August 30, 2011

When Mother Nature Is Out to Get You

Last week, we started school. Which has led to some musings. Random musings.

First, math.

Do you remember 8th grade algebra? I do. Loved my teacher, Mrs. Vaughn, who taught me to enjoy math and take some pride in an ability to do it well. I still can't add long columns of numbers, and I'll never know my multiplication tables by heart. But at one point I could do both well enough that I managed a whole year of algebra with a cheap-ass calculator. Peabo and his generation, however, are apparently so mathematically challenged that their 8th grade algebra class requires the firm plunking down of $140. For a calculator.

A calculator that comes with a USB cord and 20 pre-installed apps. It's like an iPod, only, you know, not.

Actually, I could have bought him an iPod at that price. It has a calculator built in. And for a measly $4.99 you can get Angry Birds, too.

That thing does make graphs, though. For my fine-motor challenged Peabo, that's a plus. (Note: math pun. Ha ha.)

Second, the first day of school. Which should maybe be first, not second, except that we bought the calculator first. Or rather, hemorrhaged money in the direction of the local office store.

Our first day of school was rather interesting because after the full backpacks and the big breakfast and the cheery pictures of the kids, there was the earthquake. Because we live on the East Coast, and earthquakes are a fact of life out here.

Except they're NOT. Not ever. So my kids spent their first day of school diving under their desks and then sat outside for two hours getting sunburned for the sake of safety.

For which I am grateful.

My redhead's assessment of his first day of first grade? "The best part was when the earth started shaking! That was awesome! Can we do it again?"

Oh, please no.

But that wasn't enough. Because into the chaos of tracking down med forms and prescriptions and picking up last-minute supplies for the middle schooler, we also added a hurricane.

Yeah, that was fun. We spent hours stocking up on non-perishable food and water in case the power went out (oddly enough, ours didn't - I say oddly because pretty much the whole rest of the world around our one little block is still dark). And then I dragged all the deck furniture inside and stowed my trash cans and pulled my basketball hoop down so it wouldn't blow over.

My kids freaked out. My au pair freaked out. They asked me about flooding and thunder and wind. They stayed up late and panicked. And that's with me firmly NOT telling them there might be tornadoes. Aren't I a good mom?

Of course, I knew there might be tornadoes, so I didn't sleep a wink. My basement is uninhabitable, so I put my kids in a room that was safe from falling trees and spent the night listening to the radio for tornado warnings.

Brilliant recipe for a cranky weekend. Stressed out, sleep-deprived kids combined with physically exhausted, sleep-deprived mom. Fun fun.

And then they stayed home from school. Because although our area was spared the floods that hit farther north, so many trees are down, so many homes and businesses are without power, that school's been canceled for two days now. Likely with more to come.

After the chaos of a vacation that bumped headlong into the back-to-school weekend frenzy of shopping and haircuts and more shopping, school should have been a break. It should have gotten us back to the routine. And we love that routine. I love it. My kids love it. My aspie especially loves it. Even my new au pair loves it.

So far, no routine. Only natural disasters. And a $140 calculator.

August 26, 2011


This is what pampering looks like.

It looks like being met at the airport with a great big giant hug and a loving tolerance of your inclination to walk into walls when you're heavily dosed with Xanax. (I also walk into walls when I'm not dosed with Xanax, but we don't need to mention that.)

It looks like being cozily tucked into bed under a downy, huggy comforter to sleep it off.

It looks like being whisked away to a gorgeous resort at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. A room with a stunning view of the city and its bridge and its bay, a cozy gas fireplace, and little thoughtful gifts that make a woman's heart sing.

And golf carts. They had golf carts, and they'd drive you places in them. That was kinda cool.

It looks trips to museums and gardens and sips of tea, movie dates and dinner dates, and a snuggle in front of the TV.

It looks kinda awesome, is what it looks like. I don't get many days off - the single parent lifestyle is a wee bit constrained. But when I do, well, it's really lovely to have someone to share them with, and who will spoil me rotten while he does.

August 8, 2011

33 Pounds

Okay, so now my blog looks like something designed by a perky tweenager with a sherbet fixation. Sheesh.

That's not my topic of the day, however. This is.

You know that Big Get Healthy thing I've been doing? Well, at this point, I've lost 33 pounds.

Pausing now for dramatic effect.

That's 33 pounds. 33 pounds that took my Body Mass Index from obese into the very top end of "healthy" for my height. 33 pounds that finally, for the first time in a decade, have me weighing less than my driver's license says I do.

33 pounds that have shrunk me right out of my entire wardrobe.

Given that I'm not finished yet - seriously, I've got about 18 pounds to go, and YES that's a healthy weight. But given that 18 pounds is a whole other clothing size, I don't want to invest in much right now. The thing is, when your pants are falling off and even your unmentionables have become unmentionably large - because after your third child you just gave up and kept all those oh so comfy maternity bikinis - you realize you need to go shopping.

My reward for passing that driver's license landmark was that I got to buy new unmentionables from a certain world-famous, colossally expensive and slightly snooty lingerie store. Mostly because the last time I was there I stood in the dressing room and cried because nothing fit and I looked horribly ugly. And so I left, vowing never to return.

On the way there, though, I got distracted by Ann Taylor. Which is easy to do. I love their stuff. And it's the end of season clearance. And I found a really pretty purple dress, a silky fancy thing that I could wear, maybe, to my sister's wedding next summer. I was holding a 10. And then an 8. And then a 10. And then the saleswoman asked me if I needed help.

