniture to accommodate a bassinet and a swing. We thought up cute ways to tell our families and friends, and we giggled over their reactions. We started thinking in terms of four, no longer three. You were going to complete the plan.

It was too good to be true—and too fast. One minute I was getting used to the idea of an only child, then adjusting to the idea of two, and now just thanking God for the beautiful boy we do have. One minute I was wondering how he would react to news of a little brother or sister; the next minute I was dreading telling him that it was a mistake, that there was no little brother or sister. One minute I was lying on the bed in the guest room, envisioning it in pale pink; the next I was lying on a too-short bed in the emergency room, trying to will you into surviving. One minute I could picture your face and imagine holding your tiny hand; the next I wondered if you really never existed, if I just wanted you so badly that you became real in my mind only. One minute I saw your heartbeat; the next it was gone.

I was worried from the start, too worried about foolish things, and I’m afraid even now that I worried you away. I’m sorry, so sorry I couldn’t hold on to you in my womb. But I promise to hold you forever in my heart, right next to the other loves I have lost. We will not forget you, little light. We’ll carry you always in our dreams.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Reprioritizing and raging

Sunday morning, I visited my local Target store for the first time in over a month. Crazy, yes, that I've been away from my favorite store for so long; when we were in diapers, I was there at least once a week, dropping $50 or more each time on stuff we may or may not really have needed. I could always convince myself that the spending was ok -- after all, these are the lowest prices around! I've always been a frugal girl, not really a shopaholic, but something about Target made it easy to spend my money.

Three things have always struck me as amazing at Target: (1) The parking lot is ALWAYS full to capacity (especially between Halloween and mid-January when folks are in their holiday shopping frenzy); (2) You can always find folks with wild, gleeful eyes wheeling around carts full of mediocre-quality stuff for their homes; and (3) Even though the mark-downs on the little tags on the shelf show a price difference of only about 20 cents, the red-and-white sign in front of any product triggers the "buy it now!" effect in us bargain shoppers.

This week was different. The parking lot had plenty of spaces. In fact, I parked right near the door -- at 11 a.m. on a Sunday! That's ridiculous, you say. But it's true. There were no carts full of comforter sets or press-board furniture, no excited eyes looking at the red-and-white mark-down signs. There was no joy in Target. Instead, there were women with gaunt faces and circles under their eyes circling the food aisles. There was a man arguing with the pharmacist about the price of his medication. I overheard a mother telling her daughter that she had to "choose only one pair of shoes this time."

My first thought was, ok, people are reprioritizing, thinking a little harder before buying another comforter set or a new set of towels that they don't really need. Reprioritizing is good for us, I know. But I can't help but feel sad about it. Forced re-prioritization is scary and horrible. Especially horrible at a time where AIG big wigs are paying themselves zillion-dollar bonuses with taxpayer money -- even though they effed up the works so badly that they nearly brought down the world economy!

But the most outrageous part of this AIG nonsense is the response from Edward Liddy, the government-appointed chairman, who stated that AIG executives need their bonuses to maintain their morale. What? Morale? Are. You. Joking? Take a walk through your local Target store sometime, Mr. Liddy, if you'd like to get a true idea of low morale. Take a stroll through any number of neighborhoods and count the for-sale signs in front of middle class homes, you arrogant sonofabitch. Talk to my mom-friend at the playground who started crying when she told me she had to pull her son out of preschool because she lost her job. How dare you take our money to boost your morale!

So yes, I'm all for the reprioritizing. But today I'm wondering, when do we stop being scared and sad, and when to we just get angry? We're all seething, I know, but when does the outward, acting-out, screaming-and-yelling rage begin? It might be time.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Musa's good news

I got a call earlier today that brought me to tears. Great big happy tears of relief and gratitude.

Musa's second and final surgery took place today, a day ahead of schedule, because lab results from earlier this week determined that he was ready to go -- in fact, healthier than the doctors first realized. They don't even think his initial diagnosis of Hirschprung's Disease was correct. So, at 4pm today, Ghana time, he entered the operating room, and four hours later, his colon had been resectioned and the stoma removed. He will not need the colostomy bags anymore.

What good, good news.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sleep is good for me

So you may have noticed that I'm not blogging as often. I've been trying to get more sleep, you see, which means going to bed earlier, which means logging off earlier...or most nights, not even logging on. Why more sleep, you ask? The answer will make you laugh: I'm sleeping more to help my weight loss efforts. And even more laughable: I started after reading an article in Glamour magazine.

I know. Glamour is not exactly known for it's research-based, science-backed writing. (And I'm a tiny bit embarrassed to even let on that I read it every month.) But what I read in this article makes sense. Sleep deprivation affects the hormones that control your appetite, and when you're tired you tend to crave fast-burning food (a.k.a. high sugar). On top of it, your body is programmed to reset while you sleep, so your metabolism needs that down time.

Results? In our house, since mid-January, low-carb/low-fat has been the name of the game. Big Daddy (who I should now call Dropping-Weight-By-The-Minute Daddy) has lost 50 pounds since January 1; I have lost 10. I realize 10 pounds is not too shabby, and I don't have as much to lose as he does so it'll come off slower, yada yada yada. But it's been frustrating. Consider this, though: From January 15 through February 20, I lost a total of 4 pounds. Major frustration! Major hunger! However, the rest has come off since I started sleeping 7-8 hours a night two weeks ago. So. Something's working.

Oh, there's the added benefit, too, of being able to actually get out of bed when the alarm goes off in the morning without major agony.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Working mom extraordinaire

Most of you know I'm a full-time working mom who happens to be at home with my child two days a week. While I work. And most of you ask me, How the heck do you do that?

Truth be told, I'm not sure. I just do it. The best I can. And I have lots of help.

