Sunday, October 24, 2010

Slowing Down

After traveling the last two weekends, I was excited to be in town for this one. Lots of friends I know go out of town weekend after weekend but this is not a lifestyle that I adjust to well. Both the last two weekends (one in Duck with Sadie's godmother and her family, and then last weekend in Irvington for a wonderful Webb family wedding) were mentally and physically consuming, wonderful memories -- but coming home to a house that needed the weekend of attention, not getting it, and three loads of laundry to run starting at 8 pm on a Sunday night. I fell out of the rhythm of working out, we ate out a ton,  yada yada yada.

So I was so excited to spend this weekend at home. My list of what to do was long and detailed.

And then, Friday, our new nanny got run into in our car. Thankfully, Sadie was not with her. And I say this first because Sadie was not injured. But second, honestly, I can think of nothing worse right now than getting into an accident and having the running commentary of my three year old detailing the next hour while you waited for a police officer, sorted through insurance information, made sure that the other driver accepted fault, talked to witnesses, etc. I adore my child, and I wouldn't wish her presence on my worst enemy in that circumstance!  She has an uncanny ability right not to see the "crack in the armor" and exacerbate it enough to fly a jet airplane through.

So the weekend started out with my Friday night plans getting out of sync, and we opted to eat out instead of in. And then we got a great dinner invitation from a couple in Sadie's class to have dinner with a few other parents and their kids on Saturday night. We had a ball there, but of course, the laundry didn't get done or the closet organized, both of which were on my Saturday evening agenda. Aren't I fun??

But truly, we had a blast at this small gathering. Sadie and the other girls ran around non stop for 3 hours. Mark and I had great conversation, and great wine, with two other couples. We literally had not a care in the world. I realized how much I miss going out and being social. But when I am away from Sadie all week, and we pay sitters $15 an hour when we go out without her, it is really nice to go out and bring Sadie with us and not have to watch her like a hawk the whole time. We really had a great time!

And tonight, we had the Willow Oaks Halloween Party. This is one of our favorite parties year after year. They have a DJ there and the kids love to dance. This year Sadie is really good at the chicken dance, the YMCA song by the Village People, and so many others. I really enjoyed dancing with her too!  She dances with true Misage style concentration -- her tongue is usually out.

But one of the best parts about this weekend was what she and I did yesterday for an hour and today for about two -- we collected food for her plastic pink butterfly named Bite. This butterfly is something Mark picked up one day at a convenience store counter, literally at the check out line, which you can wind up and the wings will flap. I don't believe it works anymore. And while it was immediately loved, it (I should say "she") was lost for the last couple months. But she has been re-found, and now she is hungry, Sadie is constantly reminding me. She doesn't eat what we eat, at least if given the choice. She would rather have milkweed (which Sadie knows grows on trees) or yesterday we discovered how much she really liked clovers from cloverpatches. Today we added some branches to it. And both days, we had to bring home hundreds of yellow and red and brown leaves that had fallen into the median of Monument. And some fresh new grass that seems to be growing on some places in our neighborhood park. We spent hours crouching around, she and I, choosing just the right assortment of things to bring home to Bite to dine on.

During those hours... Sadie was largely focused on the task at hand but she would talk to me while doing it, and many times she told me how glad she was that I was helping her. I was impressed with how important she believed this all to be. And how she didn't give up on the game (it wasn't a game she told me a few times). The weather was beautiful, and while I looked at my watch a few times, I am so glad I spent the hours doing just what we did together both days.  She teaches me to live in the moment, in the hour, in the day... instead of conquering the task list.  This is a lesson that I have resisted from every teacher for the past 41 years. I am so glad I am learning it finally, now.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

She's never met a stranger she didn't know...

