Thursday, April 30, 2009

And Right Back Down to the Bottom of the Mountain

I have an amazing ability to gain and lose weight. The same 20 (give or take) pounds, year after year after year after year, for, oh, 25 years now. But this is the amazing part: I can do either in the span of usually about two months. Don’t believe me? My brother just lost 31 pounds in two weeks. TWO weeks. It is a family curse and blessing. It is obviously in my genes.

But first, my brother’s story: He is six feet tall and weighs in the 220s, which is on the higher end of the scale for him. He doesn’t look extra-large, really, because he, like most men, carries his weight very well, which is so not fair. His office did a Biggest Loser Challenge (is this all the rage in corporate America? Group weight-loss programs?) and he signed up. It was eight weeks long. For the first six weeks, he continued to eat double cheeseburgers and whatever else struck his fancy, which I guess means huge portions of whatever he wants. Week after week of weigh-ins revealed no weight loss, and his co-workers, who were all slowly and steadily going down on the scale, good-naturedly teased his lack of progress. Then my brother decided to be mindful of what is was eating for the last two weeks. Week one, he lost 11 pounds. Week two, he lost 18. He lost the Challenge (and the $700 pot) by a half pound. But 31 pounds in two weeks? I’d say he is a winner.

This proves two things about me and my brother: We are both very, very competitive and we both have freaky metabolisms.

One of the important parts of my brother’s equation is that in those last two weeks he was working hard every night after work renovating the rental apartment in his house. Exercise seems to be the common denominator — and an important one — for both of us. When we are exercising regularly, and are watching what we eat a little, weight drops off. But if we don’t exercise regularly and don’t watch what we eat, watch out: Weight gain, almost immediately.

But let’s bring it back to me. I gain and lose weight with incredible regularity, year after year. Weight gain usually occurs over the winter and weight loss occurs in the spring into summer. Fall is the balanced season, usually.

How does this happen? It is eternally frustrating. When I gain weight, my eating habits do not change drastically, but they do change. In other words, I can’t blame weight gain on eating three boxes or Oreos every day. How I wish it were that simple: Cut out the Oreos and welcome to healthy-weight world. Bizarrely, I think I eat more in the Lean Months: Three regular meals (and if I don’t eat them at the same time, my body almost shuts down), snacks, dessert, lots of water. In the Not-Lean Months, I eat irregularly: Yesterday I skipped lunch and had no snacks. My food-for-the-day boiled down to peanut butter toast for breakfast and then penne with peas and vodka sauce for dinner. Not exactly unhealthy, but not good either. My splurge for the day: I made two batches of chocolate chip cookies and coconut bars for Nicole to take to work, and from that bounty I hade a couple of scrap pieces of coconut bars, mostly for taste-testing purposes (I can’t send a new recipe off to Nicole’s office without ensuring it doesn’t taste like crap).

It is not like you will open my cabinets and find a cornucopia of crap. Pretzels and ice cream is about as dangerous as I get, with a package of salt and vinegar chips thrown in every three months or so. Exercise seems to be the deciding factor, really. If I work out for about 45 minutes a day, six days a week, my metabolism is fine and my weight remains steady. But the instant (literally) my exercise becomes erratic then so does my weight.

Last summer my weight dipped into the 120s. People were saying that I looked too thin, and there was that side of me that thought “YES! Too thin! I look emaciated and unhealthy! Go me!” Sick, isn’t it? Add that to the list of things I don’t want to pass onto my daughters. But the other side of me was a little freaked out, which I didn’t talk about much. I saw my ribs, those bones in my chest and neck, and the shape of my femur bones. My breasts withered to raisins, complete with those tell-tale deep grooves. My arms, in certain angles, looked a liiiiiittle scary. And the weight kept coming off, with no end in sight. So I cut my four-mile run by a half mile, and that was the beginning of the next round of weight gain.

So here I sit, twenty pounds heavier, heading into the summer season not able to fit comfortably in my favorite skirts. I am annoyed to be back in this spot. The thing is I am not terribly worried: I know that within two months (or so; I don’t want to jinx myself) I can get back to a better size. The thing is am really, really, really tired of the cycle. Really tired of Big Me and Smaller Me. Really tired of the wardrobe that spans multiple sizes. Really tired of needing three different bra sizes. Really frustrated that I need to execute a exact dose of exercise in order in stay in a certain range. On the one hand, it seems like a small price to pay. But what can I say? Sometimes it is hard to drag myself out of bed at 5 in the morning and head to the gym. And someone needs to send a memo to my daughters: Absolutely no sleep issues or Momma won’t be able to be a size six.

