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Health & Fitness & Oreos

An Apology to the Other Parents on the Team

My son is the worst player on this team.

He seldom kicks or throws. Mostly, he skips. When the ball rolls his way, he falls on it, like a grenade, or picks it up and runs, which is frowned upon in soccer. Unless you’re the goalie. Which he isn’t. Because they don’t have those in his league. But that does not stop him from lurking in the box. Not in an effort to deflect scoring, but rather to hang from the goal post and entangle himself in the net. Last week, he started a game of tag during the second quarter. He swatted an opponent and yelled, “You’re it,” before running away down the sideline.

On the way to today’s game, we talked about hugging, and how we weren’t going to embrace our teammates so hard they fell over. “Purple Penguins don’t hug,” I reprimanded, but he has the memory of a goldfish. Just now, I watched my son ninja kick a child who was trying to pass him the ball, and I wonder if we shouldn’t have stuck with the embrace. Afterwards, he ran over to the bleachers to offer onlookers high fives.

Since we only play four on four, everyone rotates out frequently. But even on the sideline my kid is trouble. He karate chops the water bottles, kicks the practice balls into the woods, and sometimes leaves the field entirely to come lay on my blanket and ask me for his post-game apple juice.

He is prone to lollygagging, even during play. When he gets tired or bored or a hankering to cloud watch, he simply lays down in the middle of the field. The other kids dribble around him, or leap over, like cheetahs to his sleeping gazelle. But today, the warm-up seems to have made an impression on him. He’s been doing arm circles for most of the third quarter.

I am embarrassed every time we come here. For the first few practices, I apologized to the other parents. “He’s small for his age,” I said. Or, “He’s never like this at home.” But an apology is only as good as the mitigation of the offending behavior, and it is obvious that my influence over sport decorum is limited at best.

In fact, the only card I really have to play is to pull him from the team. It is likely that the other children would have a better experience if my kid was not there. Every chain has its weak link, every ladder its bottom rung, and every litter has its runt. When it comes to this soccer team, my child is all of the above. Of course, I remember studying group behavior in a college psych class. Even when the “problem child” was removed, someone else just stepped in to take his place. I tell myself that if it was not my son somersaulting in midfield, it would simply be someone else’s.

The one thing we have going for us is that Coach Fox is obviously short-listed for canonization. At the close of every game, he and Henry exchange fist pumps, and he says, “Great job today, buddy!” As though he really means it. As though he has utterly forgotten that Henry spent the bulk of the first quarter grabbing him in the ass.

And so week after week, we don shin guards and bright purple socks, and my son, the runt, the problem, the slacker, happily reports for duty on field 5, much to the dismay of parents and caregivers. Because despite Henry’s skill-less-ness, this is his favorite sport. He wakes up every morning asking, “Is today a soccer day?” And let’s out a squeal when it is, it is, it is.

He is the worst player on the team. There is no doubt about it. But what separates us from the animals, I think, is that we let all the children play together. Cheetahs and penguins, goldfish and gazelles all have their time in the sun. It is a game, after all. And they are children. Ninja kicks and all.

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Health & Fitness & Oreos

Running Nowhere Slowly

dadvmom.com_runningnowhereslowly_runners_silhouetteMy town’s annual 5K was last week. I started at the back of the pack. This was strategic. I prefer to pass slower runners than be overtaken by quicker ones. It’s a mental thing. So I lined up between a grandma in jogging culottes and a teenager drinking a smoothie. Granny, I wasn’t so sure about, but I figured I could outpace Jamba Juice.

The race started with the usual cheers and hoopla, and adrenaline carried me the first half-mile. As weariness set in, humiliation quickly followed. Had I really become the kind of grown-up who could not run a 5K? I shrugged off the doubt and picked human pace cars to keep me moving. For a while, I followed a guy with a dragon tattoo on his calf. I fantasized that this was ninja training and he was my sensei. But Ralph Macchio slowed to answer his cell phone, and as I passed him, I noticed the dragon was actually a hefty mermaid.

Next, I set my sights on a woman with the most beautiful butt I had ever seen — round, strong, jiggle-free. As I matched her pace, I believed that with every stride my own backside was firming up. When she and her running companion slowed to walk, I realized she was about eleven, and running with her dad.

But mostly, I was passed. Passed by a woman dressed as Minnie Mouse. Passed by a gentleman in a grape soda costume. Passed by a three-year-old pushing her own stroller.

