Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I am just so loving fall! I know, this is uncharacteristically chipper of me, but before you think I've upped my Prozac dosage to the point that rainbows are shooting out of some of my major orafices, let me tell you what I love about fall.

I love the boring routines.

I looked forward to summer like you wouldn't believe. Well, you would believe it if you lived through the same hellish Chicago winter that I did this past year. When summer came, I was determined to seize every last moment of it, and I believe I did. We swam, we took trips, we ate picnics in the park. It was awesome. But by the end of summer, I actually began to grow weary of the lazy "what the hell should we do today?" feeling I had every moment when I woke up.

I think I did a pretty good job of scheduling fall activities in just the right amount. As I mentioned previously, I kind of over-scheduled us in the early part of the summer, and it felt a little stressful. On the other hand, I also hated having nothing scheduled at the end of the summer. It's a very hard balance to achieve.

But I think the fall schedule is going well. I try to work in some time at the gym every single day, which actually works wonders in terms of giving me a break from The Boy and his Terrible Two-ness. I think the gym daycare is good because, besides the obvious benefits of being exposed to other children and different toys, The Boy is forced to entertain himself there, which is a skill that he somehow lost over the summer. (I don't know if it was the constant entertainment in the summer, or having so many people around to play with him during our travels.)

As for the obligatory update on my workout pursuits, I think things are overall going well. Yoga has been better since that first awful week. For some reason my first week attendance was very low, and everybody who went seemed like a yoga master. But then in subsequent weeks, the attendance has almost doubled since that first time, and some of the people are struggling just as much as I am. The husband and I are continuing to do the weight-lifting class on Saturdays, and this week we also added in the Monday session. Which means on Monday, I actually became one of those annoying people who goes to the gym twice in one day. Don't worry, though, I have not done that since. I think Monday is going to be my only doubling-up day. It's very exhausting to go twice, especially when you aren't eating very much, and also, who the hell wants to go through the hassles of getting to the gym, getting dressed, doing the daycare drop-off, etc. two times in one day?

I've been trying to replace eating with stuff like reading and TV. Mostly reading, because some of my favorite TV shows and I are not on good terms. Like The Office. I just don't like the Jim and Pam pregnancy storyline, though I'm not sure why. Maybe because it's a show about an office, not some family sitcom. Or maybe because I feel like the writers of The Office played the baby card too quickly. And also I'm just sick of Michael's stupidity. Plus when I realized Wisteria Lane is adding a new resident this year with (gasp!) a mysterious secret past, I decided to cut out Desperate Housewives as well. I'm still going to hang in with Grey's Anatomy and 30 Rock, plus I have added Glee. And I have Mad Men while that season is still going.

Book updates: I just finished the two existing books in the Hunger Games series for young adults. Loved. They're totally not something I would normally read, but I'm trying to branch out. Now I have a few other books on hold at the library, and in the meantime I checked out two books today. One is The Drunkard's Walk, which is a non-fiction book about the concept of randomness. I was hoping for a Freakonomics kind of thing, but so far it's a little more academic. But some of the stuff reminds me of the fun experiments I used to learn about in my psychology major days, so at least I feel like I'm exercising my brain a little by reading it. I also checked out Middlesex, which is a bestseller I happened to miss. ("Bestsellers you happened to miss" being a major category of books you can get at the library.) I hear it is really good. I haven't started it yet.

Well, I think The Boy has watched enough consecutive episodes of Dora that I should maybe get off the Internet and give him a little bit of attention. (In my defense, we just had the carpets cleaned this morning, and the floor is too wet for playing.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

Wow, I'm already heading into once-a-week blogging territory. If that.

Here is what I've learned in the past week: No matter what the exercise class, I will be the person in the class who is singled out for doing the exercise wrong. If you see the teacher getting up and heading toward the students, you just know she is heading toward me. It ranges from a gentle little nudge to correct my position, all the way to, "No, Shannon, drop the weight and practice your form! I don't want to see you with that weight for the rest of class! Or next week either!" Even in this class where I was younger than everybody else by at least 50 years, I was still the one doing it wrong.

