Monday, August 26, 2013

40 pounds.

My size has always been an issue for me. As a child, I was the tallest person (not girl, person) in most of my classes from about the 3rd grade through the 8th. Kids are the ultimate purveyors of cruelty, and I got more than my share of teasing based on my height. The insecurity this instilled in me hung on through high school, past the point when others were outgrowing me, and though I don't think it completely defined me as a person, I was always conscious of being "big." Looking back at pictures of me from high school and college I just want to cry. Not because I was fat, but because I wasn't. I spent years wanting to hide a body that was at worst average and at best, healthy and strong. I want to tell that girl that having long legs and strong shoulders is a good thing, a great thing, and that you shouldn't cede control of your physical self worth to others. But I can't.

Me, graduating from high school in 1997
High school graduation, June 1997.

Rockport, MA, August 2005.

In the summer of 2005, less than a year after my wedding, my dad started to have shortness of breath when walking up the stairs of his Connecticut condo. Dad was one of those people who was rarely sick and even when he was, he almost never visited a doctor. The man wore drug-store reading glasses until the day he died, which was unfortunately on November 24th, 2006, after his short battles with first myelodysplasia and then leukemia. The shortness of breath was the first indication he had that he was sick, and in the year following his myelodysplasia diagnosis he went through chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, several months of seeming recovery and then a second, more damning diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia. Dad listened carefully to his options, did his research and decided that he wanted to spend the time he had left (weeks, maybe months) at home with his family and not in pain from treatments that wouldn't turn the odds in his favor. 

My heart, along with everything else, just stopped. My father was my rock, and he was dying.

I immediately took a leave of absence from work and told my (amazingly understanding) boss that I had no clue when I was coming back. My sister dropped out of her PhD program and she, her boyfriend, their dogs, along with I, my husband, and our cat, all moved into my parent's home for my father's final months. Because we all had animals that didn't get along across pack lines, the house turned into a series of tiny DMZs defined by baby gates and arranged so that the various cats and dogs had their own spaces, separate from the alien presence of their extended fuzzy family. We all hunkered down and became fluent in Dad's daily med schedules while trying to reconcile ourselves with the new and strange world into which we were thrust. Every day was a gift and a curse...more time with Dad but more time to wonder when and how it would end. Would he be blessed with a short, peaceful death? Would he be in pain? What would we do without him?

Life for us became a tense march toward the inevitable. My family is not great at communicating our feelings, so discussions focused on dealing with the situation emotionally were fairly infrequent and never in depth. My Dad, ever the planner, arranged all of his affairs so that my Mom wouldn't have to worry about necessities, like the house or her health care, all while slowly fading away from us. He had okay days and awful days, and even some really funny days when he was trying Marinol for his pain. We were managing his care mostly at home and when it became obvious that his time was short, we began relying on hospice care for daily support. The kind, wonderful hospice nurses were the ones who finally convinced us to stop offering him food, which only made him uncomfortable and was really us trying to retain a sense of normalcy. We had a very low key Thanksgiving that year and sometime after midnight, Dad was just ready. My mom, my sister and I were all with him, telling him it was okay and encouraging him to let go. The moment he died was the hardest of my life but also a huge relief, which is hard to reconcile even in my mind but it marked the moment that he finally found peace after a painful struggle. I will cherish that moment forever.

Anyone who is still with me at this point is probably wondering: what in the hell does any of this have to do with my body issues? Well, earlier this year my Mom was visiting us and had brought her laptop. M was going through her files, making sure that we had a complete back-up for her system and porting some of her pictures to our machines. Mom and I started going through the pictures one by one, like you do, and we eventually got to the pictures from that fall. And as we clicked through, I watched myself gain 40lbs over the course of three months. While I wasn't fat in college or afterward, I do tend to be a stress eater and someone who looks to food for comfort. I gained 20lbs while planning my wedding in 2003/2004 and then lost about half of that before being a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding in October 2005. Somehow, I kept the weight gain during the first part of Dad's illness to a minimum, but once we knew he was terminal it just piled on. Watching my weight balloon in those pictures was painful and alarming. Having had two babies, I am no stranger to watching my body change, but I lost all the weight I gained with both kids pretty quickly (I only gained around 35lbs with each of them so most of it was baby/water weight). The stubborn 40lbs from that fall, however, had become part of me and I was finally able to see the difference they made very clearly. I didn't like it.

Sarah with Mike and Sully
Me in March 2007.

