I Am Not a Garbage Disposal

It’s my new mantra.

I have to mutter it to myself 4-5 times a day, as I look at what my children have left on their plates.

This is a huge pitfall for parents trying to lose weight, I have learned.

Still Counting

It’s been about ten days, and I am still counting those calories. Thanks to some very sagacious advice from my godfather, I have also added some strength training to my fitness routine.

There have been good days and bad days. Some days I have too much, other days I don’t even eat all my allotted daily calories (rare), but I’m counting everything.

Some days, I feel perfectly satisfied.

Other days, I feel like I spend the day hungry. I’m convinced it’s psychological, because those days are the ones when I have less going on. I’m not as busy, hovering around the kitchen more.

Those are the days when my kids’ plates are especially dangerous.

Family Rule

We have one kid who simply doesn’t eat a lot, and another kid who is a picky eater. The Bug will taste pretty much anything, but he won’t eat lots of it. The Bear will flat-out refuse to eat things.

To mitigate the exhaustion and unpleasantness that can be mealtimes, we have instituted one simple rule:

One bite of everything.

Whatever foods are on their plates, they must take one bite of each. This can lead to faces, complaints and protests, but generally they comply.

The trouble is that whatever they don’t like gets left on their plates.

Often, the things they don’t like are the things that I love!

After eating, once they’ve cleared their plates to the counter, I have to steel myself before heading to the kitchen to start tidying.

It’s so easy to finish off what they’ve left behind! And it seems like such a waste!

(The worst part is that Chico can finish their plates AND have his own helping of seconds and never bat an eyelash. If I were to do that, I’d see the difference on the scale the very next morning.)

Building Up the Willpower

Different people have different approaches to this problem. I’ve heard of people squirting dish soap on their kids’ plates as soon as they get to the kitchen in order to avoid the temptation.

What’s helped me, though, is the knowledge that I must write everything down.

Today, the school-provided lunch was “pizza crunchers.” Basically, fried balls of mozzarella stuffed with tomato sauce. Neither of the kids liked them very much, and they left most of them on their plates.

The golden lumps of fat gleamed up at me from their plates. Their siren call was in their smell. They smelled delicious.

Just one bite, I told myself.

I picked one up, but instead of feeling a crispy crust between my fingers, all I felt was a soggy, smooshy lump.

That broke the spell. I dropped it back onto the plate (splat!), quickly carried it into the kitchen and emptied it into the garbage.

Whew! That was close!

Feeling Pretty Good

I managed to resist temptation. I was feeling pretty good about myself.

And then the boys and I baked brownies.

https://morealtitude.wordpress.com/2009/03/15/evening-star/

It’s Been a Week

First, there was the whole Covid-at-daycare situation.

Which was thankfully followed by two negative test results!

But then came Thursday evening. Thursday evening was a bit of a bust.

A Dumb Accident

It was typical evening of roughhousing. I was practicing piano downstairs when suddenly I heard screaming from upstairs. I heard Chico calling my name, and I ran.

The Bug was on his knees on our bedroom floor, his right arm limp at his side. It was hard to make out what had happened through his screams, but it involved a twist and a pop.

Assuming his elbow was dislocated, I prepared to take him to the ER. I gave him a dose of Motrin, grabbed a new chapter book, water bottles and our masks, and we headed out.

Three and a half hours, several X-rays and a splint later, and we were home with a new toy in hand, given to him by the doctor as we were leaving. There are perks to going to the pediatric ER!

We had to follow up with an orthopedic surgeon on Friday, and it turns out the Bug has such a small radial fracture that it didn’t even show up on the X-rays.

He shouldn’t need his cast for more than a week.

And Now… Trump Has Covid.

We don’t have Covid, but the president does.

(I should say that what I’m writing about now has little to do with the above. It’s late. I’m tired. It’s been a week.)

I haven’t been on Facebook since the news broke, and I intend to stay off it for a while. I don’t really care to know what people think of this situation.

I cannot wish him ill, though. He’s a monster. He’s the human version of Covid, and yet I cannot wish him ill.

