Thursday, September 30, 2010

Calgon, Take Me Away!

I'm kind of done being a mom right now. O.K., I know I can't really quit this job, but this is one of those days when I'd really, really like to. Or one of those weeks. Or maybe it's been the whole darn month.

Yes, some of it is related to the kids - I'm so tired of sibling squabbles and dealing with whining or yelling or fits or demands or dirty clothing dirty floors dirty dishes dirty kids. I'm tired of having a kid with different brain chemistry, so that I never know what is reasonable to expect and have to deal with the instant anger the apparently short-circuited serotonin delivery system produces in him. I'm tired of having a whiny 4 year old who just wants to watch TV and eat junk food and never do anything herself. Most of all, I'm tired of being a whiny, yelling, fit-throwing mom.

I'm envious lately - really envious - of the people who own their time. O.K., maybe nobody truly owns their time unless they're rich like Bill Gates - most of us have to work (and no snide comments about me not making any money since I'm an at-home mom - I know very well that none of my contributions are financial, and I'm feeling that pain acutely). But still, to be able to go read a book, go to a movie, go to a park, travel, go get a haircut, just because I wanted to?

I do love my kids. I really do. But the day-to-day drudgery of raising them is wearing me down, especially since I don't feel like I'm doing a good job lately. I just can't get a handle on it. It seems to come more easily and naturally to others. It seems as if their kids are better behaved. Maybe it's not true, but man, I just want to escape. And that makes me feel guilty.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Slippery Slope

Most people who know me know we've been adjusting our eating habits, mostly in an effort to see what might help Jeff with his Tourette's. Because of this, we now by and large avoid foods with artificial stuff or preservatives. Not perfectly - we still hit a drive-thru sometimes or give in to the siren call of candy. But most of the time, what's coming into my house is free of ingredients whose names you can't pronounce or recognize.

However, about two weeks ago I decided to really make an effort to drop some weight. I want the image of myself that I have in my head to match reality, and right now it doesn't (not that I am, ahem, skinny in my own mind; I'm just not as big as I am now). I had already debated the merits of allowing myself to drink a caffeine-free Diet Coke here and there, and decided for now it would be O.K.; it feels like a treat and has helped stave off some strong cravings. But... I've also brought some microwaveable meals back into the house, too - you know, the Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine types. Part of me feels this is O.K., as they are quick, easy, ensure I eat an actual lunch, and are calorie- and portion-controlled. Part of me knows that's hogwash. I don't want to be eating them - it's a step back in terms of health, if I'm honest.

So what's the problem? I don't know. I just kind of wanted to acknowledge to myself that I've been sneaking in some of these foods that really, truthfully, because of all the reading I've done, just don't feel right to eat in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, as well as a healthier weight. It's a short-term gain in terms of convenience, but a long-term loss overall. I need to find other quick options. Right after I go polish off my Weight Watchers Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sundae.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ratted Out By My Four Year Old

I am normally the kind of mom who keeps her kids home when they show signs of illness. Throwing up? Home. Fever? Home. Bad cough / nasty cold? Home. Unless they've had the cold for several days.

So when Ellie woke up this morning sounding a bit sniffly and coughing in a mildly phlegmy fashion, I figured we were stuck at home today. Ellie, however, did not take kindly to this idea. "But I wanna go to pweschool! I not sick! I wanna go my pweschool!" I guess I should be grateful she loves her school so much, but then again, dealing with a snotty child (both literally and figuratively) was not how I wanted to start the morning. I compromised by telling her we'd see how she felt closer to preschool time, still planning to keep her home. But when Brett got up and saw her and heard of my tentative "ditching school" plans, he said she seemed find to him. And thus the seed was planted. By 11:30, she was not sniffing or coughing, but was still demanding to go to school. So I gave her some just-in-case cold medicine and off we went, me feeling mildly guilty over the fact that she might have a cold, because I certainly don't want to pass anything on to any other child. But I figured if she played happily, no one would be the wiser to our early morning mucus issues.

Boy, was I wrong. Never tell anything to a four-year-old you don't want the whole world to know. When we got to the parking lot, she ran over to her friend Gabriel's mom and practically shouted, "Gabwiel's mom! Guess what? I was sick this morning and my mommy said I couldn't go to preschool but she gave me medicine and now I'm better!" Gabriel's mom amusedly said, "I hope you're feeling better soon, Ellie," while I immediately tried to explain she really wasn't that bad - at which point she interrupted and said, "I had a gunky nose! And a bad cough!" Great, kid.

