To blog or not to blog....

A compilation of the thoughts in my brain, the questions I have and the journey of life. Not meant to educate, but merely to entertain and (hopefully) initiate some good discussion. Comments are welcome...come join the conversation.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


I am in a total funk this week.  Maybe it's that we've settled into our routine, maybe it's the turning of the seasons, but I am in a BAD mood and I don't know why.  It's just one of those weeks where I feel horrible and have woken up with a headache  The kids are getting on my nerves, EVERY sentence out of their mouths starts with "Mom", Jim was gone for 4 days and it's been raining. 

I just want to go back to bed and have everyone leave me alone.  For a week.  Or longer.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I'm taking a stand

As many of you know, we joined the Unitarian Universalist church two years ago.  While we're self-imposed "summer skippers", the time that we do attend, the community of people I've found there and the lessons I walk away with have become invaluable to me.  To further explore why I wanted to be a member of this particular group of people, when I had sworn off organized religion years ago, I joined a small group last year called "Soul Matters" which takes the monthly topic of the church and provides a forum to delve even deeper into the issue through "assignments", readings and spiritual practice.   It is through this group, and the amazing women that I share the experience with, that I feel the most connected to my own spirituality and need to give it a lot of credit for my recent summer of change and growth.

This month, the topic was "Grow" (appropriate, right?) and the assignment was to identify a way in which something in your life has grown.  You were then asked to bring in a symbol of this growth and share why you chose it.  I went with the seemingly obvious...a pint of grape jelly that I made from the grapes at my in-laws.  It grew, I processed it, we ate it.  But, what became clear to me as the summer of "abundance from my in-laws farm" progressed was that in addition to the literal growth of the veggies and fruits, my relationship with my in-laws, and specifically my brother in law grew because we now had this common ground.  I've never had a bad relationship with my brother in family drama (that I'm aware of).  We just have been 2 very different people with little to say to each other for almost 11 years but with my running and our shared appreciation of the "harvest", we now can relate to each other a little bit more.  Or at least, this is how I feel. 

The less obvious symbol of growth was ME.  I really feel like I grew up this summer.  Coming to terms with my past, feeling happy and appreciative for all that I have in the present and excited about the future.  More confident with my own opinions and thoughts.  Less worried about what people think of me should I make a social "gaffe".  I also really started to understand that the more I had filled my calendar with things for other people, the less full I felt inside.  Being a part of boards, groups, committees etc is a great way to get involved. I'm not denying that and I'm grateful for every single person I met because of my involvement in the things I've done since we moved here.  But, I really believe that I was trying to fill some sort of "void" within myself by taking on all sorts of responsibilities not directly related to my growth, my family and my relationships.  Maybe it's from all that moving around and never feeling secure so if I 'belonged" to a group, I've feel grounded.  Maybe it's hereditary to not be able to say "no". 

So, I'm pulling on the reigns. Hitting the brakes.  Putting requests of my time/energies under a more powerful microscope.  If it's not going to directly fill my soul and make me a better person, contribute to my children or my husband's happiness or growth, then I'm sorry, but it's a no.  If it's not going to help a friend with their growth/happiness or allow me to spend time doing things that I like/want to do, then I'm going to have to decline.  

All good in theory, right?  We'll see how it goes in real life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A drop of this, a dash of that...

As the summer of change and growth comes to a close, we're slowly getting into the routines of getting everyone to school on time.  S is doing awesome with riding the bus and totally getting into the Kindergarten groove.  M's school does a staggered start so today is only a 1/2 day where Friday is her first "full" day (3 hours).  We've had two successful mornings getting out the door WITHOUT shouting (on my part),  constant reminding (again, my part) and no tears (their part).  I'm trying a new approach of giving them the end result of "we are leaving here at a certain time" and letting them work out the steps that need to be taken in order to get there.  So far, a total change from last year's attempt to get out the door where all of us would be upset or angry to start the day. 

A few weeks ago, I posted about setting expectations for the girls and a reader gave me a book suggestion...Parenting With Love And Logic (Updated and Expanded Edition).  Skeptical of yet another "parenting handbook", I checked it out from the library thinking that I really didn't need to add to the weight on my shelves of the other "parenting handbooks" I'd purchased with good intentions, read once and then neglected.   Almost immediately, I could relate to this book and plan to purchase my own copy so that I can continue to use it as a reference.  But,  a funny thing came out of my liking this book and it stems from some parts of the book I most decidedly did NOT like.  Some of the book has a bit of a Christian/Bible slant and while it's certainly offering good messages, it's not a genre that I tend to gravitate towards.  There are also some "recommendations" and anecdotes that I don't agree with.  What occurred to me is that my recommendation/liking this book sort of represents how life is working out for me as I try to find solutions to areas that I want to change.   It's highlighting that there really is no "one size fits all" solution to life and hard as they may, no author, pundit or guru has all of the answers neatly wrapped up in a book, website or promotional video.

For example, I currently own Screamfree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk and How to Get Your Kid to Eat: But Not Too Much.  All great books that give good solutions for parenting.  But, the reason I own so many of them is because not one of them was the ultimate solution for me, so I picked out the bits that worked and felt relevant and moved search of the next spark of inspiration.

It's not just parenting where I've taken bits and pieces from different sources.  I've found the same experience in the never ending weight loss journey.  I've been doing WW for a few months now and have been less than thrilled with the results.  In my "defense", I didn't start out with a lot of weight to lose and I have been eating more or less the way they advise for almost a year before I started.  They are pretty "strict" in terms of how many points you can eat in order to achieve your desired weight.  Stay on the plan, they say, and you'll get where you want to go.  Well, almost three months in had me at only 7 pounds lost so I started looking around their site and the Internet and found another method to their "plan".   So far, success!

This lack of a "one size fits all life" has really opened up my eyes to all of the possibilities that exist for answers and options.  Not long ago, I was someone who needed  a plan to move through life.  Without having an understanding of what exactly I was going to be doing in 1 year, 5 years etc, I felt lost and nervous.   But, by approaching life as more of an experiment, where drops and dashes of experiences and ideas chart my course, I am excited for what there is to come and only a little bit nervous about not having a master plan.  :-)

Monday, September 13, 2010


This is a harder topic for me to post about, but it's been swirling through my brain and I feel the need to get it out on "paper" to make some sense of it.  Please understand that this is not a blame game or a "why didn't you" directed towards my parents.  It's more of a reflection of the actions I've taken to change (there's that word again) my situation.

