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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Top Ten Healthy Habits to Start Right Now or, Healthy is the New Sexy

I’m often stopped by strangers who want to see the baby.  And even when I’m busy, or not in a social mood (can you SEE I haven’t brushed my hair yet this morning lady!?) I DO try to stop and let them see.  

It’s a pain-free way to elevate the mood of someone else. Benji IS supremely adorable.  And he is almost always quite social, grinning back if anyone will give him even a little smile.  Score one for the light.

Anyway, this particular ‘stop’ has stayed with me.  It was an older lady, about mid fifties, grossly overweight and driving one of those little motorized shopping carts they have for people who don’t get around easily.  Yes, I was at Walmart.  No judging…

She said she had two kids too, 16 and 22.  All grown up.

“Lucky you!”  I said.  (I never know what to say.  I just open my mouth and stuff falls out.)

“And how old were you when you had him?”  She asked me.  I don’t get this question often, probably because it’s a little rude to ask someone their age?

“He’s six months, so, 30, ah, how old am I again?”  (I really do kind of forget.  I don’t keep track of my actual age except for the ones ending in 0.)

“I was 17 and 23 when I had my boys.”  She said with a smile full of pride.

“Yikes”.  I said.  And my brain went…No, that wasn’t appropriate.

As usual my brain came a little late to the conversation party.  

Meanwhile the other side of my brain, the weak, lily-livered, rarely engaged MATH side of my brain was doing the calculations and had come to the conclusion I was probably 37, turning 38 soon.

And THEN she said something that kind of rocked me to my core.  She said she was 37.

We.  Were.  The.  Same.  Age.  WE ARE THE SAME AGE. 

My jaw dropped.  My eyes went wide.  I looked at her again.  By now she had revved up her Walmart Cruiser and went in search of her elderly father who had wandered down the cereal aisle.  

Our minds are the same age, our bodies clearly are not. 

Gratitude rushed through me, then pity.  It’s true genetics probably played a little bit of a role in my health but I’d say the split is 10% genetics, 90% a lifetime of healthy choices.  

There are things I do everyday, small changes I’ve made to my everyday lifestyle that I’ve been doing for years that she probably doesn’t even know about.  

Part of this is thanks to a mom who raised us with health in mind.  (Thanks mom!) She always tried to exercise and eat right.  When parents are healthy, the kids are much more likely to also engage in a healthy lifestyle.

Part of this is because of my epiphany at the age of 15, that I may not live forever.  It was quite a shock to me to find out this body is, in fact, on loan.  The choices I make now about what I put in my body, and how I move through the world, will affect this loaner-body both right now and later on.

I made it my mission to devour anything related to health.  And I have.

Quickly, here is a list of the top ten things I do and have been doing for the last 25 years or so that set me on a different path than the ‘me’ I met at Walmart yesterday.

  1. Drink water instead of anything else, most of the time.  
  2. Get your sleep.  (I aim for 7 hours a night.  Well, when I’m not taking care of a baby!)
  3. Dark chocolate is better than milk chocolate
  4. Stairs are better than elevators
  5. Grilled is always better than deep-fried
  6. Whole wheat is better than white
  7. Fat is ok
  8. Sugar is not - I follow the 80/20 rule.  I try to choose the healthier option 8 out of 10 times.
  9. Exercise a few times a week.   Something fun.  Something that makes me move in ways I don’t move often.  YMCA is fairly inexpensive AND they have free babysitting - up to 2 hours every day.
  10. Meat should be a seasoner, not a main course.  I follow the 80/20 rule for this too.  80% of my plate is veggies and 20% the meat, most of the time.

I don’t diet.  There is no food I’m not ‘allowed’ to have.  I don’t take supplements.  I DO take a prenatal vitamin while I’m nursing.  I will continue to take a multivitamin when I’m done nursing.

Anyway, there are a million little things I incorporated into my lifestyle, one small change at a time, over the years, that have helped me stay healthy and happy.  And it didn’t cost me a cent.  

A focus on HEALTH over weight.  Paying attention to how things I eat make me FEEL. 