The Value of Human Life

It’s appalling to me the way people here seem to undervalue human life. On TV, in films, and even in the news, I see people throwing away human life as if it were nothing.

I read in the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago, that a dispute got out of hand between some neighbors in Fairfax county, Virginia. They were townhouse neighbors, and apparently for years they had been arguing.

One day, one of the men walked up his neighbor’s front steps. He knocked on the neighbor’s door. The neighbor opened his door, and immediately opened fire on the man. He shot him three times, and the man staggered back. He shot him three more times as he fell backwards down the front steps.

And finally, he shot him as he lay at the bottom of the stairs. Seven shots. The man died before an ambulance arrived.

What kind of country is this?

In the midwest, a young man drove hours from his home to shoot protesters in a city in a neighboring state.

All over the country, people are being shot at and disabled or murdered by the police. And then no one is being held accountable or responsible.

And now, on social media, people are spewing forth with vitriol, wishing death on the president.

I’m sure it happens in other places, too, but what terrifies me about the United States is that devaluing human life seems to be part of the culture.

Whether it’s by arguing about the right to own guns, to the normalization of violence in pop culture, I don’t know. But whatever it is, it’s not just on one side of the political divide.

This disregard for the value of a person’s life seems to be just as prevalent on the left as on the right. The left just seems to be a bit more hypocritical about it, it seems to me.

Tying the Two Together

Though our son was never in any danger this week, a visit to the ER is always enough to give one a little perspective.

My son’s life is just as precious as the president’s.

I recoil at the sight of those words, but the thing is they are true. No one’s life is of greater value than anyone else’s.

That is why Black Lives Matter is so important, because as things stand Black lives are not valued as greatly as white lives. As things stand, a Black man like George Floyd is not as valued as my precious son.

And he should be. Because every single human life is precious. Every single one.

Even the president’s.

A Double Negative!

We got two pieces of good news today, and both involved negative results.

Do two negatives make a positive? Or is it that a double negative cancels out and makes a positive?

Whatever. All I know is that we had good news.

First Negative: No Breast Cancer Gene!

Now this is good news, in that I am relieved that I do not feel like I need to fear my own body.

However, it’s true that this is no guarantee that I will not get breast cancer. In fact, my mother was also negative for the gene indicators, and she did get breast cancer.

So while it is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, it’s still a relief.

I wrote earlier about there being an expiration date stamped on my butt. Well now, it feels like instead of an expiration date, perhaps it’s more of a sell by date.

Everyone knows you can keep stuff waaaaay after that sell by date, right?

Second Negative: No Covid!

This evening, Chico and I both got our results for the nasal swab test we had yesterday.

We are both negative for Covid! Hooray!

We are, however, still required to quarantine as the Bear was in contact with a positive case only last Friday. We’ve got about 9 more days of quarantine to go.

We’re watching him like a hawk for symptoms and we’re taking our temperatures daily.

Going Forward

Winter is coming. Cold and flu season is upon us. We’ve had our flu shots, (GET YOUR FLU SHOTS!) but I feel like in this, The Time of Covid, any symptom, no matter how mild, is going to make us think, “COVID!”

With that in mind, we have some hard thinking to do, and some decisions to make.

We may withdraw ourselves into our own family lockdown again. Or at least, stay all four of us at home so that we feel more comfortable expanding our bubble to our close family members.

You know: the people we’ll want to see inside when the weather really gets cold.

Meanwhile…

We’re having days like this:

One had a soft landing. The other did not.

The Risks We Run

It’s called a pandemic for a reason.

Over one million people have died worldwide (that we know of). Over 200,000 have died in the United States alone.

Just because we’re tired of social distancing, doesn’t mean the virus is gone. People are still getting sick with Covid-19. The coronavirus gives precisely zero craps about how fed up we are with things.

And So, We Choose Risks.

First, we carefully consider how much risk we are willing to tolerate. Do we get together with a limited group of family members?

Then, we consider the kids. Do we keep them at home? Or do we take the risk and send them to daycare and school?

