Summer’s end

Tomorrow is Anya’s school registration, so even though the summer temps will hang on another month or two (more, if we’re really unlucky), the season is effectively over for us. Which is both good and bad. It’s been a full summer. A good summer. But I’m worn out and ready for a change of pace. The kids are, too.

I’m thinking next summer we need to dial back the extracurriculars just a bit.

Anyway, I did a lot this summer that I haven’t really talked about much on this blog, so I thought I’d recap those things before we move on. Plus, this will help me ease back into weekly blogging, as I haven’t written a blog post all month aside from recipes.

 

How does your garden grow?

All the peas died. From the bottom up. I let them hang on too long, thinking the pea pods might ripen before the vines died, but I was wrong. My beans aren’t doing too great either. And one of my rosebushes is looking sickly; perhaps the lawn guys accidentally hit it with their weed junk? I don’t know. But my other rose bush is rocking. My petunias are going crazy, though they desperately need a good weeding. My iris (I think this is an iris) actually bloomed this year. And my potted plants are hanging on by their fingernails.

I have plants I did not kill, and I am proud.

Are the fish still among the living?

Astonishingly, yes. And huge. The lady at the booth where we won them told us to feed them a pinch of food every three days, and had I done that, they’d likely have stayed small. But they may also be dead by now, so I have no regrets. These big, fat fish love me. (And R, and anyone who’s ever given them food. But mostly me.)

How are those sweaters coming?

I have half of the back of Anya’s sweater done; we’ve been on the go a lot, and also business picked up. But I’m hoping to jump back into it in the coming weeks. (It’s not like we will need sweaters for a few months.)

How go the diet and exercise goals?

I downloaded an app called Aaptiv and am working my way through the 30-day free trial. So far I have sampled some body weight exercises and some yoga and stretching routines, and they’ve both kicked my butt…but I’ve worked out at least 10 minutes per day since I downloaded it, with an average of 30 minutes per day, so there’s that.

I’ve also gotten the fam back into Pokemon, so much walking is taking place, heat be damned. (Gotta catch ’em all.)

In a surprise plot twist, I appear to be sensitive to gluten. And almonds, and oats, and possibly other grains. Me, the person who as a child was crushed that “grainatarian” wasn’t a thing. So that’s been interesting. I’m currently on an elimination diet (and already so very tired of rice), but expect more recipes in the coming weeks as I slowly figure out what the heck I can eat.

Any goals you’ve been able to cross off your list?

I brush and floss twice a day now. I wear sunscreen on all exposed body parts daily, and double up when I’m going to be out for long periods of time — I’m even putting sunscreen on my scalp. (Only took two sunburns to get me to this point. I have a strong family history of skin cancer, so this isn’t simply vanity on my part.) I have an honest-to-goodness skin care regimen for the first time in my entire life. I’m keeping the house fairly clean and tidy. As I mentioned, I’m exercising for roughly 30 minutes every day, and am working my way up to doing both yoga and strength exercises daily. I set up an independent savings/retirement plan — nothing big, but anything’s better than what I’ve been saving these past couple of years.

How was Camp NaNo? What’s the current word count?

I didn’t win, but I never thought I would. Current word count: 12,051.

Read any good books lately?

YES. I jumped back on the Atwood bandwagon and blew through The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam in about 2 weeks. Love her. Though I still say Oryx and Crake was the best of the three.

Did you check off all your summer to-dos?

We put up the pool and played in the sprinkler. We went to the zoo and the Botanic Garden and the Dixon gardens and the Children’s Museum. We ate snow cones and made homemade ice cream and had a cookout. We blew bubbles and played with sidewalk chalk. The kids took swimming lessons. Anya went to nature camp. Kai played t-ball. Both kids took dance lessons. Anya had sleepovers with her Mimi and Poppy. I grew flowers, and tried to grow a kitchen garden. We spent an afternoon at the splash park. We attended birthday parties and pool parties and went to the drive-in. We went bowling and had family game nights and caught fireflies and looked at the stars. We played Pokemon past our bedtime. We napped on the couch. Yeah, I think we pretty well covered summer.

What was the best part of the summer?

Setting fun goals and checking them off. I always include fun things on my to-do list now — they’re just as important as changing the furnace filter.

