Tuesday, June 29, 2010

All she wants to do is dance, dance

Okay, actually all I want to do is write, but being a longtime Eagles fan, I was reminded of this Don Henley song. Anyway, I was thinking about how I have an hour to kill before Nathan's swim lesson, and I could spend it doing something useful, like laundry, but all I really want to do is write. I think what's hard about having a not-so-popular, not-so-paying blog is that you have a hard time justifying the use of valuable time to write a blog that seemingly has no purpose. (Can you say your time is valuable if, in the previous sentence, you used the phrase "time to kill"?) But, I like to write, and it makes me happy, and I think happiness is a good purpose.

Besides, I re-started Weight Watchers yesterday, and when I'm on WW I try harder to do non-food-related things I like, rather than fill my life with pure drudgery. You know what I mean, where it's like 9:00 p.m. and technically you could go and clean your kitchen, but what you really want to do is read? With WW, I decide I deserve leisure time, and I don't feel bad about the chores that don't get done. (Besides, I'm too exhausted from my day of planning, purchasing, preparing, carefully measuring, and tracking all my food.)

I suppose that taking time for yourself is one of the gifts of WW. The other gifts are things like being thinner, feeling better, living longer, not having diabetes ... you know, little things like that. But none of those benefits are immediate, and so you find yourself in a big ball of frustration.

I'm frustrated that when I went to WW yesterday to weigh in, I weighed exactly the same as I did last year at this time, before I lost 33 pounds on WW. Which means, yes, I gained exactly 33 pounds. Oh, for crying out loud.

And on the one hand, I feel very frustrated that over the course of the winter/spring, I pretty much undid what I worked so hard for over the course of last summer/fall.

BUT. First of all, I think it's good that I only gained back exactly what I lost. If I had gained back 34 pounds, even though it would only be one pound more, I think it would be light-years more psychologically devastating than gaining back the exact 33 pounds I lost. (Though, really, this is all ridiculous because weight varies slightly according to what clothes you're wearing, hormones, whether or not you just peed, etc.)

Second, I think this time around, I at least have a good basis for my fitness routine. I've done almost every class the gym has to offer, and I actually have a tiny bit of muscle underneath all that fat. I have definitely slacked in terms of the hard classes in recent weeks (months?), partially out of laziness and partially because these classes are usually in the evenings when my suddenly-not-napping child is having meltdowns. However, I have had enough gym experience in the past that stepping up my workouts has not been too much to bear, even in conjunction with the other lifestyle changes I have made this week for Weight Watchers.

So, my current plan is to work out in the mornings. Unfortunately many of the morning classes my gym offers are in the early mornings, like 6 a.m. Now that I can't grab a nap in the afternoon, 6 a.m. classes are to be avoided. I might try to make it to one this week, on Thursday. The other days, I'm shooting for later in the morning. Nathan has swim lessons from 9:40 to 10:10, so I think Monday/Wednesday I will try to do a Spin class before the lessons. Tuesday/Friday I will swim after the lessons (different pool, unfortunately), because I think swimming is good for my mental health. Thursday morning is the dreaded 6 a.m. Spin and Sculpt, and then Saturdays are Muscle Pump. (I should note that the Wednesday Spin is also a Spin and Sculpt, so I will have a total of 2 hours a week of weight work. Because I know you were concerned.) Sundays I automatically get off because the gym daycare is closed Sundays during the summer.

Here's what I want to tell myself: If I skip a day of working out, that is not an excuse to skip the entire rest of the week. The philosophy of "I've already blown it, might as well keep blowing it" makes no sense, but I think that's how we all think. That's how we think about food, and don't try to deny it. There is something about the human mind where you just feel like you need to wait until the next day or the next week to start over again. And I wonder if maybe the WW weekly weigh-in contributes to this line of thought. Like, "I didn't work out Monday through Thursday, so no point in working out Friday when it won't show on my Saturday weigh-in." Which is a dumb way to think, of course. Every day belongs to your overall lifetime, not just to a particular weigh-in period for Weight Watchers.

