Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mother-Daughter Book Club

For several years now, I've been trying to interest my daughter in books that *I* like. I've had no luck so far.  I was so sure she'd fall in love with:
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  • Charlotte's Web
  • Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself
Alas, she did not. We typically go to the library once a month. Last time, I encouraged her to check out Anne of Green Gables and A Wrinkle in Time. I loved  A Wrinkle in Time when I was a kid. She hasn't even opened it and it's due tomorrow. She is required to read 20 minutes a day for school. Despite testing at an 8th grade reading level (she's in 5th grade), she is not what you'd call a voracious reader. Usually, the only way to get her to do the reading is to put her iPad on top of the refrigerator. Then she stomps off to her room and does her reading. As for the books she chooses, it's usually tween-y type stuff. That's fine. I mean, I know I should be glad she reads at all. But still. 

When I was her age, I was a safety patrol. I worked with a crossing guard named Mrs. Chichester. She was so nice. Once, she asked me about my report card and I showed it to her. I had gotten good grades, and she gave me a $5 bill as a reward. Keep in mind that this was in 1981, so a fiver seemed like a pretty good deal. I rode my bike straight to a used book store and bought several books. Then I plowed through them. I was over the moon.

I think it's time to accept that my daughter doesn't have the same interests. She still has to read, though, so I came up with a new plan: a mother-daughter book club. Instead of choosing a book she likes or one that strikes a nostalgic note in my heart, I poked around and found one that lots of people seem to like: a book called Wonder.  It gets good reviews and such. I couldn't wait to tell my daughter about my plan.

"We're going to have our own book club!" I told her. I explained how we can read the book at the same time and then discuss it as we go.

I can't say that my proposal was met with a lot of enthusiasm. I watched for an eyeroll and listened for the exasperated sighing, but she mostly just looked at the floor. "Okay," she said, seeming to realize it would be hard to dissuade me. I've already purchased a copy of the book for and plan to download my copy onto my Kindle. 

Tweens are tricky, I tell you what. One minute she seems to wish I'd just drop through the floor (I am hearing the words, "Mom, you are NOT funny" an awful lot) and then the next minute she can't find the bagels or put conditioner in my hair by herself.

I think there is a strong possibility I will be reading this book by myself. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Day 10

Today was the tenth day of my big challenge. No alcohol, no sweets. I probably should have given myself some ground rules on the sweets. Should that include gum? The occasional vegan waffle? I decided to just try to cut out everything that seems like a treat. I am getting bored with my breakfast options so I did eat cereal yesterday (Quaker Oat Squares). I'm not sure if that's cheating or not. It's my game, so let's go with not.

I have wondered why I am doing this to myself. It's not a Lent thing (UUs don't really go that route). I'm not an alcoholic. While I'm certainly overweight, I'm not morbidly obese.  I think it's really just a matter of wanting to get a handle on my demons. I eat cookies because I like them (and they make me happy, if only temporarily). I drink wine because I like it and because it dulls my anxiety.

A couple of people have asked me what I miss more, the sweets or the adult beverages. It's hard to say. The alcohol, maybe. At the end of a hard day, it's nice to have a glass of red wine before bed. I fully understand the phrase, "Takes the edge off."

I recently tried some therapy sessions with the goal of developing additional coping mechanisms for  my anxiety. However, I ran into a billing snag. We have medical insurance, and then anything not covered by the insurance directly comes off our HSA card (my husband puts part of each paycheck on that card). Insurance didn't fully cover the therapy sessions I'd already attended, so I needed to pull the balance off the HSA card. It turns out that the provider doesn't accept HSA cards. So then I had to ask my husband to call the HR/Benefits people at his job and ask about reimbursement, which made him crabby because he is extremely introverted and doesn't like to reach out to people he doesn't know. Basically, what I am telling you is that my attempt to get help for my anxiety caused me more anxiety. So, I canceled my next scheduled appointment and called it a day. I'll just increase my yoga or something.

I recently read this definition of anxiety: "Waking up and knowing that nothing is wrong, and yet feeling like everything is wrong."  This succinct statement says what I could never seem to articulate.  My husband asked me, "You've had anxiety since you were a kid, right?"

I responded: "You've had apathy since you were a kid, right?"  It was the best comeback I could muster at the moment.