Tell me your favorite Anya story from this summer.

Anya showed an amazing leap in maturity when she selected a toy she really wanted as a gift for a friend’s birthday party. And she was the one to explain to Kai why neither of them was getting a toy that day. I’d braced myself for an argument that never came. Those are the best kinds of arguments.

She’s grown so much this summer, really. The tantrums are fewer and further between, and she’s become such a help to me around the house. I’m beginning to see the young woman she will someday be.

And your favorite Kai story?

This summer took Kai from a baby to a little boy. He can speak in (mostly) complete sentences now, so we converse rather than merely communicate. He took swim lessons, and was able to tell me when he didn’t want to go back. (He didn’t care much for the instructor…and frankly, I agreed with him.) He requested dance lessons, and still dances around the house. He learned to play Pokemon, and is actually pretty good at it. He’s figured out how to defeat the babyproofing on the fridge, the toilet, and the doors. (That’s been fun.) And potty training is coming right along. I miss my baby desperately, but I love my little boy.

How are your parents doing?

Good! Mom didn’t get a clean bill of health from her infectious disease doctor, but she was able to come off of the antibiotics for her MAC infection. She’s not having many bad RA days as of late, either. Dad had his hernia surgery and is recovering nicely. Overall, they both are feeling a lot better. Anya’s even had a couple of sleepovers.

What’s next?

In addition to school, this month brings Anya’s birthday, and the fair. Anya will start art classes and Girl Scouts once more. We have a bit more summer to squeeze out before fall (otherwise known as the best season) gets here. I’d love to take a quick weekend trip, but we’ll have to see how things shake out.

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Adventures great and small

My kids are at that super-picky stage. They don’t want to taste new foods, go new places…heck, sometimes I have a hard time getting Kai to wear new clothes. (Or maybe that’s just clothes in general. He is 3.)

If I am to be completely honest, I’m not crazy about trying new things myself. I do like the sense of adventure it gives me, true. But I’m too much of a control freak to truly enjoy the sensation of doing something completely novel. Even trying a new restaurant can be nerve-wracking to me.

But as I get older, my tally of bad new experiences and good new experiences has swung more heavily to the good side. So I’m trying to incorporate some novelty into our lives. Big and small. Here are some of our latest adventures.