Part of the problem was my soundtrack. At the start of the race, I clicked on an old playlist titled “Exercise” that should have done the trick. Def Leppard kicked things off. I flashed back to high school and channeled my younger, more athletic self. But as I started to fade, so did the playlist. Eminem gave way to the title song from a Barbie movie, Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” and excerpts from The Sound of Music. Julie Andrews can do no wrong, except when it comes to motivating a tired person to run. I tried to click away from “Do-Re-Mi,” but my fingers were too sweaty.

I used to be a runner, before the kids. I started jogging in college as an attempt to curb the Freshman 15, then kept it up because I loved the way running made me feel. Since the children, it has been harder. Harder to train. Harder to enjoy. Harder to fall into any sort of rhythm. I do other things, but I miss the way I used to slip on my shoes and lope out the door.

The last time I ran a 5K was two children ago. I ran it with my Dad on the 4th of July. That time, I was the pace car for him. But, of course, I had trained, gone out a couple times, practiced the course. Why hadn’t I prepared better for this?

I lurched past a port-o-potty and briefly considered hiding in it. If it had seemed better ventilated, I surely would have. But a woman entered as I got closer, so I kept moving.

At the beginning of the first big hill, I gave up and walked, chiding myself with every step. Why had I just quit? Isn’t that always the way with me? Why do I stop things just when they are getting hard? As I caught my breath, I got even angrier at myself. Why does it matter? You are here. Just do your best. Jogging was easier than listening to arguments in my head, so I picked up the pace again and let gravity send me down the next hill.

One of the things I have always loved about running is how you can settle into its discomfort. The second and third miles were not as tough as the beginning. I found my working breath. It did not sound pretty, but luckily, nobody was running with me, and if I cranked up “The Lonely Goatherd” loud enough, I did not have to listen to my gasping either.

Other folks seemed to have goals that involved time and pacing. I’d like to run 8-minute miles. I want to finish in under 30 minutes. I had fuzzier objectives. They were more about personal dignity than physical achievement. And I dumbed them down as the race progressed.

Just don’t walk.

Just don’t walk too much.

Just be sure to run when you cross the finish line.

Just don’t be last.

Just don’t be last by too much.

By the time I approached the finish line, Billy Joel and I were in a bit of delirium. As I crossed, I fought the temptation to look behind me. I felt fairly certain I was not the only straggler. But I realized that was not the point. I felt lucky. Lucky to have the use of my legs, the health of my lungs, the gift of my mind to swirl with nonsense as I trotted the streets of my town. I stopped thinking about how many people had passed me, and instead gave thanks. Then, I slumped on the grass and drank a smoothie.

I know plenty of friends who have given up. This is the way I will always look. This is the way I will always feel. Parenting, aging, a lot of things can do that to you. But it does not have to be true. I saw folks along this course, ages two to eighty-two. But he is younger. She was in better shape. Hogwash. The only person I raced today was me. And though I very nearly lost, Julie Andrews carried me through. Just start at the very beginning…a very good place to start….

Health & Fitness & Oreos

Sick of Sick Kids

Henry threw up in his bed last night.

Over the monitor, I heard him talk to his T-rex. Then there was the unmistakable sound of yacking. I trudged down the hall, and found his blanket warm and slimy. Gross, but not surprising. My kids, and most of their friends, have been passing around a bug this week. Henry was simply the last to fall.

In the beginning, we navigated the crud pretty well. My husband was away, so I became Nurse Mommy. I found a working thermometer in Lizzie’s marker bin, and a jug of Gatorade in the garage. Armed with a sleeve of Saltines and a blue bucket, I set up a sickbay in the living room. I fluffed pillows, rubbed tummies, and sponged fevered brows. I spoon fed the sickos ice chips laced with Ginger Ale.

When Katie, my champion vomiter, completely missed the basin by her side, I forgave. “Poor love,” I clucked, and sopped up the sludge with a cloth.

We cuddled and drowsed, and only half-watched Harry Potter in front of the fire. I held their smelly bodies and remembered the tiny heft of them as infants, how each one could fit in the crook of my arm.

“I love you, Mom,” said Lizzie. “You take good care of us.”

“I love you, too,” I replied. I did take good care of them.

Mostly.

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They call it a “24-hour bug” because that is how long the children suffer the worst of it. Except my kids stagger their starts. A single virus takes a week to tear through our family. Which is unfortunate, since, as it turns out, I only possess 24 hours of hospital-grade patience.