The other day I was carrying a bag of laundry to drop off, and it weighed 20 pounds. (I only know this because it is a dollar a pound to wash and I had to fork over 20 dollars). It was heavy, people, that bag. 20 pounds makes a big difference. And that is what needs to come off of me, again. I am not happy to be back at the bottom of the mountain.

So much more to say about this issue... it isn't all so neat.

Pictured above, my brother and I a few years back in the Leaner Summer months. We are painting his boat’s hull. It is one of the few pictures of us together. Also pictured, the girls holding hand and running in Aunt Jenni’s yard the other day. Are they going to inherit the C [my last name] Weight Curse?

Monday, April 27, 2009

It is only April and we are contemplating turning on the air conditioning. I am resisting because I am not a fan of it and, again, it is only April. How is it that we skip spring every year? We go from snow to 90 degrees in two weeks. Though I must say this was a glorious and breezy spring-like morning. So maybe I am not seeing the forest for the trees.

Another Monday, not much different from the last 50 Mondays. Sometimes I am amazed at the tedium of day-to-day life, of the repetitive tasks that we need to do ad infinitum. My to-do list, a literal checklist with boxes for me to X out, because it feels so good to X things out, includes things like “do laundry” and “buy apples” and “pick up dry cleaning” which I still put on the list, even though I am in a constant state of doing laundry or buying apples or picking up dry cleaning (and here is an example of how much I hate change: Even though our dry cleaner will deliver, for free, I insist on picking up our dry cleaning instead because to do otherwise invites change and we can’t have that, can we?) It is only 8:00 and already we have been to the post office, to the grocery store, to the dry cleaner and the UPS store.

I have a bigger post of the meatier variety, but I am not up to that today. Stay tuned tomorrow for a weight rant. In the meantime, a little report on the latest developments in the world of Madeline and Avery:

• Madeline knows more than half of the letters in the alphabet. She recognizes them not only on her flashcards and in her books, but on the street in signs or anywhere. She isn’t even two yet. This is genius, right? It all started with the letter B, which I am convinced all apartment-building-dwelling babies learn in their elevators. Both Madeline and Avery recognized B first, and from that sprang forth a passion for letters. For a while all letters were B. Bu that quickly evolved, and Maddie took it to a whole new level. On her recognition roster are A, B, C, D, F, I, K, L, N, O, P, Q, S, T, V, W and Z. Avery is not too far behind her. And they both are calling out numbers they see too. Alas, I know that while this may be on the early side of things, they will most likely average out in time. But still, they are brilliant!

• “Da Da” still means “what’s that?” and I can’t help but to still be amused by the double entendre of that!

• Avery is much more verbal at the moment. She loves to play this incredibly innovative and original game that I made up called “words”: It involves me saying “Can you say ____?” and her saying said word. Like I said, SO original. But she loves to play this game and can play for much longer than I want to. She has also started using the possessive, as in “Mommy’s” and “Momma’s.” She is more likely to demand water or milk or Elmo or more or a spoon. Madeline clearly understands but she is much less inclined to speak. And just when I think it might be an issue, she will come over ad pint to me knee and call it a knee, etc.
• We have successfully migrated to the afternoon nap! From noon-ish to three-ish every day. Thank you, sleeping gods.

• They still go to bed at night around 6:30/7:00. However, of late, they have been getting up about an hour later in need of a new diaper. So we get them, change diapers hang out with them on our bed for about ten minutes then bring them back to their cribs. I am not sure if this new routine of theirs means that we should be putting them down later or giving them dinner earlier. I am also in denial that more regulated poops means potty training is inches away.

• We said bye-bye bottles on Friday. My babies are growing up. Nicole had Friday off, so it was a three-day weekend, and we figured now was as good a time as any to get rid of them. They were starting to chew off the nipples, going through a pair a week. They were only using them for their first morning milk and for the last milk at night. During the day, they drink water out of sippy cups. The issue is, of course, they are not to happy about drinking milk out of a sippy cup or a regular cup or a special straw cup or any other vessel other than a bottle. We have gone through so many variations of sippy cup in the past few days. By Sunday night, Maddie had adapted okay. She is drinking her milk from the sippy cup, though much less than her normal 16 ounces. Avery is still refusing milk in a sippy cup. But she did drink a couple of sips from a coffee mug, so there is progress. From what I have read/heard, when bottles are dropped milk consumption will reduce by half, but that is okay. Milk isn’t the important thing: It’s calcium. And both are great with yogurt and cheese, so I think we are going to be okay. Still, I will double check all this with our pediatrician in June for their two-year appointment.

