May 27, 2011

Narcolepsy. The good kind.

I keep falling asleep.

My kids left the house today for their weekend with their dad. Five minutes later, zzzzz on the sofa.

Last night, I put everyone to bed, took a minute to sit down and do a quick email check. Next thing I knew it was midnight and all I wanted to do was go back to bed.

I'm awake for important stuff. Meetings. Driving. Playtime with the kids. But give me a quiet moment, and the last five years of sleeplessness hit me over the head with a big rubber mallet and knock me cold for a good two hours.

This is what life off caffeine will do for a girl.

You'd think I'd mind, but I don't. Not even a little bit. This is a relief. A huge, giant relief. Because somewhere deep in my soul I'd started to believe I'd never sleep again. Never. Which is a scary thing, worse that the worst serial killer nightmare, and since I've had a fair number of those you're-being-chased-through-a-department-store-by-a-bad-guy-who-will-encase-you-in-ice-and-pour-acid-on-you kind of dreams, you can trust me. That's scary.

Of course, I haven't dreamed at all in years. When you don't sleep, you don't have those flashes of dream memory, those moments where you can feel yourself flying through the city streets touching the trees as you go by, or watching a sunset over the Gulf of Mexico and the ocean reflecting colors more vivid and striking than any you'd see outside your own mind.

Who knows, I might even start dreaming again. How awesome would that be?

Assuming, of course, that the serial killers keep to themselves.

May 24, 2011

The Big Get Healthy

A few days ago, I made reference to The Big Get Healthy. I debated sharing anything else about it. I mean, my success on these types of things is spotty at best.

But I'm having fun, and that bears repeating. Publicly, even.

This whole thing started, though, with some serious unfun. Just over a week ago I stepped on the scale - which I do sometimes - and realized I'd just crossed the teeny tiny line between reasonably plump and not so reasonably anything. Between that and the regular sleeplessness and the lack of movement and the amped up stress ... well, I'm on a fast track to heart disease or diabetes or something equally uplifting. And, in that sense, I'm also setting an unhealthy example for the three little people I'm raising.

So I did something about it. I got in touch with a woman I met when I was a ripe old 17-year-old. She's a health coach. She's awesome.

Just over a week later, I'm on a healthful, well-supported, medically researched diet that is having an impact. And, like I said, I'm having fun. I'm having fun because, while most of the day is heavily proscribed and well mapped out, relatively dull, and totally practical, once a day I get to be all creative and play with a meal in a way that's healthy and good.

For the record, the healthy and good part is just as fun as the creative part.

Sunday night, I had a shrimp salad. Shrimp sauteed in a teeny tiny bit of olive oil, with a clove of garlic, a bit of chopped parsley, 1/4 cup of mushrooms and the juice of half a lemon, served over a bed of greens with 3/4 cup (combined) of tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions, with light balsamic vinaigrette sprinkled over top.

Monday, it was tilapia marinated in a little fresh lemon juice and baked till flaky. I blended up a quick tapenade from 8 gorgeous, fresh green olives with a little parsley and a little more fresh lemon juice and a clove of garlic and some pepper, with 1/2 cup diced tomatoes thrown in at the end, I spread all that over the fish, then stuck it back into the oven. Great olivey goodness, with a cup of steamed broccoli on the side.

And tonight? Hard-boiled eggs - 3 of them - with a cup of steamed green beans, 1/2 cup of tomatoes and diced red peppers, a sprinkle of chopped fresh chives, pepper and 2 tablespoons of red vinegar.

See? Healthy. And yummy enough that Veggie Girl begged me - yes begged me - to make an egg salad for her.

The egg salad's the only one I thought to take a picture of. But if I come up with anything else interesting, I'll let you know!

It's been a week, give or take. That's it. And I realize this is just the beginning of a very long - a lifelong - journey that will keep me well and healthy and give my kids a mom they can emulate and be proud of.

Just a week.

