Parenting

On being the magic maker

This Christmas, for whatever reason, I’ve been putting extra pressure on myself to make the season truly magical for my children. Maybe it’s because they’re getting older. Maybe it’s because we’re going on vacation right before Christmas and there will be fewer presents under the tree. Maybe it’s because I finished my clinical a month ago and now I have an extra six hours a week to fill. I don’t know. But I have been doing some crazy, stupid stuff, all in the name of making this the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER for them. For example:

1. We have five advent calendars.
Not one, not two, but FIVE. NO ONE NEEDS FIVE ADVENT CALENDARS. Not even my Christmas-present deprived children. They each have the traditional chocolate one. Then there’s one we hang on the wall that has activities, candy, or small presents for each day. Then there was a Tsum Tsum one that was on sale at Target and who can resist the tiny Tsums? Not me; and definitely not my children. Finally, we have a set of Advent ornaments that I filled with candy and hung all over the tree. Kind of like the Elf, you have to find a new ornament every day. Don’t get me wrong, my children LOVE all these calendars and it makes waking up in the morning so much more exciting when you know you’re going to get to eat a bunch of chocolate for breakfast. But I have to admit I went a bit overboard. It’s like Sophie’s choice though—for next year, which would I eliminate?

2. I offered to host two Christmas parties, two weekends in a row.
HOW STUPID AM I? I love the holidays and I love hosting parties and I feel like Christmas is the perfect time to do it. I get nervous about inviting people to my house—what if they don’t come? But at Christmas, I’m not the reason to come over. CHRISTMAS is the reason to come over. Christmas cookies, Christmas music, Christmas presents, Christmas wine. COME TO MY HOUSE AND I WILL MAKE ALL OF YOUR CHRISTMAS PARTY DREAMS COME TRUE. Seriously. But while I’m getting better with my whole depression/stress/anxiety thing, hosting is still a little bit nerve-wracking for me, as I found out last night when Chris and I tried to assemble 11 tiny graham cracker gingerbread houses at 9 o’clock at night LIKE THE TOTAL CHRISTMAS PARTY AMATEURS WE ARE.

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3. I planned a vacation the week before Christmas.
Do you know what happens when you’re going out of town for a week right before Christmas? You have to get all your shit done EARLY. I was done shopping by December 1st. Done wrapping by the 9th. My cards went out the week after Thanksgiving. Our tree was up the week before. We actually have outside lights on our bushes that I didn’t have to nag Chris to put up. I’m not bragging here, I’m saying the holiday rush came a bit early to the Smith house, and now that it’s over I have to spend this week packing for our first family vacation to the Happiest Place on Earth. Then when I get back I’m hosting Christmas dinner. WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF WHY?

It is all worth it, though (something I need to remember when I’m frantically running from grocery store to grocery store looking for milk chocolate stars). Sam is super-into our Elf, Peppermint, and if he wakes up before CJ, he waits so they can go down together and find him. Then he has to tell me where Peppermint is hiding, then bring me into whatever room to show me, just to make sure. CJ is old enough now that he remembers a lot of our little traditions, whether it’s asking me to bake a certain kind of cookie or checking on whether we’ll have ham again for Christmas dinner this year. I get such joy out of seeing their joy; I love making them happy. I love bringing the Christmas magic to them, making this season as special as I can. When they grow up, I hope they can look back on our Decembers with fond memories, and a true love for the magic of the Christmas season. And I hope that some day between now and then, I’ll find a way to be a little more relaxed this time of year.

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Eating

Self-sabotage

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So my weight has plateaued. I’ve been playing with about three pounds lately, losing them, gaining them back, and losing them again. These three pounds started as my nemesis, but are now a comfort. I’m so used to having them around, the number on the scale rarely shocks me anymore. If it’s excessively high, then yes, I’m shocked into clean eating and tracking like you wouldn’t believe. But when I settle back into that three-pound range, I feel fine again. Life is good. The three pounds are here to stay.

But life maybe isn’t so good. Maybe I started this program to reach a goal, and settling for a weight 15 lbs above that goal is exactly that: settling. Has my body just reached a weight it’s comfortable with? Or is it all in my mind?

I talked with a friend about this lately, a friend who’s also trying to lose weight, and we narrowed down the reasons for my stall to two things: failure and money. Both of these are rooted in that emotion which pretty much drives every part of my life: fear. If I reach my goal but I can’t maintain it, then I’m a failure. I’ve failed another diet, failed Weight Watchers yet again. I’ve failed to live up to the goal I’ve set for myself, the ideal that women in this country strive toward. I’m a failure.

And money. Yes, I’m shelling out $20/month to access Weight Watchers’ points calculator and a host of other online tools, but what about the money I’ll need to buy myself a whole new wardrobe? I’ve lost one pants size so far. Which means that most of my larger pants still fit, albeit loosely, and the smaller ones I kept around “just in case” fit perfectly. If I lose another 15 lbs I’ll have met my goal, but that will also mean I’ve lost another pants size, and then my smaller jeans will be too big and I won’t have any fallbacks. If one of the major goals of weight loss is to have a body that looks good, that means I have to dress it in a way that’s flattering. Which means I’ll have to buy clothes that fit. And a wardrobe overhaul is just not something we can afford right now.

