Sunday, September 29, 2013

if you ever doubt the efficacy and efficiency of the US Postal Service

The diet book was shipped after 3pm on Friday afternoon and look what showed up in my mailbox by 1pm on Saturday?

Clearly even my mailman thinks I need to lose weight...

Friday, September 27, 2013

another Friday, more musings

1.  Yesterday I kept a friend's 4 year-old daughter so she could attend a class for State Department spouses.  My little friend Anna and I had a great day, but wow, was I tired by the end of it.  I forgot how much energy you need to keep a little one engaged and stimulated. We went to Barnes and Noble, two different parks, the farmer's market, the grocery store and the storage unit facility.  We made lunch, checked the mailbox, and watched tv.  That is a lot crammed into one day.

2.  Mac and I survived the week without Jimmy with just one major bedtime meltdown.  That's considered one for the W column.

3.  The diet is not working.  I have weighed EXACTLY the same every morning - down to the tenth of a pound - for the last three mornings.  Maybe the scale is broken?  I assume that is not the case so now I've ordered a book called The New ABS Diet for Women because I really need someone to tell me what to eat everyday.  Clearly what I'm doing is not working.  The book should be here in 2 days and then, I intend to hit the ground running, following this thing to a T.  Supposedly in 6 weeks, I'm going to be a new and skinnier person.  Right.  In the meantime, I'm going to cheat and eat good food.  Starting with chicken wings and french fries tonight.  I.cannot.wait.

4.   Mac had his first science test.  He made an 85.  I would have preferred an A - and we're going to change our study habits from this point on to try and make As - but we're going to put this in the W column too. Mac obviously has taken tests but at least for the last 3 years, with the exception of a weekly spelling test, we are parents never knew when the tests were going to be given.  There was no studying at home, no reviewing the books, no last-minute panicking.  Fast forward to this past weekend, and we realized that perhaps Mac wasn't well-prepared for this science test.  We helped him study the chapter, we quizzed him, we re-read some bits, but I've got to tell you, when I dropped him off at school on Monday morning, I didn't have great hope for a positive outcome.  So an 85 was a great start, he's learned how the tests will be formatted, and he got a little confidence boost.

Mac made A's on two other tests in the last week.  One was on grammar (and which I knew about), but the other test I have no idea about, and Mac couldn't remember yesterday what subject the test was in.  How can you not remember what you had a test in?  Considering this kid has mine and Jimmy's DNA, it should be genetically impossible for him to forget that sort of information.

But today is the day that has my stomach in the pits.  He finds out his math test results.  All the 5th grade parents got an email the other day that said the grade average was 81%. 81% for the AVERAGE? Naturally, in DEFCON 1 mode, I am assuming that Mac is one of the students that dragged the average down.  Ooh, my stomach hurts just thinking about it.   How do you pull up a failing grade?  And he's good in math and did so well on the homework, so there's just no excuse unless he rushed through the whole thing.  Oh, and the email said the teacher deducted points "for being imprecise with their answers (ex., failing to declare units) or not explaining their thinking.  At this level and above, math is mostly about problem solving, which requires precision and elaboration."  We are in serious trouble.  Mac is the antithesis of precision and elaboration.  Say a prayer for his score not being like a 24.  

5.  The countdown for moving is on.  I am so super-excited.  October 7 is just around the corner.  All the pieces are falling into place - we've got one moving company coming October 7 with Bogota stuff and another moving company coming October 8 with stuff that we had in SC.  The other storage stuff will be dealt with after the move when I have time to think about it.  AND Jimmy just told me that his trip to Guatemala has been cancelled for that week, so my mom and I will have an extra set of hands at least at night.

6.  I really hope the government doesn't shut down next week.  If Jimmy doesn't have a job, then we're going to be hard-pressed to afford this fancy apartment building.  It's really scary to even think about.

On that really happy, light note, I'll close for now. Happy Weekend to you.  I hope the weather is as beautiful for you as it's supposed to be for us in the DC area!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

did you know...

