Thursday, September 25, 2014

I love my daughter ... but man, I wish she'd stop this!

It started out innocently enough, with two mismatched socks.

Our two-year-old daughter decided she wanted to wear socks during her nap, so she pawed through her drawers until she could locate two (very different) socks. In the process, of course, she had thrown dozens of shirts, pairs of leggings, and underwear around her room.

I bent down, grumbled, and picked up all of the tiny articles of clothing. I made her help, of course, but that probably make the ordeal take even longer. I spoke to her firmly about not destroying her room by emptying her (two!) dressers.

“O-tay, Mama,” she answered sweetly, nodding her curly head and heading for the stairs.

The next morning, we woke up to see that she’d done it again. She’d wanted to wear a sweatshirt over her pyjamas, and naturally that meant creating a mountain of jeans and shorts.

She must have felt she was onto something, because soon she was emptying her drawers every day to build a huge nest of clothes — and then she would sleep on it!

Continue reading over at The Mom Scene, my weekly parenting column in The Chronicle Herald 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Three weeks in | Weight Loss Challenge

Today marks the end of the third week in the fitness/weight loss challenge I'm participating in with my Zumba class.

Here's a quick rundown of how I'm doing:

  • First week (September 10): I was down 2 lbs! (-2 lbs. total)
  • Second week (September 17): I was back up one of those pounds (boo) which was kind of devastating because I'd worked really hard and tracked everything I ate (-1 lb. total)
  • Third week (September 24): As of yesterday, I was back down 2 lbs (-3 lbs. total) and today I was down another pound (-4.6 total). 
I'm psyched to be down nearly five pounds, BUT I suspect it's because I've had a brutal cold since Sunday morning, so I haven't had the desire to eat All The Bad Things that I would normally eat.

I really, really, really hope I don't zoom back up a few lbs. at next week's weigh-in. It's very disheartening when you're exercising (something you, uh, never do) and you're being careful about what you're eating, and you STILL SOMEHOW GO BACK UP A POUND. I'm looking at you, Week 2!

I've been going to two or three Zumba classes each week, and I'm still loving it. I tried Aqua Zumba tonight for the first time, because they were offering a free class. I enjoyed that I didn't get sweaty, and it was fun to splash around in the water (although I got my hair wet and it's not hair-washing day, so ... !!!) but I still prefer the original classes. I just didn't feel like I'd gotten the same kind of workout, but maybe I'll be exhausted and sore tomorrow. Who knows?

No non-scale victories to report yet, in terms of how my clothes fit. Nothing is looking particularly "better" than usual, and I'm still wearing jeans that are a size bigger than my smallest-size-ever a.k.a. That Time I Took A Photo of My Ass in a Fitting Room.

(Full disclosure: I did wear my small-size jeans last week for a few hours, but only when I knew I'd be standing up pretty much the whole time. I think I'd probably bust an internal organ if I sat down in them for too long at this point.)

In related news, I am eating farrrrrrrrr less potato chips than I was before the challenge, and even far less than I was eating in the first week of the challenge.

How have I magically cut back on my No. 1 weakness? I think it's five-fold ...

  1. The app slaps my hand away. By the time the late evening rolls around, I sometimes have no calories left to work with because I ate them all during the day. *sadface* Especially on days when I didn't exercise and earn more calories. (I'm using MyFitnessPal, BTW, and really liking it)
  2. I distract myself with work. I've been working a lot of nights lately, which I dislike because of these five reasons. The only real benefit (other than the employment) is that I refuse to let myself eat chips while I'm working. I'm literally working myself thin, I guess?
  3. I have been sick. There's nothing like a cold putting you to bed at 8 p.m. (hopped up on a hearty dose of NyQuil) to prevent you from shoving your hand in a bag of Doritos. You're sleeping! Blissful, calorie-free sleeping!
  4. I'm breaking the habit. It's true that the less you do something, the less you expect it. I used to eat potato chips of some sort every single night (no lie), so the fact that I'm going multiple nights in a row without them is starting to work. Some nights, I work straight through until 11 p.m., and stuff a handful of Wheat Thins in my mouth on the way to bed because I'm starving. Other nights, I eat plain air-popped popcorn as a TV-watching snack, or cheddar-flavoured Crispy Mini rice cakes. Some nights I eat absolutely nothing after dinner, which WOULD HAVE BEEN UNHEARD OF a month ago -- and the crazy part is, I don't really care! I go to bed with this lovely, thin, empty feeling!
  5. Darling Husband has been working/sleeping during Prime Snacking Hours. Poor Darling Husband. He kinda brings me down, in a weight-loss sense, and he knows it. On the evenings when he's home (a.k.a. not sleeping at 7 p.m. because he has to get up at 2 a.m.) he is turning on the TV and luring me with a bag of sour cream and onion, like a Potato Chip Pied Piper. It's very hard to stay strong when allllll I want to do is relax on the couch with him and eat all the chips in the world. He is off tomorrow night and Friday night, so I'm hoping I don't throw all of my progress in a nacho cheese frenzy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