We kept social distancing, but we returned the kids to daycare. They thrived. We kept up our hand washing routines, health checks. Everyone was fine.

When it came time to make the choice about distance learning vs. hybrid, we opted for distance learning, before the school board reversed its decision to offer a choice and went for only distance learning.

And Then… We Got Used to It.

Pandemic procedures became part of daily life.

The weather was good, the boys were happy. We were spending time outside, so we saw people outside, and it was easy to forget about the pandemic.

We kept wearing our masks, and the children’s teachers were always masked. It all came to seem so normal.

Yesterday, A Child Got Sick.

Yesterday evening, we got a call that a child in the Bear’s daycare class had tested positive for Covid-19.

I cannot imagine how terrifying the situation must be for the family. I’ve since learned that the child is only experiencing mild symptoms, and I pray that continues to be the case.

For me, it’s been a real wake-up call. A reminder that this is still real, and it can happen to us.

Quarantined

So we’re in quarantine. The Chico and I are experiencing mild cold symptoms, so we got ourselves tested for Covid-19 and should have results tomorrow.

Whether we have “the dreaded lurgy” or not, we’ve been given a stark reminder to take this seriously.

If we do have the lurgy, then we’ll see you after quarantine.

If we don’t have it, well, we’ve still got to quarantine at home.

Either Way, We (Won’t) Be Seeing Ya!

Because we’ve got to social distance.

How to Know You’ve Got a Good One

There are many factors that make a good man.

Too many, in fact, to write about here. So I’m just going to write about one of the many things that makes my Chico wonderful.

(Of course, you’ll soon realize, that while I am singing his praises, this is all really about me.)

Discombobulated

“There’s only Black Rush Irish whiskey in the cabinet,” I said, tripping over the grocery bags in the kitchen.
“Black Rush? Do you mean, Black Bush, Jane?”

It was 9:30am and I was trying to put away groceries when my dad called on FaceTime. I struggled to hold my phone in one hand and put things away with the other.

That’s when he ordered me to the liquor cabinet.

Let me back up.

I’ve got a cold. And this being The Time of Covid, any cold or flu-like symptoms are worrisome. It’s nothing major, just a slightly runny nose, some sneezes and achey sinuses.

I mentioned this to my dad and his advice was: “Have a shot of Irish whiskey, warmed up with some honey and lemon juice in it. Right before bed. It does wonders.”

“Dad,” I said, “we don’t have whiskey. We don’t drink liquor.”
“Yes you do! I bought two bottles when I visited! Where’s your liquor cabinet?”

We don’t have a liquor cabinet as such. Just the cabinet above the stove in the kitchen. You know, the one that’s hard to get to without a stool and therefore used to store things we hardly ever use. Like whiskey.

“Open it!” he ordered.

Which is why, while I was emptying grocery bags into the fridge, I turned, tripped over a couple bags, and reached up to peer into the “liquor cabinet.”

Discombobulated, Part 2

“Black Rush? Do you mean, Black Bush, Jane?” He chuckled.

I closed my eyes and tried to think how to make a joke out of it.

“No, it’s Slack Lush, Dad.”

Bingo! That set him giggling. I relaxed a bit. It always feels good to make my dad laugh, seeing as he’s usually the one getting everyone else to crack up.

I was standing in the middle of the kitchen, the “liquor cabinet” open, grocery bags strewn around me and the open fridge beeping angrily at me, my father on FaceTime, and the prospect of a day facilitating distance learning ahead of me.

The whiskey might be a good idea after all, I thought.

That’s When Chico Found Me

I opened my eyes, and there he was. My husband. He was smiling at me, looking bemused.

He said, “Would you like a cup of tea?”

A smile spread across my face. Just the word tea made me feel better. A small, tinny voice piped up from out of my phone.

“Yes, get her a cup of tea for goodness’ sakes, Arturo! I think we may be losing her!”

Tension Gone

A couple more jokes, a bit more giggling, and soon the groceries were put away, the tea was in front of me, and I was sitting down to finish up my chat with my dad.