On day two, I started to dislike my invalids. I began to doubt symptoms. “Ninety-nine degrees is hardly a fever. Drink some ice water. You are going to school.” I took issue with their nausea. “And you? You threw up an hour ago. Stop it. There is nothing left to toss.”

My transformation from Florence Nightingale to Nurse Ratched wasn’t entirely my fault. If the children would have stayed cuddly and bilious, I could have endured a week of quarantine. Instead, things got ugly.

Gratitude gave way to entitlement. They demanded more movies, and a better soft drink selection. I made smoothies that no one drank, and applesauce that ended up in the dog. I cooked homemade soup, and they plead for Top Ramen.

When the pink eye arrived, I lost my cool. It struck Katie first. Her stomach was on the mend, but school refused to take her back looking like an addict. So she stayed home for the fifth day in a row. I plunked everyone in the bath to disinfect, and Lizzie promptly had a gusher of a nosebleed. While I staunched it, little Henry, fascinated by pink bathwater, began slurping. “Stop drinking your sister’s blood!” I yelled.

On any given day, I navigate plenty of crazy. Their lips hurt, so they can’t eat broccoli. Someone’s “teeth feel funny” when she tries to sleep. Last year, Katie missed the school bus because of itchy pants. I bandage phantom “owies” and kiss invisible wounds. And it is okay. I want my kids to turn to me for comfort, to believe Mommy takes good care of us.

But I also want them to suck it up. To rally. I know of no miracle formula for building resilience in a child, but I think it probably starts with dragging your arse off the couch when you don’t feel 100%. Just ask any boss. Ask any parent.

Most days, I can be the mom who nurses sick tummies. But after too many crud buckets, the other mom emerges. The kids call her mean. But she knows something they don’t—suffering is not the end of the world. Indeed, the ability to overcome discomfort is part of growing up, as is the capacity to nourish a healthy body in the first place. It takes that other mom—the one peddling kale chips and a brisk walk to school—to teach this. Sometimes the mom who makes them feel worse is the mom who helps them get better.

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Health & Fitness & Oreos

In Defense of Head Lice

We have it again.

Not all of us this time. Not even most. But enough.

The tiny combs are unsheathed. The bedding has been bagged. The house smells like coconut oil and eucalyptus. Also frustration.

We should probably cancel the play date we scheduled for Tuesday. And alert the school nurse just to be safe. For a little while, anyway, we’ll be that family.

Which isn’t exactly fair, since head lice do not choose their hosts. They do not hand-select the most slovenly or ill-behaved among us. They simply cling to hats, pig-tails, and hoodies, and wait to catch a ride on the next person who leans in for a hug. If anything, you might say that head lice, well, they follow the love.

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But that’s not what it feels like at first.

When you find a bug on your kiddo, it’s disgusting. Serious heebie-jeebies. And for every one that you see, there are usually a bunch you don’t, including dozens of sticky little eggs (nits) cemented to your child’s hair. Of course, that grossed-out-ness morphs pretty quickly into annoyance. Because getting rid of head lice is a pain. You really do have to comb out your kid’s hair repeatedly, strand by strand, removing bugs and eggs as you find them, being sure to dispose of them in chemicals or bleach, in order to prevent them from crawling right back in again.

And even once you get the infestation under control, then, there’s the embarrassment. We can’t let anyone know. Once you are outed as a head lice family, it feels like the whole town is pointing. As though you purposely infiltrated their homes or gave bugs to their kids during baseball practice. Sometimes it’s enough to make folks shy away from befriending your kid. Which, of course, is heartbreaking. All over a couple of bugs.

So, I am here today to try to reframe the experience. It does not have to be like this.

Because, in addition to everything I have already said, having head lice is also kind of…nice.

Yeah, I said it. Lice can be nice.

If you are (un)lucky enough to discover a louse on one of your children, or (gasp) even on yourself, from that moment, you enter a holding pattern. Whatever you had planned is canceled. Wherever you were heading, you’re not. Instead, it’s kind of like a snow day. You are calling in sick and staying at home. To treat head lice. Which, while irksome, is also among the most old-fashioned of parenting rituals. Like churning butter. Or dipping string into pots of hot wax to make candles. There are plenty of monotonous tasks that bring people joy – weaving, knitting, chanted meditation. Combing out lice can be similar.

