meat circles

So, this has been Catie’s “buying her lunch as punishment for not eating her packed lunch” week.

Monday, she said she liked her lunch. When asked what she ate, she said, “A banana and something made of meat.”

‘Something made of meat’? More questions were asked. It wasn’t a hamburger, or meatloaf, or spaghetti and meatballs.

I looked up the school lunch menu (they have it in PDF format on the school district website), and saw that one of the options available that day was “breakfast for lunch.”

Was it a sausage biscuit?

“Oh! Yeah! I think that was it. Is that the meat circle thing?”

MEAT CIRCLE, y’all.

Tuesday, she skipped the main course because “I don’t like their chicken nuggets,” and she ate mashed potatoes and a side of fruit.

Wednesday, she insisted she ate fish sticks, except for the small issue that fish sticks weren’t on the menu that day. They had fried mozzarella sticks (which Catie has never eaten, but they are shaped like fish sticks, and I can see how she’d mistake one for the other). Upon further questioning, she admitted that she “ran out of time” and didn’t actually take a single bite of the that’s-not-really-a-fish-stick. So she ate fruit salad and a cookie.

The main frustration with all of this school lunch business – besides the wasted food – was that she’d eat so little that her blood sugar would drop and she wouldn’t be able to concentrate on her school work. But even though it seems like she’s eating very little of her lunch, she’s still getting a lot of marks for good behavior this week. Maybe because she’s buying milk with her school lunch instead of bringing ice water in her thermos, and the milk has enough protein to sustain her a little? Who knows.

She seems ok with the school lunches, so maybe we’ll just stick with it. I haven’t decided yet.

Still: meat circle. I may never stop giggling about that one.

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Meanwhile, across the street over at daycare, I’m not exactly sure what’s going on in Lucy’s class.

For a long time, there were only 4 or 5 kids in Lucy’s class, and it was the same kids she’d been with since she was a baby. They’ve recently gotten a few new kids, which is great for the daycare center, but weird that I no longer know every kid in her class by name.

The past few weeks, Lucy has been telling me about a little boy who I’m going to call J. Three year-olds are tattle tales, and Lucy would tell me every day about how J got in trouble for one thing or another. J hit so-and-so and had to sit in time-out, J ripped the pages out of her book that she brought to share at Circle Time, “J said ‘shut up’ and that’s not a nice word!,” etc.

After talking with one of the teachers, I found out that J is not even 3 yet, but they moved him up to the 3 year-old class because he was “too rough” for the other two year-olds. I guess they thought the older kids would put him in his place, or at least be harder for him to injure.

On Tuesday, when I picked up the kids, I noticed Lucy had a red mark on her cheek, under her eye. I asked her what happened, and she told me that J hit her in the face with a book.

Normally, if a child gets hurt at daycare, the teacher writes up an “incident report” for the parent to sign. I’ve had to sign them when one of my kids has, for example, fallen down on the playground and skinned their knee. But they’re also written up if a child hurts another child – I’ve had to sign them for Lucy when she was both the victim and the aggressor. (Nothing more embarrassing than the report that says, “Lucy and another child were fighting over a toy and Lucy bit the other child on the arm.” Fortunately, we’ve had none of those in at least 6 months, so I’m going to file that as a Terrible Twos thing and assume she’s outgrown it.)

There was no incident report for the mark on Lucy’s face, but her teacher is new and has only been working at the daycare center for a couple of weeks, so I figured that maybe she doesn’t know the procedure yet. I made a mental note to talk to her about it the next day.

That night, my parents came over for dinner. We were just sitting down to eat, and I was helping Lucy into her high chair, when this exchange happened.

Lucy: “J said a bad word today.”

Me: “Oh yeah? What did he say?”
[IN MY DEFENSE, I was thinking she'd respond with something like "shut up" or "dumb," which are the types of things my kids think are bad words. One time she said the bad word he said was "dude." Which, depending on context, I can kind of see how that might be disrespectful? But no, dude isn't really a bad word. So I really wasn't expecting her to say anything particularly offensive.]

