Thursday, June 28, 2012

2012 Intentions 2nd Quarter Results: All-in-one

And now its summer. As I think through my progress on my intentions this year, I am reminded afresh that life is indeed a zero-sum game. There is finite time in each day, and even more finite energy & motivation in my body. Any focus I shift to one activity must by default come from another. This is incredibly clear as I contrast my 2nd Quarter grades to those from the 1st Quarter; all my As from before have slipped, while I've managed to pull up my Fs in the other areas of life. Give & take, seasons of life, trade offs, the juggle, balance, opportunity costs, the impossibility of "having it all" (ick), whatever you want to call it, its real.

Anyways, I'm condensing this to one post since I'm already late on this.

Updated Intention: Exercise at least three days a week.
Grade: C

So I trained for and ran the 10 mile race in early May. And have run a total of two times since then. And no, I haven't shifted those workouts to strength training or yoga. They just...disappeared. My only exercise is my weekly ballet class (more on that later). The "C" is the average of the A I had in April/early May and the complete F afterwards.
Why did I quit? There are a million reasons excuses, including getting sick with bronchitis & then lingering energy-sapping allergies (still going on), periods of bad weather, kids getting harder to deal with in the morning & more to do (because of L crawling & eating solids). Really it just stopped being a habit, and I can't seem to get it back. Though my actions do NOT show it, I still believe exercise is essential to a healthy life, and I am sticking to my original intention. To address the lack of energy I've been feeling, though, I'm adding on another self-care issue. I am going to go to my doctor to discuss additional treatments/options for my terrible allergies. More importantly, I'm going to be compliant with the treatment regimen & follow-up that she suggests (I tend to slack off, for example, not using my nasal spray or avoiding the eye drops). So my new intention is really:
Exercise at least 3 days a week & look after my medical needs.

Updated intention: Fun & focus
Grade: B

This is always going to get a B. Some days better, some days worse. As I've mentioned---work in progress for the next 20 years, I'm sure. Since this is boring I'm going to kick it up a notch for the summer---G & I both independently realized that we wanted more spontaneity in our family life---less routine & strict adherence to nap & bedtimes & more "adventures" with the kids. Summer seems the perfect time to try this out. We've been getting out more, doing things that would previously have been dismissed as "a hassle", like renting a ginormous van & taking the boys & dog to a friend's pool party out in the 'burbs (yes, all were explicitly invited). During the heat wave last week we left work 30 minutes early & raced the boys to the city pool for half an hour. This weekend we're going to watch the fireworks over the river from G's office window (he's on the 17th floor). Yes, it'll be late. But B doesn't really go to bed on time anyways these days---if he naps, he stays up til almost 9, kicking & singing in his crib. If he doesn't nap, he's down by 7:30 on the dot. So...he needs to nap.
The other part I want to work on is really figuring out a better way for us to address the more ummm....challenging moments of parenting. I ordered this book, on recommendation of a reader, and my goal is to read it & distill it for G and see if we can apply it to our kids. If not, there are more books. I'm not generally a huge fan of parenting books, but I think having it laid out by an "authority" may help G get on board.
So my mothering intention for the summer is kind of contradictory: adventure and discipline.

Updated Intention: Touching and helping out.
Grade: B

No, I didn't do a single of those things I planned to do (daily hugs/kisses, or doing things for him without telling him). But we're talking more. I feel more connected. We've had a few nights out ourselves lately (for my birthday and our anniversary) and are planning more for the summer. We either do chores together & talk as we work, or one or us rushes through them while the other reads B his bedtime stories so we can hang out afterwards. We've been sitting on our deck with a book or a drink at least once a week (my idea of fun) or I've been watching a movie with him in the basement also at least once a week (his idea of fun). 
We've also been doing much more as a family on the weekends that ends up being fun for us, too. We've had 2 Saturday morning "tourists in our city" adventures, where we leave the house really early, walk to another part of town, and play there, have breakfast, etc... The kids are in good moods in the morning, we have the whole weekend ahead of us, and its fun to go somewhere simply to experience it, rather than on an errand. G mentioned that he's much happier the past few weekends since I'm "around"---I've had work obligations & social events a lot this spring and he felt really alone with the kids. Oops.
Since things are going well I'm going to stick with marriage intention for this summer will be to talk every day, date nights at least monthly, and trying really hard to "be around".

