Wednesday, December 10, 2014

P90X with a Toddler

So yesterday started off very badly. In fact, by 9:15am, I had admitted defeat and was headed back to bed. We were getting hit by a December Nor'easter (a cold-weather ocean storm, similar to a tropical storm but with cold rain or snow). Two cups of coffee just weren't kicking in. Everyone was grumpy. We got the big girls on the bus, and headed towards the gym. I was hoping an hour on the treadmill would turn things around. But the parking lot was full. As were the street spots anywhere near an entrance. Did I mention that it was raining sideways and cold? So I gave up. I admitted defeat, turned around, and went home. I put my overtired (and now I realize sick) toddler in her crib, laid down in the bed next to it, and we went to sleep. When we both woke up later, things were better. After a quick lunch and some tylenol for LittleDebbie, things were great. The day had turned around. But the babysitting room in the gym was scheduled to close in 20 minutes, and I still wanted to exercise. 

That's when I remembered the P90X DVDs that BestestHusband had borrowed from a coworker a while back. We still had them. And I wanted to try them out. 

I picked a workout that looked like it had some cardio and strength training in it. And I did it. And the day was completely salvaged. All was not lost, after all. I even FELT like I got a good workout, better than the one I would have gotten if I just went to the gym. Maybe I should just do the whole P90X program?

So this morning, after spending 30 minutes at the bus stop in the rain (yes, it's still raining. Send an Ark...), LittleDebbie and I came home to do P90X. I was motivated. I've been wanting to do strength training for a while, and I know myself well enough to know that I need to join a class to do it. And the classes offered when I'm usually at the gym are targeted to older ladies. Much older. Think Seniorcise. So maybe P90X is the answer to my prayers...

I did the first DVD, which targets arms and back, and then abs. And I learned a few things. I knew the part about my horrendously poor upper body strength. That's old news. And the part about my lazy core. I was aware of that, too. But there's a reason that the DVD shows 4 hard-bodies working out in a studio. Showing real people in their real homes would not be nearly as pretty:

"Show some intensity! Kick forward! Side! Back! Then other leg!"
Ok, don't kick the TV, don't kick the sofa, don't kick the kid. Move over to allow room to use the other leg.
"Stretch both arms high, and do big circles."
Ow! When did that light fixture start hanging so low?
"Take a few moments to get some water and be ready to bring the intensity!"
Crap. Where's LittleDebbie? I need to go find her...
"Run in place to keep your heart going, and be ready for legs!"
Where did all of the Christmas ornaments go? And where is LittleDebbie now? I need to go find her...
"Time for some jacks. Jumping jacks are great!"
Jumping jacks are not great after having 3 kids. I'll just cross my legs and jump in place, thankyouverymuch. Ok fine, I'll wave my arms around, too.
"And lunge, punch, hook! Other leg! Lunge, punch, hook!"
Lunge, oh, there's an ornament on the mat! Hey LittleDebbie, please leave my mat alone, put it down!
"30 military pushups! Here we go!"
Hey, I can barely do one pushup, even without you climbing on me. Get off my back, kid!

So I learned that I need to be more relaxed to my workout than the instructor would prefer. I don't yet have all of the equipment I need. But bungee cords from the basement meet my fitness needs for now. I need to set up the play yard for the toddler in advance. She will eventually end up in there. I no longer am interested in working out 'til I feel like puking. Exercising makes my day better. Puking does not. I'll do one only as long as it doesn't result in the other. Who am I trying to impress? The guy on the DVD? I'll stop when I feel like it. 
Doing the workout at 80% accuracy is still better than I would get at the gym. And I think I know a bit more about pelvic stability and residual diastasis than the guy in the DVD. I'll modify my abs workout as I see fit. 

Don't worry buddy, I'll still "Bring It." I'll just bring along my body that's still recovering from having 3 kids in 5 years, my 15 month old, and the limitations of a small living room in a city condo, as well.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Why I Need to Drink After Shopping With My Kids

So, as part of our Advent preparation and focus on thinking of others, the girls will help assemble gift stockings for people in our community. We've made food bags in the past for people asking for change at street corners, and they were generally well-received. So we decided to do gift stockings for them for Christmas. The girls helped brainstorm a list of items that might be appreciated by people who spend their lives out in the cold, and our activity after school today was to go shopping for those items. Sounds good so far, right?

So I took them to Ocean State Job Lot. For those of you who don't know OSJL, don't worry. Your home area probably has something similar. It sells a hodgepodge of everything, mostly deeply-discounted closeouts. So if you need a wide assortment of practical items, you'll find them there. It's the cheapest local place to go, since I live in a city that hates Wal-Mart. (Ok, maybe the city doesn't. But you have to travel more than 30 minutes out of the city to find one.) It's a slightly overstimulating place to begin with. But I went there late on a Wednesday afternoon with 3 girls, aged 6 and under. Are you starting to feel a premonition of danger yet?

