Friday, December 23, 2011

Join me in getting my butt in gear (and smaller)

One of the things I'm been trying to build my coaching business around is the concept of motivation - how to help people form healthy exercise and nutrition habits and to stay motivated to stick with them.  I go through periods of struggling with motivation as much as the next person.  My "down" periods tend to coincide with my depression cycles, so they're actually more difficult to battle because they're so chemically based.  But at least I'm at the point of being able to recognize how I'm feeling, and I've developed strategies to help me push through the depression until the cycle passes.

Something that seems to help is to be very short-term-goal oriented.  And I think people generally respond well to short-term challenges, so I've been putting together regular fitness challenges, every month or so, to help people focus on reaching their fitness goals.  Some of them I participate in, others I just guide.

The next big one is one that I'm going to be doing along with my challengers - a 90 day New Year's resolution challenge involving a fitness program and replacing one meal a day with Shakeology.  I've already filled up one challenge group of five participants, and I've got a couple of others on a waiting list -- if I get a few more, I'll do a second group.

I'm going to be doing P90X2.  It's the follow up to P90X, and it's based on training techniques that the pros use - core and pelvic stability exercises, developing agility and explosive power.  Becoming not just stronger and leaner, but a better athlete, with better range of motion and greater protection against injury.  I figure it will help me become a better skier.  Plus it's always fun to try a new program.

So I'm putting the word out here as well as on my coaching blog -- is one of your New Year's resolutions to get in shape?  Would you like to give it a shot with the benefits of a structured program, a group of like-minded people encouraging and supporting you, and a coach (i.e., me) guiding the way? It's a proven formula -- everyone knows that exercise and proper eating are the keys to fitness, but what people don't often realize is that having the support of peers is equally important.  People to cheer your triumphs, encourage you when you're feeling unmotivated, support you when you need a lift.

If you're ready to give it a shot (and really, if you don't do it now, when will you?), let me know.  I would love to help you succeed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

You can't have everything... where would you put it?*

We've reached that time of year when I'm hyper-aware of being different from the rest of society.

Not because I'm Jewish and I don't celebrate Christmas.  I got over that a long time ago.  In fact, I'm not sure it ever really bothered me at all. 

No, it's because I hate the whole focus on buying shit and giving gifts. 

Honestly, the last thing most of us need is more stuff. 

I don't need chocolate or candies or baked goods wrapped up in celophane.  I appreciate people's thoughtfulness, but I don't eat it.  It goes in the office breakroom or in the trash. 

I don't need tchotchkes or jewelry.  I don't wear jewelry.  I don't put out tchochkes (with a few exceptions -- love my Romanian pottery, mom!). 

My children don't need more toys or electronics.  (Clothes are a different story - they grow like weeds).  They already have obscene quantities of *things* and they barely play with the stuff they have.  Most of their toys end up with missing pieces or sit languishing in the bottom of a box. 

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not an ascetic.  I like nice things and I am actively trying to grow a business so I can make more money.  I'd like a newer car.  Nothing flashy, but something that is newer than 11 years old (we don't have a car newer than that), so I'm not always waiting for the next thing to break and cost me a shit-ton on repairs.  I'd like to be able to replace the windows on my house, because the old ones are ancient and barely functional.  I'd like to get out of debt.

But the main thing I want is more time.  More freedom.   Time to read, time to practice my banjo, time to ski, time to spend with my children and my friends and my family.  Freedom to travel or take classes or volunteer.  I'm getting there, bit by bit, day by day.  Not there yet, but I will be.

On that note, Happy Hannukah, all!  I wish you health and happiness and joy and love and music and dancing and fun.  Not so much on more stuff.

What about you? Do you get into the holiday gift-giving spirit, or are you a scrooge like me? 

*This quote is from the comedian Stephen Wright.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Talk to me so you can see, oh, what's going on...

"Hello... [tap tap tap] ... is this thing on?"

It's been a weird month or so.  For a while I felt very fragmented and unfocused, largely because of depression cycle that I went through.  But I powered through it and it passed, followed by a period of great clarity.
Like Thorough at Walden Pond, I'm trying to live deliberately.  Which is great, in terms of my desire to focus on my goals and tackle them, and in particular build my coaching business.

But kind of boring in terms of any interesting resulting blog posts.  I go through periods when every little thing that happens to me brings to mind a funny (I hope) or engaging way to tell a funny story in this space I'm occupying here.  But right now is not one of those periods.  

I did have a kickass ski day up at Copper Mountain last Friday.  I was 10 minutes away from the mountain when I realized I had forgotten my ski boots.  

"Fuck it, I guess I'm renting today."

Then I thought about the fact that my skis are 8 or 9 years old -- dinosaurs, in terms of the advances that have been made in ski design and technology lately.  "Hell, if I'm going to rent, I might as well demo some new skis and see what all the fuss is about."

So the nice young hippie working at the ski shop fitted me out in a pair of brand new K2 Superburnins.  And I proceeded to have the time of my life, while realizing what the fuss is indeed all about.

It's about precision and control.  

I am a good athlete, and I am a decent skier, particularly given that I didn't learn how to do it until I was 28.  And what I really like to do is go really fast down steep inclines.  But I've always felt that notwithstanding my willingness to let myself fall down the mountain the way I do, I haven't been exactly safe -- I've had the sense of skirting a very fine line between fast, fun skiing and crashing horribly out of control.  

No longer.  On these skis, I was still really fast, but totally in control and carving turns in a way I've never been able to before.  It was a totally different skiing experience.

I obsessed about the skis all day Saturday, doing Google searches and finding last year's model (which is essentially the same ski) for sale at a number of different places.  Including one retailer in Seattle that was having a close-out on the skis in my size, which I guess isn't that popular a seller because I'm such a shrimp.  What started out as a $850 pair of skis was eventually marked down to $370, by the time they took all the discounts at checkout.

So I bought them.  

And was able to afford them because of my new-found focus on building my coaching business.  I'm really, really determined to grow it to the point that in two years, I will be able to pay off all debts, fix up my million-year-old house, and no longer have to work full time if I don't want to.  I've signed a bunch of new coaches recently and am very excited about helping them build *their* businesses so they can achieve their goals as well.  It's pretty cool.  And it's working - every month I earn more than the previous month, so I'm chipping away at my target, bit by bit.

You can read more about it here.

So that's what's going on with me lately.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Six years ago today...

According to the interwebs, the traditional 6th anniversary gift is candy or iron.  Random. 

Or perhaps not.  Because after 6 years, marriage can be sweet, or it can be very, very hard.  Or both.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Free ranging right off the farm...

I definitely subscribe to the parenting school of thought referred to by my friend Lisa as "benign neglect."  I love my children, I care for them, I make sure they go to a good school, I feed them, I take them to museums and the zoo and the park and all that good stuff.  But I do not hover.  My kids can be upstairs when I am downstairs.  They can be in the bathtub without me in the room.  They can play in the back yard without my supervision. They can go to a friend's house or a birthday party without me staying.  When they are 6, they will be allowed to fly unaccompanied to go visit their grandparents.

But the prevailing parenting ethos these days is very much counter to this philosophy.  There seems to be a trend towards infantalizing children, insisting that every move they make be monitored and tracked and supervised, even for kids well into their teens. 

And then people wonder why kids get to college and are incapable of fending for themselves or taking any responsibility for their actions.

I follow a blog called Free Range Kids, and the more I read, the more I resolve to allow my kids appropriate levels of independence, the freedom to explore and make mistakes and learn from them.  It's how I was raised, and I firmly believe that it's the way to go.

I'm kind of bummed that I wasn't awake during a recent episode which might have tested my resolve.

My parents live on a decent-sized plot of land set back from the road in a very quiet and safe neighborhood.  And the weather in DC last week was lovely -- a bit rainy and damp early on -- but perfectly suited to playing outside, especially if playing in the mud is your thing.  So the kids played outside and enjoyed accompanying us on walks around the neighborhood, including a very short loop that leaves via the front of my parents's house and then follows the sidewalk around to a quiet road that goes along the back of their property, where you can cut back into the yard.