But I'll take it. And you know why? It's not the life lessons I'm learning. Or the 7 lbs I've lost already.

I'm sleepy.

For the first time in years, I'm sleepy. When I'm supposed to be.

Which means it's time for bed. Good night, y'all.

May 22, 2011


You know what's weird? When one cup of coffee does you in. Utterly. Shakes in the hand, woozy feeling in the tummy, kinda wobbly on the legs.

Many many years ago, I gave up all of my caffeine. Every bit. I didn't even eat chocolate. This is because I found a lump and it scared me. I was diagnosed with fibrocystic breast disease, and I decided it was better to be safe (i.e., minimizing cysts by limiting caffeine) than sorry (mistaking a real lump for a cyst and ignoring it).

In the middle of all this decaffeinated goodness, I started dating a fellow who brewed his own beer. Very very yummy beer. He made one particularly yummy brew, a chocolate cherry stout, that we popped open on New Year's Eve. Within 30 minutes, my heart was racing and I was shaking so badly that I couldn't read the cards in my hand (yes, we celebrated the New Year with a card game because I am just that kind of party animal). I was shaking like a madwoman. From the caffeine in a chocolate beer.

Caffeine doesn't like me.

So I ignored it. For, like, six straight years. Until I had my second child, and a full-time job on Wall Street, and I realized that umpteen million years of pregnancy and breastfeeding had made all the fibrous cysty bits go the way of the dodo.

So I had some chocolate. Then I had some more. And some tea. And then, maybe four years ago, a cup of coffee. And then a cup every morning. And sometimes one in the afternoon, too, because Starbucks is just that yummy.

And it seemed to be going okay. Except that today I realized maybe it wasn't.

The past few days I've been on a bit of a nutritional cleansing exercise. It's part of my attempt to Get Healthy (yes, this deserves capital letters, because once you gain that last pound that pushes you across the line into obesity you realize you need to get serious). Getting healthy means eating much, much, much better. It means managing my stress. It means sleeping. Which, in turn, probably means a bit less blogging, but I'm gone so often now I'm sure y'all will hardly notice. I'm gone because the new au pair left, and I'm smack dab in the middle of 8 weeks with nothing but the public school system and a few stalwart friends for childcare, eagerly awaiting the arrival of au pair number 10, who is awesome and asks me questions and writes me emails and introduces me to her boyfriend.

So, the caffeine.

This morning, on Day 3 of the Big Get Healthy, I brewed up a cup of coffee. I left it black, which is just exactly not how I like it. And I drank it. All of it. Because I'd mixed my morning meal into it, and I had to finish the morning meal.

Hey, there, shaky shaky. In 30 minutes flat. Shaky and woozy and vaguely nauseated. After exactly three caffeine-free days.

Caffeine really really hates me. Probably it's time for me to realize I need to hate it right back.

Starbucks, I'm gonna miss you.

May 8, 2011

Sister's Day

If I had my druthers, I'd spend my Mother's Day digging in the dirt while my beautifully behaved kids played in the grass around me. I'd have a marvelous meal cooked by someone who isn't me and who wants to wash all the dishes. And the whole world would chew with their mouths closed.

Oh, so not my life. I've got a little too much chaos for that.

I settled for bribing my kids to let me sleep in. I promised them as much TV, video game and computer time as they could manage. Which meant I had a great sleep, with only six interruptions between 6:30 and 10:30 a.m.: two Aspie tantrums, one set of fighting siblings, two beautiful handmade gifts, and one breakfast in bed comprising American cheese, a Nutella sandwich and a very, very tall cup of strawberry chocolate milk.


I got up and made a big brunch. Then I broke my own cardinal rule of Mother's Day and washed the dishes.

