Tuesday, September 16, 2014

9 months on, 9 months off

I realized yesterday as I was bent upside down coaxing volume into my limp postpartum locks that on the morning of Evie's 9 month birthday, exactly 9 months to the day of her arrival ex utero, I felt like myself. And I was so grateful.

My eldest son punctuated my moment of epiphany by wandering into my bathroom, looking at my washed and styled hair, cocking his head to one side and announcing: "You don't look like my Mommy. Why did you do that to your hairs?" 

It's called a curling iron, son. And your future wife can thank me for setting that bar niiiiiice and low.


When Joey was a baby I obsessed over the concept of "nine months on, nine months off" and was fanatical about trying to coax the nearly 60 lbs I'd gained off my petite frame. I couldn't fathom a future where I walked around borderline obese, and I lamented the boxes and boxes of White Cheddar Cheezits I'd thoughtlessly tossed back while cooking my plump firstborn turkey. Jillian Michaels and I did hard time together most afternoons, and I tried my pre baby pants on once a week, crying in defeat when they wouldn't ascend any further than my hips.

When I finally arrived at the magical number (not even on the scale, but in the pants) I promptly got pregnant a second time and resigned myself to more of the same, only with 100% more gym dedication. I still gained 50 lbs, but I worked out 6 days a week and I was definitely a "fitter" second time preggo. And you know what? The weight came off a little easier, too. But both times I spent a good amount of my post partum "recovery" period doing anything but recovering. Mostly I vacillated between binging on tortilla chips and sticking to a strictly-regimented Weight Watcher's plan which imperiled my milk supply and left me feeling guilty and anxious. (Disclaimer: WW is probably a good fit for lots of people! But for me, with my history of eating disorder, it was a match made in body shaming hell.)

This time has been different. This time I've been more aware that yes, it's frustrating to be bigger and softer and slower than "normal," whatever exactly normal means anymore, but that it is, in fact, temporary. I've spent more time enjoying the baby and less time bemoaning the body. Do I still bitch about my love handles to my sister and cry on the phone to my best friend about my pants size? I mean, absolutely, but it's not the all-consuming focus that it once was.

I wanted to share with you guys some things that I think have helped this time around be my most pleasant postpartum period, mental illness aside.

First, I bought a new wardrobe. Not like a new, new wardrobe, but I went to a couple cheap stores and picked up a 2-sizes-too-big but fits just right right now pair of dark wash, high rise jeans and a plethora of flowy, forgiving tops. I also kept my Blanqi locked firmly in the torso position for the entire 4th trimester, and I was happy. And so were my sprung out hips.

There's nothing more depressing (too me, anyway) in the sartorial realm than shimmying into a big-ass pair of blown out maternity jeans while your 3 week old voms on the bed beside you. Nothing quite like it. Do yourself a favor and retire those belly banded beauties as soon as you check out of hotel hospital. (Unless you had a c-section, because I've heard they're easy on the scars. But otherwise I really can't fathom a reason to put yourself through that.) Old Navy and Walmart are pretty much everywhere, and you can score yourself a $15 pair of skinnies to get you through the dark times.

Second, set measurable, realistic fitness goals, not weight loss goals. My FitBit and the step-counter app I downloaded were invaluable tools that helped me hit my 10,000 step per day target starting back in the spring, and they helped me reacquaint my tired mommy body with physical activity not involving pushing or lifting. On the (many) days I didn't get any further than yoga pants, I at least had some hard evidence for the work I'd put it.

On the matter of physical fitness, it helped me tremendously to retrain my brain to see activity as directly correlated to overall wellness and success in mothering, not only as a means by which I might attain blue jean nirvana. Once I stopped seeing "working out" as some vaguely punitive means by which I might become hot one day and started realizing the real, tangible benefits of physical activity on my energy levels and domestic acumen, something clicked for me and I wanted to work out. Not just to have "worked out," but I craved the actual process instead of obsessing over the desirable end. Game changer, big time.

Finally, I embraced the stupid expression. At least internally. Sitting in Mass with a gassy newborn and catching sight of a skinny friend a few rows up, bouncing her 3-week-old on a slender hip? 9 months on, 9 months off.

Seeing on social media that your college roommate just ran her best ever half marathon time while her 3 month old watched from the sidelines? 9 months on, 9 months off.

Standing in the dressing room at H&M with a 7-month-old sausage strapped to your chest, trying to translate European sizes into US and feeling a stroke coming on when you realize your current size? 9 months on, 9 months off.

Tugging in vain at the zipper on your favorite cocktail dress while your 14-month old tugs at your suddenly shorter hemline, impeding your preparations for a long-awaited date night?

9 months on, 9 months off was just a number, after all.

You were never actually going to *get* your pre baby body back, anyway. Because that body was transformed and transfigured by new life. And no amount of low carbing or tread milling or denim shimmying can erase those effects.

