Wednesday 17 February 2021

Picky Eating Comes Full Circle

 As I always do, I started composing this post by reading my last one. I think I had a sense of hopefulness that some of Kate’s behavioral challenges would be improved by now much in the same way we all hoped things would be better with the Cornoavirus by now. Yet just as 2020 ended and we had the same problems with a new date; we’re still at where we were. As we near the one year anniversary, I’ve been contemplating how much the pandemic has impacted our lives. I do have to preference that our experience has been one of immense privilege. No one became sick. No one close to us has died. Husband and I both have our jobs. We went though the mere inconveniences of cancelled trips and disappointed holidays spent alone. Yet, I still can’t help wonder at times how things would have been different had we never heard the words “COVID-19”


The pandemic has made me compromise on many of my parenting promises to my earlier self. I swore I would never let Kate eat dinner while watching TV. That one went out the window fairly early. When Kate’s pre-school closed and she was home all day with me trying to home school her, I felt so badly for her, that I let her eat dinner in the living room as a treat. It also allowed Husband and I to have a quiet meal and became one of the few opportunities that we had to talk with each other. Maybe this was just a way that the pandemic had changed family dynamics. We were spending so much time together that we didn’t need to eat together. Wrong. As many would proclaim, family dinner is about more than just food. We discovered the consequences our our choices when we went away to a sleepy beach town for a long weekend and went to a restaurant for outdoor dining. Kate’s table manners, which weren’t great, had become much worse. Her picky eating  was so problematic that we were choosing restaurants based on whether or not the children’s menu would have something Kate would eat. 


My initial response to Kate’s finicky eating was to blame myself for enabling it. I saw the solution was to stop enabling. When Kate started Kindergarten, I told her we would be eating dinner together and she would have to eat the same foods as us. Spoiler Alert. It was a major fail. Every dinner brought a major meltdown and it wore me out pretty quickly. I decided I would start with one meal per week and build from there. I tried making more adult versions of meatballs and chicken tenders. I scoured the internet for suggestions and found a lot of conflicting opinions “Give Choices!” “Don’t Give Choices.” “Use Dessert as a Reward” “Don’t use Dessert as an Incentive.” “Let kids help cook!”. Nope bad idea. The sight of raw beef or chicken prompted Kate to declare she wouldn’t be touching it hours before the meal was served. I gave up trying. 


Our pediatrician deemed that with Kate, it’s not about the food, it’s the battle. We’re in the middle of a psychological warfare and I have to come up with a better strategy. As I’ve been reading through Try New Foods and Adventures in Veggieland, I’ve been wrestling with my own feelings and experiences with picky eating. Firstly, it’s a first world problem and one of privilege. I recall my grandfather, who grew up during the Depression, telling me that he and his brother never complained about the food that was served to them because they didn’t if they would have anything to eat the next day. I don’t have to look back in history; food insecurity is happening now. Not too far away from us, there are kids whose “choices” are eating the food in front of them or going hungry. Not just hungry until the next meal, but actually starving. I want Kate to not only willing eat her meals, but to know how fortunate she is that we can provide for her. 


My other mental conflict in dealing with Kate’s picky eating is that I was also a picky eater as a child. I recall that my mother once told me that she hoped I would have a picky eater when I was a mother so I would know how frustrating it is. Actually, she wished that I would have twins so I could experience twice the meal time misery. Well played Mom. Apparently, when I was two I would only eat hot dogs and French fries, which has turned into a form of aversion therapy as I haven’t eaten hot dogs in over 35 years. Too bad it didn’t have the same effect with fries. Interestingly, when I look back I take note that my parents mostly served Standard American Diet foods, it wasn’t until I was older and specifically in my post graduate years that I started to explore Indian, Mexican and Paleo cuisines. However, just earlier today I ate leftover Turkey chili for lunch and I found that Husband cut the onions too chunky for my liking and I pushed all the onions to the side of the plate. Am I still a picky eater? I’ve often noted in this blog that Husband is a picky eater, who won’t admit he is a picky eater, which is even more annoying. Actually he defines himself as a particular eater. He just doesn’t like green beans, asparagus, kale, snow peas, sugar snap peas, butternut squash, parsnips, celery and he’s not too keen on zucchini. He doesn’t like to eat the same meal two nights in a row (no re-heated leftovers for dinner) and won’t eat starch twice in one day. Other than that, he’s open to anything. 


Much of what I read, seems to disagree with most of the tactics our parents used to get us to eat. Don’t use dessert as a reward as it suggests that dessert is more valuable than the dinner. When having lunch, I make myself eat my celery and humus before eating my yoghurt and fruit, because I know the fruit and yoghurt are tastier and if I eat them first, I probably won’t eat the celery. Don’t hide vegetables in other foods as it is dishonest and breaks trust. I won’t eat spinach on it’s own, but I’ll throw handfuls in a smoothie. I love the spinach for it’s nutrients and the fact that I can taste it makes it a win-win! Don’t shame or bully your kids as it they have a bad or traumatic experience, it can lead to further refusal and can have long lasting effects. Case in point, as I recall my mother’s line, but I can’t say that it really scarred me for life. Actually I have sympathy for her.  I had to do a few rounds of Whole 30 to break from rewarding myself with food.  Going thought the Burger King drive through is one of my guilty pleasures. I’m in my 40s and I’m still trying to figure out my relationships with food; how can I set realistic expectations for my 5 year old?