It's about my childhood, and the childhood of my mom.  To start, I was not neglected, abused or beaten so it's not that I'm saying that my childhood was horrible in that sense.  I was loved, protected and cared for by my parents actions and I know that I am so lucky to have had that foundation.  What I've been thinking about is my experience within my family unit and how that shaped the adult I am today, in both good and bad ways.  For those that don't know, my family moved-a lot.  If you can follow this one, we moved from Albany, NY to Los Angeles, CA when I was three.  Back to Albany, NY when I was 10.  Albany to Farmington Hills, MI when I was 16 (middle of junior year).  And, then finally-MI to MA 4 days after my high school graduation.  Army brat, you ask?  No, all of the moves were direct results of my dad's advancement within his company.  As an adult, I get it and am quite proud of him and his accomplishments.  As a kid...not so much.  What was almost more challenging than the moves themselves was the way that it almost always seemed like it was 4 separate people moving and living these very different experiences and I can remember very few situations where I felt like we were a cohesive unit going through these moves together.   We were not a family who did things together, created lots of happy memories based on shared experiences or generally did more than live in the same space.   Writing that makes me so very sad.    My parents did their best for us.  I know this in my heart. 

I suppose in some ways, my parents were doing what their parents had done so I don't have to look very hard to see where this started.  From what I understand, while my dad had a fairly normal upbringing in the 50's, my mom had a situation that surely was difficult for her to cope with.   Living with her parents in Rochester, she had to contend with moving back and forth between Rochester and Death Valley, CA every 6 months for a number of years.  Talk about never being able to find your place with friends and/or with yourself!  To split the time between the two environments is 10 times worse than moving in my junior year of high school.  I can only imagine how damaging that might have been for a girl, in a time in your life when friends and your "social standing" almost defined who you were.   Needless to say, moving, getting settled and then reestablishing yourself every few months left little time for meaningful family interactions. 

And so, now that I have my own family, I have set out to "reverse" the past and create a wonderful childhood that they will hopefully remember filled with family memories, fun and laughter.  To J, I am constantly saying that I want family time so that we can be a unit.  We need to challenge ourselves together so we can grow from the experience together and individually.  I want family game night and date nights with my kids.   I want them to know that mom and dad have a special relationship and that fostering this relationship is important to a happy family life.  I will do all in my power to keep us here in Rochester so they can have a stable upbringing while showing them that there is a larger world that they can be a part of.  I want them to feel that when all else is wrong in their world outside, home is a place for acceptance, strong bonds and love. 

This blog post came into my head on Tuesday.  We took the girls to Cobbs Hill and went for a hike in the woods.  We were spending time as a family doing something outside, but this is not the moment that stands out for me.  At one point, we went down a steep hill into a valley.  M and S required some help to avoid slipping.  At the bottom of the hill, we all looked up and realized that to get back onto the path back to the car, we had to climb UP an even steeper hill.  So, we started to climb.  Some of us (okay, me) slipped and had to restart a few times.  But, with lots of dirty knees and hands, we all made it to the top...with M making the last part by herself and shouting "I DID IT, I DID IT".  Beyond the singular accomplishments of the girls climbing the "mountain" themselves, I think that the experience of all of us struggling together brought us one step closer to being the kind of family that I see in my mind.   So many good things come from the generations before me, but to change this one thing would make our lives together so much richer.

Can one woman reverse the trends of the generations that came before?  Not sure...but trying sure is fun!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Change and a bit of a "shout out"

It's been three years since we moved from Lexington to Rochester.  Three years!  I look back on these past few years and cannot believe how quickly they've gone by or how much has changed for me, my family and the way I look at life.  S is going to Kindergarten on Wednesday and it's really got me reflecting on change because that's a pretty big change in all of our lives (S: "I'm going to be in a grade!!!"...her enthusiasm always makes me smile).  This time of year always seems like good reflection time for me...end of a season, beginning of something new etc, so change is an appropriate topic right now.

Over the last few days, this particular post has been many things regarding change.  Along the way, it was a list of things that have changed in my life, a tribute to the Unitarian Church and a thorough analysis of all of the ways that I've made things different for myself over the past year or so.  But, as I went through all of these things, the one predominant thing that stood out for me was the impact that particular people have had on me and how their actions (whether deliberate or not) inspired me to be a better person.

Not long ago, I was focusing way too much time and effort on things outside my house, my mind and my relationships.  I placed way more emphasis on connecting with people in our new town, thinking it was way more important to be networked, busy and involved to feel fulfilled.   I signed up for everything..committees, boards, groups and my social calendar was pretty full.  So full in fact, that my home life was as empty as the calendar was full.  I felt disconnected from J,  didn't feel connected to my girls and while I had friends and acquaintances, I wasn't feeling a deeper connection with most of them (even though they are, and continue to be wonderful people and important to me).  

Then along came (and some of you remained) some people that became part of my day to day and by being themselves, "showed me the" way to a better me.  I've written in red the "area" of my life this person helped me change.  Each topic is almost a blog post in itself.  So, for the "shout-out" part....I've opted to use initials instead of names in this blog, but hopefully you know who you are.....

