Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Moderation

This weekend I took a break from the calorie counting thing.  Partly because we were visiting my in-laws and it's nearly impossible to maintain a diet when you are away from home, and partly because EASTER CANDY.  Need I say more?

I keep clicking on these little internet headlines that say things like, "To Lose Weight, Never Eat These 7 Foods Again."  I've read about 10,000 of them, and they all say the same thing:  If you want to lose weight, don't put anything delicious in your mouth again.  Ever.

Seriously, these lists are like:

No sugar
No dairy
No gluten
No bacon
No happiness
No smiling
No reasons for living

What can you eat?

Tears.  Lots of salty tears.  (Wait... no.  Salt is out too).

The only things I can easily get behind are the prohibitions on coffee and alcohol.  But that's mostly because I've been doing that for 32 years with no problem.  Also because I'm convinced that alcohol drinkers are insane.  ("This is made out of rotten barley and smells like death.  I think I'll drink it!")

Yeah... no.

Other people who are insane?  Marathon runners.  I mean, I respect anyone who can run for 26 miles without stopping to have a heart attack, but you do know where this ridiculous tradition originated, don't you?  That Greek guy Phillipedes who spent days running back and forth as Battle Messenger Boy and then had to tack on an additional 26.2 miles to say "We won!"?  And he did.  Only it was more like "We wooooo...." because he keeled over dead.

So I'm not sure how it is that we got from "Guy runs 26 miles and dies" to "Ooohhh, good idea!  Let's try it!"  But seriously, I do not understand you people who like to run for hours.  Three miles on the treadmill is plenty for me.  And by "plenty" I mean "so much more than humanly necessary."  

But maybe that's because I believe in moderation and pithy phrases like "less is more."  Unless we're talking about candy.

When it comes to candy, less is never more.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Part of Motherhood

This viral video -- a tribute to mothers -- is bouncing around the internet so fast it's like Pong on amphetamines.  And I think I'm the only woman on the planet whose reaction wasn't to immediately embrace it as my cosmic thank you for doing what I do.


Being a mom is a hard job.  I get it.

No, really, I get it.  I've spent the last two nights with my fevered daughter wiggling around in my bed. I was awake so many times and handled so many requests that sleep started to feel like a mythical dandelion seed I was chasing in the wind.  And my daytime hours?  Here is a list of what I accomplished yesterday while I was holding my sick little girl:  Nothing.

But you know who had my sympathy yesterday?  My husband.

Know why?

He wasn't feeling well either, and yet he got up and headed off to work because he has too much on his plate to take a sick day.

Now, look, I've had plenty of days as a mother that are straight out of the dictionary definition of hell.  I've had a fever of 104 while I cleaned up someone else's barf.  I've endured migraines while handling endless requests from noisy toddlers.  I've dealt with more bodily fluids than a seasoned RN.  And I do it for months at a time without a single ounce of "help" from my husband.  (Not because he won't help, but because he is gone, working his butt off to support the family).

Yes, there are days when I don't get a single, isolated, teeny-tiny millisecond to myself.  There are days when I'm pretty sure my brains are going to start leaking out of my ears.  There are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days -- long ones that sometimes stretch painfully into weeks.  (I remember a time when my twins were infants and someone had a fever for 17 days in a row, for example).  I've had days when I was so tired I was literally walking into walls.  I've been barfed on and pooped on and used as a kleenex.  That's just how it is.  That's just part of motherhood.

Do I deserve a gold star for this?  Do I deserve the salary of a CEO?

Being a mother is noble and wonderful and incredibly, intensely important, yes.  I am irreplaceable.  But these little winks to the supposedly all-consuming nature of motherhood irritate me.  Why?  Because they are not honest!  Being "on-call" 24 hours a day is not the same thing as actually working 24 hours a day.  Yes, I have spent many days sacrificing every single one of my personal wants and desires, but that is not all the days of motherhood -- it's only a part, just as being a mother is only one part me. 

I've had dozens of days that were wonderful, days when there was nothing more fun than being a mom.  Days when everyone was happy and cheerful and we made good memories together, when we piled on the couch in a heap of books and giggles and ate cookies straight of the oven when we were done.  I've had days that were full of swimming and trips to the zoo and outings to the world's best museums.  And time to myself?  I've had hours of it.  Hours when the kids all miraculously napped at the same time and I took a relaxing bath, ate chocolate, and chatted on the phone with my best friend.  Hours when the kids were playing at a friend's house and I shopped by myself.  Hours when being at the park meant talking with a friend while we glanced at our kids occasionally and said things like, "I'm watching!" and "Good job, sweetie!"

