Thursday, December 18, 2014

Of Winter Celebrations, Christmas Pageants and Playing Possum

Yesterday was busy. It started, work-wise, with a very exciting validation of a model I've been working on for 3 years. Honestly, I tried to explain to Dave why this was so exciting and apart from telling him when to smile and act enthusiastic, it’s hard for civilians to get excited about academia/research. (((sigh)))

IN MORE ACCESSIBLE NEWS, the twinnies had their winter celebration yesterday. This generally involves getting to meet the other parents and listening to the children sing in French. (As they are in French School). In the first clip, there is an amazing surprise at the end that I am honestly shocked that the twins ((cough, cough, Bridget)) could keep secret. Bridget is on the right and Christopher is just behind her on the left.

Last night was our church Christmas pageant. This year we moved from the sanctuary (no pictures or applause) to Heaton Hall (pictures, applause, laughter). The kids also did a new play, indeed, the World Premiere of Erica McGee’s No Room At The Holiday Inn. It was a sweet, fun play connecting the birth of Jesus to modern day lives. Erica’s a goddess of children’s theater and singing. It was truly fun and meaningful.

And here are a few pictures:

Conor playing The First Noel before the play started. The tone of his playing was impressive. I was so proud of him!!

Some sheep you might know looking very adorable.

Joseph, aka, my son.

And the final song, A Thousand Points of Light. I think this song is an original song written for our church a couple of years ago. It is a huge favorite among the kids and the families. And this year, the actors were allowed to “free dance” the song because it is really that joyful. One might note that one particular sheep was dancing and prancing all over her pasture, while Joseph got down in the middle of the stage and even broke out some Jazz hands.

Then, after the show, the LBGT group at our church sponsored the dessert reception. It was dang tasty. And about halfway through it, Queen Elsa and Princess Anna showed up. The gays throw the best parties, even at church.

It was an amazing day. Then Dave and I walked out of the church, looked at each other, and said, “Somebody is going to be crying on the way home.” Dave took the least likely one to cry in his car, and I got the twins. I swear to dog, the minivan doors were still sliding shut when Christopher began WAILING about how he didn’t get enough candy (school party, stocking of candy, dessert party) and BRIDGET AT MORE!!! It wasn’t FAIIIIIRRRRR!!

I wish I could say I handled it better than I did. I actually did well for the first half of the trip. And then I screeched at volume I did not know was possible. The crying stopped, but it wasn’t the right parenting behavior.

So we got home, STARTED homework, and did a few chores. And looked out the door. Our back door is mostly glass and gives us a good view of the goings on in the backyard. There is a doggie door beside it and, Sweet Baby Lemur, Dave had already shut it to keep the cats in for the night.

Because standing there, at the back door, in all his white fur glory was Patches, with a dead possum in his mouth. He was bringing us a gift!! Just like the cats do!!!

Screaming ensued.

Dave got Patches to drop the possum on the porch and brought the dog inside. Please pause for a minute, and JUST IMAGINE if Patches had brought that in the doggie door. When you have stopped jumping up and down and flapping your hands, you may continue reading.

So Dave and I stared through the door at the slobber covered possum on our back porch wondering whether it was alive or not. (You know, “playing possum.”) Patches in the meantime was SO PROUD of himself. He was poking Fred with his snout. Jumping around Fred with his paws. And basically saying “TOP THAT RAT, SUCKA!” Fred had no reaction because, you know, cats’ brains are not as developed and gloating is not one of the four emotions they experience.

We concluded that the possum wasn't playing and was actually dead, so Dave went to get a shovel and a contractor bag to put the dead possum in. I stayed inside the house and supervised through the door.

Dave had to open the contractor bag because those things are big and thick. So he gave it a hard flap that was, in fact, quite loud. The possum lifted his head. To make sure this was not some sort of death twitch, Dave flapped the bag again and the possum lifted his head even higher and looked right at him.

New possum fact! They will play dead until some extremely loud and odd noise is made near them.

Dave slowly backed away and put the shove and bag back in the garage.

It took about 45 more minutes before the opossum finally figured out it was safe enough to leave. We could tell because Patches was barking persistently and loudly and I can honestly tell you that he was saying “MY BIG WHITE RAT IS GETTING AWAY!!!”

By this point, of course, both twins were crying and Conor was sulking that the only reason I told him he played well was because I am his mother. The good news, of course, is that once we got all three kids in bed, they fell asleep in less than 10 seconds. HOORAY! It’s just that hellish time when they are overly tired and ALONE WITH US that sucks.

The rest of the day, possum included, pretty much rocked.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The First Family Nutcracker

I  took the twinnies  to the Nutcracker yesterday.  It's actually  the first  time I've  ever seen it in person and it  was wonderful.  The twinnies wanted  to see  if because  Bridget had checked The Nutcracker book out of the library and became enchanted  with the story.

So we  went.

Highlights of  the production:

During the overture, when the music is  playing, the curtain is  down, and no one is  dancing:
"What *IS* this?"

When the Nutcracker stabs the Rat King, both twins were very upset:
"Is he dead? Did  he just kill him? I mean, like is he  a person and now he's DEAD!?"
((Bridget  was about to  sob by this point))

Speaking of Bridget, she  was  not aware that  the seats rise when you stand up  and twice  tumbled  down the row  of   seats onto the  floor.   She was very  embarrassed, but it was  so  freaking cute?

I  sneaked in cookies.  As  soon as the curtain rose:
"When can we  have  our snack?!?!"

When the snow  and the snow  queen were  dancing and it  was snowing pretty hard on the stage:
"They are crazy! Why  are  they dancing in the fweezing  cold!?!"

And the general  gloating:
"We are  up SO LATE!! We are up  later than Conor!!"

Christopher  asked  for  us  to  do  this every year.  It was a lot  of  fun and I  have  to  agree, it's  going to  become a  family  tradition.   Who could  resist  this cuteness?

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Death and Life

Conor didn't know about Stampy's death until he came home last night. In the morning, he had told  me he was worried that Stampy was sleeping so much and I brushed him off. It was only when I  deposited the Roomba for a quick clean of the boys' room did I understand what this "sleeping" was.

Thank goodness. That would have been a horrible day for Conor at school.

He was very upset. And obviously, he felt very guilty.  We all agreed to wait a bit before re-gerbiling.  I hope Santa's stocking gift of a clear water bottle helps excite him again.

In other rodent death news......

this dead mouse is what I found while cleaning some clothes off a chair in our bedroom.  J'accuse, Fred.  J'accuse. Especially when Fred had taken a very new interest in lying on top of the clothes and sleeping throughout the night.  

Unfortunately, I've come to expect these sorts of adventures with Fred in the house. Indeed, the second shriek of the day occurred when I found the the giant  (plastic) ant the kids had hidden on the top of the dresser.  The physical and emotional reaction has become so natural, I couldn't even touch it and made Dave move the giant plastic ant so I could keep cleaning. 

In a more delight-in-death news, our Thanksgiving Turkey was a hit this year! BACON FOR THE WIN!!

Start with some apples and sage.....

cover in bacon.....

die and go to heaven.

This one is a definite repeat. In fact, we might repeat it at Christmas!! The bacon alone is pure heaven.

I'm sure it's distasteful to link gerbil/mouse death with eating turkey. But we're on an urban farm around here and I was a strict vegetarian for 7 years. No need to sugar coat what we're doing when we eat meat. Coat it in bacon. It is very tasteful, indeed.  

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Gerbil Deaths




Stampy Longnose, the final  gerbil from  Conor's  birthday died  this morning.  And unfortunately, we  can't  blame the cat.  Conor forgot  to give that  poor, sweet  gerbil  water.   And Dave and I forgot  to  supervise our dear son in the care of  his new  pets. And now  we've  lost  Stampy.

Pet deaths  suck.  Even if they are  rodents.