So what are you supposed to do? I’ve read two sources that are suggesting that you let kids touch and explore foods without requiring them to eat the foods. Adventures in Veggieland has lots of ideas for this. Carve shapes into beats for a stamping projects. Yeah, I remember doing that in nursery school, and sorry Dwight, I don’t like beats. I dunno. It seems like you’re encouraging kids to play with food. It’s wasteful and now I have to find time to build houses with pieces of butternut squash. At the same time, the idea is so crazy, it just might work and I’ve got nothing else. We’re off to play with some zoodles. 

Thursday 31 December 2020

Right Now December 31, 2020

Currently, I am...

Reading: I downloaded a parenting book on my kindle after I was alarmed about Kate’s bratty behavior. Apparently the answer is for husband and me to model good behavior all the time, so we’re all kind of fucked. I ordered some books on dealing with a picky eater from our local bookstore as my New Year’s resolution is going to be to improve Kate’s eating behaviors in the new year. 


Watching: MSNBC news shows, but I’ve been trying to discover some new shows. I subscribed to Netflix this summer so I could watch The Babysitter’s Club (which was awesome) and I forgot to cancel my membership. As I noticed that I wrote about This is Us in my last Right Now post, I feel that I should comment on this season. I really like they way they included the current events of this year, but OMG that pregnant chick is totally scamming Toby and Kate. There is no way someone her age has the Ghostbusters song as a ring tone or would even name her daughter after a Buffy character (I’m dubious that she even has a daughter). Her entire story of being widowed by her high school sweetheart and then getting knocked up after a one night stand seems a little too scripted while her tale of why she doesn’t like the name Chloe sounded fabricated. I see her suddenly needing money in the next episodes and then skipping town. 


Listening: I am the last person in the world who has discovered Podcasts. I became addicted during the run up to the election. The Lincoln Project has featured great dialogues and some amazing guests, but I tune into The New Abnormal exclusively for their closing Fuck That Guy segment. I’ve also subscribed to Janet Lansbury’s parenting podcast, I somewhat find that the podcasts are easier to digest than books and as I’m listening to them in smaller chunks while I am driving to the gym or to work, it grants less time to feel guilty about everything I’m doing wrong as a parent. 


Drinking: Coke Zero. I’ve been back to my old vice. I bought a twelve pack during the Shelter in Place order as I thought I’d allow us a little indulgence in what I thought was going to be a two week thing. We all know how that went. Once we can go out without masks, I’ll stop buying Coke Zero. 


Eating: Paleo turkey bites. I made a double batch to use up some leftover produce I had on hand after our Christmas dinner. I only had to work half a day, but ended up working through lunch so I’m starved.


Loving: Curbside pick up service. I am tying on a new keyboard after my old one finally died. I had Husband help me find the correct one on the Best Buy website, ordered it, drove to their parking lot and someone placed it in the boot of my car. We so can continue this after the pandemic. 


Anticipating: An attempted coup and possible civil war. Do you remember the scene in the original Austin Powers when Dr Evil finally catches Austin and Vanessa and announces his plan to have them be eaten by ill tempered mutated sea bass? When Dr Evil’s son Scott asks if his father is going to watch the demise of his nemesis, Dr Evil responds, “No, I’m going to place them in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death and assume everything went according to plan.” That’s what this election has felt like. It would be too democratic to allow the popular vote to prevail, so we went through the process of counting the results for each state, then waiting an extra month to make it official with the Electoral College, which needs to be certified by a Congress that is planning to contest the results. I’ve heard some people say ‘Oh, it’s never going to happen’ but it’s fucking scary how close we’re coming to it and it’s alarming how fragile our safeguards are. 


Hoping: There are better days ahead


Worrying: About hospitals and healthcare providers. I worry about the exhaustion of all the first line workers who are persevering on an unsustainable pace. I worry about shortages of staff, medications, PPE and morgue space. I worry that the vaccine distribution is going too slow and too many people are going to decline the vaccine. I worry that things are going to get much worse. 


Preparing: Lectures! Last year my gym bestie moved to Southern California to take a teaching position at a University and it motivated me to look into some teaching opportunities myself. As this year has been rather monotonous, I’ve been craving some extra intellectual stimulation. A local PA program asked me if I would precept a student and I inquired about joining their faculty. I’m going to start giving some guest lectures and hopefully teach the women’s health course next fall. 


Feeling: Just fine. I received the (Moderna) Coronavirus vaccine two days ago. My arm was a bit sore the next day (similar to the Tdap shot) but otherwise no ill effects. 


Finishing: I just put away our Christmas decorations. Now to complete thank you notes with Kate. 


Celebrating: In turns out New Year’s Eve celebration during a pandemic is just like our NYE during a non-pandemic. We’re staying in and ordering take-out. Kate is determined to have a party with just the three of us. She made banners, created a concoction of melted chocolate chips and raspberries and is now microwaving sausage patties and putting frozen waffles into the toaster. A perfect ending to a not-so-perfect year. 


Happy New Year! 