Lucy: “Bitch.”

This is more or less the face my parents and I made in response.

shocked-gifs-540-16654-hd-wallpapers

Catie then piped up: “What does ‘bitch’ mean, anyway?”

I could tell by my dad’s face that he didn’t approve of any of this, but I tried to keep my voice very calm and even, as I explained that technically, bitch is a word for a female dog, but that people use it when they’re name-calling, which is why it’s a bad word, because we don’t call people names.

Catie said, “So you should call it the b-word, sort of like the s-word, right?”

Right. Yep. Good plan. Ok, let’s eat!

(I found out later that Catie thinks the “s-word” is “stupid.” This is a child who has heard me drop things and mumble “shit” under my breath probably a million times in her lifespan, but she thinks stupid is the one that’s a bad word. And you know? Shit is just another word for poop, and it’s relatively harmless on the curse word scale. Stupid is usually used to hurt someone’s feelings, and that’s never ok, so I’m fine with that being “the bad word” of the two options in my house.)

Turns out, this little boy J was not just saying “bitch” for the sake of saying it, he actually called a little boy that name, and yeah, I’m definitely not ok with the name-calling thing. I know the teacher is new, but my kids have been at that daycare center for years, and I know the director fairly well, so I stopped by her office to talk to her the next morning. She knew about the “bitch” incident, and had already spoken to the child’s parents. So, that’s good, I suppose. Although, really, how do we think this little boy learned to call someone else “bitch”? I’m guessing it’s from the parents and they aren’t letting their toddler watch Breaking Bad.

science bitch
(Not that a toddler-size Jesse Pinkman wouldn’t be completely adorable, but I wouldn’t want my kid to hang around him either.)

The director was also upset to hear that Lucy had been hurt and there was no incident report, and said she’d make sure to talk to the teacher about it.

I feel a little better knowing that she’s on top of it, but still uneasy about this little boy J, which is sad, since he’s, you know, TWO.

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On the topic of the new daycare teacher, I’m not sure how long she’s going to be around, because besides things like “injured kids going unnoticed on her watch,” it seems like she may have some other personal problems.

Last night, Dave picked up the kids and texted me later, “So apparently Ms D [note: not her real name] is in the midst of some serious relationship shit.”

I asked what he was talking about. Last night, Lucy forgot her jacket, so they went back to get it out of her cubby. All of the other kids were gone, but the teacher was on the phone with her significant other (not clear if it’s a boyfriend, husband, or what) and they were having a very loud verbal fight. Dave said the most awkward part was that he was trying to rush Catie and Lucy out of the room to give her some privacy, but that they insisted on putting on their jackets while still in the room. He said the phone call ended with her screaming that she wouldn’t be coming home tonight and hanging up.

I mean… hey, these things happen, I guess? But maybe not when you’re at work? At least take the call outside, or go sit in your car or someplace where others won’t overhear you?

Jeez.

Side note, though, it does make me happy that Dave and I are amicable enough now that we can let each other in on the latest daycare gossip. So yay for us, Post-Divorce achievement unlocked. (Thanks, Tracy, for that one.)

September 25, 2014Permalink Leave a comment

the picky eater

My kids are living proof that you can do the exact same thing with both kids, and whether a child is a “good eater” or a “picky eater” is a total crapshoot. I did nothing different between my two girls. Lucy will eat pretty much whatever I put in front of her. Meanwhile, if left to her own devices, Catie would prefer to live on nothing but fruit and empty carbs.

Here’s just a few things Catie won’t eat/drink:

  • Cheese – melted on pizza is fine, otherwise no.
  • Nuts in every form – not even peanut butter.
  • Any red meat that is not ground beef.
  • Almost all fish, unless it’s fried.
  • Bacon (!)
  • Milkshakes (!!)
  • Chocolate milk – she will drink ONLY regular milk, nothing added to it. Chris once offered her a Yoo-Hoo and she looked at him like he had 3 heads.
  • Yogurt/cream cheese/pudding/Jell-O/anything that falls into a “gooey texture” category.
  • Jelly/jam on anything.
  • Sandwiches. Yes, really.