R.L.-Your steady friendship and sisterhood for 10 years has been a safe place for me to reflect my crazy ideas and theories and by babbling on about some topic or another, I've worked my way through so many issues and in doing so, changed my mindset, my attitude and my behaviors. (Life.  Big Picture.  Progress.)
M.P.Z.-Your passion and enthusiasm for all of your endeavours made me take a second look at my life and realize that I was missing that passion (remember our date at Starbucks where I envied all that you had going on?). (Hobbies, curiosity for life)
C.V.-Your positive outlook on life and way you make people feel good about themselves has changed how I approach friends and strangers alike.  You truly do get what you give.  (Friendship.  Happier self.)
H.L.-Your wit and strength (both mental and those darn kb's) continue to make you one of the most amazing people in my life.  When I am struggling with something, I often think "What would H do" (WWHD?? :-)) because I like how you think before you speak and truly seem to weigh the impact of your words.  (Choosing words more carefully.  Clarity of thought)
K.W.- Your insight into focusing efforts back where they need to be has helped me immensely.  By pulling on the reigns of outside obligations and seeing that I need to tend to the home fires first has greatly improved my life. (Family)
A.C.-Your quiet grace and demeanor with your children inspire me to be a better that is calm and able to get through the day feeling like I've accomplished good things for my children.  Plus, you inspire me to "put good things out into the universe" and I think it's working.  (Parenting. Self-esteem.)
J.R-Everyday, you accept me for who I am and support me to be a better wife and mother.  Your noticing what I do for our family and being my partner has made all of the difference in who I am today versus who I was when we met.  (Relationship.  Family.  Partners.)
M&S-You challenge me, forgive me, love me and make me work for a better future for you.  Your very being inspires me to act on your behalf and I make changes, both physical and mental, so I can be a better mother for you both.  (Parent/child relationships.  Love.  Struggle.  Future.)

And, I consider myself so very fortunate that those people listed are just the tip of the iceberg of a whole group of people that have challenged me, taught me and opened my eyes to different ways of seeing things while being something so simple yet so important...a friend.  I don't want to leave anyone out of this list, but to list everyone would take more room than allows.   :-)

I think back to not even 5 years ago and it almost startles me to think of the kind of person I was then.  Still fairly insecure with little confidence in myself or my opinions.  Pretty negative and unsure of my role in life.  Wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister?  None of those "titles" felt right even though I was all of those things.  But, about a year ago...something in me started to wake up.  Little by little, I was able to "dissect" aspects of my life and see where the negative thinking had gotten me (usually the answer was "nowhere") and I started taking steps to "fix" myself.  I started really thinking about being a parent and what kind of family life I wanted my children to have.  I started thinking about my role as a wife and what being in a relationship really means (accepting "quirks", taking the high road, turning the other cheek to maintain the peace) and as time has gone by, I've become a lot more comfortable in both of these roles and can finally say that my attention is focused right where it should be.   I've changed my body, I've changed my mind and I've changed my attitude.  Still more to do, but feeling like I'm on the right track.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The plan (follow up to sharing expectations)

After days of agonizing over this "parenting thing", I'm feeling a sense of calm and control in how I process the situation.  Almost immediately after my last post, I started changing my own language towards M & S.  Saying things like "I expect" before telling them something (as in "I expect those dishes will be cleared by the time I count to 10" instead of "clear your dishes").  That has made a difference. 

I've also explained to them some "non-negotiables", like lying.  So, when I caught S in a lie Monday, I made it very clear that I "expected" her to tell me the truth and that lying was not going to be tolerated by either J or I.  I also expressed that I would almost always be more mad if she lied to me than whatever it was that she wasn't being truthful about.  On Tuesday, she lied again so I reinforced the lesson and said "I've talked to you about this two times.  If it happens again, you are losing something from your room and not getting it back".  Wednesday rolls around and low and behold, there is a lie.  So, I take a handful of shells from her dresser and reiterate why I'm taking them.   Haven't given them back and haven't been lied to since.  Mind you, these are not big lies...they're the "have you brushed your teeth or made your bed" variety, but a lie is a lie. 

The best development though came last night when J and I sat down for a "parenting brainstorming session" and I think we really identified some things that we can address.  We have a list of "rules", both for us and for the girls and agreed how important it is to provide a unified front, defend each other and have consistent expectations for the girls.    We were on the same page and both committed to making the changes.

So, I've written out our game plan and we're going to mull it over for a few days before presenting it to the girls in our first "family meeting".  It feels really good to have a plan (shocker for me...the planner) and my hope is that if we can get these "building blocks" into place when they're young, we'll at least stand a chance during the tween and teen years.  Fingers crossed.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Expectations...share them or face the consequences.

Sometimes, reality smacks you in the face and it can be quite painful. 

After almost 6 years of having a child on this earth, I have come to the realization that having a child is NOT the same thing as parenting.  The definitions are pretty similar, but it's really starting to feel like they are world's apart.  Don't get me wrong, having a child by birth or adoption, providing for their needs and dealing with the ups and downs of having a baby is a major challenge.  Sometimes, it's downright impossible (late night feedings, no sleep, the worry if they've eaten enough, reaching milestones etc).  But, I've come to see, in light of some recent developments, that all of that was the "easy stuff" compared to the uncharted waters we find ourselves in now. 

We recently went camping with some friends and while I'm not usually one to play the "let's compare kids" game, a few glaring differences between our girls and the other children were crystal clear to us. Before I launch into the not so great stuff, we do still feel and know that they are both sweet, funny and wonderful girls. We both love them more than anything in world and realize that with a lot of hard work, this situation can be turned around.  But, our kids (S, in particular) talk back way too often, feel as though they are above the rules and/or don't need to listen to us, are often disrespectful and generally don't have any defined boundaries/expectations in terms of what we expect from them in terms of behavior/actions.   I think we've both been stuck in that "providing basic needs" stage and it's high time we caught up to the reality of our situation.

When S proceeded to have a massive meltdown late into the trip (you know the kind..the ones that suck all of the life out of you just trying to stay calm in the face of the craziness), we found ourselves in a really tricky situation.  She was clearly exhausted (none of us had slept well the night before) and reached the point of no return pretty quickly into what started as a fairly minor tantrum.  She wanted to be carried and J refused because she's perfectly capable of walking.  When given the choice to walk herself or be taken home because of her behavior, she was unable to make a decision within the period of time we gave her and she was put in the car...getting more and more out of control and working herself up to a point where she was hyperventilating and thought she was going to be sick.  It was an ugly few minutes.  Once calmed, we sent her to the tent to rest while we tried to make a decision of what to do. 

It was then that I realized that our children act the way they do because we've really never told them how we expect them to act.  We have expectations in our head of what we want our family to look like, but I'm pretty sure we've done a poor job communicating these expectations to our children.  It's no wonder they constantly "disappoint us" to the point that we are angry with them for things that they didn't know we wanted differently in the first place. 

