Monday, February 28, 2011

And Now He is Four

It's Nathan's birthday! My baby is 4!

Naturally, I get a little nostalgic on the anniversary of my child's birth. There's the whole flashback to day he was born, the What were we doing four years ago today? reminiscences. And somewhat fittingly, I saw my OB/GYN working out at the gym today. I thought about telling him that four years ago today he was cutting me open and extracting a baby from me, but considering he called me "Sharon" at my last annual exam, I'm thinking we aren't really BFF.

Anyway, it's been a [insert adjective here] four years. Like, seriously, insert any adjective in the world and I could probably find a way to make it work as a description for some portion of the last four years. (It's like Mad Libs!) Joyful, exhausting, frustrating, painful, hilarious, rewarding, degrading ... okay, you know what an adjective is.

Oh and BTW I experienced most of those adjectives just in the past day.

But in the end, this experience is too complicated to articulate. The highs are so high, and the lows are so low. I know my baby isn't perfect, believe me I know, but he's somehow perfect to me. And yet he frustrates me with all his imperfections. He frustrates me with all my imperfections. I love him to pieces, I wouldn't ever want to live without him, but I certainly wouldn't want two of him either. I mourn the end of the first four years of his life, sad that he will never be 1 or 2 or 3 again, but I wouldn't relive those years for all the money in the world.

My experiences with Nathan are just too difficult to put into words. So I'll just show you this picture of my big boy on his new big boy bike today:

Much like motherhood, riding a bike is a balancing act. Unlike motherhood, there are training wheels on a bike.

Happy birthday, my sweet, sweet baby! You are my sun and my moon and my stars.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-In

Let's check in once again with our friend in Kansas-soon-to-be-Ohio, Leigh Ann!

Last Week's Goals:
  • Work out every day: Umm, I almost did it. I skipped working out on Wednesday because Nathan was sick and they frown on sick kids going to the gym daycare. I think I did my best, though, because I crammed in a combo cardio and weight-lifting workout on Thursday to make up for skipping Wednesday.
  • Take a 30-minute quiet time for myself every day: Well, I think I kind of averaged out to 30 minutes per day. Monday and Tuesday we didn't have much going on, so I spent a lot of time lying around reading. Later in the week things got a little bit busier, so I didn't make it a point to specifically take a break. Truthfully, I kind of forgot about this goal as the week went on. But it was good while I remembered it.
This Week's Goals:
  • Complete my workout plan, which is typed out in a Word document: I won't bore you with the details, but this is an overly-ambitious plan. In involves going to the gym twice a day for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. (This is all part of my plan to rack up enough classes to get a t-shirt.) I think I've mostly created a plan with good complimentary exercises, like I'm not doing two hard-core cardio classes in a row or something.
  • Each day, do two "feel good" things: Hahaha, I know, that sounds dirty, but "feel good" things are totally G-rated, I promise. Feel good things are activities from one of the following categories: (1) Acts of kindness and/or charity, (2) Fun activities outside the home, (3) Legitimate, professional-type things, such as applying for jobs or writing a post on Technorati, and (4) Activities that allow me to connect with friends or family. As I said on Friday, last week I had a lot of days where there was nothing to look forward to. And there is no reason to feel that way. So this week I'm going to be a little bit more proactive about planning productive activities for the boy and me to do.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Well, that was a lot of scary in 24 hours

And by "scary," I'm referring to the totally not life-and-death situations of (1) my audition and (2) the indoor triathlon.

The audition was fine. I like the idea of playing the bad guy, so I read for the part of the Evil Queen. Except I told the director I would be fine playing whatever role, like if somebody better comes along I'll just play a character with two lines or something, because honestly I'm not a very good actress. I told her that. Well done, Shannon. Very professional. Hopefully she recalls my sarcasm-heavy performance at my last theatrical endeavor and just thinks I'm always being sarcastic. Or something.

Anyway, I think my problem with auditions is that I can probably read any individual line as an interesting, half-decently-acted character, but I can't consistently stay in that same character throughout the entirety of a script. One minute I'm sarcastic! The next minute I'm evil! Then I'm just some sort of deadpan, nondescript character. It'd be like if you were reading a book about an animal rights activist, and in the final scene she wears a fur coat and runs over a puppy on her way to a steakhouse.

Switching gears, as you might on a bicycle, which is the second event of a triathlon, let's talk about the triathlon! Here's the thing about this particular triathlon. As I said previously this week, it was the kind of thing where you go a set time in each activity (10 minutes swimming, 20 minutes on the stationary bike, and 15 minutes on the treadmill) and then participants are ranked according to total distance completed. This puts a tremendous amount of weight on the bike portion, since that's the portion where you can travel the farthest. Like, the bike portion is twice as much time as the swim portion, but you go about 15x farther on the bike. Which means, swimming counts for squat. Running is kind of in the middle.

So, I felt good about my swimming. I did 600 yards in the 10 minutes, which made me the second-best swimmer out of all 25 women in the race. (Unfortunately they only formally recognized the top swimmer, and she did 675 yards, which was a mere 75 yards more than I did. And also she was 24.)

For the bike, I did a respectable 6.15 miles, which wasn't as awesome as some people, but I think put me at about average. I was surprised how much my weekly spin classes helped me to pedal faster, because I generally think of myself as about the suckiest participant in that class.

Running is where I really fell apart. I haven't been running at all as of late. I've been doing a program on the treadmill that adjusts the elevation in order to keep my heart rate at 150, all while walking at 4 mph. I find that I travel the exact same amount of distance in the exact same amount of time if I just do a steady fast-walk than I would alternating running with slower walking. Also the calorie burn seems to be about the same, and even if the treadmill lies about how many calories you burn, you gotta figure at least it's consistent in its lying. And I just really like walking fast uphill way more than I like running, and it hurts my knees less. So yay walking!

Except when you're trying to compete in a triathlon with people who are running like 8 mph for the entire 15 minutes. So, I kind of sucked a fatty on the running. I was like in the bottom 5 on that one.

In the end, I came in 6th place out of 8 in my age category. I felt a little bit disappointed that I had done so well in swimming, and hung in there with the bike, only to be destroyed because I am not a good runner. And I was a little disappointed that out of all the medals they gave out, I didn't win a single one. It would have been nice to at least be the top swimmer.

Oh well, I beat all the people who spent that morning sitting on their couches, too. I stand by the classic At least I showed up.

And wait! What's that? The point of these things isn't to win? It's to have fun and push yourself physically? Oh yeah, that. Except the point of all activities in my life seems to be to see how hard I can be on myself and how much I can beat myself up for not being better. I don't mean for that to be the point; it just seems like it always is.

But actually, I did think the triathlon was fun. And I am glad I did it. It's always good to have something to work toward.

I also think this helped my weight loss efforts, not so much in terms of calorie-burning, but, you know, psychologically. I've been down on myself lately about my weight. I feel like it's going to be so long before I make a really gratifying weight loss. You know, like where I can wear a clothing size I'm happy with or be at a remotely healthy weight. It seems like such a long journey. When I first did Weight Watchers, back when I was 23, I started at 167 pounds and got down to 132 pounds. I only had to lose the first 10 pounds before people started noticing and complimenting me, and by the time I lost all 35 I was actually thin. This time around, I will have to lose 20 pounds just to get to where I was when I was 9 months pregnant. It's so discouraging.

Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh yes, the triathlon helped me feel a little bit better about myself. Because no, I am not thin. No, I am not at a healthy weight. And yes, I have a long way to go. But at least I could complete that indoor triathlon with fairly respectable showings in two out of the three categories. And I want to lose weight so that next year, I will be able to run.

I also have a new stupid little saying about my weight loss: You have to take the first steps before you can take the last. Yes, those last 10-15 pounds will be way more rewarding to lose than the first 10-15 pounds. But I can't get to the last ones until I lose the first ones.