Zeke was allowed to play outside by himself to his heart's content, with the caveat that he needed to tell us where he was and stay in the yard (which is huge, so this was not an onerous request).  But he was really enjoying being outside by himself and having all that woodsy space to roam in (we live in the city, so our yard is postage-stamp-sized and mostly covered with brick patio stones).  So knowing the little out-the-front-of-the-house-around-the-sidewalk-in-the-back-yard loop, he took a little stroll.

But didn't tell anyone where he was going.

I was taking a nap with Josie at the time, so I missed all the hubbub.  But J kind of freaked.  Zeke was home shortly thereafter, being "escorted" by a neighbor who was driving by -- the neighbor wisely didn't invite him into the car, but ascertained where he was going and then drove alongside of him as he walked.

Everyone told me about it afterwards when I woke up, and I guess they expected me to be all upset.  But I really wasn't.  I talked to Zeke and told him that he needed to tell a grownup before he goes outside, and definitely if he's going to go for a walk, but my immediate thought was that Zeke isn't stupid (and in fact, he's both incredibly smart AND very cautious and thoughtful with regard to his own safety).  The neighborhood is quiet and safe and there's virtually no traffic, and he knew where he was going and was never in any danger. 

Yes, four is a little young to be going off on walks alone, if only because he is not quite able to control his urge to throw things into the street (like rocks, which could hit cars, which could cause damage and piss off drivers).  But I was secretly kind of proud of his desire for, and enjoyment of, a little bit of independence.

When I was little, I walked to school by myself at the age of 6 (and was responsible for escorting my 5 year old little brother).  All my other friends did, too.  It was not a big deal at all.  I flew alone on an international flight when I was 5.  Throughout my childhood and my teens, I was given enormous freedom by my parents, who raised me to have common sense and then trusted me to use it. 

I would like to impart that same gift to my children, the judgment of the helicopter parents of my generation be damned.  The world is a much safer place than most people are willing to acknowledge.  And life is much more fun and enjoyable when you don't approach it with the assumption that there is evil and awfulness around every corner.

Are you a "free range" parent?  Do you think I'm nuts?  What were you allowed to do as a kid that you would never let your kids do today?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The goats in the vicinity were disappointed

Our Thanksgiving travel last week provided an unexpected - and much welcome - glimmer of the light at the end of the tunnel.  Since having children, and particularly since having two, the mere thought of navigating an airport and getting through security and surviving a plane ride has filled me with dread.  First, there's the sheer amount of stuff that you have to take - diapers and wipes and toys and books and sippy cups and snacks and car seats - that is overwhelming.  And then you're dealing with one kid running one way while the other runs the other, or someone doesn't want to sit in the stroller, or someone decides they have to go potty when you're in the middle of a 25 minute security line, or someone runs around the scanner and causes a TSA agent to have a stroke, or someone jumps on the luggage carousel because it seems like the fun thing to do.  Either that, or you're waiting for one of things to happens - so the kids could be perfectly well-behaved but you're still all stressed out because the other shoe always feels like it's on the verge of dropping.

But Josie is now two, and her language and socialization are both developing at an amazing pace, so I can give her an instruction and she a) understands me, and b) knows how to comply.  And Zeke is a full-on, intelligible, semi-rational person, particularly in his response to threats and/or bribery ("if you don't behave on the plane, we're not going to the Air and Space Museum tomorrow").  So all of a sudden, traveling with them isn't so terrible.  It's still not great -- there's still all the stuff, and there's always the possibility of a meltdown -- but we're getting closer to the point of being able to count on them to behave.

Plus, we were flying Frontier, which has individual TV monitors for each seat, and for $6, you can get DirecTV for the entire flight.

"Aw, pretty please?"
I said to J, "I'll happily pay $6 to get some kid's show that will keep them quiet during the flight."

"Oh, hell yes.  If it would keep them quiet and occupied, I'd blow a goat."

Lucky for J, such extreme measures were unnecessary.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The month in review; also, go the fuck to sleep

I know that I am in the minority in that most Mondays, I am thrilled to come back to work after the weekend.  I like the structure of getting up and having a schedule to maintain and someplace to go.  Because outside of work, life is very chaotic.  I am tired.

First I was sick.  Then I got better, but we had the kids' parent-teacher conferences.  Josie's went fine - she's right on track, everyone loves her, she's a delight to have in class, blah blah blah. 

Zeke's was more unnerving.  Apparently, he's smart as hell ("scary smart" was how the director of the school described it) and doing fine in all areas of development except for social-emotional.  The teacher is concerned because occasionally he has bad temper tantrums.  (Um, he's four?)  So she recommended I have him evaluated. 

First, this was a total surprise.  Sure, there have been days when the daily progress report was, "he didn't have a great day," but that's true of everyone from time to time.  Mostly, the reports are all good.  Second, I've been practicing special education law for 12 years, so I know a little bit about evaluations.

"OK," I said.  "What sort of evaluation should I seek out?  Do you think he has an emotional disability?  Should I take him to a psychologist?"

"No, I don't think so.  But I couldn't really say what kind of evaluation to get.  I think you should have him assessed by an occupational therapist."

"Why an OT?  Wouldn't an OT look at sensory issues or gross or fine motor skills?  I don't understand what an OT has to do with evaluating emotional or behavioral concerns."

She couldn't really explain it further.  So I went home frustrated and upset.*

Then we had the craziness of Halloween to deal with.  Which was awesome, but not exactly relaxing.  Zeke and Josie both decided to go as pirates (or rather, Zeke was a pirate, and Josie wanted to do what Zeke did).  So I'm all ready to go with their costumes for the Halloween parade at school, except that Zeke announces, "I want to be a gorilla for Halloween."  Mind you, this is maybe 10 minutes before we're ready to leave for school on Halloween day.

"No.  You said you wanted to be a pirate, so I've got a pirate costume for you.  I don't have a gorilla costume."

"Oh.  You don't have a gorilla costume?"

He has a habit of taking the last thing I say and turning it into a question.  "No."


This is also par for the course.  "Because.  Now here's your sword and your eyepatch."

I am nothing if not full of rational explanations.

So they put their costumes on and looked all adorable and then had an absolute blast when we went trick-or-treating that night.  Seriously, Zeke was so damned happy I thought his head was going to explode.  Josie was bored with her costume at that point, so she went sans.  But they still killed with the cute, knocking on doors and yelling "TRICK-OR-TREAT!" and then giggling and saying "thank you" 85 times.

Josie went as a beat poet.
Then two days later I went to Omaha, Nebraska, for a legal conference.  Which was fine, except that I've essentially been to the same conference twice already this year.  I mean, literally, the same presenters doing the same presentations with the same handouts.  But at least I got two nights in a hotel room to get caught up on horrendously bad reality TV (Braxton Family Values makes Jersey Shore look like Masterpiece Theatre) and sleep without anyone waking me up in the middle of the night or wanting me to snuggle with them so that their night-time pull-ups then leaked pee all over me. 

Then two nights later we were headed to IKEA to get Zeke's new big boy bed.  We drove the SUV and went down to J's office in Littleton to pick up the Civic, where he had left it because he drove his work van home.  We found the Civic and turned off the truck while J found his keys and we prepared to move a booster seat because Zeke wanted to ride with Daddy.  When I tried to turn the truck back on, it wouldn't start.**  So we all piled into the tiny little Civic and went to IKEA anyway, because Zeke needed a bed.  By the time we got home and I started to put the bed together (I am the designated assembler of furniture in the family, which is fine because I love doing it), it was 8:15 p.m.  And whereas most pieces of IKEA furniture are really easy to put together, this one presented more of a challenge.  So it was 11:15 by the time I was finished and Zeke and I could both go to bed.

Touche', Kura bed.  Touche'.  Fucker.
The one bright spot in the last few weeks was this past Friday, when I had my first Friday flex day of ski season.  Copper opened a couple of weeks ago, and only a few trails and runs are open, but it was still a blast.  I went with my friend Christin and her kids, and it was a beautiful day and the conditions were pretty decent.  I found that all the weight training I've been doing has made me really strong, so I had none of the initial wobbliness in my legs as I got used to using them on really steep inclines.  Christen even suggested that I enter some ski races. The truth is, I ski really fast because I'm not as safe as I should be -- I tend to skirt the line between being speedy and hurtling downhill out of control.  But I'm intrigued by the notion of entering a race, especially if it means I have an excuse to wear one of those funky racing suits that looks like it's covered with spider webs.

