Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Eve 2011

So I'm sitting here in my office at nearly 8:00 at night.  It's quiet. The only sounds I hear are the hum of the never ending air-conditioner, the occasional fluorescent light bulb buzz, and Christmas carols playing from Pandora.  It's dark outside - and from my view on the 10th floor - I see a sea of lights. 

My family is out there - my home is one of those lights burning brightly tonight.  My husband is having 'movie' night with the kids - the Muppets Christmas Carol - and enjoying the pizza I prepared for them before dashing out. 

And I'm here.  Writing. 

It's not supposed to be this way.  I'm supposed to be at home, scurrying around to set the table, pulling out the fine crystal and china we haven't touched in months, baking pies, rubbing turkeys, and preparing for general merry making.

But I'm here.  Writing.

My oven is cold.  My kitchen lights are off.  There aren't any 'thanksgiving' smells - cinnamon and nutmeg or sage and onions - wafting from the stove top.

My kids are confused.  They don't understand why Mommy is pulled away - has been pulled away for days and weeks on end.  James especially doesn't understand why his family isn't coming to his house tomorrow.  He's excited to go to Grandma and Grandpa's house tomorrow - don't get me wrong - but is particularly bothered by the fact that he isn't entertaining them in his own home.

Child after my own heart...

Anna is sick.  Some horrible, evil, weird stomach virus that has plagued her since last Friday.  Random intermittent vomiting, general lethargic behavior, gray and pale face.  Not the bouncing picture of health who was eagerly anticipating the biggest eating day of the year.

And I'm here. Writing.  Not taking care of my child.  Feeling guilty that I was so angry yesterday that she had to come home from school - and I had to miss nearly a day of writing.

Aside from that - I'm sad.  Incredibly and unfathomably sad.  I'm sure its exacerbated by this impending deadline, the lack of sleep and regular meals, and general stress over every single word I write. 

But the truth is, that sadness is always there.  Always.  It just tends to come out more when I'm tired, or stressed, or worried about one (or all) of my children.

I miss my mom.

I miss my dad.

It's not supposed to be this way.  I'm supposed to be complaining about which family we have to visit and when.  I'm supposed to be rolling pie dough with my mom, making pumpkin and pecan pies, and fussing over place settings.  I'm supposed to be discussing which vintage from which winery will make the best pairing for turkey and all the trimmings with my dad.

But I'm here.  Writing.  Trying to keep focused - to not let the tears blur the screen too much. 

But it's hard.  Because I want to be in the kitchen.  With my mom.  With my dad.  With my kids.  As a family.

And right now, at this very moment in time, I feel so alone. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Birthday Un-fun

So Deonne's birthday was yesterday.  Thanks to the EPA, I've been tied to this computer - writing and editing, researching and writing nonstop.  So that meant that Deonne had the fun of taking care of the kids all day yesterday.  While admittedly daunting to me - Deonne thrives when he has the Party kids to himself.  I think because he can really let go - have fun with them - be a kid - and completely ignore The List Of Grownup Things that needs to be accomplished on weekends.  Which isn't a bad thing - not at all.  I wish I could let go of the laundry, shopping, cleaning, picking-up and just have fun.  Unfortunately my OCD doesn't allow that.  Of course the house is typically a wreck when I come home after he's been the parent on duty - toys and games, food and crumbs, dishes in the sink, and dirty kids - but in the big picture, who cares, right?

Back to the point - yesterday was complicated.  Jack's been sick.  AGAIN.  Ear infection diagnosed last weekend.  Stomach virus that started Wednesday night.  Fun times.  A check to the MD on Friday showed that his ear isn't clearing up - so we've changed the meds - if he doesn't respond he's earned three shots of Rocefin and a trip back to the ENT for repeat tubes.

I'm not 100% well either, having picked up the kids' nasty cold that seems to be settling in my chest.  Add to the mix a strange/mean/competitive 'thing' going on between Anna and James and you end up with one sick and stressed out Mommy, one sick two-year old, and two bickering children.  Oh, and did I mention that the cat (the INDOOR cat) managed to escape outside - and when she returned home brought fleas into the house?  That attack Jack - making him look like he has chicken pox?

So.  Back to the birthday story ... I felt horrible that I didn't have time to do anything special for Deonne for his birthday.  The kids and I had managed to pick up a few little gifts that they were ready to give him, but that was about it.  Donuts are a big deal around here - so I woke up early Saturday morning and picked up Krispy Kreme for breakfast - including a special football 'do-no' as Jack calls it - for Deonne.  A few candles, 'Happy Birthday,' and gifts, and that was about it for birthday fun.