Updated Intention: Efficient & productive at work
Grade: B

Another work in progress. I'll keep the same goal for the summer. There are specific projects & ideas I want to advance but I don't really want to talk about them here (because its booooring, not top-secret) so I'll leave it at that. 

Updated Intention: Sew & bake
Grade: A

Funny enough, as life sometimes is, I haven't baked a thing, and only sewed one item since the last update. Spurred by my new Kindle and the borrowing of the Hunger Games trilogy, I've found myself reading again. My stash of fabric is sitting unused and my sewing machine gathering dust as I plow through novels, magazines, etc... Whatevs. I figure that as long as I'm doing something enjoyable for myself, I deserve an A on this one.
As I mentioned above, I've also started a new & surprisingly fun activity with a friend. I've been taking a weekly Adult Beginner Ballet class. Its for real---we wear ballet shoes and do exercises at the bar and then on the floor for an hour and a half every week. I haven't taken any kind of dance in over 10 years and ballet I quit when I was 10 (I have a whole post about the tricky subject of when to push kids in an activity & when to let them quit...but I always regretted quitting & wish my parents pushed me in this one). I forgot how much I LOVE to dance. Having to remember steps & perfect my positioning really gets me out of my head in a way that running or yoga doesn't do for me. We had a one month pass but we are definitely going to continue. The teacher is funny & encouraging and one of the best parts is the diversity of women in the class (yes they are all women but all shapes, sizes, ages, colors...very different from the identical girls in the classes I used to take as a child). Some of the women have been taking the class for months and they are really good. Its cool to see an overweight middle aged woman suddenly turn into a graceful swan at the bar. So so empowering.
For the summer I'm going to keep this one flexible---just do what I feel like when I feel like it. No need to get all rigid about how I spend my free time, right?

Updated Intention: "Make new friends and keep the old"
Grade: D

I haven't done much more on this one. I've taken exactly ZERO opportunities to make new friends, and in trying to be more "around" on the weekends, doing less with the friends I do have. We are doing more social things as a family, which is nice, but its really hard to talk to anyone when you're herding two little ones all the time. 
Honestly, this is the one part of life that I'm finding the most lacking these days. I love spending time with my family & G, but I sometimes crave a good talk or laugh with a girl friend. This is one of those trade-offs for me right now, though...the more time I devote to my kids & marriage, the less time I have for building and maintaining other relationships. G is so so good about saying "OK" whenever I mention an outing, its not him. Its me. Honestly I'm racking my brain and can't find an answer. I'll just reiterate that this is still a priority for me, and I want to try to fit it in whenever I can.

So there you have it. Some up, some down, some completely in the toilet. But if there is nothing to strive for, what's the point, right?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Benign Neglect

