My Hills

(No, this is not a post about my boobs– so sorry to the person who ended up here by Google searching for “boobs is plus sized mom”, you’ve been misled again)

Before I had children I, like many other not-yet-parents, was full of adorable opinions about what I would and would not allow my kids to do. My list included things like “no eating in the car” (I found car seat crevices en-caked in Goldfish dust to be visually unappealing), “no kids in the big bed” (I honestly begrudged my husband space in the bed when we first got together. No touchy in the bed, please), and “I’ll always calmly explain appropriate behavior when a child is being naughty. No yelling.” (Oh, me. Cute, cute, naive me. The you who now has a 3 year old and is LAUGHING HER ASS OFF at you. Current you is kind of mean.)

I’ve now been a step-parent for ten years and gave birth to them parent for seven. I routinely sling french fries in the back of the car and hope that they buy me five minutes with no whining. I routinely let the previously mentioned three year old climb into bed with us so I don’t have to take her back to her room, thus giving myself 90 more seconds of sleep (full disclosure: she usually goes to Mr. Monkey’s side of the bed first and he is stronger than I am). I have come to realize that while I don’t yell a lot, I also no longer believe that trying to reason with a illogical dictator who smells like Go-gurt is a fool’s errand.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have any parenting hills I’m willing to die on…it just means they are different ones than I thought they’d be.

(side-note: My hills are my hills and are no reflection on your hills. I don’t believe that there are an awful lot of absolutes in parenting, so YMMV and all that.)

(except for vaccinations. There is only one right answer on that one. Because, well, SCIENCE. Vaccinate your babies.)

The 10 battles I am willing to fight over and over include:

1. Being polite. My kids say “please” and “thank you” or they don’t get sippy cups or dinner plates or the lollipop in my outstretched hand. They say “thank you” to the free sample lady at Costco and to the waitress and to anyone else who does them a service. They remember unprompted a lot, but if not I will remind them, every single time. I will be damned if I raise rude kids, or at least kids who are impolite in front of me.

2. Anyone can play with any toy. Pink is an everyone color.

3. Everyone learns to swim and everyone wears a bike helmet. No exceptions, ever.

4. Thou shalt not: Even though I use nearly every other swear word as the mood sees fit, I have enough lingering vestiges of hardcore Protestant Christianity in my system that any swearing involving the word “God” would make me enormously uncomfortable to hear coming out of my child’s mouth. My 7 year old is getting his OMG habit nipped in the bud if I can help it.

5. I did not give birth to anyone who is stupid. So the prohibition on the “S” word as a descriptive for siblings stands, now and forever.

6. Bribery is always an option, but one to be deployed with care.

7. I am not a cruise director and your boredom is not my problem. My 7 year old is growing fearful of telling me he is bored ever since I told him that every time he says those words to me, he has to find me a toy of his that he no longer wishes to keep. Obviously it must be a boring toy if he is so bored, right? Might as well give it to another kid to play with.

8. Sit on the couch like a PERSON and not like a slowly melting candy bar, dripping over the side.

9. No, I am never going to pay money for the Spongebob movie. I don’t care if you can see the picture for it on the cable guide.

10. You have to wear pants at Target, Evelyn.

Ah. That feels good to share. I should probably expand this to be the next big seller parenting guide.

The Cost of Real Life

One of my many jobs (current and former) has been to teach financial literacy classes at the college level. While I have mixed feelings on these classes (I’m not sure they actually work, in terms of creating behavioral changes that lift people out of poverty), one thing that has always been interesting to me about these classes is how little most college students, especially the traditional age 18-22 year olds, understand about what a real, adult life costs. When I ask them to draft budgets for what they think life will cost after graduation, most of them anticipate being able to live really comfortably on $25,000-$35,000 a year. I suspect this is part of why student loan debt is so high…most students I know always accept their full loan award, even if they don’t need all of it for tuition. They take that extra $2,000-$4,000 to live on because they have no idea how much their loan payments will be or what adult life costs.

I was thinking about this today as I balanced the checkbook and remembered these charges from this week:

Car upkeep: $916 (for a car that wasn’t even broken. This was replacing spark plugs, replacing brake pads, oil change, etc for 70,000 miles service)

Swim lessons for the kids: $130 (well worth it but yowza)

Diapers, diaper pail liner, wipes: $40

Taking the kids to the children’s museum: $32 (we have an annual membership. This was for lunch and parking)

We are already well past $1000 in one week and this doesn’t even cover groceries, gas, mortgage, and all the other regular bills. Obviously the car thing isn’t a regular expense but when I calculate that someone making minimum wage would have to work over 150 hours to pay for these four ordinary expenses, it just reminds me of how hard it is to be poor and how very hard it is to STOP being poor.