I hear some parents (and “parenting experts”) argue that you should never prepare different food for your child, they should eat what you eat, and if they refuse, they should just go hungry. And that if a kid refuses something at one meal, it’s re-offered at the next meal, and the next, until they concede and eat it.

I would like to invite any of those parents to spend a week with Catie. She will go hungry until her blood sugar bottoms out, and then she turns into some sort of Demon Child, and you know what? It’s NOT WORTH IT.

So yeah, I am the mom who makes alternate meals. We’re going to have steak for dinner? Catie doesn’t eat steak, I’ll make her some fish sticks. Or: oh, I was going to roast some asparagus as our vegetable, but she hates that, so I’ll heat up a can of green beans for her. It takes maybe a couple of minutes of extra planning, and it saves me hours of whining and tears. I’m ok with the trade-off.

As a general rule, I think our society is too obsessed with food, to the point where people use their diet as part of their self-identity. Vegetarian, gluten-free, whatever. There is more to you as a human being than what foods you do or do not choose to shove in your mouth.

So I don’t think the big food battles are worth it. We’ve found enough compromises of things that Catie will eat, and she more-or-less gets a balanced diet, so I don’t stress about it that much.

Except! When it comes to school lunches.

I’ve blogged about this once before, over a year ago, and some of you guys had really great suggestions and comments about options to try. And I’ve tried a lot of your ideas. For one reason or another, they’ve all failed for Catie.

Dave and I have texted about this a lot, now that the kids go back and forth between our houses. We’re both frustrated with Catie bringing home most of her lunch uneaten, and wasting so much money on food she doesn’t touch.

At some point, she told Dave that she hates all sandwiches except for chicken sandwiches, “like the kind at Chick-Fil-A.” We went back and forth about this for a while, and decided ok, let’s go with that. We each stocked up on buns and frozen chicken patties. Every morning, heat up the chicken patty in the microwave, put NOTHING on the bun (Catie is staunchly anti-condiments), wrap the sandwich in foil, then put that inside an insulated sandwich bag so it stays warm.

And for a few weeks, it worked. I’m not sure if she got bored with it or if she decided that she doesn’t like chicken sandwiches all that much after all, but lately the chicken sandwich has also come home uneaten. She eats everything else in her lunchbox (2 types of fruit, crackers, some type of treat – usually a York peppermint patty or something), but not the sandwich. She’ll take maybe two bites of the sandwich SHE SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED.

(A couple of friends said that if their kids do this, they’re given the food they didn’t eat as their after-school snack or dinner. I don’t think I can pull that off, since Catie goes to daycare after school, and I don’t pick the girls up until 6:00, by which point I already have dinner planned. I usually don’t think to even check her lunchbox until long after dinner.)

Yesterday she didn’t even take a single bite out of her sandwich, and when I got mad, she said, “It wasn’t my fault! My friend [kid's name] distracted me and I forgot!” Right. Ok.

When I try to get her to talk about what type of food she DOES want in her lunchbox, she gets angry, defensive, and accuses me of “making her nervous.”

After her one of her rants about how she hates sandwiches, I asked her, “What do the kids who sit by you bring in their lunchboxes?” She said all of them buy lunch at school instead of bringing them.

I said, “Well, why don’t you try buying your lunch then?” (Note: she bought her lunch one time, when she was in kindergarten.)

She said, “No, I did that once, and they gave me food I hated.”

“What food was that?”

“CHEESE!” *big eyes as if I should recoil in horror at the thought that someone dared to put a piece of string cheese on her plate*

But, you know, after all of these arguments, and all of the wasted food and money, I’m just done. And so is Dave. So she’s buying her lunch next week as a punishment for not eating her packed lunch.

I figure we’ll have one of two outcomes:
1) She’ll realize that she has it pretty good with her custom-made-for-her-picky-taste-buds lunchbox, or
2) She’ll decide that school lunches are awesome, and we can stop fighting about it.

Either way feels like a win.

Wish me luck.

