Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Weight of Responsibility

I really can't call it baby weight anymore.  Sophia is nearing five years old, after all.  Not to mention the fact that I have since lost (and regained) the "baby" weight so many times that I would weigh around 90 pounds if it weren't for that little part about regaining it. 

No, this weight is all mine.  I can't blame it on my children.  Nor can I blame it on my husband (much as I would like to).  Just because he's a fabulous cook and makes the world's best mint brownies doesn't mean I have to eat the whole pan when he makes them.  Nobody is holding a gun to my head forcing me to eat my weight in desserts at every single holiday.

I have made these decisions.  Me.

And now I am choosing to be healthy, and let me tell you it isn't easy.

In fact, it's one of the hardest things I've ever done.  And that's just the way it goes.  The things that are hard to do are the ones that bring us the most happiness and self-worth in the long run.  The easy way actually makes life harder, once you look past the moment and realize the consequences of the easy choices.

I have always given up dieting and exercising after being mildly successful.  After hitting a plateau, or getting bored, or deciding that I'd rather sit around eating crap when I could be at the gym or, at the very least, eating vegetables instead of, well, crap.  And once I give up, all the weight I lost comes right back on in a matter of minutes.

The thing is, part of my giving up is whining about how hard it is, and how if I just didn't have PCOS or thyroid issues, or if I just had more time to make myself healthy food and to exercise, or if my metabolism and genetics were just thinner then I would be successful.

Well that's crap, too.

PCOS and thyroid may make it slightly more difficult to lose weight, but they certainly never made me eat a brownie instead of broccoli.  Having a busy schedule may make it hard to eat right and exercise, but I have sure found time for other things in my overscheduled life that aren't necessary.  My metabolism and my genetics?  Bah, humbug.  Just more excuses.

I have been obsessed with The Biggest Loser this season.  I've never watched it before, as I'm not much of a TV watcher, but it has been so inspiring.  Olivia Ward is my new hero.  I really identified with her. Not only is she an opera singer, but she has PCOS and she is my exact same height.  I watched her do things she never thought she could do--things I still don't think I can do--every week.  And in the finale, when she got on that scale and the number was right around what I weighed when I got married, it brought me to tears.  She did this, and she had much more weight to lose than I do.

I can do this, too.  I have been doing it.  I've lost 15 pounds since April.  But I have been teetering on that precipice of giving up because it's too hard to lose the other 40.  So I'm writing this to remind myself.

I CAN DO HARD THINGS.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Jane Austen Education

Like many of you, I love Jane Austen's books.  I mean, I've read Pride and Prejudice so many times that I've lost count.  Now, my husband isn't a reader of fiction--he prefers things like biographies and music text books-- but even if he were, I highly doubt he'd be very willing to pick up any of Jane Austen's works. After all, aren't they the epitome of girly lit?  I have made him watch some of the movie adaptations with me, and he has enjoyed them, but I still don't think that he'd pull them out on his own the way he does The Lord of the Rings.

William Deresiewicz, author of A Jane Austen Education, felt the exact same way.  A grad student of literature, he preferred to read more modern authors like James Joyce and William Faulkner.  He scoffed at the idea of Jane Austen's novels being anything more than pure fluff.

And then he took a class centered around her works, and it changed his life.  This book is a memoir of the transformation that took place in Deresiewicz as each of Jane's famous novels taught him valuable life lessons.

I love the way that Deresiewicz, formerly an English professor at Yale and now a book critic for The New York Times and other publications, combined telling the story of his life while simultaneously analyzing each of Austen's works and teaching me the same lessons he learned from them.

Couldn't put this book down.  And if you love Jane Austen as much as I do, you won't be able to put it down either.  It has made me want to immediately reread all of the Austen novels. I'm excited to find the same lessons Deresiewicz found within their pages...so those are probably going on my (already too long) summer reading list as well.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

There Ain't Nothin' Like a Mom

I will be sending little Sophia off to Kindergarten come fall.  Kindergarten is especially difficult for me, as I know it is for most mothers out there.  Something about sending your cute little baby away for half the day, where you have little control over her environment just brings on the tears.  And, even though it doesn't seem logical, it's different than preschool.  It just is.