Anne Lamott  has a great article in Salon today  about the natural co-existence  of anger and guilt.  I  was initially  extremely angry  at Conor for forgetting to  water his one remaining gerbil.  Then I  realized I was feeling incredibly guilty for  not supervising Conor better and not  giving Stampy  water myself.  And then I realized that  I  was  able  to  keep  my gerbils in water, when I was a girl, because of  the huge clear watering bottle that was so prominent in their cage.  The watering bottle  in this cage is  small, blue, and in the back.  There are real human factors errors with it, in addition to  the human errors we  obviously had.

In any case, Conor  is going to have  a new  responsibility, which Dave and I can clearly supervise, of maintaining the water  for  the cats and the dog  for the next 3 weeks.   And then we'll see  if  Santa  will bring a bigger, better,  CLEAR water  bottle  for  the front  of  the gerbils cage.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Our Roomba

Wow!  Two blog  posts in two  days!   And it's  the second of December.  Maybe I'll  make NoMoRoPo (or  whatever it  is for  writing in November)  DoReMeSo  and post every day  in December.


The Roomba.   Or as we are calling it:  Shaun the Sweep  (Dave gets credit  for that!)


So if  you  are  people  who vacuum and/or sweep frequently  or even occasionally, you  probably don't  need this.  But if you are  like  us  and the kids  and  the  animals are  all amazed every  time  they  see  a broom or a vacuum,  this  appliance  might  be  for you.

So  questions folks have  asked: Does  it get  corners?     Does  it  get  the whole  room?  Does it  work on wood floors  and area  carpets?   Does  it actually  work?

*Yes  (and  gets  all the way  under  sofas  and beds and dressers)
*Yes (it takes a long time, like an hour  when you'd  take 15 minutes.  But  that's  an  hour you're  doing something else)
*Yes! It adjusts to carpets and wooden floors  and tiles and even gets  this funky, dirty welcome mat  we  have
*Yes, it  actually  works.  In  fact  it  works  a lot  like  this:

Shaun  flashes and light circles around when he  finds a really dirty  spot, which was constantly  the first time  around our house.

The thing is, instead of  having Dave get  out the  vacuum, more all the furniture  around, pick  all the crap  up  off  the floor (that  is  now a constant--no crap  on the floor any more), and then put all the furniture back and put away the  vacuum, now, after breakfast,   I just pick  up  Shaun from his docking station, put  him  in our high traffic area,  turn him loose, pour myself a  cup  of  coffee  and come up here to tell you  about it while he  cleans  up  downstairs.

That was a long sentence.  That was longer  than the  effort it has  taken  us  to  do  this.

If you regularly vacuum, you probably don't need this.  If you are  slobs like  us  and can't  afford  a regular  housekeeper  and  your kids have  asthma  and the  house ought  to  be cleaner, this thing  is fan-freaking-tastic.

So yeah!  We're  not  getting any endorsement (HA!)  for  writing this review.  I  love  it. And  I'm using it  twice a day  in different parts  of the house.   Yes.  I  have gone from never  vacuuming to  a mean, hard driving taskmaster for  our robot!!  :-)   I  love it!

Monday, December 01, 2014

Crazy Fall and Update on Twins

It has been an extremely stressful fall.  Dave's father passed.  A very good friend  of mine's  father unexpectedly passed way too young.  A good  friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.   Another  good friend's  marriage hit  a very rocky spot.  Another good  friend's  daughter is  dealing with a serious health  crisis.  My  mom's  blood  pressure  is  jumping  all over the  place.   Add in  a couple  of  dead gerbils, murdered  by the  family  cat, and it's  been a bit  rough around here this fall.

And  then we have  the twins.

The  twins  are fine.  Christopher has  had a bit  of  an  on-going  cough, but  they are  both  quite healthy and doing well.

Still, Kindergarten has been a bit more of a difficult transition than we  thought and  we  have decided  to  hold  them back next year.   Yes, I  realize that  it's early  to pull the trigger on that decision.   But what we see  is  not just  whether they are mastering what they  are supposed in Kindergarten, but  1) they  are  young  for kindergarten,  2)  we would  have held  them  back if  we'd had  the money to pay  for  Transition-to-Kindergarten, 3)  we  held  Conor back  (same due date as  twins) and it was the best decision we've ever made, 4) despite Dave and I  being as old as dirt, we are  a  young (i.e., not wanting to  grow  up  quickly) family, and 5) they *are*  having  to  work  a bit hard(er)  to  master basic kindergarten objectives like writing their letters and learning the alphabet.

Dave and I  see this  as an opportunity to give the  kids one more year of  youth and also the  best opportunity for  them to do  as well as they  can in school.  Academically, we know the kids are above average.  Developmentally, though, they are  young for  Kindergarten.  They are June birthdays,  but were 6 weeks  preemie  and have had serious health issues. Why  *not* let them have another year  to  really  build their foundational skills and mature before the real work starts? Why not  give them every  opportunity  in the  world?

It's ironic, isn't it?  We see our  decision as being  very ambitious for  them.  It's  not  what  most families  would  choose as "ambitious" but it seems to us like  the best opportunity for  them.

We have  the support  of  their  wonderful teacher, the school counselor, and the zillions of  our successful friends  who were held back  by their  parents when they were in  school.  We're  "announcing" it to help normalize it  to other  families. As a  college prof, I  have had  lot of students struggle  to get their degree  as quickly as  they  can so they  can get  out  and  start working.  I point out  that going slower will likely help  them get  more out  of  their  degree and that, really, what  is the difference of  working 49 compared to  50  more  years  before they  retire.   (That  one always gets them)

So  there  you go.  We're  positioning  this to the kids that they are going to be  "Teacher's  Helpers" next year.  We thought we'd throw it  out  to  the  Internets so folks  aren't  surprised when  the transition to  Kindergarten starts up  again next fall.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Enterovirus D68

So, I'm probably one of the few people in the country more  concerned about  EV-D68 than Ebola.   And I'm probably one of  the few people in the country stalking the CDC website daily for more information about positive identification of this virus.

I'm also probably one of  the more cranky followers of  this virus in North Carolina.

It is of no surprise to anyone why:  the Squirrel. And it actually moves me when my real life friends ask me  about  how she is doing and let me know if they (or  a loved one) feels sick and what the  symptoms are and are not.

I was even in the local  paper, in which I thought the point was  to rant that we're not  getting information from the NC Department of  Health And Human Services about the LOCATION of verified EV-D68 cases and the patronizing tone of the NC epidemiologist that we should just assume  it's EV-D68 is out there and kids are getting it.

Assume?  I  should "assume"??? I'm sorry. I'm a scientist. I don't assume diddly squat.  I want data.  And if the data are that all  NC's EV D68 cases are around Raleigh, why should I assume Mecklenburg County has them, too?

Especially since the DATA from our pediatrician is that all the respiratory illnesses she's seen this year have been very  mild.

Especially since our school nurse says that most of the school absences are from stomach problems.

Especially since I've seen friends on FB--from Los Angeles--who've had to take their children into urgent care for breathing problems. Like  the Mom of that child and the Dad of another (who has been traveling all over  the country)  have ended up  with horrible, HORRIBLE colds with real respiratory and breathing issues.

Especially since EV-D68 lasts till late fall in *New Jersey* because only until then does it get cold enough to kill the virus!!  FYI, Fall Temp NC > Fall Temp NJ.  

It  is clear from the CDC chart that NC does not have a lot of EV-D68 compared to other states.

And the daily increase  of  cases has  drastically  declined.  At one point, there were between 50 and 75 new cases a day. Now there are about 20  new cases.

So here is  my latest thinking on EV-D68 and Charlotte.

1)  We might have escaped  it.  I am not seeing anyone  on my FB  newsfeed whose child has had a really, really bad  cold or who as  an  adult they have had a bad  respiratory  cold.
2)   We might have  already had it!!   EV-D68 has been around for  a while.   Bridget was hospitalized  *last* summer for  a horrible  respiratory  cold  that  took down  the entire family which  a  junky  cough. (I'm thinking of  her  second  hospitalization where we all coughed up  a lung or  two  in the house) No one tested anybody last summer for  EV-D68.   Maybe  Charlotte has already  had  this  bug and the city is  now basically immune.   (I'm hoping for this option)
3)   It  hasn't hit Charlotte yet.   Boooooo. Let's  hope  that one isn't  correct.

