Monday, January 25, 2010

Science and Industry

I think I'm doing a little bit better than I was when I last posted. Wednesday was a rough day for me, and I told myself I was just going to have to try harder to keep the winter blues away. So Thursday morning I was contemplating how I could shake things up from our usual routine, when my adorable little monkey said, "Let's go to a museum."

I had been thinking about going to the Museum of Science and Industry for awhile, since it's free for the entire month of January. So we went. I was exhausted the whole time, but I kept it together and we stayed for five whole hours! Here's a picture:

Is he not the cutest? And anyway, I spent the whole time being one of those goody-goody moms who explains every scientific principle behind every single activity (well, the scientific principles I knew about), even though all Nathan wanted to do was roll trucks down ramps and stick balls in vacuum tubes.

And then that evening I went out for drinks with my friend, which I really needed to do.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This is where I wallow in it

Depression has set in. Because I am properly medicated, I can accept depression and plow through it, but it's still very unpleasant. I get stuck in that mode of not thinking any activity is going to be fun, and it's not like there's an unlimited list of possible indoor, toddler-friendly activities to start with.

Maybe I should bake something? No, then I'll just have to wash dishes.

Maybe I should take Nathan to the mall playground? No, I don't feel like dealing with the drive/stroller/chasing him around/disciplining him.

And forget about the stuff that was never pleasant anyway, like laundry and cleaning. Those things are now next to impossible. And I feel like Nathan is next to impossible, like I'm raising the worst-behaved child ever and I'm the worst mother ever.

Again, this is not a crisis because I'm taking my Vitamin P. As I always say, the right dosage of antidepressants won't make you happy, it will make you so you can take steps to make yourself happy. Which means you still have to do a lot of work to maintain your mental health. And while there's some pride to be taken from getting yourself there, it also means you have a big responsibility to not become complacent when it comes to your mental health.

And I am battling depression on every front. I go to the gym almost every day. I've gone back to swimming because I hear that repetitive actions can be very calming. I take time for myself. A lot of time for myself. Yesterday I got a mani/pedi in bright red to try to bring some color to my life. I'm always trying to bring color to my life. I wear bright colors. I buy cheap flower bouquets from the grocery store. I read magazines and books about baking and flowers and all that's happy and sunny.

I sit under the phototherapy lamp.

I take bubble baths.

I engage in retail therapy.

And yet, I'm exhausted. I feel like I'm slogging through the days, and some days I wonder how we're going to get through. And I know, that's just January in Chicago.

But even though I can explain it, that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Friday, January 15, 2010


You know how some people have those little sidebars on their blogs where they list what they are currently reading, watching, listening to, etc.? If I had one of those, I would never keep up with it. It would still say I was reading Twilight, which was like a year ago and which I am so over. (Side note: I saw New Moon conversation heart candies at Target. I don't even want to know what those say, nor do I want to know the person who would buy them.)

But I digress. My point is, I'm not going to get a sidebar that will constantly be outdated. But I thought I would share, just this once, what I'm currently doing with regards to entertainment media.

Currently Reading
Let me start by saying that I have been fully Kindle-ized. Love that thing, mostly because I can just hit a few buttons and own a whole new book in seconds, through the airwaves, on an account I have already set up with my credit card information (or, currently, with a $100 Amazon gift card that I got from my in-laws for my birthday).

The first book I read on the Kindle was Day After Night by Anita Diamont. Anita Diamont is the author of The Red Tent, which I did not read despite half the people I know listing it as their favorite book. I just can't get into anything Biblical. Anyway, Day After Night is about European Jewish refugees who are detained in a British camp when they try to emigrate to Palestine after WWII. I was not totally familiar with the historical context, which required some Wikipedia-ing on my part. But overall it was a satisfying story with a good end.

Next I craved something light, and made the mistake of getting Nanny Returns, which is the sequel to The Nanny Diaries. The reason I say "mistake" is that this book was not, in fact, all that light. The first book looked at the outlandish world of wealthy, uninvolved parents, but it was mostly funny and ridiculous. In the sequel, though, we see the toll that is taken on children whose parents delegate all parental responsibilty to nannies. And that is just sad. I did like the book in the end, though, and cared enough about the storylines to keep picking it up.

Currently I have two new books on my Kindle. The first is Let the Great World Spin, which is a series of stories about unrelated characters in 1970s NYC who come together somehow in the end. It is somehow centered around this guy who walked on a cable between the two World Trade Center towers. I'm on the second person's story right now, and so far it's okay. The author is a very good writer, which makes it a pleasure to read, but I guess it's a hard sell on me because I'm not usually a fan of the whole "bunch of intertwined stories" genre.

The other book I bought, which I haven't started, is The Happiness Project. It's the story of this woman who looks at all these different theories on what makes you happy and then tries them out for a year. It's the whole "regular person who thinks of a clever angle to test out on her real life and then writes about it" idea that's en vogue right now. You know, like Eat, Pray, Love? (Which, incidentally, I hated, because the whole time I was all, "Who cares about you and your life?") So, to sum up, I just bought two new books, both of which are from genres I don't really care for. Which either means that I'm brave and venturing into new territory, or that I make poor choices.