Once inside I thought we might be in the clear, but oh no - Ellie ran up to her teacher and proudly told Ms. Rachel the exact thing she'd confessed to Gabriel's mom: "Ms. Wachewl, I was sick and my mommy gave me medicine and now I'm all better!" Yeah. Ms. Rachel's eyes flew to my face so fast, and I knew just what she was thinking. "Does she have a fever?" Ms. Rachel asked. "No," I truthfully replied, and explained she'd been stuffy this morning, but seemed fine now (also true) and that she had really, really wanted to come to preschool (certainly true). Ms. Rachel smiled, but I suspect she really felt otherwise.

So tell me, am I a bad mommy? Guess we'll know in a few days, if everyone else starts coming down with colds at preschool. But seriously, aren't you most contagious in the first few days, usually before you even know you HAVE a cold? Right? RIGHT?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl

This is the title of the current book I'm reading, written by Shauna Reid, an Australian woman who, at 350+ pounds, decided to lose weight. She chronicled her journey on a blog (, which I have yet to visit), which eventually she published as a book. I am loving it. LOVING IT. Not only is her story incredibly courageous, but she's funny as all heck and real.

Here's a quote I stumbled across this evening:

"You know what's funny about losing a stack of weight? Nothing really changes. All that happens is that you lose the thing upon which you used to hang all your neuroses. Fat has shape and substance; you can poke it with a stick. It's a scapegoat and a handy excuse. Once you start to lose it, you realize you're stuck with the same moronic core." - The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl, page 246.

Bummer. But also true.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Great Diet Coke Debate

Years ago I was a Diet Coke addict. And I mean addict - I used to drink a zillion (meaning at least 6-8) cans or bottles a day. This was sometimes very useful in grad school, until it led me to have panic attacks and a racing heart. I decided maybe I ought not to do caffeine. So I gave up Diet Coke... in favor of Caffeine-Free Diet Coke. Ah, the magical elixir - no calories, no caffeine, no nothing, and still oddly satisfying. And addictive.

In recent years I have given up my soda habit. I decided I really didn't want to be drinking so much aspartame. I do think it gives me headaches. I didn't want to be spending money on it all the time. But I also was trying to be an example for my kids - we don't particularly want them hooked on any kind of soda, but how realistic is that if we're drinking it all the time? And once we launched our offensive on chemicals in our food, I really didn't want to drink it - how can I encourage Jeff to stay away from artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners when I'm eating or drinking them myself? Sure, we're not perfect. As I said, sometimes we still hit the drive-thru. Occasionally McDonald's still lobs a land mine our way in the form of  the coveted Happy Meal. A Blizzard can often overcome even my strongest feelings about chemical-laden food. But by and large, I avoid soda.

So what's the debate? Well, I'm trying to lose weight again the good old-fashioned way, by eating less and moving more. I'm monitoring my calories, and frankly it just doesn't feel like there are enough in the day (and I'm not eating a level most people would consider to be a restrictive level, believe me). So I have started to crave Diet Coke again - just that extra something, just a little treat for staying on track in all other ways. I haven't bought one yet, but I'm waffling. Should I? Is it O.K. to pick a no-calorie item like that and consume it for the emotional benefits? I mean, c'mon, I'd only be drinking the caffeine-free stuff!

Ironically, in my time since I've been "off" soda, I've read a lot more about artificial sweeteners and how they actually fool your body - it doesn't register the "sweet" factor properly. And in fact since the taste of sweetness triggers the desire for sweets, it can lead you to binge. All big reasons NOT to start up again.

Decisions, decisions... What do you think?


An awesome quote from my dear cousin:

"Think of this as a lesson in are working to align yourself. You are brilliant, beautiful, clever, compassionate, and you're making changes to make your outside match that fabulous inside AND by doing so, you will be demonstrating to the world how much you value yourself by caring for your vessel."

Just what I needed to hear this morning. I *am* out of alignment, especially with my own mental picture of my physical self, and my own sense of self-worth. Both are too small. So I'm back to working on it, bringing the physical down to match the mental, and the self-worth up to match the reality. I face a lot of challenges, given my history. That's O.K.

