Saturday, January 17, 2015

Then the lazy mom said, "Let them eat fruit!"

I wasn't always lazy.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I was anything BUT lazy. I was busy reading books and exercising and eating right and taking vitamins and avoiding secondhand smoke and paint fumes and lying on my left side and writing my birth plan. My pregnancy could not have been any more textbook and I was sure it was because of everything I had done right.

Ya think that snowman built himself?
I wasn't anticipating being a stay-at-home mom (and I don't regret it) but once I realized that's how it was going to be I went into full-blown "that mommy other mommies hate" mode. I mean, according to the books, I only had until they were three years old to basically SHAPE THEIR MINDS. So little time, so many "fun learning opportunities."

From homemade play dough, forts made out of cardboard boxes and a membership to the local children's museum in the winter to play dates at the park, a "water obstacle course" in the back yard and an "edible garden" in the summer, I was freakin' ON IT. And I wasn't the one sitting on the bench watching their kids play on the playground. Oh, I was envious of those moms, but felt my little one would learn more if I was hovering behind him, encouraging him to do one more monkey bar yet right there if he started to fall.

Fast forward to grade school and you can ask any teacher - I was the annoying mom who was constantly emailing them or signing up for the room party or Picture Person or any committee or group that would involve me in my kids' educational journey. I headed up the ice cream social for years, served on the school carnival committee and was at every PTC meeting. When I could, I came to the school and had lunch with my kids, walked them to school every morning and picked them up every afternoon, even though we lived just across the street.

Apple smiles. Fruit that smiles at you.
That was the kind of mom I thought I was supposed to be. I was a MOM, for God's sake. I was the one they were looking to, and learning from. I was the one they asked "WHY?" to a million times because they knew I had the answer (even though half the time I made one up.) I was the one who made their owies go away, who put food in their hungry bellies (displaying their meals in a plethora of creative animal shapes) and who made sure that errands were NEVER run during nap time, for their sake and mine. I had carefully and successfully orchestrated every moment of their life, as I thought I should.

At some point, though, I got lazy.

I think it was probably around middle school. Middle school, you know, is that black hole of a time period when you are smacked with the realization that your kid is growing up and you are no longer going to know every move he makes. In fact, no one really wants you to, especially your kid. It was tough to be involved on a parent level at my kids' middle school. I was working, my first son's school was way across town, and my second kids' school had PTO meetings during the day. Every once in awhile I'd hear a kid's name come up in conversation that I'd never heard before. "Who's that?" I'd ask. "My best friend," my son would say. HUH? What the hell? When did this happen?

So with that part of my parenting fortress blown away, I was demoted to what I could do at home. I made sure my kids had a full breakfast in the morning. That I made. Before I went to work. And I packed a nutritious lunch. Every day. My kids never took hot lunch. Not once. And dinner was always at the kitchen table, cooked by me. And I can't cook. But I sure tried.

Canoeing! What fun!
I planned outings every weekend - things we could do as a family but would still be fun even if you're with your family. Rock climbing. Packing snacks and taking a hike. Going to a local pool or water park. Bicycle Safety Town. Sledding. Ice Skating. Ice cream on Grandview Drive. I would scour my brain and the internet for new, fun ideas to do with my growing kids to keep them active and learning and engaged with their awesome mom.

Then I don't know what happened. They got older. Any time I mentioned going anywhere, they balked. Even if I said they could bring a friend. They wanted to stay home. They wanted to go to a friend's house. Everyone's house was cooler than ours. Everyone's mom was better/nicer/funnier than me. So I stopped planning. I stopped asking. I stopped doing.

If I asked my son to go on a hike right now, he'd probably look at me like I just told him to bite off his right arm. Yet he still can't eat a meal unless I prepare it. Yes, I still make all their meals, but they're not anything spectacular. In fact, they're pretty sad. Especially sad is the fact I still make them when they're perfectly capable of doing it themselves. But if I let them make them, I surmise, they won't be nutritious. And it'll be one more thing I don't have control of. And me making their meals is the only control I have left. It's the only way they'll eat fruit. That's how I rationalize it. No matter that when they're on their own, they'll have NO idea how to make anything on their own. Like macaroni and cheese. Or a microwaveable meal. Or cutting up an apple. Which they probably won't do, because the only time they'll eat fruit is if I prepare it for them.