And this becomes another example to add to the exercise-as-a-metaphor-for-life category. See, I'm kind of seeing this indoor triathlon as a good first step for further athletic endeavors. I'm finally confident enough to think about doing an outdoor triathlon, although of the sprint (that is, short-distance) variety. There's this one in Chicago August 28. Now, granted, an outdoor triathlon would require me to overcome a number of obstacles at this point, including but not limited to: (1) I don't own a bike, (2) I'm not very good at riding bikes, (3) I don't enjoy swimming in natural bodies of water, (4) I can't run more than a minute at a time, and (5) I don't enjoy wearing my bathing suit in front of large groups of people, especially while running (oh God, while running). So I haven't fully committed to this triathlon yet. And I know you'll all say, "You should do it!" But think before you answer: Would you do it?

Then I was thinking about my fairly decent swimming performance in today's triathlon and thinking, You know, Shannon, deep down, you really are a swimmer. So this thought caused me to once again revisit the idea of completing the Big Shoulders 5K Swim in September, where you swim 3 miles in Lake Michigan. Now, at the moment, I can only swim about 1.25 miles, and that's in a pool where you can push off a wall every 25 yards. So, you know, I'd have a long way to go in terms of my physical training, but also I'd have to step out of my comfort zone when it comes to swimming in open water. (Though, truthfully, a lot of my fear was developed back when I lived in California and the open water was the Pacific Ocean, where I was afraid of getting attacked by a shark. At least Lake Michigan doesn't have any sharks.)

A lot of fun athletic endeavors to think about.

In the meantime, my fitness goals for March are a little more modest. Once again my gym is having the Group Fitness Challenge, where you put your name on a sticker chart and get a sticker (gold star!) every time you go to a fitness class. There are prizes for the people who take the most classes, but I'm not aiming to be one of those people. But you do get a t-shirt for taking 20 classes, so that's my goal. It's not really about the t-shirt; I mean I have a million t-shirts. But it's good to have some kind of goal to work toward. I have kind of gotten away from group fitness classes as I've done other things at the gym, but I used to go to 7 classes a week. Seven. I'd have to do 5 a week to get the t-shirt, but that's still a lot. Not to get into too much detail, but back in the days where I took seven classes a week, Nathan was taking a three-hour nap each day, so we could go to classes that went as late as 7:30. Now the boy has given up his nap and should be in bed around 7, so evening classes are kind of out. Which means I have to cobble together some combination of morning and weekend classes to get to my 5 a week. Oh, and when I say morning, I'm also not interested in the 6 a.m. classes either. Yeah, I know.

And that was a very long account of the fitness goals past, present, and future.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Notes From An Occasional Drama Queen

Well shoot, I didn't post yesterday. Now I'll have to make it up by doing NaBloPoMo prompts later today or tomorrow, because I'm anal like that and I want to have 365 posts in 2011.

Overall, this has been a pretty meh week. We started the week tired because of the two birthday parties over the weekend. I knew Nathan was overwhelmed because on Monday the gym daycare teachers took the kids to the basketball court, and Nathan complained that it was too loud in there. I decided we both needed some quiet.

So we stuck close to home, taking care of necessary chores and doing quiet at-home activities. There were plenty of at-home activities to do, too, because Nathan has been receiving a steady stream of Amazon packages from his grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

But by Wednesday, I was done with being at home. Some days household chores just feel so pointless. Why pick up toys from the living room floor when they will return there in mere hours? It's sort of like Leigh Ann said when referencing Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique: "Then you wake up one morning and there's nothing to look forward to."

I needed something to look forward to. And I had something planned for Wednesday that I was looking forward to. Farrah and I had plans to take our respective boys to the Garfield Park Conservatory, which is an awesome giant greenhouse in Chicago where they have green plants in the winter. Going there is like some kind of plant-based therapy for seasonal depression. And it's free to get in! And there's a children's garden! They have flowers! And that day only, there was going to be a special visit from a toucan! A toucan!

And of course my kid was sick. So we had to reschedule for next Wednesday, which is a non-toucan day. (Oh well, the plants will still be there.) And instead of frolicking through the flowers, we sat at home. And the weather was gross, so gross. It's been gray all week. (Except for today. Hello, Mr. Sunshine!) That kind of bleak weather just gets to me. I don't understand how weather could have that much power over somebody's emotions, but it does.

Then Thursday was Nathan's "birthday snack" day at school. Wednesday night I went and got 24 Toy Story cupcakes, plus matching Toy Story plates and napkins, and juice boxes. And of course the kid was still sick. So I brought the cupcakes and the paper goods and the juice to his school without him. He seemed relatively unfazed by having to miss his party, but it was a real blow to me. (Although if that's the worst problem I have, I clearly have a very good life.)

The thing is, he isn't that sick. He's sick enough to be crabby and annoying, but well enough that he still needs some stimulation. The problem is that I feel guilty bringing him to any place with a lot of kids, because everybody is so terrified of germs these days. And he's obviously gross and congested, but I kind of want to take him out anyway and tell the other parents, "Don't worry, if he infects your kid, it isn't that bad of a cold. Your kid will still be able to energetically gallivant around the house and annoy you."

Anyway, it's Friday now, and I think he's ready to re-enter society. I'm going to the gym to do my last swim before the triathlon tomorrow. My training didn't go exactly as I planned because I had to skip the gym on Wednesday, but whatever.

I'm nervous about the triathlon, but also excited because Katie is coming to spend the night and do the triathlon tomorrow. I'm trying this chicken tortilla soup in the crock pot for dinner. And making Power Cookies for dessert! (They are Ritz cracker sandwiches with peanut butter, dipped in melted almond bark. I really don't know why they're called Power Cookies.) And tomorrow we're going to Flavor for breakfast after the triathlon, which is home to such exotic pancakes as red velvet pancakes and bananas foster pancakes.

Don't worry, I'm being Weight Watchers responsible. I went yesterday and had lost another 2 pounds. My goal was to be 10 pounds down by the triathlon, and I'm 9.2 pounds down. I think maybe if I had worn lighter-weight clothing and shoes, I would have gotten to the full 10. But actually this past week I got lucky, because I cheated almost every day, eating crackers and other carb-based snacks at night. I need to tighten things up if I want to keep losing. Dammit.

Oh, and just to give me something else to get nervous about, tonight is my audition for the play of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. (I also believe the plural of dwarf should be dwarves, but spell check does not agree with me.) I have mentioned this before, but I am definitely not an actress. I have no idea how to go in and audition from a script like this.

But really, I should maybe stop being nervous about auditioning for a community theater show. I should also stop being nervous about an indoor triathlon on stationary bikes and treadmills (that is, the same machines I use every day). I should probably stop being nervous about most of the mundane, everyday things I get nervous about.

So I guess while I'm not an actress, I am dramatic.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Every time I restart Weight Watchers, I buy myself a little present. Or, okay, several presents. The presents say I can reward myself with other things besides food!

Weight Watchers gets very expensive. See, the thing is, a pair of shoes is like $100. A candy bar is like 75 cents.

Anyway, this time around I bought myself this wishbone necklace. It's a Tiffany knockoff (oh, sorry, Tiffany inspired) that I got at the site Eve's Addiction. (I know, it sounds like a dirty site, but it's really just a jewelry store.)

To justify my purchase, I told myself that the necklace would be like a Weight Watchers good luck charm. I began to think that a wishbone is really only lucky if you break off the longer piece, so to extend the metaphor (a bit too far) I decided that if I have both pieces of the wishbone, I couldn't lose. And if I have both sides, I can theoretically choose which side I break off. In other words, I make my own luck. The whole making my own luck thing is kind of a theme for me these days, because as I've said, I'm done blaming anybody or anything else for my weight except for myself.

Yes! I would wear the wishbone necklace every day! There it would be, around my neck, serving as a constant reminder of the control I have over my life.

I ordered the necklace Friday. It came yesterday. I wore it for the first time today.

And four hours into its wearing, the necklace broke.

You know what it means when your highly symbolic talisman of luck and power breaks? It means you shouldn't make up stupid extended metaphors to justify the purchase of jewelry. And that you should just buy from Tiffany directly instead of buying cheap knockoffs.