  1. My daughter, the lifelong vegetarian, would never try my veggie burgers. Even though I told her how tasty they were. Finally, she consented to let me get her one at Freddy’s — to split with her brother. She ended up eating the whole thing. And dragging my parents back there a few days later for another. Now everywhere she goes, she wants a veggie burger.
    Final score: YUMMY
  2. We haven’t had so much luck with the store-bought veggie burgers, though. I’ve made two brands for her, and she hated both. (I thought they were tasty.) I believe she is just afraid she might be eating something gross, so much so that she’s not even actually tasting the food before she declares it horrid. Anyway, I’m not giving up yet. There are dozens of brands of veggie burgers available locally, and tons more recipes out there for homemade ones. I will sell her on these things yet.
    Final score: TOO SOON TO TELL
  3. We bought a small pineapple at the grocery store. It claimed to be extra sweet, which is an automatic win in Anya’s book. None of us care for canned pineapple, but I’ve learned that just because I don’t like a food in one form doesn’t mean I won’t like it in any form. For instance, I thought I hated cauliflower, because the only way my mom ever served it was raw. Turns out I just hate raw cauliflower; cooked cauliflower is my jam. (And my mom hates it cooked. Go figure.) So I spent the better part of a half hour cutting the pineapple into rings (and discovering along the way that pineapple juice is quite acidic…ow) only to learn that none of us like fresh pineapple either. So we gave the pineapple to my mom, who adores it.
    Final score: NO, THANK YOU
  4. Anya’s been in this mindset that to make friends outside of school, she has to play sports. But she didn’t really seem to enjoy softball at all, so I’m signing her up for a variety of other activities. She attended a nature camp at a local preserve and came home each day brimming over with stories and begging to go to more camps there. She also took dance lessons, which she also loved, though I don’t think they were quite as fun as the nature camp.
    Final score: AMAZING
  5. Kai begged to go to t-ball like his sister, but became overwhelmed by the crowd at the ball field and retreated to the car in tears. A few days later, he decided to give it another shot. He seems to like the game, but not the heat. And he’s not the only kid who finds playing with a bunch of strangers intimidating; one little boy spent the whole game in his mother’s arms. So…we’ll see how the coming weeks go.
    Final score: SCARY
  6. At the same time we bought the pineapple, we bought a coconut. The next day, I stumbled across this video of 50 people trying to crack a coconut. And stuck around to watch 50 people trying to cut various other foods. It sounds lame, but I found it highly amusing — and educational. And the lessons learned taught me how to get into my own coconut with only one small flesh wound. I made an absolutely scrumptious coconut pie and coconut bread from the meat (even the kids ate some!), and am ready to buy another. Fresh coconut rules.
    Final score: DELICIOUS
  7. Anya has been chomping at the bit to try a dragon fruit ever since she saw a YouTube video about them. We just so happened to stumble across one at the store the other day, so we picked it up. After Google taught us how to get into it, we cut it up and tasted it. It was…not sweet. Further Googling informed us that there are actually several kinds of dragon fruit. The YouTubers ate a sweet one. We bought the other kind. Next up: Trying to figure out how to know what kind you’re buying before you cut it open.
    Final score: SOUR
  8. Anya’s been begging for swimming lessons for years now. The original plan was to have her father, who has had lifeguard training, teach her; however, his work schedule barely allows for days off, let alone family trips to the pool. And the kids are starting to be invited to pool parties, so I really want them to learn to swim. (I can keep myself from drowning, but that’s the extent of my aquatic abilities.) So I’ve signed the kids up for swimming lessons — Anya in June and Kai in July. Anya was excited until she learned that a) I would not be allowed to attend and b) she can’t wear her floaties. Then she was just nervous. But she did amazing — the teacher complimented her on how quickly she took to the water, and the day she completed her first class she begged to attend another. The day after her class ended, she attended a pool party; while she did wear a floaty (I was on my own with both kids, and I needed to feel safe turning my back on her), she swam and floated and splashed and showed just how much she’d learned in that one week.
    Final score: SWIMMY

So it’s been hit and miss, these adventures. But mostly hits. I’m currently plotting the next round of novel experiences.

The view from my kitchen table

I’ve been consumed with minutia lately, so I don’t have a deep blog post for today. Most of my focus has been on my diet and exercise routine (the total lack of the latter). It doesn’t make for fascinating reading, so I will keep this brief.

—–

I’ve been on the Linzess for a couple of weeks now. It’s…working, definitely, but I don’t know how I’m supposed to know when a problem I was unaware I even had has been resolved.

I am also experimenting with various diet tweaks, in the hopes of getting off the Linzess. (TEN DOLLARS a pill.) I am really very tired of thinking about food. I am also over water. On the plus side, I’m down a cup of tea most mornings. Two more to go.

—–

Kai has, for reasons known only to 3-year-olds, chosen this week to potty-train himself. I’m guessing this is what paper-training a puppy is like, if the puppy were to poo on the floor and then run a toy bus over it a dozen times. But he’s improving. He disassembles his potty chair each time he uses it, empties it in the big potty, and then reassembles the chair. And he always lets me know when there’s a mess he can’t clean up — unlike his sister. (With her, I played “Poop or rock?” more times than I care to recall.)

—–

One evening recently it was actually pleasant outside, so I took the kids outside to play. The porch table and chairs were gritty with pollen, and my phone was instantly coated in green dust when I set it down. So my pipe dream of jogging once the cold spell broke is now gone. Once I get a handle on my diet, I’ll start working up a doable exercise routine. I read somewhere recently that you should strive to exercise a bit each hour rather than save it all for one big chunk; that’s most certainly the only way I’m going to fit it in right now.

—–

I’ve ordered a lot of things for myself recently, but the one I’m most excited about at the moment is a pair of reading glasses. Because I am old.

—–

I’ve not stopped looking at houses, but I think we’re going to stay put this year. Pay off some debt. Pick up some things we’ve been doing without. And do a massive amount of decluttering.