That elusive balance

This has been kind of a rough week. 

I spent most of the day thinking that I was much, much busier than last week, but a quick check of my calendar shows that, no, I was this busy last week. And the week before. And also the week before that.

Busy is good. It's excellent, actually, when you're self-employed, because it means you are keeping clients happy and bringing in income. I love what I do, and I believe I do it well. But I think I'm taking on too much, at the moment.

"This week is a blip!" I tell Darling Husband, when I'm stressed out about deadlines and complaining about interviews not calling me back. "It's one of those busy weeks where I get all crazy, and then the work gets done, and then I'm fine again."

But these busy weeks are happening all of the time. 

The tightness in my throat is there a lot. The worry about disappointing a client if I say no. The overscheduling myself because I'm sure I can write X number of articles or assignments in a single three-hour period, and then I can't ... so I have to work late into the night. The anxiety about trying to make an impossible deadline, when none of my interviews will call me back. CALL ME BACK, GUYS! FOR REAL?!

People talk about how self-employment is great, because you're your own boss (yup) and you get to set your hours (sort of). What they don't talk about NEARLY OFTEN ENOUGH is what it does to your sanity, because ... the buck? Yeah, it stops with you.

I used to just work during naptime/quiet time. But with Darling Husband's current rotation, I spend the mornings with the kids -- preschool drop-offs, pick-ups, gymnastics with C, errands, etc. -- and then I'm racing down to my office at 12:31 (he gets home at 12:30) and I'm staying there until 4:30 or 5 p.m. 

Two or three nights a week, I fly out the door to Zumba class. By the time I get home (6:30), I have about 20 minutes to catch up with Darling Husband before he goes to bed (2 a.m. worky wake-ups are a bitch). 

He's in bed by 7 p.m., and I spend an hour or an hour and a half with the kids -- including shower/bathtime, books, prayers, etc. They're in bed by 8:30 at the latest, and then I'm trucking back downstairs to my office to work until 10:30 or 11 p.m.

This? This is my life lately. It's exhausting.

I love my family, I love my work, and I love that I'm finally making exercise a priority. It's just been ... very tiring, you know?

Here's what I'm going to do to try to make it better:
  • Make more time for D. I'm going to block off a few hours a week (a good chunk of a weekday afternoon) to spend time exclusively with four-year-old D. I feel like I never get one-on-one time with him anymore, now that he's in preschool three full mornings a week (and we're hanging with his sis on the other mornings). He loves to make crafts and sew projects, so we'll do that. Maybe even sneak off to a movie one afternoon, while Darling Husband stays here with a napping C.
  • Be more intentional about my time with C. My girl and I spend three mornings alone together each week, while big bro is in preschool. We do a parent/tot gymnastics class on Monday mornings, and we're going to be attending a Friday playgroup starting this week. Wednesdays, I'm keeping as our "free" day for errands and whatnot. But I've been guilty of letting her play on the iPad while I clean the house, check emails, etc. I want to plan more fun Mommy/Daughter activities for us.
  • Find more alone time with Darling Husband. His work schedule and my work schedule are complete and utter opposites at the moment, which is really hard. We see each other for about 20 minutes, total, on too many days. Yes, this means we don't pay for childcare, but it's also rough on a marriage. I'm going to start blocking off the evenings when he's off, so I can see them in the calendar and look forward to them. I also want to plan a lighter workload one day, in the middle of his rotation, so we actually have an hour to sit and hang out while the kids are down for quiet time. Talking to my husband for more than 20 minutes! Imagine that!
  • Be more careful about scheduling my work. Yes, I'm insanely organized. My series of colour-coded Google calendars is legendary. BUT! I often think I can fit in more than I really can. I need to be MUCH. MORE. CAREFUL. about only taking on what I can handle. I HATE working after the kids are in bed, because (A) I work much more slowly, because I'm zonked, and (B) I need time to myself! (Or time to spend with Darling Husband, if he's off that night).
Lofty goals, right? Let's see how I do. Wish me luck!


