Sunday, July 26, 2015

All my world's indeed a stage

I wrote this column more than a month ago and then went on vacation and completely put all my parenting writing aside. I needed to take a break from self-imposed deadlines and pursuing interviews via Skype or my local cable channel. I started focusing on health and wellness. I'm at a crossroads and I have to start writing about this stuff and ironically (given the name of this blog!), step one was completely giving up coffee (sad, but true).

Anyway, here's the story.

I was going to call this story “Almost out of gas,” because it’s an apt metaphor for how I felt during the tightly orchestrated last week of school, but the bit about the stage sums it up better.
I was actually on my way to school to watch Youngest’s stepping up ceremony when I noticed my fuel gauge was at almost-empty, my first thought was, I don’t have time to get gas! He will be heading to middle school next year. It was the fourth time in six days I’d be sitting in the performing arts center, waiting for one of my boys to go on stage.

The end of the school year was in sight and the home stretch had been looooong. Oldest had finished his finals the week before and went to stay with his dad for a week, but was planning to return to attend his brother’s 8th grade promotion ceremony: his responsibility as one of last year’s scholar leaders was to pass the torch (hand out the certificates) to this year’s recipients, much to his chagrin because he wanted to go to a party that he had been invited to.

This prompted a repeated discussion about obligations and responsibilities (“And by the way, remind me why you didn’t join the debate team?”) and how even his younger brother went to his classmate’s pool party rather than baseball practice, because he had already committed to the party and besides, the coach changed the practice time just the day before. Who can handle whimsical schedule changes in an already full calendar?

“There will be plenty of parties, Hon. You’re young, you have a lot of friends, life is good,” I told him. It reminded me of what I told his youngest brother when he mentioned his birthday party. I had said, “What! What party? Your whole life is a party! We celebrated your birthday the other night when we went shopping for baseball equipment and out to eat. You got presents at dinner and the whole restaurant sang to you. Today you’ve got baseball game and a dance recital. Tomorrow a pool party and recital – what party!?” I felt panicked.

He said, “Well, I’d just like to go to a baseball game with a couple of friends, like last year.”

“Oh, yeah – that would be fun.” (And I thanked God he didn’t want one of the dog-and-pony-show extravaganzas that ring in at $500 plus. I wanted to stay all done with those as I had for the past few years.) “I am sure we can fit that in sometime over the summer.”

I arrived for Youngest’s stepping up ceremony and parked strategically in the already crowded school parking lot for a quick getaway.

I watched him walk across the stage and shake his principal’s hand and hug his teacher, as I had done with his older two brothers four and five years before. I went back to class for a little party and slide show, and received a lovely gift from the class to thank me for volunteering that year. I had only momentarily thought about the fact that the week before’s reading circle would likely be my last classroom volunteering ever (since history has illustrated that “no one wants their parents in the classroom in middle school, Mom.”). And I only thought briefly about how my baby was really not a baby anymore – he had turned double digits the Saturday before. The recital that day was the first time in six days that I’d been to the performing arts center, to watch his premiere performance at his dance recital.

I noticed Youngest liked dancing when we were at a baseball tournament the summer before and he was in center field. That particular tournament played the Star Spangled Banner, had an announcer, and had music between innings. I watched him dance in the outfield. We sought out a dance studio and even though he was the only boy in the class and one of only two boys in the studio, he danced all year long until the recital. His teacher designed the routine with him at the center of it. I got goosebumps when I watched him, thinking not only how amazing it was that he knew the routine so well, but also that he had dared to do something outside the box with people he did not even know, sometimes sitting around at the studio waiting for me to pick him up as I juggled his other brothers’ shuttling needs. (Performance #2 the next day was the second time in six days that I’d watched one of my kids on stage.)

I raced home with a minute to spare before my next meeting (and still didn’t have time to get gas). As soon as I could, I called the pediatrician’s office to discuss Middle’s concern that “something’s wrong with my toenail.”