The bigger question, really, is how do any of us do it? Mothering is hard enough, but how in the world do so many of us mother AND work full-time outside the home. (And I know most women don't have nearly the flexibility in their work schedules that I have.) It's astounding, when you think about it. Juggle, juggle, juggle is the name of the game. We do what we have to do, and we give it our best shot.

When I tripped upon this particular article a few weeks ago (forgive me for being totally behind the headlines on this), I put it aside to share with you.

Pat Summitt, coach of the University of Tennessee women's basketball team, hit a career milestone a few weeks back that perhaps no other person, male or female, in her field will ever hit: She won her 1,000th game. An amazing accomplishment, truly. I can't think of anything to compare it to in the non-sports world, other than to say, simply, she's the best.

But bigger than the victories, she's coached over 153 women -- been a mentor and a teacher and a disciplinarian. I can tell you from my limited experience in Division 2 basketball, you spend a lot of time with your teammates and coaches; they become your family away from your family. So Summitt serves as a stand-in mom to these girls during their careers, and certainly long after.

I was happy to see that in the coverage of Summitt's career, at least one reporter decided to cover the lesser reported bits about Summitt's other career: motherhood. She has an 18-year-old son named Tyler who has been with her on the sidelines throughout at least half of her career. He attends practices and travels with the team, and there are countless images of him cutting down nets with his mommy after her team won another championship.

As I read the article, my own son was sitting on my lap, home sick from preschool, and I had my laptop open on the other leg, ready to get to work. And I thought, wow, it's hard enough for me to balance my two jobs with even the most flexible schedule -- I can't even imagine how difficult it has been for Summitt to balance it all, with the travel and time demanded of her. We all know she's had lots of help, but that's good. Help is good, always. She also cooks dinner for Tyler every night that she's home. That's cool.

In this article, Tyler talks about how he wants to be a basketball coach when he's out of college, maybe even with his mom. I looked at my own little guy sharing lap space with my work, and I wonder if he will someday look to me as a mentor, if my working with him next to me is instilling in him any idea about the importance of both work and family. I hope he will always know, too, that family has always come first -- and always will.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My boyfriend's back

Dear Diary,
I wanted to write briefly to tell you about my boyfriend: He looks a lot like my husband, only thinner and sprier and shinier in the eyes. He's the man I fell in love with, the man I longed for over the last two years, the man I brought home from the hospital in mid-January. That's right. My boyfriend's back, and he's better than before -- hey-la hey-la!

Every day I wake up and pinch myself. He has lost gobs of weight, has gained energy and vitality that I haven't seen in years. He changed his work schedule so he comes home earlier in the evenings to play with Sweet Boy while I get our low-fat, low-carb, super-veggie meals together. He wakes up early on the weekends so we can walk in the local parks. He bought me a bike for my birthday so we can ride together. He doesn't snore anymore (hallelujah!), but he kisses me goodnight and rolls over each morning to snuggle when the alarm goes off. It's almost too good to be true. My lover has returned!

I don't know what happened over the last two years, but when I look back now, I realize how worried about him, how annoyed and frustrated with him, I was. I know now that he was unhealthy, and perhaps even more, he was unhappy with himself. When he was in the hospital I was terrified that we would fight every day about his health, that he would refuse to take responsibility. But that was based on the pre-2009 Big Daddy. The new and improved Big Daddy Version 2.0 realizes he got a second chance, and I'm confident he's not going to take that for granted. He feels good, emotionally and physically, and it shows. He actually looks younger! And the best part: When he looks at me, I see the sparkle I remember from when we were first dating.

This boy is cute and sweet and smart and funny and fun and I think I'm in love.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Beat the winter blahs -- go on safari!

I'm enjoying a few rare, quiet moments on a Sunday afternoon, everyone but me snoozing in their respective nap spaces (Sweet Boy in his snuggy bed, Big Daddy in his snuggy recliner, SallyCat on my feet, Pitino on the sofa behind my head). We're hunkering down in wild anticipation of a big ol' end-of-winter snow storm. I'm hoping we get a whopper, frankly. Boy has been asking daily to build a snowman since about, oh, November and my heart breaks a little every time we get one of these piddly mid-Atlantic dustings and he begs to go out and build Frosty. Bring it on, Old Man Winter! We've been waiting for you!

As you probably know from experience or imagination, winter is hard when you're either the mom of a rambunctious 3-year old, or of course, the rambunctious 3-year-old himself. Add to the cold, harsh days that keep you cooped inside mom's work schedule that keeps her glued to the computer, and well, you get punchy...rude...whiny...ugly. This was the scene last week when I finally powered down the e-mail and pulled out the old king-sized sheets to build the Best Fort Ever.

When I was a kid (and yes, even when I was in college) I loved to build elaborate sheet-fort hideouts. And I'm pretty good at building them; I remember teaching my grandmother how to drape sheets just so over dining room chairs and the piano, while she fretted about the ottoman I'd balanced on the back of the sofa to hold down one side of a sheet. So it's hard to believe that this was the first time I've built a fort with Sweet Boy! But I'm pretty sure he's on his way to being a sheet-fort aficionado as well.

We hung out under the tent reading safari-themed books and pretending that SallyCat and Pitino were ferocious lions stalking us. We ate a safari dinner of chicken nuggets and green beans, then snuggled up to watch Curious George on the portable DVD player. Daddy even got in on the fun when he came home (and informed me that he was too old and creaky to spend too much time on the floor with us...and that he was not going to rub my back for me when I realized that I too am old and creaky -- party pooper!) and he read us Where the Wild Things Are.

I'll have you know I am not too old and creaky for hanging out under a sheet-fort. And I can think of no better way to beat the winter blahs!