Currently Viewing
My last Netflix was Away We Go. I seriously don't know what I thought about it. I found it enjoyable enough to watch that I didn't turn it off (or even consider turning it off), but it just lacked any kind of spark for me. I didn't come away with it having learned anything or having had any new thoughts provoked in me, nor was I greatly entertained. Like a lot of independent films, it's filled with those long, awkward silences that would have ended up on the cutting room floor in a Hollywood blockbuster. And I hate that I'm not open-minded enough to tolerate those, but overall I just find them boring and feel like the plot needs to be moved along a little faster.

I now have Grey Gardens, which I haven't watched yet.

Currently Listening To
I like to make playlists for each new season. For winter I wanted mostly upbeat songs that would get me through the long, dark days of being trapped indoors. So I made this completely random playlist:
  • All You Need is Love. I took this off a 4-song CD that my dad bought for me at Starbucks, which was to raise money for charity. I really don't know who is even performing it.
  • Haven't Met You Yet, Michael Buble. Okay, I know this song is cheesy. And liking Michael Buble makes me a 50-year-old secretary from New Jersey. But it's just such a fun, upbeat song, and plus it reminds me of the theme song to every sitcom you watched in the 80s.
  • Human, The Killers. As in, "Are we human, or are we dancer?" The lyrics to this song are a total WTF, especially because it's not, "Are we human, or are we dancers," it's just the singular "dancer." And the rest of the lines don't seem to follow any sort of logical, coherent train of thought either. (I also feel this way about the song American Pie, by the way.) But it's pretty and fun, and it makes a very good spin song. (Not that I'm riding a stationary bike in my house or whatever, but, you know, at the gym.)
  • Smile, Uncle Kracker. Just a happy, feel-good song that reminds me of the summer months. And also, "You're cooler than the flip-side of my pillow," is an awesome line.
The rest of the songs are just random, happy songs from various decades, which are the type of songs that you turn up when you hear them on the radio. They are:
  • Uptown Girl, Billy Joel
  • Rocket Man, Elton John
  • That's All, Genesis
  • You're the Inspiration, Chicago
  • Glory of Love, Peter Cetera
  • 1,2,3,4, Plain White T's
  • I'm Gonna be Strong, Cyndi Lauper
  • True Colors, Cyndi Lauper

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


It's my birthday! I'm 32!

I really like the number 32. I tend to prefer even numbers, because they suggest fairness and equality. Also, having worked in the math textbook industry, I can appreciate that 32 has a lot of factors.

I don't really want to do a big old "year in review" reflection for my birthday, because I just did that for New Year's. But I will say that the last year of my life has been a good one, and I certainly hope my luck won't run out in my 33rd year of life.

It is going to be a very low-key birthday, and I'm so excited! It's Tuesday, which means Nathan goes to the babysitter, which means I will be alone! I'm going to spend the first two hours cleaning, which is kind of a drag on your birthday, but that means for the rest of my birthday I will get to enjoy a clean house. Then I'm going to yoga, and then I'm going home to take a big fat nap. Bill is going to be working late for, like, the fifth night in a row, so we are doing the whole birthday dinner celebration on Friday, when we will go to Glenwood Oaks Rib and Chop House and I will get 32% off on my dinner. So tonight Nathan and I will just do our typical low-key "grab what you can" for dinner, which is a gift in and of itself. Then I think I'll get some red velvet cupcakes for the two of us and light a little candle, because I believe children should be taught to acknowledge their parents' birthdays. And that's not lame that I'm buying my own cake, right? Right?!

Best birthday gift of all: Nathan waking up and saying, "I love you!"

Sunday, January 10, 2010

At the rate I'm going, I'll be dead from exhaustion by January 15

Thursday I did something that I was very ashamed of. I stayed inside all day and never left my house, resulting in a very major funk by 4:00 p.m. Contributing to the funk was Nathan's lack of nap. Which meant not only that I didn't get a break, but also that I was blaming myself for my poor parental skills, since a good parent should be able to get her kid to nap.

I will say that the funk was slightly remedied by a trip to the Starbucks drive-thru alone (because Bill is still home grading his finals all day). That trip was like a small dosage of Prozac; it didn't cure my depression, but it got me motivated enough to realize that I needed to do something to make myself better. So I dragged myself through a snowstorm to go to aquacize at the gym, and I vowed to do better for the rest of January.

So I made a mental list of small, local, indoor attractions that we could go to for Nathan to burn off energy and for me to get a change of scenery. Friday we went to a new McDonald's playland we had never been to before. I'm embarrassed to say that we stayed at that McDonald's for two hours. (I'm also embarrassed to say that I ended up ordering a hot fudge sundae during those two hours.) But Nathan had a really great time and played with the other kids while I read and played with my cell phone. And then we went home and ... still no nap.