Also I kind of blame the broken necklace for my current overeating of Wheat Thins and drinking white zinfandel.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Virtual Coffee


I haven't linked up with Virtual Coffee at Amy's for awhile. The main reason, and I'm ashamed to admit this, is that the last time I linked up, I was experiencing my one and only bout with a negative commenter. I just felt bad for bringing any negative vibes into something as cute and light as Virtual Coffee. I didn't want people to think I was some kind of petty drama queen. (I mean, I hope I'm not ... ?)

But things have been 100% friendly on Same Old Shannon lately, so I hope I can be invited back for coffee at Amy's. Although I guess in the format of a blog carnival, it's more like you invite yourself. So I hope everyone is okay that I came for coffee today. (That would be fishing for compliments ...)

So ... welcome to coffee at my place!

Oh, and let me stop here and apologize for the quality of my photos today. My camera was kind of on its last legs at Nathan's birthday party, so these photos are all from my phone. So I guess I'm asking you all for recommendations for a new camera. I'm looking for something under $200, with auto-focus (that is, not one of those big-ass lens kind of deals), and that fits in my purse.

Also, sorry my house smells like meat. This morning I browned some ground turkey for turkey chili in the Crock Pot. In the other Crock Pot I'm baking potatoes, for the famous chili potatoes, which are a staple in our house. Later I'll be making some fat-free cornbread from a mix. You know, because of Weight Watchers and all.

Oh, and BTW, I kind of like the new WW plan. I love that you can eat unlimited fruit. Yesterday I purchased 4 pints of strawberries, and I ate one pint all in one sitting. And that's allowed with the new plan, you guys!

In other news, did you notice how my mug matches my vase?

That mug is Mrs. Peacock. See, as I explained last week, I bought three Fiesta latte mugs recently, and the official Fiesta colors are called Plum, Scarlet, and Peacock:

So it occurred to me that all those are Clue characters: Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, and Mrs. Peacock. Today I'm drinking out of Mrs. Peacock.

Also, do you like my new shoes? I ordered them from Zappos, and I'm not sure how I feel about them. They're really different.

Allegria Paloma in the Black Rose pattern

Although they are a little bit weird, they are super comfortable, largely due to the shape of the soles, I think:

To quote Jeff Winger in Community, "It's like putting on a pair of dreams."

Originally I ordered a different pattern, and then I changed my mind right after I placed the order. So I had to call the Zappos customer service line, where I learned that you can press "5" for the joke of the day. Umm, yeah. Also, at the end of the recording, they tell you to "Have a Zap-tastic day!"

Lesson learned: I could never work at Zappos. It's probably the kind of place where they give you a yoga ball to sit on instead of a desk chair.

So, what else is going on with you? Nothing much with me. We're still sort of recovering from a two-birthday-party-weekend (one of which we hosted) and playing with Nathan's new birthday gifts.

Reading-wise, I'm plugging through Anita Shreve's Rescue, which I am not liking. It's not really the author's fault, per se, I mean she's a good writer, but I just really want to punch all the characters in the book. Actually at the point I'm at in the book, the most unlikable character has left, which is not a spoiler because it's part of the book's synopsis on Amazon. (Another thing: The synopsis should not cover the events of 52% of the book. That's giving too much away.)

And this weekend is the indoor triathlon at the gym, which I think I'm getting nervous about. There are three portions: (1) 10 minutes of lap-swimming in the pool, (2) 15 minutes of running on the treadmill, and (3) 20 minutes of riding a stationary bike. Unlike a traditional triathlon where participants go a set distance and are ranked according to time, in this triathlon participants go a set time and are ranked according to distance. Apparently each participant's total distance is added up to determine the winners. This scoring system puts me at a distinct disadvantage because my strongest event is swimming, and swimming isn't going to be good for too terribly much distance no matter how fast a swimmer you are. And it's not like I'm expecting to win or anything, it's just that I don't want to totally embarrass myself because when the triathlon involves 45 minutes of fairly basic gym exercise, it's not the kind of thing where you can just be happy if you finish. Oh well, regardless I think it's going to be really fun, especially because I have a few friends doing it too.

So, that's all the news with me. Thanks for letting me come back to coffee. I hope you all have a Zap-tastic day!

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Kid Has a Birthday Party

Let me begin with a brief history of my son's birthday parties.

When he turned one, I was kind of in a bad place, and I just didn't have it in me to put together a big birthday bash. We had one other family over, and my mom flew in, and we took a picture of Nathan smashing a cake so that someday it would look like we had a big party for him.

By the time he turned two, I kind of had my shit together, so we had a party at home with a Thomas theme. This was the party where I learned that I never, ever wanted to have an at-home birthday party for him again. Our simple, no-frills party was so expensive and so much work. We decided to serve hot dogs and chili. This necessitated purchasing all the condiments and add-ons associated with those particular foods, because God forbid I use the half-full crusty container of mustard I already had in my fridge. I bought a few simple Thomas decorations from the party store and put together goody bags. The total cost of this relatively simple party was around $500. Five hundred dollars. And I know there are stories of people who go crazy for their kids' birthday parties, but I swear I did not do anything special for this party, unless you call purchasing themed paper goods special.

When Nathan turned three, we had his party at a train restaurants. These types of restaurants are popular in the Chicago area. The main feature is an electric train that brings you your food, and then there's usually some type of ride-on train (either the stationary kind that you put quarters in, or else one that goes around a little track), train decor, an interactive electric train display, and a soundtrack of train-related songs ("Runaway Train," "Midnight Train to Georgia," "City of New Orleans"). Anyway we had Nathan's party at a train place, and they provided food, drink, and entertainment for almost half of what we had paid for our at-home, DIY party. All I had to do on my own was get a cake and make goody bags.

It seemed like I couldn't top my own personal laziness for Nathan's fourth birthday, but somehow I managed to. We had it at Bellaboo's Play and Discovery Center, which is a children's museum. These people provided everything: food, drink, paper goods, cake, ice cream, goody bags, and some pretty kick-ass entertainment.

Okay, so the party got off to a bit of a slow start. Apparently Bellaboo's standard party format is to play first and then do pizza/cake/presents in the party room second. However, I threw a major wrench in things by asking if we could eat first, because, hello, the party started at 12:30. Wouldn't you think that if you got the 12:30 time slot, they would just assume you wanted to eat first, and not wait until 1:45 to feed lunch to starving children?

Anyway, the "party buddy" was pretty uneasy about this whole lunch-first setup. Many times she asked, "Why did you want to eat first?" and made references to how she didn't know how to handle things like food packaging and ending the party when we weren't eating after the playtime. Come on, people. If you wanted us to eat second, you should have had a party package that started at 11:00 a.m.

The situation was made more awkward by the fact that, at the onset, 1/3 of our party guests were crying. I was like, Oh crap, I am throwing the scariest birthday party ever.

Somehow everybody rallied. Everyone was fed (well, except for poor Carolyn) and the gifts were opened. The party buddy armed the kids with instruments for a birthday parade through the museum, stopping at each room to play for 10 minutes.

(NOTE: I am not posting pictures of every activity, because of my policy of not putting pictures of my friends' kids online. Random stranger kids in the background are not included in this policy. That's their own fault for being in a public place. And they don't know me to get angry with me.)

Nathan's favorite area is the Pretend Play Village, so the parade stopped there first. The Pretend Play village has three rooms: a kitchen, a mini pizzeria, and a grocery store. The following pictures are from a previous visit to Bellaboo's in the Pretend Play Village:

Delivering mail is a popular activity

Mini pizzeria: Cutest thing ever!

Toy kitchen

After Pretend Village, the kids painted their faces. And then they went to the art room, where all the kids made birthday cards for Nathan.

Nathan in the art room, displaying his handiwork from the face-painting room

Then they went to the train room:

This picture is from March 2010, when the train room had a few more trains in it. I think some of the trains have gone missing since then. Speaking of runaway trains.

And the construction room:

And the water play room:

And the ever-popular Soft Play area, which is just a giant indoor climbing structure and ball pit. This is a picture of my kid peeking his face out of the spaceship at the top of the structure:

I think everybody had a good time. And I was happy with the size of the party: 9 kids and their respective parents. I knew all the parents well, and so none of them got my kid a really obnoxious toy. BTW I took this picture of the present/coat bins because I thought they were cute:

A couple of Nathan's friends stayed after at the museum, and they all went crazy once again in the Soft Play area. Then we took them to the little cooking class that the museum offers. The recipe of the day was pretzel stick "Lincoln logs" with cream cheese mortar, complete with a lesson on how Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves.