There you have it.  It isn't sexy.  It doesn’t cost me money.  And that’s how I know I’m on the right path. 

 To sum up - EAT GOOD, FEEL GOOD.  Also, as a side benefit, you LOOK GOOD.  Healthy is the new sexy folks.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Sanctity of Solitude. Or, Mom Needs a Break.

The babies are asleep!

Bill is preparing to come to bed but first he is munching his supper and watching a noisy basketball game in the kitchen.  I know what some of you are thinking.  GASP!  What kind of a wife lets her poor husband eat ALONE?

You know what?  I MADE that supper.  I don't have to eat it with him too!  Jeepers.  What am I, June Cleaver?

I give care to two little adorable, attention-addicted, me-focused-soul-sucking minions ALL DAY and who wants, needs, no, DEMANDS her OWN SPACE before she sleeps.  

Time to read.  To write.  To meditate.  To peruse the O magazine she bought last year and still hasn't had time to finish.  To bathe, perhaps?  To pee alone, for certain.  Ah the luxury of privacy whilst I eliminate…

The sanctity of solitude for a stay at home mom cannot be over exaggerated.  I do not get ‘breaks’, or lunch, or the drive there and back to think a single thought alone in my head through to completion.  By the end of the day my brain is so used to being constantly interrupted it kind of gives up.  I think I should…sputter, sputter, SPLAT.  

It’s so quiet where I am now I can hear the water in the pipes as the washer goes.  The clack of keys.  The tick of my new clock.  Toby’s gentle old-man-wheeze-snore.  Benji’s sound machine is on ‘ocean.’  

And yet…I have to encourage my thoughts to emerge like small dogs who’ve been teased too much.  

“It’s ok, there, there, I know.  No one will stop you here.  You can come out now.  It’s safe.  Poor things.  Here’s a treat.”  Gentle, gentle…

The clock I bought for my ‘new office’ is the old kind that ticks.  Oh, my 'New Office' is a small white desk I bought on Amazon that I shoved against my bedroom wall.  I put some books there, a new clock, a candle, LOVELY. 

I'm quite enjoying my new 'office'.  Sitting here clacking away at the keys and pondering life's mysteries.  What’s the meaning of life?  What is Toby really allergic to?  How come the two beings I love most in the entire world SUCK SO MUCH ENERGY FROM ME!?  

Well, maybe that one has a simple answer.  It’s because you always have to be ‘on’.  

Not only from a safety stand-point, swiveling around constantly like a light house beam watching for danger while also cooking, cleaning, scheduling, running errands, doing chores and trying to remember to put deodorant on in the morning.  Oh, and did you order more wipes?  Because baby 2 is giggling happily as warm poop slides down his thigh.

You also have to be emotionally ‘on’.  Preventing a toddler tantrum is the skill I’m working on right now.  

I’m getting better at it but it takes time to master.  And patience.  And, I hate to admit it, but I'm sensitive.  Every scream, every cry, every thrown cup (because this isn't the BLUE cup I wanted...) kind of jars me.  

I need time at the end of each day to fill back up with...quietness.  With silence.  Like I need time to shut off my screens and recharge and process what went on during the day.  Or just sit still for a few minutes and watch the sun set.

I feel like every time I lose my patience I’ve failed her, failed him, and failed me.  Today she shoved a whole chocolate chip cookie in her mouth.  Then chewed it, but didn’t swallow it.  

Then she waited 45 minutes until the cookie mixed and melted with her saliva into a liquid brown mess she had to either spit out or swallow.  So she spit it out.  

On the carpet.  

In front of me.  

I caught some of it in my left hand as it cascaded down her chin but my right hand was holding Benji.  So I’ve got brown liquid goo slowly running down MY left hand, a fidgety, fussy baby in my right, and she’s got more goo dripping off her chin on the floor, and now she's screaming and crying because I’m yelling at her to go spit it out in the sink.

So, that was today.  

Lesson learned for me - she WILL shove food she doesn’t really like in her mouth if she thinks Toby is going to try and eat it.  But.  She.  Will.  Not.  Swallow.  It.