Monday, September 15, 2014

Five things about working late (when you're self-employed)

  1. It's much harder to concentrate at night. For me, at least.
  2. It's much more tempting to shop online, read blogs, check celebrity news ... hmm, who was Mindy Kaling's ex? ... Then you slap yourself and remember that you're wasting time. Your manta must become: "The longer I frig around on the internet, the longer I'm going to be sitting here."
  3. The only real benefit is that you're not snacking in front of the TV, so I'll go as far to say that working late = skinny? Maybe? Hopefully?
  4. You are wasting your precious kids-in-bed time, and it's sad. What a sad, sad, sad waste of a few hours of free time. The TV is lonely. The couch is crying fuzzy tears.
  5. You don't get overtime when you're self-employed. You just get ... to stay employed.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dusty jeans + boots + deep-fried Oreos

Nearly three years ago, we moved from the city to the country in order to live a different kind of life.

We’re happy with that decision every day, but on the days we spend traipsing around a farm in dusty jeans and boots, we’re especially pleased. There is a special place our family goes every single fall, and it’s become our ultimate destination for fall family fun.

RiverBreeze Corn Maze is just five minutes from our new house, and you can usually find us there most weekends from mid-September until Halloween.

 Our kids call it “The Pumpkin Farm,” and one of the highlights is always clamouring up onto bales of hay and taking the bumpy ride out to the pumpkin patch. As the wagon creaks past the cornstalks, we hold the kids tightly on our laps and try to keep them from jumping over the sides. The tour guide tells the same punny corn jokes each year — “Be careful what you say, because the corn has ears!” — and each year, we laugh.

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene ... 

Sniffing my life away

Seasonal allergies or a fall cold? Who knows? Who cares?

I have hardcore "seasonal" allergies that require me to take allergy meds ever day of the damn year, but sometimes the symptoms get worse than ever. Sneeze City, population: me.

Ew, this makes me glad I don't work in a real office anymore.

Ragweed kicked my booty for all of August, it seemed, and now I'm going through another Horrible Allergy Phase, like I do every fall.

What am I even allergic to? Well, I haven't been tested since I was a kid -- which is something I should remedy, considering I write for the most kick-butt allergy, asthma, and eczema site on the web -- but ... dust, dog and cat dander (almost typed "danger"), any basically every form of outdoorsy plant, grass, flower? Pretty boring, as allergies go.

Of course, we suspect D has a cold -- BUT WE ARE ALSO KIND OF BLAMING ALLERGIES, TOO, BECAUSE WHO EVEN KNOWS ANYMORE? -- so maybe I am just sick, on top of my usual allergies?

Perhaps this would be a good day to take DayQuil on top of my regular allergy medication? (So not recommended) Probably not, because then my head gets fuzzy and my articles are like dskhfksjfhdsfhjksdhksf.

I think I am just blogging at the moment because I am SO VERY VERY ANNOYED at my running nose and itchy eyes. They make it difficult to work without sniffing, difficult to concentrate, difficult to stare at the computer monitors with pathetic, itchy, watery, squinty eyes.

Is there a hashtag for this? #journalistswithallergies or #selfemployedallergyprobs?

/end rant

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Chipaholics Anonymous

I've been diligently tracking everything I eat -- and all of the exercise I get -- since Wednesday, when our group weight loss challenge began at Zumba.

