Tuesday, March 29, 2011

To Do List

I have the world's dumbest brain.

You see, I recently started writing up a To Do list every day to keep myself on task. I'm lazy and easily distracted, but I'm also incapable of being happy in a messy house. It's a terrible condition to have.

The To Do list is like magic. Aside from the last two weeks--getting the kids' sleeping issues ironed out--my house has looked pretty good most of the time. Well, okay, it's still a bit crazy here, but it's happy crazyland, not utter chaos and mayhem and depression and filth crazyland.

Whenever I'm tidying up around the house, I am usually like a gnat. I want to fold and put away laundry, so I'll fold it up and take one of the stacks to the room it belongs in, and then I'll notice Grace's sheets need changed, so I'll do that, and then when I toss them in the laundry basket, I'll see that there are a few toys in the hallway, so I'll pick those up and toss them in the living room, only to notice that Emmy has strewn Cheerios all around her high chair, so I'll sweep those up, and when I put the broom away next to the freezer, I'll remember that the chicken needs to be put in bags and frozen, so I'll start that, but then Emmy will need to be changed, so I'll have to wash my hands, and as I'm doing that, I'll see that the soap dispenser needs filled...

You get the picture. I do not think I have ADD, since I made it through school with adequate grades and very little struggle, but I have a wildly undisciplined brain. It's like a very hyper toddler.

So. I started the To Do list. It lives on my fridge. I've tried the To Do list many times before, but I kept losing the stupid list. So this one does not move from the fridge. Ever.

I am an amazing list-maker. Most people have To Do lists that look like this:

-Clean kitchen.
-Wash clothes.
-Clean floors.

That's kind of a lot of work, if you think about it. But it's only three items. You get those done, you've done a lot of work, but it looks like all you did was lie around the house all day. There's nothing inspiring about crossing off those three items.

So I do two things. First, I break down every task into it the most minuscule components possible. Now, a rookie might do this:

-Wash dishes.
-Wipe counters.
-Do three loads of laundry.
-Put away three loads of laundry.
-Sweep floors.
-Mop floors.

It's a good start, but it could be so much better:

-Unload clean dishes.
-Put away clean dishes.
-Load dishwasher.
-Run dishwasher.
-Hand wash remaining dishes.
-Put away dishes.
-Run a load of laundry.
-Fold a load of laundry.
-Put away a load of laundry.
-Run a load of laundry.
-Fold a load of laundry.
-Put away a load of laundry.
-Run a load of laundry.
-Fold a load of laundry.
-Put away a load of laundry.
-Sweep kitchen floor.
-Sweep bathroom floor.
-Mop kitchen floor.
-Mop bathroom floor.

But here's the thing. It looks a little redundant. You need to break it up with other things. That brings me to my second tactic. Put things on your list that you've already done. It takes me like two hours to wake up in the morning. We're lucky the kids are still alive by 10:00. Do you think I've made a To Do list? Hah!

So, by the time I've gotten to the daily listmaking, I've already accomplished so much that it needs to be written down.

I also add in things that would happen even if I didn't make a list.

So, by the time I wake up at 10:00, I can already cross off a quarter of my list:

-Make breakfast.
-Change kids.
-Feed kids.
-Drink shake.
-Unload clean dishes.
-Put away clean dishes.
-Load dishwasher.
-Run dishwasher.
-Change kids.
-Hand wash remaining dishes.
-Put away dishes.
-Take vitamins.
-Run a load of laundry.
-Fold a load of laundry.
-Put away a load of laundry.
-Change kids.
-Run a load of laundry.
-Fold a load of laundry.
-Put away a load of laundry.
-Make lunch.
-Feed kids.
-Run a load of laundry.
-Fold a load of laundry.
-Put away a load of laundry.
-Change kids.
-Put kids down for naps.
-Get on elliptical.
-Get kids up.
-Change kids.
-Give kids snacks.
-Sweep kitchen floor.
-Sweep bathroom floor.
-Make dinner.
-Mop kitchen floor.
-Mop bathroom floor.
-Feed kids.
-Pick up toys.
-Change kids.
-Put kids to bed.
-Get on elliptical.
-Eat popcorn.
-Play video games.
-Watch Eureka with Jeremy.
-Take Unisom.

By the time I wake up midmorning, I've already finished a quarter of the things I'm supposed to do.

And do you know the sad part? IT TOTALLY WORKS. My idiot brain falls for it. Every single day. I make that list, I cross a bunch of stupid things off, and I'm already motivated. I accomplish almost my entire list before the kids even go down for their naps. It's amazing. I wish I'd discovered this in high school.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Levi's?

Hi! How are you all? I am fantastic.

Except for STILL being a bit sleep-deprived. My own fault, though, for staying up far too late to revel in my children's rediscovered good sleep habits.

And the horrible, awful weather here. I was certain we moved to Utah. I could have sworn it. But there's a whole lot of Wisconsin out there right now. Dear Wisconsin, I hate you. Go home.

What else?

Oh! I have no pants that fit. Yes, this is a nice problem to have, but it's going to get expensive, even if I do only buy things from thrift stores anymore.

My thighs are getting larger. Trimmer, but larger. And my waist is getting smaller. Oh, boo hoo, right? I know. But see, it's already hard enough for me to find pants that fit right. My old pants that I had been wearing are ENORMOUS around the waist, and I can barely squeeze them over my legs. It's really frustrating, my friends.

Has anyone tried the new Levi's Supreme Curve jeans? I want to try them. I have heard good things. But I also heard good things about the Gap's Curvy Fit jeans, which, well, I don't know what their definition of "curvy" was, but I am pretty sure it didn't involve actual people who have carried gigantic children around in their torsos for nine months. On some levels, I am so glad I didn't actually give birth to either of my kids. It would be so much harder to find anything that fits.