Yesterday, Sadie was a flower girl in her cousin Ryan's wedding in Irvington, Virginia.  Sadie had only attended one other wedding in her life (well, not counting our wedding, in which Sadie likes to tell everyone she was a baby in my tummy because one time I thought it might be easier to just tell that white lie when she got all teary and asked if we left her alone in a hotel room while we got married, since she couldn't conceive of her not being with us for such an important event) (and shockingly, now she loves to repeat this untruth any chance she has). So in any event, she wasn't really prepared for her flower girl role. Mark and I wanted to play up the excitement because we both love weddings, and we really love any reason to get a family together from far and wide (especially for an event for which I don't have to stuff a bird or clean my house, or both!).  As our parents are getting older and even friends and family our age have passed away recently, being together really is a reason for celebration!  But Sadie, at 3.5, can be... well, um... let's just say "unpredictable" especially when she needs to perform. And as you readers know, we have had our share of change of late which adds to a little bit of chaos in said 3.5 year old's predictive behavior.

So as much as we had the wedding on our calendar and told her about her role, we didn't want to make it into too big of an affair. And we weren't able to get to Irvington early enough on Friday to actually attend the wedding rehearsal at the small Catholic church in the next town over. Kudos to the bride who was more than fine with that. I figured if we got Sadie to walk down the aisle once, it would be a success. But knowing my kid, she would do it great for the rehearsal and then refuse a repeat performance at the actual wedding, so we left the rehearsing up to those who really needed to know where to stand, the grown-ups.

So upon entering the Church 30 minutes before the wedding and seeing Jesus on the cross, she asked loudly for everyone to hear "WHO IS THAT??"  I had to laugh, since I had grown up Catholic and everyone Catholic knows that you never see a cross in a Catholic church that doesn't have Jesus upon it; and yet we are raising Sadie in the Episcopal faith where you never see Jesus on the cross. I said to her "That's Jesus" thinking that telling a lie in a church of all places wasn't really an option.  She paused for a moment and then said "What happened to him up there?"  I am not sure actually how we got off of that track onto the flower girl role, but we did.

And truthfully, I have no idea how she looked going down the aisle of the small church since I was hanging in the back, ready to give her the appropriate shove-off if she needed it (or more importantly, the glare if she dare turned around like she might want to come back). But she made it up the aisle without a pause.

 And while I am proud of her for that, I have to say, I am more proud of her for what resulted at the reception. My girl, she simply rocked!

There were only a few other kids there, but the band was fantastic and the grown-ups were all in the mood to dance. And Sadie didn't sit many songs out. She had no hesitation to show her dancing moves in the middle of the floor, shaking her hips, hopping along. Mark and I watched her ask unfamiliar male faces (most of whom were in their late 20s and had attended Hampton Sydney with the groom) if they wanted to dance.   All of them had a ball with her. One guy came up to Mark and I afterwards and said "She's hilarious... you can tell she's never met a stranger she didn't know."

And I thought to myself, and I sit here thinking about this now, that is one thing that I love most about my daughter. She has gone through some phases in her short life where she has been a little shy, and has clung to me, or her nanny, many times during some transitional phase or another. But now, she just really has come into her own. She seizes the moment. And she reminds me to do that too.  She is just a really happy and outgoing kid!

I have always been an extrovert. And as the third of four kids... I was never shy. For if you didn't speak up in my house, you wouldn't get fed!  But you don't always expect that personality trait in an only child.   But at least for now, we seem to have the life of the party living amongst us.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Accepting Half-Assed

One of the hardest things about motherhood has been learning to be satisfied with getting things done half-assed.  My father was an eye-doctor who worked with the same partner in the same building in Old Town, Alexandria, for more than 40 years. He sold his practice a few weeks after he turned 65 and he and my mother sold their house in Mt. Vernon and moved to Williamsburg, Virginia. While I had no legal skills with which to help him on the sale of his practice (I am not sure my father understood how inapplicable my legal skills would be to family matters like estate planning, real estate matters, and sales of small businesses when he agreed to pay for my law school education), I remember sitting down with him and asking him if we would consider going just cutting back, maybe consulting, taking a few extra days off a week or setting a more relaxed schedule instead of retiring completely. And his answer was "I can't do something half-assed."