Saturday was Day 2 of my new resolve to get out of the house more. I had my two classes at the gym in the morning, so the gym daycare took care of Nathan's indoor recreation needs. And then I told him we were going to start doing "quiet time" instead of a nap. I said he had to stay in his bed (easy since he is the only almost 3-year-old who is still sleeping in the crib) and either read books or sleep. He took the most awesome nap, and so did I. Unfortunately that left us at 5 p.m. with a very well-rested boy. Bill had decided to actually go into work to grade his finals, so I was on my own for the evening.

We headed over to the crappier of our two local malls, although that assessment is only on my part. I think Nathan loves that mall. It's like a miniature amusement park for children. Before we left we rummaged through the Big Bag of Change to get quarters so he could ride on the little cars that jerk you around. He took 5 rides before we ran out of quarters. Then he bounced at the bouncy castle place for about an hour. And that place also has a side attraction where, for $2, a kid gets to drive around a little track in a Power Wheels. (Funny side note, there's a remote control for parents to use when kids can't really steer the cars very well. Unfortunately I couldn't really steer it very well with the remote, either.) Then we went to Old Navy and I spent $123 on God-knows-what to try to make myself happy. It worked, by the way. I bought some $15 turquoise sneakers, turquoise being my current happy color.

Also we went to Bath and Body Works and I bought myself some lotion and body wash in my new favorite scent there, Sensual Amber. What an extremely dumb name. Anyway, also bizarre was that outside the B&B Works, they had set up some cages containing baby tigers, a baby kangaroo, and a lemur. That mall is like a seedy carnival.

So, if you're keeping track, our indoor entertainment in the last 3 days has consisted of: the gym, McDonald's, and the mall. Today we're meeting some friends at the Oasis, which basically means another McDonald's playland. And tomorrow we're probably going to the other, better mall. Tentative future plans include a children's museum and my possible Area Library Tour.

The thing is, this effort to keep both of us sane is very exhausting. If I go to the gym, that pretty much does me in, energy-wise, for the day, but sometimes it doesn't take up enough time. And yes, we do spend a lot of time at home, but there's only so long we can stay here before I get too frustrated over the lack of cleanliness and have to leave. And contributing to that frustration is that when Nathan gets stir-crazy, he starts walking around the house destroying things.

I guess we could play outside, but it takes 15 minutes to get dressed and undressed, all for like 10 minutes of play.

Anyway, this stint of Winter Camp Director is killing me. Why is it so much harder to have fun in the winter than in the summer? Oh yeah, it's the sub-zero temps, the shoveling, the massive amounts of clothing, the limited recreational opportunities, and the 16 hours a day of darkness.

A popular blog theme this time of year is the "indoor entertainment suggestions" post. Many of these are cute things you can do inside your home. Paint the sides of your bathtub with pudding! Build a fort like a pirate ship and have a Pirate Party! Freeze some household objects in ice and have your child chip away to excavate them!

Seriously?! All of those are a lot of work. And maybe I'm just extremely lazy, but I don't want to be scrubbing pudding out of my grout, just so my kid can have 15 minutes of indoor entertainment.

So in that sense, I am thinking outside-the-home entertainment efforts are the better option. And I'm proud of myself, and all of you fellow cold climate-dwellers, for doing whatever it takes to survive the winter. (Okay, not whatever it takes. I'm not thinking alcoholism is the best coping mechanism, even if it can be done indoors.) Hang in there, people!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Warning: This post brought to you by hungry, tired, and crabby

Did you know that if you go off a diet for two weeks straight and then try to get back on, it's like starting all over again? I am starving! And I'm crabby!

I go around in a hunger-induced haze and yell at my family all the time. And the gym isn't going so great, either. Before the trip, I was a faithful gym-goer. Now it takes every bit of willpower I have to get myself to any class, and if it's before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m., forget it. That God for New Year's resolutions, or I wouldn't be going at all. Because did you also know the temperatures are in the single digits right now?

During the warmer months, I always forget how easy it is to just want to stay home all day long in the winter. You know, versus getting myself and my uncooperative child shoved into coats, hats, and gloves and shoveling snow so we can go to some pathetic indoor activity? Except, this is how Seasonal Affective Disorder happens. And I can have all the phototherapy lamps and Prozac in the world, but if I lock my entire family together in the house for days on end, I'm going to be a crazy person. (Bill is still on his winter break, except he has finals to grade, so he's here but also all stressed out.)

This morning I dragged my ass to A.M. Challenge at the gym, which was at 6 a.m., and it was 5 degrees outside. And that crazy class was hard. It was like, "Spin like crazy on the bikes for 5 minutes, and now get down and do lunges and squats! Now back on the bike! Back to squats! Repeat!"

After the class, I was soaked with sweat. And here's the disgusting part: I took my sweaty self home and got back in my bed. I seriously did not care how gross that was. I was able to fall asleep for another hour, which is the luxury you have when you don't have a job and your kid carried on in his bed the previous night until 10 p.m.

The funny thing is, I kind of wish that class was more than once a week. I think it would be better to get into a routine of getting up at 5 a.m., rather than just doing it on Wednesdays. And maybe if I did it twice a week, I might have a prayer of getting myself in shape to do it.

But I already decided that class is going to be like street parking: If there are more than 2 inches of snow on the ground, I can't do it.

Friday, January 1, 2010