I've truly lost my role. I don't know what it means to mom kids of these ages. I always wished I could be the house where all the kids hung out because that mom was so cool. This is not that house. I am not that mom. I tried, and it was easier when they were younger - to be that mom that comes out with the huge box of Popsicles and always has plenty of sidewalk chalk. But that doesn't cut it anymore, and I'm not the cool mom who lets her kid play Grand Theft Auto on the latest video game system and eat pizza on the couch. I'm just too lazy and too tired to be cool. I'm tired of trying to be parent of the year. I think I expelled all my mommy energy when the kids were young and I've just run out of juice.

Back when I didn't have to drag them outside.
I wish I could be the mom whose kids still LOVE hanging out with. I see kids and parents like that and I'm envious. I try to strike up conversations with my kids in the car or some other non-threatening place, just to let them know that I care about their lives and that they can tell me anything. They really can. But they don't. And they won't. Maybe someday? I don't know. Maybe someday we'll have that awesome relationship where my sons call me once a week to tell me what's going on in their lives. I hope so. Selfishly - totally selfishly - I feel like I should get more for all those years of homemade play dough, cardboard forts and animal-shaped sandwiches. But maybe what I'll get is someday seeing MY sons doing the same thing with their kids. Maybe THAT'S my reward.

I know my kids have to grow up. But like back when I was a new mom, I'm still as unsure of my role now as I was then. How much is too much, and how little is not enough? Have I over-mom'ed? Am I over mom'ing now, am I being lazy or have I just not figured out how to mom at this age?

It's been nearly 18 years, and I'm still trying to figure out this mom thing every single day. And one day, I might be able to look in the mirror and say, "I was a good mom today." I don't know when that will be. Until then, though, I'm still making their meals - for awhile, anyway. I mean, it's the only way they'll eat fruit, right?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The music and the moves that motivate me

Let's be clear. I don't make resolutions. The closest thing I did to a resolution in 2014 was to vow to go to bed last night as early as possible to make the whole year go away. Yay! 2014 resolution - DONE. I feel so accomplished.

Here's the deal. I don't want to repeat 2014. I know that no one can predict how their lives will be in the coming year, but I do know there are things I should be doing so that I'm ready for anything. There are things I USED to do that made my life enjoyable even when shit was going down. THAT'S what I need to get back to.

Look at these impressive weights.
Nothing fancy. Nothing new per se. A few adjustments, maybe, but nothing this old girl can't handle.

For instance, I used to love to exercise. (Don't roll your eyes - I told you, this is NOT a resolution.) I was a gym rat in my BC days (Before Kids,) an avid walker and not afraid of lifting some weights. A few years ago, I begrudgingly started running because I wanted to be like everyone else - plain and simple. Over the years I've come to realize that 1) I have never, EVER been like everyone else and B) my knees HATE running almost as much as I do.

I do, however, love my weights. And I can get strong pretty easily - strong for me, anyway. I usually gauge my strength by how much I have to grunt and groan to get my 40 pound bags of salt from the car to the basement. If I can do one in each hand without stopping to rest or scaring the dog with my outbursts, I feel like a rock star.

I have weights. Lots of 'em. Last year, I somewhat sporadically utilized the Jackie Warner weights workout series. She's the only person whose DVDs I can stomach - she's not perky or overly enthusiastic - just basic and motivating and a little hard core. But one thing that bugged me was that she was so FAST. I could never keep up and feel as if I was keeping good form. It frustrated me and eventually I started avoiding her like an annoying coworker.

I'm not a Zumba girl. I also don't enjoy belly, rhythmic, funk, exotic, cha-cha or pole dancing - at least when I'm stone cold sober. I don't have moves and I don't enjoy trying to dance like a salsa queen while wearing spandex I have no business wearing in a public place.