I  still don't understand why  the NC DHHS won't tell us where the  verified cases have been. The HOSPITALS are  revealing  that  they've treated  kids with EV-D68. The  reason NC DHHS won't is for HIPAA--they don't want  to reveal patient information. W.T.Fudge.Monkeys?

How many children are in Forsyth County?  If I tell you 1 child tested  positive  for  EV-D68, do  you know  which child  it  was???   NC  DHHS  reports  Lyme  disease  and cancer rates BY COUNTY.   But they can't tell us which county contains an illness  that is spread  through  the air and is  very serious  for  children with asthma?

I do think (hope) we're on the back end of this illness. But I'm not fully convinced.  Also, I  just  don't think this disease is as contagious as  they are saying. They say  the virus can live for days on surfaces. But when only 1 or 2 children in all of New York City get the diagnosis, how contagious can it  actually  be.  (And  yes, my  understanding is that the diagnosis is only made for kids in  intensive care, not for kids who have just been hospitalized.  It's  a very  expensive  test) I don't  know why Colorado and St  Louis had  such bad breakouts, but  I  don't think it's  burning  through the rest of the  country.

At least not through Charlotte.

At  least not through our house.

Famous last words, eh?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Waiting for This For Five Years

I hate when  I  blog in  my head for days (weeks, months) about  a particular  topic, and then when I  go  to  write  about it, I  really  want to write about  something else.


So, the  twinnies started kindergarten last month.

I  have  to  be honest with you:  it's  been wonderful.  Even the meltdowns  at 7:30  when they are too  tired to be  up but don't want to go  to bed.   Having all 3  children at the same  school, on the same bus stop, and generally  on the same schedule....FOR wonderful.

That's  the thing  that has been so surprising to me:  clearly, I've  been waiting for Five Years for them  to start  public  school.  I *know* you're  not supposed to  focus  on the future.   You're  supposed to live  in the now.   And it's  not like I've  been ignoring everything that happened from the time  we found out  it  was twins  until  they started Kindergarten.   But I have to  be  honest  with you:  the day we  found out  it  was twins was  also the day we  realized the Jetta wasn't going to cut  it and we'd  need a minivan.   And the day I  started working on our budget  and I  realized we  simply  Did Not Have The  Money for two kids in daycare and  a car  payment was the day I  started  dreaming  of Kindergarten.

So.   YAY!!   YIPPEE!!  Only  a few  more years to go  to  pay  off  that  daycare debt, but  YAY!! YIPPEE!!  Public  education!!!

So  that's  what  I've wanted  to write about for  the last month.

For  the last week, I've been wanting to write about  this:

Take  a look at that.   No. Seriously.  Take 12 minutes  to watch that  video and then come back.   

And then let's all look in the mirror and say, "OK!   That's  it folks!  This is  what  I  weigh.   And this is  what I'm going to  weigh."   And then  make sure your sons and daughters NEVER EVER diet.  

I'll be honest with you.  This  video  has  been revolutionary  to me.  I'm a firm believer in data.  When a  double-blind  study says that  except for  celiac disease, gluten  sensitivity  isn't likely  to exist, I  start  eating wheat  again.  When the data begins to repeatedly say that diet  soda is   related  to  glucose intolerance  and weight gain, I  don't  drink it anymore.  And when the data say diets and other forms  of  restricting food  don't work, I  seriously  think that  it's  time to just accept  my  post-twinnie  belly  for what it flabbily  is.  

It's  really  odd  that the people who know me best now do not have  any knowledge  of me as  the super fit, relatively thin, exercise  hound that  I  was.  It's  even weirder  to  finally acknowledge that time has  passed. I still plan on exercising and running regularly and  eating healthily.  But I *want* to stop  worrying about calories and how much I  weigh.  I  just want to be  healthy  and not  worry about it. 

So that's  what I'm going  to do.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mommy Working

So we are keeping the twins home from daycare this summer and Conor is mostly out of camp. The reason for this is absolutely financial. The summer months are supposed to be professors' most productive work time (writing without teaching) even though we are not paid for this work.   Keeping the twins home this summer saves us about $4800 and I  don't know about you, but  for us, that is a boatload of tax free income.

So, I am still working. You can read more about that here.  I get up  at 5 am (most days) and work until the twins get up at 10 am (most days).  Yes, that is  late.  We  let  them stay up late so I can actually get some work done. Conor is quiet.  The twins?   Well, the twins are not.  I can work with Conor awake.  Not  so much the twinnies.

But when  the twinnies do get up?  I switch from Professor to Mom. I'm not used to being a SAHM and having all the kids at home.  When summer  started, I was freaking out over What. The. Heck we were going to do all day, every day, all summer. I even made a basket of activities so I could pull an activity out of the hat  and  do it if we ever got too bored.

That has not happened.  

We are having a blast.  We joined a local pool and  go there many days a  week.   We've hit the kid and adult museums.  We've gone to parks.  We've gone to different libraries.  We visited my parents.  We've taken walks and runs (!) around the neighborhood. We've played at home and we've played at others.  

This is the most fun summer I've ever had.  It's  also the most *productive* summer as far as research goes that I've ever had.   The one thing it is not?  It is NOT the cleanest my house has ever been.  You'd  THINK that with all this time at home, I'd be compelled  to  keep the house clean.  You'd think wrong.  

I think that I have a choice:  I can either work and keep a clean house or I can work  and have fun.  I  vote work and fun.  I have no idea how SAHMs do it.  

But this is the first of only a few summers when all three kids are home.  I love my new working schedule.  And I ABSOLUTELY love my new Mommy schedule.  I could still use a nap, but that's the plight of being a (working) mom.  

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Mud Run

Dave and I decided that we are  much more likely to do a father/daughter or mother/son mud run than a  father/daughter or mother/son dance.  Not that there's anything wrong with a dance.  That's just the way we roll.  In the mud.

Conor and I did the Big Muddy Challenge at The Hunter Farm in Weddington, near Charlotte.  It was a 2 mile "run" with 12 muddy obstacles in it.  Conor and I trained--with the twins--by doing run/walk intervals around the 'hood while the twins biked beside or between us. Our training runs have been incredibly slow and I was a bit worried about whether Conor would be able to keep up or even make it during the race. Because, you know, I'm an experienced runner.  And marathoner.  And one-time triathlete.

10 years ago.

So, um, yeah.  Here is a picture of us coming out of the pond.

That is literally  the only time I  was  ahead of Conor.  And bless our hearts, I  know  this was a family  event but both Conor and I were running and passing everyone we could.  I think I even said at one point or another (or several), "we can pass 'em." I may be a used up old  hag, but I am still competitive.  And I can pass a 6 year old  struggling to run up the hill with a gleam in my eye.  

So yeah. I was surprised that after each obstacle and most flat spaces and every hill, I had to yell to Conor "Wait for me!  This is a family event!  Run with meeeeeeeee!!!!"  It felt very much like  running with Dave.  Except when I caught up to  Conor, he was having so much fun doing this, he would hug and kiss me.  Not that Dave doesn't do that on our  runs.... Yeah.  He's from the Midwest.  Not  so  much smooching during our runs together.  

So here is  *my* favorite picture of Conor and me running together:

You can see even there that is his stride is longer than mine.  He was Ready. To. Go.  And also, my mouth is open, so I'm talking/coaching/mentoring and probably saying Slow Down.  ;-)  Actually, I've already given Conor a couple of running tricks that he LURVES, his favorite of which is picking some tree, sign, or pole  in the distance that pulls him toward it.  That is honestly the best trick  in the book because then you aren't actually running; this object is pulling you towards it.  Also, no whining.  He learned that after his first run when he noticed a difference in how well he ran with his whine turned on or off.