Anyway, I've got 20 days to go. I think I can do this. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

New Toy

My beloved got me a FitBit for my birthday. Specifically, it's the FitBit Charge HR. It's a wondrous thing. It told me that last night I woke up twice and was restless eight times. My husband looked at me like I was bonkers when I told him that but truly, I remember waking up twice and tossing/turning a lot. I'm a shitty sleeper. My body can't even be bothered to sleep and breathe correctly (thanks, asthma!)

I'm supposed to walk 10,000 steps a day. Yesterday I managed just over 5,000. And that was with a grocery shopping trip included. I can see how this will be a lot easier in the summertime when I can walk dogs and whatnot.

I wrote that over a week ago. Today I hit 10,000 steps. Woo hoo! My reward? The FitBit vibrates for a half-second. Yeah, buddy! I have a desk job, so the goal is definitely a challenge. This morning, I got up early and hit the gym first thing. This evening, the kid and I took our foster dog for a longish walk. I hit 10,000 just as I arrived on my own front porch. I wish the extra steps I've accrued since then could roll over to tomorrow.

In addition to this momentous accomplishment, I had some other good stuff happen today. I got my first Vegan Cuts snack box that my middle sister ordered for me. It contains all sorts of goodies. I'm still on my 30-day challenge but the samples in the box are more along the lines of snacks and not sweets. There is some green tea in the box - maybe I should get adventurous and give that a try. After all, I ATE THAI FOOD LAST WEEK. Let's see, what else? I went to Weight Watchers and lost a whopping two pounds. This may be a direct result of the stomach flu I caught from my kid a few days before I left for DC. I was just glad I got it over with before flying out. You know how when you get sick, you no longer want to eat whatever you ate last before falling ill? Yeah, avocado is off my list for a while. Salsa and cherry tomatoes are also iffy. Anywho . . . I'm going to try to get to my meetings more regularly than I have been. I like the meetings, but sometimes I feel like they should be called, "5,000 Ways to Prepare Chicken." Seriously, it's the most chicken-eatingest group you've ever seen in your life.

This afternoon, I headed over to Kohl's to spend some Kohl's cash and a gift card. I ended up buying some new running shoes - a variety of ASICS recommended for plantar fasciitis. My kid and I are signed up for a 5K and a 10K in the spring so I really need to get this problem under control.  After my brief shopping excursion, I had an appointment with the artist who did my new tattoo.  She includes one touch-up session with every tattoo so I figured I'd let her decide if there was anything she wanted to touch up. Because of the color saturation in the tattoo, she did have a few spots she wanted to enhance. It was funny how fast my leg remembered the needle. I could picture my calf saying, "I thought we had an agreement!" It's definitely an interesting sensation. The first few passes with the needle are pretty painful. Then the body gets used to the pain, at least a little bit. Then, after a certain amount of time passes. the body starts to revolt. (Why aren't you stopping this???)  The touch-up session was only about an hour, which was bearable. I don't know if I'll get another tattoo any time soon. I would love to talk my sisters into getting some sort of sister-themed tattoo that all three of us could get, but I'm not sure how well that will go over.

Final bit of awesomeness for today: my friend Lisa sent me a note saying that she ordered a vegan cookbook I've been wanting. It's called Chocolate Covered Katie and as soon as my challenge is done, I'm going to make every chocolate-containing recipe in that book. Why did she order a cookbook for me? Well, she had a gift card burning a hole in her pocket and ordered it for me just because she's a nice person and she thinks I'm a nice person (shhhhh, what she doesn't know won't hurt her!)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get ready for another night of sub-par sleeping.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Birthday Trip

I am sure some people found it odd that I took a solo trip for my birthday this year. I already took my kid out of school for a week to go to Oklahoma so I thought it was best for her not to miss more school. So, I flew to DC by myself. My family can live without me for a few days. Plus, while it is true that I am a wife and mother, I am also a sister, an aunt, a sister-in-law, and a granddaughter. And finally, I'm old and can do what I want.

I arrived in DC on Friday the 12th. My sister picked me up at the airport and had the two youngest kids in the back of her car, but they were sleeping soundly.  When we arrived at my sister's house, I carried my nephew to bed and then got a tour of the new digs. My sister and brother-in-law moved into a new house just a few months ago. It's huge - not because they are flashy people but because they have four kids. I was staying on the second floor in what will eventually be the baby's room. I decided to take a few minutes and put on my pajamas and unpack. When I tried to exit the room and head back downstairs, I couldn't help but notice that the doorknob just spun and spun. It was child-proofed. I didn't want to bother anyone (and with all the sleeping kids, yelling seemed like a bad idea), so eventually I resorted to sending "please let me out" texts to my sister and brother-in-law.  Very funny, guys!  They hadn't used that room yet so they hadn't been aware of the doorknob issue. Or so they said.