It's going to be hard to find a venue for his fifth birthday party that requires me to do less work than the Bellaboo's party did. And the price was about what we paid for the train place last year. Cheaper than DIY and waaay easier. Win-win!

And since I know some of you readers are raising kids in the Chicago area, I just wanted to let you know that Bellaboo's is in Lake Station, Indiana, near Gary. Although you have to go through some pretty colorful Gary neighborhoods to get there, the facility itself is nestled in a nice county park and is a clean, safe building. (For those who aren't from around here, don't think Gary is the picturesque town referred to in The Music Man. It's pretty gritty.) And you might get to go past Michael Jackson's childhood home during your trip. Fun bonus! The admission price is a little steep, but now through April 26 you can get one free adult admission per paid kid admission if you bring in two cans of food. (I love how they specify that the cans have to be non-expired. Ahh, Indiana.) Also some of those freebie magazines like Chicago Parent have Bellaboo's coupons in them sometimes. Just my little plug for this fun facility!

Anyway, phew, Nathan's birthday party is over. Though his real birthday isn't for another week, and I still have to classes to provide cupcakes for. He's so spoiled.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-In

It's time once again to check in with our friend Leigh Ann for the SuperIma Sunday Check-In!

Last Week's Goals:
  • Stick with the Weight Watchers plan every single day: Umm, no. FAIL. On Valentine's Day, which was just one day after I set that goal, I cheated on Weight Watchers. And the thing is, it wasn't on wine or chocolate. It was on Goldfish crackers. See, I have this problem where if other people are eating something totally delicious and I abstain from eating it, my food lust is just transferred over to some other food. So, like, I was fine saying no to Fannie May chocolates, but then my willpower ran out and I ate some dumb Goldfish. Ditto to yesterday when I was good at the birthday party and when we went out to dinner, but then after Nathan went to bed I ate half a box of Chickadees (which are a Target generic product that is basically Goldfish shaped like chicks). However, I did go to the gym every day, so I achieved half this goal.
  • Finish a book: Also FAIL. I started Rescue by Anita Shreve, and I'm 35% done with it (on the Kindle it gives you a percentage completed), but it just hasn't grabbed me yet. It's a combination of the book seeming like the same story I've read a million times, and the characters being sort of not likable. I also checked out Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin from the library, though I have to finish the other book before I can start it.
This week's goals:
  • Work out every day: Again. As I said yesterday, I think my diligence in working out is responsible for my improved mental health. And I have the indoor triathlon next Saturday, so I gotta train. Or something.
  • Each day, take a "quiet time" for myself: This could either be reading, lying down quietly, or even sleeping. (Though I can only sleep Mondays and Fridays when Nathan has his afternoon class at the high school. And actually this Monday it's closed for President's Day, so I guess I might only get to take a nap on Friday. Still, one nap a week is good.) But I think things are better for me if I don't try to just go, go, go all day long. Especially because I never do just go, go, go. Eventually I find myself inadvertently crashing to do some mindless Internet surfing. Better to have an actual, planned break time that I schedule in the name of sanity.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's a Brand New Day

So, you all know I like to find inspiration in song lyrics. This is the one I thought of today:

It's a brand new day
The sun is shinning
It's a brand new day
For the first time
In such a long long time
I know
I'll be ok

--Joshua Radin, "Brand New Day"

Today was a brand new day. Yesterday, for no particular reason (other than that women have a period of time each month ...) I was in the worst mood ever. Today the hormones shifted. The sun was shining. And not just the kind of bright sun that glistens off the ice on the ground because it's 5 degrees. It was legitimately like a happy, (early) springlike sun.

Today was a good day because I got to sleep in until 8:30. Well, technically the cat started meowing at 7:30, but I sort of half-slept and ignored her for an hour. (But seriously, Leia, shut up. If I don't have to get up for my kid, I shouldn't have to get up for you and your stupid cat kibble.)

We went to the gym. And seriously, the gym was The Place to Be. It's like I had so many friends there. And I realized that you can never underestimate the positive power of a sense of belonging. There was a time when I didn't know anybody in this town. I remember the first time I saw somebody I knew at the grocery store. I seriously wept with joy over that completely commonplace experience. And now I know so many people that half the time I hide when I see somebody at the grocery store because I feel like I look like crap and I don't want anybody to see me that way.

Anyway, I rocked it in the gym pool. I've been working on this new interval, swimming 100 yards on the 1:50. I sucked at this interval even just a week ago. I could do maybe 3 100s on this interval and then I'd have to slow it down. But for the past two swims, I have been able to do 12 100s on this interval.

And I went to the gym all 7 days this week, including swimming three times, which is why I think my good mood clicked in today. (Well, that and the sun and the womanly things.)

I took Nathan to a birthday party at a bouncy castle place. I love taking Nathan to bouncy castle places. He loves them, and he gets good and tired out. (Although as I type this it's 8:30 p.m. and the little bugger still isn't asleep.)

And I was legitimately excited to have a social event to go to this afternoon. I mean I realize it's a social event for my kid, but I'll take it. So many weekends in the winter it feels like you are just going through the same boring routine of chores and errands. It's nice to get out and do something different once in awhile. And so while my kid ran around like a complete loon with the other kids, to the point that he was legitimately sweating, I enjoyed talking to all the other parents.

Tomorrow we're hosting Nathan's birthday party. His actual birthday party is not until the 28th, so we're having some confusion about his "real birthday" versus his "birthday party." I decided to have it this weekend so as not to conflict with the indoor triathlon, and also because one of his very best friends is going to be out of town next weekend. Also Feb. 20 was the day he was supposed to be born.

Weight loss, a preliminary report

Well I lost 7 pounds in my first week back at Weight Watchers. I might be attributing 2 pounds to my change in footwear between the two weigh-ins, but I'm still calling it a victory.

And I'm happy about my weight loss, and I'm even happier when people muster up some enthusiasm about my weight loss. This week's loss has motivated me to keep going, at least for another week.


I have tried and failed so many times. I've lost and gained these same pounds so many times over and over again. It's hard to get excited. It's hard to want people to get excited for me.

And I have so far to go.

But I do know I can do it. Last night I went out to dinner with some people, and I saved up a whole bunch of points, and then I was so good and I didn't even drink alcohol, and I ordered a salad that barely had any cheese in it. And I went to the gym to burn some of that off.

Every time I do Weight Watchers, I gain some insights. I think this time around, with the new Weight Watchers plan, there is much more emphasis on treating yourself every once in awhile, with the bank of 49 extra bonus points you get every week. In the past, I think the attitude was more, "Oh, sure, those extra points are there, but if you really want to lose weight you might want to skip them." Now the book specifically says that your weight-loss efforts won't be hindered too terribly by using the bonus points, so you should use them.

But ... okay, so here's an embarrassing confession. Even outside of the context of Weight Watchers when people would mention treating yourself, I didn't understand what that meant. I mean seriously, I am an educated person with a pretty decent command of the English language, but I couldn't comprehend treating yourself. I mean, not literally. Obviously I knew the concept of splurging every once in awhile. What I didn't understand was how to figure out when to splurge. Like, okay, I have a dinner out on Friday night, but Saturday we're out doing errands so we're stopping at a drive-thru, and then my husband buys those Tim-Tams from Target ... and it's all splurging. I was always cheating. I couldn't figure out how to budget my food intake.

Now with Weight Watchers, I have a numerical reminder of how to budget. Like, okay, I have these 49 points. I want to use them at a restaurant on such-and-such a day, so that means no using them for stupid crap at home, and if I find myself going to McDonald's for their oh-so-convenient indoor playground, I can get a salad.

Anyway, what I want to say is that I'm overwhelmed and motivated and just a teeny-tiny bit more educated.

I also want to tell you that I'm typing this post while making breakfast-for-dinner, which is a very stove-oriented food preparation, and for crying out loud my stupid fat stomach sticks out so far while I'm cooking that I continually burn it on the edge of the stove (it's an electric range). Seriously, I have a bunch of burn scars that form little lines parallel to my c-section scar.

