Eating

On giving myself a break

I’m guessing it was pretty clear from my previous posts that I needed to take a break from Weight Watchers. A break from counting points, a break from healthy eating, a break from passing over the pastry counter at the grocery store, the coffee shop—even the donut truck at the farmer’s market. The deprivation had built up in me to the point that I seemingly only had two choices: binge eat everything in sight or give myself a few weeks off to enjoy the foods I was so desperately craving. I chose the latter. I stopped tracking points. I stopped weighing myself every day. I ordered that blueberry scone at Starbucks, along with my first (full-fat) peppermint mocha of the season. I bought a (small) cake and cut myself a slice for dessert multiple evenings in a row. I made cookie dough and we all sat on the couch and ate spoonfuls out of the big silver mixing bowl, not giving a thought as to whether we’d save any to bake in the oven. It was wonderful. It was just like old times. I was enjoying myself, and the food.

I didn’t completely shirk my healthy habits, though. I still had a protein shake for breakfast, a big salad for lunch, low carb snacks and (mostly) healthy dinners. What I was able to do with my newfound freedom, however, was eat a roll with my salad. Or eat the leftover pizza in the fridge without feeling guilty. I still shopped the perimeter of the grocery store, but I threw in some Christmas candy and Chex Mix for good measure. I drank a glass of wine, and I went out to eat and had a margarita. It was divine. It was exactly what I’d been missing, exactly what I needed.

I tried a couple other things as well. I researched low-carb, reading a few Atkins books and Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It. I finally incorporated eggs into my diet and now I eat them at least three times a week. I started eating full-fat foods again, like butter, coconut oil, salad dressing, and cheese, and recognized that Gina’s right when she says those things are more filling, so you can eat less of them and still feel satisfied. I completely failed my DietBet, and realized that type of accountability group just doesn’t work for me. But the biggest thing I understood about myself over these past few weeks is that when I feel like I need a break from the confines of Weight Watchers, it’s okay to take one. It really is OK.

I’m planning to get back on track today, and to stay on track for as long as I can. I’ve prepped healthy breakfasts and desserts, my menu plan has been filled out, the fridge is stocked. Last week when I was feeling particularly low, I chatted online with a Weight Watchers coach and she encouraged me by saying, “Every day you track is a day you want to lose weight.” This is so true for me. During these weeks off, I haven’t tracked. And that’s because I truly didn’t care if I was gaining. I wanted to enjoy eating again, and that meant not logging every stray Oreo that made its way into my mouth. But that also meant I was gaining weight.

Another gem I came across recently: “You are no busier than a fit person.” I have not been working out regularly lately, making excuses to spend my scheduled time at the gym watching Sam’s gymnastics class instead of sweating it out on the elliptical. There are other reasons for that—we’re in a period of transition at home, with lots of changes that affect our day-to-day schedules, and I have needed the extra time to mentally regroup. But I’ve been using the excuse that I’m too busy to work out, and I’m not. I know I’m not. I just choose to use my free time in ways that don’t include exercise. And that could change too.

What I’m trying to say is, I had a great break, but I think it’s time it ended. I enjoyed not having to limit myself, but part of me misses tracking and the structure and organization it lends to my meals. Plus, I feel like there’s some power in it. When I’m tracking, I feel more of a sense of control over what I eat, and am more motivated to eat within my points. I don’t always feel this way, but a lot of the time, it really helps. Now that I’ve been through this, I’ve learned I’m someone who not only needs treats, but needs breaks, and maybe not for just a day, but for a whole week. And if I can incorporate that self-knowledge into my weight loss journey, I think I can be that much more successful.

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Parenting

Because you’re worth it

I have been working days for almost two weeks now and all I can think is, why didn’t we do this sooner? I guess the main reason was money—after having two kids in daycare full-time, the opportunity for me to stay home and spend ZERO DOLLARS on childcare was very appealing. I used to look at couples our age who were going on vacation or buying a new car and I’d ask Chris, “How can they afford that?” And he would tell me, “Because they don’t have kids.” I cringe to think about how much money we spent back then, and how strapped we still were. We are in a better place now financially, but hiring someone to watch the kids, even for two days, meant realigning our budget goals. And it also meant that I had to give myself permission to spend money on something just for me. A choice that in the long run, could make me really happy and could immensely benefit my mental health, but a choice with a cost nonetheless.