... that three measly little Altoids have 2 carbohydrates?

You cannot even eat a breath mint without gaining belly fat.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

she's got Bette Davis eyes. I think not...

This morning at 3:30 am, I woke up with a throbbing eyelid that was nearly swollen shut.  I investigated in the bathroom mirror but couldn't see the telltale markings of a stye on the eyelash line so I immediately went to DEFCON 1 and assumed I must have some horribly invasive eye-eating bacteria dwelling in my head.

Naturally I then googled urgent care facilities since we, of course, don't have a primary care physician here yet.  There's one right down the road, thankfully, but since it didn't open until 9am, there was nothing to do but lay in the bed and watch old episodes of Parenthood (which always make me cry, so at least I knew it wasn't a blocked tear duct because they worked just fine).

6am Photo
I dropped off Mac at school and went to the doctor's office.  It turns out that I have the beginning of a stye on the inside of my eyelid.  This should only get worse before it gets better.  Which is nice since it's so attractive to have a big red puffy eyelid that looks like you're carrying a communicable disease.

Since I've not had a stye in maybe 30 years or so, I did a little research and I've learned that styes are most commonly the blocking of an oil gland at the base of the eyelash.  Since the currently developing stye is reportedly on the inside of the eyelid, those are "infections of the meibomian sebaceous glands lining the inside of the eyelids". I don't even know what that means.

And then I read that styes can be triggered by poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, lack of hygiene, lack of water and rubbing of the eyes.  I don't think I'm really sleep deprived (or not any more so than in years past), I'm fairly positive I've got great hygiene, I think I drink enough water, and I never rub my eyes (courtesy of lectures before and after my Lasik surgery).  So this stye might, in fact, be a result of my change in eating habits. Maybe the lack of carbs in my body has gone straight to my head, specifically my eyes, and caused the stye?  Is this nature telling me that I should go back to eating baked potatoes and pasta?

I watched a few back-to-back Parenthood episodes with hot compresses covering the eyesore before picking up Mac for early release day.  The only thing that would have made it better was if I'd eaten a bag of potato chips during the tv-watching marathon.
4pm Photo - looking better, right?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

to carb or not to carb

At Bible Study on Monday, I was discussing one of the other women's diet.  She's been on the Dukan Diet for a couple weeks and has lost double digits of weight.  Those sorts of results speak to me, so I thought perhaps I should try the Dukan Diet as well.  All you have to do is eat nothing but protein for a week, followed by a week of proteins only one day and vegetables the next.  You do that (or some variation thereof) until you reach your goal weight and then there's a whole maintenance program.  But proteins only for a week?  I love turkey and tuna as much as the next person, but every day?  Isn't there a reason they invented the food pyramid?  Aren't you meant to eat fruits and vegetables and some nuts and stuff like that?

So I quickly came to my senses and realized that Dukan Diet would not work for me.  I told this lady that all I wanted to lose was my midsection and she said that belly fat was entirely attributable to carbs.  Now I love me some carbohydrates.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I've never met a carb that I didn't love and that didn't love me right back.  But I could give up some carbs if that resulted in midsection shrinkage, right?

Well do you know that carbs  I mean everything.  EVERY.THING.  I'm pretty sure tap water has carbs.  It's just incredibly depressing to think of all the carbs I've managed to squander between snacks and second portions and oversized helpings.


So now I've downloaded a handy carb counter app on my iPhone and I'm tracking everything that goes into my mouth.  It really makes you think before you eat something.  It also means I'm hungry most of the time, but this is a small price to pay.

I also bought a fancy scale today.  It measures weight and body fat and BMI and body water content and who knows what else.  It better start showing some results and soon.  Between the headache and the constant gnawing hunger, I'm not sure how long I'll last without my constant intake of carbs.

(FYI, I have been exercising so don't write to tell me to get off the couch!)