Here is what I have learned so far, in this highly-detailed research into my bad habits ...
  • I do OK for breakfast. Eating two soft-boiled eggs for breakfast each day is just fine. Only 66 calories! Verdict: Go onward!
  • Bread is tricky. Some types of white bread actually way less calories than whole grain bread (like HALF the calories) which is stupid and unfair, because whole grain is way better for me. Verdict: Frustrating! (I'm eating a little of both, depending on what we have in the house)
  • Butter is a little bitch. When I did Weight Watchers, I used "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" because it was way lower in points. But, of course, it tastes like bland oil. So now our household uses real butter (no chemicals!) and it's much higher in calories. Verdict: Worth it.
  • We eat too many convenience foods. We may do homemade spaghetti sauce and pancakes from scratch, but we still a fair amount of frozen fish sticks and chicken burgers/nuggets. This crap is high in calories and salt, and it doesn't even taste "worth it." It's just ... so easy? You know? Verdict: I can't promise we will cut out these convenience foods, but I'm certainly more aware of it.
  • I eat way too many chips. But we knew that, right? Chips are my absolute No. 1 weakness, and I know it's ridiculous because who feels so strongly about chips (except for me)? No one! I'm tracking every one I eat, and the results aren't pretty. I bet if I gave up chips entirely, I would be 115 lbs. and look fantastically supermodel-esque. Verdict: Darling Husband is at the grocery store right now, as I type this, and he is NOT buying any chips. That's saying something.
  • I feel disappointed at myself when I make bad choices ... and see them written out for me. There's nothing like seeing that you ate chips twice in one day -- right there, in print, on your phone's screen -- to make you feel guilty. This is why tracking your food intake works, guys. There's no running from your choices. Own the shame, embrace the guilt, and use it to power through.
  • I really am starting to miss exercise on my non-Zumba days. This is a HUGE development, because I was never, ever, ever one of those people who enjoyed exercise or ever missed it. Ever. But I'm hooked on the endorphins it gives me, and I'm disappointed on non-class days. When I found out earlier that I have to miss tomorrow's class (Darling Husband works) I was really, really bummed. WHO AM I? WHO HAVE I BECOME?
I weighed myself this morning and I was down a pound, BUT I weighed in at Zumba wearing sneakers, so I suspect I'm really only down half a pound? Maybe?

The official weigh-in isn't until Wednesday, so I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I leave you with one of my favourite Pinterest quotes ... 

I CERTAINLY use food as an anxiety drug -- as well as a reward -- and until recently, I certainly haven't been using exercise the way I should -- and it really does make me happier.

Have a good week, everyone. Make good choices (i.e. put down the chips with me).


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I'm missing nacho cheese crumbs already

I've never signed up for any kind of formal weight loss challenge before. 

I've only ever attempted things on my own, and ... that was really only ... like once? If I'm only counting serious efforts?

But thanks to my newfound love of Zumba, I've signed up for a lengthy "Fall Back to Fitness Weight Loss Challenge." It runs from today (September 3) through November 26, which is ... a long commitment, to say the least.

See my little picture? I'm officially signed up!

You get points for attending Zumba classes, points for staying late to complete additional exercises (planks, push-ups, etc.), points for tracking your food/exercise using MyFitnessPal, points for bringing new people to class. You also get points for losing weight, which is measuring by a percentage of your overall weight.

The weigh-ins are done before class begins -- tonight was the first one -- and the instructor writes them down in a notebook. I am quite possibly the biggest in the class (SKINNY PEOPLE! EVERYWHERE!) so I was nervous weighing in tonight, and showed up before anyone else arrived.

Right now, I'm 18 lbs. heavier than the milestone weight I reached when I lost 60 lbs. after having Baby C (23 lbs. heavier than the lightest-I-ever-was-as-a-Mom weight).  I'd like to get those 18 lbs. off, but I fear the only way I got that low was because I was (A) breastfeeding, and (B) on Weight Watchers.

That time I documented my ass ... you know, for posterity!

I'd be happy to lose 10 lbs., thrilled to lose 15 lbs., and overjoyed to lose 20 lbs., but I really have no idea what's possible. My only real weight-loss experience has been through breastfeeding those calories away.

HOWEVER! I wasn't exercising at all back then -- breastfeeding is like exercising by sitting on your bum and watching TV, and IT'S GLORIOUS. These days, I'm getting to one or two Zumba classes a week -- possibly three, now that I'm in this challenge.

Today is the first day I've been tracking what I'm eating, I went to Zumba tonight, and I'm well within my calorie range for the day. I've been looking through my old weight loss posts and reading about what I used to eat "back then" when I was on Weight Watchers (lots of salsa, apparently?) and I've been feeling half-motivated and half-anxious about the whole thing.

Let's do this!