I know folks like to hire professional nit-removal companies to handle outbreaks. But I maintain that having head lice is an opportunity – to withdraw, bond, and connect with your kids. We use oil treatments instead of chemicals here at our house. But with either medium, I can’t handle it and do anything else.  When I comb out my kid’s hair, I can’t cook, or clean. Or fuss with my computer. Or play on the phone. I just have to be there, right next to my child, and detangle and talk, and talk and detangle, and try to take the bugs — and the stigma — away.

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It is a long process. If you comb out your kid’s hair in less than an hour, you have probably missed a bunch of bugs. So take your time. Enjoy this forced opportunity to gaze at your kiddo for longer than usual. Savor the break from the busy-ness of customary days. It’s like a vacation without the fuss of packing and actually going anywhere.

And as annoying as head lice can be, it is an opportunity for teaching perspective. It is okay to be initially dramatic. To panic and blame and kvetch. But it is also an opportunity to show kids the difference between an actual problem and a mere nuisance.  To discuss issues that are bigger than a few bugs on a comb. During our most recent louse bout, my daughter and I talked about peer pressure and dating, the Syrian refugee crisis, and veganism. We made plans to work at a soup kitchen over Thanksgiving weekend and to someday hike a portion of the Appalachian trail.

In this way, head lice was a little bit of a gift to us. It afforded us time to talk about things that matter.

If all of that is not enough, there’s the very phrase itself. When you comb eggs out of someone’s hair, you are quite literally “nit-picking.” In almost every other situation, this is an insult. Nobody wants to be nit-picky. But head lice gives you permission to be fastidious. To destroy every last invader. To painstakingly finish a task. I carry around lengthy To-Do lists and end nearly every day with dozens of tasks yet undone. There is something quite satisfying about giving into your inner nag, and completing a picky job.

And finally, a case of head lice is a chance for solidarity. No matter if it’s one kiddo infested or everyone, I always treat my hair, too. I douse it in coconut oil infused with a few drops of tea tree, and lavender, rosemary, or thyme, and I wrap it in an old towel or hair net. I do this for three reasons:

  1. I’m paranoid. It you ever have lice in your house, you will psychosomatically scratch whether you have them or not.
  2. It smells good. There’s nothing like a little aromatherapy to soothe a stressed-out soul.
  3. It is a message to my kids: I will not let them suffer humiliation alone. For all my preaching about the niceties of lice, other kids will sometimes ostracize, ridicule, and judge. I want my kids to see me in this battle with them. I share their discomfort and I am on their side.

If ever these little buggers hop on your little buggers and hitch a ride into your home, take heed. And take advantage of the time. Call off work, mix up some sweet-smelling oils, and grab a tiny comb. And accept the invitation these invaders offer – to be fully present for your children during a time of embarrassment, distress, and love.

 

 

Health & Fitness & Oreos

Where the Sidewalk Ends

The greatest thing about having a child is putting yourself second in your own life.

— Louis C.K.

Ken works occasionally in San Francisco, and since this is one of my favorite cities in the universe, the kids and I occasionally tag along. This past weekend, we stayed opposite the water in lovely Pacifica. But after a shabby night’s sleep in a stuffy hotel room, I decided I needed a walk. I meandered a trail beside the ocean, and it was glorious – blue-green water, salty sea air, breathtaking vistas. I breathed deeply and felt lucky. We have neither wealth nor fame nor power, but we have good love, good adventures, and good kids.

It was warmer than I anticipated so before heading up the steepest trail, I zipped back to the car for sunscreen and a hat. In the hotel parking lot, I felt selfish for keeping such a scenic sojourn all to myself. I ventured upstairs to see if anyone wanted to join in.

My three precious yahoos were sitting in the Jacuzzi tub eating mini-muffins, drinking apple cider, and watching the Disney Channel. Ken was asleep.

 

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“I found an awesome trail!” I announced. “Who is up for a cool hike?”

No one acknowledged me. I stepped in front of the television and asked again.

“Hey, guys. Anyone want to come hiking?”

“Mom, I can’t see the TV.”

“No.”

“Ugh.”

Ken muttered that he would like to come with, but then rolled over and went back to sleep.

That should have been my cue. They were on vacation. They had muffins. And crap TV. They were happy.

Instead, I muted the program to clarify my suggestion – the blue-green water, that crisp sea air. Again, they declined. It turns out that children do not care about these things. And again, I failed to make my exit. Instead, I cajoled, complained, and insisted. Had we really driven six hours to watch television? Didn’t family walks always make us happy? Wouldn’t it be great to discover some hole-in-the-wall seafood shack for lunch?