Saturday was a fairly busy day. We attended my other nephew's basketball game in the morning and then all the girls (me, my sister, my three-month-old niece, and my 17-year-old niece) headed to George Mason University for a campus tour. My niece is a junior and is looking at colleges. My middle sister and I both attended GMU. Let me just admit outright that I recognized nothing at all. The campus has changed a ton in the past 23 years. One of the student union buildings looked vaguely familiar to me, but that was about it.  First, we sat in an auditorium while a recent graduate gave an overview of the university. Then, they broke us up into smaller groups for personal tours with current students. It was very cold and windy, so my sister stayed back with the baby while my niece and I took the tour.

Then we lost the tour.  The tour guide mentioned that the student-run paper was located downstairs in one particular building.  My niece wants to study journalism, so we broke off in hopes of checking out that part of the building. It was a Saturday, so all we found was a bunch of nothingness.  We tried to find the tour again but had no luck.  I think if she does decide to give some consideration to GMU, she'll just go back and take the tour on a nice day when hurricane-force winds aren't sweeping through the campus.  We did find my sister and the baby and then we all had some Indian food in the food court.

Later in the afternoon, my niece drove me to Trader Joe's. She has her learner's permit and needs an adult in the car when she drives (and wanted to get in some practice, too). So, she was appointed as my chauffeur for the weekend.

Sunday was my birthday. Yay! We didn't have anything going on in the early part of the day, so I had Blondie (a very clever nickname I gave my niece because she is . . . blonde) drive me to World Market. My other half had given me some cash before I left (with instructions to enjoy the trip) so I thought I would wander around World Market a bit. I got in a little shopping and Blondie got in a little driving practice. I bought some fun stuff like earrings and a little gift for my kid.

When we got home, my sister and I drove to our grandma's house for a quick visit.  We took the baby along. My grandma has a new dog, a neurotic little Chihuahua.  She inherited the dog from some breeder who was ditching her. I tried my damnedest to win over that little dog but had no luck. I am just not a "little dog" person . . . and little dogs always know it.

We had already made plans to pick up Thai food for dinner, but it was too early to pick up the food my sister had ordered ahead of time. So, she suggested that we head to the Bull Run Winery for a quick beverage (note: yes, we had a baby with us but it's a very family-friendly joint). My sister and her beau were married at the winery, so it brought back lots of good memories. The main difference was that I was wearing more sensible shoes on this visit. Anyway, it was a lot of fun.

People who have known me for a while should be suitably shocked that I ate Indian food and Thai food in one weekend. I think I tried Chinese food when I was a kid, didn't like it, and therefore assumed that anything other than basic American food was sure to be awful. However, I've gotten more adventurous in my old age. Dinner was very good.  We had cake, too!  My sister had picked up a vegan chocolate cake from Whole Foods. It was deeeeelicious. After cake, I was thoroughly spoiled with gifts. I received a Kohl's gift card (now I can buy more sensible shoes for my plantar fasciitis - siiiigh), a three-month subscription to Vegan Cuts (snack boxes), a mandala coloring book and markers, some bath stuff, a GMU tee-shirt, and some vegan chocolates. I also received a pretty blue scarf that Blondie saw me admiring when we were at World Market.  Then, I used one of my new bath bombs and took a bath in my sister's massive bathtub (no joke - I was fully able to float in it). It was a great birthday and I felt really special. Lately I have been struggling with a lot of "my life has no meaning to anyone" thoughts. My birthday was a nice little reminder that I do mean something to the people in my life.  (I also received a FitBit from my guy before I left, which I will write about in another blog entry.)

Monday turned out to be a bust. It snowed all day. My sister and I had been planning to go to one of those paint and sip events, but it was canceled.  So, we all just hung out in the house for the day. I colored a mandala. I might have to do that more often - coloring. My nephew (the 12-year-old) had a project due the next day (and had apparently known about it for many moons), so the house was full of "WORK ON YOUR PROJECT" echoes for most of the day.