That's how my father has always been. If he set his mind to cleaning the rec room or the garage at our house growing up, it meant that he would take every single item out of said space and wash down the walls, vacuum the floors... I recall getting a steel wool pad out to clean our basement floor with him more than once. Every Spring and Fall he would take every storm window and screen off of our house (in my mind now, while they have been gone more than seven years, I can count 15 windows), wash them off with Mr. Clean in the driveway, dry them meticulously, and wash and dry all of the windows on the house, then put back all of the storm windows and screens, and finally, wash the driveway!  He not only would wash the chandelier in the dining room and kitchen when company was coming, he would actually wipe the dust off the light bulbs too.  My mother had a similar cleaning mentality, so I can't sell her short by not mentioning her. We didn't have a cleaning lady growing up, but even with four kids, our house was never dirty or ill-maintained.

My first few years on my own, I probably met most of the standards of my upbringing. Even when Daisy and her perpetual state of shedding arrived, my homes were always pretty clean and organized (though admittedly, due to a cleaning lady). When I set my mind to a project, it was completed in the time and order I expected. I remember deciding I would make my own wedding veil instead of spend $200 for something that looked relatively simple. But instead of just one veil, I made three of them as I wanted to make sure that I had one fresh one for my wedding portrait, and just in case it got ruined I made an extra one for the wedding day and just in case it got ruined before the wedding, I made an extra one after that. Of course, none of them were ruined, so now I have three perfectly good wedding veils that I hope Sadie will find use for one day.

After graduating from law school, I moved six different times before Mark and I got married, and every time I moved I made sure that my bed was made and my bedroom fully organized before I would go to sleep the first night. Then I would spend the next few days unpacking every single box and organizing things. I never let things go unfinished.  Maybe my fetish was unhealthy and a little more of being just "Type A" or OCD, but it was my way of life.

I am almost a complete reversal of that person now. And every several weeks or so, I try to revert back to my "full ass" ways and end up flailing about for a few days barking orders at my husband to help me maintain order in the house, and collapsing into bed exhausted at night after fully finishing several tasks. This morning it hit me that I would be happier if I just accepted that this is the Stage of Half-Assed.

Mark's been out of town for three days. Sadie misses him and wants to talk to him repeatedly, but bedtimes have been a breeze because he sublet his half of our bed to her. Last night our routine was crazy -- I got home at 6, picked up a fed-ex package from my neighbor, walked Daisy right away with Sadie (it is my hope that her UTI's have been caused by holding her urine too long), realized that I had locked myself out of the house with the backdoor but the nanny didn't hear me so told Sadie to stay in the back yard while I ran around to the front door, let myself in the front door with said nanny only to see that Sadie was no longer in the backyard and had followed me and was now alone on Monument, grabbed her and admonished her but not enough to cause tears and thus ruin dinner, assemble dinner, spend 20 minutes trying to bribe Sadie to eat one more bite of something nutritious and withhold dessert, admonish Daisy is for barking at the table to eat Sadie's "something nutritious" (avec peanut butter) other than her own food, answer the phone call of Daisy's vet to discuss test results which are largely inclusive while Sadie begs for television time and Daisy is still begging for leftover peanut butter which is somewhere invisible to me but smellable by her though out of the reach of her lengthy tongue, quickly change out of work clothes, read some books, play a game, bed for Sadie at 8:00, complete with five stories in our bed (and she has learned to choose the five longest books she can find now) and trying to explain (or debate, rather) that the world and the earth are the same thing.  Last night I left her nodding off at 8:45.

I came downstairs and there gleaming in our foyer was a perfectly white box with a silver handle on it, my new iMac computer!!  It looked so inviting!  It was like it was chiming "set me up set me up" from the box. I even had a message from my father on my blackberry telling me how quickly he was able to set up my mother's a few weeks prior.

On the other hand, the cleaning lady was coming today, and I really needed to straighten up for her. And  the dinner dishes were still on the table in the kitchen; there were bills to be paid and mail to go through. And I needed to get out my Disney folder to organize it to call for dinner reservations at 7 am this morning; and I wanted to get my exercise DVD and clothes all laid out so I could work out from 6-6:40 this morning; and I promised Mark I would call him and let him know what the vet said when I talked to her after dinner; and so on and so on and so on.