So, yeah, I cry a lot the first day of Kindergarten, and a little bit every day for that first week or so.  But, after the initial heart-rending of those early days, my heart begins to mend and sending my children off to learn becomes a normal, even welcome, part of life.  And then I stop worrying quite so much about all of the challenges and difficulties they might face while they are out of my care.  I mean, I still worry, and I still ask them what's up and try to keep tabs on things, but it just isn't quite so scary as it is that first day of Kindergarten.

And yet, sometimes things are still difficult at school.  My girls have dealt with friend issues, playground bullies, academic challenges and everything in between.  And even though I'm not right there at school to help them out, I trust completely that their teachers can handle it there and I can take over once they're home.  And usually, this works out swimmingly.

But sometimes, you just need your mom.

The other day, I noticed Chloe had left her glasses on my dresser.  I didn't see them there until a few hours after school had started, and anyway, I don't usually just take stuff like that to the school.  I like them to learn responsibility, and so if she forgot her glasses, she would have to deal with the consequences and hopefully remember better next time (this probably makes me a bad mom).  Later, I had to go to the school for another reason, and I felt like I should just take the glasses anyway, so I grabbed them and off we went.

When I got down to Chloe's classroom, it was dark and the desks were empty.  I knew she had either art or music (I can never keep the schedules straight), so I went into the classroom to check the schedule that her teacher keeps posted on the whiteboard.  As I walked further into the classroom, I realized that the teacher was in there, quietly leaning over a desk and talking to a child.  Then, I noticed that the child was wearing Chloe's shoes, and her pants....and well, it was Chloe.  What luck!

I must admit, my first thought was that she was being disciplined for something or the other.  This is completely out of her character, to get into trouble at school, but that's where my mind immediately went, which is probably normal (I hope).  But when I got closer and could actually see her face, I realized that she was crying.  Sobbing, actually.  Then my heart just took over for my brain and I wanted to fix it.  Whatever was wrong, I wanted to fix it for her, and I blurted out, "What happened, Chloe?"

And she jumped right out of her chair and just clung to me.  Mrs. G explained a little of the playground drama that had been going on that day to me (not really serious, Chloe is just highly sensitive) and then turned to Chloe and said, "Did you see that?  Your mom just dropped right out of the ceiling when you needed her!  Moms have a wonderful way of doing that, don't they?"

We talked some more, and then I walked Chloe to art.  She was mostly happy again, and she told me that she was just wishing that I was there to make her feel better when I showed up.  And I knew that it was no coincidence that I decided at the last minute to bring her glasses, and that I came right when I did.

Because moms really do have a wonderful way of just "dropping out of the ceiling" right when you need them.  I'm always amazed at how my own mom seems to just know when I need her most and calls me to see how things are going.  I don't always let on about how much I need those phone calls, but she probably knows anyway.  Her mom probably did the same thing for her.

And so even though I'm getting to this "golden age of parenting" where my children will be in school every day, all day, it doesn't mean I have any less responsibility as a parent.  It's important to remember that my children still need me just as much as they ever have, and that being away from me might even be as difficult for them as it is for me to send them off to Kindergarten.

There just isn't anything quite like a mother.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Homemade With Love

Ready for Winter
When I was little, I had a My Friend Mandy doll and a My Friend Jenny doll.  Mandy had blonde hair and blue eyes, while Jenny looked much more like me, with dark hair and dark eyes.  There was also a My Friend Becky doll that had red hair, but I didn't own her.  I did have a red-headed friend named Becky, though, and of course she had a Becky doll.  How could she not?

Sometimes, when I came home from school, Mandy and Jenny would be set up on my dresser wearing new outfits, sewn by my mom and her trusty Bernina.  Obviously, I had the best mother in town, because none of my other friends' dolls had homemade clothes, nor did they have wardrobes that were anywhere near as extensive as the one Mandy and Jenny had.  I was a lucky girl.