• How is it these babies have lived outside of me for two years already? When did that happen?

• I have a feeling Madeline suffers form the same Excess Disorder that I have. She eats a pint of blueberries a day. If she likes something, she just wants more and more and more. Avery, on the other hand, will have three bites of, say, pasta and then decide she is full. She has much ore control. Maddie indulges.

• Avery learned the word “oww” and now uses it ALL the time. She also has mastered Sad Face, which involves pursed lips, eyes looking down, head titled ever so slightly. Of course, I reinforce this behavior by declaring each time “OH LOOK AVERY IS SAD!” in a ridiculous voice. This has fueled her sad face fire. I need to stop that this week.

• I read last week that waffle irons could be used to make great grilled cheeses and panini-like sandwiches, and it is true! So exciting to find a new use for the waffle iron. Yes, these are the sort of things that excite me these days. I learned this in Cooks Illustrated magazine, the world’s best recipe magazine.

This post, like so many before, was brought to you by an episode of Sesame Street. (The Firefly Episode.)

Pictured above, did I even write about how Nicole and I met Jane Fonda, she of the Awesome Amazineness? I’ll add that to my list of things I need to write about. I look freaky because my face was shaking and I was telling jane this as the picture was taken. Also I look like I am 17 times larger than Jane. Also pictured, Madeline after eating yogurt and pre-bath, obviously. She is not the neatest of eaters yet, but rest assured a lot of it actually makes it to her tummy. And another reason why we got rid of the bottles: They are being used as very messy toys. And milk is surprisingly annoying to clean up.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Is It The Feast of the Epiphany or Something?

This is an epiphany of sorts, and not perhaps a very earth-shattering one, but for me, it was a bit of a shocker: I woke up and realized I am an adult in the middle of my life.

I am an adult, officially old, or older than so many others. A mother of two, of all things; a wife; an erstwhile journalist; a junior-high-school-Jane-Fonda-aeorobisizer turned runner; a woman approaching her forties. Forties! When my mom was my age, she had a nine-year-old, an eleven-year-old and a crumbling marriage. I am going to be 37 this July. I don’t feel it, mentally, but there are too many physical signs to ignore. The gray hair, the beginnings of wrinkles and, of all things, a C-Section scar. There are age-related complexities: Almost every doctor appointment requires a follow-up with a specialist or blood work. I can hurt myself executing seemingly simple tasks, like getting out of bed or reaching for something on the tippy top shelf. I have sunspots that need to be “checked.” And my hands. My hands, more than anything, betray my vanishing youth and approaching middle age.

Most startling: that shift is starting to happen, where we are no longer “taken care of” by our parents and we are slowly but oh so surely becoming the caretakers of them.

We are as young as we feel, right? Sometimes I still feel like I am in college, and I am going to eat a greasy, unhealthy-in-ten-ways dinner at nine at night, then take a Disco Nap and then spend the evening flitting from place to place, staying out way too late. Or I feel like I am still in high school, and I am going to drive past The Devil House (doesn’t every town have one?) or go 70 miles an hour over The Hump in town (doesn’t every town have one?) to feel our stomachs drop or go to a diner (doesn’t every town have one?), to a pizzeria (ibid) or to the video store to rent a movie (wait: Blockbuster is going out of business, so every town won’t have one). Or, when it is late at night and I can’t sleep and I am alone in the living room with my thoughts, I can feel ten again. Lonely, uncertain, waiting, wondering where this is all heading.

I suffer from thinking REAL life is going to start any day now. Like this life, this day, this moment doesn’t count. This isn’t real. “Real” hasn’t started yet. “Real” is coming. I could use a tattoo reminding me to Seize the Day or Live in The Moment. Actually, that is not a bad idea: Permanent ink to drill into my head a concept I never seem to master.

But how can I live in the moment? I am too busy preparing, wondering, worrying and stressing about the next one. And too often I reconstruct the past and construct the future, but ignore the present. This very moment, ignored, like a stranger on a train.