"Um ... I've lost a lot of weight recently and I don't know what size I am anymore."

"Oh, honey," she said, looking me over. "You want the small."

So I took the 8. And a size 8 skirt. Two small tops. And a really stunning knit wrap dress that would have looked horrifyingly awful on me 3 months ago. Also an 8.

I tried on the wrap dress first. Fit like a glove. Made curvy things curvy. Made the middle all slender and sleek. It fit. It fit beautifully.

And I cried.

And then I tried on the purple dress. In an 8. And it was too big. Too. Big.

I know they make sizes bigger today than they used to. But still. This body hasn't seen an 8 since 1994, when I was between boyfriends, working out 4-5 days a week, and flirting outrageously with the fella I'm dating now (oddly enough), who steadfastly refused to ask me out like I wanted him to (for a lot of very good, very gentlemanly reasons).

And it's never, ever, ever seen a 6. 

So I cried. Because 12 weeks ago I could no longer button my size 14 jeans. And I didn't want to go up another size. 12 weeks ago, I'd crossed that invisible line between overweight and obese. And I didn't want to get any bigger.

But it's not just about being thinner. It's about being happier. Healthier. More active. Less stressed. Sleeping better.

It's about setting an example for my kids of what a healthy life looks like. And being there for them when they teach those lessons to their own kids.

Those wonderful ladies at Ann Taylor? They sold my teary self that full-price wrap dress that I didn't need. With a 30% friends and family discount because, they said, I deserved a celebration.

I really hope it fits when I'm finished.

I'm not doing this solo. I've been lucky enough to work with health coach Rhoda Waiss, a long-time friend who works with Take Shape for Life. She's got a web site of her own at This isn't a sponsored endorsement. 'Cause it's not like anyone would pay me to blog. Certainly not with this ridiculous cotton candy design, anyway. And yes, I'll be changing it very, very soon.

August 2, 2011

Now We Are 6

It's been so long since I blogged that I barely remembered my password. Well, it's been two weeks. Not really that long. Which just goes to show you how bad my short-term memory is.

And because I seem completely unable to hold onto a train of thought for longer than 30 seconds, this is going to be a bit of a random ramble.

Here goes. 
  • We are on our 4th au pair in 4 months. I swear I'm not that bad a host mom. Really. 
  • In April we said farewell to our beloved Belgian au pair, who was with us 18 months and left as she was meant to. Then came the manny, who, well, just did not work out and left us at the end of that month. In June, we welcomed our beloved, formerly purple-haired German, whom we loved and who loved us. But a family emergency called her home, oh, about two weeks ago (oddly, that would be the last time I blogged). So, on Sunday, we welcomed a young German whose hair has never been purple. She is sweet and sincere, albeit utterly fried today. I think we are wearing her out.
  • Yesterday, my redhead hugged her. I can't remember the last time he hugged an au pair who hadn't already been here for at least 3 months. He is not a kid who touches. He hasn't let me kiss him since he was 2, and I'm his mother, for crying out loud.
  • He did kiss me today, though. On the arm. He never does that.
  • He did not, however, let me kiss him. I asked.
  • When our formerly purple-haired German had to fly home, I called my former mother-in-law in the wee hours of the morning and left a message that said, very quietly, "help." She was in her car even before I woke up the next morning. She stayed for 3 days, bonded with the grandkids, spoiled them rotten, and gave me a big giant helping hand. She rocks.
  • Then we went to the beach for a whole week with an awesome mom friend and her son, one of Peabo's best buds. The kids watched lots of TV, played lots of video games, discovered the joys of hand-dipped donuts and spent hours in the ocean. It was awesome. And that's despite the constant bickering my kids subjected us to. They gave Peabo's only-child friend a lesson in sibling rivalry I am certain he will never, ever forget. I'm so very proud.
  • There was no internet at the beach. Which means I got lots of sleep. And I finished Middlemarch. I'm not sure how I got through as many courses on 19th Century novels as I did without once reading George Eliot. She rocks too, you know.
  • I also read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. With the kids. We haven't finished it yet: it goes kinda slowly when you're reading a few pages at bedtime every night. Reading it used to be a chore because the redhead hated it. Now he loves it. I think that's because he has a scar on his forehead (seriously, he does), and his birthday is the day after Harry's.
  • Because I know you're an enormous Harry Potter fan - isn't everyone? - I'm sure you've realized my redhead's birthday was, in fact, yesterday. And that means means that my redhead, who was 5 before yesterday, is suddenly and most unexpectedly 6. 
  • I gave him a book that uses the word "jackass" twice. It's okay, though, because it's describing an actual jackass and the book is damned funny. We read it over dinner last night, and all three of my kids cracked up, out loud even, and the redhead's read it twice more on his own. It's Lane Smith's It's a Book. Check it out. Though if you've got any issues with introducing your younger kids to that kind of mildly cussworthy snark, you may want to hold off. My guy invented snark (we call it self-defense when you're the youngest of 3). So I'm good with it.
And that's the biggie. My baby is 6. I'm trying hard not to be misty about that. Which probably explains why I went for the snark.

PS For those who don't know, Now We Are Six is a brain-stickingly brilliant book of children's poems by A. A. Milne.