———————————————————————

Meanwhile, this morning I asked Lucy what she wanted for breakfast, and she said, “BROCCOLI!”

Hey Lucy, what do you want for breakfast? "Broccoli!" I couldn't think of a reason to say no. So ok, weirdo, broccoli it is. (Big sister on the iPad photobomb.)

Aside from the fact that it’s not a traditional breakfast food, I couldn’t think of any reason to say no. So ok, strange little girl, here’s your broccoli. She ate two bowls of it.

I don’t even know. Kids are so weird.

September 19, 2014Permalink 6 Comments

Girl Scout for a day

Like all siblings, Catie sometimes gets jealous of Lucy. She says that I pay more attention to Lucy, and that I don’t take care of her like I do with Lucy. I’ve tried to explain that any difference in how I treat them is because Lucy is younger and needs more from me – Lucy can’t open the fridge by herself like Catie can, Lucy can’t wipe her own butt like Catie can, that kind of thing – and I try to reassure her that I did all of those same things for Catie when she was 3. And also, someday when Lucy is 7, she’ll do all the stuff that Catie does now.

I don’t know how much it helps to tell her that, but lately, I’ve been trying to make sure that Catie and I get more one-on-one time. We’ll drop Lucy with my parents for a while and do something, just the two of us.

To be fair, I also try to make sure I get one-on-one time with Lucy, but since she’s so much younger, Lucy thinks that getting to go to the grocery store with me – “just me! No Catie!” – is a big huge treat. We get the cart with the attached car, she hops out to get things off the shelves for me (well, the lower shelves), and she thinks she is hot stuff as the only child. She chats my ear off through the whole store, and we have a blast. Meanwhile, Catie hates grocery shopping, so she’s more than happy to hang out on my parents’ couch and read books aloud to my dad while Lucy and I go to Food Lion.

When it’s “Catie and Mommy Time,” we do things like go roller skating (someplace I’d never take Lucy, because I’d be afraid the big kids would mow her down), or go to a Pokemon tournament, or whatever she wants to do.

————————————————————

One of Catie’s friends from school is involved in Girl Scouts. Back in April or May, they had a nature hike where each girl was allowed to bring along a friend. She invited Catie, and Catie loved it. She came back asking if she could join Girl Scouts.

This was so out of character for her – my cautious child who never wants to try anything new, suddenly wants to join Girl Scouts? I was so thrown off by her enthusiasm, but happy that she wanted to try it out, that I said yes, of course.

Disclaimer: I was never in the Girl Scouts. I know next to nothing about Girl Scouts, aside from the fact that they sell very delicious cookies.

The Girl Scouts’ calendar follows along with the traditional school calendar, so there was no point in signing her up in May, when they were about to end for the summer. I enrolled her for the 2014-15 year, and the first meeting was this past Monday.

————————————————————

In the few months since the nature hike, Catie changed her mind back and forth a couple of times about Girl Scouts. She wanted to go, then she didn’t.

Finally, I said to her, “Look, we’ll go to the first meeting, and see how it goes. If you don’t like it, we don’t have to go again. If you go a few times and then decide you don’t like it, you can stop. There’s no rule that you’re going to stuck with this for life, ok?”

Since I had given her an easy out, she agreed.

————————————————————

Here’s how that whole troop meeting thing went down:

The meeting started at 6:00. At 5:15, I picked up the girls from daycare. I dropped Lucy off with my parents, and Catie and I set off for a Baptist church on the far side of town, where the troop meeting was being held.

During the meeting, the troop leader talked the parents through the troop handbook, while the girls sat around a table and did some sort of “getting to know each other” exercises.

The meeting wrapped up a little after 7:30 (an hour and a half of talking about Girl Scout policies and my eyes were starting to glaze over), then we rushed back to my parents’ house. My mom had food waiting for us, and God bless her for that, because Catie and I were both starving.

By the time we got home, it was 8:30, then I had to get the kids bathed and ready for bed, and they were so hyper that it took another hour to get them settled down to sleep.