But know this mama: there is a day in your future where you will see your altered and perhaps slightly haggard reflection in your bathroom mirror and you will feel like you again, promise. It might take a few months longer than you expect, and it might happen on a totally different timeline than you envisioned, but she's in there. You're in there. I promise.

And happiest 3/4's birthday to my petite principessa. You're certainly not the size your mama envisioned that you would be today, Genevieve, but you are utterly lovely to behold, and you're super easy on your mama's back.

Silver linings, right?

Friday, September 12, 2014

7QT: Whole 30 update, baby milestones, and 100% more bacon

1. Can I just start out by saying thank you again for the overwhelming flood of love and support this little blogger received thanks to my pity party of a post on Monday? Well, I'm grateful. And I'm glad I'm not the only crazy in the bunch, as so many of you have reassured me. Solidarity in psychosis.

2. We're on day 13(!) of the Whole 30 and it is going so well. I mean so, so well. Last night we went on a date to Barnes and Noble where we sat side by side for 2 hours in dead silence, drinking tea and reading books we had no intention of purchasing. It cost us $4.17. It was awesome.

The last time we had a date night that cheap I think was...never. Do you know how much more expensive it is to drink something other than flavored water and go to restaurants? Yeah, who knew? But obviously this way of being is not a lifestyle. At least it never could be for us. Has it become less painful now that we're almost at the halfway point? Much. But do I still fantasize about giant glasses of wine and slabs of chocolate cake with salt and vinegar chips sprinkled over the top? I've said too much...

3. If I can take one more take to talk at you about my food, I will just go ahead and post the following to evidence that ain't nobody suffering in this house. Behold my lunch:


Homemade green apple, acorn and butternut-squash soup with coconut milk and curry. With bacon on top. This is not a restrictive way of eating. At least not when it's snowing in bleeping September and I don't mind roasting winter squashes in my oven all afternoon while I dress my urchins in rags from last winter and resolve to go glove shopping soon.

(Recipes here and here. I loosely adapted both to accommodate my very large acorn and butternut squashes, and it is friggin delish. I'll write it all down one day, but just know that it's very hard to screw anything up with squash in it. And there's no dairy! And it's so creamy.

4. This girl. 

When she's not busy gnawing off my nipples (TMI TMI why can't I stop?) and yelling mama and dada, she's busy throwing my parenting for a loop by refusing to look even somewhat interested in crawling, scooting, pulling up or growing legs or feet. (I mean she has legs and feet. They're just pretty much the same size they were at 3 months.) I'm sure she's fine and I'm 100% sure I'm one of the craziest moms on the block, but I'm still taking her in for a weight/development check this afternoon just to rack up one more copay in the name of neurotic parenting. Can't help myself. (She'll be 9 months old on Monday.)

5. Bacon. Can I be frank with you? We've gone through a pound of it since yesterday morning. Can I be more frank? By "we" I mean "I."

Be still my heart? Like, very, very still. Maybe as in no longer beating?

But I'm thisclose to fitting into a size 10, which is crazy because I was a healthy 12 in my magic mom jeans when this adventure started. I've even been able to start running a little bit again, and I feel good. Like really, really good. Power to the pork products.

6. Do you have a grasp on your child(ren)'s temperament? I was mildly obsessed with this book in college and then I was chatting with a girlfriend this week and she brought up the junior version, which I'm dying to get my e-paws on. And she dropped a bit of a bombshell in so doing. While describing her incredibly sanguine firstborn son I realized that she was also describing my unbelievably social firstborn, and I may have had a stern chat with the Man upstairs about why He saw fit to saddle an introverted choleric melancholic with an extroverted sanguine with egomaniacal tendencies. Oy vey. 

7. Hearing/Watching/Reading: Currently spinning in my virtual playlist. Currently streaming on my Amazon prime. Currently hanging out on my nightstand. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Not done yet

You guys.

Thank you. Thank you for the overwhelming outpouring of support and encouragement (are those the same thing? Kind of.) that you shared via comments and emails the past couple days. Dave pointed out to me shortly after Monday's post that it seemed like kind of a Dear John letter for the 'ol blog, but nope, not the case.

I'm not going anywhere. Except perhaps to a shorter duration of total time spent on line. Which will probably and hopefully result in more good content here, not less.

In the interest of full disclosure, I just flopped a piece of bacon across my keyboard, quite by accident, and now my cursor is greased.

(Whole30 Day 12: Keepin' on keeping on.)

Breakfast: 2 eggs, 2 slices bacon, some dried apricots, 2 shots black espresso
Lunch: 1 million pistachhios, 1/2 cup of leftover beef stew (paleo-ized for compliance) half a cucumber, 2 strips of bacon
Dinner: Acorn squash soup and roasted veggies
Snacks: slices of ham, pistachios, apple slices

You're the best.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Recalibrating

I have a confession to make.

I've been suffering from a bit of blog drift lately, for lack of a better term. It crystalized for  me last night as I found myself cornered at a dinner party with a social media wizard asking me about content and SEO and stats and the like, and my only explanation as to what my brand was "about" was a sort of half-ashamed (or perhaps fully ashamed) mumbling of how I wasn't very professional or organized or monetized or anything-ized, and that I was "just a mommy blogger."