So, really, I think my first weight-loss goal should be to shrink my stomach to a point where I don't burn it every time I make pancakes.

But also, I want to get to a point where there are some modern, normal styles of clothing for women that look okay on me. I know I won't look good in some wacky cutting-edge look that only looks good on skinny little models, and honestly my current lifestyle doesn't really necessitate cutting-edge dress. But I just want to go to Target and look at a damn cardigan and not think my arms will look like sausages in it.

I think that's something that the naturally thin probably don't understand: when you are overweight, the issue of weight enters into your thoughts no matter what the topic. Like, Oh, So-and-So got engaged. I guess I have to go to her wedding. What the hell can I wear that won't make me look fat? Or, I'd like to apply for that job, but will the interviewer look down on me for being overweight? And my all-time-favorite: Oh crap, the weather is warming up, now I have to wear shorts/a skirt/something that shows my legs.

And before you think I'm raging against the naturally thin, let me tell you something I've learned about the naturally thin lately. I used to think that when it came to metabolism, there were winners and losers in the genetic lottery. There were some people who were just born lucky and could eat anything they wanted and not gain weight, and there were some of us who could just eat an apple and get fat. It just wasn't fair.

And really, I think to some degree genetics will always play a role in metabolism. There are some people who are luckier than others when it comes to their natural weights.

Let me repeat that. There are some people who are luckier than others when it comes to their natural weights. I have absolutely no doubt that body type is genetic.

However. Recently I have started to notice that naturally thin people have different eating habits than I do. Some of them seem to have some level of self-control around food that I do not have. For example, recently I saw a naturally thin person sit in front of a tray of cupcakes and not eat one. That would just never happen with me. And sometimes I see thin people who take like three chip (pretzels, crackers, etc.) out of a community bowl and then call it quits. I don't do that either. If the bowl is in front of me, I will keep eating out of it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I accept some level of personal responsibility for my weight predicament. And when I get down sometimes because I'm at a birthday party and all the skinny moms are having a piece of cake while I gnaw on a carrot, I have to tell myself that the skinny moms probably didn't down an entire box of Wheat Thins, straight out of the box, because they were bored one night.

My new mantra is, Because I have made poor choices in the past, I will make good choices in the present.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Shannon + Yoga = EPIC FAIL

So, as you know, I have a long history of failing at yoga. I thought this time around I had finally found a yoga I liked with my current park district A.M. Yoga class. And this class does have some things going for it. The location and time are good; it's in the same building as Nathan's preschool, at the exact same time I drop him off. The teacher is really nice and explains things very clearly. There's a lot of relaxation built in.

But that's the problem. It's very relaxation-oriented, which isn't a bad thing, but it's also not the least bit exercise-oriented. Now, I know I said that I didn't like the gym yoga because it's too exercise-oriented, so now I just sound like I'm too hard to please. And maybe that's true when it comes to yoga. Maybe it's time to give up on yoga.

As I said, it's not like the relaxation is a bad thing, especially for somebody like me who has ridiculous tendencies toward anxiety. Except this relaxation is really cutting into my workout time. See, I would normally work out while Nathan's at preschool, and instead I'm lying on the floor breathing at yoga. Now, I know flexibility is a major part of physical fitness, and I would be fine counting yoga as exercise if it was remotely challenging, flexibility-wise. But this class is really very senior-oriented, so the teacher says stuff like, "Now move your arm over to the right, if you can." Not at all a challenge.

So, to sum up, my problems with this class are: (1) it's at the wrong time of day to be getting all relaxed, and (2) it doesn't seem challenging enough to qualify as exercise. Potentially both of these problems could be solved due to the following turn of events: The instructor (who, again, I do like) has decided to quit teaching at the park district after this session (ending 2/24) and will only be teaching classes at a nearby church. She offers a few classes at the church, including one evening class. I'm hoping maybe an evening class will: (a) be less senior-oriented, (b) be at a good time of day to get relaxed, and (c) free up my morning time to go to the gym.
However, the yoga at the church is called something like "Yoga With a Spiritual Vein." Now, let me be very clear that I have no problem with any particular religion. I mentioned before that I don't like the Hindu-oriented yoga, and I don't want to try a Christian-oriented one, either. To me, focusing on spirituality requires a lot of mental energy, and I don't have a lot of mental energy when I'm expending a lot of physical energy trying to do yoga poses (plus trying to remember to breathe). I also think freaking out about whether or not I've had some major spiritual awakening kind of defeats the purpose of yoga.

So I'm thinking I just won't even try the teacher's class at the church. And I know, it doesn't hurt to try. In fact, this particular yoga setup is totally risk-free, because it's a pay-as-you-go kind of thing, so there's no major obligation there. (However, I do think $10/session is kind of steep. I'd rather see a movie for that amount.)

But, I just feel like I've been burned by yoga too many times to keep going here. Every class I've taken was too long or too hard or too easy. I like the idea of a DVD, although with a DVD there is never any variation on the poses or the stupid stuff the instructor says. I'm starting to think yoga is like the movie Goonies or hazelnut coffee: something that everybody else likes and I don't.

I'm frustrated that I can't enjoy yoga. It seems like everybody else loves yoga, and it always extolling the virtues of yoga. It's great for stress! It really tones your core! I'm one with the universe! I did yoga for a year and now my laundry folds itself!

I talked to the my trainer at the gym about my failure at yoga, and she suggested that maybe the solution was to do the Pilates Reformer training. The Pilates Reformer is this machine that apparently is some kind of miracle-worker in terms of toning. Here's a random photo I pulled off the Internet:

It looks kind of hard, but I do enjoy fun gadgetry. Also, as this shadow figure demonstrates, it's sexy, too:

So, I might be willing to give it a shot. Of course, it's a whole separate (huge) fee to do the reformer training. Bah. Oh well, if I finally find a flexibility-based exercise that I like, it's worth the money.

Meanwhile, I think I will use my yoga money to go to the movies. I could go out every Thursday evening, say I'm going to yoga, and then just sit through a 2-hour movie instead. Maybe I could become a movie buff. That's probably the only kind of buff I can hope for anyway.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Embarrassing Confessions

1. I sort of like Justin Bieber. I think he has been funny the times he did sketches on SNL, especially this hilarious one with Tina Fey. To make myself perfectly clear, I do not find him attractive, so I'm not some kind of gross pedophile. I just like that he doesn't seem to take himself too seriously, and I think today's kids could do worse for a role model.

2. I like lottery scratchers. I realize I am an educated adult and I should know that it's dumb to play the lottery because your odds of winning are infinitesimally small. And, in fact, I know that I rarely win, and if you factor in the amount of money I have spent on lottery scratchers versus the amount of money I have won, it is a net loss. But I only spend about $5-10 a month on lottery scratchers, so it isn't like I have a compulsive gambling problem. And also, I do not really enjoy any other forms of gambling. I find horseracing kind of creepy, and I don't have the acting skills to play poker. On the few trips to casinos that I have taken, I have stuck with slot machines because there's no awkward interpersonal pressure there. I also don't play the lotto with the numbers and the balls, because I would never remember to find out if I won anyway. I could be holding the multi-million dollar ticket, and I'd throw it away with my dry cleaning receipt. So anyway, I think it's fun to scratch off the occasional ticket, probably because the tickets are sold in otherwise boring places like the grocery store, and I always think I can get 15 seconds of excitement out of buying a lottery scratcher.

3. I am way too easily sucked into stupid reality shows on cable. I don't so much like the competition-based reality shows like American Idol or Survivor, but find me a show about a person with a weird medical condition or some crazy family structure, and you'll have me for at least half an hour.

4. I'm probably going to buy some cosmetics from the Hello Kitty line at Sephora today. It has been ages since I've had some Hello Kitty nail polish. (The Sephora line is, in fact, marketed toward adults, but their key demographic probably isn't white suburban housewives.)