Both of these issues are a symptom of a bigger one: fear. No one wants to be a failure, especially someone who looks so eagerly to others for approval. And yes, I don’t have the money to buy a completely new wardrobe all at once, but I bet I could get a few new pieces and fudge the rest until I do. I’m just scared of what life will look like then. Will I still have to track everything I eat, or will I instinctively know what not to put in my mouth? Will I still weigh myself every day? Will this truly be a lifestyle change, or was it another fad diet that I was just trying out for a few months? What happens when all of this is over?

Last night I sat in bed and cried to Chris that I just want to eat like a normal person again. I just want to enjoy fall. I want to bake pumpkin muffins and buy Starbucks lattes and snuggle under blankets and watch TV. I don’t want to worry about what having two muffins instead of one will do to my points. I don’t want to worry about the amount of sugar in a Pumpkin Spice Latte. And I especially don’t want to worry about trying to get 10,000 steps in when it’s freezing and dark and drizzly outside, like it is today.

I cried and I cried, I let it all out, and then I woke up today and went back to counting points. I went back to scrambled eggs and sausage for breakfast, a Mason jar salad for lunch, almonds for snack. Bunless turkey burgers for dinner and berries and cream for dessert and people if I’m honest, all the fun has been sucked out of eating. Where are the tender muffins, the spoonful of cookie dough you sneak before putting the trays in the oven, the scone at your favorite coffee shop? Where are the chips you mindlessly eat on the couch, the bedtime bowl of ice cream, the gourmet donuts from the donut truck? Food is life to me. And food is such a big part of my life, especially with Weight Watchers, when I’m tracking everything so closely. And yes I have treat meals and yes I go out to eat occasionally but my day-to-day menu is so unfulfilling I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this. So I’m asking myself these questions: (1) Why did I want to lose weight in the first place? And (2) Could I be happy being the weight I am now for the rest of my life? I feel like this plateau, after lasting so long, is no longer only physical, but mental too. There’s got to be a reason I keep doing this to myself. A reason I keep gaining back those three pounds. If I could only put my finger on it, maybe I could finally move on.

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Parenting

Putting family first

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I completely messed up our dinner plans last night (so really what I’m saying is I didn’t make dinner) because I let a meeting with a friend run long. We ended up ordering pizza but tempers were a little high in our house and it got me thinking. Now that I’m home all the time, I have to learn how to put my family before my other relationships. In my head I believe I do that, but in practice, I fall short. I am such a one-on-one person. I love going for coffee with a friend, or out to dinner with my husband, because I get to look them in the face and really hear what they’re saying. They talk, I talk, we connect, and it is SO fulfilling to me. One-on-one time has always been important to me. It’s just how I’m wired.

So, as I’m slowly learning, there is no more one-on-one when you have kids. There are those magical little pockets of time when we have a babysitter or my husband takes pity on me and lets me go to Target by myself, but mostly the kids are with me. And that should be OK, right? I have kids, my friends have kids, we can hang out together no problem. But it doesn’t always work out that way for me.

Last summer I was at the park feeding the kids lunch when another mom I kind of knew came up to us and started talking. I gave my attention to her completely and we were having a good talk. Until Sam took a bite out of the peanut butter sandwich I had pulled out for CJ. The other mom paused mid-sentence and said, “Oh my gosh, your baby just ate that peanut butter sandwich.” Sam was about ten months old. I looked down at the dinosaur-shaped sandwich I had in my hand and saw it was missing a head. “Oh no!” I exclaimed. “He’s never had peanut butter, I don’t know if he’s allergic!”

“He’s probably fine,” she said reassuringly. “If he’s around it at home and hasn’t had a reaction to it yet, he probably won’t now.” She was right of course, and he was fine, but it shouldn’t have happened at all. Wouldn’t have, if I’d just been paying attention to my kid.

Now that Sam is almost two, I like to say that he’s “at a difficult age.” It’s my favorite excuse these days, and most people go with it, agreeing with me that he’s entering his terrible twos. And I’m not that strict with him. Being home with him, I mostly let him do what he wants—if I didn’t I would spend all day telling him no and trying to put him in time out. But I’m learning I need to tighten the reins a bit.

Recently I was hanging out with a friend and our kids. After we got coffee we walked to this grassy area nearby, surrounded by a kind of turnabout for cars. I let Sam and CJ run around, which was going great until Sam got a little too close to the street. I put my coffee down and ran toward him, but not before a policeman who’d been driving around the circle stopped his car, got out, and said, “Ma’am, is this your kid?”

“Yes,” I replied tentatively. Could I get a ticket for choosing to enjoy coffee with a friend over helicopter parenting my kid?

“Well you need to watch him. He almost ran out into the street.”

“Yes, I’m so sorry,” I said. The policeman nodded at me and got back in his car. I scooped Sam up and trudged back toward my friend, more embarrassed than I’d been in a long time.

Ugh, it was awful. So awful that it’s taken me weeks to admit to it on this blog. That someone else, someone in a position of authority, would think I’m not a good mother? One of my worst SAHM days of all time.

I need to work harder to find a balance in relationships between my friends and my family. Family will always come first, yes, but I yearn for that connection with good friends too. I was so used to having uninterrupted time with friends when I worked full-time. It’s something I’m going to have to give a little on; I know that now. Because when I don’t put my kids first, no matter what the situation, one of us always loses.

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