Friday, September 20, 2013

a couple more musings

1.  No party games at the baby shower, but there was a lot of great food.

2.  The Arlington County Library was just bequeathed $800,000 from a retired federal employee who loved the library. How unbelievably cool is that?  I'm in awe of this person's generosity.  I'm not sure if this person had family, but somebody who may have thought they were getting more moolah just lost out.

3.  A couple Sundays ago, we attended Mac's school's back-to-school picnic hosted by the PTA.  The PTA grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, and families brought side dishes.  Reportedly more than 1000 people came.  To a back-to-school picnic, where attendance was not mandatory. On a Sunday afternoon.  These people are involved.

4.  The boys are still at the baseball game.  Apparently Mac's eaten enough to clean Jimmy out of all his cash.  Good thing for Mac they accept credit cards at the old ball game.

random musings on a Friday afternoon

1.  This temporary apartment is making me crazy.  It really is a State Department ghetto.  We have escaped staying here for 15 years and I hope it's at least another 15 years before we have to stay here again.

2.  Our lease at the new apartment starts on October 7.  We are starting the move on that day and will try to get the apartment organized during the week so that we start sleeping there on October 11.  Jimmy's just found out he's traveling out of the country that week so I'm even more grateful that my mom had already agreed to come and help me.  I would not be able to do it without her.

3.  The weather has been so incredibly beautiful this week.  Overnight temps down in the 50s and 60s but up into the 70s and 80s during the day.  I love it.  I hope it's as beautiful wherever you are.

4.  I'm going to a baby shower this afternoon.  I cannot tell you the last baby shower I went to (that wasn't at work).  It's been years.  That happens when you reach a certain age and most of your friends are past birthing babies.  I wonder if we'll play baby shower party games?

5.  Did I mention how bad the basement parking area of the State Department ghetto smells?  When Mac and I come down in the mornings to drive to school, as soon as the elevator door opens, we can tell if the garbage truck needs to come because it smells rotten more often than not.  We have to run out to the car, trying not to breathe too heavily.  That smell gets stuck on your nose hairs and you can't get rid of it.  It's disgusting.  As soon as we leave the garage, we open the windows, no matter how cold it is, to air out the car and our nose hairs.

6.  While I go to the baby shower, Jimmy and Mac are going to the Nationals baseball game.  Talk about gender stereotypes.

7.  Mac seems to be enjoying school.  I don't think he's made a ton of friends - we hear about the same few over and over - but that's okay.  I'm assuming these boys are from nice families and aren't setting up a meth lab in their bathrooms, so I hope it's all good.

8.  The Library of Congress is hosting its annual Book Festival on the National Mall this weekend.  I remember taking Mac to that when he was a toddler and we lived in Baltimore.  He got to see Clifford the Big Red Dog which was the highlight of his life up until that point.  We're planning to go again, but I don't think a Clifford sighting will elicit the same reaction.

Happy Weekend Friends!

Monday, September 16, 2013

the hard, hard business of mothering

I have a pre-preteen that I really hope will make it to his preteen and teen years.  Honestly I just did not ever think that mothering could be this hard. I mean I knew that we'd have some tough days or even years during his teenage years, but I didn't know how early this change would start.  Sometimes I feel like a creature has inhabited his sweet little 10 year-old body and I just want to silence that creature.  I keep telling myself that if I can survive these teen years, I will have earned my Good Housekeeping seal as a "good mom".

But several bits of news over the last week made me realize you don't ever stop earning Mother Badge of Courage.  This mothering business is a lifelong endeavor.

Last Monday and again today, I attended a women's Bible study at the church we've been attending.  The fall series is on prayer.  At the end of these sessions, people can name their prayer requests.  The group is made up of women my age and younger (with children Mac's age and younger) and women who are older with children that are college-aged up into their 30s and 40s.  The prayer requests that were spoken have been specifically for children college-aged and up.  It wasn't the "young" mothers who expressed concerns about their school-aged kids; it was the mothers asking for prayers for their children who have already flown the coop.