It was exhausting. And the kicker? We hadn’t even walked out of the church meeting room before Catie whispered to me, “You said that I wouldn’t have to go back if I hated it? And I hated it.”

————————————————————

When I was talking about Girl Scouts with the mom of Catie’s friend, she said that there was one troop meeting a month, and then you just pick and choose various events that your kid wants to attend. That sounds easy enough, right?

It turns out there are THREE troop meetings a month, and attendance is mandatory at all of them. And it’s a lot more expensive than I thought it was. And all of the fundraising sales (cookies, yes, but they also sell other stuff in the fall) require participation as well.

It was really the required troop meetings that got me. I was so overwhelmed on Monday night, and the thought of doing that kind of crazy rushed evening, 3 out of 4 Monday nights every month? I don’t think I can do that.

So, honestly, I was a little relieved when Catie said that she hated it. I mean, I get that the Girl Scouts are a good organization, and it could potentially provide her with all kinds of opportunities later in life, but I also don’t think it’s mandatory.

I emailed Catie’s troop leader with a note that basically said, “thanks, but this isn’t going to work for us.” My understanding is that our county has girls on a waitlist to join Girl Scout troops, so hopefully this will provide an opportunity for one of them, who might be a better fit for Girl Scouts than us.

Also? It means that I won’t be sitting at a folding table in front of a grocery store in February trying to sell cookies with my kid. And I’m pretty ok with that.

September 10, 2014Permalink 1 Comment

the hard and the good

I had a Twitter conversation with Gwen yesterday (who I don’t think has a blog anymore, and her Twitter account is locked, so I can’t link to her, but hi, Gwen!) about the people who I call Chronic One-Uppers. These are the people who, no matter what you’re doing with your life, they have to top it somehow. They make themselves feel superior by minimizing you.

Chronic One-Uppers exist in all facets of life – in school, at work, at the gym, in your social circles – but Chronic One-Uppers as parents? Are some of the most annoying people to be around. There are several different variations on this, from the Sanctimommy types (“you let your kids eat French fries? My children only eat raw organic vegetables that I’ve grown myself!”) to the My Child is More Advanced than Yours parents (“oh, your baby is 8 months old and not crawling yet? My baby crawled at 6 months!”), but the ones who I find the most intolerable of all are the “just wait!” parents.

(This is where I scrambled to try to find Temerity Jane’s post on this subject, but alas, Google has failed me.)

The “just wait!” parents are the people who take great delight in telling you how hard parenting will be further down the road than wherever you currently are.

It starts when you’re pregnant.
“Enjoy sleeping now! Once the baby comes, you won’t sleep again for years!”

[Side note to pregnant ladies or those who may become pregnant someday: this is a load of crap. First of all, sleep isn't a savings account that you can store up and withdraw later. Second, trying to sleep when you're hugely pregnant is miserable. You need a million pillows to support your body, and if you have to roll over, it's a whole production of moving said pillows, and also you have to get up to pee every 20 minutes. When you have a newborn, yeah, ok, babies wake you up a lot, but when you get the chance to sleep, you can sleep however you want (on your stomach! On a couch! On the FLOOR if you want to!), and you may have the option of letting your spouse take a shift to give you a break. Your spouse cannot, however, take on your giant belly and sciatic pain to let you get a good night's sleep when you're pregnant. So those "sleep while you can!" people are liars, and you should either ignore them or kick them squarely in the shin.]

Then when you have a baby.
“Just wait until you hit the terrible twos!”

Oh, your kid is now a two year-old?
“Oh, three is so much worse than two, just wait, you’ll see!”

When you have a kid in grade school?
“Just wait until they’re teenagers!”

It never ends. There’s always something.

The thing is, no matter what phase you’re in, there’s some hard stuff, sure, but there’s also good stuff.

For example, when you have a newborn? Sure, you’re exhausted and you feel like you’ve been run over by a Mack truck full of hormones, but you also have this amazing little person who’s suddenly been thrust into your life. Which is pretty fantastic in and of itself.

