Friday, June 17, 2016

Last Day of School

It's the last day of second grade for my daughter. Of course I forgot to take the obligatory last day of school picture. Maybe it's not so obligatory compared to the first day of school picture. Of course, I didn't take that one either, but that's mainly because I was working two hours away that day. Today just blame my ineptitude.

Having a child is a way to relive your childhood and all your fears that you'd rather not relive. People don't tell you that before you have children. They should. On my daughter's first day of school, I'm nervous for her. On her last day of school, I wonder if any of her friends will try to connect with playdates over the summer. "Do I belong?" the child in me wonders. As for my daughter, I don't know what she wonders. Sometimes I ask, and I get the impression she makes something up--whether she doesn't want me to know the truth or doesn't know how to articulate her thoughts is up for debate.

Her teacher said this year, "She has a kind word for everyone." I like that. And she's honest. I have the kid that will say the honest, kind thing that might be somewhat awkward. "I like the pattern on your skirt," she might say to a girl whose skirt color is blinding. But she will search for something kind and honest to say.

Birthday Parties
If you have kids, you get into the swing of kid birthday parties pretty quickly. I enjoy a stereotypical kid's birthday party immensely. There's a beautiful script to it: go to a kid-friendly venue and play for an hour or so, eat a snack and cake, may or may not watch the birthday kid open presents from the kids attending, get a goodie bag.

Well, my daughter was invited to a birthday party a few weeks ago that deviated from the script only by a tiny, but noticeable, amount. At first I was annoyed beyond belief, but now I'm rolling with it because it's just a prelude of things to come.

First of all, the party was huge. Like 50 kids kind of huge. 50 kids in abstract doesn't seem like that many, but 50 kids in a tiny room next to a pool is gargantuan. My daughter didn't know the birthday girl tremendously well - they share a common interest and have been in the same common interest weekly class for this school year. For all I know, they sit next to each other each week, but I doubt it. My daughter really wanted to go to the party, but it was a swimming party and she loves that specific pool. So after the swimming part, they ate. And ran out of food. Then the birthday girl who turned 8 opened gifts, including one from her mom (WHY?). The birthday party script says you don't open parent gifts at the party, unless it's a family party. And guess what the bday kid got? Of course, a CELL PHONE! So all the other 8 year olds can see that this 8 year old got a freaking cell phone and can beg their parents for one too. Luckily, after the first week my daughter gave up asking. 

It feels like the divide between how I raise my kid and how certain other parents raise their kids is growing bigger. Now it's getting easier to "read" the parents of a kid by just meeting the kid. As the kids are getting older, they are becoming more like their parents--for better or worse.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Father's Day

Father's Day is coming up, and it will be a day on Facebook full of sappy tributes. My tribute to my dad isn't sappy, but it also isn't with ill intentions. It is what it is. Knowing that it could be misinterpreted, I very likely won't post this on Facebook. Please know that it isn't meant to be snarky or malicious; it's merely from my scant memories.




I was from a divorced home. My mom moved away from her hometown of Pittsburgh after her father died, and she and I moved to Middle of Nowhere, Texas (aka Muleshoe, TX) for a bit before moving to various other towns and occasionally--cities with an actual McDonalds. Part of the custody deal was that I got to see my dad two weeks during the summer. Back in the wild west of the 1980s, you paid the airlines $20 to take care of your unaccompanied minor. What this actually meant is that the airlines would pawn me off on a lone female passenger and upgrade her to first class for watching me during a layover in Chicago or Dallas. Ah, the simple 1980s.


I would get off the plane in Pittsburgh, and my dad (and sometimes my grandparents too) would be waiting for me at the gate. After the obligatory hugs and "how was your flight?," we would have awkward silences, as 8 year old me and my 35 year old father would try to find something to talk about. In my defense, there really wasn't anything to say about Muleshoe, TX (there's a statue of a mule!), so it would mostly be my dad updating me on his life and what was going on with my grandparents and uncle.


My dad wasn't that traditional dad. He couldn't figure out how to live independently, so he lived with his parents for the majority of his life--except when he was married to my mom. He couldn't pay his bills, despite not having to pay rent, and his cars would get repossessed on a regular basis. Most of the time he didn't even care about having a sheet on his bed, so he slept directly on his mattress in the basement of his parents' house. As for employment, it was spotty, probably because he couldn't get to work on time. Friends? Spotty. I honestly only interacted him for two weeks out of the year, but even as an 8 year old I could pick up on how much of a mess he was if you considered those boxes you mentally check when you meet someone: job _, living situation _, takes care of himself _, goal-oriented _.