After you live with folks for a while, you learn their particular kind of crazy. When Ken and the kids realized I was not going to drop this, they begrudgingly acquiesced.

It took nearly ninety minutes, but eventually, everyone was washed, dried, and dressed for the wonderful family outing I had declared. We set off up, up, up the hill.

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It was strange to be ascending with people so obviously downtrodden.

It was hotter than it had been when I originally set out. My formerly energetic pace was quickly slackened by grumbles, quarrels, and literal foot-dragging.

“I’m hot.”

“Walking is dumb.”

“I can’t believe we’re missing ‘A.N.T. Farm’ for this.”

I should have left them at the hotel. What kind of idiot drags kids out of a hot tub to go hiking? If and when we ever finished this dirty ramble, they were just going to need another bath. I had desperately wanted to share this outing with them, and as soon as we began sharing the outing, I desperately wanted them to go away.

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That’s the funny thing about doing anything with children. It does not matter what you do or where you go – Disney World, a restaurant, ice skating, the bathroom, the library, the airport, the mall — the very presence of the children makes doing that thing more difficult and usually less enjoyable. I often wonder why we bring our children anywhere at all.

They made me cranky and I made them cranky, and various threats were lobbed regarding the abandonment of the entire business, but we kept going anyway – me, because I refused to return to the hotel yet again without first climbing this damn hill, and them, because … well, they are kids, and kids are prone to follow trails and sidewalks until they end. Shel Silverstein taught us that.

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And here’s the thing: it’s actually really hard to stay angry when you are A. exercising, and B. face to face with beauty. It just is. And C. It’s hard to stay mad at your children when they have stopped being mad at you.

So, what began as a swift, splendid hike by myself turned into a slow, terrible hike with the kids. And then, for about eleven minutes, that same slog turned kind of awesome again. We caught a lizard. We reached the summit. We followed a secret trail to a hidden cove. We ate wild fennel on the beach. We even made it halfway back to the car before everyone started arguing again.

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That trek was different with our children there. It was so much worse, but also a little better.

And yet another reminder that we have neither wealth nor fame nor power, but we have good love, good adventures, and good kids. Mostly.

Health & Fitness & Oreos

I Joined a Zombie Milkshake Cult and You Can, Too

So my husband and I have begun another diet.

We lost weight years ago with Atkins, and then again with the South Beach craze. We slimmed down with Dr. Oz, a Hollywood juice cleanse, and even that bizarre Suzanne Somers thing back in ’09. But recently our efforts have been less successful. We both gained weight on a metabolism diet, got totally sick of our raw food plan, and had to ditch Paleo because cavemen discriminate against waffles, cookies, and cake.

I had all but decided to live out my days just a little bit huskier than the average girl. I mean, I am confident and funny. Do I really need to be skinny, too?

“I love you no matter how you look,” my husband says. For years, I have taken this as a compliment.

But last week I couldn’t button a pair of Mom jeans, so I fished out the scale from under the bed.

I weighed 190 pounds.

Yup, 190.

I’m 5’4”. The only time I have ever seen that particular configuration of three numbers on a scale was in a doctor’s office when I was eight months pregnant. Even then, it seemed astronomical. But I am not pregnant now. I am fat.

As is often my tendency in a crisis, I ate a bowl of chocolate ice cream and then launched into Fix-it Mode. After shockingly little research and fistfuls of money, I found the answer to my scale problem: I ordered a weight-loss program online.

My girlfriend sells multi-level-marketed, quasi-Scientific protein shakes and herbal remedies. Everyone has a friend like this, right? Someone who does not just drink the Kool-Aid, but sells it to fund a lifestyle. She was psyched to share products with me, and three days later, a box larger than my five-year-old appeared on our doorstep. I dragged it inside and promptly hid it in my closet.

After days of stalling — during which I ate pepperoni pizza, cooked linguine alla carbonara, and sprinkled both Junior Mints and Milk Duds into my popcorn during a late-night showing of Mad Max — I finally tore open the box.

It overflowed with pamphlets, testimonials, and a multitude of glossy Before and After photos. The plan, it seemed, was to ingest these drinks and pills, cleanse yourself of demons like sugar and self-loathing, get skinny and awesome, and then sell the stuff to other large people so they could get skinny and awesome, too. Or, if all that failed, you got your money back. Already hundreds of dollars into this scheme, I was banking on option two.