Jack gave Deonne a great gift later - barfing all over him when they were trying to watch the Carolina/Florida football game.  Awesome.

And Anna and James gave Deonne a lovely gift of fighting and arguing and exhibiting general mean spirited behavior all day - prompting several isolation periods to their respective rooms, at least one spanking per child, and lots of yelling.  (I know, I heard them from my sequestered 'office' in the dining room.)

Thankfully one of Anna's friends called and invited her over for dinner and to spend the night.  Despite it being Deonne's birthday, we gladly got rid of her for the night accepted the invitation.  Whatever tummy issue Jack had seemed to be better - so we tempted fate and went to 5 Guys for dinner with the boys after dropping Anna (per Deonne's request.)  Jack ate all of 1/4 of his hotdog bun - but at least he kept it down.  So far.

The highlight of the entire day was probably the trip to Rite Aid that followed - for new toothbrushes for the kids.  (I'm so OCD about that - whenever one kid gets sick - everyone gets new toothbrushes.)  The boys (all 3 of them) had a great time playing with those horrible mechanical stuffed animals - you know - the Christmas junk like snowmen and reindeer that move and sing and light up when you push the buttons. 

I think Deonne deserves a birthday do-over.  Which he'll get... after November 28 when this EPA deadline is finally met.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Squirrels - not your average vermin...

Anna made her stage debut this past weekend in the local Children's Theatre production of Annie, Jr.
She was cast as a NYC Central Park Squirrel.

 Are these not the cutest bunch of squirrels you've ever seen??

Anna was blessed with a wide fan crowd who came to cheer her on including....
 Madeleine, Ella Grace, and future husband Duncan (pals from her pre-school)

 The Bell Family - dear friends from church,
including little Dylan - who danced and clapped his way through the entire production.

 The Beautiful Blalock Girls

Her super-awesome teacher Ms. Duke.

Ms. Craft - her special friend whose relationship is so close and so wonderful
that I can't begin to explain how important it is to my girl's life.

Her awesome art teacher, Ms. Hansberry.

It was a great show.  Not only was the cast, talent, singing and dancing amazing (seriously - beyond amazing), but it meant so much to see my daughter showered with love and support from friends new and old, teachers, adopted moms, and her own extended family (Deonne's mom, dad, aunt and uncle attended as well). 

I often wonder how I'll ever make up the void in her life from the absence of my own family - if she'll see or feel the space left by my mom and dad not being there for the big moments in her life. 

It warms my heart to see such outpouring for her, and makes me feel a little bit better about the crappy hand my kids were dealt.

Halloween 2011 - The Year Of The Mystery Gang

Darn those meddling kids...
Fred, Velma, Scooby, Daphne, and Scrappy Doo (who had the phrase 'Puppy Power' down pat)
No one wanted to be Shaggy, thus he was sleeping in the Mystery Machine - one too many
Scooby Snacks.

 Cowboy James and Pinocchio Jack at St. Johns Trunk or Treat
Batgirl Anna at RNE Treat or Trunk
Jack and Jasper/Ella Grace and Anna - bff's at Spooktacular 2011

 Spooktacular 2011

 Boo at the Zoo

 Boo at the Zoo

 Boo at the Zoo

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Momumental Day

Grant writing will have to take a back burner for a moment while I update with this post.  This morning I realized I reached a significant goal - achieved an accomplishment that I've been working on, striving for, struggling with for quite some time.

And it only took me a decade + 11 months - 2 days to do it.

Let me back up a bit - I've always struggled with my perception of myself, a lot of that having to do with my weight.  I always felt like the proverbial 'fat kid' all through school (especially high school) when the cool kids all seemed to be rail thin.  I was never ever rail thin.  I think I went from the little girls section of clothes to a women's section size 10 - completely skipping the coveted size 6, 4, and even (gasp) 2 junior sizes that many teenage girls are.  As a result, I was painfully self-conscious - never tried out for the things I wanted to in high school or made much effort to socialize.  (It's kind of funny though, I look back at what few pictures I allowed of myself during those horrible awkward years and realize I didn't look nearly as bad as I thought I did...)