That is one of my favorite memories from my childhood: Coming home to the surprise of a new outfit or two for my dolls.  So, when Chloe asked me to make doll outfits for her birthday party, how could I have possibly said no?  There is just something magical about homemade outfits for favorite dolls.

So (finally) here is a picture of what I ended up making for my girls and all of Chloe's party guests.  Hats, scarves and coats.  Only my girls got buttons, which just got sewn in this week, by the way.  Everything is also supposed to be blanket stitched, but once I realized what I had gotten myself into, I quickly began to simplify, so things like buttons and blanket stitching quickly went out the window.  I don't think anybody cared, anyway.

The pattern I bought has lots of other outfits on it, and I think I will go buy a couple more patterns.  Heaven knows that I have plenty of extra fabric sitting around, and I want my own girls to come home to their dolls set up on their dressers decked out in new garb.  School is out June 9, so I only have a couple weeks, and I already can't wait to see their faces.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Goal or Three for the Summer plus My Summer Reading List 2011

I have gotten so behind in my entire life these past few months.  I've barely managed to keep my head above water and still get the necessities done.  It is truly amazing that I've not been late on any bills or forgotten any major appointments (at least, none that I know of!).

When my life is this much out of control, it manifests itself in many ways, but usually three areas are hit the hardest:
  1. My laundry. (I'm at least a hundred loads behind).
  2. My den/office/computer room/craft room (shudder).    
  3. My e-mail inbox (I think there are over 60 emails I need to answer, sorry if you're one of them).
So, now that things are finally calming down (violin recital Sunday!)(piano recital Monday!)(No more  music lessons for my kids for a month!)(I have fewer lessons now that it is summer term, too!)(Etcetera!), I need to get on top of these things!

I promise to catch up on laundry this week.  I'll even fold it and put it away and everything.

(Deep breath.) That's the easy part.  I mean, I can say I'll clean my office, but you have no idea what that means.  So I took some pictures.  Beware.  They are scary.  And also? I do not throw papers on the floor.  This is the room where the kids do all of their projects.  At least, it was until it started looking like this, which was probably sometime circa March.  And I try to pick up a little in here every day, but, well...

Okay, no more excuses.  It is what it is, and I promise to change that this week.  I will somehow clean it and somehow organize it.  And I will somehow keep it that way.

Scary Office 2Scary Office 1
Ugh.

I'm not sure how I'm even sitting here typing amongst all this mess!

I'm immune, that's how.

So, I will clean it.  This week. It may actually take me all week, but it will get done.  And it will stay clean!!! Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.

The email, meh.  I'll catch up.  It's nothing horribly serious.  But, I did spend sometime tonight updating my Goodreads account.  I always start getting a little twitchy when I don't have time to do that, so it was nice to get done.  It was also something to do in order to procrastinate the laundry folding and office cleaning and probably not the best use of my life, but oh well!

So, speaking of Goodreads, I think that the other goal I have for the summer, is to actually read the books I put on my to-read list in 2008.  There are only nine of them, and I've already started one of them, so it shouldn't be too difficult.  And I own most of them, so that makes it even easier!

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (own it)
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (own it)
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (own it, started it)
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (own it)
The Magician by Michael Scott (own it)
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

I don't even remember the reasons some of these are on my must read list. Have you read them, and are they even worth my time?

Because I'd hate to read a book that isn't worth it when I could be cleaning my office, after all.



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

Joined the Ranks
I suppose it was inevitable that any children The Maestro and I had together would eventually need corrective eye wear.  Bria made it to just over the age of five without needing it, and now I'd say she is almost as blind as I am.  I had high hopes for Chloe because she's never seemed to have an issue reading things at a distance like Bria did.

Well, here she is at the age of 8, and she has officially been given her first pair of glasses.  She'd been having headaches at school for a while and when they started being full-blown migraines in the matter of a few weeks, I figured we'd best get her eyes tested to rule that out before we panicked.  And, as it turns out, the headaches were definitely vision related.