Thursday 29 October 2020

Kate 5.0

Five years seems like a mini-milestone. Half way to the first decade and double figures. I guess it’s kind of a big deal, even though we had a low-key celebration. We had three birthday parties cancelled in the month of March, so I think it was fairly easy for Kate to accept that we weren’t going to have a party. One time back in May, Husband threatened that if she didn’t behave, we would cancel her party (it was an effective intimidation tactic as last year I nearly sent a mass text to call off her party the night before the event). I gave him a not so subtle kick under the table as I didn’t think it was fair to foreshadow what would likely be inevitable. I had contemplated having a few individual outdoor play dates over the 4th of July weekend, but found that some families were getting out of town for the holiday or only felt comfortable doing Face.time, so I decided not to bother. I took advantage of the fact that Hamilton was making it’s debut on Disn.ey Plus and adopted the musical as her theme. She struggled to sit through all of Hamilton, which made me some what relieved we didn’t get to see it live. (I had tickets for us to see it on Mother’s Day) Although I do think she would have done better in a theatre without distractions from home. 


The day before her birthday, while we were shopping at Safe.way she softly asked me “I’m really not having a party am I?” I don’t think she quite has the concept of a surprise party, I just think she was still holding on to some hope that the virus would magically disappear. You know, like the President is doing. 

I gave her a hug and kissed her forehead.

“I’m so sorry sweetie. We can’t have a party for you this year.” 

“It’s because of the virus.”

“Yes it is.”

“I hate the fucking Coronavirus .”


Everyone in Safeway, who was within the six foot social distance bubble heard her. No one looked shocked or surprised as I think they all agreed whole heartedly with her statement. Even without the adult language, she handled the situation with impressive maturity. Until the night of her actual birthday. Admittedly, she was overstimulated as Face.timed with my parents and my aunt and uncle and her school had a small celebration for her. I made her grilled cheese and baked beans as she requested, but then made the mistake of serving them together on the same plate and allowed the baked beans to touch her grilled cheese. This triggered one of the worst meltdowns we’ve seen in a long while. Seriously, I thought we were done with major tantrums at this age. It was the worse anniversary of her birth and that is including the night of her birth when I was post op and was throwing up non-stop. 


Height: 44.5 inches

Weight: 52 pounds


So she’s grown 2.5 inches and 4 pounds in the past six months. That is a 1.6 pound per inch ratio. Is that good? Bad? I have no idea.  


Sleep: Back in the day when Kate’s nap time was my free time, I was dreading the day we had to give up naps, but I had no idea back then just how hard it would be, and it wasn’t going to be about losing the free time. I hadn’t been going out of my way to make sure she had a nap on the weekends, but if she seemed tired I would have her take one. Then when we were at her Kindergarten interview, the teacher quipped that another prospective student asked if they took naps. I silently gulped as I wished Kate had been astute enough to ask such a question and I realized that I was going to have to come up with a napping exit strategy. She was still napping at school. Enter Shelter in Place. In lieu of naps, we were letting her have a mid day TV show for some quiet time, as Husband usually had calls around noon and I was just getting home, which gave me time to have lunch and transition into homeschooling mode. So when she went back to her school in May, we told her teachers not to have her nap. 


The school eased back into their re-opening, so for the first two weeks she was only attending for six hours a day. When she went back to a full nine hour day, she was absolutely exhausted when I picked her up from school. She would fall asleep almost as soon as we got in the car. I couldn’t resist letting her sleep a bit, as it allowed me some time to do some washing up, start dinner, hit a 10 minute power-abs work out. However, we found it would make it harder to get her to fall asleep at night. Now, if I see that she is nodding off, I’ll blast the music to wake her up. Husband suggested starting her bath at 7:15, which at first I thought was unrealistic, but I soon learned we need to aim to do bath at 7:15 and we’ll actually manage to get her in the tub by 7:30 and I started a hard-stop lights out at 8:00. Even if we are in the middle of a story, the lights go out at 8:00. She has been falling asleep really quickly too, leaving me some time in the evening… but after packing lunches and hitting some other chores, I’m pretty tired too, especially as I’m getting up at 4:45 AM to go the gym. 


Eating: Still a disgrace. Nothing makes me feel more like a failure as a parent than meal times. I gave up on trying to feed her breakfast, since she would seldom eat it, unless it were waffles or pancakes. I was worried how we would manage leaving earlier in the morning, but so far it’s been going well. Kate recently got a backpack that also pulls on wheels and she has decided that our house is an airport and she is waiting to take an airplane to School Island. She has a random memory of getting snacks from a vending machine while we were at an airport, so I’ve been placing a granola or cereal bar on a magnetic clip to our refrigerator to represent the vending machine. Then she goes to the living room to wait at her “gate”. Lunch she gets some yoghurt, fruit, Ritz cheese crackers and pepperoni. I pack some seaweed and vegetable crackers and milk for her snacks. I’ve been trying to serve her dinner earlier in the evening, especially as she’s hungry, but as she’s also tired, it’s a bad combination and I’ve found it’s better just to give her a snack or two before we all sit down for dinner. I’m dreading when we have to all homework into our evening routine. I’ve recently become strict again on getting her to eat vegetables with dinner. She eat carrots or peppers for a while, then decide she doesn’t like them anymore. We recently went shopping and I was amazed when she requested carrots and dip. However, when I put them in her lunchbox, they came back untouched. Kate later informed me that they were “play date” foods and not lunch box foods. I am really worried about her poor diet and her weight and I hope we can get in to see her pediatrician soon. 