Day 1

I have tried meal replacement shakes before, but often supplemented them with, you know, meals. I’d wash down my pancakes with a protein smoothie and figure the kale-infused chaser would still do me some good. I guess they were more like meal enhancement shakes. This time, I vowed to play it straight.

My program allowed snacks, so I fell into the shake-snack-shake-snack rhythm pretty easily. But by dinnertime, I was ravenous, and ate two chicken breasts with my bare hands. That’s one more than I would ordinarily have, but it was chicken, not a pretzel dog, so I figured I was safe.

By 7:15, I had consumed all of the food permitted. The program suggested heading off cravings with delicious herbal tea. But I detest herbal tea. So even though it was an hour and a half before my toddler’s bedtime, I went to sleep. I dreamed of sandwiches.

Day 4

Maybe I should just be okay with being fat. Be empowered. Love my body, no matter its shape. That’s totally a thing now. I should take selfies of my bikini rolls and Tweet about how important it is for my children to see a real body and not some airbrushed amalgamation of how women do not even look.

Except I still think I need to lose a little weight before I do all that. I was a good-looking gal once, before all these children. But when I look at myself now, it is as though I physically consumed that other person, opened my mouth and swallowed her whole. This image helps me stay the course.

Day 8

We began the two-day cleanse portion of our program today. Every hour, we drink something terrible, swallow pills with spurious claims, or indulge in one tiny square of approved ‘chocolate,’ which, from its lingering aftertaste, must be at least one part seaweed. Or battery acid. I think my husband is skipping the drinks and just eating the chocolates. When I confronted him, he shook his head. I wanted to discuss the matter further, but I forgot.

I felt foggy most of the day, like my head was covered in bubble wrap. After dinner, I stood in front of the dishwasher unsure as to whether I was putting dishes in or taking them out. There were dirty bowls in the sink, which led me to believe I was loading, but the plate in my hand looked clean, which made me think again. I abandoned the project altogether and went to bed.

My husband calculates that, if we sleep for seventeen hours, we will only have to forgo food for eight or nine more tomorrow. As difficult as this has been, I am glad to have someone with whom to share the suffering.

Day 9

He cheated on me. He ate Pad Thai for lunch.

I went a little nutty, shrieking, “Why, why, why?!”

“I was hungry,” he said. I had no argument for that.

In the mean time, to reenact some forgotten circle of Dante’s Inferno, my daughter and I baked chocolate-chip cookies for her school bake sale. The smell both tortured and exalted me. I have become a woman who bakes goods I shall not eat. Who does that? I am crazy. All-powerful. I am the saint in this diet.

My husband is the slut.

Day 10

He brought home a box of French pastries for breakfast. Was this an apology? A ploy? I retaliated by not eating any of them.

Day 15

I do not yet feel the exuberance the brochures promised. Thirty days sounded totally doable on the infomercial with the happy, plastic, zombie people. They were all svelte and bikini-clad. No one looked hangry.

I shopped today and had to restrain myself from fondling the pork chops, sausage, and steak, all verboten on this regimen. I loaded my cart with food anyway because buying felt almost like eating.

Also, it turns out that I do not actually believe in diets. Even if I drop a few pounds, I always gain everything back as soon as I stop any program. Knowing this, what am I doing?

Day 19

My husband came home around noon and asked if I wanted to have lunch. But ‘lunch’ today was two brownish-gray pills. We went for a walk instead.

When we returned, the children were peckish. Why must they always eat? I have never made love to a peanut butter sandwich with my eyes, but I did today. I slowly undressed the jelly, the nuts, the bread.

Day 23

As it turns out, I do not really need food. Whenever I am hungry, I drink a glass of water and imagine myself digesting my own butt. I could live off of my arse for years, I think. It could feed a small village.

Speaking of butts, I have spent a fair bit of time in the loo during this journey. The lady on the website encourages us to call it a journey, not a diet. Folks who complete this voyage don’t talk about the weight they lost. They talk about the weight they released. This language makes sense. I have not lost any weight. It is not missing. I know exactly where it has gone. So far, I have flushed seven pounds.

Day 26

Without food, I am quite productive. My children and I gardened this morning. We biked to the library and then to the park. We cleaned out our closets and had friends over for coffee. I drank delicious peppermint tea. I think tomorrow, I might write a play.

Day 29

I took the kids to an ice cream stand and did not order anything for myself. I am afraid. If I let in even a little sugar, will the floodgates open to the 190-pound girl, my own personal Kraken? I licked the smell of waffle cone with my tongue, and we walked away, Cookies ’n Cream dripping down the kids’ hands.