Only, it wasn't what I thought.  This child, daughter of two very myopic parents, is FAR-sighted.  Not horribly, but reading and drawing were making her head hurt.  The eye doctor didn't even want to put her in glasses until we could really verify that the headaches were indeed coming after doing "close-work."

Long story short, the headaches continued, we ordered the glasses, she got them today.  She only needs to wear them for reading, but she is loving them so much that she hasn't taken them off since we left the eye doctor's office.  They are purple, after all.  And how could purple glasses be anything but happy? 

They are also really good for doing duck impressions.


Just Ducky
Bet you're jealous.

**************

The winner of the book MOM by Dave Isay is Jane!  Congratulations!

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Kitchen Daughter

Normal.

What does normal even mean?

I have often wondered this in my life, and I admit to spending time worrying that I don't fit in with the "normal" people and trying to figure out how I can become more normal.  But, I've come to realize that what is normal for one person may not be normal for another, but it's all good.  How boring life would be if we all fit into the same mold of normal!

The Kitchen Daughter, by Jael McHenry explores this notion of normalcy and its elusiveness.  Ginny, undiagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, feels she is normal.  When people ask her what is wrong with her, or what she has, she always answers, "a personality."  Personally, I loved that.

I have not given much thought to what it might be like to be on the autism spectrum, but McHenry's brilliant narration allowed me to be inside Ginny's head and get a taste for how it might feel to have Asperger's.  Ginny's character was incredibly endearing, and has taken a firm place in my list of favorite literary characters.

When Ginny's (overprotective) parents are both killed in an accident, Ginny is left alone to deal with her younger sister, her emotions and all the many shades of normal.  When Ginny's late grandmother's ghost appears in her kitchen during the wake because Ginny has made her recipe for bread soup, she learns it is normal for her to see ghosts when she cooks their recipes.

And thus begin her adventures in this amazing debut novel written by food blogger Jael McHenry.  It is at once a culinary novel (recipes included!), a mystery novel (ghosts included!) and one that has the potential to change your thinking, and possibly even your life, as you read about Ginny's quest to find out about herself, what normal means to her and how to finally live life and accept herself for who she is.

When Lisa from TLC Booktours first emailed me about reading this novel, she mentioned that the publisher (Simon and Schuster) was very excited about this book, and that it was a favorite around the office.  I can definitely see why.  In fact, when I added it to Goodreads, I noticed that it already has a 4.17 star average, which on that website is excellent.  I predict that this book will be making a big splash this year, and I highly recommend reading it.

The publisher is giving away a copy of this book to one of my readers.  Want to win?  Leave a comment telling me something that is normal...anything.

****************

I received this book from the publisher via TLC Booktours.

****************

The winner of When Did I Get Like This? by Amy Wilson is Amanda B.  Congratulations!!!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

IMG_8653 Mother's Day web
I'll admit.  Today started out being a pretty crappy day.  Getting ready for church was painful (and that's putting it nicely) and involved temper-tantrums from each of the three children who call me Mommy, a lost sweater which caused every pile of clothing in the house to be torn through multiple times, a snagged pair of (brand-new!) hose, tears and raised voices.  And that's only the half of it.

We were a half hour late to church and missed the Sacrament, but once we were there I started calming down and feeling the spirit of the day, thankfully.   I suppose if Mother's Day hadn't been on a Sunday, that wouldn't have been possible, so for that I am especially thankful.


IMG_8657 Mother's Day web
I'm thankful for three amazing children, each of whom has made me a better person, despite all of the many crappy mornings we endure.  So often, I don't feel the least bit worthy or capable of mothering such beautiful spirits.  Why, just this morning I blamed myself for the laundry situation getting entirely out of my hands this past month and that was just one of the reasons I wondered why I was ever allowed to be a mother today.  But somehow, my girls love me anyway, and on days like today, they tell me that I am the best Mom in the world.

Bria wrote me a lovely laminated poem:
The important thing about you is that you care for me and you love me.  You are the best mom ever. You are beautiful. You are always there for me. You plant pretty tulips and crocuses, you have good ideas, you love poodles, your voice sounds like a joyful bird, and when I am sick you help me feel better.  But the important thing about you, Mom, is that you care for me and you love me.