There was a point early on in my relationship with Nicole when I started to feel like an adult. I remember thinking, that’s it: We are adults and we need to use pillow protectors. We need high-thread-count sheets. We need to really think about the future and not just conjecture about the myriad directions it can go. We need a AAA membership. And magazine subscriptions. A better vocabulary. A subscription t the Times. And one of those return address stampers so we can stop using those free labels that come in the all from charities we don’t donate to, the ones with cloying puppies or seals on them, or a giant calligraphy initial. We need real pots and pans, the kind that you add one at a time because they are so absurdly expensive and it seems ridiculous spending that much for a pot. We need real pajamas, the kind sold in sets, that match, and maybe have working buttons, and not just decorative ones. We need art on our walls. Wills. Health-care proxies. A legal marriage, even if it s only recognized by three states. College funds. House insurance. Life insurance. Avenues of communication. Back-up plans.

And now, the latest addition to our adult life, the latest sign that we are in fact over thirty but under fifty: There is, as of today, a television in our bedroom. Yes, I know what all about its sometimes unintended consequences, but it had to happen. The girls’ bedroom is off of the living room, which makes that room off-limits when we put them to bed. Not forever, but just till they are settled in and in a deep sleep. So, you know, a couple hours. During that time, we head to the bedroom, with our computers or books, or into the kitchen. We makes calls. I update my blog. Sometimes I’ll get a manicure. Or, more glamorously, empty the dishwasher and set up the coffee for tomorrow. Point being: We steer clear of the living room.

With a TV in our bedroom, we have options. We can watch a movie together. We can cuddle under the covers on a cold day, basking in the warm glow of Rachel Maddow. We can close the door, turn on the air conditioning and watch Battlestar Gallatica, which I recently downloaded from iTunes. Or it can just sit there, off, in all its shiny, flat glory. We’ve come a long way since the televisions of our youth.

The best part: Neither Nicole nor I watch that much TV. Well, to be more specific: Nicole never watches TV during the week. Well, sometimes she will come in a watch The Office with me, with closed captions, so the volume doesn’t infiltrate the girls room. (And yet another aging sign: I have hearing loss in my right ear.) But during the week, I will tuck Nicole into bed and head into the living room around 9 and watch a Tivo’d show or two until I my brain shuts down enough to sleep. But I never watch TV during the day or on the weekends. And Nicole, she loves her Sunday afternoon TV. So this should be interesting.

But tonight, we will watch The Office, in bed, with the lights out and no computers on our laps and without reading the closed captions. I am so excited that I think we need Cold Stone to celebrate. It is like this is a special occasion. TV has suddenly become an Exciting Event, and that, more than anything, makes me feel old.

Pictured above, cue the chorus of angels and behold, the TV. We need a stand. And the two not-so-little reminders for me to Live in the Moments.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Yeah, Sure, The Sky Is Falling. And I Feel Fine-ish.

Sometimes I sit around admiring Madeline and Avery’s little pot bellies. They stick out in the most adorable way and give them a ridiculously impossible profile, the kind of absurd dimensions where you wonder why they don’t topple over. I take a certain pride in thinking I fill those bellies up. And then a wave a panic rolls over me and I don’t see pudge but rather distention and those aren’t tummies filled with lovingly cut-up grapes and homemade chicken nuggets, they are tummies filled with gas and emptiness. Then I start poking their stomachs and continue for a while until I realize I don’t know what to feel for. What does starvation even feel like? It amazes me how quickly I can switch from “they are just fine” to “oh my god they are starving, right in front of my eyes.” This is a little insight into my daily parenting panic. And it extends in ten million directions. I am astonished at the so many ways that one can be/feel like a failure at parenting.

Starvation isn’t such a reach, based on the amount of food I find on the floor and their mercurial appetites, combined with my own peculiar food habits, which includes occasional skipped meals, a virtual food strike in the hot days of summer and a pathetic lack of protein in my life. I eat no meat but chicken, and I don’t feel bad about eating chicken anymore because I have concluded that chickens are by far the most annoying farm animal — if not animal — on the planet. This is based on recent experience. We went to a dairy farm up in Northampton (maybe Hadley) and there were these great, lumbering, almost regal-looking cows, who would walk right over to us and point their giant noses at the girls and just watch us, blinking s-l-o-w-l-y and looking like they had something to say. They seemed so kind and gentle and easy-going, like I could be friends with them, if they were human. They would be the friend who always said “I don’t care. What do YOU want to do?” I almost felt bad that I eat the occasional hamburger (that is the only beef product I eat), but then I think how tasty cows are, sandwiched between a fresh bun, with lots of ketchup and mustard and sour pickles and red onions, and I get over it. They also give us milk, which gives us cheese, which truly is nature’s candy. And don’t even get me started on ice cream. Cows are great.