You never know what you'll find when you're there. So you can't really write a detailed shopping list and stick to it. You sketch out a broad list, and suspect you'll find maybe half of the items on your list, plus a bunch you never imagined you'd find. And you never know the price you'll pay, so you have to look at everything and consider prices when you're assembling a gift assortment. In other words, it's a constant mental juggling act. What's a better value? The leather gloves or the waterproof Thinsulate-lined? Do homeless men prefer wool socks or these thicker ones with only a small amount more artificial fibers in them after you actually read the labels on the "Marino wool socks." Hmmm, get one of those thick sweat shirts for $7, or not risk getting the wrong sizes and get other things instead that might actually fit in the stocking better? The mental juggling act is constant in OSJL, even without kids along. And of course, there are countless temptations along the way. $8 ladies leather gloves to match my new scarf? I don't mind if I do! Add the kids, and my brain explodes. 

I think it's the sheer overstimulation of my internal monologue plus the 3 overlapping conversations from my children that just causes the trouble. Have you met my children? They are all girls. They are all chatty girls. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I used to pride myself in the early and prolific speech of my children. Now I just curse myself. 

An hour later, we leave the store with 5 stockings that we will fill with hand-warmers, gloves, thick socks, first aid kits, rain ponchos, and candy canes. We also leave with some candy for one of MeToo's teachers, and a few bags of Bob's Red Mill products, because they're awesome and pretty cheap at OSJL for some reason. But I didn't leave with Vital Gluten. Because apparently they don't carry it anymore. And I looked at their BRM offerings in two different places 5 times. It should have taken me 2 minutes to do that. But instead I:
  • Convinced the 6 year old that asking me to guess about minutae from her day while trying to read package labels to find the gluten was counterproductive and would keep us from actually leaving. 
  • Found a snack to stop the toddler's shrieking, doled it out to 3 girls, and kept the open bag from being spilled on the floor. 
  • Returned the toddler to a sitting position in the cart 5 times. The seatbelt was broken. 
  • Refereed a fight between the 5 year old and 6 year old about who got to stand where on the cart. 
  • Stopped 5 and 6 year old from pushing the cart while the toddler was standing up in the seat. 
  • Investigated who was lying about who was or was not pushing that cart while the toddler was standing. 
  • Delivered a stern message about the dangers of lying to the liar, while holding toddler in her seat to keep her from hurting herself while I was trying to discipline her older sister. Tried to ignore the indignant screaming of the toddler. 
  • Tried to manage the remorseful crying of the liar. 
  • Handed out more chocolate animal crackers to all unhappy parties. 
  • Didn't ever find gluten. 

Let's not discuss how long it took to:
  • Look for sizes on the gloves and socks.
  • Try to determine which glove and sock would be warmest for those who live on the street. 
  • Compare sizes, prices, and styles of stockings. 
  • Search for candies that the girls' teachers had identified as their favorites. 
  • Convince the girls that we could only look at toys at the END of the shopping trip.

The good news it that we now have some well-stuff Christmas stockings full of practical gifts that will be supplemented with some homemade treats and hopefully a warm cup of cocoa or coffee. And hopefully I can be emboldened by my children to share a treat and a gift with some total strangers that may or may not want to be recipients of our gifts. But that's a concern and blog post for another day.
Remind me not to shop with 3 little girls again. I need a big glass of wine. Or two.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hurricane Warning

Well, time keeps marching and babies keep growing.

Our LittleDebbie started walking and is now a toddler. A true toddler. 
She is a force of nature. She blows into a room, and when she blows out again, nothing is the same. Socks are in the cabinet. Books are in the bathtub. Water has been spilled all over. A path of destruction follows her wherever she goes. And she's loud. She has an ear-splitting howl that doesn't seem to stop. 

She's very much like a tiny Hurricane. 
Her severity rating might change day to day, but she never downgrades to a tropical storm.

She also climbs whatever she can find. HeyMama is becoming adept at getting in and out of her top bunk without the ladder. The ladder is too much of a temptation for our Hurricane. She's quickly to the third rung before the bigger girls start shouting "Mama! LittleDebbie's getting into big big trouble! Come quick! Heeellllpppp!" I run in to find one or both of the girls trying to wrestle her off the ladder, while LittleDebbie shrieks and fights. 

Our house is mayhem. Adorable and fun, but mayhem. But what can you expect when you live with a Hurricane?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

War Planes

"Listen. Those are war planes."

13 years ago, I was living here in Boston. I was working in a government building. We had all been sent home early. No one knew what was going on. But we knew that innocent Americans were being targeted. We were all vulnerable. 

Commercial air traffic was shut down. The usual background drone of flights out of BOS had been silenced. There was a lot of quiet - tense, breath-holding quiet. 

But as we listened to the fighter planes patrolling overhead that night, we did know one thing. That our delusion of safety on our own soil was just that, a delusion. And that life would be different going forward. 