But the thing was - he was a nice guy. He wanted you to like him. He'd buy you a drink and talk with you for an hour. Would he be someone you would want to date or would want to rely on? Probably not because most women would pick the guy who didn't live in his parents' basement and had sheets on his bed.


I think my dad suffered from depression and low self-esteem. He had health problems that he chose to ignore. He drank too much; he ate crap food for every meal. It was all very sad to watch, even if it was for only two weeks a year.


When I was there for those two weeks, my dad would usually still go to work. He sold flooring, and I still remember frightful outfits of dark brown polyester pants and pale yellow short sleeve shirts. I would wake him up around 9:30am. He'd go to work around 10am, and he'd sometimes come home around 7pm, pick me up, and take me to the bar. Or sometimes he'd go directly to the bar from work and come home at 11pm or 1am. Because Saturday was his busiest day in the flooring business, he'd usually work then. He'd usually have off Sundays and one weekday a week. On one of his days off, he'd take me to Kennywood, which was the awesome amusement park in the area. I loved Kennywood Day because I got to spend it with my dad. It was the most time we'd spend together during my visit. Usually he'd take me to a movie or two and dinner out. But most of the days he'd work and then either take me to the bar after work or be at the bar while I was home with my grandparents.


I spent a lot of time with in bars before I was 21. Again, it was the wild west in the 1980s, and kids could go to bars. My dad would either ply me with quarters to play pinball, or he'd be out of quarters and I would spin on the barstool next to him sipping on a Shirley Temple. Sometimes I'd sit on his lap and play video poker with him. He'd even let me push the buttons, which I know now was completely illegal.


I love the smell of bars to this day. I can sniff out the smell of stale beer. It reminds me of all that time I spent in the bar with my dad. I was usually the only kid (imagine that, most people don't take their kids to bars!) there, and I felt so adult doing anything in that setting.


On those trips, I'd probably only spend 40-60 hours with my dad. Most of it was spent with my grandparents, who were older and sickly. FYI, my grandfather had a favorite bar that he took me to and plied me with quarters for the pinball machine. In my mind, it was a classier bar than the one my dad took me to, mainly because my grandfather's bar was a private club. I don't know what the membership qualifications were, but it seemed to have the same clientele and less bar-like since everyone knew each other. Of the time I spent with my dad, 10 hours was at Kennywood, and I'd say at least another 20 hours I spent with him at bars. The other time was split between watching TV at home in the middle of the night, going out to restaurants and movies.


Memorable highlights from trips to see him:

- Him taking me to the circus and running out of gas. We ended up getting there just before it ended.

- The aforementioned playing video poker

- Him dropping me off at the library and then going to the bar and forgetting to pick me up.

- The decline


The summer visit I was 14 was ominous. My grandmother's health was in great decline. She had glaucoma, Alzheimer's, and a slew of other medical conditions. She was at the door trying to wave goodbye to me, but she was waving in completely the wrong direction and leaning against the door for support. I knew that would be the last time I saw her. Even more than that, I knew something was wrong with my dad. He was … off. In what way was difficult to pinpoint, and it could have just been sadness in seeing his mom in decline. Looking back now, I think he knew he was sick. My grandmother ended up dying 6 months after that, and a month after THAT he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and soon unable to work or even take care of himself. I felt sorry for my grandfather who was the caretaker for my ill grandmother for over 10 years and then became my father's caretaker after his wife died.


All that being said, I enjoyed those two weeks in the summer. I appreciate getting to know my father more and spending some time with him. While he wasn't the kind of guy Father's Day cards are written for, he did the best he could with what he had. And that's all we can ask for.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


If there's been one consistency in my life, it is my dear friend Sugar. Sugar with a capital "S" because it is always with me. I'm never an hour or two from my favorite vice.

So with much trepidation I gave up sugar - namely desserts - for Lent 42 days ago. (Let's not even go into that Lent is more than 40 days or why I'm participating in Lent because my relationship with Catholicism is tenuous at best.) I didn't give up fruit, and I know that can be divisive. I did try to stick to berries and an occasional banana, apple or orange.

I resisted a chocolate fudge cake at a baby shower. I resisted several yummy-looking desserts at a party. I looked mournfully at Legendary Doughnuts as I drove by every week.