Plus frankly it's funny to think about - I wish I COULD go into a repair shop and say I need a rear end alignment. Well, I guess I could, but that would cost a lot of money and pain. Bwah ha ha.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Vanity, Thy Name Is... Me

Anne in 1993
O.K., I've made a decision. I want to have Rebekah Girvan photograph my family. Including me. Her portraits are so stunning that every time I see them I think, "I wish I had photos like that of my own family." And I want to be in them. I still love the black and white portraits we had taken of my own family in 1993, and am so glad my parents were willing to shell out the money for an excellent photographer. I also still love them because they caught me at my thinnest point in adulthood. Sure, I was in the midst of bulimic behavior and had crash-dieted and overexercised to drop 40 pounds in just a few months. But I was pretty!

These days I shy away from photos, because I hate how I look in them. Namely, I'm fat. I don't like photographic evidence of this. However, I really want these pictures done. And I want to look beautiful in them.

See, the truth is, I'm vain. Most people might not guess that from the way I dress, or the fact that I don't usually wear any make-up, or that 90% of the time I'm running around with my hair pulled up in an unflattering ponytail. But I am. I'm vain in the way I would surmise many women are. Or at least women with eating disorders. I'm vain in that I'm constantly checking myself out in the mirror. I'm vain in that I love good photographs of me - to the point where I have them hanging up in my home. Who hangs up photos of *themselves* to see? I do. Because I like to think I'm pretty, and have evidence that, at least for that shot, I was. I'm vain, but don't often like the image I see, because it doesn't match the image in my head. I'm vain and hugely self-critical, all at the same time.

So I've made another decision. It's time to use vanity to prod me into doing what all my talk about healthy eating, modeling for my children (behavior, not my figure!), lowering my cholesterol or blood pressure, or whatever, has not been able to get me to do: really lose weight. It's time to admit while that all those things I mentioned are important, what supersedes them all for me is, simply stated, vanity. Printed vanity. See, in my day-to-day life, even as I check myself out in the rearview mirror or peer at my eyebrows in the bathroom, well, it's not permanent. I can look, and look away. And of course most of my day I'm NOT looking at my physical self. I'm doing my best to IGNORE my physical self. But when I see a photo, I'm transfixed, because there, on paper, for better or worse, is an image of what I really look like. And I've spent too long trying to convince myself I don't really look like that. I do!

Therefore, my goal is to lose weight before this photo shoot. I want the pictures to be taken sometime in March, around my 39th birthday. That gives me about 6 months. My goal is to drop somewhere between 17 and 37 pounds. Obviously I'd like it to be the higher number, but I need at least a bit of realism to pop in here to remind me that I will most certainly freak out over this effort at least a few times; I do have distorted eating and body image, after all, and the idea of losing weight is actually scary for reasons I both know and don't know. And my body may rebel even if I "do the work," since I supposedly have PCOS. So we'll see.

I know I've said time and again I'm going to lose weight. I've even said it here. I know realistically I may fail. So why publicly proclaim it (again)? Because, baby, I've gotta do something. All my dither-dallying, all my convincing myself not to "diet" because it won't work, all my certainty that my disordered binge-eating means I'll always be fat, hasn't moved the scale down. In fact, it's done the opposite. Therefore it's time for a good, old-fashioned, short-term dietary goal. I work best with a goal. I just haven't been able to come up with one that's as effective as the vanity card. So I'm playing it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chocolate vs God

With chocolate, all things feel possible.

With God, all things are possible.

Balancing Act

So this is Ellie's first full week of preschool, which is great in terms of meeting her social needs and giving me a little time to myself. But it also means adjusting to a new schedule. Apparently I'm not very good at this - I've found myself at loose ends too many times this week to count, trying to figure out what we should do next, what I should do during my "free time", and how to balance my needs with my kids' needs and my husband's needs and the house's needs.

One too many times I've found myself acquiescing to Ellie's request for more movie time, because it's easy; it keeps her entertained and lets me play on the computer. One too many times I've found myself swinging through a drive-thru or stopping to get snacks somewhere because I forgot to bring anything with us or there wasn't enough time to go home for a healthier lunch before our next activity. One too many times I've found myself making a short, manageable to-do list, but found reasons to avoid doing portions of it, just because I didn't feel like it.

Too many oopses, not enough good choices. I don't want my daughter eating junk food or spending all her time staring at a screen. So I need to figure out (i.e. PLAN) some good activities for us to do when we're not at the gym or at school or carpooling. I need to pack some healthy snacks in the car for the kids and for me, so I don't have the excuse to stop and buy junk that certainly none of us need.