The workout I always most enjoyed was Body Pump, which is basically a pre-determined set of tried-and-true exercises using mostly weights, set to some kick-ass music - and I do love me some kick-ass music. Each muscle group is targeted for the length of a song. Ideally, this is done in a group class setting where the instructor ensures your form is correct and that you're lifting the optimum weights for your level of fitness.

Since for various reasons I no longer belong to a gym, I made my own Body Pump routine at home, and for several years this was my go-to weights workout. Why I stopped I'm not sure but after this past year of jacking around with Jackie and other lame attempts at exercise, I'm going back to what I know and love.

Sissy wrists = low weights
Disclaimer here: I'm not an exercise instructor. I'm not in any position to give you advice on how to start an exercise routine or what exercises to do that will best benefit your body type and fitness goals. I'm just telling you what works for me. And what works for me is picking 45 minutes of some of my favorite in-your-face songs and determining which ones go with which body part. Because somehow, it's more motivating and less frustrating to do an exercise "until the music stops" rather than "when and if I get to 20 reps" or "whenever Jackie says to stop." My motivation is simply to keep exercising during the song, and to stay with that body part. For instance, if I'm doing chest presses and I just can't do anymore, I switch to skull crushers for part of the song, then go back to chest presses. My only rule is that I DON'T STOP working that body part. It may not be the same muscle group, but it's the same body part. Baby steps. You feel me?

So for anyone who's interested, I thought I'd share the playlist I've come up with and the coordinating exercises. Again, I'm not a fitness instructor. I don't select the songs based on the right beat or 8-count. Most of them work out so that I can keep on beat for my fitness level (i.e. I do lunges a bit more slowly than your average person because I'm trying to save my knees and my balance sucks.)

This one is 45 minutes or so, plus a cooldown. But here's the thing - I'll probably make a 20 minute one so on those days I'm dragging my heels to do a 45 minute workout, I can at least get in 20. I always amaze myself that once I've done 20 minutes, I figure I may as well go for the whole shebang. And for the record, I'll probably try to do this twice a week; three if I'm feeling really motivated. The other days I do at least 30 minutes of cardio - either on the elliptical or walking the dog, which I like to call "interval training" because of how many times he has to stop to pee.

So here ya go - Amy's Abridged Body Pump. Knock yourself out.

Paralyzer (3:28) Finger Eleven   
Chest Presses w/ barbell     

Again (3:05) Flyleaf              
Skullcrushers w/ barbell      

Heartbeat (3:41) The Fray           
Squats w/ weights or barbell  
Hurricane (3:48) The Fray           
Lunges - not quite up to barbell yet  
Walk Away (3:10) The Babys        
Biceps  - free weights     

Lonely Boy (3:13) Black Keys      
Flys - free weights. Tough to do with a barbell.       

Jaded (3:34) Aerosmith         
Donkey Kicks/Hydrants - just my own sheer brute force     

Uptown Funk (4:31) Mark Ronson (feat. Bruno Mars) 
Kicks of Choice - same as above    

Song 2  (2:02) Blur                  
Modified Pushups and/or Planks - my weakest area, which is why the song is only 2 minutes.
Work B**ch  (4:08) Britney Spears   
Crunches, B**ch

Are You Gonna Be My Girl (3:34)  Jet    
Bicycles - sometimes alternating elbow to knee; sometimes just bicycles. This is a long song.

I'm Not Okay (3:09) My Chemical Romance   
Abs of Choice - I actually just love ending with this song and could do abs all day.

From Where You Are (3:06) Lifehouse    
Cooldown - back-cracking stretches, deep breaths, etc.

Who knows - the songs may change; they usually do. I'd be interested to know if you have music that motivates you - or if there's a certain type of exercise you actually LOVE. Because that's the only way you'll stick with it in the long run, is if you love it.