Likes: I have to say she’s become pretty creative while playing at home. She loves to set up obstacle courses for our cat in the garage (his favorite place in the house, where he can usually enjoy some peace and quiet) Her creations are great and they keep her occupied for a while, the only trouble is when we have to take them down. We’ve tried to be lenient and will leave them up for a few days, but one time she trapped Husband and me in the kitchen as she set up a Les Miserables style barricade over both doorways. Last year I picked up a small splash pad on clearance for $5 and as it kept her entertained, it was the best $5 I could have spent. Then it sprung a leak, so I bought a roll of Flex Seal tape (as seen on TV) for $5 and it was still the best $10 ever spent. Then the tape started to fail and I upgraded to a splash pad that turns into a small wading pool. Best $27.99 ever spend. Cost of selling my soul to Amaz.on not included. Also costs of the water bill not included. I’m expecting Husband will have a coronary when he sees our water bill, but I’m fully prepared to defend that it’s a cost of child care. 


Activities: When everything stopped during Shelter in Place, I continued to pay Kate’s monthly fees to her gymnastics school, as I wanted to support them so they would remain in business. They offered Zoom classes, but I didn’t want to cajole her into one more Zoom and I didn’t want to set the prescient that it would be okay to do gymnastics in our living room. Five months later I had to re-evaluate when the cases were surging and it didn’t look like in-person classes were going to resume any time soon and Kate never expressed that she missed going to gymnastics. I also appreciate not having to race out of the house on Saturday mornings. Her swim classes resumed  and I was able to get her into a earlier class to accommodate our revised schedule. She was happy to be back in the pool and started asking every night when I picked her up from school “is tonight a swimming night?”We just got off the waitlist to add another lesson each week. I figure while swimming is the only extra curricular activity that is happing now, we’ll try to make the most of it. Her school has also resumed their tuff tumblers and soccer classes and they are letting all kids participate to make up for the misses sessions earlier this year. Honestly, I just think the instructors are happy to be teaching again. 


Looking forward to: We are excited about starting Kindergarten, even though we will be starting via distance learning. Kate was accepted into the Catholic school. It’s an excellent school with small class sizes and it is very close to our house. It also goes from Kindergarten through Eight Grade, so after this we’ll only have to plan for high school and college. I really struggled in Middle School and I think there is a real flaw in the idea of “let’s bring a whole bunch of new kids together at a time when they are really insecure and unsure of themselves!” 


We started out on distance learning, which went better than expected. Husband and I had to use PTO to take mornings off from work so we could concentrate on facilitating Kate’s lessons. Her school did a nice mix of live Zoom classes and short Loom videos that introduced a lesson and instructions for work and they started at 8:30 in the morning. I think one of the detrimental factors that made her Zoom lessons in the Spring such a disaster (with her old school) is that they didn’t start until 3:30 in the afternoon. While I understand that no one was prepared for this shut down and plans were thrown together at the last minute, I really wonder what they were thinking with a class so late in the afternoon. We soon discovered that no learning happens after lunch. 


At press time, Kate has started in-person school four hours a day, four days a week. So far it’s been going well. Kate came home on the the first day and declared “I had the best day ever! This is my favorite school in the whole world!” I shared that feedback with her teacher and she was so surprised as she feels that she spends most of the idea admonishing the kids to keep their distance, wash their hands, etc.. She feels that she is being the meanest teacher ever. Obviously not meaner than her Teacher Mom. 


Looking Forward to: If you can’t tell, I started this post over the summer and just finished it almost four months later. In June, Kate went back to her old school and I went back to a regular work schedule. By July, our lives were feeling something like we were back to normal as we started doing outdoor play dates and had some friends over for barbecues in our yard. Restaurants starting offering outdoor dining and we enjoyed being social again. I volunteered to help reach low turnout voters in critical states and sent over 1000 postcards and letters, which occupied much of my free time. I’m wishing we could fast forward time for the next three months as we’re exactly one week out, and I still feel a lot of uncertainty about the election, both the Presidential race and the Senate, the aftermath, the potential for a dangerous lame duck Trump session, more potential for civic unrest. Oh and COVID isn’t going anywhere and is only going to get worse over the next few months. We’re not going to back to anything resembling normal until 2022 at the earliest. Till then, we’ll be trying to make the most of the new abnormal. 

Friday 10 July 2020

2020 Goals Update

It’s so hard to believe that we’re already half way through this craptastic year so far. Individual days can feel so long, and yet weeks and months are flying by. Obviously the coronavirus shifted everyone’s plans and priorities, but I thought it was worthwhile to take a look at what my goals for 2020 were.

Weight Management

Targets for 2020
Keeping weight around 155
PB on Body Fat Test 

Of course, I had to lead with this one. This was probably the first to go out the window. When we first thought shelter in place may last a few weeks, maybe a month at the most, I started snacking and caring less about what I ate. Then once I realized that it was going to be going on much longer, I knew I couldn’t sustain my current habits. While Kate was out of school, we did a lot of baking as it was a good activity and a good way to introduce math and fractions, so there are a lot less temptations now that we’re back in school and work. Although right now we’re working our way through a dozen cupcakes as we nixed plans for a social distant birthday party as cases have been on the rise. After successfully giving up Coke Zero four years ago during a Whole 30, I started buying it again. Especially since Husband is not drinking while on his anticoagulation, I figured we needed at least one vice. Hey, at least it’s not real coke. The last time I weighted myself I was 156 and I don’t think the Body Fat Testing Truck is in operation right now. I could look it up. Or I could just see that my last weight was near my target, call it a win and move on. 