And my favorite mentoring advice to him: we were near the end of a training run and he was all "I can't  do this!  I can't do it!!" and I laughed in  recognition of that self-talk.  And I laughed even harder when I said "But you ARE doing it. You are doing it RIGHT NOW. And you are almost done!!"  

Right?? Can't we all use that feedback?  We are all Doing It right now.  

He and I both laughed and  boy, was that a life lesson for *me*.  

So here we are at the end of the race.  

I love this picture.  We are both so excited. And you cannot tell what I am thinking which is actually which was "Holy crap, that was hard and I'm glad it's over and I had so much fun with Conor and my face has got to be  SO RED  that this picture is going to suck." I wonder where Conor gets his self-talk from? Hmmmm....

In any case, we  have a runner on our hands.  That is for dang sure.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mid-Life Crisis

I am turning 50 in August.

I say this like it's a big announcement because it  is. Since my 30s, I've been extremely  cagey  about my age because I have been told I look a lot younger than I am.  Lord knows, I act a lot younger.

So announcing my real age feels like a big deal.

Turning 40 really did not seem like that big of a deal, mainly because I had just gotten married and was pregnant with Conor.  It's hard to feel old when everything is new and shiny.  Plus I was still running marathons around that time.  Physically, in my late 30s, I was at my physical peak.

Screeching up to the 50 year mark?  Not so much.  I still run, but  only a bit. There is still evidence of MY AWARD WINNING TMZ PHOTO (!!!) and the twins in the extra skin around my belly.  My metabolism has taken a nose dive and I cannot get rid of these extra ellbees.

So I'm no longer physically at my peak.  But mentally and emotionally?  I am just getting started.  And I can tell you that I'm getting a few amens from the other women who are approaching or past 50 right now, too.

First, my attitude has shifted to this:

I sometimes just say that.  Out loud.  With a sweep of my arm to demonstrate both the field and that it is barren.

Second, I recently saw this:

This is a nice coda to the original "Behold the fields in which I grow....".  Plus, it's a lot quicker to just say "F@ck it!  Dance party!!!" and start dancing around.  

It doesn't mean that I've given up.  Instead, it's quite the opposite.  Now I  have a barren field on which I  regularly have a dance party.  It allows me to jump off the diving board in my large tankini at the pool and swim around like a shark attacking my children.  It  says  "Why not try some Latisse, Botox, and eyelash tinting" and by Jove, it looks good.  It says "Fasting is good. But this week, I'm  going to eat and drink some nice wine."    This dance party on that field says  "Get that second tattoo on your ankle so everyone can see it."  

I thought "Tattoo Still Life With Cat" would make a nice addition to all the Facebook pictures.  All I need now is a teacup pig, and my midlife crisis will be over.  Or at least full.  Crisis goals met?  What happens when the crisis is over?  What's the next stage?  Old hag?  READY FOR IT!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Spring, Fasting, and Growing Up

I know I blah, blah, blahed about this  in the last blog, but Dave and I continue to be shocked at this thing called "Spring."  IT'S BEEN SO LONG.  The last Spring we actually had was two years ago, when the twins were turning 3 and it was the first time in, OH THREE YEARS, Dave and I had some semblance of a life.

It's just amazing:  we are planting things in the garden and landscape bed....and they are growing.  We have more (!) baby chicks and they are thriving.  Nights are not fraught with fears of going back to the hospital.  I wake up early most days and do some work.  I am even somewhat regularly exercising.

I am living and it feels like forever since that has happened!

I'm also still doing the intermittent fasting and living somewhat gluten free.  While my incredibly mainstream doctor was surprisingly supportive of my continuing a completely gluten free life, I've seen some research posted about whether gluten sensitivity is real that gives me pause.  Celiac disease is absolutely real.  Hashimoto's disease is real.  Many people have real gluten allergies.  And this is ONE STUDY out of many people's experiences that questions gluten sensitivity.  But it makes me wonder if it's the *processing* that's the problem with gluten products that is causing *my* symptoms.  I don't know.  I would really like to just eat non-processed, recognizable food and call it a day.

But holy cow.  Here is the crazy thing:  the twins are going to graduate from Pre-K is two weeks.  I don't know if I'm going to get emotional when they start Kindergarten, but I'm already weepy thinking about them leaving daycare.  And not because they are going to be home full-time or we're going to get so much more tax free money now.*

We've been working with many of the teachers at the twins' daycare for 8 to 10 years. These teachers have been some of the best sounding boards and parenting advice givers we've known.  They've worked with 100s of children and have been trained to work through gentle discipline, education, and character development.  They've been our coaches and our children's mentors for a long time.  I feel like we're leaving our extended family and starting the kids in "The System."  (Which for those of  you whose oldest children are still in daycare is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT)

Christopher--who will be going by the name Kit at school--is convinced he is going to be a Boy Artist.  I don't know why he has to modify artist with a gender, but there you have it.  He assures us that when we come visit him when he grows  up, he will draw us in whatever color we want.  Even the animals!

Bridget remains extremely opinionated, and while reading Sonia Sotomayor's autobiography, I was inspired for her.  Now Bridget asks "Mommy, what am I going to be when I grow up?  The one who decides what is right and wrong?" "A judge."  "Yes!  I'm going to be a judge *and* a bus driver when I  grow up!"


How did this happen?  How did we  all get so grown up?  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring, This Year and Last

A few weekends ago, I was working in the back  garden (as opposed to the side garden) digging and weeding and  making plans for what I was going to do.  And I realized, bluntly and clearly, that it had been a long time since I had been doing spring activities like that.

Last year, our family didn't get a Spring.  We had a really cold February and March (generally when Spring starts in Charlotte) and then there the weeks of pneumonia and Bridget's first hospitalization. Spring hit during her hospitalization.  I  missed all the azaleas and all the dogwoods because apparently we went from 0 to 50 in 8 days last year.  We recovered from the first hospitalization and then she had the second one two months later.

I'd like to go on record as saying the we didn't get a "March through June" last year.  We just didn't get to experience those months like everyone else.  I'd kind of like a refund.

Alas, it does make me appreciate THIS Spring so much more.  I'm still not up to 100% Urban Farming, but I have lots of plants out and at least modest plans for the rest of the vegetable garden and the flower beds.

And like every traumatic event, Dave and I have been acutely aware of the anniversaries.  When Bridget got her cold a few weeks ago, on the anniversary of her first hospitalization, we were not amused.  But she bounced back quickly and everything seemed great.

Then she woke up Monday barking, a sign that she's getting the Bad Cold of Laryngitis, the pulminologist hates so much.  It gives adults laryngitis, but it's a particularly bad virus for squirrel who favors atelectasis to get.  It appears to be getting progressively worse.  It's not BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD! But it's not good, either.

We're going back to the doctor tomorrow to decide on steroids or not.  Even if she starts to poop out and her O2 tanks overnight, I think we can still make it until tomorrow's doc visit.

Honestly, when I was out there in the garden thinking about how wonderful this Spring is and how suck-ash the last one was, I fully expected this blog entry to be all unicorns and rainbows.  It still is, I guess, just not in the  way I was expecting.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gluten Free, Fasting, Lent, and Beyond

So, some folks have asked how the whole "Gluten Free" for Lent is going.  Before I share that, I have some confessions to make.

First, I thought Gluten Free would help me lose weight.  And Lent is a good time (for me) to choose to sacrifice something that is supposed to make me healthier.  Last year, it was Facebook and I ended up believing there is nothing wrong with Facebook, so using it is healthy for me.  This year, I started by thinking this I could lose a few ellbees, see if it has any effect on me, and, really, to see what life is like for many of my gluten free friends.  In all honesty, except for those with celiac disease, I was not convinced that gluten free was all that healthy.  It seemed like a fad to me.  Wheat has been around for 6000 years, longer even than the beer and yogurt Dave and I are now making from scratch.