On a related note, yesterday I submitted my ninth and, hopefully, last financial aid application. As a grad student, I’m only eligible for loans, which I plan to use to pay for my last 9 credits of school EVER. I will have taken all the school one can take. My son told his friend yesterday that I’m in 22nd grade, which seems like a good time to wrap it up. Once I graduate, I’ll be looking at paying back a lifetime total of over $60,000 in student loans (undergraduate and graduate). The $60,000 is just the prinicipal though, so the real amount I’ll pay back will be roughly the cost of this house:

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The thing is, it is worth it. At least, I think it is. I for sure wouldn’t have my current job without my MA completed and my salary has pretty steadily increased since I graduated in 2000.

But then I consider that I’ll be paying off these loans for the next 20 years and I’m all sad Dawson about it.

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But I guess that is still okay too, since I’m not in ugly Kardashian cry zone about it yet.

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Poor Kim. She may not have to worry about student loan debt (for, um, more than one reason) but at least I don’t have ugly crying pictures of myself available for public consumption on the internet. So there’s that advantage of being a regular gal with a regular sized ass, I suppose.

The Race

I’m less than 10 days out from my first race since I got pregnant with Ev. Ev is now three and that means my racing muscles are a little on the rusty side.

(Does anyone remember when this was a blog all about how I was going to race all the time? Yeah, me neither).

I’m doing the Point to LaPointe again. And, once again, I’m pretty sure I could have trained more/better/harder. This race is a 2.1 open water swim in Lake Superior with a two hour time limit. The first time I did the race it took me just about an hour and 45 minutes. The second time it took an hour and 24 minutes and was, from start to finish, one of the most fun races I’ve done. I felt good and strong and fast.

Then a week later I found out I was- surprise!- pregnant with Evelyn and proceed to spend the next five months barfing and sweating.

Wondering where that ferry boat is.

First known picture of Miles and Ev. Ev was about the size of a pencil eraser and was still a resident of Hotel de Womb

It has been a long time coming for me to feel good and strong and fast again in the water. I’ve had some good practice swims lately and I feel confident in my ability to finish in less than two hours, unless the weather is seriously bad and the waves are a lot higher than average.

Time wise, I think I might be able to finish in about an hour and a half, which would put me firmly in the back to middle of the pack. I am as competitive as it gets but  I would still be 100% happy with that. I am aware of the fact that I’ll be competing against some very fast, very serious swimmer types. I mostly just don’t want to come in last.

I am excited for Miles to see me race again and for Evelyn to see me race for the first time. I’m also feeling proud of myself for putting myself out there again. It can feel slightly revolutionary to be fat and in a race, especially when swim suits are involved. I realize that on a day-to-day basis, I don’t look like many people’s vision of an athlete but I am. I’ve practiced and trained and put in lap after lap in the YMCA pool. I won’t win but I’ll finish, knowing that I’m quicker than I was a few months ago when I started training.

And hopefully I’ll feel good and fast and strong.

5 Lessons Learned: Taking a 3 Year Old Camping Edition

One of my goals for the summer was to have some special one-on-one time with Evelyn, who has, for a variety of reasons, gotten a bit less of my attention this spring/summer than her brother has.

Because I tend to be an all-or-nothing kind of girl, I decided that we’d really do this one-on-one time thing and go camping, just me and her.

Yes. Tent camping with a non-potty trained three year old. What could be easier?

Have I mentioned that I’ve only been camping once in the last 20 years and it was last month? And I’ve never put up a tent by myself before? And I booked a place by a lake in northern Minnesota, even though I despise mosquitoes?

I realize that this sounds like I am setting up a narrative for disaster but I have to say that the actual experience was really, really great. That being said, there are still a few important things I learned in the experience:

1. Embrace the fact that normal bedtimes mean NOTHING to a child in a tent. At home we usually start the bedtime process for Ev at 7:00 or so. In the tent, the fact that it was still very much daylight at 7PM made it very clear that she was no where near being ready to fall asleep. The sun finally set close to 10 PM, which meant that Ev was up until at least 10:15 PM.

2. Related to #1: Remember you don’t need to go totally off the grid. Did I bring my laptop and a DVD of Frozen with me? Yep. Did I feel VERY grateful to myself for doing this at about 8PM each night? YEP.