You know how many hours my husband has had like that at his job?  Let me get out my pencil and add it up... carry the one... yep.  About zero.  None of his coworkers nap in the middle of the day, you see, and he can't send his boss to "quiet time" for an hour while he surfs the internet  A phone call to a friend while someone hovers over his desk waiting for a report?  Nope.  A movie in the middle of the day?  No way.  A nap?  Dream on.

And when he gets home from work, do you know what he does?  He helps me with the dishes.  He sweeps the floor.  He mows the grass and pulls the weeds.  He reads bedtime stories and kisses owies and tucks kids into bed.

And he does it all even though no one ever makes youtube videos about how amazing he is or how hard he works.  Even though no one writes articles for the express purpose of telling the world he deserves a hugely overestimated compensatory salary for his sacrifices.  He does it even though every television show, every movie tells him that fathers are stupid and clueless and unnecessary.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't honor motherhood -- we absolutely should!  But I grow tired of every tribute to mothers gobbling up the myth that they give up every second of their lives to their children -- for free!  Part of honor is truth, and that is not found in inflating duties or exaggerating difficulties.  Mothers "never get a break."  Really?  If that's true you need to put Junior down more often.  "You're on your feet all day."  Every single day?  Let your kids get their own dang drink.  "You work 24-7." You mean having a child means you don't get to sleep for two decades?  How are mothers even alive?

Yes, motherhood often means more than sacrifice; it is sacrifice.  It can be mind numbing and heart wrenching and leave you with a sort of bone deep tiredness that feels like it will never go away.  But there is also joy.  There are times when your daughter will bring you a bouquet of dandelions just because she loves you and when your son will hug you for no reason at all.  There will be kisses from stuffed animals and kisses from tiny lips that smell like strawberries.

That's the payment.  That's the "salary."

But it's not the reason we do it.  We do it because it is noble and good and because we love our children.  And we should thank our mothers because what they do is noble and good and because we love them.

But there's no reason to falsely inflate something that is good on its own.  There is no need to exaggerate the merits of something that is already entirely noble and worthy.  (I sure as heck do not "work" 135 hours a week, and I didn't clock in that many hours even when I had infant twins and a toddler!)  There's no need to place a monetary value on motherhood and what it's "worth" because it is already worth everything to the little people who come with the package.  What more justification do we need?  Mothers do not need to prove anything to anyone.

And they don't need to stretch the truth.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Throwback Thursday

A little blast from the past, in the form of an old post called The Privacy Clause.  I'm re-posting it because it's basically what my life is right now.  Except now I have two four-year-olds banging on the bathroom door.  (What is it with bathrooms and four-year-olds?)

I knew I should have read the fine print when I signed up for motherhood. I glossed over the "Lack of Privacy" section of the contract because I read it immediately following a gynecological exam where the only nod at modesty was in the form of a 2x2 piece of tissue paper that I think was supposed to cover my left elbow. Thus, worrying about privacy seemed pretty meaningless after I'd just been hanging out with my feet in the stirrups.

But seriously, Michael is 4 now, which means I WOULD JUST LIKE 5 MEASLY MINUTES TO USE THE BATHROOM BY MYSELF! Whew, sorry, was that me yelling?

We've had a dozen conversations in the past week about privacy and modesty, highlighting basics such as the fact that it isn't polite to barge in on someone who is in any degree of undress. For some reason he has taken this as some sort of quest to bring down the bathroom door. Man the battle stations! Mom is using the potty!

"Michael, I need my privacy while I use the toilet. Please stop banging on the door!"

"But mom, I need to be in there!"

"No you don't! Go away and I'll be out in a few minutes!"

"But I need to be with you!"

"Go find something else to do for a few minutes."

He tests the lock.

"I'll just stand right here and wait for you!" he says.

Ten little toes appear beneath the door.

"Are you done yet, Mom?"

"No, go away!"

"Because you need your privacy?"

"Yes, because I need my privacy."

"I don't know what privacy means, Mom."

You and Julian Assange.

"Are you pooping or peeing, Mom?"

Should I confess I'm holed up in the bathroom reading snatches of Harry Potter 7? Hmm, nope.

Now where is that candy bar I stashed under the sink?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It's Not Personal

Today I woke up knowing that, before the day was through, somebody was going to take to Facebook to announce a "pregnancy."

How is that, you ask?

Why, it's April Fools' Day, of course!  What could possibly be funnier than waving a "positive" pregnancy test around in a little AFD game of Most Gullible Friends?