In conclusion, although WW seems pointless because I feel like I always gain back the weight, I think maybe I gain a little bit of wisdom with each WW experience. (Could I be a little more cheesy? But that's 2% low-fat cheesy.) And maybe by the time I come to the end of my life (which, hopefully, will be prolonged just a little bit from weight loss, and not shortened by yo-yo dieting), I will finally have the whole weight loss/fitness thing completely down.

And here's a little chub who doesn't care about her weight:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Because of Camp

If you watch enough Hulu, you will eventually encounter the commercial for an association known as Because of Camp. It's an alliance of camps throughout the U.S., and their commercial features a cavalcade of B-list celebrities who tell us about the life-changing benefits they reaped from their own camp experiences. Singer Lisa Loeb* tells us, "Because of camp, I learned to play the guitar." Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug** says, "Because of camp, I learned to be a team player." The guy who plays Alex on Grey's Anatomy says, "Because of camp, I'm sending my kids to camp this summer."

Well, after my two-week experience of sending Nathan to a day camp with the park district, I can add my own:

Because of camp, I am totally and completely bat-shit insane.

Day camp seemed like a simple enough proposition. Five days a week, Nathan would get a fun, enriching experience with other kids. He would get to do activities like crafts, singing, and sticking his hand in a vat of rice, all of which are things I would gladly pay other people to organize for my child. I would get several hours to myself, several days in a row. And we would get all this enrichment/fun/babysitting for approximately $3.25 an hour.

Here's what I didn't realize: camp is sort of like school. I mean, not so much in terms of its educational-ness, but in terms of it being a formalized group situation where you just drop off your kid and he is expected to conform to a series of policies, and you have no control over what he does there.

Honestly, I didn't expect this to be such a Big Deal. But from the day the stupid 12-page camp parent handbook camp, I found myself a little terrified to be on the parent side of the parent-teacher relationship. (Though obviously in this case the "teacher" is a 21-year-old camp counselor.) The handbook had explicit instructions about what you should and should not bring. I went out to Target and spent a lot of money getting exactly what they said, along with a new backpack big enough for all the stuff to fit in. I labeled everything, including socks and underwear. When my husband suggested that maybe a 3-year-old didn't need to bring his own separate bottle of bug spray in his backpack (and that presumably this item was on there because they use the same list for every single camp they offer, including the ones where 10-year-olds go galavanting around the wilderness), I was all, "No, we must get bug spray and label it with his name! It's on THE LIST! We don't want to be the problem parents."

And when that very same troublemaker of a husband told Nathan to wear a hat to camp for sun protection, I hesitated because a hat was on neither the "what to bring" nor the "what not to bring" lists.

Then we got to camp and some girl's mom actually had the audacity to put her kid's belongings in a tote bag. A tote bag! The list specifically said a backpack!

Anyway, on Day 1 I picked up my kid amid a sea of other little campers, all of whom were wearing paper visors that they had decorated with roller-ball paint pens. Nathan's hat was blank. "I didn't want to decorate it," he said.

Day 2, each kid had been given a piece of rectangular paper on which the counselors had glued a race-specific blank outline of the child's face. The children were supposed to add facial features and hair. Now, obviously most 3-year-olds are only able to draw scribbles, but that would have been a welcome change from the completely blank face my kid went home with.

Day 3: the craft was decorating camp pennants with stickers. Nathan's pennant: You guessed it, blank.

Bill and I were not sure if this constituted an Issue or not. The counselor told us that Nathan really just wanted to play with toys instead of doing a craft. We weren't sure if this was some kind of willful disobedience or if the craft was merely presented as an optional alternative to free play. We talked and talked and talked to Nathan about this issue. "DO THE CRAFT!" we said when dropping him off on Day 4.