In the end, I took the iMac and set it up on my desk upstairs, and reached facebook and sent a few emails from it. I clicked to open iPhoto and then closed it down, it would take more time than I had to learn it.  And I got the Disney folder out and laid it on the kitchen island and the put dishes in the dishwasher and started it. But nothing else on my list got done and I was in bed at 11 pm. And the poor cleaning lady came today to a house that is probably at its most cluttered state.

I know there are mothers out there who still maintain an organized house, a fit and exercised body, and get their mail sorted every night. There are countless chat rooms and blogs out there with helpful hints toward achieving the same. But I am not one of them, and frankly, I am tired of trying to meet that standard.  I think I am ready to accept the merits of Half-Assed.  My parents had two children already in college when they were 41 like I am -- they had far more energy raising toddlers in their 20s than I do raising them in my 40s. My mother used to lament that my father worked all the time but that's a laughable complaint now, as I remember his schedule and compare it to my own husband's (and mine!), who is out of town at least a few times a month and lives on the blackberry for work even while home.  It is just a different world now.

In reality though, my parents don't try to hold me up to their standards when they come visit (or even by email). My mother still sticks to some rules like a thank you note needs to be sent within a few days of receiving a gift though, and my father couldn't understand why I couldn't get the iMac up and running while the three year old was awake, so they haven't completely abandoned their old ways. But they largely look at me and my siblings (who are probably more Full-Assed than I am, admittedly) and tell us that we are doing a good job raising creative, imaginative, passionate, loving, good-natured and intelligent grandchildren for them, all things that they aspired to do with us. But I am my own sense of pressure most of the time, and like I said before, every few weeks I revert back to languishing about how organized I used to be.

So the struggle will probably always continue, in my own mind and my own journey. But today at least, half-assed feels damn good.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Choosing Health

Today's a cold wet day in Richmond, Virginia. I did my best and packed my lunch of broccoli, rye Wasa Crisp crackers, sardines and some cantaloupe. But I just wasn't feeling it... and I have the tell-tale-twitch in my throat which indicates that Sadie's cold has shockingly spread from her nose to my hand that holds the Kleenex for her to blow her nose. So I went to Wendy's instead, for the first time in the month that I have been working here. I got a kid's meal which was pretty good (I insist on no-HFCS ketchup at home and had forgotten how good plain old Heinz tastes).

But after lunch, I felt like I needed something sweet and unfortunately, turned to what has become a daily jaunt to the vending machines on the 2nd floor of my building for what has become a daily intake of a rice krispie treat.

So I slid in my dollar and pushed the buttons and the twistie thing twists and twists and low and behold, my rice krispie treat gets stuck in the last twist of the twistie thing, hanging precariously inside the machine. I look at it and for a moment I actually ask myself (inside my head) "Is this a sign that I am not supposed to eat this crap and start choosing health now??"  But before I really give myself any time to answer my own question, I lean into the machine with my right shoulder and give it a shove. Yes, 41 year old mother lawyer in a dress and heels decides to shoulder-butt the vending machine without barely a pause. And what happens?

The twistie thing actually gives about 5 new twists, so both my original paid for rice krispie treat comes out and it is followed by a SECOND ONE. Gratis!  A free treat. And then for about a split second, I ask myself (inside my head) "Is this a sign that I am supposed to have both?" And before I give myself time to answer my own question, I pick both up in my hands and hightail it back to my office.

And here I sit with the extra treat left. I ate the first one upon sitting down here, but the second one has given me pause.

I think I have been been on some sort of diet for the last 30 years or so. And I have always been trying to lose what dietitians now have termed "vanity pounds".  These are the pounds that squarely put you in the overweight category on the weight charts but fall short of the "obese" range. Sometimes I actually believe that I would rather be in the obese range so it would become more obvious that these need to be lost, instead of it just being a smart option. Kind of like when our nanny discovered she has Type 1 diabetes last year and she immediately tracked everything she ate and made smart choices, so she could use the right amount of insulin. For her it became a matter of life or death. But for me, it is really a matter of between a size 4 and a size 6 in most pairs of pants. Who cares what the scale says, I will tell myself, if I can still wear a size 4 in Talbot's pants. And if I can't, or if a 6 in another brand feels snug... I  just don't buy the pants. Yes, that is the mature thing to do... Instead of boycotting the food that makes me put on weight, I boycott the brand which don't provide size number that I like.