On Tuesday, I had a flight to catch so that was the end of the party. I had my sister drop me off at the Metro instead of driving me all the way downtown to the airport.  Tuesday also marked the start to my no alcohol/no sweets challenge. Today is the fourth day. It's hard to say what I miss more, but I'm soldiering on.

And now, I'm going to have to make you look at some photos of the new baby (and other people, too).  I'm annoyed with myself for only getting one photo of my brother-in-law. He does exist, I promise. I have really come to think of him like a brother. He sure teases me like one. He tried to charge me for the wifi while I was visiting. I told him that I think the only thing that's missing is for him to put me in a headlock and make me smell his armpit or something.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Challenge

That guy I married - he thinks he knows me so well. I keep a family calendar on the refrigerator to list doctors' appointments, when I'm going to the grocery store, etc. A few days ago, my husband stopped in front of the calendar and tapped his finger on Sunday the 7th of February. "Hey, why does it say 'Super Bowl Party?'" he asked.

"Because I am going to a Super Bowl party," I responded. "At church."

He laughed longer and louder than was necessary. Okay, he's got me there. I care very little about football and in fact had to ask him who was playing.  I honestly did go to the party, though! He couldn't attend because he was working. About a dozen people gathered at church to eat snacks and watch the game. I brought my semi-famous vegan chocolate chip cookies. I brought the leftover cookies to work this morning because I had already eaten enough of them to make myself sick. I am not kidding. I felt like my stomach was actually a bit distended when I went to sleep last night.

Speaking of my semi-famous chocolate chip cookies, I have issued a challenge to myself. Starting on February 16th, I'm going to give up sweets and alcohol for 30 days. When I told my other half, he laughed almost as hard as he did when he found out I was attending a Super Bowl party. "Um, maybe you should just choose one or the other but not both," he said. Hmph! The more he thinks I can't do it, the more determined I am to prove him wrong.  He does know me pretty well, though (he's had almost 24 years to study the phenomenon known as Claudia). 

I chose the 16th because my birthday is on the 14th and, I mean, there may be some indulgences that day. Anyway, wish me luck. There is going to be some serious I-told-you-so action at my house after the month is up. We'll just have to wait and see who is saying it. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Just like riding a bike

I took my foster dog, Agent, to an obedience class on Wednesday. The rescue for which I'm fostering him holds classes every week at a local high school. I hadn't done any formal training in several years. I was amazed at how quickly it all came back to me. Heel. About Turn. Left About. Halt. It was like hearing an old song and still knowing all the lyrics. I had a great time. As for Agent, I'm not sure how much fun he had. He definitely has not had any formal training. He's such a goofball. He stole one of my snow boots out of my closet last night. I was told he is around seven but if he is seven, I will eat my keyboard. Anyway, we'll be at class again this Wednesday. I'm excited to get back into training when we get our pup in the spring. Of course, taking a Boxer to class is an adventure in itself. In Wednesday's class, there was a one-year-old Boxer in attendance. He was being trained by his young owner (high school age, I think). While the other dogs were heeling in a rectangular pattern around the perimeter, the Boxer was chewing his leash, jumping on his owner, and just generally filling the slot of "class clown."  I laughed out loud and then realized that might seem rude. I was there with a shepherd so the girl wouldn't have known I have a lot of experience with Boxers. After class I told her that I was laughing with her and not at her. Watching her struggle with her dog gave me flashbacks to when I took Lucy to her first classes years ago. She was actually rolling on her back while the other dogs had to walk around her in their heeling pattern. She went on to earn a CD and several Agility titles, so it is technically possible (though maddening) to train a Boxer.

In addition to brushing up on my dog training skills last week, I had to revive another, less desirable skill: cleaning up vomit. The kid came down with a stomach virus on Wednesday night. Thursday morning, she expelled the contents of her stomach in the bathroom . . . onto a toilet with a closed lid. So near and yet so far. So, on Thursday and Friday, her dad and I switched off on staying home with her. I worked from home in the mornings and he took over in the afternoons so that I could go into work.

I need to back up a bit and tell you that my daughter is terrified of the act of vomiting. I am not exaggerating. I've tried telling her countless times that vomiting is just a fact of life, but she is not buying it. If one of the dogs dares to cough, she runs into the other room for fear that the cough might be followed by a flow of half-digested kibble hitting the carpet. She is equally as afraid of being the one who vomits. On Thursday evening, she got up from the couch to use the bathroom. The act of moving from horizontal to vertical was just enough to set off her rumble-y tummy. She hurled into a plastic trash can I had given her just in case.