So our gym closed in mid March and we all started doing home WODs via Zoom with limited equipment. I’m sure my pushups are the best they’ve ever been, but I don’t know if I still have a strict pull-up. I know I’ve lost strength. I saw I had a 45 kg snatch as my target for 2020 and I did hit that about a month before SIP. Score another win. I actually did more classes before I went back to work full time, but it really wasn’t the same as going to the gym. I struggled to get in a workout when I went back, especially as we were adjusting to a new schedule. I would wake up at 5 am and would go into the garage, but would end up lying on the ground snuggling with Tyler, who has been spending a lot of refuge in the garage. I was awake at this ungodly hour -didn’t that count for something? Our gym is now holding in person classes and I’ve been attending at 5:30 AM. On our first day back, we finished a little early, so a few guys did an extra round and I joined them. It made me realise how much I missed. 

I haven’t been in a pool in nearly 4 months. Currently, I’m writing from Kate’s swim lesson and I’m so jealous of her. I did manage to hit a PR in my 50 Free in February, so I’ll notch another victory. 

3. Setting out birthday cards
At press time, I still need to send cards for July, but sending them in a batch at the beginning of the month has been a successful strategy 

4. Sending photos to my in-laws
Total fail and don’t really care. 

5. Run some 5K races with Kate
I had tried to do some training runs with Kate, but we did about a quarter mile and then she got tired. I let her rest a bit and then she saw an ice cream truck. I realized the other challenge with her running training is that I was trying to do it during what was her nap time. Not a good idea. I noticed that I had running a sub 10 minute mile as one of my targets and I recently did one in 9:10. Score another win. 

6. Parenting

Targets for 2020: 
Getting Kate to sleep on her own. And earlier. Yes on earlier, still not on her own. 
Limiting her TV time. This was obviously thrown out the window during SIP, but we’re back to being restrictive. 
Getting her accepting into Kindergarten and getting her ready for school: She was accepted into a Catholic school that runs from Kindergarten through Eighth Grade. At the time of her interview in February, she was deemed to be ready for Kindergarten and I hope she still is. I think she may be the first kid to fail homeschooling in her own house. It was a battle to get her to do any work in a workbook or participate in any Zoom classes. Even now that she’s back in school, she resists if I try to engage her in the slightest bit of learning. “UGGGHHH NO LEARNING” Yup. That’s her attitude now. Prior to Shelter in Place, this was the girl who decided to write a letter to Eliza Hamilton (we received a response!). 

7. Maintaining friendships
This obviously has been harder with lack of any social events, so I have been trying to text more often. 

8. Miscellaneous 
Well I was planning to have professional photos done during our Hawaii trip, but we all know that’s not going to happen. At least I won’t have the task of framing hanging over my head. 

Last year I splurged on a beauty treatment and then needed to replace my transmission, so I ran into a bit of credit card debt. I got out of it quickly, but one of my goals for this year was to rein in my spending. My challenge was only to buy things if I absolutely needed them. If I found I need, I had to exhaust all resources, including what I have on had, what I could get used, what I could borrow etc. I was too often guilty of buying more clothes just because I had Gap Cash or the store was promoting a big sale. I actually had been doing well prior to SIP, but it became even easier once stores closed down. I ended up needing to do some online shopping to get some clothes for Kate and added a few dresses for me. I indulged a bit on workout clothes, which were unnecessary in the sense that I have a lot, but needed as they helped provide motivation when I didn’t feel like working out. 

I had listed as targets to update our front yard, finish the back year and maybe tackle the mess on our hill! Done, done and on track to be finished. 

Moving forward… ?

I kind of feel that I merely existing from from one day to the next. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day (quoting MacBeth via Hamilton). At least I’m actually driving to the gym to work out, then to work, home, Safeway and Farmer’s Market on the weekends. Okay that’s not that different from my old routine, but at least I had options to do other things. I’m just hoping to get through this month and hopefully we’ll know what is going to happen with Kate’s school. If we’re homeschooling again, I’ll likely run out my PTO, then look into working part time to help Kate manage her schoolwork. I’m sure that will bring a whole new set of challenges and opportunities. 

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Body Image Challenges

I picked Kate up from school one day last week. I had taken the day off from work and I was wearing my work out clothes. A few minutes after we departed, Kate told me “Mommy, your muscles are getting big.” I thanked her for noticing and was surprised when she said this next;
“Don’t work out in the garage any more. I don’t want your muscles getting any bigger”
“Um, why?”
“Because you look like a boy”
“Girls can have muscles too, it’s not a boy/girl thing”
“But you still look like a boy”
“It doesn’t bother me. My muscles let people know I’m strong. In fact, relative to our body weight, mommy is stronger than daddy”
“A girl can be stronger than a boy!?”
“Hell yeah, she can.”
“Mind. Blown.”

I smiled and left it at that, thinking I had a good conversation about girl power and body image and I shared the exchange with some friends. Or so I thought. A few days later, Husband informed me that we he picked her up from school the next night, she expressed to him how she is concerned about mommy having big muscles and looking like a boy. She also totally grassed me up for saying that I’m stronger than him too.