So after the screaming and the cleaning we both agreed I will never give her a chocolate chip cookie again and next time she puts something in her mouth she doesn’t like, she’ll spit it out in the garbage.

And I, I do not feel guilty for taking a half glass of red and retiring to my room by myself with my headphones on ’Spa’ as soon as the little love bugs are out.  At least, I don’t think so.  Wait, what was I saying again?

Oh yeah.  Don’t yell at your kids.  Lean in and whisper, it’s scarier.

Friday, May 12, 2017

It's Mother's Day Weekend, Y'all! Go Wash Some Dishes.

Mom’s are so, so important aren’t they?  They’re the structural steel that go into the building of our children’s characters.  

The influence a mom has on her children is too deep, too indelible to properly sort out…even after years of therapy.  (Ah, not that I’d know…ahem)

I lucked out with my mom - kind, gentle, thoughtful.  Hard working, sensitive, well-read.  Poised, controlled, determined.  

Mom loves to read.  Growing up I would often walk into the room and mom had her nose deep in a book.  Hi mom.  I’d say.  Silence.


Silence.  The sound of eyeballs scrolling back and forth on the page.  The sound of her fingers snipping a page by the corner and pulling it back.  Eyeballs scrolling again.


Cricket.  Cricket.


Angela, really, what IS it?”

“I can’t remember…” 

I thought, when I grow up I’m going to just pay attention to every little thing my daughter says to me.  (Pause for laughter here).

Well now I have books I love to read too, and an iPhone with apps and messages and music and Facebook.  It’s bad.  And I don’t even need any of these things to accidentally tune Ellie out. 

She chatters away in the background, all day, and I’ve gotten used to picking out the important bits.  

ELLIE: “Mom, Is it cloudy outside?  There are lots of LEAVES!  Mommy, is the storm passed?  I hope so.  Mommy I found Toby’s ball!  Toby’s ball is here!  It’s wet.  I’m hungry.  Is Benji sleeping?  I want a treat.  I have to go potty.  Where is my Kindle?  Is it time for Daniel Tiger?  No, it’s still play time.  The sky is blue Mommy.”

ME: “You have to go potty baby?  And how about some strawberries for a snack?”

I felt pretty proud of myself, except the other day when Bill crowded in on my day-dreams about going to the bathroom by myself to tell me Ellie was trying to get my attention.  Instantly embarrassed.  Guess my ‘tune-out’ radar wasn’t filtering very well.

“What is it baby?”
“Um.  I want to watch Daniel Tiger.”
“Ok baby but we’re in the car so maybe when we get home.”  

I’m both vindicated (Clearly my tune-out radar was working fine) and annoyed.  

Bill works.  A lot.  He gets these snap shots of the kids so everything is big and colorful and awesome and he isn’t mentally and physically exhausted by their constant demands.  I’m annoyed because I could have kept day-dreaming and he interrupted it for a total non-issue.  

I look over at him, just seething with irritation.  He hums along to the Beatles on the radio and is totally oblivious.  I am certain it is this total lack of sensitivity to the emotional situations he finds himself in that enables us to stay married.  If we had to TALK about every time I am annoyed at him, well, lets just say it’s best it blows over.

Poor Bill.

He is doing well with Ellie.  Probably around age 2 or so, when she really started being able to communicate well his usefulness went way up and my annoyance at him went way down.  

I have no reason to think the same thing won’t happen with little Benji.  The same emotional blindness that allows us to stay happily (ish) married prevents him from understanding the nonverbal cues that is a baby’s only way to connect with us.

I know you.  You think I’m exaggerating to be funny.  Let me tell you a quick story, something that happened LAST WEEK.

It’s 30 minutes past Ellie’s bed time.  I finally fed, bathed, changed and put Ben to bed.  I walk in the room where she's screaming and throwing things and ask why she’s not in bed.  “She’s not tired.”  He says.  Clearly.

The bedroom light was on, music was blaring from his phone, she’s still in her play clothes, and they’re playing a rousing game of ‘catch the balloon as it bops around the room.’  He really doesn’t understand that she’s actually exhausted.