I did not think I could add another thing to our schedule; Youngest’s coach had called another practice for that evening, in preparation for the tournament game happening the next night. Middle’s promotion ceremony was that night so I had to call on a member of the village for help getting Youngest back and forth from practice, because the doctor’s appointment for Middle (to have a portion of his ingrown toenail surgically removed) would give us just enough time to get back and for him to change for his big night on the stage, which was my fifth time in six days at the performing arts center. He had lost the tickets to the ceremony when he was cleaning out his locker but he assured me that I could explain my way in and “well, I’ve gotta go meet my friends in the cafeteria so see you later, Mom.” I met his dad and brother outside. Fortunately, he got a ride to and from the after-party – I had still not stopped for gas.

My third time in six days at the performing arts center was to watch Youngest’s band concert, and that is just one of the reasons that the home stretch felt so long. Aside from band, we had chorus (Middle), Oldest’s out-of-the-ordinary schedule for finals, and numerous projects and presentations, and then I heard this:


“I need a haircut.”

“Yeah, me, too.”

I need new sneakers. We’ll, I’d like new sneakers…”

I’m not sure I want to wear this shirt to the promotion ceremony.”

My playoff game is at 10:00, not 12:30.”

Two thirds of the boys got haircuts, no one got new sneakers, I taught someone else how to iron, and thankfully, the playoff game reschedule worked. To make things really special, I added to the mix applying for passports (which necessitated three separate visits to the town hall and lots of paperwork) and orthodontic consultations.

The next day was the last day of school. Middle was supposed to go home on the bus with a friend, but the friend went home sick. Arrangements made on the fly included kids texting parents, parents texting parents, and the office calling home in order to occupy Middle elsewhere while I took Youngest to his first tournament game. Middle then texted me to tell me he did not get a yearbook. I guess I forgot to order it? I couldn’t even remember and all I could say was, “I’m so sorry – I’ll see if they have extras.” “It doesn’t matter anymore :/,” he replied (and I don’t really know what emoticon that is supposed to be because things don’t always translate from iOS to Android). I relayed the scenario to Youngest who had got home moments after this text exchange, he said, “Oh, well.”


Yeah, that’s right!I thought to myself. Oh well!

I finally got gas on the way to Youngest’s tournament game and it’s a good thing we stopped before we arrived at an intersection with a 10-minute wait that put us at five minutes late for Coach’s requested arrival time, otherwise I would have truly run out of gas.

Refilling the gas tank is a literal reminder for me to take a breather between school year and summer, to relish the milestones my boys realized (on stage) this past week, and to celebrate two months off from driving 30 minutes to and from high school twice a day and making lunches.

Movie theater popcorn

We went to the movies last night to see Inside Out. It was an animated movie about a girl who moves to a new city and all the emotions involved. It provided a tangible way to look at and discuss emotions, which I thought would be useful and interesting for two of my boys, and actually this is the movie they chose over Minions, Terminator, and Ant Man. They are 10 and 14.

We went to a later show because my older son didn't want to have a bunch of "noisy little kids" in the theater, so there was no need to buy a lot of food (I actually smuggled green beans to snack on), but we did get drinks and popcorn.

Who knew movie theater popcorn was that fattening? And I am guessing the calorie count is before you pump the liquid butter oil on it. I did not totally abstain (so we did not add the butter-flavored topping, because my husband knows I wouldn't eat it), but tried to be conscious of how much I was consuming. Why is it that when you (I) eat popcorn, you (I) tend to jam whole handfuls into your (my) mouth)?

I also chose seltzer rather than diet soda. I do not think I will be ingesting diet soda any more (I haven't in the past month anyway).

Monday, July 20, 2015

Starting out right

I took a short hike this morning after I dropped the kids at camp. I tried not to feel guilty about work (since it was close to 10:00 a.m. when I got back to my desk), but I had to talk myself out of the panic I felt every time I thought about the fact that it was past 9:00 and I wasn't available by IM. I work at home so impression management is important.

However, I did work last night (Sunday evening) so I didn't miss time with my colleagues in Australia/New Zealand (when I have my conference call with them tonight it will already be tomorrow for them) and I signed on before we went to camp so I could get work with my European colleagues.

I think people (me) can be addicted to "busy" and it is unhealthy. I do not need any extra adrenaline coursing through my body and activating my stress hormones, which I think cause people (me) to carry weight around the middle.