Feeling frustrated, I tried to figure out where this is coming from. Obviously, the boys in her class at school aren’t very buff. We do have a few very built guys in our gym, but she hasn’t been to the gym in well over six months, possibly longer. I started thinking about the shows she watches and soon found my most likely culprit. Husband ordered Disney Plus (so he could watch the Star Wars series) and my parents let Kate watch movies from the Princess collection over Christmas, much to my dismay. I object to the repetitive theme of beautiful girl meets handsome prince and gets married and lives happily ever after (BTW, I had never watched Beauty and the Beast before. Hello Stockholm Syndrome!) but I relented think that she probably doesn’t quite understand the message and just enjoys the songs.

However, her comment about muscular girls looking like boys, prompted me to take a look at some of the leading men in these movies. I would argue that as we’ve focused on the tiny waistlines and over proportioned busts of the female characters and how it sets unrealistic expectations set for girls, we’ve taken our eye off the ball to examine the male characters. I enter into evidence these exhibits below, which show that all these men are particularity buff. I’m surprised no one has suspected steroid use.

My Prince Charming, what bulging biceps you have! 

Um, Aladdin spends way to much time working 
his chest and abs and neglects his arms

Whoa. This guy from The Hunchback of Norte Dame 
is rather hulk-like 

John Smith of Pocahontas settled the colonies 
While engaging in body building as a side gig

The Little Mermaid’s Price Eric eats his Wheaties 
and never misses a training session at the gym. 

Me last year.
I’ve probably lost most of that muscle tone. 

Yikes. These Princess movies are even more toxic that I already anticipated. 

Thursday 11 June 2020

Right Now Spring 2020

Right Now: Spring 2020

I am currently…

Back at work full time. I resumed my normal schedule after Memorial Day, but it has been challenging to operate as business as usual as the unrest emerged as the murder of George Floyd proved to be a breaking point in police brutality and the false accusation of Amy Cooper exhibited the epitome of white privilege. It’s been a lot to process. I’ve been thinking about how my parents handled my grandparents’ racism, how I need to address it with my Father-in-law. How to start having these conversations with Kate. How to take tangible and meaningful actions. I’ve been deliberately silent on social media, as I know I’m one to think passive action counts as actual action. I’m also being quiet because I also feel I need to listen more and understand the perspective of others. I’ll state this; Not only do Black Lives Matter, matter is the minimum standard. Black lives should be respected and cherished.

Since I went back to work, I lost my 4:30 outdoor gym session. I’m finding my motivation to work out is waning at times. I’ve been waking up early to get in a garage work out before work, but some days I spend that time just lying on the floor with Tyler. Our box participated in the Run Across America this past Saturday and on Sunday we did a WOD in the parking lot of the gym. This meant that I had to get into my car and leave my car to go workout without the interruptions of a kid or a cat. It was as close to “normal” as I have felt in a long while.

Husband is currently…

Recovering from his DVT/PE. Thank you all who expressed your concerns. His lab work did not reveal any underlying hypercoagulable conditions and his doctor think he will be off his anticoagulation medication by the end of the year. He has been feeling really discouraged as not only did the surgery produce a life threatening complication, it hasn’t improved his pain. After hours of searching on Google, he found an Australian doctor who recommended a specific exercise plan, and so far it seems to be working.

Kate is currently...

Back at school. It ended up being a no brainer decision to send her when she school started to open for kids of essential workers. She was getting restless at home and Husband was not coping well having to manage working full time while being a stay at home dad. It has done a world of good for everyone. We were anticipating needing to switch to an earlier waking time when she enters Kindergarten (which starts at 8 AM) later this year, but as my schedule was shifted to an 8 AM start time while we were under SIP orders, we decided just to make the switch now. It’s been almost three weeks, but we’ve managed to get out of the house on time each day. It will actually be easier once she does start Kindergarten as that school is closer to our house.

We officially phased out naps during SIP, so when she went back to school, we asked her teachers not to nap her. The difficulty is that she is exhausted when she comes home. She falls asleep in the car ride home. I let her sleep a little bit a few a times, which resulted in her being awake until nearly 10 o’clock. So now I’m blasting the music to keep her awake and we just have to push though her being tired. Some nights it a major meltdown and we end up skipping dinner and maybe a bath and putting her to bed. It’s going to be a long summer.

Kate’s Quarantine Self Haircut
I was going to let her bangs grow out, but she had other ideas and 
decided to take the scissors in her own hands 

Tyler is currently...

Battling with fleas. We treat him, they retreat for a while, then come back.  I’m trying a new oral medication along with his topical treatment to see if this combination brings more success.

His meowing is fixed! I had been letting him hang out in the garage in the evening and I would bring him in when I went to bed and would give him his kitty CBD oil. He would settle down, but then would start meowing again at 4:20 AM (his is versed in cannabis culture). I would let him into the garage and then get ready to work out. Until one night, he just wouldn’t stop meowing. We don’t want to lock him in the garage all night (as he’ll want to come in and will scratch at the door and meow) and we don’t want to leave the door (leading into our garage) unlocked. However… We build a special enclosure in our garage for his litter box that he accesses through a cat door, and there is a door in the back that opens from the garage side, which lets him go into the garage while keeping the connecting door secure. The meowing at night has stopped. WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS YEARS AGO!!!