Thereafter, she refused to get up to pee. At one point she tried to convince me that if I would just carry her into the bathroom and hold her horizontally over the toilet, she would be fine. She could then pee without, technically, sitting up at all. I pointed out some logistical issues with her plan and she eventually gave up on the idea.

On Friday, she still felt yucky so we kept her home from school again. The vomiting was mostly done by then, thank goodness. The real bummer is that the last meal she had eaten before getting sick was tacos. Tacos are her favorite. We eat them at least twice a month. They're great because I can make them quickly so they are good for weeknight meals.  As you know, when a particular food is expelled from your stomach and then leaves your mouth at high velocity, you are not a fan of that food thereafter - at least not for a long time. So, now I have to take tacos out of the rotation, which sucks.

On Saturday, we were invited to her cousin's birthday party. You'll never guess what was being served for dinner. We brought along some mac and cheese for the kid, but it didn't really matter too much anyway because she was more concerned about eating cake and running around with her cousins. And then, all hell broke loose. The kids were in the playroom when the birthday girl puked. She, too, had been battling this bug that's been going around.

My kid then lost her mind and ran to the front door, nearly in tears, demanding to leave immediately. My poor sister-in-law, meanwhile, was nursing a migraine while facing a fun little clean-up job (I think my niece was kind enough to puke on a blanket, which was helpful). So, we said our good-byes and left the party. Our daughter was crying on the way home, scared that she was going to cycle back through the same bug again. We did our best to reassure her.

Honestly, I hope she gets over this by the time she is a mom. When the inevitable stomach bug hits, moms don't really get to say, "Sorry, no can do."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Dogs and Snakes and Stuff

The kid and I volunteered at a huge pet expo on Saturday. She helped out in the reptile education area while I hung out in the German Shepherd rescue booth. I am sure I was not very helpful. I'm not what you'd call a stellar salesperson. I did manage to sell a few doggie bandanas, but only because people thrust money into my hand and basically insisted that I give them a bandana in exchange. I tried not to get into too much trouble when it came to shopping at some of the other vendor booths. I bought some dog treats for Gretchen and Agent (my foster dog). I also bought a tee shirt to support the K9 program through one of the local police departments. Oh, and I bought a $700 pretzel when my kid wanted a snack.

She and I actually drove down the night before and got a hotel room. The expo was held a couple hours away from our house. I knew the kid would want to go swimming, so that's what we did. Well, she swam while I drank Merlot out of a plastic cup because your no-glass-by-the-pool policy can't stop me, Comfort Suites!  At 11 p.m., she was still awake and was showing no sign of pooping out. I knew we had to get up fairly early, so eventually I just pulled the plug and forced the child to go to sleep. As I'm sure I could have predicted, she was very slow-moving the next morning.

Getting her major award.
I had told her I had a surprise for her, and the not knowing was all but killing her. I started to realize that she thought she might be getting a snake or a crested gecko. That may happen eventually, but not anytime soon. So, I gave up and told her what the surprise was. She was selected to receive a Junior Heroes for Animals Award. Sure, I'm the one who nominated her and sure, maybe they gave the award to every kid who was nominated, but still, I thought it was a nice little recognition for her. The award was given to her on Saturday afternoon at the expo. I will say that she was the only kid who accepted the award with a snake wrapped around her hand. She had to leave her post in the reptile area so she brought her little friend along. The expo was so crowded (12,000 people passed through) that it was hard to get from one part of the building to another. The crowd sure parts when people see a snake coming through, though.

All in all, it was a good day.  I did have a rough moment when I spotted some cushioned dog beds at one of the booths.  "Oh, Giddy would love one of those," I thought.  And then I remembered. Waaaah!  The kid was unhappy when I made her leave her post at 2:15 (we had been there for over five hours at that point), but my feet were killing me.

On our way back home, we stopped at Trader Joe's for some goodies. We wandered the store separately (they have all sorts of good vegan stuff there) and then checked out. As we were pulling onto the highway, Her Highness threw a fit because . . . wait for it . . . she had forgotten to pick up a box of Snickerdoodles. That, my friends, is how you know you're tween did not get enough sleep and that she definitely should have gone to sleep when you told her to.