One time I took a class about teaching dance to elementary students. The guy teaching the class had a rule that you praise individually, but correct as a group. So you would say, "Great job, Jane!" But if you saw one person doing the wrong thing, you might say, "Now, I see some people who need to bend their knees," even though it was really only one person (usually me) doing it wrong. I appreciate the exercise teachers who use this system.

Another thing I have decided is, I'm burned out on trying new things. I have heard that trying new things is good for building new brain synapses or something like that. I also think trying new things is essential when you have a fairly monotonous life, as most stay-at-home moms do. That's why I launched my campaign to do something I had never done before. But in the last two weeks, I have been the flower-arrangement student who doesn't know how to use a knife yet, the ice skater who can't stop, and the weight-lifter who has to drop the bar and practice her form. At some point in there I decided I needed to practice some activity that I was actually already good at.

What the hell am I good at, though? I'm sort of an amateur cook, but I at least got some praise for the baked goods I distributed to my friends this week. I'm better than average as a swimmer, or as my British friends at say, "quite good." But swimming is kind of boring.

When I think about it, one of the hardest things about not having a paying job is that there really is virtually no feedback on anything you do. I know Moxie says that you are the best parent for your child, but most of the time I feel like a big fat failure at that. It's pretty hard to rank your quality as a parent on any kind of objective scale. There are just too many variables, too many different value systems. I think I am good on providing enrichment for the child, but bad on discipline. I feel like I cave in too often, because sometimes after a day of battles over everything, I'm just too tired to fight anymore.

But on a happier note, I will leave you with my thought for the week:
I control my body. My body does not control me.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Sometimes I think it's easier to blog when things are going poorly than when things are going well. I've blogged ad nauseum about depression, griped like hell about the difficulties of parenthood. But lately things have been going relatively smoothly (knock on wood) and I feel like I have nothing to say. But here's a brief run-down of what's been going on with me.

I'm Trying to Step Up My Workouts
Now, back in the days when I didn't really work out (those days being defined as "the random pockets between various workout fads"), I would say, "I should work out more," just thinking exercise was something I could seamlessly slip into my life. Turns out, if you're going to take on some type of workout, you have to give up something else. Like energy.

When I first got back into swimming, it didn't occur to me that adding in 45 minutes of cardiovascular workouts per day would leave me dragging in other areas of my life. I guess it's because we have this image of a mom with boundless energy who works out every single day and then powers through the rest of her responsibilities without a single groan or yawn. After all, exercise is supposed to give you energy, right?

Well, somehow I've never been able to emerge from exercise feeling energized. Calmer, yes. Less stressed, yes, I think. But energized? No. Some days I work out in the morning and then count down the minutes until the boy's naptime so I can take a nap myself. After naptime we basically just get through the dinner and bedtime routines and I kind of crash in front of the TV. At the end of the day, I think about how the only thing I accomplished was working out and managing to keep my family alive for another day.

Anyway, since I've been swimming fairly religiously since about a year ago, you'd think I would have lost a whole bunch of weight through exercise alone. But, in fact, prior to Weight Watchers, I actually gained a whole bunch. And then even with Weight Watchers, the loss is slow-going. So when the new fall schedule at the gym started up again, and the gym daycare resumed its full hours, I decided it was time to amp up my workouts.

I thought maybe yoga would be good for me. Now, I have done yoga before, and in actuality I think yoga and I are a terrible match. I have a really hard time quieting my mind, which, yes, I know, is precisely why I should do yoga. Also I have a hard time getting into the spiritual aspect of yoga. While I completely respect those who follow the Hindu religion, it's unfamiliar to me and doesn't feel right in the context of exercise. And perhaps I'm very unenlightened, but I feel like in my life I need to keep spirituality and exercise separate.

Well, the good news was that the gym's yoga was pretty light on the spiritual side. The bad news is that it was the most ass-kicking core workout I have ever experienced. Seriously, I was dying in there. And I had the wrong clothes. Everyone else had these tight-fitting yoga clothes (and the bodies to look good in them), whereas I was wearing my free giveaway Ingalls hospital t-shirt, size XL. So it was all billowing around my head every time we did something that was upside-down, which was a lot.