But then I spent the weekend being sick again.  The top of my windpipe is sore and tickly, so I'm constantly coughing and I sound all frog-y.  It would have been really nice to get a decent night's sleep before heading back to work. 

Alas, this was last night:

9:00 p.m. - I lie down with Josie in her bed (which is a junior bed, so it's both shorter and narrower than a twin) and we read Goodnight Moon.  Then we both fall asleep. 
12:20 a.m. - I wake up all achy because I'm asleep with my ribs pressing on the thin wooden frame on the side of her bed.  I get up to go back to my own bed.  Josie wakes up and starts to cry.  I figure, "sorry, hon, you're on your own," and I go to bed in my room.
12:45 a.m. - she's still crying.  I go into her room and she's standing in the middle of the room, in the dark, sobbing, "Mama!  Maaamaaaa!"  I pick her up and take her back to bed with me.  She promptly snuggles in and falls asleep.
1:30 a.m. - I'm still awake.  Zeke wakes up and starts crying, which is odd for him.  I wait to see if he'll put himself back to sleep.
1:50 a.m. - Zeke's still crying.  I go to his room and climb up into the bunk with him.  His bed's a twin, so there's actually room for both of us.  He puts his head on my shoulder and calms down a little bit.  "What's the matter, sweetie?"  I ask.  When the crying has diminished so that he can speak articulately, he says, "I neeeed a hu-u-uuug."  So I give him a hug.  He promptly calms down and falls asleep on my shoulder.  I nod off as well.
5:00 a.m. - J gets up and starts getting ready for work.
5:30 a.m. - I get up and start getting ready to exercise.
5:45 a.m. - Josie wakes up and starts to cry.  "Get up?" she says.  "No, sweetie, you need some more sleep."  "Snuggle mama."  So I bag my workout and get back into bed with her.
So, yeah.  I'm a little tired.  Thankfully, I work through Thursday, Friday I'm giving a short speech in the morning, and then I'm off for the Thanksgiving holiday.  We fly to DC on Sunday, where we will spend the holiday with my parents, my brothers and their significant others, and my nieces.  On the agenda are hockey games, visits with friends and cousins, the Day After Thanksgiving Pie, the Turkey Trot, football, and much fun and merriment.

Six more sleeps.  That is, assuming my kids allow it.
*I emailed Zeke's pediatrician when I got home.  She said that she's never seen anything in him that gave her any kind of concern, and that she suspects that he's just highly intelligent and his maturity level hasn't caught up with the rest of his brain, which is not unusual for super-smart kids.  I love her.  I also talked to the director of the school, who agreed with the pediatrician.  Which begs the question of why I was referred to child find if no one suspects him of having a disability, but whatever.  In any event, I'll have him screened, but I think it's a load of bullshit.

**We got it back $1600 and a new fuel pump later...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My (admittedly lame) excuse is that my defenses were down

The past week has been kind of a nightmare, with some points of light thrown in, in the form of my parents' visit and Zeke's birthday party.  To which I forgot to take my camera and thus got no pictures.  Pfft.

So last Wednesday I was in the middle of doing a workout and holding 25 pounds weights in each hand while bending forward at the waist.  It's a hamstring exercise - you keep your back flat and let your legs do all the work as you lift and lower your torso.  And I was maintaining proper form, not even letting my arms dangle, but rather keeping them slightly engaged so as not to pull on my back too much.  But then all of a sudden I felt a little pull right in the middle of my back on the left side, about level with the bottom of my shoulder blade, and then the rest of my torso started to spasm and I couldn't move without excruciating pain. 

I put my weights down and managed to find an ice pack in the freezer and lie down on it on the couch.  J brought me a bunch of Advil and an Aleve, so I took them and waited for the pain to subside while I worried about how I was going to function over the next couple of days. 

Finally the medicine kicked in and I was able to get around without doubling over in pain every few seconds, so I showered and dressed and got the kids off to school.

The next two days were spent at a big annual convention for all of the state special education directors.  I gave a speech on Thursday, which went fine, but Thursday night I started feeling a tickle in my throat and Friday my tonsils and my neck glands were definitely acting up.  I went to the conference for a little while, but by around 11 a.m. I was feeling really shitty and I didn't really need to stay, so I went home.

My parents arrived a couple of hours later, to spend Zeke's birthday weekend with us.  Unfortunately, I spend the bulk of the time feeling crappy and lying on the couch, nursing a virus that mimicked strep in every regard -- extremely painful sore throat, swollen glands, and fever -- but wasn't *actually* strep, meaning that the doctor wouldn't give me any antibiotics for it.  Plus my strained back muscle was still acting up, so I was a pathetic mess.  I felt well enough to make it to Zeke's party on Sunday morning, which was really fun -- we went to a little dinosaur museum over in Morrison that has great hands-on exhibits and activities for kids -- but by the end of the weekend I was spent.

Monday I stayed home from work and slept and caught up on my DVR'd shows.  J went to work, but also had a court date at 1:15 in Jefferson County because he got pulled over a couple of months ago for having expired tags - I thought he had renewed them and he thought I had.  No big deal, right?  All he had to do was show up with the renewed registration and maybe pay a little fine.

Now, I've mentioned in the past that Australians in general, and my husband in particular, are notorious practical jokers.  And I grew up in a family of bullshit artists, so I tend to be pretty good at ferreting out the nonsense. 

But I guess I was tired.  And in pain.  And grumpy. 

And thus obviously unprepared when I received this text message from J approximately 5 minutes after he was due in court:  "$1000 and 10 days jail"

Because I freaked. 

If someone were telling me a story like this about someone else, I would have been all, "Oh, ha ha, good one."

But J has a history of getting kicked around by law enforcement.  So my initial reaction was, "NO!  WHAT THE FUCK??  REALLY??"  followed by furious efforts to call him.  But he didn't pick up his phone and I got more and more worked up and finally I just called the court.
CLERK:  Hello, Jefferson County Court, Criminal and Traffic Division.

ME:  Yeah, hi.  Uh, my husband had a court date this morning for a traffic ticket and I was just trying to find out what was going on with his case. 

[I give her the ticket number.]

CLERK:  Yep, here it is.  Looks like the DA dismissed it.

ME:  Really?  I'm so confused.  I got a text from my husband saying that he was assessed a huge fine and jail time, and I don't get it because it doesn't seem like failing to renew your registration on time would be a jailable offense.

CLERK:  Ma'am, I think he was just messing with you.
Ya think??

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Goodnight, nobody

Josie threw herself out of her crib last week, so last Friday I went to IKEA and got her her birthday present from her grandparents - new big girl (or should I say, little girl) furniture.  She and Zeke both love it so every night we sit on the couch in her room, turn off the overhead light, turn on the little pink flower light over her bed, and read books together.

It really is a different room now.  It flows better, it's more comfortable.  I don't know anything about feng shui, but my sense is, this room has it.  With the new furniture and new layout, everyone wants to be in there.

Last night's book selection was Goodnight, Moon.  Josie loves the part about "goodnight, mush" because she thinks the word "mush" is hilarious, and the part about the old lady whispering "hush," because we love to whisper the word "hush" together.

When we got to the end, "goodnight noises everywhere," Josie looked at the picture, with everything dark and quiet, the little rabbit asleep, and the old lady gone from her chair, and said, "where's the old lady?"

"She must have gone to her room to go night-night," I surmised.  Josie pondered that for a couple of seconds.

Then Zeke said, "I think she passed away," and cracked up laughing.  Josie started giggling and saying, "passed away! Passed away!"

I totally lost it, and soon all three of us were laughing uncontrollable.

Poor old lady.  And poor me, because clearly, neither of these goofy monkeys was going to sleep any time soon.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Here's what I've been up to...

Today I finish a 90-day exercise program.  It is by far my favorite of all the Beachbody programs I've ever done -- and that's saying something.  Read all about (including before-and-after pics of me in a bathing suit) here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

And if it means I must prepare to shoulder burdens with a worried air, I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me.


"Yes, Zekey?"

"It's hard to be little.  I don't want to be a kid."