The Decoy Computer
Tricks your cat while your are working 

The Good
We finally planted in our planter’s box! We’ve also been working on clearing our hill. I think we’ve done about 75 lawn and leaf bags, plus our neighbors let us use their green bin each week. Unfortunately, I never took any before pics, and I can’t find any, but imagine this hill with a lot of dead shit on it.

Still have a lot of work to do...

The Bad
We officially cancelled our trip to Hawaii and my parents decided they don’t feel comfortable flying out in August. I’m doubtful that we’ll visit at Christmas and I don’t know when I’ll see them again. I really don’t know when or if we’ll see my in-laws again.
Kate and I were supposed to see Hamilton last month. (We are looking forward to seeing it on Disney Plus)

On My Mind..
The coronavirus. I’m anticipating a huge spike in cases due to the protests. Is this going to represent the second wave?
Kate recently asked “How old will I be when the virus is over?” I couldn’t give her an answer.
She showed me how she placed her LEGOs so that Elsa and Olaf were 6 feet apart. I wonder how kids are going to be affected long term by this.
The economic effects from the virus. Businesses that will need to close and growing unemployment.
Systemic racism. Is this movement going to bring real change that is so long overdue? I hope so.

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Returning to Normal (ish)

Shelter in Place Day 59

Has it been that long already? How is it that the days can seem so long but weeks and months are passing so quickly. I can’t believe we’re already into the second week of May. I remember walking into work on Monday morning March 16th, knowing it would not be an ordinary day.  At the end of the previous week, many local schools had closed and a friends with ties to the Governor’s office had hinted that a shelter in place order was coming our way. We had an emergency staff meeting to discuss how we would be reducing services and schedules. I was extremely fortunate to be able to work half days, which allowed me to split the homeschooling duties with Husband. I remember the first weekend when all our usual activities were cancelled. Probably for the first time since Kate was a newborn, I went to bed without setting my alarm and enjoyed a particular freedom of being able to wake up whenever Kate allowed us to and the weekend was a blank slate.

I often find that my weekends tend to be consumed with activities outside of our house. 8 o’clock gym class on Saturday morning, come home, get cleaned up and take Kate to her gymnastics class. Grab lunch, go to Safeway, maybe hit the Library on our way home. Unload groceries, throw some laundry into the machine before going to the local pub for dinner. Sunday is very similar; gym, Farmer’s Market, any other shopping related errands, maybe a play date or a birthday party for one of Kate’s friends. Meal prep, face time with my parents, pack lunches, go to bed. We hardly spend any time at home, so initially it was a nice break from the grind and like many others, I saw it as an opportunity to spend more quality time in our own house. I culled and re-organized all our closets, although I think I need to do Kate’s again as I noticed she’s outgrowing some dresses. We tackled our utility closet, which I don’t think had been done since we moved into this house ten years ago, and I suspect another ten years will pass before it receives such attention again. I finally painted the trim from when we had our windows replaced two years ago. At last we started clearing through our much neglected back garden, a project that was on our radar to start this summer, but now seemed more likely to actually get done.

We’re into our ninth week of this routine. I ended up needing to use my PTO to continue my half day schedule, so I started working full days on Monday and Friday. I’m not too worried about consuming my PTO, as I feel we won’t be taking our vacation to Hawaii this year and when we (most likely) will have to do this again in the fall, I think my company may require us to reduce our schedules and take unpaid time off. I found that I had to start setting my alarm again to participate in the morning gym classes via Zoom on the weekends. It’s interesting that under my normal schedule, I never struggled to fit in a WOD when I’ve needed to do a home workout. However, without a structured schedule, I would put it off and it wouldn’t get done. I’ve enjoyed our Zoom classes as I feel I’ve gotten to know fellow members much better by seeing their houses and their creativity with makeshift equipment from using power tools as weights to attaching bags of kitty litter to a broom for a barbell.  Yet, I’m so over home WODs. I miss the rig. I miss being able to drop a heavy barbell on the floor. I really miss the fact that going to the gym was my me-time. While Kate likes spending time with me while I’m doing the class, sometimes she’s a hinderance. She’ll want to be the coach and will become upset if I don’t follow her WOD. Even the cat likes to interrupt me. Our gym added a Pilates Style Core Crusher class, which Tyler thinks is a great time to let me know he wants to be pet non-stop right during the class.

Kate really needs to go back to school. I’m so over homeschooling and my expectations have dropped at a rate we wish COVID-19 cases were falling. I’m flattened the curve of my efforts. One of the hardest things about the beginning of SIP was that it was unseasonably cold and raining, it was finally sunny and warm around week three or four and I started letting her play outside. Our homeschool had a three hour recess. She’s also fairly independent outside and will often use her own imagination to entertain herself, which I think is an essential skill for a child. I go through a vicious circle of feeling that as long as she’s into her own play that does not involve a screen she’ll be fine to freaking out that she’s not doing any “schoolwork” and she’s not going to adapt to the classroom when we go back to “normal”. I’ve been trying to get her to do just two pages in a workbook and it is a huge battle. She stalls. She has to go to the bathroom. She needs a different pencil. She can’t focus on the task at hand and I’m starting to worry that she might be ADHD. It’s easy work for her and I emphasize to her that she could knock in out in five minutes rather than it taking a fucking hour. Today I wondered if it was too easy and I pulled out a K-1 workbook, with which she did a little better. We downloaded ABC Mouse, which she does while Husband is on a work call, and I noticed that she was doing first grade lessons. I asked Husband if he upgraded this, as I believe he set it up at a pre-K level and he hadn’t. So it either recognizes ability, which is a cool feature or she figured out how to access first grade work, which is kind of impressive.