The skies are not blue today in Boston, as they were 13 years ago. That crystalline sky and crisp air are forever etched in my soul as "September 11th weather." It was so glorious that day, and in such sharp contrast with the horror and confusion we all felt. Of course I remember. We will never forget. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

First Day of School

Monday was a day we'd been looking forward to for a while.
HeyMama and MeToo started their respective Kindergarten classes in a wonderful little Boston Public elementary school. LittleDebbie started part-time daycare in a wonderful little home day care center in our neighborhood. All 3 girls walked in the door with a smile on their face, and all 3 had great days. 

While I was getting dressed for work, I listened to a report on NPR commemorating the 40th anniversary of forced integration, or "bussing", in Boston Public Schools. So much has changed in 40 years. 

I drove the girls to their first day of school. We parked on a street near the school and walked together; BestestHusband rode his bike and met up with us. Children and parents were milling around excitedly outside. Parents from the Parent Council wrote down our email addresses, gave us name tags, and served us coffee and treats. We introduced ourselves to parents who also looked new, and were swarmed by parents who weren't. We were from multiple neighborhoods around town, but found some families that lived a short walk from us and shared the same bus stop. The principal rang his chime, and the hubbub died down. He directed children and parents to their places for the welcoming ceremony. We formed a circle in the middle of the parking lot. The new Kindergarteners were in the middle, the bigger kids were around them, and parents were on the outside. We held hands around the circle. The principal talked about the importance of school and the values we were all to share. Everyone there was directed toward that purpose. We were supposed to be a community. 

But the audio played of the first day of school 40 years ago was quite different, and still rang in my ears. People were yelling and screaming. Glass was shattering. Police were trying to separate an angry mob from the schoolchildren they were throwing bricks at. Yes. People were throwing bricks into busses full of children. And spitting on them as they tried to get into school. 
Let me repeat that. 
People were throwing bricks at children on their way to school.

It was because the federal mandates to integrate schools were finally being enforced. Children from white neighborhoods were being put on busses to go to schools in black neighborhoods. And children in black neighborhoods were being put on busses to go to schools in white neighborhoods. And people were angry. 

It's hard to imagine this side of Boston today. Sure the neighborhoods still have old tradition, and the elderly that live there reflect the neighborhoods' pasts. Rozzie still has a lot of people of Greek origin. West Rox is still very Irish. South Boston is still very Irish, too. The North End is still very Italian. Dorchester and Mattapan still hold generations of African-American families. But they all now hold immigrants, too. And newcomers from other parts of the US, lured to Boston by universities, like us. You don't get beat up for going to the wrong neighborhood anymore. 

When I watched my girls walk into their new school, I never doubted that they'd be safe. Of course they would be. But I couldn't help but think of those parents 40 years ago, wondering if they'd made the wrong choice by making their kids go to school. Many of them weren't wealthy enough to move to the burbs. And the Catholic schools had frozen enrollment, so there was nowhere else for them to go. How do you choose between an education and safety?

As I looked at the name tags and listened to the names called during the school assembly, I saw that the forced integration had worked. My girls' classmates will have names like Molly, Jack, Brianna, Messiah, Rashan, and Athena. This would be unthinkable 40 years ago.

Yesterday, I put the girls on the bus for the first time. We watched more than a dozen busses pass before theirs arrived. Children from our neighborhood were scattering to various schools on busses that fanned out around the city. This is the ongoing process of "bussing". Neighborhoods can no longer be insular. My girls gleefully climbed the steps for their first bus ride to school. They smiled back at me, waved, and disappeared. There would be no bricks. There would be no riot police. There would just be children going to school.

We have much to be thankful for. 

PS. I don't want to sound so blithe to imply that I don't recognize that there are still serious race and class issues in the city of Boston. There are. One of the gripping articles that I read on the matter talked about the communities of S. Boston and Dorchester that first experienced bussing; it observed that it's the poorer communities that bear the brunt of the challenges and shortcomings of the public education system. This, alas, has not changed in 40 years. We talk about how, when we got seats at the girls' school, we won the school lottery. But the reality is that we had already won by having the ability to buy out to a wealthier school district.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pre-coffee Chat

MeToo:  "Hey Mama?"
Me:  "Yes ma'am?
MeToo:  "You know that place we went once? Do you know what it was called?"
Me:  "No. I need a bit more information to help you. Can you tell me more about it?"
MeToo:  "No."

Because we've only been to one or two places in her life? This question came before I had my morning coffee. And is unfortunately typical of conversations with MeToo. And is one of the reasons I ask myself at 5pm if I should drink more coffee or switch to wine. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Hoodie

So parents, back me up on this one. You have a few favorite outfits that your kids wore when they were smaller, right? Those outfits that you see in pictures and smile. And you wish your kid was smaller so they could wear that adorable thing again. Right?

So I'm packing the girls' clothes for a camping trip. And I'm looking for my favorite hoodie. It's green and turquoise, and matches a little outfit that's actually NOT made of girly colors. And it's so cute. (And rare in our world of pink and purple!) And LittleDebbie will look adorable in it. And I can't find it. I want that hoodie. I've looked everywhere. And it's nowhere to be found. And I'm going crazy. I need. That. Hoodie.

This is normal, right?