And then last Wednesday, we learned our very dear friends' 18 year-old daughter received a diagnosis for a disease that she will fight for the rest of her life.  I'd never heard of this disease, but from my limited research, it appears to have ALS-type symptoms that, like ALS, progressively worsen. Again, you think the histrionics of toddler temper tantrums and teenage hormones are behind you and boom! you're blindsided by something in your adult child's life.

Our friends are great parents and have raised great, well-rounded, successful girls. They were our first close State Department friends who had teens and preteens when we met them.  I distinctly remember how surprised Jimmy and I were when we'd go to their house, and the girls, instead of pitching fits to be away from their parents, really wanted to hang out and have good conversations and play board games.  They were completely content to be together as a family.  Make no mistake - these girls are really popular and have always had many and close friendships since we've known them, but sometimes, many times, they chose hanging out with their parents over their friends.  They truly seemed to enjoy each other's company.  This was a novelty because at the time we met them, Mac was about 4 years old and I couldn't imagine we'd ever get past the point where I had to take Goldfish crackers with us everywhere to keep him happy.  Would we ever get to a stage of life where Mac grew up beyond his needy preschool self and actually chose to be with us?  (As a side note, Mac is now roughly the age that the 18 year-old daughter was when we first met them.  It's looking highly doubtful that he would actually choose us over really anyone else on most occasions, now or in the foreseeable future, but I remain ever so hopeful.)

Our friends are going to be fine.  They're going to learn everything they can about this disease and how to live with it as their new normal.  Their daughter is going to continue to enjoy her freshman year of college and then her sophomore, junior and senior years.  They're going to learn to adapt as necessary, make concessions when appropriate, and put one foot in front of the other to fight the disease's progression as much as possible.  Surely there will be hard days that feel tougher than they have the energy to endure. When life seems unfair.  When they just want to stay in the bed with the covers pulled up. When it feels like they got the short end of the stick.

Why is this family going to be fine?  Because they're going to fight the good fight together.  And that's what I need to remember on these difficult days of surly pre-teen-hood, when I'm pretty sure that Mac and I can't both survive until sunset. We are in this together.  As a unit.  As a team.

Mothering is not for the faint of heart.  It is not a sprint to the closest finish line, but rather a long, drawn-out, sometimes messy marathon where you can't see a rest stop anywhere.  There might be flashes of instant gratification, but those flashes can be few and far between on the marathon's run.

We joke that we need to only get through 18 years and then we send them off into the world.  But the joke's on us.  As parents, we get the good, the bad and the ugly for a long time.  A really long time.  For better or worse.  Until death do us part.

If we're lucky, we get to see our children grow into versions of their very best and most authentic adult selves. To be great mothers and fathers themselves, great partners to their significant others, great employees and bosses, great community members.  Great human beings.  If we're lucky, we get to see all that.

But life is messy and complicated and not tinted by the rose-colored glasses every day.  It's completely impossible to avoid seeing your child suffer.  Maybe it's just the childhood garden variety of suffering - not picked for the team or fights with friends, high fevers and skinned knees -or maybe it's the more adult version of divorce, money problems, substance abuse, illness, and lost jobs.  If we're fortunate to live long enough in the presence of our children, odds are that we're going to see some of this awfulness.

So what I've got to do is put on my big-girl panties and be a mom to a little boy who needs to know that I will love him for always and forever and then some more on top of that.  I can be his safe place to land, even when he hurts my feelings with his sullenness and angry outbursts. Because we're in this together.  We are Team Story and we're in it to win it, if "it" means a family that genuinely enjoys each other's company and wants to spend time together.   The long haul isn't often pretty, but it's worth it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

going to the dogs

You may have heard that the Obamas got a new Portuguese water dog, Sunny, to join their older Portuguese water dog Bo.   (I poached this photo from the internet - I think Bo is on the left and Sunny is on the right.)
Jimmy's been attending meetings at the Old Executive Office Building (next door to the White House) in his new job and the other day, the dogs were playing on the lawn while he was walking in or out of the building.  And he saw them.