“Sweetie.  She needs time to wind down.  About an hour before bedtime you need to turn off her big light, close the blinds, give her a bath, get her in her jammies, warm up her milk, play quiet, calm games.”

I’m not sure if he was expecting her to turn to him and in a proper British accent tell him ‘Father, I believe it is time for last vittles and bed.  Please tuck me in now.”

I digress.  We’re all doing our best.  Some of us are just doing it a little better than others…thank goodness for moms everywhere.

Oh I’m funny.  Why am I not taking this show on the road?  Anyway, what was my point again?  Mom’s are awesome.  Go call one if you can, or better yet go home and do some dishes.  And if dad was mom AND dad, for whatever reason, well, you better go vacuum too.  And wash the car.

“Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help mom with the dishes.”  P.J O’Rourke.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

My Husband Is A Good Egg and Other Epiphanies

Bill flew to Germany last week leaving me with the two babies.  

Problem is, they both need 24/7 care.  But there’s TWO of them.  And ONE of me.  You can see my math problem.

Ellie got sick right before he left.  Then I got sick (of course).  So the whole house is sick and it’s just me trying to keep us all together.

My goals as a mom are usually to be as present as I can, to be patient and kind and to always look past the small annoyances and settle into the bigger picture.  It’s happier there, and it's more logical.  

Why waste time being mad about a dirty house?  Or that the garbages don’t take themselves out?  Or that Ellie is a one-person tornado that whirls around flinging toys, food, and juice wherever she roams?  Or that you can’t, can’t CAN’T get a three year old to understand she needs to be quiet so you can get the baby to sleep?

Trying to get her to understand if she's quiet and I can put Benji to sleep and THEN I can play with her…just totally taxed her toddler brain.  “I want mommy NOW.  Put Benji down NOW.  WAHHHHHHHHH.”  She was locked up tight in NOW mode and no amount of patient reasoning was going to get through to her.

The thing is, there was no way I was getting through this week without running low on patience, and kindness, and empathy.  The one night I coughed all night and Benji was up at 5am (because the coughing) and stayed up and Ellie got up early at 6am (and stayed up) and we had first time-out at EIGHT AM.  

And I looked at the clock at 10am and realized I’d already been awake for 5 hours, fed her two meals, him two meals, numerous snacks for her, the one person eating machine, had two time-out’s for throwing things AND I had yet to finish my breakfast.  

And I thought…these two little blessings are going to drive me completely and utterly bonkers.

Well Bill’s home now and Ellie’s been outside with him all morning washing their cars.  (I know.  Adorable).

ANYHOO:  I learned three important lessons this week:

  1. You can put a three year old to bed anytime - they can’t tell what time it is yet.
  2. Baby goes to bed when baby wants and never one second before
  3. Bill cleans.  Bill cleans A LOT.

And even though most of the time I would agree I do the lions share of the parenting, Bill does execute some pretty crucial roles in this family.  When he gets home from work he’s a play-mate for Ellie.  He’s a housekeeper after she goes to bed.  He’s the garbage-taker-outer twice a week, he’s the counter-scrubber and the weekend laundry starter.

He’s the man whose idiosyncrasies built up over two decades of living by himself drive me bananas.  (I’LL PUT MY SHOES WHERE I STINKING WANT TO, YOU OCD FREAK).

He’s also the man I like sitting next to on the couch and watching Amazing Race with.  And the man who makes my little girl’s eyes light up.  He’s the man my baby boy grins at when he sees him, and the man who sleepily pats my shoulder in support as I get up with Ben for his midnight feeding.

When he isn’t pinching pennies he’s adventurous and fun.  When he isn’t working 22 hours a day he’s spontaneous and really interesting.

He's very...dependable.  He thinks about supper HOURS before it’s time to EAT supper. 

This is amazing to me.

It seems absence DOES make the heart grow fonder.  But, maybe I would feel fonder-ish if I wasn’t so depleted.  So, although traveling is good maybe I don’t want him going too far, too often, for a few more years.  

As we like to gush to each other (very romantically), You’re a good egg Bill, and I’ll keep you around a little longer.