3. When your child is a water lover, temperature is a minor detail: A storm blew through the night before we got to the camp ground so it was chilly the first day we were there. The night time temperature dropped into the 40’s and the morning air temperature was in the low 60’s. Did that stop my child from wanting to play in the lake for roughly six hours straight? Nope.

Eber beach

4. The bugs. Oh God, the bugs: I saw mosquitoes that were as big as my fist. They swarmed in the bathrooms and by the lake sure. We’ve been home for a week and I still have bites on my neck, ass, and ankles. Please note that I was using the highly chemical, DEET filled spray. That all natural, organic stuff made from essential oils? Yeah, no. That is for suckers who are dying to become a mobile food truck for blood suckers.

5. Never underestimate the importance of packing diaper wipes: Ev is still in diapers (sigh) so I would have packed them anyways, but I was glad to have them for wiping dirty hands and cleaning my ankles when a peeing in the woods experience was a little more, um, splashy than I expected.

Even accounting for the bugs and the dirt and the accidentally peeing on my own foot parts, I can’t wait to do it again. It turns out that I kind of love camping (who knew?) and I’m eager for mother/daughter camping trips to become a tradition for Ev and I.

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Something tells me she is on board for that too.

How Does My Garden Grow?

Every time I walk through my kitchen, I feel compelled to look out the window, to check again on my garden.

This summer was the first time I’ve ever tried my hand at growing anything besides children and I approached it with a sense of grim pessimism. All I need is one edible vegetable, I said, just one to make this all worthwhile.

Well. This:

garden

is now this:

1

In a few weeks we will likely be swimming in squash.

It will go well with the cherry tomatoes just starting to ripen and the romaine lettuce whose tender leaves I’ve already started nibbling as I do the weeding.

The verdict is still out on whether my onions, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, and spaghetti squash will go the way of the squash or the way of my herbs, all of which I have killed (R.I.P chives, basil and dill).

There is a slow magic to gardening. It is the most natural thing and yet I keep finding myself ridiculously delighted by the fact that there is FOOD growing in my YARD. Actual, edible food.

I’m already planning for next summer. A friend has promised me cuttings of her raspberry bush and my neighbor wants to go in on a joint apple tree venture (we’d each need one in our yard for apple tree sex, apparently). I want to expand my plot to include bell peppers and to grow full size tomatoes.

Ooh, and watermelon. Yes.

I think I’m hooked. This is the most Midwestern addiction (besides meth, I suppose) I can imagine.

Pro-Tip

When you are explaining the birds and the bees to your 7 year old, do your best to explain it in such a way that he doesn’t wonder if a vagina is “like an extra toilet”.

I need to correct this understanding of his or else his future partners are going to be on the receiving end of the WORST dirty talking ever.

Bucket List

The other day some writer friends and I were talking about bucket lists. One person wants to learn to surf, another to win a blue ribbon in the “seed art” category at the Minnesota State Fair, everyone wants to travel more and to write something amazing.

I didn’t say what was on my bucket list. I couldn’t quite bring myself to acknowledge that my unwritten list has but one thing on it, an item that, after 15 years, appears to be permanently lodged there, forever undone.

Weigh less than 200 pounds.

It is uncomfortable to write that, uncomfortable to put real numbers out there, to admit that someone else’s nightmare (Two. Hundred. Pounds) is my dream. But it is. Or it has been. I’m honestly not sure which tense to use at this point.

The last time I weighed less than 200 pounds was my junior year of college. At some point during that year, I crossed over that line and have never been able to cross back. I’ve tried diets and personal trainers and bulimia and therapy. I’ve tried to shame myself into losing weight, to bribe myself, and to deprive myself of every manner of kindness. Sometimes things moved the scale. I was 204 pounds the morning I met my husband, something achieved by long sessions with a trainer, a steady running habit and a low carb diet.

And now we’ve been married 10 years, 3 states, 5 cities, 8 houses, 2 children, and a mortgage payment. I’ve steadily gained weight throughout our marriage, with the exception of pregnancy, when I actually lost weight due to morning sickness and an aversion to sweets. Since we’ve been married, my husband took up running and dropped out of the 200 range for weight. He is fit and trim. I’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, a hormonal imbalance the makes weight loss difficult but is, just for funsies, best controlled be losing weight. I wear a size 22 these days but still sometimes get tempted to buy things in a 16 or 18 for when I eventually fit into them.