Too often I just feel like I don't know what I'm doing, and/or that I'm not doing it well. I'm struggling this week with some serious body image issues (bat wing obsession, anyone). I'm struggling with money and the budget. Both of those make me want to shop and eat. But I know that spending more moola on dubious items like Blizzards or bagels isn't going to help physically OR financially.

So it's time to stop. Stop beating myself up about the choices of the last few weeks. Stop being willing to fail by being unwilling to plan and follow through. Stop and breathe and realize it will all be O.K. Some days we'll probably watch a little too much TV. Some days we'll frolic in the park. Some days maybe we'll end up at Mr. J's for a yummy sandwich. Some days I'll bring fruits and veggies in the car.

It's a balancing act, and what I'm really good at is the all-or-nothing approach. Time to be willing to walk the high wire, even if it's only in baby steps.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


On our neighborhood walk this morning, I was telling Eleanor about a cat I used to see in the neighborhood. "He was big and fluffy and fat!" I told her. "I want to be fat!" Ellie replied enthusiastically, to which I said, as nonchalantly as I could, "Nah, people shouldn't be fat." She said, "But you're fat!" Yes. Yes, I am. I said, "Yeah, but I shouldn't be." Then, as I worried about damaging my little girl's self-esteem and starting her down the path to body criticism, I decided to correct my words by trying to say that "All we can do is eat well and get exercise, and God will take care of our size." But I only got the first half out before she interrupted me to say, "Look, mom, my shadow is wearing SHOES!"

May she always be so blase when it comes to body size. And if she ends up being a bigger girl like her mommy, may she always be a happy little buddha. I love you, Pumpkin Girl, no matter what size your belly is, or ever will be.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Love And Marriage, Age 4 Edition

Ellie announced to me in the car today that she wanted to marry her friend Jack. 

"Why do you want to marry him?" I asked. 

"Because he's good," she replied. 

That's a ringing endorsement for a great spouse if I've ever heard one. Simple and to the point. I guess she's already looking for someone like her daddy. I did tell her she has to wait until she's at least 18, though.

A picture of the happy couple:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Good Day

Believe it or not, I actually have good days. I know I'm usually driven to write when something bad, or at least unsettling, has happened or is on my mind. The good days don't get enough mention, here or in my head. So I'm blogging today to say it was a good day. Nothing amazing or really unusual happened, unless you count Jeff not having any fits as unusual (which it can be!).

The weather is GORGEOUS. I felt so blessed to be able to open every window in the house and enjoy a COOL breeze. I vacuumed and steam-cleaned the rest of the basement. I baked pumpkin bread - a sure sign I feel fall is really coming, as for some reason while I LOVE pumpkin items, I so strongly associate them with autumn that I can hardly think of baking them any other time of year. We went to the pool and I played silly games with Ellie. We visited my parents in Staunton and enjoyed casual conversation, Hershey's kisses, and pizza.

Once home, Ellie did throw a fit about not being able to play outside immediately with friends, and got so mad during her fit she actually ripped her curtains out of the wall. Surprisingly, I wasn't all that fazed. Brett fixed them. She stayed in her room for a while as a consequence. We moved on.

So thank you, God, for this good day. And thank you, Brain, for recognizing and honoring it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Have We Hit the Teenage Years Already?

My son is changing. Gone are the days of automatic obedience. O.K., it was *never* automatic, but he's definitely challenging us and rules more and more, and often now just decides he's going to do something and does it without considering whether or not he should seek permission.

His anger is also getting worse. Or maybe it's his way of expressing that anger that's getting worse. I'm not sure which one is true. Now Jeff has always struggled with anger - it's his "go-to" emotion, for one thing; the one that seems to come out no matter what other more subtle emotion might be at play (frustration, fear, loneliness, embarrassment). As a toddler, anytime he got hurt, mad, scared, disappointed, he'd deal with it by hitting his parents. We spent nearly two years trying to get him to do other things except hit us - lots of time outs, removal of things from around him, sticker charts and rewards, etc.. We finally told him, when he started hitting his preschool teachers, that he would earn one spanking on his bottom for that, because we just couldn't figure out what else to do. Oddly enough, the threat of a swat worked - he only hit his teacher twice after that. Received two separate swats, and he was done.

Wish that would work as well now. Well, O.K., not really. I'm not really a spanker, don't like the idea of it, but know that 90% of parents do it at least once, and I have done it on occasions like that. But what do I do with a 9 year old who now is having increasingly physical reactions to anger again? He stomps, he bangs, he slams doors, he throws things in his room. Nothing has gotten broken yet (including him), but I'm sure it will. And I find it kind of scary.