When I stay home, I don’t do much for myself during the day. I do things for the house, like clean and pay bills, I do things for the kids, like take them to the park or the library, and I do things for all of us, like cook. I don’t sit down and watch TV (because every time I try, I’m surely interrupted by a tiny voice with a well-meaning request). I don’t get my book out to read, again, because I can’t get into it the way I’d like when there are two small people who need my attention. I occasionally can shower, but it’s one of those fast ones where I don’t wash my hair or shave my legs. So the evenings, after the kids are in bed, have become my sacred time. Time I can watch an hour-length TV show without interruptions, time I can indulge in that heavenly piece of chocolate and not share, time I can stretch out on the couch without worrying I’ll have to get up and fetch someone a snack in a few minutes.

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Evenings are also about family dinner, and I’m grateful I can be home and can cook for my family every night. We have been using the time between dinner and bed alternately for chores and game night, which has turned into a huge hit now that the kids are older. But I’m only just now realizing how important my me time is. Working three evenings a week meant I only got four to myself, and usually at least one of those nights I would be too tired to enjoy it and would go to bed early. I’m an introvert (an ISFJ if you’re into that sort of thing), and I’m realizing that (1) I need down time to relax and recharge and (2) it’s OK that I take that needed downtime to relax and recharge. Where before I would feel guilty about it, I now understand that it’s a necessary thing for me, and have let go of the guilt (well, most of it).

I wanted to share this because if you’re thinking of making a change to your schedule that will come at a cost but will help your mental outlook immensely, do it. I’m still sort of in awe of how much better I feel now that I work during the day. And I’m so thankful I made the decision to go for it.

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Parenting

Monday Musings

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I GOT NOTHING
I have nothing real to write about today. I have a lot of shoulds and “to post” ideas for this blog, but none of them have come to fruition yet. And also, I can’t figure out how to get my phone to download its pictures to my computer. I’m sure there’s a not difficult solution but frankly it’s too much for me to handle on this dreary Monday morning. Why are Monday mornings so hard? I DON’T EVEN HAVE A JOB TO GET UP AND GO TO. I don’t get it. I’m living the life, right? Staying home with the kids, in my pajamas til noon…and yet. And yet.

IRL = SURREAL
This weekend I met my long-time Internet friend, Eunice, in person. Pretty freaking unbelievable. She lives in Colorado and made the trip to the Great Middle West because she is amazing, gorgeous, and infinitely patient. It was incredible to be sitting at the dinner table with her, swapping stories about our kids and our daily lives. She reminded me that I do have friends, and good ones, even if their houses are a plane ride away.

SCHOOL’S OUT
I finished my summer school courses on Friday and boy does it feel good to be done. If I never see another pearly gray eardrum I’ll be happy. I took an assessment course, and while I learned a lot, I want to TEACH, not assess and diagnose. If I’m truly being honest, the class was a challenge for me.

My 7-year-old is going through the same thing right now. He had soccer camp last week, and was so frustrated that he didn’t instinctively know how to play the new games that were introduced, or how to do an L-kick. I have to admit, when it comes to sports, I always hoped I would discover I had a secret talent—that I’d be able to hit the bull’s-eye on the first try or kick the ball with such force there was no chance of the goalie saving it. But I never did. The only sport I ever excelled at was swimming, and my swimming career ended, predictably, in high school.

Anyway, I told CJ he was brave and strong and that basically if he didn’t know something, he had to suck it up and ask. Which is what I struggled with this semester. Communication in online classes can sometimes be tricky. Also, do you know how many things can actually go wrong with the human body? That 40% of adult office visits are for dizziness of an unknown cause? Or how many types of Juvenile Arthritis there are? I think it’s something like 12. Ridiculous. Bottom line, I learned a lot—most memorably that the clinical life isn’t for me.

IS IT FALL YET?
My birthday is this week, and with my birthday comes the End of Summer. I’ve always felt the End of Summer starts on Fourth of July, but for me, it drives its point home on July 31st. To wake up the next morning and not only have to wait another 364 days until my next birthday, but also have it be August, the month school starts, was the complete pits when I was a kid. Now though, I’m more than ready to get back into the school year routine. Not to mention pumpkin spice coffee, cooler weather, and brown leaves on the sidewalk, crunching under my feet.

What’s been going on with you this week?

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Everything Else

Please don’t take me to Funkytown

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The thing with my depression is that I never know when I’m going to start feeling down. Because of my (wonderful, life-saving) medication, I generally feel pretty good. I can go to the grocery store and not bat an eye, I can empty the dishwasher without feeling overwhelmed, and I can have dinner waiting for my husband when he gets home from work. To the untrained eye, I have it together. About 80% of the time, I act like a normal person, and it’s pretty great.