So one of the (many) things I angsted over during my last pregnancy was how we were "ruining B's life"---snatching him out of the warm garden of perpetual undivided attention and throwing him straight into the arena of sibling rivarly at the tender age of not-quite-two. Remembering his own infancy, I figured that the new baby would require most of our attention for several months, and he would be thrust into independence.
The reality---and from what I've read/heard its pretty common---is that B didn't give up a damn thing. Our family's life still revolves around him and his over-sized, attention-whore (and ridiculously adorable) personality. L is just along for the ride. We plan our outings around B's naps/meals/wants/moods...if L is sleeping, he's roused & plopped in the stroller, he eats on the go, and grimly endures the community pool when B wants to go for a swim (L doesn't appear to be a fan of cool water).
I'm OK with this...if we tried to plan around both kids' naps & meals, we'd never go anywhere...and really, at L's age, he is happy just to be out & about---crawling around & eating grass & leaves wherever we happen to land. Plus he clearly adores his older brother. He follows him everywhere and bubbles with joy when B deigns to acknowledge him.
But there are some aspects in which I do feel we are short-changing poor easy-going L. We used to read to B constantly. I tried establishing some bedtime stories with L, but these days he's exhausted & falls asleep nursing before I can get to the stories (and the one time he WAS awake, I reached for the books to realize that B had taken them back to his room as part of "cleaning up"). We mean to read to him at other times, but hasn't happened. We used to talk to B, sing him songs, ABCs, recite nursery rhymes & passages from his books. The way parents do with their adored little babies. Now we're still talking to B---not L---and since B actually responds, he's a much more stimulating conversation partner. If we do try to talk to L, B will interrupt, or  insist on knowing what was said (SUCH busybodies toddlers are, I tell you, worse than little old ladies!).  Its not all B's fault, though, G & I both admitted that when we're alone with L, we are so "talked out" (or "sung out" or "read out") that we take advantage of the lack of demand for conversation, and relish the silence.
Honestly, other than the reading part (which hopefully will fall into place over time, as he gets less sleepy at bedtime), I'm sure the whole thing will even out. What L lacks for in direct attention from us, he makes up for with the stimulation & motivation to develop to keep up with his big brother. And besides, the one who's really neglected? Their furry four-legged older sister.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


We've been having some super-nanny-requiring discipline situations with B lately (or so I've heard, I never actually watched Super Nanny). The problem isn't just B's behavior, which I am pretty sure is age appropriate, its the fact that G & I are not exactly on the same page about how to deal with him. Basically he thinks I'm too soft and "coddling" and I think he's too harsh and "mean". For the first time in my parenting journey I'm considering searching for a book or manual about effective yet not-scarring discipline techniques for toddlers. I'm not looking for "the best" way, just a "pretty good" way, something we can agree on, and refer to--like a third party mediator--when we are at odds.
B has problems with 3 different situations:
1. Transitions: I know this one is definitely age-appropriate, but he gets really upset and tantrums whenever we end one activity to move on to another. This includes mundane things like watering plants (he wants them to drown) or helping to spoon-feed his little brother (he wants to recreate foix gras). I try to alleviate this by talking through the steps ahead of time, and repeating while we do the activity (we are going to water this plant, that plant, the other plant, then we will go inside and play!)...he usually catches on and will repeat the words with me, but this doesn't always stop the tantrums. Routine helps with this one, too, he knows his bedtime routine and though he might kvetch a bit when I tell him to stop playing, he immediately runs up the stairs for his bath.
2. Sibling Rivalry: Oh brother (pun intended). Since L started crawling (and his main, nay ONLY, impetus for mobility is to get into B's stuff), B has gotten really physically violent towards his little bro. Hitting, knocking over, kicking. Even when I tell him not to do it and am right up in their faces, he will willfully push him in the face until he falls. He is not apologetic and responds to "why did you do that?" with "I don't like my brother". I am usually flabbergasted and have no idea what to do. I've tried taking away the toys in contention, putting B in "time out", or just separating the two. It happens several times a day.
3. General stubborn-ness (or selective hearing):  This is the one that gets G steaming mad & yell-y. He argues that B should listen and obey us as a general rule; i.e. when he tells him to come here or do something (even something as mundane as saying "good morning") he should come, so that when his safety is at stake, we can expect the same. I consider this the "dog training" method, and am more into picking battles. These are the situations that really escalate, as B exerts his independence and G tries to exert his authority, and I sit there cringing yet not wanting to show that mom & dad aren't on the same page. He tries time-outs, taking away toys, etc... and nothing really works to be honest. This is where I think a book or some "authority" may help us decide which battles are worth fighting and how we should best fight them.