From my point of view: I have a 3 year-old. And it’s pretty widely acknowledged that three year-olds are terrible and difficult, and basically irrational tiny dictators. And while that’s true, I also get unsolicited hugs and “I love you, Mommy”s, which are pretty much the greatest thing in the world.

She said, "I want to lay down in your bed & snuggle with you because I'm a little bit tired." I thought she was joking. She wasn't.

The snuggles are pretty nice, too.

And when she’s not acting like a threenager, Lucy is hilarious.

She is the stereotypical second child, a total ham, and she has a way of expressing herself that keeps us laughing all the time. (At least as long as she’s happy. When it’s tantrum time, LOOK OUT.)

Lucy happy about water play day at daycare

With Catie, at seven years old? Sure, there are times she throws a bad attitude around. I know that right now she’s practicing for the tween years, and testing my boundaries and trying to see how far she can push me. But at the same time, since she’s seven, I can talk to her like a normal person, and she understands. I can take her places and she acts like a civilized person. We can go to a restaurant, just the two of us, sit and have a conversation, and eat our food together, and she’s just completely delightful to be around.

School picture day for Catie. Lucy wanted in on the action too. (Texted to me by their dad.)

Here’s where I get to my main point:

You can be in a really hard phase of parenting, and it can also be really good at the same time. These are not mutually exclusive concepts.

Just because it sucks sometimes, doesn’t mean that it isn’t also amazing and totally worth it.

Example time!

I struggle with weekday evenings. It often feels like a nightly marathon. It starts with dinner, then homework, then bathtime, then one last snack (usually fruit of some kind) before we brush teeth, read books, and settle in for the night. Combine that with trying to make sure we’re set up for the next day – packing Catie’s lunchbox, setting up the coffee pot for me – it’s exhausting and I often get stressed out and short-tempered with them.

(Credit where it’s due: I almost never do the dishes anymore, because Chris does them for me. So that’s one less thing off my “nightly marathon” plate, and I make sure that I always thank him for doing it, because I am truly grateful for the fact that he does little things like that to make my life easier.)

So, the other night, I was irritable and kind of rushing the kids through the whole bedtime routine – making sure Lucy went to the bathroom one last time, making sure Catie took her asthma medication, all the stuff on the nightly bedtime checklist.

I finally got the girls into their room, and Lucy picked out a Sandra Boynton book for me to read to her. Catie said, “Hey, Lucy, you want me to read to you instead?” Lucy said yes, so Catie climbed into bed next to her, and read to her.

Catie has taken over story time from me. I will never complain about this.

It was one of those moments that just made me so happy. I love it when they’re sweet to each other, I love that Catie is more eager to read, I love that Lucy is old enough to not freak out when we suggest changing her routine just a tiny bit (6 months ago, she would’ve screamed if Catie had gotten into her bed to read to her instead of me).

So yeah, being a parent is hard. But ignore the Chronic One-Uppers. There will always be hard phases. The good stuff balances it out, and more often than not, the good stuff significantly outweighs the hard stuff.

And I guess that’s my version of the “just wait!” thing – if you’re in a phase where parenting feels like it’s just too much and you can’t deal with it, just wait, because someday your kids are going to do something that knocks the wind right out of your chest because of how overwhelmed-with-love you are.

And ok yeah, maybe that’s cheesy. Sorry for that. But damn, if it isn’t the truth.

P.S. Thanks for the inspiration on this one, Gwen.

September 5, 2014Permalink 4 Comments

sometimes normal is outstanding

I tend to be careful in what I share about my kids as they get older. So I’ve only talked about Catie’s struggles at school superficially here and there.

The short version: she’s a really smart kid, and she does great at math, science, and pretty much any subject that doesn’t involve reading. As far as I can tell, her struggle with reading had nothing to do with any lack of ability on her part, it was that she didn’t want to try. But it was enough of a concern that during the last few months of first grade, she was working with one of the school’s “reading intervention” teachers. And we’ve also had a tutor working with her after school three days a week. (Her tutor was a senior in high school when we found her last spring; she’s now a freshman in college, but she’s still local enough that she can work with Catie in the afternoons. And I’m thankful for that, because Catie loves her and they’ve made really good progress together.)