The other 20% though. It’s different. My college roommate and I call them “funks,” as in, what happens when one day, out of the blue, it takes all the strength you have just to get out of bed. Dishes go unwashed (and so do I). I stay home and in bed as much as possible. We get take-out for dinner. And my daily routine is put on pause until I start to feel normal again.

It sucks, because just last week I was feeling pretty proud of myself for creating a kitchen cleaning routine that was really working for me. Sam is a slow eater, and I discovered a few extended pockets of time during breakfast and lunch when I could wash dishes, wipe down counters, and do some general tidying. This was great because after cooking and dinner prep, the last thing I want to do in the evening is clean up. Knowing I had the time and energy to do it the next day was a game changer for me. No more guilt over going to bed with a dirty kitchen. No more nagging my husband to do the dishes since I made the dinner, looked after the kids, picked up the playroom, and completed a litany of other mundane chores throughout my day at home.

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Monday marked the start of my Spring Break at school and I took that to mean I had license to do absolutely nothing this week. I thought this attitude of freedom would be refreshing, but instead, it became the start of a funk. I didn’t have to get out of bed, so I decided I didn’t want to. The dishes piled up on the counter, and the TV was on constantly. I began spending more time online, pinning things to Pinterest and piling things into my Amazon cart. I knew I was in a funk, but I didn’t know how to stop it, or even if I wanted to.

Finally today, I feel better. The funk has passed, or at least, the worst of it is over. My outlook is brighter and I’m even contemplating taking both kids to the grocery store with me this afternoon (I said contemplating—in all honesty, I probably won’t). I just hate that life seems to stop when these funks come on. I hate that I revert to my previous self, someone who couldn’t handle the day-to-day pressures of being a stay-at-home-mom. Worst of all, I hate that when I’m in the throes of a funk, when I feel worthless and hopeless and useless and so, so alone, I still can’t pull myself out of it, no matter how hard I try. I just have to wait for it to go away on its own, and sometimes late at night, when I toss and turn in search of the blissful oblivion sleep brings, I worry the wait will never end.

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Parenting

Top 10 reasons I take a nap every day

Oh, Internet, it’s hard to admit this to you, but after all this time, I’m going to come clean: I take a nap every day. You may be jealous, even a little outraged, but I know you’re not surprised. Napping works for me. Here’s why.

  1. Because I can. I stay home with Sam during the day, and he takes a nap after lunch for about an hour and a half, before we have to go pick up CJ at school. If he’s napping, that means as his caregiver, technically, I’m off the hook. So I nap too.
  2. Because everyone always says, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” Has conventional wisdom taught us nothing? I started sleeping when Sam was sleeping VERY early on in his babyhood. I see no reason why I shouldn’t continue that practice now, when he’s two-and-a-half.
  3. Because I’m tired. Chalk it up to motherhood in general, to insomnia, to the fact that I’m not a morning person—no matter what I’m always tired. A nap always sounds good to me. As do trillions of cups of coffee each morning.
  4. Because I need a break. I like how my afternoon nap breaks up the day. I usually use the morning for homework or household tasks. Then I eat lunch, take my nap, and go out to get CJ and run a few errands if I need to. The nap provides a natural break in my day and gets me geared up to tackle afternoon.
  5. Because I wake up feeling so much better about life. Depending on how tired I am, a nap can be a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes I wake up from naps just wanting more sleep. But more often than not, I wake up on my own (meaning, before my two-year-old alarm clock does) and feel rested and ready to go.
  6. Because if I don’t, I’m a complete monster. Talk about irritability. If I haven’t had my nap that day, when four o’clock comes around, get out of my way. No kids fighting, no husband in the kitchen when I’m trying to make dinner, and you can bet if you’re whining you will be assigned a chore. When I’m tired I become irritable, and my family feels the effects of this the most.
  7. Because a mid-afternoon nap eliminates the need for a late-night cup of coffee. On days I work, I spend all day with my kids and then leave when Chris comes home. I generally don’t get back until midnight. I have enough trouble with sleep as it is, so I try not to have coffee after 2 pm. If I do, you know it was a rough day and I’m desperate.
  8. Because it beats cleaning. Sure, I could be using Sam’s naptime to be productive, but why? I can clean when he’s awake, and he likes to follow me around and put clothes in the washing machine and use the Swiffer to dust the carpets. Cleaning is always better with a friend.
  9. Because science said I could. I’ve read more than a few articles recently on the benefits of napping, which include many of the reasons I’ve listed here. One study showed that after a nap, people feel refreshed and their minds are more ready to tackle difficult problems. Did anyone see The Internship? Google has nap pods for a reason.
  10. Because sometimes knowing I can take a nap later is the only reason I get out of bed in the morning. Being a mother is hard. Period. More often than not when I wake up I find myself wishing it was the weekend, when Chris takes over the nitty-gritty of parenting and I get to catch up on a little sleep. Sometimes on weekday mornings the thought of packing yet another lunch or pouring yet another bowl of cereal that may or may not get eaten is too much for me, and I just want to stay in bed. I can’t do that, but I can look forward to the nap I’ll get later that day.
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Parenting