Early on, I read that the SIP was harder on older children who have more of an established social network, while younger children seemed to be enjoying the extra time with Mom and Dad. Yet like so many other aspects, that faded over time. Although she doesn’t come right out and say it, I think Kate really misses her friends. As an only child myself, I can relate to how boring it is to have only grown ups for company, and its these moments that make me wish Kate had a sibling. Albeit, that can be tenuous; my friend in OC reports her boys play nicely 20% of the time and are fighting in the remaining 80%. I have to keep reminding myself of this when her behavior flairs up. Last Saturday, she was especially feisty and I decided that I just had to get her out of the house. She needed a change of scenery beyond our four walls and backyard. I took her with me to Safeway and it did a world of good. Her behavior was much better. Then next day we went to the Farmer Market. I also took her to her school when I paid the May tuition and the director let her play on her school’s playground. While stopping at a Hardware store, we found an open and empty mini-golf course, which she wanted to explore. I paid for a round, but explained that we didn’t want to actually play. Kate got far more enjoyment running around the course, pretending to be a princess who lived in the “castle” (the course had a renaissance theme) than if we had tried to golf. I need to find more little escapes like this.

Her school is started a phased re-opening next week, only for kids of essential workers to keep the numbers down (although a third have dropped enrollment). It will start by only having kids go for three hours a day, then six, then building up to nine. I’m really tempted to bring her back, but also hesitant. Is it the right time, should we wait a little longer? We’re tentatively planning to send her back in June, but her behavior has been so out of control, I think we need to try to send her next week. Tyler has moved from being ‘why are home and why aren’t you petting me?’ To ‘seriously, why are you home?’ He’s stressed and has started meowing at night. I’ve started letting him hang our in the garage having his ‘garage time’ which seems to allow him to chill.

I really need a new pair of shoes, which I prefer to buy in a store than try to navigate sizing during an online purchase. My hair needs to be cut badly and we’ve decided to let Kate’s bangs grow out rather than try to trim them at home. I found the perfect sized containers for my cut carrots at Marshalls and I want to go back and get some more. These are all things I can live without, but it’s making me realise how I took for granted the ease of completing such errands. My eating has been up and down. When this first started and I briefly thought it would only be a two week thing, I stopped tracking my calories and macros as I was snacking much more. Baking has been a great way to keep Kate entertained and teach her math, but it’s led to us eating many more cakes and cookies than we normally would. As with many other things, initially I was keen to try new recipes and excited to have more time to cook dinner at night. Now my enthusiasm has waned and we’ve been eating more processed quick to serve foods. We also eat take out twice a week just to support our local restaurants. Just like when I was breastfeeding, I’ve stayed off the scale until I can really focus on getting back on track.

Then there is such a thing as ‘pandemic pressure’. In the early days, my friend posted a quote that said ‘if you don’t come out of this with a new skill, completed project..etc.. you didn’t lack time, you lacked motivation’. At the time, I nodded in agreement and ‘liked’ the post. Now I feel more like, um, isn’t it enough just to not get the virus and keep your job? Yeah, fuck you. It calls attention to the fact that everyone’s experiences during this pandemic are vastly different. The families of the almost 85,000 dead are morning the loss of a loved one in a very difficult way. First line responders and medical workers are working endless long hard days. Other essential workers who are risking their lives at work each day. Those who are newly unemployed and are worried about paying pills and putting food on the table. This morning I cut open a tube of lotion to use the last little bit that was stuck to the sides. It’s something I’ve been doing for years after hearing my grandfather tell stories about living through the Great Depression. It hit me that those memories are going to become a new reality. Which makes me feel really guilty and privileged to express these next thoughts. Even as we discuss returning to normal, there’s a part of me that starts to feel nostalgic about this time. As challenging as it’s been at times, I feel so blessed to have this bonus time with Kate while she’s at this age. I’ve enjoyed having a reduced work load and being able to come home and spend time outside. I don’t think I’ll have this opportunity again until (should I make it) I’m near retirement.

There are other things I’ll appreciate about living through the pandemic. The sense of community, the way we’ve identified who is essential. The way we’ve been checking in on one another and the creative ways to connect. I hope Zoom virtual happy hours continue. I hope bars keep selling ‘to go’ cocktails in mason jars. I like shopping with bring it to your trunk service. I’d like to see some of the positive influences that came out of this crisis carry over as we settle into what everyone is hearing as our ‘new normal’. Social distancing is still going to be present. In the Bay Area, we wear masks everywhere. You have to queue to be amount the 40 shoppers allowed in Safeway at a time (which makes for a nicer shopping experience once you get in). Despite the protection from chlorine as a disinfectant, I’m not sure I’ll get back to competitive swimming any time soon.

Sigh. We all want to get back to some degree of normalcy, even if it is a new normal.