I knew that Catie had improved in reading significantly in the past few months, but I wasn’t sure how much. I emailed her teacher because if Catie was still struggling this year, I wanted to make sure that she could get in the reading intervention teacher’s group sooner than later, so she wouldn’t fall too far behind.

The school recently gave the literacy evaluation tests that they give at the beginning, middle, and end of every school year.

Catie’s teacher emailed me back that all of Catie’s scores were in the normal range, and there’s no reason to think that she needs to work with the reading intervention teacher at all.

I had to re-read that email a few times.

All. Scores. Normal range.

I knew she had made progress, but dang. Go, Catie! I’m so proud of her, because she’s really worked hard on this and it’s paid off.

————————————————————–

And not to keep rehashing how much I didn’t like Catie’s first grade teacher, but I remember toward the of the last school year, Dave and I met with her for a parent-teacher conference. I said that I was worried about Catie starting off second grade behind her peers in reading.

She replied, “Well, she’s going to be behind, nothing you can do about that.”

Thinking of that conversation now, I am overcome with the urge to scream at her. I want to make a copy of Catie’s test score results and show them to her, because Catie has made this much progress NO THANKS TO HER.

————————————————————–

I know this entire post basically comes off as me bragging about my kid, but man. I’m just so stinking proud of her. I know it’s really hard for her to break out of her comfort zone and try something new, because it goes against her cautious nature, but she did it. And I’m overjoyed to see how far she’s come.

Catie drew Spyro from Skylanders (both on a TV screen & the action figure on the portal). #gamer

(She’s a pretty good artist too.)

August 28, 2014Permalink

Ice Bucket’ed

Like pretty much everyone else on the Internet, I’ve seen about a million of the videos where people dump a bucket of ice water on their heads to raise money for ALS. My feelings about it were largely indifferent – hey, they raised a lot of money for a really terrible disease, and that’s awesome – and that’s about as far as I thought about it. I wasn’t gung ho about it or one of the people who complained about it.

Then my cousin nominated me for it, and he mentioned that he was also making a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in memory of our cousin Teresa, who died of CF ten years ago this month.

And dammit, if there’s one way to get me to jump on a bandwagon, it’s to bring in a cause that’s near and dear to my heart.

YouTube Preview Image

I think my dad enjoyed pouring ice water on my head a little too much.

I had shown the kids a couple of ice bucket videos, but they didn’t really get what was going on. Catie was kind of upset about it (“Why are you doing this? What if someone nominates ME? Am I going to have to do it too? I don’t want ice water on my head!”), but I reassured her that it was all fine, it’s just for fun, and nobody was going to make her do it. You can see that when the water is going on my head, she’s in the back covering her ears because I was screaming.

Lucy thought it was all pretty funny. “Pop-Pop put water on you head! Dat’s so silly!” Who knows what she’ll repeat to her daycare teacher today.

Anyway, I made matching donations for both ALS and Cystic Fibrosis, and it turns out my employer matches charitable donations, so that doubles my efforts.

Temporary discomfort for a good cause? Sure, why not.

And now I can’t wait to see what my sister and brother-in-law do for their ice bucket challenge…

August 26, 2014Permalink

outrunning fate

I don’t remember how old my mom was when she started having back problems. I guess it started when I was a teenager, but I’m fuzzy on the details.

I remember when I was in college and she called to tell me that she’d been diagnosed with scoliosis. She said she was afraid she might end up in a wheelchair, and she cried. I vividly remember standing in the bedroom of my apartment in Memphis, and feeling completely helpless, because my mom was 200 miles away, and all I wanted was to give her a hug.

Fast-forward nearly 20 years. My mom isn’t in a wheelchair, but her scoliosis has progressed, and she’s in pretty much constant pain. She uses a back brace, her back is hunched, and she has to wear a patch that gives her a low, steady dose of constant narcotic painkillers. She sees an acupuncturist regularly, which seems to help give her some occasional relief. But it’s a pretty awful way to live.