—–

I’m all for shoegazing and tightening my focus to the little things, the building blocks, as needed. But I’m ready to do more, bigger now. Get the garden started. Buckle down on this book while the words are still flowing. Plan a birthday party. Just get outside — I’ve spent most of my waking hours at my kitchen table as of late, and while I love how my back yard is turning out, I need a change of scenery.

If you can’t be a good example, you’ll just have to be a horrible warning

(Which was, incidentally, the quote behind my MySpace URL, back when we all had MySpace pages.)

I like to think of myself as a healthy person. Not healthyish, as I was in my 20s and early 30s. I eat a balanced diet, exercise at least sometimes, don’t smoke or drink or overdo the caffeine. I brush twice a day. (And floss!) I get roughly 7 hours of sleep (most) nights. I always, always have a beverage at hand; I drink only tea (3 cups of green tea in the mornings, ginger later on) and water, plus V-8 or milk with meals. My labs, when the doctor has occasion to take labs, are all stellar. My blood pressure is low normal. My pulse is low.  My cholesterol is enviable. Allergies aside, I’m in better shape now than I was at 20.

There’s always room for improvement, though. I’m trying to cut down on the sugar, and am working to eliminate caffeine entirely. And…I hate fruit. Have always hated fruit. My “balanced diet” has historically involved the fruit in juice form, because the texture of almost all fruit makes me make the hnnngh face. But this year, I’ve been making a point to consume two servings of fruit flesh every day. (Usually apples/applesauce or a smoothie, because hnnngh.)

Then I discovered Ezekiel English muffins and bread, and added them to the menu to ward off the afternoon snackies. Breakfast: Greek yogurt, applesauce, and almonds; on warmer mornings, a smoothie. Lunch: a sprouted grain English muffin and a glass of vegetable juice. A home-cooked, healthy dinner. I could almost hear my halo humming.

One day recently, shortly after lunch (which was at 10 a.m. because I’d been up since 4), my stomach started to hurt. Then it hurt. The pain grew worse and worse as the day wore on. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stand to be touched, and all attempts at alleviating the pressure from either the entrance or exit failed. I became convinced I had appendicitis. (It’s not been that long since my dad had a ruptured appendix.) I called my parents, and Dad took me to the ER while Mom watched the kids.

Long story (as ER visits often are) short, I did not have appendicitis. I had an impacted bowel.

“But I’m regular! I eat healthy! I eat loads of fiber! I’m so hydrated my pee is clear!” I protested. The x-ray did not care.

“So she’s full of sh*t?” Dad said to the doctor. (Dad and hubs have had a field day with this.)

“I will never live this down,” I told her.

“There’s where you put on those five pounds!” my husband said to me. What a pleasant thought.

I thought that the impaction was at least a recent one. The stomach bug Anya and I had in December had, I believed, cleaned me out entirely. Not so, said my GP at my follow-up visit. Where, despite all the medication the ER gave me, my doctor told me I’m still “full of it.” (His words. At least he managed to say it without laughing.) Based on my x-rays, he’s inclined to think I have had this problem for a while. Years, maybe. I probably just brought my symptoms to a head by all the recent fiber intake.

No good deed goes unpunished.

The medication for this predicament costs over $300. A month. I found a coupon online, but it’s only good for a year’s worth of medication. So I’m determined to fix the matter with diet. (After, of course, the medication clears the current crisis. Which it is. Violently.) So I’ve been reading nutrition facts and creating menus and buying groceries. Google is now autocompleting my every search request with “fiber content.”

As an additional kick in the teeth, I looked at my electronic health record a few days after the ER visit and noted that my x-ray also showed I have kidney stones. Plural.

So on top of whatever’s going on in my colon, I guess I’m not drinking enough water, either. FFS.

I have thus challenged myself to drink 88 oz of water per day. (I’m covering my bases because I’m still breastfeeding. The jury’s still out on whether nursing moms need more water; ordinarily I’d err on the side of thirst, but I never thought I’d have kidney stones.) While making my morning tea, I fill up my water bottle. One cup of tea, 22 ounces of water. Repeat twice. Plus a bottle in the afternoon. I haven’t noticed that I pee any more frequently because of this, so apparently I need that much water. (Didn’t fix my bowel problems, unfortunately. Because that would be too easy.)