He actually did the damn craft. It was a paper kite on which he had smeared one blob of paint, but it was a start. We displayed it prominently in our home and made a big fuss over it.

So, it was Friday, and all camp problems were solved, right? No, because Friday began the great peeing disaster.

The thing is, Nathan has not been potty-trained for very long. He still has daily accidents, but they are almost always in the evenings when he's tired and uncooperative. I figured he would be fine at camp, and for the first 4 days, he was. Then Friday I picked him up and he was wearing his hideous extra outfit I had packed (and labeled!) in his backpack.

Monday, same problem.

Tuesday was Day 3 of peeing on the camp bathroom floor. Apparently the boy was waiting too long to go to the bathroom. "It's really becoming kind of an issue," the camp counselor said. I really had no idea what that meant, so I asked if we were kicked out of camp. She said no, but we should keep an eye on it.

Now, here is where I began what I can only imagine is several years of payback for the bad karma I amassed while hating on my students' parents back in my teaching days. I used to get so worked up about these people and the anxiety they had over their inability to control every detail of their kids' school lives. This anxiety translated into their expectation that I, as the adult present at school all day, should be the one working to control every single detail of their kids' school lives, and that I should do it for every single kid in my classroom. "Could you just check his backpack every day for his homework, because he forgets to turn it in?" one parent of a fifth grader asked me once.

Plus, in talking to the counselors, I pulled the argument that I absolutely hated to hear from parents back in my teaching days: "But he never does that at home!"

I told Nathan that if he had an accident the following day, which was Wednesday, he wouldn't go back to camp Thursday and Friday. The counselor looked mildly sad for him, but I didn't see her vehemently disagreeing with me.

I went home Wednesday night and actually cried about this issue. I felt like such a bad mom for sending my kid to camp without being fully potty-trained. I felt like the camp counselors hated me. I figured they thought I was a totally negligent parent who had no control over her child. And to be honest, I felt like a totally negligent parent who had no control over her child.

Making things worse, AND YES, I AM TYPING THIS SO IT IS PRESERVED FOR ALL OF POSTERITY TO HUMILIATE THE CRAP OUT OF MY CHILD, we went to the pool right after camp, and the counselor was there. And Nathan, I kid you not, got out of the pool and squatted down and peed right on the concrete right in front of her. Except I'm not sure if she saw him, which meant that I was very quiet in my reprimanding of him, so as not to call attention to this. If she did see it, I'm sure she and the other counselor had a good laugh about it, which makes me sad because the other counselor is a woman from my running class and also will be Nathan's teacher for preschool next year. Maybe we should just move out of town now.

So, okay, Wednesday was the moment of truth. I was actually nervous when I picked Nathan up, but it turned out he had stayed dry all day!

Today is Thursday, and I threatened him with skipping camp Friday if he had an accident. Friday is the big camp field trip to the Dairy Queen, so that's a pretty big incentive.

Now, I should note that I typed the previous paragraphs before picking him up from camp. In typing them, I became so nervous about The Pee-Pee Issue that I couldn't write any more until I picked Nathan up and got a verdict.

And the verdict is ...


I pulled into the parking lot and saw him wearing the tell-tale red shorts from his emergency bag. Nooooooooooooooooooooo! But then the counselor told me that she thinks he may have actually peed on his clothes during the process of using the toilet because males, especially little ones, have very poor aim. So, that's kind of a gray area. Technically it isn't really an accident. But I don't know if the whole "peed on his clothes while using the toilet" story is actually true. I attempted to ask him, but have you ever tried to get a clear response out of a toddler? Toddler answers are so cryptic that army generals have used toddlers to transmit war secrets. Except that there isn't anybody on the other end who can translate for them, so Operation Elmo was quickly scrapped.

Anyway, I think I'm going to let him go to camp tomorrow. Even if he technically had an accident, I think the message got through to him that he shouldn't wait to go to the bathroom.