A while back, I started trying to think of ways to help with some stomach issues I’ve been having. I’m prone to having what you’d politely call a “nervous tummy”. I’d call it “I get nervous and have to poop a lot and sometimes that is embarrassing but good news I always have Imodium in my purse if you need it” but that is kind of long, right?

Anyways, even though I am possibly the LEAST mindful, woo-woo person out there, I started trying to breathe differently. And when I’d feel myself getting anxious about whether or not I’d get sick or if I felt queasiness coming on, I’d start to repeat “this is my body, I’m at peace with my body” (even though the second part was a damn lie) until the rumble tummy calmed down.

It doesn’t always work, but it works more than I would have expected. But lately I’ve noticed a side effect. I’m actually feeling, well, at peace with my body.

I’m starting to believe things like that when my husband slides his hand between my legs, he isn’t noticing the size of my thighs. I don’t feel an internal sense of needing to apologize to anyone for not being sexy. Sexiness isn’t something I owe the universe.

I have a new group of friends and I don’t think they’d secretly like me better if I was thinner. I don’t feel a need to apologize or make fun of myself because of my weight.

Tonight I was eating a cookie on the porch, enjoying the smell of rain in the air and the quiet of a household asleep.

You might always be fat. You might never weigh less than 200 pounds.

The thought came suddenly to mind and my only response was “Okay.”

I might always be fat.

I might never weigh less than 200 pounds.

It feels strange for me to hold those thoughts in my head and to accept them and to still think about the fact that I’d like to go swimming tomorrow to keep training for my upcoming race. I still want to get in a bike ride this week. I still want to start Couch to 5K again.

Wondering where that ferry boat is.

Fat Girl Racing

For years and years, exercise was always connected to the bucket list item. The whole point was to lose weight. But maybe I won’t. But I can still be stronger and faster and have more cardiovascular fitness.

I have often described my weight as the biggest failure of my life. I’ve accomplished a lot in terms of my career and grad school and family. A lot of things I’ve wanted, I’ve gotten through hard work and luck and the support of people who love me. But the weight thing always hovered in the back of my mind as the evidence that maybe I really am a failure. Why couldn’t I do this one thing, the one thing I wanted more than anything else?

But I’m 36 and soon to be 37 and life is too damn short. I’m going to move “weigh 200 pounds” from my bucket list to my fuck it list. Fuck it. I am strong. I am smart. I am a good wife and mother and friend. I weigh what I weigh.

This is my body. I’m at peace with this body.

Happy

Slow but Strong

Married Up

My husband has many fine qualities, but the one that merits mention tonight is the fact that he is excellent with sick kiddos.

Ev woke up at about 10:30 tonight and came up the stairs to our bedroom, on a mission to find her daddy and get snuggles. He was starting to carry her down the stairs (the pale tan carpeted stairs. Sigh.) when she suddenly barfed (there was pepperoni involved, let us never speak of it again). While I stood there briefly stunned and useless, he was already hustling her to the shower. I did the clean up of the floors and other parts of the splash zone.

For the last year or so, I’ve been dealing with some issues with anxiety. My particular anxieties usually take the form of focusing on illness. Not big scary capital letter illness, but everyday stomach bugs, especially the thought of all of us getting sick at the same time. This started when I was back in Iowa and trying to balance work and being in grad school classes and, on some levels, made sense. I was spinning a lot of plates at the time. A wave of noro virus could knock all those plates to the ground.

Plus, at the time, we only had the one bathroom. So, that alone made the prospect of multiple stomach related illness scary.

I’m generally speaking doing better, anxiety wise. I don’t stay up nights worrying about it anymore but when the inevitable happens and a kid goes down with a stomach bug, I have to actively suppress my panic. Even now, as Ev lays sleeping on a couch covered in towels, I can feel my own stomach feel uneasy (oh the irony of having anxiety about illness that manifests itself in a nervous tummy. Well played, irrational brain and wonky digestive system).  What if I am sick? What if Miles is? What if, what if, what if.

But M. is stays in the moment. He bathes, he calms, he soothes. He doesn’t spiral into panic. His voice becomes more gentle, he moves to the living room to sleep near her. Sometimes he tells me about how sick he was as a kid and how is dad took tender care of him then. He comes by it honestly.

I plan my escape to Canada.

Please send “this was just a random one time puke” vibes to my house, okay?