Sore as I was from yoga, I kept up my swimming workouts, swimming 2000-2500 yards four times last week. Thursday night I went back to aquacize, which I really like. It's so much less boring than swimming, and I actually think if you try you can make it a fairly rigorous workout. The evening class, which is the one I go to, is a little more challenging than the daytime classes, so we workout with special water weights (basically just buoys shaped like dumbbells) and also these crazy giant rubber bands.

Saturday Bill and I decided to take the Strong(R) weight-lifting class. The brochure described at as "non-tricky" and "non-dancey," which I appreciated. But that didn't mean it was non-difficult. But it wasn't impossible, which is more than I can say for some exercise classes I have taken. In fact, I emerged from that class feeling an energy that I haven't felt in a long time. I also appreciated that it got us all out the door on a Saturday morning, so afterward we toodled around town as a family. We went to the bakery (oh, the irony, I know, but seriously I only had a Diet Pepsi) and to the farmer's market. I bought some apples. I'm going to make pie. (I know, more irony. But I'm giving them away. I swear. I put it in writing on the Internet, so there's no going back on it now.)

But I digress. Anyway, although I'm going to give yoga another chance, it wasn't exactly what I was looking for to meet my flexibility needs. So in a couple of hours I'm going to go do a swim and then take a class called Just Stretching. I'm hoping it's not Just Old People. There's another class I'm interested in called Spirit Qui Gong, which is an energy-producing workout of Chinese origin. I like how they hold that class outdoors somethings, which is fun for at least another month.

But I don't know if I'm going to have time for Spirit Qui Gong this week. Or Zumba, which I also want to try. I'm kind of running out of time, and tonight is my first ice skating class! How I'm going to stay up on ice with my horribly-sore muscles (from the weight class), I don't know.

And if I don't lose like 5 pounds this week at Weight Watchers ... well, I guess I'm just going to keep on trying.

I've Been Doing Some Other Stuff, Too
Since I last blogged, I have been on a few adventures.

I went to floral arrangement school. Now, floral arrangement has been an interest of mine for some time, and I've been looking for the right place to get some formal training. I finally found a place that offers one-day sessions for non-professionals, and spent a blissful day there on Sept. 5. Okay, actually it was also a very tiring day, because 8 hours is a long time to arrange flowers. And in some ways it was a humbling day, because I have a long way to go in terms of my floral knife tools. But we made some beautiful bouquets, and at the end of the day the teacher and I were friends. Well, friendly, at least. Also I'm all jazzed to go to the flower market (which is not open to the public, unlike the L.A. flower market, but I got a special in because I went to flower school) and make all kinds of flower arrangements. So far the only flowers I have "arranged" are the ones I bought at the grocery store yesterday.

We went to a carnival for Labor Day. It was dumb. I don't want to write about it.

Last week we had the opportunity to see a preview of the new show at the Shedd Aquarium, Fantasea. And it was a total WTF? See, the old show consisted of some dolphins doing tricks, and the trainers told us a little bit about dolphins, their training, and how to be a responsible environmental steward. Kind of dull and educational, but what do you want from an aquarium? Well, apparently when creating Fantasea, they decided to throw all education out the window and create some Disney-esque extravaganza consisting of a giant backdrop screen, weird creatures dressed in costumes reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil, and, for some reason, a falconer. And they did the stupid "let's pick a random kid out of the audience to be part of the show ... oh wait we had that kid planted all along." The only good thing was that the plant kid was sitting right next to Nathan, so he got to be on the jumbo-tron thing when they close-upped on the girl.

But the rest of the evening was great. The aquarium was relatively uncrowded, and they had ample free food. And why is it that Weight Watchers doesn't seem to apply when the food is free of charge?

This weekend I mostly just worked out, slept, and took care of household chores. I was just the picture of discipline yesterday: bathroom-cleaning, gym, laundry, grocery store, and more laundry. And I know this isn't interesting enough to warrant inclusion on a blog, but I got every shred of laundry in my laundry room put away and/or hung up. It had been about two weeks since I did that. Of course I promptly started a new load, so the excitement of laundry-doneness was fleeting.