I'll keep you posted on how my hot bod materializes in 2015. I'm kidding. I totally won't. But let me know if you're inspired to try this at home, or make a playlist of your own. I'm always looking for new musical motivations to keep my mojo going all throughout the year.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ending 2014: A letter to my oldest

My dear First Born,

Well it’s been quite a year, hasn’t it, Kid? When you woke up on January 1, 2014, you probably didn’t imagine that the next 365 days or so would pan out quite like they have, huh?

Yeah, me neither.

A year ago, we were in quite a different place, you and me. Things were rough. Real rough. You “hated” me, as you told me on multiple occasions (though I never in my heart believed it,) and though I loved you like only a mother could, I sure didn’t like you very much. I had exhausted every parental and maternal means of trying to control, fix, change and/or bend you to my will (aka what I thought was “right”,) but to no avail. In turn, you pulled further and further away from me and into a world where I just couldn’t touch you anymore. 

Those were some dark days, Dude. I look back and I don’t know how we survived them. But here’s the kicker. We DID. And as this roller coaster of a year draws to a close, I want you to know something that I’ve probably told you a hundred, thousand times, and I hope one day you’ll truly hear my words and believe what I’m saying.

My son, my beautiful, beautiful son - I’m so proud of you. I’m so incredibly, thankfully, indisputably, undeniably PROUD of you. I’ve said it so much I wonder – there has to be a better word than proud. A BIGGER word than proud. There’s not, really. I even looked it up. There’s no better word to explain how my heart swells when I see you and talk to you and see pictures of you and learn more about what you are discovering about yourself.

I told you before – you were my first. My experiment in parenting, if you will. You got the short end of the stick on that one, Bud, because I had NO idea what I was doing. I made some missteps that’s for sure. I did a few things right and a whole lotta things wrong. But you stuck with me, didn’t you? And you managed to go and grow up on me, didn’t you? And now look at you. 

You’re stunning. Simply stunning – inside and out. You’re everything I dreamed a son would be and a few things I never imagined. You made me realize that there’s no cookie-cutter kid – there’s no “right” way to be or “wrong” way to be. There’s just an authentic way to be – and that is you – always has been. Trouble was, that authenticity wasn’t accepted too readily, so it kind of got discombobulated and a little lost along the way.

Now I hope you see that who you are – this authentic, wonderful you – is the foundation of everything you need to succeed in whatever you choose to do with your life. And I hope you’ll have the confidence in yourself to never waver from that authenticity. Because I see the real you, Son, and it’s amazing. Truly amazing. 

As I look at recent pictures of you, I see an incredibly handsome, complex, pensive young man. But I don’t have to look very closely to also see that blond, bright blue-eyed inquisitive little boy – the one I’d say smiled “with his whole face.” Because you do. And I’ll never tire of seeing that smile – or that face. 

We started 2014 at the bottom, Son. My hardest tears I cried for you, and my greatest happiness was because of you. But you and me, we’re ending it on an uphill swing, and I see nothing left but the top, don’t you? Sure, we may slip a little here and there. But slipping's OK as long as we can regain a foothold or have someone to catch us. And you have people to catch you - even if it's not me. And honestly, it probably WON'T be me. But that's OK. You'll be OK.

And as we end this indescribably difficult yet incredibly powerful year, I want to tell you, “thank you.” Thank you for letting me love you so much. Thank you for finally telling me you love me back. Thank you for letting me hug you for as long as I want to because I need to, and for letting me hold your face in my hands to tell you how beautiful you are. Thank you for doing the work. You've worked so damn hard and I know I don’t even know the half of what you accomplished. I know there is progress I haven’t even seen. And I know you still have a long way to go. So do I. But we'll both get there.

I know life won’t be easy for you. I know you’ll have your ups and downs. I know you’re gaining tools for your toolbox and that you’ll learn when you need to pull them out and use them. But know this – and I’ve told you this before, too. I will always, always be your biggest fan. I will always, always be rooting for you on the sidelines. I will always, always be proud of you, and I will always, ALWAYS love you. You will always be my first, and you will always be my blond, blue-eyed baby boy.

To the moon and back,