An unexpected bonus: I’m no longer craving a fourth cup of green tea. Perhaps with time, my morning H2O routine will help me decaffeinate entirely. Which was a longer-range goal, but I’ll take it sooner rather than later.

My husband, whose healthy-habits halo isn’t quite as shiny as mine, has started taking fiber supplements since my diagnosis. And my little monkey-sees are drinking more water because I am. Mama has a water bottle, babies want one, too. So at least I’m being a good example, finally.

Lies mirrors tell

You may notice a lack of goal updates lately. This is not an oversight. I’ve dialed back the goal work recently. This is why.

I’ve heard the term “body dysmorphic disorder” bandied about quite a bit, but I never thought I had it. Not until I read Lindi Ortega’s Lenny Letter and recognized myself. The way I’ve picked apart my skin, my hair, every small feature of my body since I was old enough to start noticing the way I was different from other people. So, like, age 6 or 7.

So young, you say? Yes. Which is why I am dismayed, but not shocked, to hear my daughter obsess over her lack of a six-pack. I have no idea where she heard the term; I’ve never been fixated on having a six-pack. (I just want a flat stomach. It doesn’t have to have definition.) But I did learn, finally, where she got the notion that she, at the age of 6, should have one.

384517_2858208169180_112976356_nThis is me at Anya’s age. I did not do anything special to earn those muscles. I wasn’t especially thin — no thinner than my daughter, at any rate. I just have natural abs. I still do; I can feel them in there, above the endometriosis bloat and beneath the pregnancy-loosened skin and the breastfeeding pudge. I can make them stronger, but they’re already pretty strong; after months (okay, let’s be real — years) of inactivity, I can work up to doing 100 jackknives in less than a week. I can, if no small child decides to sit upon my back while I’m down, go do a 3-minute plank right this second, in my piggie slippers. I can’t do anything about the bloat or the pudge or the floppy skin, but the core strength is still there.

My daughter got a lot of things from me. Her hair, her eyes, her long legs, her smile. But she doesn’t have those abs, and she feels she should. Just as I, at her age, thought I should have a more feminine face and blond hair and more dainty hands and an even tan. (It was the 80s. Tan was a thing.)

When I got older, I fell victim to the Stridex and Clearasil marketing that was suddenly ubiquitous. So much so that I had Clearasilled upwards of 20 chickenpox blisters before saw one on my knee and realized they weren’t the world’s ugliest pimples. (I was 12, and I never really had acne. I didn’t know any better.) I obsessed over my (clear) skin at 12. And my suddenly thick, frizzy, wavy, unruly hair. I didn’t, at least at first, give a thought to my body.

Then I did, because boobs were everywhere. Except, it would appear, on me. I was flat until my 20s, when things shifted a bit to give me a somewhat balanced figure. But I still didn’t fill out shirts. And my calves were like sticks, no matter how much I exercised. I once did so many heel raises that I had to coat myself in Ben-Gay for days just to lurch to class. I had a flat stomach, slim thighs utterly free of cellulite, and a perky butt, but I had a small chest and tiny calves, so I felt hideous. I would buy clothes in the plus-size section, trying to mask my grotesque form.

The funny thing is that back then, everyone thought I had an eating disorder. I was in fact trying to gain weight; I was just unhappy, and when I am unhappy, I can’t eat. But the criticism I received from well-meaning people trying to save me from the eating disorder I didn’t have didn’t help my self-esteem one bit.

Such has it always been. I have picked myself apart my whole life, and people have helped me do it. But the loudest, cruelest voice has always been my own. And to watch my daughter start to do the same is devastating. Even more so because I’m still doing it — only now I’m comparing myself not to others, but to my former self. I put on clothes I wore before I got pregnant with Kai and look at the fat that bulges up around my waist and across my back. I look at the splotches on my face and wish for the skin I had at 18 — pimples and all. I look at my dimpled thighs and wonder why I ever thought bigger calves were such a big deal.

It’s not just my appearance, either. My house isn’t clean enough and I’m a horrible mother and a worse wife and daughter. I don’t work hard enough, and what work I do is laughably bad. I waste my free time doing things that don’t matter instead of finishing my book or working on Anya’s blanket or taking a class.