The irony of my realization...just two days ago, S came downstairs demanding oatmeal in bed for her breakfast.  When I refused, she lost it and proceeded to have a meltdown that lasted almost an hour.  When I could finally talk to her, it turned out that she had this whole "special day" for herself planned which included breakfast in bed, a play date and doing something at home.  Problem was, she didn't share this with anyone and when I failed to provide her something that I didn't know she thought was important, she got mad (and rightfully so, even though oatmeal in bed still isn't going to happen). 

It's exactly the same thing we've been doing to them.  Not sharing the expectations but still getting irrationally mad when they're not met.

Crazy, right?

So, we're back to the drawing board and devising rules/boundaries and expectations that we'll share with them over the next few weeks. We're taking a look at how we work as a parenting team and realizing that our kids only get one childhood...while it's not our job to live it for them, we both feel that if we have it in our power to make it a good one, that should be our focus.   I'm not talking material goods or expensive trips.  I'm talking how they feel, the experiences we have together and the way we are when it's the four of us.  It's like we need a team building seminar geared towards little kids and their perplexed parents.   

If you're reading this and have any words of wisdom based on your own child-rearing experiences, I'd love to hear them.  This really is one of those times when you wish kids came with manuals at birth.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bait and Switch?

Friends-I had to share with you an experience I had this week at the Gap.  I'm a long time Gap (and their affiliated brands) customer and have never had a problem with any of their brands before this. 

Please understand that I am not advocating that you feel the same way I do, take the same actions that I will or "boycott" Gap and their affiliates.   I  feel this strongly because of my background in customer service and realize fully that not everyone would be as annoyed as I am about what transpired. 

I found a promotion online that Gap was offering a "Free Pair of Black Pants" (from their new line).  The promotion was valid August 14-22nd and the only fine print stated that the offer was only available in stores (not online or at the outlets) during that time period. I took the coupon, along with M&S, to the Gap store at Marketplace Mall on the 18th.  After trying on a few pairs and selecting one that I really liked, I brought the pants and the coupon/promotion to the counter only to be told that "this offer was only available to the first 50 people that redeemed it"  BUT "if you want to open a Gap credit card, then you can get them and any other items for 40% off".    If you've ever brought to small children to a mall only to be told that you couldn't have the thing that you set out to have, you can understand my frustration at this point. 

I left the Gap, continued my shopping in the mall and then went home....all the time remembering my childhood "hero" David Horowitz.  David is a consumer advocate who's catch phrase was "Don't let anybody rip you off".  I loved his show "Fight Back with David Horowitz" and even met him at the LA airport.  Not your average childhood hero, but I loved him and his work nonetheless.  More information can be found about David and his work at Fightback.

With David's mantra in my head, I sat down to write an email to Gap Customer service. This is what I wrote:

To Whom It May Concern:

I have been a loyal Gap customer since the 1980’s and am writing today to express my displeasure over your recent “Free Pair of Premium Black Pants” promotion. I came across the coupon online for the free pair of pants and took it to the Gap store at the Marketplace Mall in Rochester, NY on Wednesday, August 18, 2010, which was within the period listed. After selecting the pair of that I wanted, I brought the pants and the coupon to the counter only to be told that the promotion was only available to the first 50 people that used the coupon but that if I applied for a Gap credit card, I could get 40% off. This information is not listed anywhere on the coupon or your website and I found it to be incredibly deceptive and remarkably similar to a bait and switch fraud. I left without getting the pants OR taking the time to look around the store for other items since I felt that the promotion might have been invalid to begin with as an attempt to lure people into the store with the promise of a free item only to be told that, coincidentally, it was no longer available.

I strongly disagree with your non-disclosure of this very important detail. I brought two small children to the mall in search of these pants and was very upset that it was a trip made in vain.

I look forward to your response.

Their response (in part) back to me was less than wonderful....

Thank you for sharing your comments about the Black Magic Pants event.

Our marketing and promotions departments try to create contests and promotions that add fun to your Gap shopping experience, and we regret disappointing you. Please be assured that we have shared your feedback with the appropriate individuals within our company so they can keep your feedback in mind when they plan the next promotion.

Please know that there were two special offers that surrounded our new Black Pants. If you were emailed directly by us with a coupon offer that stated it was valid for a period of time, you may still be eligible for the offer. However, if you were sent an offer from a third party you may not have been eligible for the offer that was already used by another customer. We searched our records and are not showing that your email is registered with us.

If the offer that you received was about particular stores, this offer was valid for one day only, in select stores, for the first 50 customers in the store.

We appreciate your business and look forward to shopping with you again soon.

**I have subsequently written back to them stating my displeasure of this response and even attached copies of the coupon in question that I attempted to use. 

Now, while it would have been nice to get that free pair of pants, it's gone beyond that for me at this point.  I appreciate that Gap (or any company) is free to run promotions however they choose and that they are under no obligation to even offer promotions like this.  There are very few material things that come for free.  What I object to is this...they offered this promotion without disclosing all of the elements of it on either the promotion itself or their website.  I feel as if they "lured" me into the store with the promise of the pants (i.e. the "bait") and when I attempted to redeem the offer, they "switched" the availability of the offer once I was in the store.  The cashier made a show of checking online to see if the promotion was still valid, but part of me can't help but wonder if the promotion was ever valid to begin with.  I also object to the response of the customer service agent who chalked up the validity of the offer I presented to whether or not my email was on file with their company.

For me, I am unsure whether or not I will continue to shop at Gap.  Will the loss of my business make a difference to their bottom line..probably not.  Will it make me feel better?  We'll see. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Disproving the carrot sticks and rice cakes myth

I'm a recipe cook, not a "make it up as I go" kind of cook, and I think that following a recipe gives me a weird sense of pleasure (especially when the meal comes out as planned instead of a burning, smelly hunk of yuck).  There is something about putting together a series of pre-measured ingredients to make a finished product that speaks to the control freak/planner/organizer in me.   I love measuring cups, measuring spoons...all little pieces of the puzzle that if I use them right, I'll almost always get something I'm happy with.  A recipe is like a road map to culinary happiness and I love maps.  And plans. 