As he left the kitchen to head back down into his home office, my husband’s strong hand gently squeezed my shoulder.

I glanced up at his smiling face, and breathed a quick prayer of thanks.

For tea. And for this wonderful man who really knows how to make a good cuppa.

Making A Decision

Earlier this year, towards the beginning of the pandemic, I made a decision.

I decided I would write every day. As regular readers know, it started off as a creative writing challenge. I did many, many posts based off of some creative writing prompts I found online.

Lately, it’s evolved from that. It’s just become a habit. Instead of following the creative writing prompts, though, I’ve gotten into a groove of coming up with my own topics and writing (if not daily) pretty regularly.

Another Decision

A couple of months after making my first decision, I made another.

This time, I decided I would exercise. At first I said daily, but knowing myself I knew that wasn’t sustainable. So I set myself a goal of 4 times a week.

Seeing as the first decision I’d made had worked out so well, I was optimistic about this. It helped that Chico got us an exercise bike!

Sticking to It

I’m proud to tell you that (so far) I’m sticking to both these decisions.

Some days are better than others, but on the whole I’ve written and I’ve exercised on average four days a week for a few months now.

Each time I hit “publish” or get off the exercise bike, I feel proud. I feel like I’m doing something positive for myself, and it feels great.

I decided to do both of these activities (writing and exercise) for my own mental and physical wellbeing. Writing challenges my brain, and cycling pushes my body.

And I feel their positive effects daily.

Time to Make a Third Decision?

But now I think it’s time to make another decision.

I’m a bit nervous about writing this here, to be honest. It feels risky. I could be setting myself up to potentially feel very crappy about this if I fail.

And by telling you all about it, you’ll all know if I fail!

Oh well. Here goes…

I’ve decided to change my eating habits.

Breaking it Down

That’s a huge thing. So I’m breaking it down into one key element:

I’ve started (ugh, I shudder to think of it!) to count calories. Specifically, to use a free food tracking app called MyFitnessPal.

If writing is a pleasure, and exercising is a challenge, calorie counting is (let’s face it) a bit of a chore.

I have come to the conclusion, however, that this one act, this practice of tracking what I eat, will significantly contribute to both my mental and physical wellbing.

When I Look In the Mirror

Now, when I look in the mirror, or when I see photos of myself, I shudder. I am heavier than I’ve ever been (aside from the end of my pregnancies, but that doesn’t count).

The image I have in my own mind of myself does not match what I see in the mirror or in photos. And it’s jarring every time I’m faced with the reality of how I actually look.

Also, despite increased exercise, my weight has not budged. That means that the pressure on my back is the same.

While I am stronger and my heart and lungs are definitely healthier, I can still feel the stress that my excess weight puts on my lower back.

Realistic Expectations

I’m not trying to look good in a bikini. I’m not even trying to weigh as little as I did in college. My goal is modest, and is really based on a feeling more than a number.

Writing makes me feel more creative, more observant and sharper. Exercising makes my lungs and heart feel stronger, and I don’t feel winded walking up the stairs, or chasing after my boys.

By counting calories (and watching how I eat), I hope to improve my digestive health, feel even more energetic, and feel good about the way I look.

Now I’ve Told You

So now you know. I’ve made this decision. And by telling you all, I hope to hold myself accountable.

If you want to join in, you can look up thebraininjane on MyFitnessPal. Or you can just get in touch and swap stories, share encouragement, ask questions, whatever!

(Now I know that there are programs like Weight Watchers, Noom, etc., and I’ve previously tried them to various levels of success. Maybe I’ll write an article about why these haven’t worked for me.)

Never Trampolining Again

Earlier this week, I wrote about a beautiful moment my son and I shared on our trampoline.

It was a very sweet moment. It was a fun moment! We were doing something active together, and laughing like crazy.

However…

NEVER EVER, EVER AGAIN.

That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, I couldn’t walk.

First off, bouncing on a trampoline after you’ve had two children is NOT a comfortable experience.

(I won’t go into the details, but let’s just say that I am no slouch with doing my Kegel exercises, and they didn’t help.)