"You don't?  What do you want to be?"

"I want to be a man like Daddy."

"Well, you'll get there someday.  You're growing and you'll keep growing and someday you'll be like Daddy."


"In the meantime, you get to do all kinds of fun things like play with your friends, and ride your bike, and learn how to swim, and learn how to read.  You've got some really cool stuff going on."


"But I know that things are hard sometimes and that it can be scary to be little.  But you know what?  It's hard to be a grownup, too."

"It is???"

"It really is."


"Well, because Daddy and I have lots of things that we have to take care of.  We have to go to work so that we can have enough money to pay for our house and our cars and stuff.  We have to make sure that you and Josie have clothes and food and toys, and we have to make sure you're safe."

"And you need to buy dinosaur shoes."

"Well, Papa takes care of that for you, but we have to buy other stuff."

"Like bananas."

"Yep. And underpants."

"And oranges, too, right, Mama?"

"All kinds of food."

"And toothbrushes."

"And washcloths."

He snuggled into my arm.

"I love you, Mama."

"I love you too, sweet boy."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Guest Blog: It Ain't Just About Fitting Into Your Skinny Jeans

I received an email this morning from a guy who found my fitness blog and was interested in guest-posting an article about the importance and benefits of physical fitness for cancer patients (or cancer survivors).  I think it's an incredibly important message, so I decided to post the article on this blog as well.  I've had so many acquaintances, friends and relatives suffer with or die of cancer lately, it's a subject that is very much on my mind these days.

Physical Fitness and Cancer
                   ~ by David Haas
Almost everyone can improve his or her life with a moderate, consistent physical fitness program. The physiological and psychological benefits from physical fitness simply cannot be overstated. As the treatment for and prognosis of cancer patients has greatly improved over the last decade, it has become clear that physical fitness can greatly improve the quality of life and energy levels of cancer survivors. There are two different types of physical fitness. Aerobic activity requires oxygen and helps build up stamina and endurance. Aerobic activities include walking, jogging, riding a bike and hiking. The second type of physical fitness is referred to as anaerobic. Anaerobic exercise includes weightlifting and stretching. These activities increase strength and flexibility.

According to the National Cancer Institute, research indicates that physical activity after a diagnosis of breast cancer may be beneficial in improving quality of life, reducing fatigue and assisting with energy balance. Physical fitness may be an important component of lymphoma treatment, mesothelioma treatment and the treatment of a number of different types of cancer. Physical fitness may also benefit survivors of mesothelioma, lymphoma and prostate, testicular and colorectal cancers after their disease has went into remission.

The physiological benefits of physical fitness include:

1. Increased blood flow to the extremities and improved circulation

2. Increased levels of energy

3. Increased levels of strength

4. Improved stamina and endurance

5. Improved oxygen utilization

6. Decreased level of fatigue daytime exhaustion
The psychological health of anyone going through cancer diagnosis, treatment and remission can be severely challenged. Let's face it, cancer of any type is a very frustrating and scary disease. In those who survive, the psychological toll that the disease has on their minds can linger for years. The psychological benefits of physical exercise in cancer survivors include, but are not limited to:
1. Decrease in levels of anxiety

2. Decrease in levels of feelings associated with depression

3. Increase in feelings of inner strength and well-being

4. Decreased stress and tension

5. Decreased levels of insomnia and daytime fatigue

Of course, I recommend checking with your primary care physician or oncologist before beginning any exercise routine. This is extremely important because there are some inherent risks with physical fitness and the general health of a person with cancer can certainly be compromised. Physical Fitness can certainly be a beneficial component of any cancer treatment program and can also help the person who has survived cancer.

Take care of yourselves, people.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Aussie Word of the Day: Motivational edition

**Just a little warning -- this is kind of a long one.  You might want to go pee or top off your coffee before you start reading.**
Pull your finger out:  Aussie for "get on with it; stop wasting time."*  Shortened form of "pull your finger out of your ass" (apparently, having your finger up your ass interferes with efficiency).
It's been an insane week.  Things are really busy at work and I'm doing this big 90 day push to grow my Beachbody business that involves weekly webinars and daily check-ins with an accountability partner (who is awesome -- hi Ferreh!!) and I'm trying to plan Zeke's birthday party and make it fun without being too too much and this weekend is Yom Kippur and next weekend we're going to a wedding reception and I've got a presentation that I'm doing at a big statewide conference and holy shit.

On the plus side, ski season starts in less than a month, and opening day at Copper Mountain coincides with a flex day, so I've got that to look forward to.

So yesterday at 6:15 in the morning I was in my room doing a workout -- I was in the middle of a set of pushups, to be exact -- when J walked in.  This was a bit of a shock, considering that he had left for work an hour before. 

He's been having some problems with one of the guys on the job -- a former friend (Greg) who was promoted to foreman and immediately turned into a raging asshole at the first whiff of power.  Screaming, yelling, swearing at people -- just generally being incredibly abusive and awful to the guys on the job, and given that the construction industry is notorious for treating guys like dog shit, it's saying something that this guy's behavior really went above and beyond.  Everybody hated him, everybody was miserable.  J would tell him to back off and watch his mouth, and Greg tended to tone it down somewhat with J, but he was still a major douchebag. 

Apparently, a couple of days ago, it got really, really bad.  Guys were completely up in arms, an apprentice was so mad he was throwing things, and the entire job site was tense and miserable.  So J went to have a talk with the head of the company.  In a very calm and rational way, he explained what was going on and that it was negatively impacting everyone, that if the yelling and screaming was meant to be some kind of motivational tool, it was having the opposite effect, and that if something didn't change, guys would be leaving en masse.  The boss, being an asshole himself, kind of blew it off and insinuated that J was being a pussy and just couldn't take the heat.

This is pretty much par for the course.  This company is awful -- they don't pay shit, they provide no benefits, they insist guys work overtime and then mysteriously have "payroll problems" that cause the overtime pay to be absent from paychecks.  They suck.  And in a non-union state like Colorado, there's very little recourse.  It's a tough economy, everyone's grateful to have a job, so the companies make the guys eat shit because they can -- they hold all the cards. 

Fight the power, yo.

So yesterday morning, J made the decision -- probably not so smart in hindsight -- to try to have a calm discussion with Greg and explain why his behavior was inappropriate and counterproductive.  Greg responded by yelling and screaming at J, getting up in his face.  J responded, "Fuck you."  Greg said, "you just quit."  So J came home.

Notice how Greg immediately framed it (and subsequently put it in an email to the boss) that J had quit, rather than been fired?  So as to set up a factual dispute that would make it harder for J to file an unemployment claim? 

Evil fuckers.

Anyway, I'm literally mid-pushup when J walks into the room.  And I'm continuing to do pushups while trying to talk to J to figure out what happened.  This is difficult enough, but J was so angry and shaking and freaked out that it was hard for him to even form a sentence, so I told him to go downstairs and make some coffee and calm down and I'd be there to talk to him in a few minutes after I finished my workout.

We sat in the living room. 

"So what happened?"

"I tried to talk to him, but he kept getting in my face and I just snapped.  I just can't take being treated like that anymore."

"Well, I know you hate it there, and I don't want to pile on, but we can't afford for you to be out of work right now.  We're operating on a razor-thin margin as it is."

"I know.  I know.  I'll find another job."

"Is there any way you can go back?"

"I can't.  I just can't."  He was practically in tears.

I nodded, took a deep breath and got up and went into the next room.  I got a pad of paper and a pen out of a drawer and brought them to him.

"OK.  Then here's what you're going to do.  Write down the name of every single person you can think of that might be able to help you find a new job.  Call Steve [the guy who has done a bunch of work on our house] -- maybe he knows somebody or needs some electrical work on some of his jobs.  Vicki manages a bunch of properties -- call her.  Joe manages a company that does residential electrical stuff -- give him a call.  Guys you've worked with.  That friend of my dad's.  That placement guy that keeps calling you. I'll put the word out to everyone I know and also see if anyone needs any odd jobs done."  He started writing and I continued to rattle off names, which then went on the list.  "Now start calling, texting, and emailing.  We need the money, so start hustling.  Everything's going to be fine, but you need to focus.  Pull your finger out and get it done."