So the results, as we fast approach Easter.  No weight loss from gluten free.  But Holy Frijole, the other changes!!  Now remember, I'm going into this as a skeptic!  And while I do feel less tired, I'm not really sure I can attribute that to gluten free.  But my digestive system.  WOW!  N=1 design which provides a strong causal claim:  have a baseline, remove something, add it back, remove it again.  If you see consistent changes, you can make a decent causal claim that what you removed made the difference.

I've had over 40 some years of eating gluten, even though, in all honesty, I've really never eaten a lot of bread for health and caloric reasons (bread is not the bearer of great nutrients).  But once I stopped eating all the hidden sources of gluten, WOW.  I've been thinking of how to say this politely, so let's go with this:  without gluten, there are fewer rumblies in my tumbly. Which is akin to saying "the sun decided to sleep in this morning."  There is more, but let's just leave it at that and say that while I don't have celiac, I am now convinced I have gluten sensitivities.  In fact, one day when things went back to normal, I tried to figure out what I ate to cause this. That's when I realized that deli meats have lots of gluten and I'd eaten quite a bit of them the day before.  No more gluten, no more problems of that nature.

So am I going back to gluten after Lent?  I don't know.  I don't think I'm going to purposefully eat gluten willy nilly.  And Dave is BUMMED that he just started brewing delicious, yummy home brew and now I'm not going to drink it.  (Actually, more for him!)  But he'd like to try gluten free and see how it works for him.
But if I go to someone's house for dinner and they serve pasta, I will eat it.  I'd rather not, but I do not have an allergy, just a sensitivity (at most).  It's just amazing that I can see such a huge difference for something I didn't expect to have an effect.

So here's the other thing that has shocked the crap out of me.  (Except, not)  I've started this new fad diet called the 5:2.  I hate fad diets.  They are stupid and they don't last.  The cabbage soup diet, the bananas/hot dogs/some other food diet?  Bullshit.  So, this thing I'm doing now is also a fad diet.  Except 1)  I think this could very well be a lifestyle for me  and 2) I am FINALLY losing weight.  FINALLY!  After counting calories and getting nowhere since Christmas, I've been doing the 5:2 fast for the last 3 weeks, and I've lost 5 pounds.

The crazier part?  I'm *NOT* dieting and I'm *NOT* counting calories.  Every morning when I wake up and find out I've lost another ellbee, I spend 2 hours talking to Dave trying to figure out how I did it.  I still don't know how I'm doing it.  It doesn't make any sense to me based on 20 years of watching my calories.

So what is this magic elixir of weight loss?  It's called the 5:2 Fast Diet.  But "Fast" doesn't mean quickly.  Fast means you don't eat.  So 5 days a week, I eat everything I want.  And I mean everything:  potato chips, french fries, wine, whatever.  And on 2 nonconsecutive days a week, I eat 500 calories (200 for breakfast and 300 for dinner).  And I lose weight.

What. The. Truck.  Yes, I get hungry on the fasting days.  But I end up drinking a ton of herbal teas.  I also look at the food I really, really want and I say "I am going to eat the hell out of you tomorrow."  And after the first fasting day, I probably did eat quite a bit more.  But now, I just eat on my non-fasting days.  I'm supposed to eat 2100 calories on my non-fasting days which is so much food, I don't even keep track of what I eat.

Both the gluten free and the fasting have made me very aware of how frequently I snack on unhealthy tidbits off the children's plate or from the cupboard while I'm preparing dinner.  There's nothing quite like cooking while you're really hungry and NOT eating to teach you that you can do it.  Also, dinner on fasting days is some of the best food I've ever eaten.

So maybe I'm not eating as much as I used to on my non-fasting days?  I don't think so.  I'm eating everything I want although I do have in the back of  my mind that I don't want to blow all the hard work from my fasting day.  But I still eat.  Everything I want. So I don't know if that's it.  Maybe the fasting days quick change my metabolism?  I do know that there's some evidence for the health of fasting, but I don't know if intermittent fasting as this is called does the same thing. And when I've lost the weight I want, I apparently only fast one day a week for maintenance. (I can already tell that's going to be on Mondays after a weekend of indulgence)

All I know is that this is the craziest thing I've ever done and lost weight.  I honestly and truly do not know how this is happening, because I am NOT dieting.  And I know from my calorie counts that fasting on 500 calories a day two times a week and eating 2100 calories the rest should not be enough for me to lose 1 lb a week much less 2, but that is what is happening.  That is CRAZINESS!!

I'd love to hear if anyone else is doing this 5:2 thing and how they are responding to it.  I'd love to hear if other folks start it how it works for them.  (I'm fasting Monday and Thursday)  I bought the book and just started.

Truly, two shocking food changes for me this Lent.  It's throwing everything I thought I knew about eating up in the air.  And fortunately, not landing back on my butt.

Friday, April 04, 2014

It's fine. Really, it's fine.

I forgot to mention that BOTH kids were sick last year during this week.  More on that in a sec.

We called up Bridget's amazing pulmonologist yesterday to let him know that we put Bridget on steroids.  We wanted some approval from an authority that this seemed like a reasonable thing to do.  We told his nurse we didn't need to see him, we just wanted to keep him informed.  His nurse called us back in a few and said he wanted to see B.  I figured this was one of those BS calls where they don't want the liability of giving advice out without seeing anyone. Blahty blah.

However, the second he walked in to our waiting room, our doc said "I really wanted to see Bridget at the beginning of an illness. I only see her at the end and I want to see how she is at the beginning."  Wow.  We weren't there for liability.  We were there because he wanted to know more about our little squirrel and get better up to speed on her.  WOWZA.  Full on less than 3 for our doc.

Even better when he exclaimed "Oh, she sounds GREAT!" when he listened to her. Even better-est was the diagnosis of the persistent rash on her face as irritation from her treatment mask and a change in equipment as a solution.

So here's the scoop:  The pollen is so bad that people who do not have allergies (perhaps you?!) are walking around with water eyes, blowing their noses, and feeling pooped.  It's like working in a room full of sawdust.  The next day, you are sneezing and coughing out crap as your sinuses and lungs do their thing.  People who are already a but compromised have a bit more of a problem, like Squirrel.  But she's fine. Steroids for one more day (today) and then we're done.

Of course, last year, it started with Christopher and then Bridget stole the show.  At 5 am this morning, Christopher decided it was his turn and he had the worst asthma attack he's ever had.  I honestly thought we were going to have to get him to the hospital because puff after puff of albuterol could not calm his attack down.

If it rains, it pours, right?  Actually, our city could use some rain right now.  A big downpour to clean out all this pollen.  Blergh.  But really!?  Good news absolutely and overall.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Fudge Monkeys

I have had a potty mouth.  Certainly, in Conor's early years that didn't change.  He did not mimic my bad words.  The twins, however, are more open to saying everything.  So I've had to develop different ways of saying things.  And poopyhead, while quite naughty for children, has become part of what I say.  Truly better than the alternatives.

But "Fudge Monkeys" came at me from out of the blue and it's my favorite phrase when really bad things happen. What I love about it this faux curse is that it just pops out when I'm upset.  I have to think about "Cheese and rice" or "Shut the front door!"  This one is natural for me.  I have turned Fudge Monkeys into a very naughty phrase. And yes, the idea of Fudge Monkeys flying at me from out of the blue is wonderful.  Very Wicked Witch of the South.

And it's an appropriate one considering yesterday's "Oh, Poop."

So, um, yeah!  Bridget's got the same thing she had last year.  It's a horrible cough with oxygen numbers trending down.  We had some 89 to 91 readings last night, but got up and did a saline treatment and got them back up to 93.  We gave her a double dose of steroids this morning (and sent her to daycare!! GOOD LUCK WITH THE MONSTER FORMERLY KNOWN AS BRIDGET).  She needs to be active to get her lungs active and I need to work and the TV does not provide as much activity as playing in the classroom.  The teachers are all on board and know everything and have their own pulse ox.  I fully expect her to come home after lunch.