5. Other juvenile interests I have had: Silly bands and those Japanese puzzle erasers

6. Speaking of Japanese puzzles, I have never successfully completed a Sudoku. I'm a crossword girl myself.

7. Things I like that everybody else hates: washing dishes, mosquito bites

8. I'm not a very good driver. I had to take two sessions of driver's ed because I flunked the first one. When I finally took the driving test, I only got a 72 (passing was 70). I don't know how to parallel park or drive a stick-shift, but I have given up on learning either of these skills because I think I'm lucky I can drive at all.

9. I don't understand Twitter.

10. It's driving me insane that I can't think of a #10 here, because I only like even numbers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Everyone likes pictures, right?

Geez, it's after dinner and I'm just now writing my blog post. I blame Weight Watchers for my tardiness. I'm not sure how it's their fault, but it's always safe to blame Weight Watchers.

Speaking of eating, I made a nice Valentine's Day dinner. As you might recall, I was making a recipe called Mock Lobster, which was chicken that was supposed to taste like lobster. It did not taste like lobster, but it was good. We all got to sit down and eat dinner together, which does not happen very often on weeknights in our house.

Plus I had this gorgeous centerpiece:

Way to set up the shot, Shannon. There are a bunch of random papers in the background. I shoved them all aside during dinner.

I got Bill some chocolate from Fannie May. The thing is, we are at a disadvantage when it comes to boxed chocolates, because we didn't grow up with Fannie May. We grew up with See's candies, so we're very familiar with the types of candies that See's makes. Now with Fannie May it's hard to know what you're getting with a particular assortment, and it's hard to know what's inside a piece of candy based on how the outside looks. Since I was only allowing myself one piece, I cut into several with a knife before I picked the one I wanted. Wasn't it nice of me to get my husband a box of candy and then cut all the pieces in half?

I feel a Forrest Gump reference coming on.

Anyway, Nathan's class actually did their party today because he only goes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Celebrating Valentine's Day on Feb. 15 kind of bothered me because of my tendency to want to compartmentalize and keep particular holiday activities where they belong. Also I was thinking maybe I could get Nathan's teachers some flowers for cheaper since it was the day after Valentine's Day, but they were still marked up from Valentine's Day and had a day longer of wilting in them.

So, I was frustrated with how much the flowers cost, until I experienced my kid's behavior this morning and decided any teacher who's willing to deal with him deserves a million dollars' worth of flowers.

Here are the arrangements I made:

I really think the Mater Valentine cards add something to the arrangements.

And here's Nathan at his class Valentine's Day party:

Little kid fruit punch mustaches!

Finally, this is a shot that's not related to Valentine's Day, but I wanted to show you my new Fiesta coffee mugs. Mostly I want to point out that these mugs are for the serious coffee drinker, because they hold 18 ounces of coffee. I originally only set out to buy one, but then Amazon was all, "Buy all 3!" and I was like, "I would like to buy all 3!" So here they are:

The official Fiesta colors are, from left to right: Plum, Scarlet, and Peacock. Which, and I found this infinitely interesting when I discovered it, are all characters from Clue: Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, and Miss Peacock. Good thing they don't make a (Col.) Mustard color, because that sounds ugly.

Anyway, Bill feels that the Professor Plum mug should be his, because he is a professor. Then he got all mad when he saw me using it. Which seems oddly territorial, and also weird because: (1) He doesn't drink coffee, and (2) It's purple.

Just a little slice of life from my household.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day, a Personal History

I'm never sure how I'm supposed to feel about Valentine's Day. It seems like the educated, enlightened person is required to view V-Day as a meaningless Hallmark holiday characterized by pointless consumerism. We're supposed to feel that we shouldn't need a greeting card company to remind us to tell people we love them! We should question why we need an obnoxious holiday that makes single people feel left out.

But, the thing is, I have always liked Valentine's Day, even when I was single. Below is a brief history of my personal Valentine's Day experiences.

In elementary school, Valentine's Day was awesome. Candy, hearts, crafts, an opportunity for a class party ... what's not to love? A highlight was when my kindergarten boyfriend, Derek McLaughlin, brought me a heart-shaped box of chocolates, and I kissed him. It would be years before I saw that kind of Valentine's Day action again.

When I was a kid, I made sure my mom bought me the kinds of Valentines that came with candy. Nobody wants a simple card when you can have candy! Most of today's commercial Valentines for children come with some form of add-on like candy or stickers, but when I was a kid you had to DIY if you wanted candy to come with your cards. The most popular form was to stick Conversation Heart candies in the envelope with your cards, which was kind of gross. Those hearts are pretty gross anyway (they are made of the same stuff as Necco wafers), and it's even more disgusting when they're semi-stuck to paper. So it was an especially big coup when my mom scored me some miniature packs of gummi bears to put in my Valentines one year. I was the most popular kid in class ... for that one day.

What I did not like as a kid were some of the pre-printed messages on the cards you bought. Like, why overly romantic things like "Be mine" or "You're special"? Since you were required to give a Valentine to everyone, why didn't they just say "Happy Valentine's Day"? This became especially anxiety-producing in my later elementary years, when I was worried that if I gave those cards to boys, they would think I like liked them. I remember finding the cards with the least romantic messages and reserving those for boys. As if anybody read anything into those messages. As if anybody read them at all.

I'm sure Valentine's Day existed when I got to middle school, but I don't remember anything about it. Maybe I blocked it out of my memory because it probably involved the adolescent social horror known at the Candy Gram. You know this one? Some group or club hosts a fund raiser where kids can pay a dollar to send messages with candy to their friends, and then on Valentine's Day, a representative of the club interrupts your sixth-period class to deliver the messages, in front of everyone, so it's obvious that Lisa S. got 27 candy grams and Shannon C. didn't get any.

But actually I'm sure Valentine's Day was still fun when I was in middle school, because my parents probably got us candy or some other small token, and I seem to recall we usually got to go to a restaurant for dinner.

In high school I became aware that Valentine's Day was for people in relationships, and that I wasn't one of them. I was jealous that I never got to be one of those girls who got a giant bouquet of flowers delivered to her at school (to high school, really?) and then got to proudly lug it around campus as a badge of honor signifying her attractiveness to the opposite sex. Oh, man, this is such a hassle to have to carry around this huge jungle of flowers that my boyfriend spent two months of his earnings from the movie theater on. As jealous as I was of the flower girls (and maybe that's why I love arranging flowers now), I still thought Valentine's Day was fun. Just like when I was a little kid, I figured Valentine's Day was about chocolate and hearts and getting little gifts from my parents ... what's not to love?

In college I remember a lot of V-Day "friend dates" and pity gifts from platonic male friends. I remember that I still pretended to hate Valentine's Day, even as I loved every chocolate-filled minute of it. The way I saw it, Valentine's Day was an opportunity to acknowledge all your loved ones, not just loved ones in the romantic sense.

Then I met Bill my senior year of college. The first Valentine's Day we were together, when we were dating for about three months, we did the full traditional Valentine's Day date and gift exchange. I remember being at the Hallmark store agonizing over cards to get, worried about the ones that said I love you because we hadn't really said that yet. Oh, naive little 22-year-old Shannon, you needn't worry. Men don't care about cards. Your boyfriend reads as much into the message on your $3 Hallmark card as the boys in elementary school read into your generic boxed Valentines. You might as well give your new boyfriend Bill the same card you gave to Humberto G. back in fifth grade.

I did get Bill a gift to go with the card, some pajama bottoms I got at Old Navy along with my special outfit I picked out just for the Valentine's Day date. Doesn't this rocking sweater/skirt combo scream "hot date"?

Valentine's Day 2000, featuring the roses Bill gave me and my psycho roommate's surfboard. And apparently one of those old-looking Pottery Barn phones.

After we took this picture, I made my poor graduate student boyfriend take me out to dinner, and then we walked on the beach at night and got ice cream. We were so cute.

Bill went away to law school in Chicago the following September, and I stayed in Los Angeles, so Valentine's Days 2001-2003 were part of our long-distance relationship phase. But I almost always visited him around Valentine's Day because I had three-day weekends for Lincoln's Birthday and President's Day around mid-February. We always exchanged simple gifts and gallivanted around Chicago, mostly while I complained about how cold it was.