I brokered 37 arguments, including some with other kids in the neighborhood. I put everyone in time out at least once. I shushed the very loud and annoying barking dog. I bandaged a scraped knee and kissed away some tears. I brokered 15 more arguments and shushed the barking dog again and finally gave up and hauled everyone outside just in time to join a neighborhood walk. Which was great fun, with two dogs and three grown-ups and a passel of kids racing around on various wheeled things, until they hit a particularly steep and curvy hill, where two of mine wiped out, the redhead dangerously so, scraping his left leg from his ankle to his backside, complete with ground-in dirt. I wound up piggybacking my screaming redhead all the way home, holding my dog by the leash, consoling Peabo (my other wipee) with words. Which really doesn't work so well.

My sister arrived as we rounded the corner home.

I have two sisters. This is the one nearest me in age, hair color and height. She hasn't got kids, and my kind of chaos stresses me out, so I can only imagine what it does to her.

And yet, she consoled and played with my diva while I put my redhead into a tub and cleaned off his scraped leg - and if you've ever inflicted that kind of pain on your child, knowing it was what you had to do and knowing you were hurting him badly, you know what that felt like. He wasn't crying alone.

We left the bathroom shaking and sobbing. While I dried him off and bandaged his leg, my sister blew up balloons and sent them whizzing through the air. She made my redhead laugh - actually laugh, after all that - by pointing out that it sounded like a fart. And doing it again. And again.

Then she went downstairs and found a leak in my pipes and a half inch of water in the back of my basement that I wouldn't have discovered until 2012.

She also cleaned it all up.

When I said, "I give up, let's go get pizza," she said, "Yes, let's!" even though she had pizza yesterday.

She let Peabo poke her all the way through dinner. She answered the eternal question, "Do you like waffles?" about 93 times. She listened to my diva's fabulous Mother's Day story that lasted through three car rides and an entire meal. She laughed at the redhead's jokes, and made him laugh right back.

And at the end of the day, she told me she had fun. Despite the screaming and the crying and the barking, and the stressed out, exhausted kids, and the stressed-out and moderately well-rested mom. She had fun.

I know it's Mother's Day. But I'd never have made it through this one without her. So I'm renaming it Sister's Day in her honor.

Because I'm glad she's my sister. And I don't tell her that nearly enough.

May 1, 2011


A few months ago, Peabo learned about Osama bin Laden in school. He learned the facts of the 9/11 attacks. What happened, and when.

Now he will learn that Osama bin Laden is dead.

I will try to explain to him what that means, and what it does not.

It does not mean an end to terror, or an end to war. It does not mean we can get back the lives or the innocence we lost on that September morning. Nor does it mean that our soldiers will get to stop fighting.

I don't want to remember. I don't want to remember the cranky nearly three-year-old and the big deadline at work that kept me from making my usual train into lower Manhattan that morning, and maybe saved my life. Or the view from the bus as we inched our way toward the Lincoln Tunnel and saw smoke and flames erupting from the first tower, then the plane slamming into the second. Or the fear that gripped every person on that bus as the authorities first cleared the tunnel, then sent us through, aware - all of us so very aware - that New York City, that our nation, was under attack. The shock as we watched the towers come down on a little black-and-white TV in the office of a man I'd never met before that day. The dust that was everywhere when I came back to work. And the smell that burned into our nostrils and our brains, and lingered, for weeks afterward.

But I will. I'll remember all of that. I'll remember the former colleague who took me in, four months pregnant and unable to get back to New Jersey, back to my son. The strangers who made sure she and I both had food and shelter. The quiet of busy Manhattan streets deserted of cars. The kindness of the people who lined them, handing out coffee and water to those who fled the devastation. The sacrifices, the bravery of our first responders. The neighbors and friends and friends of friends who died, who escaped, who survived. And the man who gave up his seat for me on the overcrowded train when we were finally able to go home.

I took a breath that day and held it. I held it through the birth of my daughter four months later. Through a change of jobs, a multi-state move, and the birth of my second son. I held it through my divorce, and through all the days that make a life.

Today, I let it go.

Just like that. I let it go.