Our goal is to stay ahead of this downward spiral and keep her out of the hospital.  I don't think it's going to work. This is a shit ass cough.  (You're adults, right?  I still say that cuss word phrase.  And it's one of my milder ones)  This cough is worse than the one that sent her to the hospital over New Year's.  I think whatever molds have released their spores in this warm weather have exploded their reactions in her lungs.

That said, if I'm just playing the role of Debbie Doom and the steroids DO keep her out of the hospital....WOOHOOOHOOHOOO!!!  We have found the golden ticket.  Wouldn't that be exciting!?

I'm waiting for a down moment so I can blog about being gluten free and how much I am noticing about it.  AMAZE-BALLS.  Apparently, I have a gluten sensitivity.  Wow.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Oh, Poop.

Literally, exactly, and in any other way you can think of, PRECISELY, one year ago today, everything started to go downhill for Bridget.

AND WOULDN'T YOU KNOW, guess who has a pretty bad cough today?  There are some differences though.

1)  Anyone who says she has pneumonia will get a thunk on the head and an out loud feedback of IDIOT.
2)  We know what she has and we have her on a preventative regimen of meds that work.
3)  I have my own meds to help when I hear her cough.
4)  We have a pulse oximeter that tells us that while her cough sounds crappy, she's moving all that stuff out of her lungs and we don't need to worry.

It's hard not to look back to a year ago and think, "wow!  I was really at the weight I wanted to be.  all those cute clothes I bought don't fit and I can't wear yoga pants everywhere" and "ugh, what a year of coughing and hospitalization and why is so easy to gain weight and so hard to lose it?!"

It's nice to tick off the one year anniversary of the beginning of shitdom.  I think the first year is the hardest and we know so much more now.  Also, knowing now of her mold allergies, I'm wondering if there is some sort of annual mold something or another that happens the first week of April in Charlotte.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

My Weird Food Beliefs

First of all, let's just get this out in the open.  YOU have weird food beliefs, too.  OK?  I'm sure I would think you are a nut with the food philosophy you have and I might not even give you the benefit of being an organic nut.  So let's just all agree that even more than parenting beliefs, our food beliefs are mostly our own, somewhat informed by research, somewhat informed by culture, and somewhat informed by your own freaky self.


So since I decided to go gluten free for Lent, I thought I ought to share with you some of the freaky things that inform what I prefer to eat and the nutrition goals I have for my family.  I also need to share that I was a vegetarian for 8 years during my first stint in grad school (at UNC Chapel Hill in Operations Research, wth?) and during my job out in the "real world."  I was a pretty strict veggie eating only soups from veggie broths and no fish, chicken or beef.  (I've always been confused by vegetarians who eat chicken.)  ANYHOO, I stopped my vegetarian ways at a Super Bowl party with Chicken Wings.  It was not too long after that I ate some bacon and I have not turned back since.

So when I became a veggie, I basically spent about two weeks eating nothing but American Cheese slices and white bread, and I thought to myself, "Myself, this is NOT healthier than eating meat."  We Southern folks like to wait until things are absolutely obvious until we make decisions.

So, I went to a health food store and bought Laurel's Kitchen.  That is when, in the mid 80s, I figured out that butter was healthier than margarine, that made from scratch is better than store bought, that it takes 8 lbs of grain to make one pound of meat, and that you could feed a lot more people off 8 lbs of grain than one pound of meat.  I still don't think I was eating all that healthily. So at my first job, I joined Weight Watchers at work and learned, mainly, that potatoes and corns are starches not vegetables.

Things were pretty stable until my boyfriend/(who I thought was my fiance) figured out he was gay and I basically stopped eating.  By "stopped eating," I mean that I could not put more than 3 bites of food in my mouth at one time.  I'd be hungry, try to eat, and just couldn't do it.  The good news is that weight slid off my body.  The bad news is that I didn't want an eating disorder and I knew I needed to make sure every bit counted. So that's when I made sure I at all the veggies and fruit I was supposed to, made sure my fiber intake was around 35 grams/day, I ate major protein for lunch, and yummy complex carbohydrates for dinner.  Little did I know at the time that complex carbs release serotonin and thus are WONDERFUL to eat at night when you're trying to wind down.  I lost weight.  I was thin.  I was strong. And I was healthy.

So there. Since then, I've seen all y'all's trendy diets come and go.  I've seen your low fat, your Atkins, your South Beach, your Paleo, your vegan, your omnivore, you're whatevers and I actually do have some thoughts.  So here is what I believe.  Your beliefs are different.  Your mileage obviously varies.

*All "diets" work because they restrict calories.  I don't want to diet. I want a healthy lifestyle.  I really don't care about my weight (so much) as long as I'm exercising and eating healthy.

*I am not going to convert to a high protein, low/no carb diet because of that whole deal of how many pounds of grains it takes to make one pound of meat.  It doesn't make sense to me to feed that grain to a cow and then eat its meat when I and my family could eat it for longer on 8 lbs of grain than we could eat a pound of meat.

*The Paleo diet.  ((((sigh))))  I think the Paleo diet does a good job of getting people off processed foods.  However, anthropologists are having a hissy fit about the claims that there was one set of food types in this world that people ate.  Also, really?  Beef is on Paleo but milk isn't?  You eat from cow a lot longer if you drink its milk than if you kill it and binge on its meat.  Same with the chicken and the egg--although I see eggs are on Paleo.  That said, a standing ovation for eating grass fed beef, pork, and free range chickens.  Abso-freakin'-lutely.  We're taking some of our tax refund and buying half a pig from a local farmer.  I think that's great for a zillion reasons.

*Grains, beans, and nuts are good for you.  Any food that can produce life on its own (like planting a whole grain, bean, or nut) is chock full of nutrients and you should eat them.  Period.  Eggs are the perfect protein for a reason.  ((That link maybe bullshit, so take it with a grain of salt.  Salt is good!))

*Dairy is probably better for you when it's cultured  than when it's in its plain (milk) form.  Yogurt is good for you.  I think it's up for debate whether cow's milk as "milk" is all that good for you.

*Fermented food is good for you.  Kimchi and sour kraut put healthy bacteria in your gut and you'll be healthier and thinner for eating it regularly.

*Processed food is bad, bad, bad.  I do think Paleo has turned a whole generation of folks against processed food.  YAY!!!! It's hard not to eat processed food, and my family does not do as good a job as I would like.  But we do make our own bread, yogurt, tortillas, and now beer, so, YAY.  I wish we could get and eat everything homemade.  Here's my nuttiest belief:  I think sugar and cookies and cake are ok as long as Dave and I and the kids make them at home completely from scratch.  I know sugar is evil on a stick.  But my policy is homemade is better than store bought.  So hang out, and I'll make you our homemade dark chocolate peanut butter cups and you will be very happy.

*I think wheat is the least healthy of the grains out there.  It's nearly impossible to get in as whole a form as other grains and so I think there are problems with it.  It's one of the reasons I'm trying a gluten free life for Lent.  I'd like to see how my body reacts to getting off glutens for a long period of time.

OK.  So have I pissed you off/annoyed you with what I believe?  If I can sum it up in one sentence:

 I think humans are omnivores and we ought to eat most of our food from homemade, plant based sources.

I don't think our family lives up to that ideal.  We are Americans and eat more processed American food than we should.  But what I'd rather eat is homemade and plant based (fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains) with a sprinkling of meat and dairy here and there.  That would be my fantasy food life.

You are different.  That is ok.  I try very hard not to judge people who let their children cry it out (unless the children are less than 6 weeks old and then I do call them assholes out loud).  But I do not ever, in one second, judge people who eat differently than I do.  It's easy to point to our differences in child rearing, but holy frijole (literally) the differences across people, families, regions, nations, religions, and cultures in food eating?  Really????  How on earth could I say you're wrong and I'm right.  It's just right for us.