And he did.  He made some calls and sent some texts.  We got the kids up and took them to school, and then he drove me to work.  By the time he dropped me off, he had already gotten the names of some companies that were hiring and had an interview lined up.  I was giving him a pep talk and helping him plan his day, and he was feeling much better.

"This is awesome.  You're really amazing," he told me.

"You married the right woman," I agreed, and I gave him a kiss, got out of the car and went up to my building. 

Within an hour, 6 people in my office had responded to an email I sent out, telling me that they had electrical work they needed done but didn't know anyone reputable to call.  By 10 in the morning, he had another job interview lined up and side jobs to take him through the weekend.  And this morning, he's already had two calls from companies that got his name from friends of his.  So we're thinking that he'll have something solid lined up soon.

In the meantime, he and I have been texting back and forth.  I've been trying to give him little e-pep talks.  At one point, he texted me back:  "Tony Robbins called.  He wanted me to tell you to to back the fuck off."

I don't know.  I may be on to something.
* I know this expression isn't used only by Aussies, but I never really heard it used in great abundance until I married J.  In the U.S., people tend to use the entire phrase, i.e., "pull your finger out of your ass."  But Aussies feel compelled to abbreviate and shorten everything, so I feel like "pull your finger out" is the Aussie-fied version.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Someday she'll make a great Jewish mother

Josie is going through a massive language explosion all of a sudden.  It's been building slowly for a while -- she's been picking up new words and figuring out how to use them -- but in the past week or so she has been putting sentences together and really expressing herself. 

It's so awesome.  One of the most amazing things about living with the short people (TM Elizabeth) is watching their language acquisition, both because it is fascinating to see it in action and also because when kids start to talk, that's when they get exponentially more fun and interesting (in my opinion). 

This huge change has coincided with Josie's move from the Twinkles class to the Little Dippers* class -- she is now with kids who are talking more than the kids she had been with, and the curriculum is more advanced and language-based.  And she's doing great -- every day when we pick her up, all we get are reports about how engaged she is and how much fun she has.

But -- and again, this is not unexpected or atypical -- she's still struggling with the transition.  She was with the Twinkles for a year and the teachers were wonderful and warm and cuddly and sweet, and by the end of her time there, she was unquestionably the queen bee, so it was a hard place to leave. 

And she obviously thinks about it a LOT.  Because yesterday, as we were heading downstairs to do something, she said to me, "Mama, I don't want Dipper.  I not Dipper."

"Really, honey?"

"Mm-hmmm.  I not Dipper."

"What are you, then?"

"I go Twinkle.  I a Twinkle."

"Oh.  Well, that's interesting."  I refused to confirm her view of the world, but it also did not strike me as worthy of an argument, so I was non-commital.

"I not a Dipper, Mama.  I a Twinkle.  Okay?  Okay??"

"Hmmmm.  Well, we'll see, baby.  We don't have to worry about it right now."

She wasn't assuaged.

"Mama!  I not Dipper.  I go Dipper and I cry.  Okay?  I cry!"

This seriously went on for the next hour.  She was determined to have her point heard, particularly the part about the crying.

It started again when we pulled up at the school when I was dropping the kids off.  I got Josie out of her car seat and was carrying her into the building when she reminded me, "I not a Dipper, Mama."

And when we turned to go into the Dipper room, she lost her shit.  Her whole face crumbled and she buried it in her hands.  "Nooo!  No Dippers!  Noooooo!"

She did indeed cry, just as she promised.

I gave her a big hug and a kiss and assured her that she would be fine.  Her teacher, Miss Jessica (who is great), took her and did the same.  Zeke and I left and went to his classroom to deposit him for the day.

By the time I came out of Zeke's room 5 minutes later, Josie had stopped crying.  Because after all, if I wasn't there to witness it, what was the point?

The girl's got a great future in piling on the guilt.
*Her school is called "Bright Star," and the different classrooms all have star-related names.  The Twinkles are the 1-year-olds, the Little Dippers are the 2-year-olds and the Cosmos (where Zeke is) are the 3-5 year olds.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Some years ago -- at least 4 -- I created an account at a website that sends out birthday reminders for anyone whose birthday you want to remember.  I put in everyone I know, or at least whose birthdays I know.  And then promptly forgot about it and never logged in again.

So now I get these reminders from time to time to send birthday cards or emails or whatever when someone whose information I entered has a birthday coming up.

This morning I got an email reminding me that my grandmother Ruth's birthday is next week.  She would have been 92 on October 4.  (I got one for Leo around his birthday as well.)

It still feels strange to not have my maternal grandparents around, when they were such a big part of my life until my late 30s.  Even when I didn't see them as often as I wanted to, I talked to them all the time.  Even when they weren't with me, they were with me.

So I guess I could log on to that website and update the information.  But I don't want to.  I like remembering.

Grandma Ruth with baby me (2 1/2 months old).  We were living in Cyprus (where I was born)
 and my grandparents came over to meet me.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dear 2-year old monkey

Dearest Josie, my little bean, you turned 2 years old this past Saturday.  And man, are you going through some major changes.  After transitioning into your new class (the Dippers) over the past couple of weeks, today was the big day that when we went into school, I dropped you off in Miss Jessica's class instead of with Miss Cindy and Miss Francine.  To say that you were not happy about this, despite having had a grand time in Miss Jessica's class during your recent visits, would be a gross understatement.  You cried and cried and reached for me when I left in a way you never do when you go to school.  But you're a tough little cookie, not one to dwell on the negative, and I'm sure that after 10 minutes you were your normal smiling self again. 

It's hard to believe how big you're getting.  Of course, "big" is a relative term, because you're still the peanut-iest little peanut who ever peanutted.  Though you're tall-ish for your age, you're barely on the weight chart, yet to crack the 23 pound mark while your contemporaries are approaching the high 20s and even low 30s.  But you are coordinated and agile, so even though you're a bitty thing, your confidence of movement and your level of comfort in your body makes you seem older.  Plus you're fearless when it comes to physical endeavors, so we know you'll master the Skuut that Daddy and I got you for your birthday in no time.

Though you could use an extra inch or two of leg.

Your birthday itself was a blast, and we're thrilled that you had so much fun at your party.  We kept it mellow and did it at the house, but we rented a bouncy house and your friends came over and you jumped and colored and played and giggled.  Just as it should be.

You were a bit overwhelmed when everyone started singing to you, even though "Happy Birthday" is one of your favorite songs.
The art activities included drawing on your face and arms.  But you're still gorgeous.
Sidewalk chalks - the perfect end to a perfect party.

Last night we concluded the weekend by snuggling in the bed in your room as I sang you to sleep.  But you weren't that interested in sleeping right away, so we had some hilarious exchanges.

"Song about 'raff, Mama?"

"You want me to sing you a song about a giraffe?"


"Um... I don't know any giraffe songs.  How about other animals?"

So you started to name other animals.  "Turtle.... elephant ... lion..."

"Hmm, songs about a lion..." I said.

And when I said "lion," you said, "RROAAWRR!"

We giggled and roared at each other.

Then a light bulb moment.  "I know a song about a frog!"

So I started to sing Froggy Went A-Courtin'. 

Mr. Froggy went a-courtin' and he did ride, mm-hmm, mm-hmm...

And when I mentioned Mr. Froggy, you said, "ribbit, ribbit."

Which made me laugh and feel the need to give you a squeeze at the same time. 

I kept singing. 

He said, 'Miss Mouse would you marry me, mm-hmm, mm-hmm...

And upon hearing the word "mouse," you said, "squeak, squeak..."

We continued in that vein for awhile, and finally you settled down.

"Night-night, JoJo," I whispered as I put you in your crib.

"Night-night, Mama," you whispered back, and you rolled over and went to sleep.

I love you like crazy, my brave, tough, funny, sweet little girl.  I feel privileged that you're my daughter and that I get to continue to watch you grow and change over the coming years.



Monday, September 19, 2011

Milestones and realizations

"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.  William Blake."
      "Whaddaya mean, 'William Blake'?!?"                                                
        "I mean, 'WILLIAM BLAKE'!"                                                            
-- Annie Savoy and Crash Davis in Bull Durham.

By the time they hit my age, most people have a fairly set concept of themselves -- what they're like, their defining characteristics, who they are.  And I am certainly no exception.