Hahahahaha.  It's so hilarious.  I mean, you not only get to see which friends actually care about you, you get to make fun of them for believing you would tell the truth about a huge, life-changing event like pregnancy...

But you know what?  Even though I personally consider this kind of thing to be thoughtless and tacky, and even though it's incredibly painful and upsetting to me as an individual, it is not personal.

And I don't need to make it become so.

I've been thinking about people taking things too personally for a few months now.  It started when I read a snarky comment in Dear Abby written by a reader who took offense to Abby's annual Christmas greeting to her Christian readers, because, as a non-Christian, she wasn't included in the warm wishes.  (And here I thought we were still in generic "Happy Holidays" mode after a bunch of non-believers felt miffed that other human beings would take the time to wish them well with the words, "Merry Christmas"...).

Not long after that I read an article on the Huffington Post written by a mother who used her public forum to pressure Nordstrom into stopping the sale of an offensive pillow.  What was so offensive about it?  Printed on the front were the words "To h*** with beauty sleep, I want skinny sleep."  An upsetting message, to be sure.  It upset me so much I laughed out loud at the sentiment.

And finally, in the news recently, a local company came under fire for their plumbing ad, which featured a toddler standing next to a toilet, holding a rubber ducky in his hand.  "No job too small, we fix it all" was the slogan.  Marketing perfection, in my opinion.  Anyone who knows a toddler knows that there is no siren song more compelling to him than the splish-splash of a toilet, and, as a mother who has spent many a day playing Go Fish in her bathroom, I can completely relate.  Not only would I remember this ad, I would use this company the next time Buzz Lightyear embarks on an exploratory mission of Planet U-Bend.

But one Utah mother was so upset about it she not only asked the company to change their advertising, she called a local news station to report their insensitivity when they didn't respond quickly enough.  You see, 20 years ago, when her toddler was 14 months old, he fell in a toilet and couldn't pull himself out.  He later died from the effects of his injuries.

I completely understand why seeing an ad with a toddler standing next to a toilet would upset her.  She experienced a tragedy, and she is totally justified in feeling the way she does.  However, she is not justified in demanding that no one -- no matter how unintentionally -- be allowed to remind her of her pain.  She is not justified in stopping a company from using a universally relatable image to market their business just because it dredges up bad memories for her.

We all have reasons for feeling the way we do.  We all have life experiences that are painful.  The writer of the Nordstrom letter, for example, had struggled with an eating disorder in her past -- of course she would see destructiveness in anything that appeared to present skinniness as the ultimate virtue!  Like her, we all have triggers that remind of us of tragic or difficult times in our lives, and like her, we all fail at times to see the humor in certain situations because they are heartbreaking and gut-wrenching and deeply personal to us.  But they are not personal to everyone.  Demanding that no one be allowed to do anything that reminds us of these experiences, demanding that no one be allowed to see humor in something we do not, is selfish and egotistical.

This does not mean we can never ask for greater sensitivity or more kindness.  Heaven knows we need more kindness.  We all need to be more sympathetic and make more and better efforts to be aware of what others are going through.  But more than anything, we need to stop taking things so personally.

Because, truly, it's almost never about us.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Make Room

Women have a tendency to put too much on their plate.  And by "women" I mean "every female but me."    Me?  I'm L-A-Z-Y -- unless we're talking about a literal plate, in which case, yeah, fill it up!  And make sure you top it with whipped cream!

But I'm surrounded by women who like to do things.  Voluntarily.  Hard things like marathons and PTA meetings and cloth diapers.  (Cloth diapers... sorry.  I just can't relate.  I live in 2014 for a reason, people).  They grind up flax seed to put in their food and I'm like "I looked at kale once."  (I did.  I thought it was for decoration).

Hey kids, you want sugared cereal for dinner??

But, because I see so many women who are totally stressed out and struggling and overwhelmed, I've been analyzing this taking-on-too-much thing for quite a few years now.  And it comes down to this:  how much does a woman do because she feels like it needs to be done, and how much does she take on because she cannot see herself as a good person if she doesn't?

In other words, how much is truly necessary and how much is just an extension of us being hard on ourselves?

I'm not talking about the day-to-day tasks that everyone has to do; I'm talking about the extra stuff, like coaching T-ball and coordinating the bake sale and making homemade gifts for all the kids' teachers and knitting hats for homeless kittens and volunteering at the rec center and training for a triathalon and... visiting teaching, say what?  I don't have time for that!

We've all heard the story of the Savior's birth and we have all been admonished to make room for Him in the inns of our lives.  But sometimes I think we look at "making room" as the act of shoving as many blankets and pillows into as little floor space as possible so we can offer Him three square inches of floorboard.