So now you know.  I'm finding the gluten free lifestyle really interesting thus far.  I'm hungrier more frequently than I thought I'd be.  But I can eat healthy legumes.  I was tired the first couple of days, but that is typical.  I am not tired today though, and that is nicely weird.  It's depressing how many foods have gluten in them.  But it makes me eat less processed food, so that's good, too.  We'll see.  So far, I can see the appeal of this, especially since my funky cool neighborhood fully expects the clientele to be gluten free and has menus to support us.

Also, I have friends and I have friends who have children who are very, VERY allergic to gluten.  I'm doing this for funsies.  They are not.  That's some serious stuff they have shared with me. I can only imagine the stress of going out or buying something new and worrying about the gluten that might be hidden in the food if you are seriously allergic to gluten.  I think wheat *ought* to be a normal grain as people have been making and eating bread for 30,000 years. Hello, Paleo!  But from what I'm hearing about how they have genetically modified and over-processed wheat that it's not what it used to be.  I don't know if that's true.  It's interesting.  I'd like to see if gluten-free is interesting for a person who doesn't know or doesn't believe she has allergies.  (That would be me)

Sound off in the comments and the Facebook, Twitter lives.  Be gentle.  Or not.  I can handle it.  

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Fitbit and TMI

So, the Fitbit.  I received a new-to-me Fitbit from Carter (blog/Facebook friend from FOREVER ago) and I am addicted.  What I like about it is that not only does it tell me steps (like the pedometer I've worn for our school/work pedometer challenges over the last years), it tells me how many calories I've burned, how many stairs I've climbed, how many "active" minutes I've had, and how well I've slept (hint: NOT SO MUCH).  

So that may not sound so cool, but here is why I think it is.  It's the calorie counting.  And I think it's accurate.  So it tells me how many calories I'm burning while I write this blog entry.  (Not so many, because fingers moving across the keyboard isn't really aerobic exercise). It tells me how many calories I'm burning while I'm sleeping (about the same as writing this blog entry).  And for the first time ever, it's telling me ACCURATELY how many calories I'm burning while exercising.  So instead of the horrible estimate from Livestrong when I report that I've run for an hour (and it estimates that I've burned off 900 to 1300 calories), Fitbit makes a much more accurate estimate of 500 calories, a number I am convinced from the zillions of calorie burning charts I've consulted over the years is more accurate for my weight and my pace.  

And here's the other thing:  it may just be that Livestrong sucks.  Because MyFitnessPal  which is linked to Runkeeper is also very good at estimating how many calories I've actually burned.  I've also just joined DailyMile, so let's see how well that works, too. And also what it does.  I'm not quite sure.  

But WAIT!  There's more!!!  Fitbit doesn't just tell you what you've done--it tells you what you ought to be doing!!  It has daily goals not only for number of steps, but also how many minutes you SHOULD be exercising hard, and how many calories you OUGHT to be burning. That's the part that has been really good for me.  I've seen estimates that for my age, I generally should be burning about 1500 calories a day.  Fitbit's response to that is: isn't that sweet?  Get your butt out there and burn 2100 calories a day.  MOVE IT! MOVE IT! MOVE IT!  That's a number of calories per day in which I can eat a good amount of food, enjoy some wine, occasionally enjoy some more wine, and still lose weight.  WOOHOO!  

So I feel very encouraged by this and I don't think they are blowing smoke at or around or up any body part.  The numbers and the goals all fit in with what I've been carrying around in my head for a long time.  

So why am I not shedding weight like I did last year when I lost all that weight and before I put it all back on?  A couple of reasons: 1) I am enjoying more wine than I should.  You want to know how much wine I'm drinking?  Look at my belly.  And then turn away!  Turn away quickly.  2)  I'm not exercising every day.  Cold weather.  Cold in my head.  Cold in my squirrels head.  I'm not exercising every day for an hour like I should be.  3)  My fat was tricked the first time when it left and now it knows my secret ways and is refusing to leave my body.  And finally.....


4)  Perimenopause.  I'm that age and this is that time.  And this morning when it finally occurred to me to check the Internets to see what they had to say about weight loss and perimenopause, Google laughed.   Google guffawed.  Google fell on the floor and said, "You think you're going to lose weight and keep it off  in the next couple of years?!"  Bwahahahahahahahahahah! I told Google to suck it.  Dave told me that I probably want to keep running.  I told Dave I'd rather take a nap.  

Honestly, what I think is happening is that recovery time is taking a lot longer than it used to.  I'm still exercising fine, when I can get out and do it.  And by that I mean, I'm still exercising 4 or 5 times a week for an hour each time.  My goal is 6 times a week and sometimes 7, so I'm really not slacking on exercise.  It's just that I am TIRED afterwards.  So much more TIRED than I've ever been.  And a bad night's sleep (like last night) just seems to do me in worse than before.  

So, um, yeah.  That's me and my butt/belly right now.  My goal is still to lose this weight.  And I'm being gentle on myself (not criticizing too much).  And I'm looking to take a nap.  So bring a pillow or some wine or some running shoes if you want to catch up.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hearing Impaired

My Dad is hearing impaired.  He started losing his hearing in his 40s and without his hearing aids, he cannot hear very much.

Two thoughts on hearing aids:

1) Did you know hearing aids are NOT covered by insurance?  Losing one of your 5 senses and being able to repair that damage with medical equipment is NOT, I mean NOT!!, covered by insurance.  That is my definition of a sin.

2) As a mother, I can certainly see the benefits of turning off and/or taking out one's hearing aids on occasion.

SPEAKING of which (ha! a pun!), my eardrum ruptured last Saturday night.  That means that I cannot hear much out of my left ear.  The last time this happened was in 2005 (I remember because it was right after my first miscarriage).  I only had one quiet child then, so I don't remember much about hearing problems at home.  I do, however, remember being incredibly frustrated during a grad class because I could not understand what my students were saying.  This is a real problem when the whole point of a grad class is discussing the readings and I couldn't understand what my students were discussing.

This latest loss of hearing occurred during Charlotte's worst snow storm in a decade.  So I haven't had class (yet) but I have more (and louder) children at home.  More than ever, I am wondering what it is like to be my Dad.  One of the most surprising things was how overwhelming all the background noise has become.  If I'm trying to talk with or listen to Dave, I cannot stand the kids' normal noises in the background.  It is too much muted stimulation and too much effort to try to understand what is being said around me.

I also have to repeatedly tell everyone around me that I cannot hear them.  I know they are talking at me, but I have NO IDEA what they are saying.  Sometimes I guess correctly.  And sometimes I guess wrong--as evidenced by the puzzled glance my way.  Sometimes I just pretend that I understood what they said and smile and nod my head figuring that if it's really important, they will try to communicate again.

All this gives me so much more empathy for my Dad. I don't ever recall my Dad telling anyone he has a hearing loss. I can't go three hours without repeatedly reminding folks I have no idea what they are saying. Dad has always done a good job of figuring out what we are saying, or coming back with some (purposefully) misinterpreted sentence sort of based on what we saying that has turned into Jokes of Family Lore.  That said, the improvement in hearing aids over 40 years has been AMAZING.  And I think some of the time, Dad has developed a real intuition for what is going on.

But I have to think that for at least some periods of my father's life, it's been pretty frustrating to have all of that muted background noise and not be able to hear us.  And yet, he did not scream at everyone to be quiet (ummm, maybe like I have) so he could hear.  He has been very generous to us in his loss.  And I'm not sure we've been as generous back to him.

I don't wish a perforated eardrum on anyone.  But it might help all of us to understand a disability we can't see or even imagine.

XOXO to you, Dad.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Bring on the Advice

For the first time since Bridget was a baby, she has an ear infection.  And Dave and I have decided we are going to do everything we can to heal it at home with alternative medicines rather than take her to the doc.

"Why?" you ask.