Given my weight loss journey over the years as I described in The emotional side of weight loss,  I've come to love the process of cooking healthy and seeking out new recipes that help me do that.   I love the ability to make something that tastes "bad for you", but really isn't.  I love the look of surprise on J's face when I tell him that the very thing he's eating (and enjoying) comes from a WW recipe.  I love being able to eat good food and still achieve my goals (further disproving the age old adage that weight loss is about carrot sticks and rice cakes).  And I love to research things.  When I first started cooking, the Internet was still in it's "infancy" stages (okay, maybe it was a toddler b/c I'm not "that old" contrary to S's belief) and the resources for cooking healthy were few and far between.  Today, it's a veritable wonderland of resources and I've made some of my best meals from recipes found on sites/blogs.  But, while some foods have been winners, some have been "not well received in my house" (which I think is a kinder, gentler way of saying "losers"), here are just a few of the sites where I've gotten inspiration:

Weight watchers friendly sites:

The creative people on these blogs/sites make it easier for us "non-creative cooks" to prepare and enjoy great tasting food and I thank them!

And one site that must be mentioned even though it's not a WW site.  The recipes on here are just too good not to mention it.  Plus, it uses a slow cooker which is my favorite way to cook because it means I'm not scrambling at 6pm with cranky kids to get food on the table.  I've found that many of the recipes can be modified to make them WW friendly, so that gets a thumbs up from me. :-)

My parenting perspective

The Strong Museum of Play is one of those great Rochester treasurers for kids.  Filled with child friendly exhibits, the National Toy Hall of Fame and hours of entertainment for kids of many ages, we've certainly taken advantage of our membership there over the past few years.  

This post however, isn't about the merits of Strong.  It's more about the observations I made while sitting in the midst of two exhibits while M&S played happily. One caveat...I know for certain I am not a "perfect parent". I have made plenty of mistakes and almost all of the behaviors I witnessed today, I'm pretty sure I displayed at some point or another in the past 6 years. I very strongly believe that parents should not be judged for their parenting style as each child is different and there really are no "one size fits all" solutions to child rearing.

As I've mentioned here, M is 3.5 and S is 5.5...not exactly babies that need my constant supervision.   Within the confines of a "safe" environment (i.e. the exhibits at Strong), I feel like as long as I know where they are, I no longer need to hover around them and interject myself into their play.  Their safety is my prime concern and I feel that they can explore and learn on their own without my constant "hey, look at this" or "why don't you.......".  When they were younger, I'm sure I did just that, but today I was able to sit back and reflect while watching other parents hover, interject and essentially shape the child's experience at the Museum of Play instead of allowing them to venture off within eye sight to discover what there was for them, THE CHILD, to discover.   I saw parents repeatedly set up the toys/pieces of the exhibit so that the child could play with them "appropriately".  I saw parents get frustrated when the child either didn't want to play with the object or (gasp), wanted to do something else with it.   I saw one family literally dragging their child from exhibit to exhibit, overhearing them say (as the child was perfectly content doing what they were doing) "Come on, we HAVE to get to the next thing".   Why?  Why do they "have to" move on?  Is it because they've paid admission (versus having a membership) and feel that they need to experience the whole darn museum before it closes?

Today was one of those reflective "I've gained some perspective" type experiences.  In sitting back to check my iPhone make notes for this blog post and observing the scene around me, I came to two conclusions that I'm pretty certain did not occur to me until just recently. 

1. If you let kids interact without parents constantly molding/directing the experience, they will create a world of play richer and more unique than that created by a grown up.
2. The parent that is checking their phone/reading a book/standing back a little* might actually be doing their child more good than the one that is down on their hands and knees directing their play.  *Of course, with very young children, the parent does need to be closer to retrieve things from mouths, assist new walkers etc.

One other observation I made.......( Mommy's Helper Kid Keeper ), a harness designed to be worn by the child and controlled by the parent. I must admit that I do cringe when I see a parent guiding the child like a dog in a space that is designed for children.  After we "lost" S for a few minutes at the Lilac Festival two years ago, I could definitely see the merits of them more than I could before.  Not enough to get one because I think it sends all kinds of messages that I'd rather not send, but I could see why people used them on small children in crowded places like festivals.   Using them at the Museum of Play however, not sure I'll be able to make that mental leap anytime soon. 

Hmm, I think that last paragraph is bordering on judgemental .  I'm sure there are valid reasons why people use them even if I don't agree with the practice.  If the Kid Keeper (or similar product) is your particular forte, would you share why you find it invaluable? 

What do you parents of young children allow themselves to sit back and let the child experience life or do they (we???) craft a very safe and sanitized world for them to "explore"?

Monday, August 9, 2010

The emotional side of weight loss

First the good news: since I had M in 2006, I've lost about 40 pounds.  Some of that came off easily, some I really had to fight for.  The "bad" news: the last 10-15 are a big fight and that's where I find myself now.

Weight loss has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember.  It's played a big part in my happiness/unhappiness throughout and it continues to be a measurement of how I feel about myself.   I'm working against some pretty dominant genes, but I also know that I haven't always made the best choices for myself and while I'm on the right path (again), I often get annoyed with myself that I wasn't paying attention and let it get this far.

When J and I started dating, I was in pretty good shape.  But, as it often goes, I put on a lot of weight the longer we were together (more eating out, more watching movies on the couch etc).  When we got engaged in May of 2001, I knew I had to do something so I would be at my "best" for my wedding day.  So, I joined WW the first time and with the support of my best friend R, lost almost 30 pounds and was in the best shape of my life.  It seemed easier life was totally predictable, I wasn't cooking for anyone but myself and I had a BIG into the overpriced (but beautiful) dress.   And I did and I LOVED the way I felt.  Confident, every bride wants to feel. 

Then, May of 2003 hits and I have to take a medical leave from work and my life got totally unpredictable.  Adding to the stress was the limbo state we found ourselves in terms of where we were going to live.  For about 2 months, we weren't sure if we were a. staying in MA, b. moving to Kentucky or c. moving to Germany.  When the decision was made to move to Kentucky, it took the stress off but not the weight that I had gained.  In 2004, I got pregnant with S and it's been a roller coaster ever since. 