Day 30

It is finished. Thirty days — done. Throughout the last month, I had so many menus planned for today, an outfit I hoped to wear, and heaps and heaps of questions. Most of all, I wondered, would it work? Am I skinny now? Am I awesome? Have all my problems been solved?

Kind of.

I lost 11.5 pounds.

Which is great. Although, when you are a big girl, the release of roughly ten pounds is pretty much only noticeable to you. My pants feel better. My cankles are less pronounced. But otherwise, I look the same.

My milkshake coach assures me that if I just complete another 30 days, I will be much closer to my goal weight. In fact, the website recommends that I stay on the system for life. If I live to be 90, this will be an investment of about $180,000. I don’t have it yet, but if I find a few husky friends to sign on, maybe they can finance my slenderizing. After all, how much would you pay to look the way you want to look?

I intend to ponder this question tonight over a tub of popcorn. And maybe, just maybe, a little ice cream.

Health & Fitness & Oreos, Uncategorized

Little Surfer Girl

Lizzie went surfing today with her preschool class. Say what you will about Angelinos, but they knock some things out of the park. Lifeguards picked up the kiddos and drove them to the beach, where they played Sharks and Minnows, donned teeny-tiny wetsuits, and then kayaked, surfed, and sailed. All morning, I was wide-eyed. It was like watching the best kind of magic show – children dazzled by one mountaintop experience after another, all before lunch.

SurfingLizzieMothersBeach2015

 

Big idea for today: it is fun to say yes. All day long I say NO. No cookies, no marshmallows, no hitting, no arguing, no jumping on the bed. But today we said, YES.  YES you can surf, and YES you can sail. And everyone was happy. I like YES days.

Health & Fitness & Oreos

Running Nowhere Slowly

My town’s annual 5K was last week. I started at the back of the pack. This was strategic. I prefer to pass slower runners than be overtaken by quicker ones. It’s a mental thing. So I lined up between a grandma in jogging culottes and a teenager drinking a smoothie. Granny, I wasn’t so sure about, but I figured I could outpace Jamba Juice.

The race started with the usual cheers and hoopla, and adrenaline carried me the first half-mile. As weariness set in, humiliation quickly followed. Had I really become the kind of grown-up who could not run a 5K? I shrugged off the doubt and picked human pace cars to keep me moving. For a while, I followed a guy with a dragon tattoo on his calf. I fantasized that this was ninja training and he was my sensei. But Ralph Macchio slowed to answer his cell phone, and as I passed him, I noticed the dragon was actually a hefty mermaid.

Next, I set my sights on a woman with the most beautiful butt I had ever seen — round, strong, jiggle-free. As I matched her pace, I believed that with every stride my own backside was firming up. When she and her running companion slowed to walk, I realized she was about eleven, and running with her dad.

EdRun2015

But mostly, I was passed. Passed by a woman dressed as Minnie Mouse. Passed by a gentleman in a grape soda costume. Passed by a three-year-old pushing her own stroller.

Part of the problem was my soundtrack. At the start of the race, I clicked on an old playlist titled “Exercise” that should have done the trick. Def Leppard kicked things off. I flashed back to high school and channeled my younger, more athletic self. But as I started to fade, so did the playlist. Eminem gave way to the title song from a Barbie movie, Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” and excerpts from The Sound of Music. Julie Andrews can do no wrong, except when it comes to motivating a tired person to run. I tried to click away from “Do-Re-Mi,” but my fingers were too sweaty.

I used to be a runner, before the kids. I started jogging in college as an attempt to curb the Freshman 15, then kept it up because I loved the way running made me feel. Since the children, it has been harder. Harder to train. Harder to enjoy. Harder to fall into any sort of rhythm. I do other things, but I miss the way I used to slip on my shoes and lope out the door.

The last time I ran a 5K was two children ago. I ran it with my Dad on the 4th of July. That time, I was the pace car for him. But, of course, I had trained, gone out a couple times, practiced the course. Why hadn’t I prepared better for this?  

I lurched past a port-o-potty and briefly considered hiding in it. If it had seemed better ventilated, I surely would have. But a woman entered as I got closer, so I kept moving.

At the beginning of the first big hill, I gave up and walked, chiding myself with every step. Why had I just quit? Isn’t that always the way with me? Why do I stop things just when they are getting hard? As I caught my breath, I got even angrier at myself. Why does it matter? You are here. Just do your best. Jogging was easier than listening to arguments in my head, so I picked up the pace again and let gravity send me down the next hill.