It was difficult but not impossible. They say it takes three weeks to develop a new habit. No, not long enough! But I did turn to substitutes. Probably my biggest substitute was cheeseburgers. My cheeseburger intake was insane.

Which leads me to...I wish I had a before and after CBC (blood panel) done. I would be interested in knowing my glucose (sugar?) levels before and after. I would bet a lot of money that my cholesterol went way up. My whole life with mainly white meat/fish and then a huge influx of fatty beef? And who would have predicted that taking desserts from me would make me become such a carnivore??? That was completely unexpected.

I've never eliminated sugar so much from my diet. In fact, I had a few days in the past month where I ate 0 grams of sugar, which I don't think has EVER happened for me. In the past whenever I went on anything close to a traditional diet, I would mainly focus on keeping my daily calories within a specified number. I didn't necessarily ban a specific food or my favorite foods. I just ate a smaller portion of it.

In weeks 2-4 of my Lenten experiment, I lost 8 pounds. Same calories per day, but merely cutting down the sugar gram intake and basically substituting cheeseburgers. In the first few weeks, I was still eating my much-loved Lara Bars...until I realized they had 26 grams of sugar in them!!!! Then I switched to a bar with 0 sugar grams. But, yeah, 8 pounds in a month, which puts me comfortably in the normal BMI range and into jeans I haven't been able to fit in many, many years.

Weeks 5-7 haven't brought me any weight loss. I've actually cut back on the cheeseburgers (my cholesterol is thanking me!) after getting burnt out on them, and I've seemingly plateaued.

Here's what I ate yesterday:

2 salmon burgers (Trident brand, found at Costco in the orange bag)
2 cups of mashed potatoes with a bit of butter...I really love mashed potatoes.
1.5 cups of blueberries (frozen, found at Costco)
2/3 cup of almond milk (Blue Diamond)
8 oz baby spinach (Costco...see a theme?)
Think thin bar (Business Costco...peanut butter flavor is my fave....0 grams of sugar)
1/2 cup buttered noodles

It's not perfect, but I know when I'm having a "must have carbs!" moment and try to fulfill it in a better way than eating 12 cookies.

I've also figured out what the dessert I most crave is. Apple fritters. I would have thought it was 20 different things, but the consistent craving I've had over this month+ is apple fritters. The hard outer shell coated with glaze. So really I'm only craving the outside of an apple fritter. I don't even need the dough inside.

What I hope will stay with me after Lent ends: Cut back on sugar. When I looked at nutrition fact labels in the past, I mainly looked at three things: calories, fat, ingredients list. Things like Lara bars slipped by me because it passed my three criteria. Now I know I also need to look at the sugar grams. I don't need to be a sugar Nazi, but making sure I stay within a reasonable sugar threshold per day would be good. Since I've never done that before, that could be a wise step for me.

I just looked it up. A Snickers bar has 27 grams of sugar, and a Lara Bar has 26 grams of sugar. The World Health Organization recommends 25 grams of sugar per day.

I wonder what my daily sugar intake used to be. Back to that blood panel, wish I had gotten that done.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Two random irritations

Sometimes something just irritates you for no particular reasons. Sure, the reason it irritates you may be because of some repressed association with something else that irritates you. Or there may be no logical reason at all.

Here are the two things that have irritated me in the last week for no apparent reason:

1 - People who have their phone set to make that obnoxious clicking noise every time they hit a button on their phones. WHY?! Most of the time these people are over age 60. And they sit next to me. So I hear click-pause-click-click-long pause-click-pause-clickclickclick. Like they're punching out Morse code on that dang thing. WHY?! Does it remind them of Morse code? I want to grab it from them and turn off that stupid setting.

2 - The term "babe." It grates on me like fingernails on a chalkboard. Thankfully, I've never been called by that term. Hate hate hate it. Do I know why? No. It makes me bristle--when women use it for men, when men use it for women. Have I ever had any bad experiences with the term? Not that I can think of because I have never been called it. It seems like a generic term of endearment because the person is too lazy to learn your name. Lazy, I guess that's my problem with it. Although I don't usually find lazy terms so loathsome.

Those are my random rants of the day. For no particular reason.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Things that stress me out, including Unstable Dictators

A more apt name for this post would be "Things That Don't Stress Me Out." But that would end up being a blank post.

I feel so anxious...all of the time. I don't know why I don't have a Xanax prescription because whoo-eee I need one. I guess it's the whole "I don't like doctors" thing that outweighs the "I'm a freaking mess" thing.