Chloe wrote me a song:

Oh, you're the bestest Mom!  There's no comparison!
You tuck me in at night, you wake me up.
Oh, Mom, you're the bestest mom!
You make me lunch, you make me dinner.
That's why you're a winner!
You wipe my tears away when I'm feeling sadly (blow nose)
I love you.  
(kiss)

She sings it to a tune she learned in music class, and I love it.  

Sophia has learned how to write MOM.  I feel so special that the only thing she can spell independently besides her own name is mine.  She's made me countless pictures these last few days that say MOMSOPHIA on them, and I love them.


IMG_8655 Mother's Day web
Joel made me a lovely dinner, totally and completely out of the parameters of my diet, but my favorite thing on earth: Fettucine Alfredo.  He makes a pretty amazing Fettucine Alfredo, too.  With chicken and broccoli.  And it was well worth it, despite the extra time I will be putting in at the gym tomorrow.

The kids all cleaned the house while I was at opera rehearsal after church, and the spirit in our home has done an about face since this morning.  And even though the laundry is still completely out of my control, I am happy.

And I have wonderful children, despite my imperfections at mothering them.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Surfing at Sunset

Oh yeah!  Remember how I went on a cruise to the Caribbean in January?

Me neither.

Okay, so I pretty much stink at getting vacation photos edited, much less posted.  Something about being easily distracted and easily overwhelmed,  I guess.  Although, I'd like to think that anyone would be intimidated by a vacation where nearly 2,000 photos were taken.  But maybe normal people don't actually take that many photos?  Or maybe I should just bring a film camera next time.

Anyway.  So, on this day, after we got back on ship from where did we go again?  Oh yes.  Belize.  Where the monkey pooped in my hair.  So, after we got back from Belize, my brother Jon rented out the FlowRider on board for just us to use, and it was awesome, even though I wasn't about to try my hand (or feet, or any other part of my body) at surfing.  It was pretty much a boys only activity.

IMG_1058 flow rider web
We started with my uber-athletic brother, Dave.  I'd like to take a moment and brag about this guy.  Last summer, he rode his bike all the way from Canada to Mexico in an unsupported bike race/tour thingy.  2,000 plus miles in 23 days.  This summer he's doing one that goes coast to coast.  He's a bit crazy (okay, a lot), but I'm insanely proud of him.

IMG_1066 flow rider web
Everybody got a bit of instruction from the FlowRider guru guy at the beginning, but maybe his instruction wasn't so great at first, because Dave immediately wiped out.

(Also, please keep in mind that I took about 400 pictures during this one hour time slot.  I have narrowed it down to only 30 and I happen to prefer the wipe outs.  They're just more fun.)


IMG_1075 flow rider web
And he's back up and running!  And definitely enjoying himself by the looks of it!

IMG_1078 flow rider web
And Dave's out.  While we wait for the next candidate to receive instruction, who is this cutie patootie?

IMG_1081 flow rider webIMG_1082 flow rider webIMG_1086 flow rider web
Definitely nothing cuter than a 4-year old curly head with a grape juice mustache at sunset.

IMG_1087 flow rider web
Here's some people discussing who will go and who will not.  I'm pretty sure at this particular moment, Jon (Harley shirt) is teasing Bria, who was pretty sure she was NOT going to try this surfing business.  And how can I blame her? Of course, Jon himself had decided he'd rather watch...

IMG_1089 flow rider web
Here's my sister-in-law, Brittany, my niece Estee, and my mom enjoying the fun.

IMG_1091 flow rider web
And here's one of my favorite pictures of the night.  Chloe and her cousin, Tychon.  These two were born just a week apart and they adore each other.  Unfortunately, Tychon lives in Seattle and Chloe lives in Michigan, so they may as well live in different countries for how often they get to see each other.  I love seeing them together.  Love.

IMG_1094 Caribbean sunset web
And here's the view the surfers had.  A Caribbean sunset.  Gorgeous.