But, now, with the help of friends also doing WW and my new found love of running, I have begun anew and am pleased with the results so far.   It's definitely harder is slightly less predictable and I'm cooking for three other people, but I feel more in control and able to make choices.  I have a great support system of people that I can simply bitch to if I'm hungry and have no more food to eat that day.   I have the support of my husband who not only applauds the running, but is happy that I am taking active strides to NOT turn out like my mom has in terms of her health (which is poor, very poor).   It's helping our marriage, it's helping my health and best of all, it's helping my mental state.  It's showing my girls that a healthy body is a priority. 

Getting back to "wedding weight" (although maybe not wedding body since I have had two kids and things have "moved" :-)) is both a physical and mental goal for me.   I have friends who say "You look great" or "I can't see that you have to lose weight" and while I am grateful for their compliments, I know that it's all about self-perception.  I NEED to get to a place where I can look in the mirror and not see those 40 pounds-which I still do even though they aren't there.  I need to get back to a place where I feel confident in my appearance and comfortable in all of my clothes.  I need to get back to a place where I can look at someone with my version of an "ideal" body and feel like I've finally made it. 

Losing the weight is "easy".  It's the mind games that will get you every time.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

King Sadim?

You know that story about King Midas...the one where everything he touched turned to gold?  Well, I'm having the exact opposite sort of morning...sort of a "everything I touch turns to shit" kind of experience.  Woke up at 4 this morning with a horrid headache after several terrible dreams.  Burned my eggs and my hand on the pan burning the eggs.  Dropped an entire cup of dry cream of wheat on the floor (stupid little granules everywhere) and a 1/4 cup of brown sugar on the floor not 10 seconds after I cleaned up the cream of wheat.   I'm ready for a do-over and it's not even 9:00.

The rest of the day can only get better to a play date this morning, ballet this afternoon and then M&S are spending the night at their grandparents.  And all day tomorrow.   If I spill something tomorrow morning, I can swear to my heart's content without having to worry about those words being repeated at an inopportune moment (like at said grandparent's house).

Midas=Sadim.  Backwards.  Like my morning.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Motherhood in America Changing But Still Faces Mixed Messages

Motherhood in America Changing But Still Faces Mixed Messages

1pm and my cup is 1/2 empty

For some reason, M&S are driving me nuts this week.  For the first time since school got out, I've actually started having moments where I look at the calendar and sigh...wondering how it is that there is still another MONTH left before school starts.  I've also had thoughts of moving back to Kentucky just so they can start earlier.  Okay, not really..there's not enough money in the world to get me back to Kentucky but the idea of school starting in a week is appealing.  :-)

I adore my children, I really do.  I love them so much that it often feels like there isn't enough room in my heart to contain all that I feel for them.  I want only the best for them and would give either of them a kidney (or other body part) if they needed it.  But.......

living with them these days is damned near impossible for many hours of the day.  They whine, they fight, they scream.  M cries CONSTANTLY and is super oversensitive to everything.  S is bossy and name calls.  Getting out the door to go anywhere is like assembling the troops for a full-fledged medieval battle.   They play so well together for stretches of time, but I find myself tense during that time because I know the next screaming/whining/crying outburst is only moments away.   My brain and nerves cannot handle it anymore.  I stay out of as many battles as I can, being a big believer that they need to work stuff out themselves, but the times I intervene, I do so because I can't stand it anymore.  

I tell them that every day I start out with a full cup of patience.  But that everytime they: don't listen, do the opposite of what I've said, make huge messes without cleaning up, waste, cry, plead, beg, whine, hit, name call, fight etc, that patience spills out drop by drop until we get to bed time and the cup is bone dry.  

I don't know if it's because the theme weeks have tapered off a bit (I was full steam ahead a few weeks ago and now I have plans with minimal desire to execute them) and they are bored.  I don't know if it's the monotony of being together all of the time or if they just need a change.   I don't know if I have changed and they are reacting to that.

Whatever it is, they're lucky that cup of patience refills every night while I sleep.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I'd rather be running?

I think it's safe to say that I am a runner now.  I can easily do three miles and am contemplating a 10k next spring.  I'm into the pace, the distance, the experience more than I ever thought was possible.  In fact, 6 years ago, we came to Rochester to visit my brother/sister in law and watched some family members run in a 5k.  I distinctly remember saying to J "Why the hell would anyone waste their time running" and now, here I am.  But,  instead of seeing it as a waste of time, I have found it to be a much needed release for me.  

I look forward to the times when I can run and really start to miss it when I don't.   It's when I can clear my mind, devise blog topics and hash them out without interruption,  have a break from the girls,  solve problems, feel good about myself and accomplish a goal.  Very few facets of my life allow me to do that and it's why it's come to mean so much to me.   And then there are the obvious health benefits...the muscle development, the changes in the shape of my body etc.  It's such a win-win for me.   Its' also become a social outlet of sorts, as it has given me common ground with some truly amazing women that I have known for a while, but never really had a chance to connect with.   Just discussing training, races or knowing that they are setting the pace for my own future goals makes it fun and has given us a springboard for other common interests. 

The other day, I was running around the track at the High School and had such a flood of memories and emotions.  Pretty sure the last time I ran on a track was in 1991 or 1992 when I was "on the track team" in high school.  Back then, the coach would tell us to go run 3 miles around town and each time, we would run up the street to my friend Kathleen's grandma's house and eat cookies/watch TV for the length of time we *thought* it might take us to run those 3 miles.   Not sure, but that might be why we rarely won a race and the only time we did win was a day when we gorged ourselves on junk food right before running. 

But, the other day, each lap brought a new memory and each lap brought a new sense of achievement and pride because I know that I never could have run 3.3 miles at 15, but here I was at 34, running like it was the most natural thing in the world.   I'm pretty sure I could have kicked that 15 year old's ass if she was running along side me.  :-) 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Contest

J and I have started a contest with each other.  The person who spends the least in the next month gets a one hour massage from the other person.  Not bad.  But, the ultimate prize that we decided on was a family vacation on the Disney Cruise if we can eliminate some debt, save enough money and get back to great financial health.   I long for a vacation, love the Disney Cruise line and am totally on board with the big prize (I'd love the massage too, but my eye is on the bigger prize).