But like most people, my self-assessment is undoubtedly skewed.  I cultivate an aura of confidence and brashness, sometimes to the point of starting to believe my own hype.  But in truth I am far less confident than I project to the world.  And for all my snarkiness, I detest detached irony and am far more sentimental and earnest than I tend to let on.

I mention this because I have recently been making a concerted effort to get control of my life -- to figure out what parts of it make me happy, what parts don't, what priorities and goals I want to achieve, and how. And the way I have gone about figuring this out and taking steps to move forward are so unlike me -- or at least, unlike the type I play in my head -- that it's kind of freaking me out a little bit.  But in a good way.

I am so not the type to read self-help or personal development type books.  In addition to the fact that I'm a literature snob, and books like that tend to be horribly pedestrian in their writing style, my sense has always been that there really isn't anything new under the sun and that in order to achieve your goals, just decide what you want to do and do it.  I don't need anybody to tell me that.  And all the rah-rah bullshit -- or what I perceive to be rah-rah bullshit -- of people like Tony Robbins or whoever is so not me.

But.  But but but but but...

Sometimes the trick isn't just knowing that in order to get somewhere, you have to figure out your direction and then start the journey.  It's clearing away all the clutter in your head and getting organized enough to even find the road.  Or the car.  And that's where I was having trouble.

What with the kids being as young and demanding as they are, and J working nights for the past 7 weeks or so, and work being crazy and money being tight and trying to manage a full-time job while also trying to figure out how to grow my Beachbody business, to say that I have been a bit harried and overwhelmed over the past few months would be a laughable understatement.  But something had to give, because I was starting to feel the cold clutch of a depressive cycle in my chest, and every time J did something even slightly irritating I was mentally dividing up the household effects and preparing myself for single-parenthood, and I was grumpy with my children and generally exhausted.

So in a flurry of, "aw, what the hell, it can't hurt," I signed up for a 30-day organize-your-life-and-achieve-your-goals challenge run by Chalene Johnson, the woman who created and leads a lot of the workout videos I do.  Starting September 1, every day I have gotten an email from her and watched a video on how to get organized and get successful and happy.  She starts with the basics -- think about what your priorities are.  Write them down.  Then think about what your goals are for the next year.  Are they realistic?  Measurable?  Consistent with your priorities?  Write them down.  Then put them in order, with the biggest, most important one at the top -- the one that makes all the other goals possible.  Write it down.  Then brainstorm about what you would need to do to achieve the goal.  Do you need to do research?  Go to school?  Whatever you need to do, write it down.  Then develop to-do lists, with one or two steps included every day to take you a little closer to achieving your goal.

And so on.  None of this is revolutionary, rocket-science type of stuff.  But having someone slowly and methodically take me through the steps in a way that doesn't overwhelm me was apparently just what I needed.

So I've been doing it.  I keep a notebook that I use to jot stuff down -- my goals, what I want to do when, anything that's on my mind or that somehow relates to my "push" goal (the one that will make my other goals possible).  Every night I do some free-form writing of things to add to my list, and then I transfer the list to my phone, which also syncs with the same list on my computer.  I check it multiple times a day and schedule my days so that everything has a block of time.

You know what?

I feel fucking awesome.  Writing everything down this way takes it out of my head.  So I have it, but it's not stressing me out, because I know it's written down and I'm taking care of everything.  I've become insanely productive.  My 9-to-5 is going great, and I'm taking the Beachbody business forward in a way that will be a decent second income without it feeling like a second job.  I'm happy with my children and my husband again (and the fact that J is now back on days doesn't suck either).  And I feel like I have some direction, and that I know what that direction is.  I don't feel remotely depressed.  In fact, I'm downright cheerful most of the time.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to be the same sarcastic bitch you've come to know.  I will never be one of those people that posts tweets or Facebook status updates consisting of inspiring quotes by William Blake or whomever.

But I will be (slightly) less judgmental of those who do.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Her father's daughter

After telling J this morning not to pick the kids up in my car because of the busted key, of course he completely spaced out and picked up the kids in my car, only to have the key crap out on him when he tried to come home.  So they walked home (it's maybe a mile), with Zeke riding his Skuut that he happened to have with him because he took it to school for Show & Tell.

Josie is always very happy to see me when she comes home from school.  She's an affectionate little thing, always giving the kids in her class kisses in the morning when she comes in, coming up to me for random hugs here and there, and leaning in for a kiss just because.  So she walked in the door, threw her arms up and gave me a big squeeze.  "Mama," she sighed.

"That's my girl," I said, giving her a hug and a kiss.  "I love you, sweet pea.  Did you have a good day at school?"

We went over and sat on the couch, where I was watching the final minutes of the U.S. Open men's final.

"Elmo?" she said.

"Sure, honey."  So we settled in to watch Elmo.

She stood up facing me on my lap, threw her arms around my neck and buried her face in my shoulder.  My little snuggle bug.

"I bounce!"  she said, as she jumped around on my lap.  Then she crawled over to look at something on the side table, leaning over with her booty in my face.

And promptly ripped a long, rumbling fart.

"I toot, Mama!"

She was so proud.

"That's my girl," J said.

He'll get no argument from me.

My petite little (stinky) flower.

Monday, September 12, 2011

It's because I'm Jewish, isn't it?

Dear Mercedes:

I've been driving one of your cars for a long time.  Almost 10 years.  And I love her.  She's good to me.  She could use a paint job, but she's still pretty.  She holds my family comfortably. 

And I finally learned how to drive her in the snow, so we're all good.

But seriously, what the fuck is up with the key?

It's like I'm cursed or something. 

The first one lasted 6 years.  But then Zeke bit it or something and it just died.  So I got a new one.

Which I dropped down an elevator shaft.  But I recovered it.  And granted, it wasn't your fault, but the fact that I couldn't just get a new key cut kind of sucked.

Then it started acting funny.  The panic button would suddenly activate without my touching it. 

Then when we were at Monkey Bizness last weekend, it died altogether.  So I was stuck at Monkey Bizness with two tired children.  We took the bus home.  We went to Walgreen's and bought new batteries.

I hate you with the passion of a thousand white-hot suns.
And even though every time I tried to open the key, some other part of it broke or fell off, I got it open and got the new batteries in and got home.

But it's still been acting up.  The panic button is still seemingly possessed.  Sometimes the key works and sometimes it doesn't.

Which is annoying.

This morning I took the kids to school.  When I went back to the car after taking them to their classrooms, the key, which had been working fine, was dead.  When I tried to open it to look at the batteries, it fell apart in my hands.  I sat there futzing with it, fuming that after a week off, I was going to be late for work on my first day back. 

I finally got it to work and got home. 

But I'm not risking using it again.  Meaning I have to shell out $200 for another key.

Your cars are beautiful.  They drive like a dream.  I fell safe in them. 

But your keys fucking suck.  Honestly, sometimes the old technology -- an actual fucking metal key that you put in the ignition and then turn -- is the way to go. 

I'm starting to take it personally.  You are a German company, after all.

Just wanted to let you know. 



Friday, September 02, 2011

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

Maybe this will be me some time next week.  I just need to learn how to waterski.
It's been kind of a crazy week.  My family survived the hurricane just fine.  I met up with my Denver sorority sisters for a little pool party, which was fun.  I'm trying to figure out what to do for Josie's birthday, which is on September 24, and then for Zeke's birthday, which is a month later.  Josie's can be low-key because she's not quite at the age where she really gets what a birthday is, but I still want to do something fun for her.  Maybe rent a jumping castle and just invite some friends over for cake and ice cream. 

Then yesterday was the big launch of P90X2, the follow-up program to P90X.  It's a huge deal for Beachbody, the company I rep, so in my spare time (i.e., after the kids are asleep) I've been watching webinars to learn about it and reading up on the new training methods it incorporates and then writing blog posts and scheduling stuff on HootSuite to go up on Facebook and Twitter (and I know my posts have been numerous and repetitive -- sorry about that).  But I've already gotten some advance orders, so it's kind of cool.  Seriously, all you athletes out there, this program is gonna be the shiz, so if you're interested, click here or send me an email.  I'm sort of nervous because it looks so tough, but also kind of psyched to see how hard I can push myself at the ripe old age of 41. 