Secondly, if you’ve ever had back problems, issues with your sciatic nerve, or anything of that sort, trampoline bouncing is a BAD IDEA.

Trust me.

Stiff as a Board, NOT Light as a Feather

I woke up Wednesday morning with pain shooting down my left buttock (*giggle*) and into my leg.

As a result, my whole lower back seized up as if to protect the discs and nerves, but of course that only made it worse. I was stiff as could be, and walked around standing bolt upright in a rather unnatural fashion.

Wednesday was therefore a day of ibuprofen, hot and cold packs, and a lovely massage from my Chico in the evening.

We’ll Have Other Moments

Bouncing on the trampoline with the Bug is a memory I will always cherish.

But I’m sure there are other ways to create cherished memories without causing myself grievous bodily harm.

No. More. Trampoline.

Trying to Go With the Flow

We’re into week 3 of distance learning, and I think we’ve hit a good rhythm.

The Bug is very independent, and gets himself connected on his own in the morning. He only really needs supervision towards the end of class period and for keeping an eye on the time.

Disjointed Feeling

Though he’s independent, as everyone knows who’s navigating distance learning at home, it requires at least part of your attention at all times.

This makes it very hard to sit down and focus on something.

(I’ve had three interruptions just since starting this article.)

Fighting It

At first, I resented this. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to get anything done.

In October, I’m sitting the Praxis exam to qualify to teach English as a second language in public schools. So far, I have been able to do very little studying.

(You may well ask why I’m taking the time to write instead of studying, and that’s a fair point! It’s just that it’s easier for me to leave off and get interrupted from writing than from studying. Whereas I can write in short bursts, to study, I really need to focus.)

I resented feeling tethered to the room next door to my kindergartener, and feeling limited to only being able to get things done in the short stretches he’s doing face-to-face schooling.

(I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those who are doing this AND working from home. AND being single parents. You’re heroes.)

Pros Starting to Outweigh the Cons

Sure, I may fail my Praxis exam. But there’s always another chance to sit it, and even if I fail the exam, it’s good practice.

But over the last couple of weeks, I’ve gradually come to appreciate some advantages this situation offers.

He’s the priority

First off, because I’m having to dedicate my time to my son’s learning, this has become the priority. That means that I am giving myself permission to set aside other things that I thought were priorities.

Watching him learn

Also, it’s such a pleasure and a privilege to see how much he loves to learn. Being this involved is very special–I would never know this much about his activities and his days if he were at school.

I have had the opportunity to see how he learns, what he enjoys most and what he doesn’t like so much. It’s a joy to see his curiosity and his desire to learn grow.

Quality time together

Another benefit is that I get to spend more time with him. And the time we spend alone together during the day is centered around his learning.

It’s something that the two of us are sharing, and since I do not have the stress of having to prepare the materials or teach them myself, I can participate in the fun of discovery and practice. In fact, I’m getting to enjoy story time almost as much as the Bug does!

Shameless indulgence

When I’m not able to study, I am giving myself permission to simply do something that I enjoy while I listen in on the Bug’s classes.

I’ll pick up my book, which I can easily set aside when I need to be paying attention. I’ll write these articles, or do some knitting. And I won’t feel guilty about it because what else am I gonna do??

Go With the Flow

This is how I’m feeling right now. It might change tomorrow. I could feel differently next week.

But for now, I’m trying to enjoy this magical time and just go with the flow.

It helps that the weather is changing, there’s an autumnal nip in the air, and the Bug and I have shared some pretty charmed moments in these last few days.

A Precious Moment

Earlier today, after taking a bounce break on our trampoline, we lay on our backs, looking up at the sky. Our heads were next to each other, and I could feel his hair tickling my cheek. He was telling me about hammerhead sharks (he really likes sharks) and how octopuses are the most intelligent animals without a skeleton.

Though there are many things I feel like I should be doing (studying, job hunting, figuring out what to do with my life), I didn’t want to be anywhere else in that moment.

This is such a short time, and it will pass. Perhaps too quickly, after all.