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I think I’ve mentioned here plenty of times that I was very overweight when I was young. When I was in high school, I used to go for walks at night after dinner, for exercise. (That’s the thing about Mississippi – most of the year, it’s so hot that it’s only bearable to go outside after it gets dark.) I’d usually walk 2 or 3 miles a night.

A lot of times when I went for walks, one of my parents would go with me. If it was my mom who came along, she’d complain a lot of the way that she didn’t want to go, even though she knew she needed to. She hated to exercise. (My dad never complained. He’s a golfer, walking a couple miles is nothing when you’re used to walking 18 holes.) Sometimes I’d egg my mom on to keep going, sometimes she’d take a shortcut back home rather than finish the whole route.

That’s not an indictment of my mom’s character. Plenty of people don’t enjoy exercising. I don’t think that it makes you a good or bad person one way or the other. She didn’t like to exercise, so she didn’t do it much. That’s all.

I don’t know if any of my mom’s health issues would’ve been helped if she had exercised more. Maybe if she’d had stronger core muscles, it would’ve helped to support her spine, and she wouldn’t be in as much pain now. I honestly don’t know.

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My mom and I have a lot in common. If you look at pictures of her when she was younger, we look a lot alike.

1970 - My parents with Tracy
My parents in 1970 with my sister Tracy.
Side note: my mom thought she was hideously fat when this picture was taken. If there’s any question where I get my ridiculous body dysmorphia, there you go.

For the past year and a half or so, I’ve been pretty obsessive about exercise. I workout 5 days a week on average. I mostly run, although I’ll occasionally do a Jillian Michaels DVD (like the 30 Day Shred or one of those) just to mix it up and make sure I get some strength training, too.

It’s occurred to me that part of the reason exercise has become so important to me is because I’m afraid of ending up like my mom. I don’t know if I’m prone to the same health problems that she has, but I know that I absolutely do not want to end up in constant pain like she is. I don’t want to live like that.

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When I started running, my goal was to be able to run a 5K (3.1 miles). I hit that goal a couple of months ago. Now I’ve shifted it, and my goal is to be able to run 5 miles before Christmas. I don’t know where I came up with that number or why it feels significant. I guess it’s because until recently, it’s not something I ever thought I’d be able to do, and now it feels attainable.

A lot of my runner friends have encouraged me to do a race of some kind. Lord knows there’s plenty of options out there: 5Ks, 10Ks, full marathons, half marathons, whatever. I understand that a lot of people use them as a timeline for achieving a specific goal, and others just think races are fun. But I don’t want to do a race. I never run with other people. I don’t even run with Chris – although that’s mainly because he runs so much faster than me, he’d leave me in the dust in the first five minutes. Hell, I don’t even like passing people on the sidewalk of my street. So the idea of running with hundreds of other people makes me nervous. The thing I like about running is being able to zone out in my own head. The only person I’m competing with out there is myself.

(For what it’s worth, running also helps tremendously with my anxiety. I’ve had days where I wake up feeling shaky and panicky for no reason other than some stupid hormonal shift. If I’m running, I feel like it’s ok that my heart feels like it’s going to pound out of my chest and that I’m gasping for breath, because oh yeah, I’m running. It burns off that whole “fight or flight” thing, and by the time I get home, I’m calmer and the panicky feeling has passed. For that alone, I cannot recommend it enough.)

I don’t know what the end goal is with all this exercising that I’m doing. I don’t have any specific weight loss goal, because I’m pretty much ok with where I am now. (Although I wouldn’t mind toning up some places. I’m looking at you, upper arm flab.) I guess when I hit that “I can run 5 miles” goal, I’ll shift it out more and figure out what’s next.

The thing is, as I find myself barreling down on my 40th birthday (which, ok, that’s still a year and a half from now), and that whole “middle age” notion creeps in, my health is becoming more and more important. I feel like I need to make myself as strong as possible now, so I’ll be prepared for whatever physical challenges my body may face in the future.

So if you ever happened to wonder why I run? That’s why.

August 25, 2014Permalink