This week's thing that REALLY stresses me out is my daughter's problem with her friend. See, her friend has a bit of ... issues. I understand because I have issues too. Different issues than her issues, but issues nonetheless.

Her friend wants to be a cat. Or play Legos. My daughter doesn't really like being a cat or playing Legos. She wants to be a dog and jump rope. Why is this a problem? Because all school year my daughter has played cats and Legos. She is getting tired of playing cats and Legos. She has delicately brought up the dog and jump rope alternative to her friend, but her friend insists on playing cats and Legos. My daughter finally told me that she's not really into it.

This all follows a horrible play date where I took my daughter and this same friend to the park to ride their bikes. Well, the friend really doesn't know how to ride her bike. Instead of trying, there was helmet throwing, screaming, not talking, and then once we got back to my house, she locked herself in our bathroom.

Side note: I've never dealt with this with my own kid so I didn't know how to deal with this.

THEN I went to school the next week, and her friend shut my daughter out because she was mad at something else that happened with her own mother.

SO I kind of think her friend is a bit unstable.

THEN since I am still emotionally scarred from their horrible play date, I haven't offered to have her friend over. This past weekend her friend's mom invited my daughter over. My daughter was forced to play Legos. It wasn't enjoyable for her because her friend is REALLY into Legos and has no patience for my daughter incorrectly putting Legos together.

I forgot about the horrible Halloween meetup. They trick or treated together for about 5 minutes before her friend had a freak out about's freaking Seattle.

So, anyway, her little friend is reminding me of an unstable dictator. Particularly lately. This wouldn't be so bad except for the Unstable Dictator has tried to cut off my daughter's ties with her other friends like some David Koresh wannabe. My daughter describes the stuff her friend does...some that I saw for myself at aforementioned horrible play my daughter doesn't want to "upset" her.

My daughter is sweet and kind (she did win that Kindness Award, after all ;) ). She wants to be a good friend. You could say from some of the warning flags I've seen that I've become more curious about their dynamics. From what I see, this girl seems like she only is willing to play what she wants to and will play mind games to strong arm my daughter.

And I'm like, "Oh hell no. We're nipping this shidizzle in the bud."

Commence 1 hour discussion with my daughter. I'm not great at it. I never had the inclination to talk about problems with my mother, and I doubted she'd be a help anyway. I find it emotionally exhausting to role play it out and talk through it, but I did it with my daughter. I so appreciate that my daughter is willing to share.

The gist of what I told her is that she's such a good friend. In a friendship, though, you compromise. And if the Unstable Dictator, errrr friend, will never compromise, then sometimes you need to find someone else who wants to play doggies with you. Unstable Dictator may freeze you out for a while, but she'll get over it.

Stupid me invited Unstable Dictator over for a sleepover next month.

Have I ever said that the worst thing about having a child is reliving everything that gave you anxiety as a child all over again? For people who got anxiety from EVERYthing, this is especially problematic.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Mission: Kindness

My New Year's resolution is to be kind(er). Think before I speak or type more. Encourage more. Lift people up more. Compliment more.

Blogs, for the most part, seem a place to complain. So the blogging thing could be more challenging if I fully embrace my New Year's resolution.

Because, really, who wants to read a blog of motivational phrases? Honestly, not me. And probably not for anyone who reads this. Does anyone still read this???

The one year I don't make a resolution tied to health/fitness/eating better is of course the one year that I'm 10 days in and doing pretty well at it. So far. Today's my birthday (one hour in), and that's usually the day I go off the rails and never get back on. So we'll see. I just ran for half an hour--I'm always one who would rather exercise at night than in the morning. I've been doing HIIT too. Reining in the sugar. My diet is usually impeccable (veggies, salad without dressing, chicken/fish, almonds, apples) combined with crappy (anything with sugar). I've been trying to limit the crappy to a small amount. We'll see.

The dilemma is that I don't have a huge incentive. I mean, so far my bloodwork has been good. Last year I conquered wearing a bathing suit in public. I'm not technically overweight (although of course I should lose weight because I'm at the higher end of "normal"). Sure, I feel better when I'm challenging myself physically, tend to sleep better, etc. Being healthier now increases the likelihood that I'll stay healthier later. I get all that. I'm just at that point where the discipline and effort and withdrawal put in seems to psychologically exceed the rewards.

Wah, I want a cookie!!!