But now I'm (almost) on vacation.  The office is closed on Monday for Labor Day, and next Friday is a flex day, so I decided to take off Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for an entire week off.  I'm not going anywhere, just staying at home and cleaning out closets and maybe painting a room and exercising and reading and going to the movies in the middle of the day or meeting friends for lunch and just relaxing.  I haven't had a "staycation" since I was between jobs last November.  And that wasn't even paid time off, so this is going to be even better!

Just a few more hours....

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday frippery

It only took a year.
I had a flex day today and spent it cleaning and organizing the house.  We finally finished the walls downstairs, so I hung paintings.  The house looks pretty.  I'll take some pictures and post some before-and-afters to contrast with when we first bought it.  Of course, the kids will be home in an hour and it will go from being nice and clean to being a shit-show in no time.

We've finally, finally moved on from Elmo.  But now Josie is obsessed with Yo Gabba Gabba.  
This morning I went into her room when I heard her awake.  "Hi, sweetie!"  I said.  "Gook and Gabba-Gabba!" she responded. (She doesn't have anything against the North Vietnamese -- "gook" is Josie-speak for milk.)

I kind of like the show.  It's trippy and weird, but I like the very specific lessons it offers, like songs devoted to how you shouldn't put things you find on the floor in your mouth.  But J is wary.

"Don't let her watch too much of that show," he warned.

"Why not?" I asked.

"She'll grow up to participate in drum circles and be a glass-blower.  There's no money in that."

Be safe, East coast internet peoples.
Even though I am obviously not personally in harm's way, I'm a little freaked out by the projected path of Hurricane Irene.  I have family and friends in Virginia Beach, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and the Boston area -- all of which look to be about to take a beating -- plus the Outer Banks of North Carolina is about to take a direct hit.  Sammy and Camille, please don't ride out the storm on the 47th floor in Tribeca.  And call me and let me know you're OK.

Have a good weekend, all!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

If only spotting other members of the Tribe were that easy

I would wager that for most American Jews, being Jewish is as much a cultural experience and identification as it is a religious one, if not more so.  And I include myself in this generalization.  I am not particularly religious, but I very much identify with being Jewish.  Many of my ancestors came to this country because of their Judaism -- my great-grandparents escaped the pogroms -- and spoke English with a very heavy accent because they mostly spoke Yiddish.*  For my parents, being part of the Jewish community was an essential aspect of growing up in Detroit in the middle of the last century.  Even when my dad went to the University of Virginia, he was in a fraternity that was identified as a Jewish fraternity, because Jews weren't really welcomed in the more established houses. 

So a big part of being Jewish, in response to persecution and prejudice, was to mostly associate and identify with other Jews.**  And even though that kind of prejudice and persecution is not so prevalent today -- when my grandmother asked me if I was rushing Jewish houses when I decided to go through sorority rush in college, I had no idea what she was talking about -- there's still a sense of recognition and kinship in encountering other Jews in everyday life, as well as pride in the accomplishments of other Jews.

But of course, you don't always know who is Jewish and who isn't.

My mom and I were talking on the phone about her recent trip out of the country.

"I met the most wonderful Jewish couple," she said.  "I was talking to the husband and of course I didn't come right out and ask him but some of the things he was saying made me think that he might be Jewish, and that he realized that I might be Jewish.  But it's not like you necessarily can tell right off the bat."

"Right.  We're not required to wear yellow stars on our sleeves anymore."

"Exactly.  I mean, I couldn't just ask him to stick out his penis so I could inspect it."


Because that would be very awkward.

*They called me "Vinda" because there isn't really a "w" sound in Yiddish.  "Vinda, vould you like a gless of meeelk?  Some coookies?  You need to eat, dahlink."

**I recognize this is not a novel or revolutionary observation.  It's true of all minority groups throughout history.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Apropos of nothing except that this story totally cracks me up every time I think of it

My brother Sam and his girlfriend Camille live in New York City in a 47th floor apartment in Tribeca.* They have two dogs, both pugs.  Number One Pug is a boy named Phillip, who is 11.  Philip is fat and hilarious and adorable.  He's lazy as shit and would eat 24/7 if given the chance, and he's a big sweetie and we love him.

Sam set up a Facebook page for him, with a bio that says he went to SUNY-New Paltz and status updates that say things like, "Tonight for dinner I had ... wait for it ... dog food.  Jesus Christ.  I feel like I'm in a Kafka novel."  Fucking priceless.

Anyway, Phillip was an only dog for awhile.  And around the time that Sam and Camille decided to move in together, they got Daisy, also a pug (or, more accurately, Camille got Daisy, which means Sam got Daisy).  I believe Daisy is a rescue dog.  Daisy is slightly older than Phillip, and other than the fact that they're both pugs, they are easily distinguishable from each other to anyone paying attention.
Phillip and Daisy.  To quote Sam, "they're not exactly Great Danes, but they'll do the trick."
So they're looking for a place to live and they find this place in Tribeca. And I think when they submitted their application, they said they only had one dog -- I'm not sure if they hadn't gotten Daisy yet, but I suspect that they had but fudged a bit to increase their odds of having the application approved.  Apparently, it's a very nice building with a doorman and standards that are enforced by a condo board or management association or whatever.

(Incidentally, they also lied about Phillip's weight and then were incensed when his vet, who has been trying to get Phillip on a diet for years, refused to sign a certification that Phillip weighed only 20 pounds.  Which, if you've ever seen Phillip, is a big "no duh.")

So they move in and the place is great and all is well.  Except for the fact that they claimed to have only one dog but actually have twice that.  I guess they did things like hid or sprinted down the street when they saw someone from the management association approaching them.

They had been in the new apartment a couple of weeks when we went to the beach in New Hampshire, and they joined us there for a couple of days.  They had gotten a message from one of the management people:  "Uhhh, Mistuh [Wendy's Brother], we need to work out the situation with the dooh-ug."  In my head, the person leaving the message was either Selma or Patty Bouvier, with a heavy, heavy New Yawk accent.

Sam's plan was to appeal to her sense of decency by explaining that Daisy was a rescue dog and that if he didn't take her in, she would be put down and DO YOU WANT TO BE A PARTY TO DOG MURDER???

Turns out Patty/Selma's sensibilities were not so delicate, because she didn't give a shit.  "Don't you try to make me feel guilty, Mistuh [Wendy's Brother].  You were only supposed to have one dog and you've got two and it's not my problem."

Now, to me this whole scenario is all the more awesome because of Sam's extraordinary ability to be seized with self-righteousness when he is clearly and unquestionably in the wrong (remember when he made up a Wikipedia entry and then was all indignant when it was removed not because it wasn't true, but because it wasn't noteworthy enough?).**  And I say this as someone who absolutely adores him.  But it's true.  So the image of this grumpy woman peering out at him over her cat-eye glasses while the world's longest piece of ash threatens to fall off the cigarette dangling from her lips, as she tells him to take his old pathetic dying dog and shove it, just makes me giggle.

But now the condo board/management association had him by the short hairs.  What to do?  What would become of poor Daisy?

The solution was surprisingly simple.

I think it might have been the super (who isn't on the management association) who suggested that they walk the dogs separately and always take one out the front entrance and the other out the back entrance.  So that the doormen would only ever see one dog at a time, and always the same dog, and thus somehow be duped into thinking they only had one.

And amazingly, it worked.  Even though Phillip is a spry (if chubby) dapper young gentleman, and Daisy could not be mistaken for anything but his decrepit old aunt.

Only in New York.  I love it.


*Originally this post stated that they lived on the Upper West Side and that Phillip was 5 or 6 years old. Those errors have been corrected. Apparently Phillip looks young for his age.

**This post was written when Sam was married to Voldemort a/k/a She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. He isn't any more. Obvs.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Nasty, brutish and short

I feel like everywhere I turn, people I know and care about are dying of cancer.  The brother of one of my brother Josh's best friends from high school just relapsed.  The neighbor who has lived across the street from my parents the entire 27 years they have lived in their house is in the ICU with non-smoking-related lung cancer, and he isn't expected to come out.  A woman that used to work in my office (and who was a judge in a case I litigated) was diagnosed with lung cancer a little over a month ago and then died last weekend.  She was 47 and had never smoked.