Anyway - through college and my early adult-life I came to accept who I was - but was never really quite satisfied with my physical appearance.  I tried various diets here and there, but never really committed, and was thus never really satisfied.  Then, when I lived in Scotland for a year and had no transportation other than my feet, a lot of the weight I carried around (not huge extra amounts but still what was extra) fell off.  I felt good, I looked good, I was a solid size 10, I was happy.

The day I walked down the aisle on January 6, 2001 was one of the happiest days of my life - for many reasons.  Not only was I marrying my best friend, but I felt really good about myself, and darn if I didn't look good in that amazing dress!

That was 10 years, 11 months, - 2 days ago.

I maintained that healthy weight until the winter of 2003 when we started our journey to parenthood.  A year of infertility, crazy hormone pills, emotions that I soothed with the epitome of comfort food, and I packed on a lot of weight. 

Following the birth of Anna in September 2004, I pledged to be the healthy, moderately thin person I was prior to our year of infertility treatments.  I pledged to be the cool, hip mom who maintained a sense of style and did not, under any circumstances, wear 'mom' jeans.

And then... then the cycle of clearly unfortunate events happened, where it just seemed that the tragedies would never end.  As soon as I'd start feeling better about myself and my family and think about making my own self healthy again, another disaster would happen.  (And if you recall, I'm not talking about little events, I'm talking about things like the diagnosis of cancer and death 9 months later of my father, my grandmother's death, two miscarriages, my mom's stroke, and a financial battle due to rising child care costs, Deonne's job situation, and that horrible year of two mortgage payments before our first home sold.)

Anyway.... the point is - through all of that, I sort of let myself go.  I focused on my kids, my spouse, my job, and surviving at best for myself.  I soothed my soul with creamy chicken casseroles, homemade cakes and cookies and brownies, and my ultimate comfort food - fried potatoes of any sort.  And while I didn't like the image I saw in the mirror - or the sizes of clothes I was forced to buy - I didn't really care.  I even rationalized to myself that at my age, with three kids, 'mom' jeans were okay.

I even let my personal health go.  I struggled so much after Jack was born with trying to take care of three kids while working full time and trying to support my spouse in his ongoing career drama that I skipped appointments, didn't go to the doctor when I should for various illnesses (resulting in a bad bout of pneumonia last winter), and didn't attend yearly check ups.

After that pneumonia scare of last winter, my colleague told me enough was enough, I wasn't being healthy, and I needed to do a better job of taking care of myself.  I knew that - but didn't want to listen to it.  Despite that, I reluctantly made my 'one year after having a baby' check up (that happened to be TWO years after having Jack.) 

Now, I heart my doctor.  She rocks.  She wasn't able to be my OB for Jack or deliver him (since she stopped doing obstetrics) but she checked in on me through my pregnancy, and even called me at the hospital shortly after he was delivered to see how I was doing.  We went through so much together as Deonne and I grew our family - she's forever a part of my journey to motherhood.

Truth be told I was embarrassed to see her.  My weight was out of control, I had no excuse for not coming to see her a year previous to that visit, and I felt terrible about myself.  But on I went, and as expected, we had a (ahem) 'discussion' about my health.  And she laid it on the line for me.  She said that my weight was clearly unhealthy.  That I was running the risk of having numerous complications later in life for my lack of exercise and bad eating habits.  And then she really let me have it - she looked me right in the eye and said 'you have enough family history of serious health issues to not be doing this.  Do you want to do to your kids what your parents did to you?  Do you want Anna to be a young mom without you?'  Gulp.  Further 'you don't need to exacerbate the risks you carry - while losing weight can't prevent cancer or stroke - it certainly can lessen your risks.'

Oh, I tried to weasel my way out of it - to justify it all - every excuse like 'well, I'm getting older and my metabolism is changing' to which she rolled her eyes and said 'nope - no excuses.'  I admitted the size I was felt foriegn to me - but that I'd honestly struggled to deal with it.  Off and on over the years I'd try various diets, try to lose weight, joined Weight Watchers about 492 times with no success.  Admitted that I'd lose a few pounds, but then the weight loss would slow or stop - despite best efforts - and I'd get discouraged and quit.

So we came up with a plan.  Something managable.  I'd commit to joining Weight Watchers again.  I'd commit to exercising regularly.  I'd email her weekly food and exercise logs.  And in exchange, she'd prescribe me Adipex.  (Which is a weight loss drug for those who struggle with weight loss.... I think it's a legal form of speed.)  But it is only allowed for three months.  After that - you're on your own.  Which is why she wanted me to email her food/exercise logs to ensure I was changing my eating habits so that I could continue to lose and maintain when I reached my goal.