She's already on a boatload of meds.  She has a lot of antibiotics over the last year.  Earaches often heal on their own without antibiotic intervention.  And we know, for sure, she'll be back in the hospital at some point in the future and, at that point, she will be exposed to some gross germies there.  We want her to be as sensitive as possible to the antibiotics she might need then.  We don't need her losing her sensitivities to antibiotics when she doesn't need to.

So...moms and dads:  what do you do?  We're massaging around her ears with essential oils.  Any other advice?  Or assvice, because we all know this is the interwebs.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It Wasn't All Bad

Certainly, when Bridget and I are in the hospital, it is not all kitten whiskers and fairy dust.  It's stressful and boring and too many monitors going off all at the same time.

That said, this last trip to the hospital had some pretty AWESOME moments to it, not the least of which was the big family party we had on our last Friday night there.

The Child Life Specialists let us borrow Chicken Run.  Bridget was completely off oxygen and had found two skateboards you sit on and wiggle to move.  That's how I would describe it.  It is actually this:
and it is way cool.  She stashed one for Christopher and one for her to ride around the room.  Our hospital room was actually big enough for them to ride around in these.  

Dave stopped by Trader Joes and got a bottle of wine for us, root beer for the kids, and a big bag of popcorn. 6:30 arrived and we started our family movie night.  

And wouldn't you know that about 7:00, I realized one bottle of wine was not going to cut it for the amount of adrenaline I needed to quell.  You can judge me as you'd like, but Dave and I knew early on that this was a two bottle night.

So I did what every other no other mother in a hospital does : I updated my Facebook status to ask for any of our friends who live close to the hospital to drop us off a bottle of wine. Within minutes, I was negotiating types of wines and in less than 10, I was in the driveway at the front of the hospital making the exchange.  John T., you blew our freaking minds.  He even included a bottle opener, because the first one Dave brought was a screw cap. (Classy!!)

I came back up to our room and resumed our incredibly noisy, loud, family party.  Kids were scooting.  Popcorn was flying.  Nurses and respiratory therapists were in like deer in headlights and out as soon as they could.  Actually, that is not true:  our RT for that night was one of 5 kids. He had just moved to NC from San Diego. He was so at ease with all of us and all that noise, I think we actually reminded him of home.   

And seriously, if you want to know just how messy we were, our nurse the next morning came in and tugged on the sheet of the bed, and multiple popcorn bits went flying around the room.  

You want to know what was even more amazing?  The next morning, I woke up and there was an unfamiliar bag on one of the "sofas" in the room.  I looked in it:  another bottle of wine, two glasses with napkins, SNACKS, and a beautiful cutting/serving board (along with a cork screw).  ANOTHER friend had dropped off more wine and snacks.  She did this at a reasonable hour, but after those two bottles of wine and my post-adrenaline crash, I was already fast asleep. We won't say "passed out," but I didn't hear anything.

Here is where I first felt guilty.  One bottle of wine delivered to the hospital is amazing.  Two bottles feels selfish.  Now here is where I feel grateful.  We left the hospital that day, dancing our way out the door.  But when I got home, it felt like I was supposed to jump back into the Working Mommy routine and have a typical Saturday doing chores and making meals.  It actually takes me a couple of days to get back to normal.  My mind still echoes from all the noises at the hospital.

So late that afternoon for Happy Hour, with real tears in my eyes, we opened up our second bottle of wine, drank it, and greedily ate all the treats. Well, most of them: she gave us a lot!  That first day out of the hospital is almost as emotional as that first day in. And sometimes, like the time Bridget was finally diagnosed with her Funky Lungs, it is worse than any time in the hospital because that is when I have to face all the information we received and emotion I've repressed in front of Bridget. That said, how could I possibly ask for help when we are out of the hospital?  Thank you, Allegra H., for making that first day back less stressful and I didn't even have to ask for help.  Sigh.  

We ended up buying Chicken Run on Amazon and I think the whole family would agree it's one of the happiest movies we've ever watched.

And our new (old) favorite movie quote "I don't want to be a pie. I don't like gravy."

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Chronic Illness: Parents Part II

So this is actually the blog entry that's been rolling around in my head for the last, oh, six months since Bridget was diagnosed with her Funky Lungs.  That's the official name: Funky Lungs.  And her official cure? Coughing massive amounts of phlegm up into her mouth.  I saw it Thursday night.  It was gross.  Really gross.  But she immediately went to 100% oxygen saturation while on room air.  She had never hit 100% on any amount of oxygen support during this trip to the hospital.  I also finally got to see (up close and personal!!!) the crap clogging up her lungs when she gets her Funky Lungs.

So back to me.  This feels like a selfish and highly vulnerable blog entry.  It's about the effects of Bridget's ongoing and long term Chronic (but not Critical) illness on me and, well, my career.  Yes, Dave is affected, too, but he needs to write his own blog to process through his Midwestern emotions.  Both of them.

So what's the scoop? First, and strangest for someone who always honors commitments, everything is tentative.  Sure, we'd love to come over to dinner (as long as Bridget isn't in the hospital).  Sure, I can go to that academic conference (as long as Bridget isn't in the hospital).  Sure we can host a big party at our house (as long as Bridget isn't in the hospital). Sure we can have our regular lab meeting on Friday (as long as Bridget isn't in the hospital).

Yes, she's only been in the hospital 3 times last year (8, 10, and 6 days each), but there have been at least other 4 respiratory incidents that we were worried she might have to go back in.  Plus, for each hospital visit, she was sick about 5 to 7 days before.  Then there are the visits to the multiple doctors to see how she is doing afterward and how we should tweak our treatment protocol. Regular colds are two weeks of time spent worrying.  Hospital visits take around a month.  I'll do the math for you:  we've had about 6 weeks since April where life was "the old normal."

So tentative.  Everything.  And for the previous 40 something years in my life, deadlines were deadlines and they were hard. Commitments meant I would do what I said.  Now there's an asterisk to much of what I say I can do.

Similarly, I am behind on most of my research and teaching prep.  In the hospital, I can get up at 4 am and get some things done.  But then around 2 pm, I. Am. Done.  And Bridget doesn't willingly take naps anymore.  So I spend a few hours lying in the hospital bed while Bridget lovingly (to her) touches my face and asks me when I'm going to get up.  At home, I try to stay on a normal schedule, but checking her stats throughout the night don't make for a restful night's sleep. Hypervigilance, doncha you know.

And I've gained back nearly all the weight I lost last year, mainly because it takes me a while to recover from her hospital visits.  And by "recover" I mean drink wine and sleep longer.  Neither of those are good for running 1 hour early in the morning.

Finally, and most annoying, I don't have a lot of interest or energy for all the things that used to be so much fun.  Knitting, sewing, and gardening still sound appealing and exciting, but in a distant and remote way.  If I have a few hours free, I'm more likely to take a nap than finish up that sweater I started last April (when I was at a different weight and wouldn't fit now anyway).

So the things that make me feel good about myself:  exercise, teaching/mentoring, working on my research, and my fun stuff have all taken very big hits since Bridget's diagnosis.  I really don't give a crap about cleaning, so there's no "hit" there.  I just live in an exceptionally messy house.

And I don't know when it's going to change.  The big realization from this last hospital trip is that Bridget IS going back to the hospital. Our treatment protocol made massive improvements in her condition.  But she will still need oxygen support at some point in the future.  We're going to start prednisone earlier next time.  And I am (for the first time) enthusiastic about doing that.  But I'm not convinced that with another bad virus, it will still keep her off oxygen support and at best 4 or 5 days in the hospital.

And I want to stress again, Bridget has a chronic illness that is not life threatening.  My brain and my heart cannot even fathom adding in those emotional factors into the equation.  As one Mom in the chronic/critical illness club once told me: "You don't get to quit.  You don't get to sit down on the sidewalk and say I'm done with this. Somebody else take over."

So I guess we just figure it out, eh?  Important: sleep.  Not important:  Clean.  Need to figure out:  exercise, work, hobbies probably in that order for my mental health.