Tomorrow is the last day of the two weeks we were signed up for, though technically he's on the books for a week in mid-July as well. I'm gonna see how things go and then decide if we're still going to do that one.

In a way, it's sort of a shame that he isn't going next week, after we went through all this transitional hassle. Besides the crafts and the peeing, I am also concerned that he isn't a good cleaner, either. He says, "When it's time to clean up, I don't want to," which could mean anything from a mild disappointment-but-ultimate-acceptance, to a full-out inappropriate refusal to clean.

It has truly been a big transition for me. And if it seems like a big deal to this grown adult who is very capable (possibly overly capable) of assessing/managing her own emotions, I can only imagine what a big transition it is for a toddler whose response to something new and overwhelming is just to get mad and throw a tantrum. Nathan is just coming off of the bulk of his potty-training, and he's dealing with some major bedtime/nap issues, and now I'm sending him off to camp several hours a day? No wonder he seems so uncooperative and frazzled.

I have come to three realizations in the last two weeks: (1) I cannot control what my kid does when I'm not there,(2) I have to get over the fact that the camp counselors are probably hating/judging me, and (3) Formalized educational institutions exist so that your child can learn appropriate behaviors, not so he/she can come in and get them right the first time.

On that third point, I think if in two weeks my kid improved on the arts & crafts, potty-training, and cleaning fronts, that is a successful educational experience. And, that, quite frankly, my kid is a freakin' genius.

* "Stay" is still the best "belt it out in the car until you trip on your words and/or can't breathe" song ever written.

** Am I the only one who thinks that Kerri's "camp" probably consisted of a little less s'more-roasting and lanyard-making, and a little more "go do 100 pushups because you gained 3/4 of an ounce"?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Trip #1 of 3

Summer is the best season in Chicago, this June's thunderstorms notwithstanding. Summer is when I actually want to be here, to take advantage of the pool, the splash pad, and Lake Michigan. Better to take out-of-state vacations in the winter months when you need to get out of here. Therefore, this summer our family is taking three mini-trips, all of which are within two hours of here. (Technically Trip #2 is out-of-state, because it's in Indiana, but it's not like Indiana is that far. I can get to the Indiana border in 10 minutes, which is something useful to know if I'm ever in a situation where I need to get across state lines in a hurry.)

Coincidentally, all three of the trips involve waterparks. Or maybe it's not coincidental, because I do love water. While of course all human beings need water, I feel like I have a sort of deeper, spiritual need for water as well. (Does that sound cheesy? I feel like that sounds like something that one of those people who talks about angels would say.) Despite my recent efforts to be a runner, I always come back to swimming for exercise. I just love me a good body of water, natural or human-made.

So, our first vacation was to Key Lime Cove indoor waterpark hotel in Gurnee, Illinois. It's only about an hour and 15 minutes away from our house. (Though it takes a little longer when you drive up during a mini-tornado, the kind that takes down 6,000 trees.) We went to Key Lime Cove last year, and I appreciated its extreme kid-friendliness. One problem I always experience with Nathan in a hotel is that it's hard to handle downtime. Sure, he has tons of fun when we're out doing touristy activities, but he doesn't have enough to do while we're sitting around the hotel waiting for all members of the family to take showers and get ready to go. With Key Lime Cove, I can just time it so that I can take Nathan down to the playroom, waterpark, or arcade while Bill is in the shower, preventing a total destruction of the hotel room.

I took Nathan to the waterpark the first night, and he immediately commenced sliding down the slides in the little kid area. I didn't have the camera with me that night, but here's a slightly bad photo from last year's trip showing the general area:
Nathan immediately yelled, "This is so much fun!" The smile on his face while he went down those slides ... you should be able to bottle that kind of joy. (Not to sound like my grandma or anything.)

Then Bill won Nathan a Pac-Man stuffed animal from one of those claw games, leading him to recount his Claw Game Victory in the way that some men tell fishing tales.

