Tuesday, May 28, 2013

To Eat...or Not to Eat...

I’m always trying to be healthy but the so-called experts aren’t making it easy. There are so many competing philosophies about what is and isn't healthy that I find it all really confusing. But since the pool opened this weekend and I know I’m not alone in the desire to look good in a bathing suit, I’d like to share my list of things I know for sure about eating healthy.
·         Anything white is very bad. Except potatoes if they have the skin on. And only before 2 p.m. And only if topped with raw broccoli.
·         Chocolate is bad. No wait, it’s good as long as it’s dark.
·         Nuts are good. And since chocolate is good, then I’m pretty sure peanut M&Ms are health food.
·         Milk is bad and no one over the age of two needs it. But low fat dairy is good and high fat Greek yogurt is good. I’m still trying to figure that out.
·         Red meat is bad. I think. But isn’t that what our caveman ancestors ate? So it was good then but it’s bad now?  I think it’s probably bad if I buy it on sale at Kroger but it’s good if I pay $8.00 a pound at Whole Foods.
·         Juice is bad because it’s better to eat the whole fruit. But fruit juice is better than soft drinks. Soft drinks, especially the ones with high fructose corn syrup, are from the devil. Diet drinks aren’t necessarily from the devil but probably from his demons. They are both evil and must be avoided at all costs.
·         Donuts are bad. Very bad. You must never eat them because they are comprised of all white stuff. Therefore, I only eat the chocolate ones. Dark chocolate is healthy; ergo, chocolate donuts are healthy
·         Soy is bad. Wait, it’s good. No, I think it’s actually bad as of this week. Check back in because I swear its badness or goodness changes from week to week.
·         Smoothies are good because you can cram kale and other greens in there and hardly notice the taste. If you’re really virtuous, you can use things like coconut milk and rice milk and then it’s over-the-top healthy but tastes like crap. Chocolate ice cream, bananas and peanut butter that isn’t “natural” are not acceptable smoothie ingredients and if they catch you using them, the smoothie police will render harsh punishment.

At this point, I think there are two options. Option one is to go on the see food diet. If you see food, just don’t eat it. Option two is to spend a lot of time in the sun because tanned fat looks better than white fat.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

International Parenting

Much has been made of parenting books Confessions of a Tiger Mother and most recently Bringing Up Bebe, which extols the virtues of French parenting. Apparently, not only do French women NOT get fat but also they are good mothers. Perhaps it’s the jealousy talking but I hate them all.

No doubt parenting is hard. At least GOOD parenting is hard. It requires sacrifice. Just this morning I ate the remains of chocolate cake for breakfast so that my sons wouldn’t get to it first and start the day with a non-nutritious meal. It was tough. The icing got stuck to the roof of my mouth and it took three cups of strong coffee to wash it down. But I pushed through because of my great love for my sons. This is what good mothers do.

Honestly, I often swing between the Tiger Mother and the French Mother with a little bit of Redneck Texas Mother and Pacifist Canadian Mother thrown in.  I would like to say that I have a tried and true philosophy for parenting. I don’t. I observe what seems to be working for other mothers and copy it. I read books and magazine articles about authoritative parenting and permissive parenting and depending on the day, fall somewhere in between. Often, I collapse into bed just praying for the wisdom to do it better.

Was it always this hard? I know our mothers and grandmothers had their share of parenting gurus from whom they sought advice but did they obsess over their mothering as much as this generation?

And whatever happened to just following one’s instincts? Usually, if I just slow it down a bit, set aside whatever parenting book I’m reading at the time and just pay attention to what’s going on, the answers will come to me. They might not be the perfect answers for whatever challenge I’m facing at the time but they almost always point me in the right direction.

I’ve got about four years left with my oldest son before he goes off to college and about six with my youngest. While it is definitely important to me that I do a good job mothering them and that my husband and I send them off into the world prepared to be good men, I don’t want to waste these precious years worrying about the method and forgetting to enjoy them for the interesting, frustrating, enjoyable and unique people they already are.

So I’m taking an international approach to parenting these days—picking and choosing among the various approaches and finding the ones that work best for us. That and always eating the leftover chocolate cake before the kids get to it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Aging Gracefully

A woman once told me, “You are the old woman you are becoming.” In other words, you can’t be a shrew up to age 60 and then expect to become a gracious, kind and gentle senior citizen.

My mother-in-law, Irene, has proved this out. She has always believed that people are more important than things and that the comfort and wellbeing of others is superior to her own.  Having lived this way all her life, it’s simply part of her nature now that she is pushing 80.