One of the things I have always loved about running is how you can settle into its discomfort. The second and third miles were not as tough as the beginning. I found my working breath. It did not sound pretty, but luckily, nobody was running with me, and if I cranked up “The Lonely Goatherd” loud enough, I did not have to listen to my gasping either.

Other folks seemed to have goals that involved time and pacing. I’d like to run 8-minute miles. I want to finish in under 30 minutes. I had fuzzier objectives. They were more about personal dignity than physical achievement. And I dumbed them down as the race progressed.

Just don’t walk.

Just don’t walk too much.

Just be sure to run when you cross the finish line.

Just don’t be last.

Just don’t be last by too much.

By the time I approached the finish line, Billy Joel and I were in a bit of delirium. As I crossed, I fought the temptation to look behind me. I felt fairly certain I was not the only straggler. But I realized that was not the point. I felt lucky. Lucky to have the use of my legs, the health of my lungs, the gift of my mind to swirl with nonsense as I trotted the streets of my town. I stopped thinking about how many people had passed me, and instead gave thanks. Then, I slumped on the grass and drank a smoothie.

I know plenty of friends who have given up. This is the way I will always look. This is the way I will always feel. Parenting, aging, a lot of things can do that to you. But it does not have to be true. I saw folks along this course, ages two to eighty-two. But he is younger. She was in better shape. Hogwash. The only person I raced today was me. And though I very nearly lost, Julie Andrews carried me through. Just start at the very beginning…a very good place to start….

 

New DadvMom on New York Observer today.

 

Health & Fitness & Oreos

Why I Taught My Daughter to Punch

You are approaching that age now, when you look around and see how other dads raised their daughters. You are noticing that I did things differently, that you are not like other little girls, the ones who never leave home without a ribbon in their hair. You are brave and curious, and are beginning to realize that these qualities are not accidents. I want to explain why, because it will help you understand the way you are.

I taught you how to punch. Not because you should grow up fighting, but because, if ever forced to, you should know how. I once saw a little girl in Afghanistan who had acid thrown in her face because she wanted to go to school. You are not yet ready to know what some people do to each other, but I want you to be prepared. You will grow stronger every day, and the moment will come when you will fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

I have nurtured your curiosity. When we found the spider under our orange tree with the red hourglass on her belly, we did not kill her. We watched, night after night, as she tended her web and waited patiently. We read books about her, and told jokes about how she ate her boyfriends for lunch. And when she finally caught a beetle, we watched her strike and wrap it tight with silk. You found that the things which scare most little girls have the most to teach us.

I let you learn hard lessons. You wanted to walk barefoot to the park through six inches of snow, so I tucked your boots in my backpack and said, “Let’s go.” When your stubborn feet had nearly turned to ice, we rubbed your toes until they were warm, and I pulled out your boots and socks and slipped them on. You discovered that winter footwear, however unstylish, is a good thing. You also learned that cold feet, however uncomfortable, will not kill you.

I taught you to respect nature, to hunt and to fish. Not for the sake of killing, but because the surest way to honor the living earth is to be part of it. You dug for worms and baited your own hooks, and most of the time we cooked what we caught. We raised chickens together and loved them, and ate the eggs they laid and offered thanks. You know and love the world that sustains us, and you understand that meat does not grow on grocery store shelves inside plastic wrapping.

I allowed you to test your limits. When we surfed together, you paddled towards the outside break, even as the big waves kept pushing you back. You fought, and failed, but not really. We rode in, side by side, determined to try and try again until we owned the sea. Some day we will catch that giant storm-driven wave and the crowd on the beach will rise to its feet and marvel at the little girl riding down the mountain of water.

I taught you these things, because one day I will let you go. You will walk down a long aisle to start another life and another family. You will be perfect and beautiful. But no one will mistake that beauty for fragility. You will fight for others, while seeking new wonders. You will run barefoot through snow, while exalting all of creation. You will live life to its fullest, testing your own limits while obliterating those set by others.

Until then, be proud of who you are. Never let anyone tell you what a woman can and cannot do. And should someone make fun of how little girls hit, offer to teach them. Smile politely, square your stance, and give fair warning. Then knock the effing wind out of them. Because that is how a girl should punch.

Originally appeared in the Huffington Post, and reprinted at Fatherly.com.