But chickens are just plain annoying. First of all, they live up to their names of running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Have they no sense of direction? Do they exist in a constant state of dizziness? Watching them makes me weary. Second, they tried on several occasions during the above mentioned farm visit to lead my over-excited girls into traffic. I’m not kidding. The chickens ran for the road, with my girls hot on the heels, and then the chickens make a sharp turn, back to safety, while my still-not-good-at-banking girls headed straight into the road. Were it not for us scooping them up and bringing them back to the safety of the grass, the girls would keep running into the street. Evil chickens. So I no longer feel bad that I eat chicken. And I will eat more of them tomorrow. With delicious white wine cream sauce.

Speaking of wine, this is the absurdity of life as a non-drinker: I want to make the above mentioned white wine cream sauce, which requires three tablespoons of white wine, but I don’t want to have a whole opened bottle in my house. It is not like I would grab it, run into the closet, close the door and down it, but who knows. But mainly it is the fact that I don’t want to waste it. So last night I went to a few liquor stores looking for those mini airplane-size bottles of wine, and can’t find them. Are they out of style? Does no one drink shots of wine anymore? Is it wrong to knock on my neighbor’s door and ask to borrow some?

In a delicious sense of irony, both girls says “dada” but it means “what’s that?” How’s that for their first double entendre? They will point to something, ask “dada” and then repeat what I say. Well, attempt to repeat. Avery seems to be increasing her vocabulary and becoming more verbal by the day, if not hour. I am always amazed at some of the words she knows. Madeline is a little behind her, and seems content to let her sister talk. It is impossible not to compare, then worry, then fret, then panic, then seek counsel, then assume that I am certainly failing my children. I know how silly that is, but reason and logic apparently flew out the window once I had kids.

From toddler diets to chickens to wine issues to vocabulary….

And now, just to wrap up this random post, a snippet from an argument Nicole and I had over the weekend:

Me: You’re being mean.
Nicole: You’re being mean.
Me: No, I am not mean. You are being lazy about picking adjectives. I am being bratty and immature, yes, but mean, no.
Nicole: Fine, you’re being bratty and immature.
Me: Fine. But you’re being mean.

Notice I gave myself the last word? We were arguing over dinner. More specifically, we were arguing over the fact that I wanted Nicole to decide what to order in for dinner and she had the *nerve* to ask for my input in deciding. In my defense, I just didn’t want to make any decisions at all. I just wanted food to show up in front of me. But there is probably no way I can spin this to make me seem in the right. It all seems so silly in hindsight, no? And it seems like almost everyone I know is having various versions of spousal conflict these days. Is it the weather? The economy? General ennui?

If you are still looking for the password for my “secret” blog, email me. This blog, right here, is still my main blog. I am seriously considering migrating, but, as I said, that involves change and we all know how I despise change. When I add a new post to the secret blog, I will alert you all here. And I want to thank you all for your links and stories and really wonderful emails. They really cheered me up on an otherwise gloomy, rainy, post-argument crappy Monday.

Pictured above, another reason why cows are great: They are weather prognosticators: When they lay down it means rains a comin’. I love that. Chickens, those evil, tasty farm animals, predict nothing, except that the sky is falling, when in fact it isn’t. And Madeline with her hands all over the goat. This is why I need to remember to carry that hand gel with me at all times.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Password Protection: Yes, It Has Come To This....

I have mentioned on more than one occasion that I wished there were a secret place where I could blog some of my not-so-bloggable-for-the-general-public thoughts. So I wished and wished and wished and guess what? Nothing happened. Reminds me of some quote thing hanging in my mother’s house about having a wishbone where your backbone is.

So I had to take matters into my own hands. Here on out I am going to add some password-protected posts from time to time to a brand new blog on wordpress. This is the link:

It was either start that password-protected blog or let some things simmer/boil over in me. New blog seems like the healthier choice. I hate having two blogs, and I am not ready to completely migrate (I hate change) but blogspot doesn’t have password protection and so this is what it is.

If you want the password, email me. I’ll leave my email address in the comments. Please give me your blog name or your name. I don’t mind complete strangers reading my general thoughts, but I just want to know who reads my deeper, darker parts. In return I will email you the password. There is no post there yet, but one will be up within a couple days….

Back to your regularly scheduled blog….