He wasn't very impressed.

Nor was I.

I've been experiencing a touch of discomfort whenever I log on lately because rather than getting right to the point and putting virtual pen to paper as I was long accustomed to, I've slipped into the habit of spending exponentially more time reading more and more content across a wider spectrum of all manner of digital publications.

This is not bad! This is good. It is absolutely necessary and essential and life-giving for a writer to read. And it's best practices to read what other players in your field, so to speak, are putting out there.

But so much of what I've been reading has been in the pursuit of entertainment and distraction and, almost imperceptibly at first, but inarguably now, comparison.

I'm finding that many nights as I sit clicking through to "just one more" article or post or essay that I'm not actually reading to learn things, or to grow in virtue, or to experience the world from another person's point of view; I'm reading (and I'm ashamed to admit this) to compare myself, to compare my life, to measure my abilities and my gifts and my accomplishments against a virtual composite of someone else's highlight reel. And I generally come up short.

I'm not anti-internet. I'm not anti-social media either, though I don't have personal accounts on Facebook or Twitter. I know myself well enough to know that I can't be trusted with an Instagram account, either, because the temptation to capture all the moments and edit all the scenes is just too great.

In short, I'm a crappy blogger. At least in the sense of the blog as a means to connect with a broad audience across a spectrum of channels, and to facilitate interactivity within the community that forms. When I started blogging 8 years ago it was simply an outlet for an overactive and overly-analytic brain that saw patterns and deeper meanings in everyday experiences. I never foresaw the social aspect of it, but I was delighted when people actually started reading the things that I wrote.

Now that readership and interaction are so crucial to the whole blog experience, I feel kind of like a stranger in my own land. Almost every time I sit down to write these days I find myself asking not, "does this matter to me?" But rather, "will this generate page views? Will people respond to this? Is this likely to perform well?" All of which are totally stupid questions for me to be asking because this blog is not monetized, it's not my job, and the internet isn't a popularity contest.

What I am emphatically not saying is that monetization or sponsorship or professionalism are negative things. By no means! I'm just working through my own neurosis here, trying to understand why I get a sinking feeling in my stomach whenever I see another fellow mommy from the digital trenches has risen to the top via a book deal or a cool collaboration.

A rising tide lifts the whole harbor and all that, yes. But my broken and selfish human nature sometimes prevents me from celebrating when others accomplish what I long to do.

The blog for me was never about becoming anything else, until I started to look around and see that for some people their blogs were becoming something Else. Something bigger and better and more exciting than tap tap tapping out funny travel stories or recaps of hard days in the mother hood.

I don't know where I'm going with this except to resolve to refocus on my original purpose for this space. Or, gosh, maybe to define that purpose, period. And maybe to clean out my feed reader from the superfluous 18 daily missives from Apartment Therapy and the likes. And to step away from the computer at a set time in the evening and just be.

I don't know. I just don't. But one thing is for certain; I'm so glad you're reading. And if you'll bear with me as this little space weathers digital menopause or whatever exactly is happing, I promise to stop making bad picture collages and trying to do design of any kind.

Except in my living room. Can't stop, won't stop, moving the couches.

You're the best. Really.

Whole30 Day 10: Nope. Not doing any more of this. I'm done.

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At least that's how I feel. And according to everything I've read about days 10-11 for the typical Whole 30-er, I'm not alone. I guess something like 90% of people who quit do so today or tomorrow. I feel that. Here's why:

- I'm tired of nuts
- I'm tired of not having a liquid reward at the end of a long day of parenting
- I want pancakes
- Meal planning is exhausting. Quesadillas are easy.
- Produce is boring. Grocery shopping has become a dull exercise in leaf combing.
- I want pancakes.

See? Not a single good reason. Here are the reasons I'm not actually going to follow through on my feelings (a sign that this actually might be really healthy for me in and of itself):

- I feel less sluggish in the mornings
- Actually, that's an understatement. I jump out of bed willingly when one of the kids summons me now. Weird....
- My pants are all fitting looser.
- I have more energy (not a ton, mind you, but enough to see me through to bedtime. Gone are the wretched 3pm crashes.)
- I am not thinking about food in between meals (well, except for the pancakes. But I had to conjure up that craving on my own, it didn't assault me like a thug in a dark alley out of nowhere.)
- My kids are not seeing a mommy who mindlessly snacks all day long.
- Date nights and social engagements have been...challenging. (I'm putting that in the 'pros' category because I think it has been a stretch, in a good way, to have to think up scenarios that don't revolve around food or drink, and to have to practice discipline in those situations that do.)
- It's stupid to eat a certain way just because somebody says it's the right way. And yet...it's working.

So 10 days down, 20 more to go. And football season already officially underway with nary a beer sampled. Next up, getting off coffee.

JKJKJKJK. I'm not that crazy.

Have a Monday. I know I am.