And petted them.

Petted them.  Did you read that correctly?

This makes me incredibly jealous because you know I'm a stalker of all people (and dogs) who are famous.  In fact, I think I learned about the new puppy on which I check with a frequency that I don't care to admit to you.

Jimmy didn't get to take a picture.  That was the morning he left his Blackberry at home and I had to drive it in to the District to drop it off at his office.

While he was playing with the puppies.

That's how we roll around here.  He gets to cavort with the President's dogs (which I'd already tried to spot frolicking on the White House lawn when I death marched my cousin's husband Jeff and Mac around the White House when it was about 112 degrees a few weeks ago.)  And I get to play cleanup, spending 40 minutes in rush hour traffic to deliver a cell phone.

Good thing I didn't have anything more pressing to do that morning.  I must have been all caught up on my reading for the day...

Friday, September 6, 2013

and one other thing

Three days in a row at the gym.

Do I look skinnier yet?

moldy yogurt

We had sandwiches at home for last Sunday's lunch.  I ate a half sandwich so I could eat a double triple portion of BBQ potato chips.  Then I rounded that off with a cup of Chobani yogurt with fresh raspberries and blueberries.  A little junky but a lot healthy.

As I was eating the Chobani, I notice some fizziness in the yogurt that seemed odd.  I also thought there was a weird mouth taste, but I really chalked that up to lingering BBQ chip taste mixing with the yogurt, which could really border on disgusting.

After lunch Jimmy and I went to the grocery store and my lips felt numb.  I thought that perhaps I was having the first allergic reaction to something in my life, so I asked Jimmy to make sure I wasn't turning blue or my lips weren't puffing up.  All looked normal, and eventually the numbness went away.

Fast forward to Wednesday when I heard a report on the Today Show that said there was a problem with mold in some Chobani yogurts.  The telltale sign pre-opening the yogurt was swollen and bloated packaging and post-opening was fizzing yogurt. That's so gross, especially because that's exactly what I ate on Sunday.

I immediately threw out the three cups we still had in the fridge (that definitely had bloated packaging), but I checked the new package of eight little cups I'd just bought on Sunday and they seemed fine.

And then this morning, I opened the Washington Post to see this:

Since I now had a concrete code to check for, I immediately went to the fridge to check the unopened, still-in-the-cardboard-packaging yogurt.  (For the record, once one believes they've eaten moldy yogurt, it's hard to muster the enthusiasm to eat more of the same product.  Hence the unopened yogurt five days after purchase).

When I opened the fridge, I notice there were white gunk dried on the butter compartment of the fridge door.  I wondered if Mac or Jimmy had spilled something and not cleaned it up, but how would they have spilled something there?

Then I realized that the white gunk was yogurt from a cup of yogurt whose cup got so bloated that it exploded when it finally pressed too hard against the cardboard wrapping holding the whole package together.

For the record, that makes me want to vomit.

I threw the whole package out and will have to think long and hard before I can eat any Greek yogurt again, much less Chobani Greek yogurt.

Maybe I'll go back to Activia with those probiotic cultures.  Perhaps those live cultures eat the bad mold in the yogurt as well as in your stomach????

Thursday, September 5, 2013

today's sign that the apocalypse may be upon us...

I have been to the gym for two days in a row.

Yes, you read that right.

Today, I even used those weight machines after doing the treadmill. But that was only because nobody was in there to see me embarrass myself.

I hate gyms, but I hate this flab more, so I stepped foot in a gym yesterday for the first time since we left Sao Paulo (4 years ago).

Unless I can find a cheap tennis instructor like I had in Bogota before I started the J-O-B, I am stuck in this godforsaken place called a gym.


(In happier news, Mac seems very content to be going to school, thanks to the buddy he met on the first day.)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Mac did not take the bus.