I will never live up to who I think I should be.

The thing is, I don’t want to. Not entirely. I enjoy setting goals and meeting them. I love always having a challenge before me. I’m not sure how I would derive any sense of self-satisfaction without that. But I also wish I could just be happy with me for five minutes. For my daughter. We can’t continue to compare ourselves to my former self and find ourselves wanting.

For starters, I never thought my former self was all that great to begin with.

But I Googled Lindi Ortega photos, and I don’t see any of the stuff she’s picking herself apart for, either. She’s absolutely beautiful. So it’s entirely possible that my mirror is lying to me, too.

I don’t know how to strike a balance between constantly having some goal to work towards and being forever uncomfortable in my own skin. But I need to find that balance, and soon. Because my daughter is watching.

The Year of Calm: February

Calm’s February calendar came on my radar at just the right time. The theme is cultivating compassion, something the world can always use more of. Especially me, towards myself. So I’m in.

The first two days were easy-peasy. I already tally up all of my daily gratitudes over on 43t (which will forever be 43t to me, no matter what they’re calling it these days). And as a mom of littles, I compliment daily; it’s like breathing. Today started with me complimenting my son for correctly naming (most) of the colors on our vaporizer’s nightlight. At 4 a.m. Because he’s 2.

Some of the others will be harder. I can tell you right now the odds are slim of me buying myself flowers tomorrow. But I bought myself some new bras before my last decent bra fell apart. It’s still self-love…just less Instagrammable. But the things I bought will bring me joy a lot longer than a bunch of flowers. And no amount of flowers can make up for your underwire stabbing you in the heart.

Sunday’s I can do. While there was a time I’d have found it painful, I think I can do so fairly easily. The trick is to spend that time doing something fun and fulfilling, not cleaning the house. I’ll, ah, do my best.

A lot of the things on this list appear to be geared towards single people, or at least people without kids. I can pretty much guarantee I will not find 5 minutes next Friday to lay down and listen to a song without being jumped upon as if I were a bed. So I’m going to have to make some modifications. That’s okay, though. A modified exercise still counts. It’s only the exercise you don’t do that doesn’t.

Ask me how I know.

Dear future me: Buy your own clothes

I’ve identified a major stumbling block in my thinking: I’m trying to live in the future. Again.

I caught myself on ThredUp during a lull in my morning work, favoriting shirts and dresses I can’t breastfeed in. I’ve vowed not to buy anything to fit future me, because a) present me deserves nice things, too, and b) future me may not necessarily want a turtleneck dress, even if present me would give anything to wear one.

Oh, how I miss turtlenecks.

Ahem. Anyway.

This theory can be expanded to other areas. I’ve been tying myself in knots trying to make morning meditation/yoga work with a clingy cosleeping toddler who wakes when I leave the bed and demands to nurse for 20 minutes upon rising. I’ve tried stuffed animals. Bribes. Begging. Getting up earlier. Getting up later. Including him in the yoga. Nursing while meditating. Doing yoga on the hard kitchen floor while he shakes the baby gate and wails at me.

The point is not how do I make this schedule work. The point is that I need to wait until the schedule can work. In a couple of years, he won’t want to sit on my lap and nurse for 20 minutes upon rising. He will want to watch cartoons, or play with toys, or eat solid food. He will possibly be going to school. So I should just shelve my vision of myself as a 4:30 a.m. meditating yogi and find a routine that works with my now.

What that may be, I don’t know. I’ve toyed with taking a yoga class at the local gym, which offers child care. I’ve toyed with resuming my brief cardio routine at bedtime, though it’s hard to squeeze in some nights (and Anya’s wanting to do more extracurriculars). Or dropping everything and exercising while he naps. I’ve also toyed with just stagnating physically for a couple of years, because it’s easy and the couch is comfortable.

The problem I’m having, the problem I’m always having, is the reconciliation of who I am and what I can do with who I want to be and what I want to be doing. It’s mindfulness, in other words. The same core problem I’ve had my whole life. I’m gazing at the horizon, and I need to be looking at my feet.

When he’s grown, and my arms ache to hold a baby, I won’t give a rat’s rear end if I have flat abs. And I have years ahead of me to wear turtlenecks again.