Then on Valentine's Day 2003, around 2:30 a.m., we got engaged! Bill conjured up a plan to take me straight from the airport to the University of Chicago campus, stand among the trees lit up with twinkling lights, get down on one knee, and put a ring on my frozen ungloved finger.

Yeah, can you believe it? I was awake at 2:30 a.m.!

In our married life, I have always insisted that we acknowledge Valentine's Day in some way, but not go over-the-top. I think it's nice to take time to tell people we love them, even if it takes a greeting-card holiday to remind us to do it. He usually gets me flowers and I usually get him chocolate. Everyone's happy. And then rather than going out to dinner at a crowded restaurant, I try to cook something extra-special. These attempts have largely been failures. My cooking skills are not of "extra-special" caliber. I can master the basics, but when I try to take a step beyond, it's never that good. What I should be saying is, "Happy Valentine's Day! I made chili in the Crock Pot!"

Actually, that probably would go over big. Instead I'm making this recipe tonight called Mock Lobster, which I got off of Allrecipes. Because nothing says Valentine's Day like lobster, and with Mock Lobster you have the side benefit of getting the obnoxious B-52's song "Rock Lobster" stuck in your head all day, too. You're welcome.

Anyway, I like Valentine's Day, and I always have. As I have mentioned in the past, since moving to Illinois I also like Valentine's Day because by February you need some hearts and flowers and red and pink to brighten up the dull winter days. And now that Nathan is old enough to know what's going on in the world, it's fun to make Valentines with him, too.

So, Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Don't hate it for the commercialism or the emphasis on romance. Love it for the chocolate.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-In

It's time again for my check-in with Leigh Ann and friends!

Last week's goals:
  • Each day, do some small thing to bring joy to an otherwise blah winter day: Well, this was a really fun goal. Sunday I made the Super Bowl cookies, and Monday I did the pretty Valentine's Day playdate. Tuesday I got a pedicure, with a pretty shade of pink polish. Feeling like Sunday through Tuesday's goals were getting a little bit expensive, I opted for a cheapy goal on Wednesday, checking out a flower arrangement book from the library (even though I've checked it out like 7 times before). Thursday I didn't do anything, but my husband rescued the day in the end by bringing me some gorgeous roses. Friday I kind of didn't have time for anything. Saturday I took a bath with the last of my rose-scented bubble bath. So, mostly I did okay, except for Friday. But you know, I got into the spirit of the goal.
  • Give up mom guilt: This one actually went surprisingly well. As you know, I was really struggling with a lot of guilt on Tuesday. But that was sort of the rock-bottom point I needed to hit to start climbing back up again. You guys were all really supportive, and that helped a lot. So, I actually didn't even have anything to write on my list of guilt for the rest of the week. I'm pretty sure I'm not totally cured of mom guilt, but I think I've made a major improvement.
This week's goals:
  • Stick with the Weight Watchers plan every single day this week: You know those signs they have at factories that say "This site has gone ___ days without an accident," and then they fill in a number? That's how I think of my Weight Watcher-ing. Like, how many days can I go without cheating? How many days can I measure and plan and track and be good? Since this is my first week back, I want to do it right all 7 days, which will especially be a challenge on Thursday because I have a moms' night out kind of thing. That's always hard because I tend to see it as a time to relax, and so I think I should be relaxed about my diet as well. But I want to try and be good all week, no matter what. And part of the good Weight Watchers day includes going to the gym, so I want to have a side goal of working out every day this week (yoga on Thursday counts).
  • Finish another book: This week I finished Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. I realize that I have set this book goal a few times before, but I just really like it as a "let something slide" goal. Because when you sit down and read, you're letting a lot of things slide.
(Oh, and the Weight Watchers/gym goal counts as my "doing something for myself" goal, even though I probably won't really appreciate the benefits of it for a long, long time.)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

WARNING: This post is about Weight Watchers. Click away now if you don't care.

I went back to Weight Watchers yesterday, and the only thing that's on my mind is food, food, food. They overhauled the entire Points system, and now it's the PointsPlus system. All the values that I've memorized and learned to estimate over the years are different.

There are pros and cons to the new system, but mostly I'm just overwhelmed trying to figure out all the new points values and make decisions as to what to eat when I have no reference frame within the new system. Like, okay, this particular food's new PointsPlus value is 6. Is that good? Hard to say, because I also have a different points allowance than I did before.

It's sort of like if you woke up one day and the U.S. had switched over to euros as its currency. You'd know how many euros you had coming in, and how many euros a particular item costs, but you wouldn't have years of experience trying to budget within the reference frame of that particular monetary system. Oh, and unlike with currency conversion, there is no easy formula to convert the old Points to the new PointsPlus. The old Points were based on calories/fat/fiber and the new PointsPlus are based on carbohydrates/protein/fat/fiber. In case you were curious, this is the formula to used to figure out the PointsPlus values (from Wikipedia):

Who feels nervous just looking at that? Not Katie!

Now, of course Weight Watchers gives you various electronic and paper tools to calculate the PointsPlus values, so it's not like you're all at the grocery store with a pad of paper trying to do algebra to figure out the points value of every food.

Oh, and I'm allowed to post their proprietary formula on my page because a formula in and of itself is not subject to intellectual property protection. While the formula given on Wikipedia was not directly released by Weight Watchers, empirical studies have found that this formula produces the same PointsPlus values as the Weight Watchers tools.

(The preceding paragraph was for my husband, who is an expert on intellectual property law.)

Now, if you're still reading, I will tell you that there is a lot of emotional stuff associated with my current weight-loss endeavor, stuff like How did I let myself get this fat? and How on earth will I make it through this long journey (again)? I feel overwhelmed and frustrated, and wondering if I'll ever be successful with serious weight loss, given that I've failed so many times in the past.

On the other hand, I feel there are some emotional gifts that come with doing Weight Watchers. There is the satisfaction of knowing that I'm Doing Something About It. Yeah these jeans are too tight, but I'm working on it. It feels a lot better than trying on something at the mall and being frustrated that it doesn't fit, and OMG why the hell did I just go to Auntie Anne's?

I also think I tend to give myself more of a break when I'm on Weight Watchers. Like, I don't beat myself up if I think I didn't work hard enough at the gym. I don't force myself to do as many household chores. Like, look, my energy is going toward measuring all the foods I eat and then washing every single measuring cup I own. I don't also have time to pick up all those toys, again, when I know they're just going to get thrown on the floor tomorrow anyway.

But mostly, I am overwhelmed. And I tell myself how lucky I am to have the money to pay for Weight Watchers and the necessary diet foods. I am lucky to have a brain in my head that can comprehend these things. But I feel unlucky to have the body I do and the general weakness and lack of willpower.

And it's all very confusing and emotional. And I can't parse it all out right now.

So instead I just talk about math.

Friday, February 11, 2011


The response to yesterday's post was amazing. I enjoyed hearing such reassuring words and "me too"s from you guys. It's fun to hear from people I don't know IRL, because it means that blogging can reach people you wouldn't reach otherwise. But it's also fun, in an equal but totally different way, to hear from people I do know IRL, because they often share feelings that don't come up in everyday "Hey, how are you?" small talk conversations.

Oh, and I'd like to welcome a new reader, my husband, who saw yesterday's post advertised on Facebook, thought the title was overwhelmingly sad, and brought me home the most beautiful, longest-stemmed red roses ever. And said, "I just want you to be happy, Shannon."

See? Blogs get through to people in ways that day-to-day conversation can't. Mostly because the day-to-day conversation with my husband are less about feelings and more about poker TV shows, specifically my desire not to watch them.

Anyway, enough feelings stuff.

The title of my post comes from the fact that I am home alone for an entire hour! I signed Nathan up for this little class at the high school, where the high school students run a preschool to learn about what little kids are like (answer: annoying). It's only $75 for a 90-minute class that meets twice a week from now until Memorial Day. And the best part is that there's a drive-through drop-off and pickup.

Except today was the first day, and so I decided to walk him in, which meant I had to navigate the parking lot at the high school. When I got there, it was a passing period, and a whole bunch of students were walking across the parking lot. Is it weird that throngs of teenagers still make me nervous? Like, OMG, I might be going the wrong way, or in the wrong parking lot, and they're all looking at me and judging me. I generally spent most of my own teenage years worried about doing the wrong thing and having people judge me.