So, we're going frugal (or at least talking a lot about it) and it's becoming kind of a game.  How can we save, make do, not spend to pay down that debt and get on that boat?   This is what I've come up with so far:

-I'm very fortunate that my in laws have a HUGE garden at their house not far away.  For a little bit of time spent weeding and visiting, we often leave there with beans, squash, potatoes, lettuce and coming soon...200 pounds of tomatoes, broccoli, pumpkins, melons and more squash.  Using this "free" resource can save us money if I act quickly and preserve the bounty in our deep freeze.

-Get back to coupons.  I used be really into coupons until we moved here and Wegmans store brand entered our lives (they really do have low prices on everyday things).  But, there are things that we use that are national brand and spending some time online netted me $30 worth of coupons last night.  Sites such as,,, and my favorite.... which was a little bit of work, but gave the best reward. 

-Be more conscious of grocery shopping. This is where I spend the most money and in addition to coupons, I need to start thinking more frugally about what I can make myself instead of buying pre-made.  I'm pretty good about going in with a list, but need to stop the impulse purchases (darn that Wegmans, they make everything so appealing). This week, I needed a graham cracker crust for a pie and instead of buying a premade one, it dawned on me that I could just make my own AND my kids eat graham crackers for snacks.  Seasoned bread crumbs...I have all of the stuff to do it.  Pizza dough..same.  This particular new habit serves two saves money and it allows me to know exactly what is in my food (which is a topic for a later post).  

-Reviewing our inventory of stuff.  We have a lot of stuff hidden away in the basement.  Stuff that I can use for theme weeks instead of buying something new.

-Stop having late fees at the library.  Such an amazing resource that I squander because I don't always keep track of due dates. 

-Check the site for free ideas.  There are so many free things to do here, it's ridiculous.

I find summer is sort of the ultimate time to be cheap.  With the produce and the "just go outside and be entertained" thing going on, whole days can go by before I have to spend any money.  It's easy to walk or bike more often than take the car.

The goal (for me) is Disney Cruise in December 2011.  Fingers crossed that it happens......

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Commercialism, then and now

When I was in high school, I was obsessed with infomercials.  My friend Jen and I would have sleepovers and stay up until 2am watching Ron Popeil hawk his latest invention (Flowbee, anyone?), Jack Lalane wax philosophic about the power of juicing and countless other "scientists", "doctors" and gurus tell us how, for the low, low price of $something.95, all of our problems would be solved.  But, only if we called in the next 30 minutes.  I was personally obsessed with a hand blender and a nifty contraption that made stuffed triangle shaped sandwiches.  Got that last one from the aforementioned Jen and proceeded to use it 4 times.  :-)  It was slick marketing and we LOVED it.   Even earlier than the glorious high school years was my desire to have a Cabbage Patch Kid.  Back then, there was no Internet (which, yes, makes me feel about 100 years old when S asks me how we DID anything without computers) so the only way to get said Kid was for my parents to stand in line at a brick and mortar store for hours and buy one.  They refused, I whined and Cabbage Patch Kid for little me. 

Fast forward 20 years and now I'm the parent.  A conscious consumer with a healthy dose of skepticism about claims made on informercials and ads in general.  I find myself in a unique position of having to explain to my girls what exactly corporations are doing when they use "likable characters" on packages, how it the pursuit of making a profit, they will blur the truth and use practices that cross the line of ethically responsible (okay, I don't use those words exactly with a 5 and 3 year old).   My first foray into the land of deceptive marketing (especially that geared towards girls) came when we found out that M was going to be a girl and I found this book at the library: Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes and read it in one sitting (with only one kid that napped every day, this was possible).  I was HORRIFIED and it definitely opened my eyes to the ways that companies and advertisers are doing everything possible to get kids (YOUNG kids at that) hooked on their brands at an early age.  I was horrified at the attempts to make little girls divas at the tender age of 4.  Horrified that clothing companies made the same style clothes for little girls as they do for women and teenagers (ex: low rise jeans and midriff baring tops).  Definitely started giving a second thought to those Disney movies I grew up with and the way that they portray women (stepmothers, always needing a man to rescue them to have a complete life etc).  It was an eye opener and it terrified me that I now had two young girls looking to me to teach them the ways of the world.

After I finished freaking out,  I tried over the next few years to make some sense of it all.  I bought the Disney Princess stuff because they liked it, but we also tried to expose them to so many other things that were not princessy, pink or girly.  Over the past year or so, I've come to realize that I can be a much bigger influence by my actions than any piece of plastic (granted, sometimes that plastic wins, but I keep trying).  I take the time to explain to them what is going on in the world around them, have started "lessons" to get S to understand the concept of money and how to choose carefully what you want.  I show them that women can do tough work like fixing thing in addition to the cooking, cleaning etc that they see me do.  I work to make my body healthy so that I can enjoy life.  It's a tough battle and I feel like there is so much working against me, but I press on because to not be upset about what is going on is unthinkable.

And now for some why's....

Why must everything be merchandised within an inch of it's life?  You can find DP's on almost anything one might desire and it's everywhere.   A simple movie is made into a sham by plastering a character's face on everything not nailed down (and some things that are).  Take Shrek...a cute movie, yes.  But, Shrek, after being made into a third movie (or is it 4th) can now be found on everything from contaminated cups from McDonald's to my daughter's pull-ups (store brand).  I get it..Shrek exists.   Why must little girls be force fed stereotypes of what they should like?  Why is a store like "Sweet and Sassy" so popular?  I get the whole dress up thing, but what parent just sits back and says to themselves "I think today I want my 5 year old to look like a streetwalker"?  Why can't kids just be kids?   Toys R'Us touts itself as a place** "where a kid can be a kid", but I disagree.  I now think that TRU is a place where a kid can be a consumer.  A place where finding a "simple" toy in the sea of Barbie, Disney Princess, Transformers and a slew of "battery operated, push a button and be entertained" pieces of junk from overseas is increasingly like finding a needle in a haystack.   Doesn't anyone play with blocks anymore?  Is there really a whole generation that only knows how to push a button and have their fun created for them? 
Oh, and that Cabbage Patch Kid....S got one for her 1st birthday from my aunt.  Jokingly complained to my dad that my kid got something I longed for as a child and know what he did??  Went out and bought me one...which is sitting in a box.  Somewhere.  :-)