I have been super thin in the past. When Mark and I got engaged and then married, I was at my thinnest. But planning the wedding was a wonderfully happy source of anxiety, and Daisy and I lived together in a house from which I could ban all junk food and most carbs. While Mark and I used to eat out almost every meal of both weekend evenings, I was so regimented in my eating and my exercise during the week that it didn't matter. 

And then, I feel like we blinked and I was putting on weight either trying to get pregnant, or happily, when we were pregnant. And the weight just didn't come off easily after she was born. And now, she is 3 and 1/2 and I struggle to lose the last 10 pounds again and again and again. Less than 10% of my body weight, just a measly 10 pounds. I can lose about 5 of them and then, something in life happens, either good or bad. Either a dinner out to celebrate something wonderful, or a weekend at home where we relish in our family time and eat Trader Joe's pizza and gelato for dessert. Or stress.  A new job, a new nanny, a sick dog, a traveling husband, aging parents, tough questions posed by said 3 year old (last night's was "but what if you aren't my mom forever mommy, what if you switch?").  And before I know it, my scale is right back to where it was before I recommitted to try to lose the weight.

Exercising keeps me from being even more overweight (and from going clinically insane) but more exercise isn't really an option based on the time that I want to spend with Sadie at this stage (and given the fact that I had pregnancy insomnia, and she has been up pretty much at least once a night for the last 3.5 years, so by my calculations I still have about 9 more years where I am entitled to 8.5 hours of sleep before I catch up to where I was before conceiving her). I love to sleep actually. I love going to bed at 9:30 and sleeping until 7:30, which I think I did last night (interrupted once by said child standing by the side of my bed wanting a Kleenex and then, to sleep in the middle). But I also love thin crust  pizza that has lots of sodium in the crust. And I love gelato. And I love red wine.

Other than that though, we eat really healthy at home. We eat almost all organic, and minimal junk food. I eat plenty of veggies, fruits, and most of the time only whole grains. I get plenty of fatty acids and omega 3's and 6's (I must eat more than most... I don't have many friends bringing sardines in their lunch boxes).  When I had to get my cholesterol down this summer, I added 1/2 of a cup of toasted oats to my greek yougurt every morning. We don't keep cakes, brownies, or donuts around the house, so Sadie eats pretty well too.

But it is when I am at work, or when I am tired, or when I am lonely, overwhelmed, and when I fret... those are the times that I just yearn for the pleasant feeling that one gets from eating something decadent. And for that moment or two, all of the planning that I have done for the last few weeks, all of the books that I have read and magazine articles about healthy eating, all of the wonderful visits with my dietician... they go out the window. And my motivation dissolves.

I don't need two rice krispie treats. And I don't need to sit here and worry about things I can't fix, at least, not right here and right now. And I do need to realize that eating rice krispie treats are really not going to make me feel better or have any effect whatsoever on said things that I am worrying about trying to fix.

I don't know anything about raising boys, and honestly, I probably don't know much about raising girls either. But I have learned a thing about raising my girl and that is that when I tell her she is so beautiful right now and that I am the luckiest mom in the whole world because I get to be her mom, she believes me. She doesn't doubt her own beauty or her own worth. And while she loves ice cream and cupcakes, she will leave a bowl half finished if she isn't hungry anymore. I am pretty sure that she would eat the first rice krispie treat without much thinking out loud or in her head. But probably not the second one.  And I know that she wants nothing more than a mother to be with her and promise forever. And the liklihood of forever decreases maybe ever so slightly with each rice krispie treat. And I am more fun, I can climb more structures at the play ground, I can run faster races around the park, I can catch her and flip her and hold her longer if I am stronger and healthier myself.  And that's what I want too. I just want forever.