Shortly after this disturbing revelation, I joined Weight Watchers. Online, because as I mentioned before my family really doesn't like to talk about their feelings. I have been somewhat lazy about adhering to my daily points and am very, very bad about entering my daily food intake, but somehow I have managed to lose 9lbs! I finally feel like I am on the road to a healthier weight and I am very excited about it. I don't plan to share my before weight here (body issues are hard to get past) but will say that it is over 200. Ouch. My goal is to use WW to lose those 40lbs and become a healthier version of me, not so that I will look better in a bathing suit, but so that I will be in better health for me and my family. I want to meet my grandkids one day and being overweight never helped anyone live longer.

Okay, this is really wordy, but I figured that sharing my goal and my progress can only help. I am including a  current picture of me for your enjoyment, and will update with new pics as the weight continues to come off.

Me, up close and personal, in August 2013.

Be well,


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Freeze frame: August 2013.

Time for another freeze frame (let's ignore my 2+ month silence, shall we?). I started this one in June but never got as far as adding in any content and now it is August and so much has happened this summer. The usually warm months have been fairly mild, with what seems like less than 2 weeks of really hot days. That has meant less time at our neighborhood pool (bummer) but also fewer moments with sweaty, tired, grouchy kiddos so let's call it a wash.

The Numa

Oh, my Numa. The Numa has always gravitated to little boys like himself: busy, handsy (is that a word?) and mischievous. These friendships inevitably end up being very love/hate and there is typically some hitting and rough play on the part of both parties which leads to tears, tattling and mixed reports from teachers at the end of the day. The Nums has never been an aggressive or mean kid, but he can definitely get pretty physical when playing and sometimes hits when he is frustrated or tired. He also has personal space issues, in that he would really, really like to share yours. He will sit in anyone's lap, which can be awkward when we are, say, eating breakfast with an old friend who is meeting him for the first time and wasn't really expecting to have a preschooler attempt to steal his blueberry muffin. (Sorry D! M and I have a new rule that one of us needs to sit next to the Nums during meals out for this very reason.) All that being said, he is a pretty normal 3.5 year old who is bright, loud, affectionate, energetic and for the most part really kind.

The biggest development for the Numa this summer has been potty training. M and I decided at the beginning of this month that we were all done changing messy diapers for our little guy. Just in case you don't have kids, or your kids are younger than the Nums, let me explain why: baby poop is gross but preschooler poop is just like adult poop which is magnitudes worse, especially if your kid eats as much as mine does. At some point, it just crosses a threshold and you suddenly realize that changing one more of these disgusting things is going to put you over the edge. So we did what we swore we never would. We bribed him. With a Disney movie. (Don't pre-kid self is judging me harder than you ever could.) The Nums had never seen Cars but had many friends who proudly wore merchandise bearing its stars on a regular basis and he was really interested. So on a Sunday night, we taped the Amazon-Primed Cars DVD to the bathroom wall and told the Numa that if he pooped in the potty, he got to watch the movie. At that point he was pretty willing to pee in the potty if you asked him, but pooping was out of the question (apparently a pretty common thing). At 7:40pm on Tuesday, I was putting the Numa to bed when he suddenly exclaimed "Mommy! I have to poop!" We ran to the bathroom (trying not to awaken his sister) and he finally did it. I was so happy! And then he promptly asked "I get to watch Car movie now?" My smile immediately morphed into a stunned O. It never occurred to us that he might cash in on our offer at night - seriously, we completely overlooked this possibility. A promise is a promise, however, and at 8pm that night M, the Numa and I settled in to watch Cars, which is much longer than I expected. I am pretty sure that M and I fell asleep at some point but the Numa was still going strong when the credits ended around 10:15. It took another hour to get him to go to sleep and by the time the morning rolled around he was a whiny mess. For the sake of everyone's sanity, I kept him at home and spent the day reinforcing the potty issue. We decided to go all in that morning and eliminated diapers as a daytime option, which was rough that first day (at one point there was a 30 minute stand-off with the Nums in tears shouting "the pee-pee won't come out!") but in retrospect was totally the right call. He has had only 4 accidents and is still in pull-ups at night and during his nap but while he is awake it is big boy underwear all the time. Only 3 pairs have Cars characters. Bribery FTW!

(Side note: The best and funniest part of the whole potty training experience has been how the Numa has taken to heart all of our encouragement. Because we are constantly praising his efforts and successes, he now returns the favor, frequently exclaiming "Mommy - did you go to the potty all by yourself? Good job, Mommy, good job!" while he claps enthusiastically. Freaking adorable.)