Maybe "making room" needs to be less about moving things around and more about getting rid of the things that do not have eternal importance.

So, if you don't have time to do your visiting teaching, make time.  Get rid of something.

If you can't make time for daily family scripture study, get rid of something.

If it's been months since you had a Family Home Evening, get rid of something.

Yes, there will be times and seasons in your life when you simply cannot take on anything else for a period of time (ask me about the time soon after my twins were born when I cried because I just wanted to fold the laundry and I. could. not. get. it. done.)  But, when a Prophet of God asks you to do something, when the Savior of the World stands at your door, knocking, stop saying, "My plate is already full.  I don't have time for anything else."  Get rid of something less important so that you have the time.

As Julie Beck said, "[Women] who know do less... [They] choose carefully and do not try to choose it all."  So choose what is necessary.  Choose the things of God, because the things of God are the things that matter.

Make room.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In Case of Fire, Fake Class

Michael asked a question at dinner which led us to having a discussion about fire safety.  As a parent, there is a fine line you must walk when you are discussing issues of safety -- impressing upon your children the seriousness of a given situation (and how they should respond to it) without scaring the dickens out of them.

"Mommy, is our house going to burn down?"  Leah asked, horrified.

"No, it's not going to burn down.  Well, it could...  But it won't...  It's extremely unlikely...  But if it does, Mommy or Daddy will help you get out."

Smooth, Mom.  Very smooth.

"Can I take my babies and my Sparkle Mouse?  What about my Hello Kitty purse?  Is my blankie going to burn?  If Sparkle Mouse burns will you buy me a new one?  Do you remember where you bought my Hello Kitty purse so you can buy a new one?"

"Leah, our house is not going to burn down.  Well, I mean, it could.  But it's not going to.  But if it does (gives a list of instructions)."

"Will we build a new house if our house burns down?  Will it look like this one?  Can I have a new Sparkle Mouse?  Mommy, if our house burns down will I die?  I don't want to die."

Meanwhile, over in boyville, Michael laid out his more, um, natural concerns:

"Mom, if our house catches on fire while I'm in the shower, can I run outside naked?"

"No, Michael, you can't.  Just grab a towel off the hook when you jump out of the shower."

"But what if I have to go to the bathroom?  Can I poop on the lawn?"

Really??!!  Your house is burning down and you want to know if you can poop on the lawn?

"Michael, if there is a fire, can you at least pretend to have some class?"

Because if you poop on my lawn I'm going to kill you.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Weighty Conversations

Yesterday morning I spent 45 minutes on the treadmill.  I said no to an after-dinner ice cream sandwich even though I had the calories left to eat one.  I did not have a single brownie from the pan that has been sitting on my counter since Sunday.

And I've been living like this for almost three months.

I'm telling you this to explain all the news articles about pigs winging their way over an icy hell.  And also because it will help you understand why, when my 7-year-old said to me yesterday, "Your stomach looks like it's getting bigger, Mom!" I thought briefly about punching him.  

It did not help me feel better when my husband came home last night and said, "Look how loose my pants are getting!" What did he have for dinner?  Pizza.  What did I have for dinner?  Two measly ounces of pasta with fresh tomatoes.

I told him I was going to treat myself to a calorie-free Fresca before bed. "Are you going to have anything?" I asked.

"I'm still really full from dinner," he said.

It turns out that I really know how to scowl. 

Earlier, he had pocket-dialed me from the pizza restaurant where he went to pick up dinner for his coworkers (it's tax season so it's dine-at-the-office time).  I could have hung up on him, but instead I started crooning into his phone, "Daaaavvviddd... this is your conscience...  Don't eat too much pizzzzzaaa."  In hindsight I should have been like, "Get the gelatoooo."

Okay, not really.  I love and adore my husband and I want him to be successful in his weight loss efforts!  Just not, you know, more successful than me

Kidding!  (Sort of...)  But really, why is it SO MUCH HARDER for me to lose weight than it is for him?  He's all, "I'm down 17 pounds!" and I'm like, "I looked at a cookie yesterday and gained three pounds."

Even workouts are easier for him.  We tried this Jillian Michaels workout together a couple weeks ago and he said afterwards, "My abs are a little sore."  Yeah, um... this workout literally crippled me.  For three days I could barely move.  When I had to go to the bathroom at church I chose the handicapped stall because I needed a bar to hold onto just to lower myself to the toilet.  And I don't even want to talk about what I looked like trying to get down the stairs.  

Let's just say I've had a preview of myself at age 90, and it's not pretty.