I have declared this week "stay local" week. In an effort to seize those last few days of summer, I dragged my family all over Chicagoland. We traveled on trains and in the car. But the reality is that I live in a beautiful community with fun things to offer right here. So I am only allowing myself to go within a 10-mile radius, and really it's mostly only a 2-mile radius except when I have to go for the vehicle emissions test. (It's like Illinois' version of the smog check, except it's free here.)

Tomorrow the boy starts up his music classes again, which is something he's been counting down to forever. Seriously, we were in Hawaii and I mentioned the music classes to my mom, and right then and there Nathan thought we were heading to music class, and he began to cry when he realized we weren't. And every single day he wakes up and asks me if we are going to music class that day. I sure hope that class lives up to his expectations.

Off for more self-torture at the gym. Hope you are all having a beautiful fall!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

So let's see ...

On Sunday we took Nathan to this really cool train restaurant. And I was all prepared to try to come up with the most Weight Watchers-friendly meal this diner-type place could possibly serve. But then it occurred to me that there was no way I could really get something totally light, so in my skewed, hungry logic I decided I might as well go big or go home. So I got the grilled cheese on pretzel bread, which came with fries.

After that we went to a chocolate and candy factory. Unfortunately the factory tour was closed, so I consoled myself with the purchase of $14 worth of candy.

So Monday began my new life of discipline. I'm sick and tired of frittering away the day goofing around the Internet. I am stressed out by being late to everything. The boy is off his normal sleep schedule, and we're all staying up too late. Plus last week I didn't work out at all because the gym pool was closed, and I noticed I was getting stressed out by stupid little stuff.

Life of Discipline began yesterday. I got all my stupid morning chores (laundry, dishwasher) done the night before, so I was able to get the boy and myself out the door by 8:10 and into the gym when the daycare opened. And for once I actually finished working out and getting cleaned up in time to get the boy to his little nature class. We were more or less on time.

The boy threw a tantrum at the nature class because I wouldn't let him pick leaves off of plants. He was doing his usual screaming and hitting, and I was so embarrassed. It sucks in a class of 2-year-olds when yours is the only one acting like a 2-year-old. And yeah, yeah, I know, all those other kids must have their moments at some point.

Anyway, overall the nature class was a success. Next we went to the grocery store and got some things so the boy and I could cook together. The cooking was not so successful. The boy wanted to throw flour everywhere, and I don't handle that well. Like maybe I should say, "Oh, are you enjoying the textures of flour? It feels nice, doesn't it?" But instead I'm all, "Ohmygoshdidyoujustthrowthatonthefloor?!" And I got all stressed out, but somehow we made a pizza.

And then the boy refused to eat any of it. It drives me crazy how stressed out I get by that child. When he won't eat, and I'm fighting him to just have one bite, I just feel like such a huge failure. He is so stubborn. And then I have to step back and realize how stupid it is for a grown adult to get that upset over a toddler refusing to eat.

So I'm working on calming down. And sometimes I think the boy will back down with his fight when he realizes he isn't getting a rise out of me.

Okay, where was I?

Well, today was Day 2 of Life of Discipline. I wasn't as good today. I frittered around on the Internet too long and then didn't get to the gym on time. And then I didn't get to go in the hot tub like I had planned, because I had to get the boy to the haircut place. During the haircut he was much better behaved than he normally is during haircuts, but then afterward there was another tantrum because I didn't let him stay and play with the train table for longer than 10 minutes after the haircut. And then there was the screaming and the hitting. And I again felt like such a failure. He becomes like a little demon sometimes.

I was proud of the way I cooled down in the car, and I tried to have a little talk with the boy when he cooled down as well. We both moved on and then did a few more errands before going home to take naps.

I was too stressed out to sleep. After naptime I took the boy out and we did some finger painting. And I felt all Mother of the Year.

Anyway, that is a really boring summary of what has been going on with me. Basically I would say that I'm tired from getting back into working out, and stressed out from my new attempts at discipline. But I think both the working out and the discipline will pay off in the long run.