Any tips, recommendations or general advice? I have a feeling this is one we'll be dealing with for, oh, the next couple of decades!!!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Body Woes

I'm having a hard time accepting the fact that my body has irrecoverably changed with my last pregnancy. I think it was getting pregnant again so soon, before I got back into shape after my first pregnancy. I gained a lot of weight quickly, right up front, and my ab muscles split. They are still split 8 months later, despite running & ab exercises (I heard you weren't supposed to do crunches, so I've been doing planks, and standing ab workouts). So I have this weird pooch thing under my belly with lots of wrinkly leftover skin. It looks exactly like a prune. I keep thinking of "prune belly syndrome" whenever I look down. Since its mostly spare skin, and the muscles underneath are...gone (?)...I can't "suck it in", it just hangs there, protruding from my clothes. Ick.
If it was just a little pooch of fat, with regular taut skin over it, it would be no big deal---really. But this just really really bothers me. Even physically, it feels uncomfortable, pushing through or over my clothes. Buying larger pants doesn't help---they just fall off me, because the rest of me (even the rest of my abdomen) is the same, its just this concentrated area right up front under my navel.
I've seen this on women, and I know it doesn't necessarily go away with time. Women I know who had large babies, twins, or pregnancies in their mid-late 30s tend to get it more often & its generally a permanent thing (though I don't know specifically how hard they worked to lose it, I imagine they were---like me---bothered but not enough to devote hours a day to tackling it).
So, while I'm going to continue exercising & eating well for general health, I really don't see the point torturing myself trying to "fix" this if its not fix-able. I realize this sounds incredibly whiny and vain, but I've been frustrated by this issue for the past 5 months, since I lost the majority of baby weight and this area didn't go with it. Whenever I see a mom rocking a flat stomach I get insanely jealous. I just need to come to terms with it, and move on. Which works fine until the next time I look in the mirror or try to wear anything but my PJs. I've heard "spanx" are great for this. Sigh.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Past, Present, Future, and alternate universes

We just got back from a week visiting my parents in my hometown. It was relaxing, except for L's sleep disintegration which still hasn't resolved, and has me exhausted & sucking down coffee (OK, so maybe staying up past midnight reading wasn't the best idea, since he got up at 4:30 this morning...but my new easy to hold...and The Hunger ADDICTIVE!). So this post is kind of disjointed, I hope it makes sense to someone!

It is always weird going back to your childhood home as an adult. The town has grown so much that it is hardly recognizable, except for the parts that are exactly the same. Similarly with the house---many things are new or gone, but so much is completely unchanged. It stirs in me equal parts nostalgia and bewilderment.

Spending time with my parents is also a mixed experience, in that I find myself slipping back into my role as a child, groaning and snapping at them, and expecting to be somewhat cared for in their capable hands. Yet, while still quite healthy (and not OLD, they are in their mid-late 60s) they are slowing down slightly. The house isn't as sparkling clean as it used to be, they are walking slower, things are taking longer. What is going to happen 5 years from now? 10? I can't bear to think about it.

All parents know that vacationing with kids can be challenging. It was nice to have uninterrupted time with them, but off their routines they were cranky and difficult. We still had to do all the parenting things that had to be done. Activities my parents planned excitedly for B sometimes went disastrously, due to his fickle moods. He was surly at the zoo, & asked to leave, then wanted to go back every day and still talks about it. Who knows the mind of a toddler?!

While there, I saw 2 of my childhood friends that came down to visit (from the big city they live in, a couple of hours away). Both of these friends are single, working in demanding careers, and living alone. I know for an absolute certainty that both want (ed) to marry & have children, but now they are in their mid-30s with no immediate dating prospects, and I feel that they have given up those dreams.  I may be biased, since they are my friends, but these are attractive, intelligent, fun women who would make awesome wives & mothers. Of course, I can't really talk to them about this issue---I just don't know how to broach it without highlighting the fact that I have what they do not. It makes me really sad to think their dreams may never be realized, and grateful to the universe that I met G when I did, or my fate could well be very different.

G & I talked about this a our lives are chaotic and exhausting right now, but we chose this path & we are so so lucky to have had those choices. You may see a single person, or a childless couple, and envy their freedom & respect their choices, but maybe they were never allowed to make a choice at all.

In summary, it was a week of mixed emotions...of simultaneously seeing my past, present, and future, and reflecting on what might have been. And it sucked to go back to work.