Other than our mutual love for my husband and my sons, my mother-in-law and I don’t have much in common. She is from Canada, and I am from Texas. Need I say more? But the greatest difference between us is her tendency to save everything and my tendency to save nothing. The joke around our house is, “Keep moving or Mom will take you to the Goodwill.”  Irene, on the other hand, once handed me a large ball of used hockey skate laces that her sons had worn 30 years earlier. Just in case.

Just how much of a packrat she is became clear to me this summer when my sister-in-law coerced me into cleaning her mother’s closet. As I was discarding scarves from 1970-something and old programs from long-forgotten nights out, I groused, “Why on earth would someone save all this junk?” I confess I was feeling rather superior thinking of my own streamlined, tidy closet. Then I happened to glance over at her chest of drawers and there next to the baby photos of her three children was a photo of me. From kindergarten. It has been there since I joined the family 26 years ago.

And in one of her drawers is a pile of folders labeled with the names of her children. Each folder contains immunization records and other important documents. And there is a folder with my name on it. I’m not sure what’s in it. But she considers me one of her children and therefore, I get a folder.

Now that I’m older and perhaps wiser, I realize how hard it must have been to watch her youngest son get married to an unknown girl from thousands of miles away. She never let on that she may have preferred a daughter-in-law who shared her culture and her country.  I hope I am as gracious if my sons make a similar choice.

This Christmas my in-laws made the long trek to Cincinnati from Vancouver, B.C. Sadly, my mother-in-law is losing her memory and with it, the ability to do tasks that she did for years.  

But true to form, she continues to demonstrate that paying attention to what’s going on around you is more important than just getting things done. She doesn’t remember how to make some of the more complicated dishes but she noticed the little house the squirrels are building in the large tree outside the window. She no longer makes the pies. But she notices the lint in the corner of my kitchen and painfully stoops to pick it up because she wants to make sure she’s doing her part.

This year, instead of resolving to lose 10 pounds and get to the gym more often, I will start practicing now to be the old woman I want to be in the future. I might even save some hockey skate laces.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Miss Congeniality?

This just in from the “something totally unexpected and ironic” files. Do you remember how the normally mild-mannered Canadians rioted in Vancouver after their beloved Canucks lost the Stanley Cup in June? Those of you whose world does not revolve around hockey will have to Google it. Anyway, among the first group charged is…wait for it…a former Miss Congeniality!

Apparently, the former winner of the Miss Congeniality Title and Royalty award at last year’s Miss Coastal Vancouver, is among 25 people facing a total of 61 charges stemming from the post-game riot. Not only was she allegedly among the mob that went crazy downtown, but also she is charged with breaking into a drugstore. She can’t really be faulted for that. She probably needed to fix her makeup.

I’ve always heard that Canadian beer has a far higher alcohol content than beer brewed in the states. OBVIOUSLY. 

She has said in a blog that she aspires to become an interior designer. Just a little unsolicited advice…don’t include those pictures of burning cars in your portfolio.

As ironic as this is, it’s simply another indication of the little differences between those of us in the States and our neighbors to the north. Here, pageant title winners stir up controversy by posing nude. In Canada, they torch a car after a hockey game. 

Friday, September 30, 2011


So I burst into tears at the pediatrician’s office today. Did one of the kids get a terrible diagnosis? No. Did one of them need a painful shot? Nope.
I was there simply to pick up their medical files because I’m switching them over to a general practitioner who is male. They are both at that age when they much prefer a guy to a gal. Totally normal. But there was something about knowing that it was my last visit to the pediatrician’s office that undid me. I wanted to throw my arms around those nurses and doctors and thank them for taking care of my babies. We were blessed to get through early childhood with only one health crisis so we didn’t actually have to spend too much time there, but it was always comforting to know I could pick up the phone and call the nurses for advice.
My reaction is a bit of a surprise to me because I’ve never been very sentimental about these matters. In fact, I don’t understand mothers who get all weepy when their kids go off to kindergarten. Seriously? Aren’t you going to enjoy the freedom? When we dropped our boys off at sleep-away camp for the first time, Peter and I yelled “Yippee!” the minute we drove off.
I think it’s just another reminder that the time is flying by and I’m never going to get these days back. Of course, there are days I don’t want back. The ones when I think I’m not going to survive until they leave for college…and they might not either. But there are many days I’d like to have back—some to do over and some to slow down and enjoy again.  
I’ve always been pretty good at marking “firsts.” I’ve got photos chronicling just about every first thing the boys ever did. First time eating carrots. Check. First time putting the toes in the mouth. Check. First time on skates. Check.
But I’m starting to realize that it is the “lasts” that are just as important. And the older they get, the more I’m beginning to pay attention to these things. We have a children’s book about this. The mother lists all the things she will never see her son do again. I can’t read it without getting emotional, and the boys still occasionally ask me to read it to them at bedtime just so they can watch me cry.
It’s a small and somewhat insignificant thing but moving from a kid doctor to a regular doctor is one of those “lasts.” So I pulled myself together and handed over the files to the new doc’s receptionist. Right now, they’re just a couple of names to her. But I felt like saying, “Hey, take care of these babies.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Loaded Diapers