The Numa and his sister continue to be good friends and he loves to help her. He shares his food and toys, holds her hand while she (spoiler alert!) walks and alerts M and I if he thinks she is in distress. They giggle and chase each other in the evenings before bed, with first one hiding and then the other, and their relationship makes me happy in a way I can't even describe. I hope they will always be close.

His current favorite things are the New England Aquarium (thanks for the membership, Gma P!), toy cars, the Cars movie, corn-on-the-cob, hot dogs and taking pictures. He has always loved playing with Gma P's camera and iPhone (since Mommy and Daddy refuse to let him have ours) and now has discovered the camera on his LeapPad. He takes pictures of everything and if his interest continues he may get a kid-friendly digital camera for Christmas. When we are putting him to bed he likes for us to draw circles and triangles and stars on his back and to write his name, after which he wants us to come back "before you go" approximately 8,000 times. Then he talks to himself and kicks the wall for at least 30 minutes before finally falling asleep. He is getting really excited about letters and always wants us to spell the words in books so he can identify them. So far he is solid with O and E and we are working on S. His current favorite songs are Get Lucky by Daft Punk (I like Stephen Colbert's version best - I still cry laughing at the last shot of him and Jeff Bridges in the stairwell) and ATFC's When The Needle Drops (Summatime Radio Edit). Clearly M is his musical guide. He has discovered Dr. Seuss and is loving Green Eggs and Ham which he relates back to our one-bite rule. He is a challenging little guy at times but his sweet, sunny little personality makes me smile every day. And I don't know many people of whom that can be said.

Her Highness

Our little HH turned one in July, surrounded by her grandmas and some of our close friends. How on earth is she already a year old? It simultaneously feels like she was born 30 seconds ago (not in my nether regions, thank goodness) and like she was always a part of our family. She has had so many firsts this year but her biggest two to date are walking and talking! She has been tentatively taking steps here and there for a couple of months now, but just this past weekend reached the point where she would prefer to walk than to crawl. Or be carried. It now takes FOREVER to go anywhere, because she wants to walk all the time, but that is totally fine and we are all pretty patient while she slowly meanders toward her goal. The Numa holds her hand so gently and is really good about not pulling her and instead letting her set the pace. She is delighted with her new skill and it is so cute to see her toddling around on her chubby little legs. Plus, she will now wear dresses! When she was crawling she absolutely refused and I am so glad to finally get to put her in all of the cute dresses in her closet. She still has very little hair, but what is there curls just slightly at the edges. Her chipmunk cheeks continue to delight me and after she eats she gets a baby pot-belly. I seriously just want to eat her all the time because the cuteness is overwhelming.

HH has always been a big babbler. She "talks" to herself and us all the time but it is only recently that she has tried saying real words. Chief among her new words are the names of the things she loves most. She cannot say the Numa's real name, which is a hard one for little kids to master, but we can definitely tell when she is trying. She also tries to say Radar and Saoirse ("sear-sha") and has limited success there, mostly with Radar. The name she most likes to say is Leo, who is one of her friends from school, and she repeats it over and over again, although it sounds more like "We-o" when she really gets going. Missing from her attempts: Mommy and Daddy. Clearly we are not as popular as we thought.

HH is an easygoing girl for the most part but can also be super dramatic, a trait I am very much afraid she got from my side of the family. Mommy leaving is still THE WORST THING EVER and causes tears on an almost daily basis. She does not like to be confined and the playpen has become akin to purgatory for her, so we are finding other ways to contain her when we need to set her down for a few minutes. She loves the cats, a feeling which is not always mutual but both Radar and Saoirse are really good with the kids and Radar in particular will take a lot of abuse before he decides to move. (Just in case anyone was worried - no, we do not let the kids "abuse" the animals and we always ensure that they are gentle, but there is a learning curve here for all of them and we are just thankful that our pets are patient and have always been very gentle with the kids.)

I am terrified to even think this, much less put it in writing, but HH has slept through the night pretty consistently for the past week. This is a first for her and the streak will surely end now that I have jinxed it. It has been great for M and I to finally get more than 4 hours of sleep at a time and we are hopeful that this is a new habit and not a fluke. HH is also getting better about going to new people - it still takes her a few days to warm up to anyone but she is much more willing to let people other than M or I hold her or help her with things. She never seems to eat very much but is somehow maintaining her chub even though she is officially done with formula (except for the last remnants of the last can at school - that stuff is expensive and I will be damned if we are going to throw any of it out). She is both a picky and adventurous eater, sometimes wanting only eggs and pasta and sometimes willing to try figs or tomatoes or asparagus or chorizo. She has huge feet, a delicious baby laugh and boundless curiosity and we can't wait to see what she will learn next.

Be well,