Saturday was Bill's birthday, and we packed in the fun. Here are a few waterpark shots:

The lazy river

Climbing the rope bridge in the splash pad thingy

Top of the slide, illustrating potential energy in high school science textbooks.

Bottom of the slide

Somewhat bummeratively (it's a word), I had gotten an ear infection the day before the trip, so I was not supposed to immerse my ear in water. I quickly discovered (or rationalized) that most waterpark activities don't necessarily involve immersion, so in my opinion my ear wasn't exposed to any more water than it would be in the shower. I was able to go in the lazy river, the wave pool, and down a super-special slide for people taller than 48 inches, all without any ear immersion. (Okay, there was one ear immersion. I was trying to protect my camera from getting wet and I accidentally went underwater. Which is dumb because allegedly my camera is waterproof to 10 feet.)

We also went to the nearby outlet mall, which is like a crazy, in-your-face, totally overstimulating experience when you are a toddler. There are exciting stores to your left and right, and now there's crap in the middle of the mall as well. The Disney store! People making balloon animals! Rides you put quarters in! As a result, it was difficult to drag Nathan through that long, long, extra-long mall. And when we got back to the hotel, he had the worst meltdown of his life. We got him in bed at 7 p.m. and then spent the rest of the night watching TV and eating a really big cupcake for Bill's birthday. (Fortunately, Key Lime Cove has no shortage of places that sell overpriced junk food.)

Sunday we maximized our fun potential by spending two hours in the waterpark and arcade before check-out time. I love Skee Ball, but I feel like such a weirdo as a grown woman just standing there putting token after token in the Skee Ball machine. (I could also have Nathan with me as an excuse to be there, but he tends to interfere with my game.)

On the way home I let Bill go to his favorite board game store, it being Father's Day and all, while I went across the street to the farmer's market and bought some smoked string cheese and 5-year aged cheddar. Then we went home and it was 2:30, and I was "lucky" enough to have a whole afternoon to do chores. Yay!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

So Much

I generally think of my life as being fairly simple. I have one kid, one husband, one cat, and one house. And zero outside-the-home jobs. Simple, right?

Except sometimes, it all seems like so much.

My dad and my stepmom came to visit last week. And while I was in the middle of trying to entertain them, feed them, and provide them with a place to stay that wasn't covered in a thin coating of filth, I managed to lose my wallet. I lost it at the Museum of Science and Industry. It could have been a lot worse. I still had my keys, cell phone, and camera in the backpack from whence the wallet was lost. Or stolen, because pickpockets are common at science museums. Anyway, whether or not it was removed from my backpack by sticky fingers or gravity, somebody stole something out of it, because only my driver's license, ATM card, and credit card were found from it, and those were all on a train headed out of town on a train line that isn't the line that we use.

Anyway, losing your wallet is one of those things that isn't an earth-shattering crisis, but which kind of throws you off a little. I lost the wallet on a Friday afternoon, and I had to wait until Monday to get a new driver's license, and that whole weekend I felt like I had no identity.

Another thing that throws you off is plumbing problems, which we also had after my dad tried to do a good deed and install a new garbage disposal. The plumbing problems resulted in a lack of drainage in the dishwasher, the dishwasher that took an act of Congress to finally get delivered from Sears. The dishwasher for which Sears still hasn't refunded us for charging us for it twice. Not being able to wash a significant number of dishes made me not want to cook, but at the same time I was sort of limited in my ability to buy take-out food because the only way I could get money was to borrow my husband's ATM card, and sometimes he has the gall to not be home. I felt like such a loser.

Meanwhile, my husband was suffering from a two-week headache. I was trying to be sympathetic, but he, like most men, is a whiny sick person. Additionally, he is very dramatic, and that is a bad combination with my tendency to worry that every headache is a brain tumor. So when he would (repeatedly) say things like, "I'm too sick to drive," I just freaked out. So for two weeks he was simultaneously causing me great panic and great irritation. And my parents were here, and I had no functional kitchen plumbing, no money, and no identity.