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal gives new meaning to the term “loaded diaper.” Apparently diaper manufacturers are tapping into the talents of well-known clothing designers to make decorated diapers. Yes, diapers that look like little jeans or that have intricate designs on them including argyle and polka dot. Seriously? They do know what diapers are for, right? They hold pee and poop. It’s just that simple.
I’m a few years removed from needing diapers and since I had boys, I was less into flashy diapers and more interested in ones that wouldn’t come off while they were trying to ride the dog. But even if I were in the diaper phase now, I just don’t think I’d want to spend my resources on cute diapers. Now that we’re counting the costs of school, hockey teams, summer camps and groceries for two growing boys, if I had it to do over again I’d probably wrap my kids’ behinds in a nice soft towel and secure it with duct tape just to save money.
In addition to making diapers prettier, they’re also making them easier to use. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but a Huggies brand manager claims that trying to get a diaper on a squirming infant is an “unmet need.” Really? Isn’t that part of the fun of having babies? Playing with them while you try to squeeze their fat little bodies into a diaper?  It’s sometimes inconvenient, but is it an “unmet need”? I don’t think so. For parents of newborns and toddlers, an unmet need is actually an uninterrupted night’s sleep.  
The photos of these diapers on a couple of babies are way cute. And it definitely makes me a little nostalgic for the days when my boys were young enough to need them. But no matter how precious your baby is or how sweetly decorated his diaper, it’s still a poop holder.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Confessions of a Summer Hater

I’m just going to put myself out there and say that I hate summer.
I know this makes me sound cantankerous and those who know me well would probably say, “Well of course it sounds cantankerous because YOU ARE!”
But it’s the driving hither and yon and the trying to squeeze in some work and missing my regular exercise classes and needing to get my roots done and just not having any peace and quiet that makes me long for the school year again. I know it’s selfish and believe me, I’m mentally flagellating myself regularly.
But it’s also the pressure. Oh, the pressure to give my kids a happy, exciting summer filled with trips to Kings Island, the pool, the ice hockey rink, camp and other assorted recreational activities. It’s exhausting.
Granted, I don’t miss the homework drama, the lunch packing and the early mornings of the school year. It’s great to have some time to exhale. But the loosey goosey schedule is actually more of a stressor for me.
Every morning these boys wake up, come down the stairs, track me down and ask, “What are we doing  today?” I feel like a cruise director on a ship full of cats. Well, only two cats. But it feels like 50. And of course, they never want to do the same things. One boy wants to spend all day at the ice hockey rink. The other wants to have friends over. One wants to play on the dry side of Kings Island, the other wants to play on the water park side. One wants to go to the pool, the other wants to stay home and watch reruns of “Monk.”
I hope I’m not the only mother who feels this way. But when I ask other moms how their summers are going, I get “It’s great. I just love having the kids around.” Or “We are having so much fun just making crafts and homemade popsicles.”  So I skulk off in shame before they can ask how my summer is going.
And I worry that I’ve set the expectations too high. After spending all day at the water park with friends, one of my boys asks, “What are we doing when we get home?” “Well, my little pumpkin, I’m going to dive into a tub of aloe vera because I’m so dang sunburned. And you and your brother are going to make me a nice glass of iced tea.  What do you mean, what are we doing? Is this not enough?!”
The other day the boys were trying to kill each other in the middle of the family room (they call it wresting; I call it trying to kill each other) and when I gazed wearily over at my husband, he says, “We are soooo going to miss this some day.” And I know he’s right. I know without a doubt that I will miss the noise and the chaos and the driving to and from places. I will just miss THEM—their presence, their laughter, their yelling, their little tiny airsoft pellets scattered throughout the yard and house.
But for now, I just want a little peace and quiet.