And this past Friday my cousin Simon died of brain cancer.  He was only in his mid-50s, and had always been healthy and fit until suddenly getting a tumor a couple of years ago. His death came a few months after his father, my cousin Ron, died of kidney failure.

It's such a cliche, but damn, it can all go in a second, can't it?  So hug your kids.  Don't work too late.  Take care of yourself and your loved ones.  Don't be an asshole.

This world is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure.

**UPDATE 8/24/11:  The neighbor died today. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

I'm about as liberal as they come, but then I drew a line.

One of my little indulgences is getting manicures and pedicures.  I don't like my nails to be particularly long, but I like them nicely groomed and painted and pretty.  And it's lovely to sit and relax for an hour while someone else massages your hands and feet. 

But in these days of skyrocketing food bills (which are already high because my husband eats what would be normal for 3 adults his size) and monthly daycare checks that are more than my mortgage, I was looking for places to cut back.  And since I love getting a full-body massage even more than I like getting my nails done, I decided to substitute bi-weekly professional manicures with bi-weekly massages (on the cheap, courtesy of Groupon and the like) and just do my nails myself.

This coincided with my discovery of nail polish strips.  They're strips of real polish that you stick on your nails like a decal, and they come in different designs that are fun and super-cute.  Plus they stay on for a couple of weeks, so you get a manicure-type look and it lasts for a while.

Now, it turns out that Zeke likes having his nails painted.  Occasionally when he's seen me get the polish out, he'll ask if I can paint his as well.  I often use colors like navy blue or slate gray that aren't that ultra-feminine, so I'll put some on his nails or toes and he giggles and enjoys it.  J isn't crazy about it, but I don't think it's a big deal.

Sally Hansen's Salon Effects Nail
Polish Strips, "Girl Flower" -- would
you let a 4-year-old boy put
this on his nails?  Am I being an asshole
and overreacting?
But then the other night I was putting on some new nail strips that are a bright flowery pattern in pinks and oranges and yellows and purples.  I was sitting in my bed while Zeke sat next to me watching The Upside Down Show.  When he saw the nail strips, he was all curious and wanted me to put some on his nails as well.

I thought about it for a second, but then shook my head and told him "no" and made up some bullshit about how they were just for grownups.

I don't want to make a big deal about things that aren't a big deal.  And I don't want to stigmatize behavior that obviously has no sexual or gender-driven motivation.  He likes the nail polish because it's colorful and different and because I'm doing it.  It's fine.

Why do I care?  I don't care.  Who cares?  What difference does it make?

I want to be the cool J. Crew mommy who lets her son paint his toenails neon pink.

But it turns out I'm not.    

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I didn't think I was *that* bad

Even though J is now working night shift, we've been able to maintain the weekday routine we've had established for awhile. 

He gets home at about 5:45 or 6 in the morning.  We both handle the morning routine with the kids, I go to work, he takes them to school and then comes home and sleeps.  He gets up, does whatever he does (works out, cleans, etc.) and then goes to get the kids at about 4:45 or 5, and then takes them to the park or to swim or something.  In the meantime, I get home from work, exercise, and then get dinner ready so that we can eat when J gets home with the kids.  We play, have bathtime, read books.  J goes to work at about 8:30 and I put the kids to bed and then wind down for the night.

I've gone through stages when I've regularly exercised in the morning, but it's been hard to do that lately because Josie's been getting up early and occasionally she'll wake up right when I'm in the middle of a workout.  And I enjoy exercising in the afternoon because the endorphin release makes me all happy and calm, so I'm feeling good and have tons more patience with the kids than I would otherwise have.

The weekend was really hectic and I had a hard time finding time to work out.  So by yesterday afternoon, it had been a couple of days and I was feeling kind of stressed and antsy. 

I was talking to J on the phone when I was getting ready to leave work.  He was lamenting that he didn't know what he was going to do with the kids in the afternoon because it was getting ready to thunderstorm.

"Well, figure something out, because I really need some time to exercise.  It's been a couple of days and I've got to exercise.  You know, I find that I'm much more patient and easy-going when I exercise.  So it benefits you, too."

Without missing a beat, he said, "no problem.  I'll be at the park with the kids for the next three hours."


Sunday, August 14, 2011

In which it is revealed who plays with funny-shaped balls in my family

I know that this post will result in an irate phone call from my father.  "Don't you criticize my grandson!"  In his eyes, neither of my children can ever do any wrong, and both will win the Nobel prize, the Heisman Trophy (even Josie) and at least one Olympic gold medal by the time they're 20.

My response will be that I am not trying to criticize Zeke.  Just pointing out my observations about his strengths and weaknesses.

We went on a date night the other night to watch rugby with some good friends (the wife ended up not being able to go because of a feverish baby, so J and I hung out with the husband).  The US team in town was playing a test match against Canada. I really enjoy watching rugby even though I don't understand it very well.  It's a fierce game played by tough, fit people.

I observed that, at least in the U.S., where rugby tends to be most popular in universities, I love guys that play rugby because they're big strapping strong men who also tend to be smart and well-educated.

"Not in Australia, baby," J corrected me.  "In Oz they're the window-lickers."*

In any case, it was a beautiful evening and we had a great time enjoying a few beers and watching the game even though the U.S. team got their asses handed to them by the Canadian side.

In fact, because the main attraction was kind of a dud of a game, the highlight of the evening came during halftime, when some kids from local youth clubs played against each other for a couple of possessions.

The kids were awesome and the best player on the field was a girl.  She was fast and tough and amazing at reading the field while she ran with the ball.

The friend that we were with, Trey, is the parent of one of Zeke's friends from daycare.  His daughter, Lucy, is about 3 months younger than Zeke (she'll be 4 in January) but is super-tall (she towers over Zeke and looks like she's about 5) and totally athletically fearless.  She loves rugby (her dad plays) and is going to start playing in a youth league this winter.

As we were watching the kids play, particularly the one girl who was really good, Trey was talking about how excited he is for Lucy to start playing.

J kind of shook his head.  "Yep, and Zeke will be on the sidelines, cheering her on while playing with his iPad."

I couldn't really disagree with him.

Not that we think Zeke is a pussy, because we don't.  He's a good athlete, loves jumping around, taught himself to swim at the age of 3 1/2, enjoys ski school and all of that.  But he's kind of cautious and sensitive and cerebral.  I see him as a baseball player more than I see him playing something like football or rugby.**

No, the consensus (at least between J and me) is that the biggest balls in the family belong to Josie.

Because Josie is like J -- totally fearless, amazingly coordinated and athletic, and utterly without regard for her own physical safety.  She will climb on and jump off of anything.  She takes shit from no one and will not hesitate to defend herself when someone gets in her face (I'm sure that some of her toughness comes from being knocked around by Zeke, but I also think it's just part of who she is).

This is particularly alarming in the pool, because she thinks she can swim even though she really can't -- she's a frightening combination of supreme confidence combined with a lack of actual ability.   I can't even take her in the big pool because she gets so mad when I hold on to her.  So I let her bounce around in the 2-foot-deep baby pool, where she puts her head underwater and starts kicking her arms and legs, and then after a few seconds she'll put her feet back down and stand up.  If she's under for more than 5 or 6 seconds, I'll gently tug under her armpit and pull her back up so she can breathe, but other than that I leave her alone.  The other parents always look horrified, but she's fine.  I'm obviously not going to let her drown.

So even though she's a skinny little string-bean, if anyone is going to be kicking ass and taking names on the rugby pitch, it'll be Josie, not Zeke.  Not that I think he'll be pasty-faced virgin living in our basement well into adulthood -- hell, he could have a career as a porn star -- but I don't see him as a rugby player.

Sorry, Dad, but it's true.

*I had to look up what a window-licker is, but I correctly assumed it wasn't Aussie-speak for someone who went to Harvard.  Turns out it's not a very nice term, but in my experience, Aussies can be a bit harsh in their word choices even though they are some of the friendliest people on the planet.

**On the other hand, Zeke reminds me of another sensitive, cerebral guy - my brother Sam, who is a terrific athlete, including being a really good football and rugby player.  So what do I know?