Small Things/ 37 Things Update

I have recently made a series of small decisions that have made my life just a little bit happier:

– I am taking the elevator to the YMCA. I can walk to a YMCA from my work, something that takes about 5 minutes or so, which is fine. A nice walking warm up for my swim. But to check in at the Y, you have to take to go to the third floor. I had been taking the stairs in the name of virtue but then I’d be out of breath at the check in desk (I am not in good stairs shape) and I hate that. So I’ve given myself permission to take the elevator and I am 5% less reluctant to go to the gym.

– I’ve decided that I am not obligated to think about or work on my dissertation after 8PM. In fact, I shouldn’t work on it then as I am usually tired and probably not likely to be thinking innovative thoughts. The thing was that I wasn’t actually doing anything on it anyways, but now I feel free to continue doing it with no guilt. Very satisfying.

– I am not going to hold myself personally responsible for the fate of my garden. I’m going to do the best I can to take care of it but I cannot control the weather or the fact that there appears to be bugs eating one of the plants that I can’t remember what it is (basil?). I’m comforted by the fact that we will have enough lettuce for a taco salad dinner tomorrow night. This means that, no matter what else happens, we have eaten from our garden, even if it ends up being a $300 taco salad.

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An update purely for my own benefit:

1. Improve our family’s net worth by $3700. This should be totally doable thanks to an extra check I’m expecting to arrive soon but making some mortgage payments.

I was very nearly done with this… and then I flooded the basement. Sigh.

2. Read three books and seven magazines.

One book down, three magazines

3. Do 37 minutes of yard clean up (blargh. I have the opposite of a green thumb but I can at least pull some weeds).

4. Swim 37 miles

I have completed 22% of this goal so far. Currently feeling very optimistic on this one!

5. Ride 370 miles on my bike

4% completed. Time to step it up.

6. Walk/run 370 miles

7. Send three friends actual paper letters

8. Have 37 days without Diet Coke, my second biggest vice.

9. Add 37 rough draft pages to my dissertation

10. Blog 37 times (this totally counts as #1. Progress!)

Almost half way done!

11. Write 37 pages of fiction (on the story that I can’t shake)

I’m 3500 words in so far and going to a writing group tonight to hopefully get me to 5000.

12. In bed before 11:37 every night between now and my birthday. I tend to stay up too late for no real good reason. More sleep is always a good idea.

I have been doing this very consistently. Good job, self.

13. Take the kids swimming at least 3 times.

1 down and it was very fun. This one will be an easy one to accomplish.

14. Play tennis with Miles at least 3 times.

15. Eat breakfast at home 37. I have a bad skipping breakfast habit.

16. Bring lunch to work 37 times. I also have a bad buying lunch habit.

17. Purge 37 pieces of clothing from my overstuffed closet/drawers. I’m not willing to commit to a capsule wardrobe yet but I have clothes ranging in sizes from 14-24 and have some things that I am sure I haven’t worn in at least a year.

18. Purge 3 pairs of shoes. This one will be harder than the clothing thing, I predict.

19. Go to the gym 37 times. We get a discount if we go 12 times in a month and I’ve never made it. C’mon self.

25% complete on this one.

20. Try 7 new dinner recipes. I’ve been in a bit of a cooking rut and I’d like to find a few new staple recipes.

Tried Creamy Beans tonight and they were so yummy. I have fart concerns but so far the butt trumpet has been silent. I topped mine with a large dollop of gauc and some cheese and then ate with chips. Happy tummy.

21. Have 3 dates with Mr. Monkey. Even if they are just quick ones, I need to see more of his face without kids in between us.

1 down.

22. Take 3 days off of work to work on the dissertation.

23. Submit at least 3 columns for my new gig at Inside Higher Ed.com

24. Spend 37 hours relaxing in my new hammock. Damn I love my hammock.

25. Make $37 on eBay or through my neighborhood garage sale site by selling stuff we don’t need/use. Use $37 to start savings accounts for the kids.

$17 so far

26. Make a “summer fun” to-do list to better explore our new city.

27. Take Miles to a professional ballgame.

28. Plan one-on-one time with Ev for at least 3 times.

29. Coordinate a gift exchange with some of my neighborhood friends.

30. Go hiking

31. Help Miles learn to ride without training wheels

32. Learn to sew a simple dress for Evelyn.

33. Get over my fear of plaster walls and get three pictures hung in the house.

34. Sign up for a triathlon

September 5th baby!

35. Complete the Point to LaPointe race.

36. Dye my hair a different color, just to see.

I dyed it a reddish brown. It is fine but I’m not in love.