That was in early March of this year.  And I diligently started tracking everything I put in my mouth and every moment of dreaded exercise (that I will hate until the end of time.)  I entered everything online - and weekly stepped on the scale.  I sent her weekly logs of all of this - food intake, exercise, weight loss.  She nitpicked - told me that the steamed shrimp and vegetables at my favorite Asian restaurant just around the corner from my office was a good choice, but to be careful, because sometimes they add extra oil during the steaming process - and to next time ask for no oil.  Or that the ground turkey I used to make a turkey meatloaf was good, but next time to make sure it is all turkey breast, no dark meat, because that has more fat in it.  (Really?  Clearly she didn't understand that me not eating tempura shrimp or fatty pork and beef meatloaf was a huge step...)


It started to work. 

I'm not exactly sure what the Adipex does - because I was still hungry (it wasn't an appetite suppresant for me), I wasn't jumpy (which is a supposed side effect), and I didn't have trouble sleeping (another supposed side effect.)  Maybe it was mental for me - thinking that the tiny blue pill I took each morning was the miracle drug.  Perhaps it was - because it gave me confidence to keep going as I lost every single week that I took it. 

But the Adipex ended in June.  And I've steadily lost since then.  Sometimes a half a pound a week, sometimes two pounds (which is fiunny in Weight Watchers Online because you get an error message that says something about you're losing too fast. WHATEVER)

My clothes started fitting looser, and looser, until the size I had been forced to wear would simply not stay on.  I had Deonne dig the big trunk of clothes out of the attic that I'd stuffed in there - basically my pre-child wardrobe - to see what would fit.  Amazingly, the majority of it did, does, and in some cases, is now too big.  (Although, some styles from a decade ago are not in style to say the least...)

Oh it hasn't been easy - I still triple-heart fried potatoes, and a big plate of creamy chicken casserole sounds divine.  Learning to think about what I eat, when I eat, WHY I eat has been key.  I still eat those things, but in moderation.  And the honest truth, what I refused to listen to when healthy/thin friends would tell me, is that eating that stuff doesn't matter so much.  And it makes me feel yucky after I eat it.  So it IS true after all.  NOTHING tastes as good as being thin and healthy feels. 

I still find comfort in time in the kitchen making cakes and cookies and brownies and pasta dishes for my sweets and pasta-loving spouse and children - I just don't feel the need to eat them all as soon as they come out of the oven.  I still enjoy ALL of the things I did prior to this (what has indeed been epic) journey, but not to the same scale that I did before.

And it all comes down to this morning.  I stepped on the scale, and realized, I'd done it.  I'd lost 50 pounds.  Let me write that again for emphasis.  50 POUNDS.  I dropped from a girl pushing a size 18 to a size 8.  In jeans.  SIZE 8 JEANS.  NON MOM-JEANS, I might add.  I didn't wear a size 8 in high school. 

I'm back to the size and person I was the day I walked down the aisle.

And I gotta tell you, I feels good.  REALLY good.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I had a few precious moments alone with my boys last Sunday.  Jack woke up from his post-church nap and came downstairs with his airplane blanket in hand, requesting a drink and a snack. 

At first he was sleepy, and made his 'I'm Cute, Pick Me Up' face....

But this little boy can't contain his smiles - and within a few snaps of my camera - this face appeared...

Oh my sweet boy, I adore you.
Simply adore you. 

True Friendship

A friend of mine sent me this poem via email. 

I had to share here.

Enjoy a very funny (and very true) look at True Friendship.  (And as the email says - a non-cute, non-smiley face, non-girly poem - just the plain truth.)

When you are sad ~ I will help you get drunk and plot revenge against the sorry bastard who made you sad.
When you are blue ~ I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.
When you smile ~ I will know you are thinking of something that I would probably want to be involved in.
When you are scared ~ I will rag on you about it every chance I get until you're NOT.
When you are worried~ I will tell you horrible stories about how much worse it could be until you quit whining.
When you are confused ~ I will try to use only little words.
When you are sick ~ Stay the hell away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have.
When you fall ~ I will laugh at your clumsy ass, but I'll help you up.
This is my oath ..... I pledge it to the end. 'Why?' you may ask ~ because you are my friend.
Friendship is like peeing your pants, everyone can see it, but only you can feel the true warmth.