And until then, I will take being more strict with my diet until Christmas time. The treats of that season are much better than this darn machine made rice krispie treat anyway!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Conquering Fear

We took Sadie to the Virginia State Fair on Friday, and this was her favorite "ride". I am not even sure that we can call it a ride, as it didn't take a ticket, but instead was a $5 cash item which she insisted she do, even though her friend Bella was not ready to try it with her (or after her, even though Sadie said it was fun). This picture, and the actual jumping contraption, immediately reminded me of a Sex And The City episode when Carrie learns to to do some similar act of bungee jumping to overcome some sense of fear and start anew.

I am a fretter. While I have a tremendous sense of faith and confidence on so many areas of life, there are instances every year since law school that I really get lost in the act of fretting. This only happens over certain events though, and generally speaking, I don't really think I live with anxiety. But it happens, and it has gotten worse since Sadie was born. I pretty much spent my entire maternity leave fretting and researching Sadie's birthmark on her face (a hemangioma) while she sat in the swing or jumpee seat beside my computer. It is probably the only thing I regret in life is wasting so many of those days.

On the other hand, I am adventurous and spontaneous about so many facets of my life. And I am happy-go-lucky-come-what-may about so many other areas.  But the things that I choose to fret about, I really take fretting to the extreme. And it isn't events like taking the Bar or running a marathon that bring it on. Even in the high stress environment created by being a partner at a law firm, there are only a handful of times that work has ever stressed me out, and every one of them was really driven by events outside of work that were happening at the same time. Everyone who has seen the great disarray inside of my office (and currently, my house) would know that I am pretty far from being OCD. And my nickname in college was Millie, given to me by my sophomore  hall for my propensity to mill around instead of buckling down to study and complete assignments. Study breaks were really much more my thing.

But somehow between youth and now, between living-blind-to-consequences and being-a-grown-up, I developed a real ability to fret about things. Unfortunately, most of the time, they are things that I haven't much, or any ability, to really control.

And that's been the last few weeks for us. The Summer Of Change drew to a close and we made so many transitions, me to a new job and leaving partnership to begin at a new firm as a part-time of counsel, all of us losing our nanny for the last nearly 3 years and Sadie forming a new bond with a new sitter who would be with her during the afternoons since Sadie would be in preschool 5 mornings a week. September was earmarked for transition, and I thought that we would be all settled in by October to experience our favorite three months of the year and all the holidays that they contain.

But Daisy has been stricken with repeated urinary tract infections, so that she will finish a course of antibiotics for one week only to display the tell tale signs of an infection the next weekend, and Mark again was a the emergency vet with her last night for three hours and nearly $700 later as they checked for what the doctors believe might be something as serious as cancer. Sadie has the first of many coughs and colds. And along with this wonderful phase of talking in depth about everything under the sun and really understanding concepts, she asks the most troubling questions about why do people leave, why do things die, why do people get mad, and does so-and-so still love her (much of the time, it is me she is asking about). These things are keeping me up at night, as I lay there and wonder if we have scarred her by all of these changes, are we making the right decisions for her and for us, and will I regret them one day. And while I spent the summer really targeting my cholesterol and getting that number down after a physical in June, other numbers are creeping up and I have realized that even with my daily exercise (well ok, most days), I feel old, and if it isn't one ailment that shows up, its a freaking other one. It is driving me crazy.

Last Wednesday I spent the morning volunteering in Sadie's class, and it was the best day that I have had in months. But I had to laugh when Mark pointed out that of course it was fun, the teachers did all the work preparing the class for me and all I had to do was waltz in as the volunteer and sit down to a class full of behaving children while I read Corduroy.

And so, I continue to fret. I tell myself to worry about the things that I can actually change and not those that I can't, and instead of just worrying, to write down steps of things I can do to change them, and then act. But its hard. I saw this picture and I wished that getting over this difficult phase was as easy as attaching myself to this contraption and then jumping with all my might for 10 minutes like Sadie did. But in reality, that hasn't stopped her questioning, and it would likely not stop mine either.