** In retrospect, that particular catch phrase is from Chuck E. Cheese and not Toys R'Us.  Toys R'Us has a tag line of "I wanna be a Toys R'Us kid".   Come to think of it, they started earlier than I thought because they set up the standard of being a kid that IS a toy store. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

About epiphany

The "About Me" section of the blog.  For days now, I've been "racking" my brain trying to come up with interesting things about me for you, the reader that doesn't exist yet.  But, I had an epiphany this compiling a list of things about me for you, I'm really helping myself define who I am and what I find interesting about myself.  At almost 35, this seems more logical than trying to sell myself to other people with fun and interesting tidbits about myself.   Approaching this section (and really, the whole blog) as a self-discovery project speaks to me in a way that I didn't realize that I needed until now.  Facebook is great, but this is really a place for me to speak my mind in more than a 50 character status update. 

The minister at my church (and mind you, it's a UU church, so pretty darn liberal) challenged us to write our own obituary a few months ago.  I didn't do it, but maybe defining who I am now and maybe even how I'd like an obit to be written in 50 years versus the way it would be written now (worrier, yeller, overplanner) is another way to go about it.

The 30's are an interesting time in life.  The stupidity of the 20's is behind me, but yet I still am not 100% sure who I am like I envision people in their 40's are. 

Theme weeks..who are they really for?

So, this summer, when S is 5.5 and M is 3.5, I decided to try "theme weeks" to give us something to do and hopefully avoid an all out war between the three of us. Based on a simple premise of discovering/exploring a particular topic each week, I set out to drain the library of all of it's resources on various countries of the world, water, medieval times and the pioneer way of living. Thus's been a resounding success...the likes of which even surprise me.

Week one was "Countries of the World" where we watched some videos (LOVED the "Families of insert country here) series, read books, ate specific foods and generally had a good time learning about new places. As an added bonus, S learned how to say "Hello Dad" in each of the languages and greeted J as he walked in the door each night. Pretty cool.

Week two was supposed to be USA (coinciding with July 4th), NY and Rochester, but kind of didn't happen because J was home for two days and the girls had summer camp.

Swimways Power Swimr System - MediumWeek three was water week. I think this was everyone's favorite so far. We went swimming in a pool (with my newest addition to the "best things I've ever purchased" list: floatation devices that let the girls have some independence in the water and let me avoid the grip of death that often accompanies water excursions), went to Cobbs Hill and walked around, went to the RMSC where we did an "underwater adventure" via motion simulator and went under Lake Ontario, learned about the lock system on the canal and generally had a good time. We hit Kershaw Beach, saw Bill Nye the Science Guy videos about water and went to Roseland Water Park.

Week four (where we find ourselves now) is medieval/Renaissance week. This is especially interesting to me because I really knew very little about this time period. We've read a bunch of books, made crowns (because in our house, there must be some sort of royalty thing going on), did "stained glass" and today we're making shields and cardboard swords. We'll watch the Sword and the Stone, various "historically accurate, yet child friendly" videos found at the Downtown Branch of the library and hopefully not run out of steam by Friday. This week will be topped off with a trip to the Sterling Renaissance Festival, complete with wenches, a visit to the queen and (hopefully) a stop in the "stocks" as my girls are fascinated with what I'm calling "the ultimate time out".

Up week, nature week, art week, animal week, playground week...the possibilities are endless.

The reaction I get from friends when they find out I'm doing this is varied. Some say that I'm "super mom", some look at me longingly and then wonder why I'm bothering, some have joined me and adopted some of the themes for their own kids. I'm neither super mom or some expert on kids...I just needed something to keep me focused this summer or else we'd all go nuts from monotony and boredom. Even if we don't do the activity of the day/week, just knowing I have plan keeps me sane and happy. If they learn something along the way, so be it. If we just have fun and they look back on this time with fond memories, even better.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Where is the land of why and how did I get here?

The Land of Why...yup, that's where I live.

With two kids under 6, "why" is a fairly common word in our house (after "no"). We get the standard "Why is the sky blue", "Why can't I drive the car", "Why is that lady so fat" (although fortunately not within said lady's earshot) etc. But while I am thrilled that my girls are inquisitive and want to know about the world, I'd be remiss if I didn't explain that "why" doesn't always mean "why" with kids (at least mine). Why can come at the end of a conversation like this:

S-Can I have some milk?
Me-Sure, in a minute.
S-I really, really want milk now. Strawberry milk.
Me-I said in a minute...I'm stirring something that I don't want to burn.

a minute goes by....I pour the milk (strawberry) and hand it to her

S-WHY did you give me milk!!! I HATE MILK!!! You're the worst mother ever.

Granted, this conversation happened when she was three, but it's stuck in my head as the best example of the misuse of the word "why" as it pertains to my kids.

But, the land of why isn't just about my girls. It's where I find myself when I start thinking about my life, the world we live in and what I can do about all of the issues that are starting to become important to me. For example:

-Why is our food system so messed up? HFCS in everything, too few companies controlling too many products, too few regulations that make sense. Why is the USDA entrusted with telling America what they should eat?

-Why is the media (advertising in particular) "allowed" to exploit people to sell something? How did the sexualization of girls/young women become so commonplace that so many people don't even notice it? Why is there such a product called "Booty Pop" being sold at BBB ("borrowed that one from another blogger)? Why have my children's attentions been captured so completely by Disney Princesses? It's like crack to them and I hate it.

-Why is marriage so hard sometimes? Why doesn't anyone tell you that it's real work?

-Why is it so freaking hard to lose weight? Seriously?

-Why did I just start running? Why didn't I discover this years ago?

-Why don't insecurities just melt away? Why do I sometimes feel the same way in certain situations as I did 20 years ago? Why do I care?

Hmm, feeling more optimistic about my blogging ability this time. Let's see if any of these topics can inspire me. Let's see if I ever confess I have this blog.