I would like to say I'm one of those perfect moms who never raises her voice. I'm not. I try to stay calm and rational. Sometimes it works. Other times, I, um, raise my voice. I don't scream. I don't say mean, nasty insults. But I do get mad and I yell. So I know where it comes from and how it feels. I still struggle with anger, too. But not like this. In my HEAD I want to bang things and break things and hit things with a baseball bat. In real life, I don't. I do tend to go for the cookie dough... but that's another issue entirely.

So I'm not sure what to do with this kid who now feels he's old enough to make decisions on his own, but breaks down into fits of rage that are totally inappropriate. Last night he and his sister got into a fight while a babysitter was there. She sent both of them to their rooms to settle down. After a few minutes, he announced to her he was done being in his room and was coming out. She said, "Um, no - you're not." He screamed he hated her and slammed his door very forcefully and threw a fit in his room. My Lord, what do I do with that? Luckily the babysitter was very calm and told him when she was here, everyone was expected to treat everyone else well, and that her rules must be obeyed. And she had him stay in his room until he was calm. Exactly as we would have done. So she wasn't fazed. I was aghast and appalled, but she seemed fine with it all. Bless her.

But I don't know what to do now. Certainly there will be a consequence for that behavior choice, but Brett and I haven't figured out what it will/should be. And will it make a difference? When he gets lost in his anger like that, it's like he can't control himself. Last weekend we went to a church festival for kids (luckily not OUR church, and you'll see why...). Jeff decided he wanted to go in the bouncy castle with a slide. When he got to the bottom of the slide, however, I could tell immediately from his face that something was wrong. I thought perhaps he'd scraped himself on the slide, until he stood up and screamed "STUPID IDIOT!" at whomever was behind him. I said, "No! Jefferson, come here!". And he came running at me, crying, yelling that the kid behind him had pushed him, and lifted his arms and hit me. Hit me. His mom. I retrieved his shoes, as it was clear to me now that we had to leave, and as we were walking to the car, even as I was saying we don't call people names like that, he turned around again and screamed "STUPID IDIOT!" toward the slide area. I lost it and yelled "NO!" at him. In front of all those nice church people talking about God's children. I was mortified by it all.

I was also flummoxed. What to do with this? He stayed in his room for the day. We talked to him about name-calling and about hitting me ("sorry about that," he mumbled in response to my sadness at being hit, so at least he knew that was wrong). And we asked him how old the kid was who'd pushed him. "Probably four," he said.

Four? A four year old? And you're screaming "stupid idiot" at him? Granted, the kid should not have pushed Jeff. And had he been calm enough, we would have stayed there to work it out. As it was, I cried in shame. And I've been watching as the reactions seem to have gotten stronger, more intense, and over what seems to us to be ridiculous stuff.

I asked him this morning if he thought his behavior toward the sitter was appropriate."No," he muttered. "I was angry in that moment." I told him that's not an O.K. reaction to being angry, to which he replied, "I wanted to get my anger out but I don't know how." That's often his response these days - he needs to get the anger out but can't figure out how. I guess that's a small sort of recognition.

See, here's the other thing: I *know* anger issues are a major struggle for people with Asperger's. I've read that time and again. What I haven't read is how to really help with it. We have worked with Jeff a lot on things to do to calm down - run, jump, pound a pillow, count in his head, deep breaths, etc. We even had him work one on one with an occupational therapist to try to help him recognize when he's getting too worked up, and teach him some things he could do to calm back down when it was happening. But he doesn't do any of those. It's like he goes from 0-100 in a second, and all those options to slow himself down, they go right out of his brain. We know giving him time to calm down is about the only thing that works, but what do we do with the fits and violence?

I seriously wonder when I see these fits, when I hear him talk about how it's always someone else's fault, if I have another Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold on my hands. It's scary to me, how much anger this kid has and how little he sees his own culpability in it (or in the things leading up to it). He can bang his head on a cupboard and be convinced the cupboard leapt out and hit him - and that he has to pay it back and teach it a lesson. I spend a lot of time explaining that inanimate objects are, in fact, inanimate, and cannot think or do anything. He remains unconvinced.

I'm going to look into a counselor to help him and us with this issue. But in the meantime, it's scary to me, to have a 9 year old kid acting like this. We haven't even fully hit the tween years, much less teenagehood and actual puberty. If he's this prone to anger and physical reactions now, what's it going to be like when the testosterone is fully unleashed?