He told me this morning that we'd discussed this already, but I must have tuned out to that part of the conversation yesterday.  Since we won't have bus access once we move to our new apartment anyway, I've decided not to fight this fight.  I will be the bus service from now until we move at which point, we walk or bike to school!

it was a great day

The day finally dragged on until - finally - it was time to pick up Mac.  I did get to the parking lot 30 minutes before release, but I promised him I wouldn't be late.  (The waiting at the apartment was killing me so I figured reading in the parking lot would be a diversion.)

The school sends out the extended day students first so they can get to the right part of the building.  Then the bus students come out and finally, the pick-up students are released to their waiting parents.  Except Mac never came out.  I asked the teacher's assistant I recognized from Open House if Mac's class had been released and she wasn't sure.  Then I asked another teacher and she said that the 5th graders were released from the front of the school, so I ran around to the front, only to be told that no, all students are released from the other side.  So I ran back around and the teacher's assistant said she'd go to his classroom to see if he was there.

At this point, school had officially been out for 15 minutes.  There was nobody left waiting for pick-up except that one poor first grader whose parents hadn't shown up yet.  Naturally I was in a state of hyper-DEFCON 1 and mentally had Mac crying on the bathroom floor by now, his teacher totally unaware that he'd been missing from the classroom since 9am.  I'm not going to lie.  I was nearly crying in the parking lot.

The assistant came right out with Mac, who was smiling big if not a little sheepishly.  He thought that he'd be picked up in the classroom so he'd just hung out there with a couple other kids.  I nearly collapsed with relief to see him in general and to see him so happy specifically.

He had a great day.  Of the 27 kids in his class (boy, do we miss the 16-18 total in his classes at CGB!), three were new.  Mac hung out with one of the new boys, whose family has just been transferred here with the military.  The two of them were friended by a returning student, who was able to show them the ropes.  He said the other kids in the class were friendly and talked to him, his homeroom teacher LOVES books and has a great class library of "about 200 books that she bought all by herself for us to read", there's a laptop or desktop for every kid in the class, he had PE today and one of the PE teachers is a Georgia fan so they smack-talked about the USC-Georgia game this weekend, there are 10 mini iPads in the gym (WHY?), his lunch was good but I packed too much food, and on and on and on.

He's planning to ride the school bus - another first, the big yellow school bus - on day 2.  We'll see if that plan is still valid when he wakes up.

For the blessings of prayers that were answered loud and clear, I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

a day that'll break a mama's heart

Mac started school this morning.  And while normally this is a day for celebration - especially since I'm not working and should be able to do whatever I want all day today - he was so pathetic when I dropped him off that my heart is in about 4 million pieces right now and all I've done so far is get my vehicle emissions test done, buy him a red velvet cupcake for an after-school treat, and vacuum the apartment.  I have checked my watch at least 7 times in the  2 hours that school has been in session and time is nearly standing still. All I can imagine is him in a bathroom stall, crying.  I tend to be a DEFCON 1 sort of person and have convinced myself that he's having the worst day of his life.

As our first foray into American public school, where most of these kids have been together since K-5, this is going to be his toughest start yet.  International schools are better primed for new students since the annual turnover is so high.  They make a big deal of welcoming new students.  But these kids?  They've all got their buddies and don't really care about a new kid.  I don't have great confidence that the teacher will push for a welcoming committee either.  Not one child spoke to Mac at the Open House last week (except for when I spoke to them directly) and nobody spoke to us this morning.  It's a tough start.

Ever since Mac started school, we've told him to seek out the new kids, to invite them to play on the playground, to introduce them to other students, to help them if they look lost or sad.  And by all accounts from parents and teachers, he's done just that.  Could Mac please have good karma today?  Could we please have a positive case of "what goes around, comes around"?

Last night at dinner we talked about what would make today the best first day ever at his new school.  Mac's answer:  "if somebody talks to me".

I have begged the Lord today and yesterday and the days before to please, please, please let somebody be nice to him.  Now I add "talk to him" to the prayer.  If Mac crosses your mind today, please send positive vibes his way.  We need them.