The work will get done. I need to be healthy enough to do it. I need to be healthy enough to do a lot of things, like enjoy life, now, not someday (e.g., when I retire).

I felt energized by the breakfast smoothie I made, which contained a mix of fruits and vegetables, protein and fiber supplements, and almond milk. I thought the extra calories (of almond milk versus herb tea) would be useful since I'd be exercising. It's now almost noontime and I am only just feeling hungry. What a difference from how I would feel if I was drinking coffee. I'd be so hangry by now if I hadn't eaten...and I can only imagine the unhealthy choices I'd be compelled to make!

The other thing I wanted to mention is I am totally off coffee...this is my 3rd day or so. I didn't even have a "hot beverage" today  (such as miso or lemon water) -- I started with a glass of water and went straight to the smoothie.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Food chemistry

I ended up at Starbucks to work again today after making an unsuccessful attempt to get to a Panera instead. It just felt like it was too many stoplights away and I didn't want to have that variable on the back end when I'd need to pick kids up from camp. So today at Starbucks to avoid everything sweetened on their regular menu, I selected a bottled juice "smoothie," which is really nothing like the kind of smoothie I eat, though it certainly wouldn't count as a clear liquid, either. It was a green drink but was still a LOT sweeter than the smoothie I made this a.m. that included cucumber, celery, squash, pineapple, and mango. It said there was no added sugar but then I spied a statement saying it contained "dulse." I wondered if that was a different name for some type of sugar, since I am sure there are hundreds of names for sugar.

Along with this $4.95 beverage, I got free WiFi. And a restroom.

The main point of this post is that I was not hungry until past noon time, and all I had was the smoothie I made at home (after my one cup of coffee to get the party started) and this green juice thing. I am absolutely certain that if I'd had my usual four or more cups of coffee by noon, I would have been STARVING. I probably would have eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast or some cheese and a protein bar, and maybe prunes. I would have consumed large amounts of milk with the coffee. I may have eaten rice cakes, a lemon fiber bar, yogurt with fruit and nuts. If I waited too long to eat I would have eaten too much and felt crappy and had more coffee after lunch to perk up.

Instead, I had packed a little lunch bag with leftover hamburger and some potatoes that I overcooked this morning (which made me wish there was a setting on the smoke detector called "just cooking") and I had some carrots and cucumber cut up on the side. I ate some of this before I picked up the kids; I ate the rest of it when I got home.

There is a lot of conflicting advice about nutrition. Some people say eat three distinct meals but I need to eat more often than that. I don't know if flax is bad for you or not. Is soy better than whey? Some people say cut out all dairy and wheat/grains (in addition to the sugar and caffeine). I am still eating a little cheese; I am not sure I would cut out all grains. I have heard sprouted grains are okay. Do I want to eliminate meat? I am not sure I would eliminate all animal products because I like eggs. And what about honey?

I think I'll have to take it one step at a time. The first step will be possibly eliminating coffee entirely. I probably could start my day with any hot could be lemon water, miso soup, or some mildly caffeinated tea, like chai. But I think the chai I have contains stevia...and that is another thing I wonder about. It's still kind of a fake sugar, even if it's "natural."

So, perhaps step two and beyond will be figuring out the bit about artificial sweeteners, soy vs. whey (maybe pea protein is the answer going forward but I still have to use up all my soy-based proteins), and animal products.

Come to find out, dulse is some sort of seaweed. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The devil, sugar

Today I needed to find a place with WiFi near my son's camp. It doesn't make sense to go all the way home and then have to turn around less than three hours later to go back to pick him up. (This is one week of a specialty half-day camp.) I had three free options for WiFi near the camp, but one was going to be too noisy (I had to participate in and host conference calls), so I went to Starbucks.

I sat in the parking lot for the part where I was on calls, and then went inside. Usually I go to Dunks so I am not familiar with the Starbucks menu, and knowing I did not want any of their coffee (it's super strong, and I am not drinking (more than one cup a day) of coffee) so I asked,

"Do you have any iced tea without sugar?"

"Oh, none of our teas..." (I am not sure the server said "have sugar" or "are sweetened.")