I generally spend most of my time now worrying about doing the wrong thing and having people judge me, but I guess in a different way. Like, now the mistakes I make aren't about inconsequential things like having the wrong kind of backpack. Now the mistakes I make could screw up an entire human being.

Oh well, Nathan is dropped off, and I'm home alone. Which is especially pleasant because I had an extra-crazy morning, having had to babysit for this 19-month-old who belongs to my former landlords. He hadn't been over here in 4 months, which is like a million years in toddler years, so he didn't really remember me, and he screamed when his parents left. And then I had to go meet with my trainer, so the kid had to go to the gym daycare with Nathan, and he cried there. But apparently in the two hours he was there, he became the daycare worker's BFF, so upon my return he cried again. And then we went to the McDonald's playland, because what kid wouldn't want to go to a McDonald's playland? Except he just sat there, intermittently crying and refusing to eat. I felt like I had to explain to people that he wasn't my kid, so they wouldn't think, Geez, why can't that woman shut up her own kid?

See, still worried about being judged.

Anyway Nathan is not at all nurturing, and was generally acting like a little shit to this child, and so I had some panic about how I'm screwing him up by not giving him siblings.

See, still worried about making mistakes.

Oh well, the other kid has now been picked up, Nathan is at the high school, and I'm at home. Things are good. Except I have to swing by Weight Watchers on the way to picking up Nathan, because it works out well for geographical reasons, and I'm dreading that like nobody's business. The first trip back is so hard. My brother said once that Weight Watchers should have a sign over their door saying, Well, look who came crawling back.

And BTW, since Leigh Ann mentioned "baby weight," let me say that all the weight I have to lose is "post-baby weight." A.K.A., "Oh, we can't let those French fries go to waste" weight. I admit it, sometimes I order Nathan something that comes with fries just so I can eat some of them.

In other news, I am reading the best book right now. It's called Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. It's about this woman who has a crazy lifestyle as a mother of three with a very demanding career, and then one day on the way to work she gets in a horrible car accident. The accident leaves her with brain damage to the right hemisphere of her brain, which means she has a condition call Left Neglect, wherein she can't see the left side of anything. But, it's not like she's blind, she's just totally unaware of the left, can't turn to the left, and can't voluntarily move her left side. She only eats food off the right side of her plate, only puts on makeup on her right side, and can only see the right side of the page in a book. And, you know, this tragic accident gives her pause to look at her crazy life and make some changes so she can focus on what's important. I just really like the book because it covers two of my interests, work-life balance and psychology.

I would like to sit around and read this book all afternoon, but I have to take Nathan to ice skating. We are over-scheduled at the moment, but only because today is the last day of ice skating and the first day of his class at the high school.

So, I don't know what this post was really about. Friends, babysitting, insecurity, weight loss, books ... kind of a smattering of everything.

Have a good weekend, you guys!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

There's always some reason to feel not good enough

First of all, I want to thank you all for your kind words yesterday. I know I've said it before, but it always helps to know you aren't the only one who feels that way.

I want to give two shout-outs to yesterday's commenters:

First, to Andrea, who said I inspired her to write a blog! So after you're done reading this, read Andrea's blog!

Second, to Emily, who said some very sweet stuff and who brilliantly said: "I feel like I don't have the right to complain bc I just have one [child] and feel, not "mom enough". Emily, you put into words exactly how I feel. I feel like I'm not in the mom club because I'm not frazzled and being tugged at by multiple little beings all day (unless you count the cat).

But Emily's comment, and the post she commented on, made me think about how it's not just about the kid; I have always thought I wasn't good enough. Like, it goes way back.

Yes, I got straight A's in high school, but I told myself that it was because I didn't go to a very good high school. (And I realize some people from my HS read this blog, and don't be offended because those were the words of a crazy person, and Bulldogs rule!)

Then in college I graduated with highest honors, but I downplayed it by saying it was only a second-tier state school, not like the crazy-hard prestigious school my friend and chief competitor attended. This inadequacy was largely influenced by that friend saying that she graduated with a poor GPA because the classes at her school were so hard, and that at her college the average grade people get is a C. Let me note that the average grade is always a C in any class, but that knowledge didn't stop me from feeling pathetic about my accomplishments. I figured I'd probably get a C in a class at a good college. (And again, college classmates, don't listen to me. Go Gauchos!)

Out in the real world, accomplishments are harder to quantify, but I still managed to find a way to downplay all of my achievements. Or to flat-out beat myself up for some minor shortcoming. When I was a teacher, hoo boy, there were opportunities up the wazoo to feel like crap. You take the collective thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of a class of irrational children, their parents, administrators, and the community at large, and you're always going to find something that went wrong.

I went to work in the private sector after that, and the drama died way down, thank God, but at that point I started to feel like I hadn't done enough because I wasn't popping out the kids yet. I'm not allowed to feel tired or stressed or frazzled. I'm not a mom yet. When I'm a mom, I'll get it.

Except, now I'm a mom, and I feel not good enough because I only have one kid. Other moms are always saying, "Oh, you just wait 'til you have two, it makes having one look like a walk in the park." And honestly, I don't feel like I am walking in any park. I feel like this is hard. With one. And no job. But I'm not allowed to complain.

And if I'm not going to pop out another kid, shouldn't I at least be working? Shouldn't I have some fabulous, write-my-own-ticket, SAHM/WAHM/PT hybrid career cobbled together? The kind that makes me creatively fulfilled and basking in the glow of work-life balance? (Even though I know that kind of balance is a myth, at least in terms of its ability to exist every single minute of every single day.)

Shouldn't I, if I'm only going to have one kid, be giving him undivided attention day in and day out, playing with him? Doing flashcards with him? Feeding him all organic, healthful, homemade food? Shouldn't my house be cleaner? Shouldn't I have enough energy to stay awake to watch one TV show with my husband? (Though, in my defense, who wouldn't fall asleep during an endless stream of shows about poker?)

Shouldn't my house be cleaner? Shouldn't my laundry be done? Shouldn't I ...

It could go on forever. And no matter what I do, it won't be good enough. When I worked part-time, I felt like I wasn't good enough because I didn't work full-time. I know I could have another kid and I'd still feel inadequate. I know because people I know who seem to be doing it all, the multiple kids and the career and the whatever, and they still tell me they feel like they aren't doing enough.

Thanks a lot, Society. I'm blaming my problems on you.

And while I can't so much give up my tendency to feel inadequate in the blink of an eye, I do think I've reached a big step in terms of my awareness of this tendency. It occurs to me that I'm so overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I feel like I should do, that I just don't do anything. If I'm never going to do enough, why do anything at all?

Yes, I dream of having this fulfilling career as some kind of writer, but what do I ever write? (I mean, besides this blog?) I am a writer for Technorati, but until today I hadn't written anything in 2011. I see other opportunities to write, like this one, and I am just too overwhelmed to try. Where will that get me? It won't get me where I feel like I should be, because where I feel like I should be is impossible to get to. Even if I get there, I will tell myself I need to get farther.

It's like the Olympic motto is constantly running through my subconscious: Citius, Altius, Fortius.

Faster, higher, stronger.

But yesterday it occurred to me that I don't have to do everything. I just have to do something.

The first something I decided to do was restart Weight Watchers. In a way, my weight loss predicament is sort of a metaphor for my overall frustrations. I have so far to go with my weight loss, I figure why bother at all? Except, doesn't it feel better to be at least trying to do something than to sit around and feel angry?

Thus far, my current Weight Watchers foray has included looking up information on the new program (because, dammit, they changed it a lot) and the meeting schedule. I haven't really officially started yet, because I just decided to yesterday, and today's meeting schedule didn't work for me. But really, I'm gonna go tomorrow. Really, I promise.

I also did sit down and write that article for Technorati. I wrote an article about a study that found that antidepressants are over-prescribed. Not surprisingly, I was unhappy about the message this study sends.

You can read my Technorati article here.

But first go read Andrea's blog!