Coming home

It’s always hard to come back to blogging after being away from it for so long. I don’t know what happened last November. Well, I do know what happened, I’m just not sure why I stopped writing. Maybe I couldn’t handle it anymore? Maybe it was all becoming too much?

I wrote here last year about my depression. In November, it basically came to a head. Nothing drastic, but just the constant, crushing feeling of worthlessness. Purposelessness. Hopelessness. Feelings of uselessness, questioning why I’m here and what I’m doing with my life. My college roommate said in her toast at my wedding that if I’m upset, Chris should just give me a little time to be on my own, and eventually I’ll come back to him, better than I was. Last fall, I needed that time on my own, every day, for days on end. And I could get it, usually. Sam was still taking two naps, and I was taking them with him. We’d pick up CJ from school, come home, and camp out on the couch until Chris got home from work, and then he and I would haggle over what to do about dinner. Of course I had nothing prepared. Of course the house was a constant mess. I felt like being a stay-at-home mom was what I’d always wanted to be, but it had been six months, and WHY WASN’T I MAKING IT WORK? It seemed like such an easy job, from the outside. From my office, where I sat for 40 hours (or more) a week, staring at my computer, staying at home seemed like the right answer, the best answer. I couldn’t wait to get up and leisurely make coffee, spend the day in my pajamas, cuddle with my baby and catch up on my DVR’d shows while we hung out at home. But it was nothing like that. Nothing. And I couldn’t get a grip on all the new responsibilities I now had, and I felt like I was failing.

So I went inside myself for a while. I hunkered down in bed when I could. I limped downstairs to the couch when I couldn’t. The kids were always fed, they always seemed happy to entertain themselves with the toys in the playroom. But when Daddy would come home there was a shift in the atmosphere, almost a sigh of relief from the three of us. Daddy would take care of us. Daddy would help. Daddy would pick up the pieces of yet another useless, unproductive day.

I talked a little bit before about going to see a doctor and getting a new depression medicine, which I did. And it is helping me incredibly. I am no longer confined to horizontal surfaces. I make breakfast for the kids each day, and yes it’s cereal but at least we sit down and eat it together. I make lunch for CJ and coffee for me and sometimes even a to-go cup for Chris on his way out the door. The biggest thing is that now I can grocery shop without stress. For whatever reason, when I’m depressed, I get hung up on grocery shopping. Why can’t I go grocery shopping like everyone else? Why is it so hard for me? I ask myself over and over, from the comfort of the pillow fortress I’ve created for myself in my bed. But it’s not just the shopping—it’s the meal planning, the ingredient buying, the organization of the list by sections in the store. If I forget something after a two-hour trip (during which I usually go to two separate stores), I am devastated. As if going back to the store tomorrow is the worst thing in the world, worse than death, worse than taxes, worse than eating the last Milano and realizing you don’t have another bag.

But now I can grocery shop. I plan meals for two weeks and I buy the stuff for the meals and I make at least one extra trip to the store each week and I get more bananas, lettuce, or this week, more salt (who runs out of salt? Who am I?). And that makes me feel accomplished, and proud. And then I cook the dinners that I planned and my husband comes home and eats them with his family and I feel proud again, like I provided for them and did my share of the work, my share as a SAHM.

Sometimes, I even do the dishes.

My list of goals for being home is long. I would love to get myself on some sort of cleaning schedule and not rush around randomly spot cleaning the house when I have a guest coming over (which this week, resulted in the urine-stained potty seat being left out in the guest bathroom). I would love to plan more consistent outings with the kids. I would love to get up 15 minutes earlier and shower every day. I would love to get dressed before noon.

But for now, I grocery shop. And from today on, I blog. I miss this; it’s like a piece of myself that’s been dormant all this time. And I know that writing is therapeutic for me. So I’m back. I’m going to try it again.

I’m home.

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