IMG_1110 flow rider web
And now my brother Nate is up and hanging loose.  Go Nater!

IMG_1112 flow rider web
Ah...ah....ah...

IMG_1113 flow rider web
...choo!  Better luck next time, Nate.

IMG_1122 Caribbean sunset web
And there's the sunset again.  I love the sunset.

IMG_1151 flow rider web
And here we have my dad.  Raised in Southern California, he was quite the avid surfer back in the day.  And it looks like he's still got it!

IMG_1176 flow rider web
Bwahahahah....

IMG_1187 flow rider web
Wipe Out!  (Feel free to sing some Beach Boys tunes right about now...)

IMG_1204 flow rider web
And now it's Tychon's turn to try.  First piggy-back with the surfing guru....

IMG_1207 flow rider web
...and now he's heading out all on his own.

IMG_1214 flow rider web
Go Tychon!

IMG_1280 flow rider web
And now, The Maestro is up.  Amazingly, he stays up longer than anyone before him, despite never having surfed before.  I attribute it to his Hawaiian ancestors: Even though the hula gene seems to have skipped right over him, the surfing gene seems to be alive and well in Joel.

IMG_1282 flow rider web
And doesn't he know it?  Here we go with all the hot dog antics....

IMG_1295 flow rider web
Oh, but honey?  Don't you know?

IMG_1301 flow rider web
Pride goeth before a fall.

IMG_1315 flow rider web
You should have kept your hands out.

IMG_1316 flow rider web
Ouch!  That had to hurt!

IMG_1348 flow rider web
So remember how this was a boys' party?  And how Bria was not about to try?

IMG_1350 flow rider web
Well, she did!  And she had the time of her life!

IMG_1354 flow rider web
And in the process overcame yet another fear.  Maybe I'll try it next time.
We shall see.

Next up: Cozumel.  Maybe even before Christmas.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

It's Gotten a Bit Ridiculous...

Book Stand

This is what my nightstand (aka Book Stand) looked like last Friday.

Scary.  Especially knowing that I am in the middle of  FIVE different books on my Kindle right now, too.

The pile on the left are some of the books I've finished in the last couple months and not bothered to put away yet.  Well, and my scriptures.  The other pile are books I've started and not finished, or are waiting to be read.  Plus there's the Kindle and a magazine. 

You'll be relieved to know that after I took the picture I put away the ones I've read, at least.

A pile of books on my nightstand is certainly nothing new, but I think I have now broken my personal record.

So many books....so little time!

What are you reading right now?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Mom


I love listening to some of the NPR shows like This American Life.  The topics and stories they come up with fascinate me, especially since they are usually about the lives of ordinary people like you and me.  StoryCorps is another project that NPR has done, which gives people the opportunity to record an interview with someone in their lives.  The interview is then preserved at the Library of Congress, and many of them are also broadcast on NPR's StoryCorps podcast.

The book I am reviewing today--Mom by Dave Isay--is actually a written collection of many of these StoryCorps interviews.  All having to do with motherhood. 

The stories are divided into three categories:  Wisdom, Devotion and Enduring Love.  All things that most mothers are known for.  So many different stories of motherhood are represented, and each of them touched me somehow.  Some were amusing, others were faith-building.  There are stories of adoptive mothers and biological mothers and mothers of quintuplets.  There are interviews between siblings, parents, children, friends, etc.  And I learned from each one.

Each story is rarely more than a few pages long, and this is a book that is wonderful to keep by your bed to read a few chapters whenever you're feeling in need of a pick-me-up.  It would also be a great gift for Mother's Day, which is coming up next week.

I also enjoyed how the end of the book has sample interview questions, should you want to create your own interview with somebody important to you.  I know we did something similar with my grandparents before they died, and the resulting video has been treasured.

The publisher has kindly agreed to give a copy of this book to one of my readers.  Just comment on this post and tell me something about your own mother that you never want to forget.

*****************

This book was sent to me by the publisher via TLC Booktours.

Also, the giveaway for When Did I Get Like This? is still running.  Don't forget to enter to win that book, too!