Why I’m Going to Wear My Mask Outside, Too

Yesterday I wrote about how important it is for us all to get our flu shots.

I also slipped in a little additional bonus messaging about wearing a mask.

And that got me thinking.

I’m Being Hypocritical.

I wear a mask when I go into a public building. If someone has to come into my house for some reason, I ask them to wear a mask and I wear one, too.

We have expanded our bubble to include family members who live nearby, and with them we don’t wear masks, but we still maintain distance.

However, the place I have not been wearing a mask is outside on the playground.

“Nobody Else Is!”

This is what I tell myself when I feel a bit guilty and start looking around at the playground.

No other parents are wearing masks.

Everyone is standing apart, no one is getting too close, but no one is wearing a mask.

We figure we’re all outside, and we’re far enough apart.

Not So!

The CDC makes it very clear that wearing a mask in ANY public setting is important to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. They do not distinguish between indoors or outdoors.

This article from a hospital network in New Jersey addresses the question of wearing masks outside.

Here’s when you should wear a mask outside:

  • When it is difficult to maintain the recommended 6-foot social distancing from others (such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy or walking on a busy street or in a crowded neighborhood).
  • If required to by law. Many areas now have mandatory masking regulations when in public.

Here’s when you don’t need to wear a mask outside:

  • You’re in your backyard or on personal property and it is very unlikely that you’ll end up within 6 feet of someone else.
  • You are in any other secluded location where the likelihood of running into someone else is very low.
  • You are in either of the previously mentioned environments with someone you’ve been quarantined with.
  • You are under two years old or have a condition where wearing a mask would inhibit your health.
  • You are engaging in “high intensity aerobic or anaerobic activities” or when in the water.
  • You are eating or drinking outdoors.

Source: Dr. Frank Elliot, “Should You Wear a Mask Outside”, https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org, updated 07/09/2020, accessed 09/19/2020, https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/HealthU/2020/04/20/should-you-wear-a-mask-outside/.

The Playground is Unpredictable

Unless you’re refusing to set foot on the playground and you’re sitting off to the side, far away from others, it is VERY difficult to keep six feet away from everyone else.

Kids are running all over the place, and their parents are chasing after them.

There’s no telling when suddenly, albeit briefly, you may be within inches of another person’s face.

I’m not going to risk it. I’m going to wear a mask. And by so doing, I’ll be protecting myself, those other kids and their parents, too.

The Question Is Now…

Do I make my children wear them?

Or simply keep them off the playgrounds?

Get Your Flu Shots

Today’s message is short and sweet:

GET YOUR FLU SHOTS!!!

Why? Because you don’t want to get the flu. You don’t want the people around you to get the flu.

The flu SUCKS. It kills people every year. Our Bear had it when he was nine months old, and it was SCARY. He had to have an inhaler for a year after because it had inflamed his bronchial tubes.

You don’t want your kid on an inhaler.

GET YOUR FLU SHOTS.

Because of the Pandemic: Get Your Flu Shots

This year especially, you’ll want to get a flu shot.

Assuming they get the mix right and it’s an effective vaccine this year, you want to make sure you’re protected from influenza.

The coronavirus is still out there. People are still dying of it.

It’s bad enough that we have a pandemic, we don’t want to also be dealing with a flu epidemic. If you get symptoms of fever, headache, etc., you don’t want to ask yourself whether you’re dealing with flu or coronavirus.

Eliminate the possibility that it’s the flu.

Get your flu shots.

Show How Much You Care

Do you care about your neighbors? Your family? The people in your local grocery store?

Do you care about your elderly relatives? Your small children? Your nieces and nephews?

Then WEAR A MASK.

Oh psych! You thought I was going to say get a flu shot! What the hell!

DO BOTH!

WEAR A MASK. GET YOUR FLU SHOT.

You don’t live in a bubble. Your choices (or refusal to make a choice, which in itself is a choice) have an effect on the people around you.

Don’t be that person. Don’t give grandma the flu OR the coronavirus.

Do what’s right.

Wear a mask. Get a flu shot.