So I ordered this strawberry acai thing. I told the server I'd have medium. (I did not notice that the sizes are tall, grande, venti, and trenta, whatever that translates to.)

Come to find out, of course this damn beverage has sugar in it. I had just spent $3-something on a medium sized sugar water with strawberry slices floating in it (and threw the rest of my $5 bill in their tip cup). But hey, free WiFi.

I think it had at least 16 grams of sugar, too.

And yes, I drank the whole thing. I wonder if that was part of what made me think about coffee late afternoon or that I should justify eating ice cream? (Neither of which I did, I just wanted to.)

Sugar is sneaky. It goes by many names. It appears where you least expect it. It is a slippery slope. It is the devil.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Candy for breakfast? Time to make a change

I got some ginseng tea because I read that it is energizing and the brand I got has nifty inspirational sayings on the tea bags. I put a bag in a plastic bottle and leave it out in the sun so I can make iced tea in the afternoons. This morning I noticed a gorgeous orange butterfly on top of the container. I wanted to snap a pic but it flew away when I opened the screen door. It made me think of the metamorphosis I am undergoing.

There was a day a few weeks back (as I was preparing go to on a too short vacation) that I was so stressed about work and trying to get through the last week of school that I got up and went straight to the computer (after getting coffee, of course) and wound up eating Swedish Fish for breakfast. I felt sick the rest of the day. I was on a roller coaster and needed to continue eating sugar and bad food because the craving had been activated, and I felt rotten all around.

Even if I hadn't eaten the Swedish Fish, I am starting to realize my system would have been all messed up just from the coffee. It totally plays with my appetite. I mean, I get hungry and have to eat but with coffee, my hunger always snuck up on me and I felt like all of a sudden I'd crash and there'd be a food emergency and I'd have to eat a lot, quickly, and it wouldn't always be great food. It might be a high-protein snack bar or too much cheese and crackers, or it could be Lucky Charms right out of the box.

Today is one of those super-draggy days that I probably would have had at least six cups of coffee by now. I was at the orthodontist with one of my kids at 11:30 a.m. and so drowsy...that would have required coffee but I got up and walked around the block instead. I also ate a small snack that I brought -- an egg and some tiny red boiled potatoes (this is because I read an article saying that potatoes are supposed to be one of the most filling foods for the calories, though I am also wary about the fact that they're a "white food" and other people say you shouldn't eat them). I ate the other egg and the rest of the potatoes on the way to pick up one of my other kids at camp 45 minutes later. On the way back from camp I was still hungry and ate some popcorn snacks. That, I am not sure was too smart. I am back at my desk now and having my first ginseng tea (another previously good opportunity for coffee). I am really sluggish today and this is probably the first time in two-plus weeks I have felt like that. (Maybe because in the first week or so I'd still let myself have a 2nd cup of coffee in the afternoon!). I got rid of my Kuerig but I still have plenty of instant coffee (yes, I know, from one end of the spectrum to another, but I mainly drank coffee for the effect, which wasn't so effective anymore, like anything you get addicted to, which is why it is time to quit.)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Un fun Mom

 “Some moms are fun. You’re not one of them.” My friend told me her son said this to her. We both laughed. It could have just as easily been one of my sons saying this to me.


Newsflash, boys: it’s not our job to be fun.
This picture came up today as a facebook remember when from five years ago. My oldest was 10, the same age my youngest is today. They had created Jesus as one of the characters on the wii.


No one plays the wii anymore. No one plays any video games at our house because I am the boring mom who won't let them play the video games they really want to play. They get to play them at other people's houses (for contrast, I suppose, since I have no control over what goes on at other people's houses), but at home, we don't have anything other than sports games or one of the Dance Revolution games.


I have had numerous discussions about this, to the point where I am sure my oldest should join the debate team.


"Everyone else has it."

"It's not that violent."

"I'm not going to grow up to be a psychopath!"


"I don't care what 'everyone else' has."

"You must be desensitized."

"God forbid!"


I know at least 2/3 of them are in clans or on servers with people they don't even know, but not from our house. And yes, I have the conversation with them frequently about not revealing personal details.


I wish the kids still wanted to have Jesus on their team in their video games.

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...