It all hit the fan the day my parents left and my husband demanded that I take him to Urgent Care. He had been consulting with Dr. Google and was worried that he had a whole slew of horrible maladies, and he felt he would get quicker attention from Urgent Care than he would from the doctors who weren't taking him seriously and/or returning his phone calls. Urgent Care did a CT scan and couldn't find anything, but they suggested that he spend the night in the hospital for further tests.

Now, perhaps it's because all of this was filtered through my never-ask-follow-up-questions husband, but I never really understood the whole hospital situation. Bill seems to think they had him spend the night in the hospital for two reasons: one, to cover their own asses, and two, to get him in to see a neurologist more quickly. Apparently parking yourself in a hospital bed is the quickest way to see a doctor, since they have such limited office hours for appointments (because they're so busy seeing everybody in the hospital). Neither of those should have caused me any worry, but words like hospital and neurologist are instant triggers for panic in a person like me.

Oh, and did I mention this was the second time in a year that they have had him spend the night in the hospital just to take tests that could have been done on an outpatient basis?

Anyway, so Wednesday he was sitting around the hospital. I was at home with Nathan. By around 2:00 nothing had transpired at the hospital, but I was able to call a plumber and have him come out and fix my plumbing within an hour after I called. So in the battle of plumbers vs. doctors, plumbers are way more efficient.

By 8:00 I was able to pick Bill up, and thank the Lord he has nothing significantly wrong with him. The assurance that he isn't suffering from Google-itis seems to have instantly cured his headache. (And thank God we have insurance, or the headaches would have continued long after the hospital stay was over.) The dishwasher is draining, and replacements for most of the cards in my wallet have either arrived, or will do so within 7-10 business days. (Unfortunately my Frequent Rider Card for the Orland Square Mall carousel can never be replaced, and I think I had 6 horse-shaped punches in it.)

All crises averted.

I have spent the last few days trying to decompress, as best you can when you have a three-year-old who doesn't seem to have an off switch. Oh, and can I just say What About Me? for a minute here? (Of course I can, this is my blog.) All week long Bill has used the excuse "But I was in the hospital" to explain such things as his tendency to sleep in until 11:00 every day. (Not sure what his excuse was before that.) And I feel for him, I really do. The hospital is an awful place, and they wake you up at random hours just to complete tasks that could be performed during normal daytime hours. (For example, after my c-section with Nathan, they woke me up at 4 a.m. to see if I could dangle my legs off the side of the bed. Because that couldn't wait until morning?) But still, what about me? Like I'm not exhausted and overwhelmed from having to keep a brave front at home while my husband was in the hospital?

Anyway, onto lighter topics. Since the health crisis has passed, we have resumed our normal summertime activities. Like the pool! Yay! And the beach! And all three of us are in our respective summer reading clubs at the library. I'm reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

And tomorrow ... Nathan is starting his day camp with the park district! I get to drop him off for three whole hours a day while he burns off some energy doing crafts and running through sprinklers. And hopefully having fixed bathroom breaks, because the boy's toilet training is still a little bit iffy. Anyway, the whole thing seems very big boy. I got a 12-page parent handbook e-mailed to me, which outlines the many items Nathan has to bring to camp, labeled with his name. He has a new camp backpack that weighs more than he does.

I have signed Nathan up for continuous weekday activities from now through the first week in August, when the park district's summer program ends. He will do camp for two weeks, then two weeks of swim lessons, then back to camp, then back to swim lessons. It seems like a lot, but camp is only half-day, and swim lessons are only half an hour per day, so we'll still be able to do things in the afternoons. I find that it's better if we have some reason each day that we have to get out the door.

And next weekend we are going on Amusement Park-Based Vacation 1 of 3.