I think perhaps I will just switch to long denim skirts.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

...and then she realized she could milk it.

You know, if I had a cozy, dark room filled with items designed exclusively for the promotion of deep, restful sleep, and a daily naptime, and an allotted 10-12 hours for sleep each night, I would be in hog heaven.

It's amazing what certain people take for granted. And it's a really good thing certain people are EXTREMELY cute.

Camping outside Grace's door worked that one night. She slept very well. And the next day she napped. Every night since has been an ever-accelerating downward spiral.

We have tried everything. Please don't suggest anything more unless it's totally NOT obvious because I assure you we've done all the obvious, and then some.

I came to the conclusion that she was milking it. She would SCREEEEAM, I'd rush into her room, hug her, and say, "Mama's here!" and realize that she was completely unsad. No tears, no hiccupping breaths. Just happiness at my presence.

Flattering as that is, I need my sleep. I don't doubt that this started out legitimately--bad dream, scary shadow, a day or two of insecurity. But she's been showered with attention and affection all day, every day, and all night, every night, and it's only gotten worse.

So last night we didn't put the couch cushion in the hall. We didn't leave her door cracked open. We shut our door and turned up the fans.

And she fell asleep within an hour. She woke up a few times, but always went back to sleep.

I have a feeling this will take a few days, but I think it will work out.

It may be a deep character defect that I turn into a raging monster after several days of little sleep, but that's not going to change anytime soon, however much I try to keep my patience. Either The Child continues to keep us up all night, and I end up in the loony bin (or hurting her), or she has a few miserable nights, and we both end up much happier in the end.

The last no-sleep episode lasted so long that I still harbor faint resentment toward her on bad days (yes, I DO know how ridiculous this is, especially since I did the same to my parents when I was a baby). We're not going through that again.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I am a problem solver

By this point, you should all know that I don't handle sleep deprivation well. I don't usually get quite enough sleep, but I'm pretty functional and fairly happy so long as I get 6 and a half hours or more.


These last, oh, two weeks have been a spiraling maelstrom of suck.

Emmy is sick. Again. She coughs at night. She cries in her sleep. She has dirty diapers (these must get changed pronto, or she's bleeding by morning, even with the Vaseline slathered on like icing).

So there was that. For a bit.

Then on Thursday they both went on a nap strike, which was super fun. I wanted to gouge my ears out because I was also trying to get the apartment ready for friends to come over.

And then! The best part! Yesterday afternoon Grace refused to nap. She SCREAMED. For two hours. I did not know what to do--give in, let Emmy sleep, and send Grace the message loud and clear that she could get out of naptime just by screaming? Let her scream and traumatize an already sick Emmy?

So I cried for half an hour in the shower. That was fun.

She pulled the same stunt last night. Jeremy and I could not figure out what was wrong. She wouldn't tell us. I tried "monster spray." I tried telling her that her stuffed animals and blankets would protect her. And just in case she was scared for Emmy, I told her they would protect Emmy, too. I told her EMMY would protect her. I told her God would protect her. Nothing worked. The door shut, she started screaming.

FINALLY! I caught her glancing at a corner of her room, where there was a new shadow. A scary shadow. Even I thought it looked a little ominous. You see, I'd cleared out their changing table, so light shone through the bars in it instead of getting blocked by stacks of clothes. And there, on the wall, was this looming set of black and white teeth. Poor kid.

I fixed the problem, she said, "Shadow's gone!" while pointing at the ceiling, and I patted myself mightily on the back while walking out the door.



At that point, I was ready to throw her through a window. There comes a point where all sympathy withers and turns to dust, and my heart turns more toward the IRE end of the spectrum. I sometimes wonder why I was allowed to have kids. I am very short on empathy in such situations. Especially when I'm running on like four hours of sleep a night for the last week and a half.

So I gave up. I lay down on the floor next to her crib because I couldn't think of anything else to do. And as I lay there, I kept thinking about all those parents who get sucked into these traps, and before they know it, the kid is five, and they still haven't slept in the same bed with their spouse in years (the silver lining is that there are no more children to appease). I know this is stupid, but I'm very fond of trotting out the worst-case scenarios whenever I'm pondering a problem. The adrenaline keeps me young.

Then! A brilliant idea! And folks, I am SO proud of myself for this one because I thought of it ALL ON MY OWN.

Every couple of minutes, I slid a little closer to the door. Soon, I was in their doorway. I sat up so Grace could still see me. Then I started shutting the door a little bit every couple of minutes. Soon, the door was shut. Every five minutes, she'd call out, "Mama?" and I'd say, "I'm right here," and eventually she fell asleep. It took a long time. And she woke up a lot last night (to be fair, once was because her water cup was empty and once was because she had soaked through her diaper). But we did an abbreviated version for naptime today, and she actually slept a little bit. And even though she didn't sleep the full three hours, she did remain happy and calm in there. And tonight, I shut the door from the start and told her I would be right on the other side. Not a peep. I'm still sitting right outside her door, just to be sure, but I think she may be okay.

I still expect to wake up a lot tonight, but hopefully it will get better over time.

My MIL comes for another visit this evening. The apartment is a total mess. One of the bathrooms hasn't been cleaned in a week, and the living room is covered in toys. It's depressing. But I'm stuck outside this stupid bedroom door, just to be completely sure she's okay in there (because once that screaming starts, it just ruins everything).

I'm so exhausted I can barely see straight. I told Jeremy that if I didn't get enough sleep tonight, we were going to switch. I don't care if he has to work in the morning. I will turn homicidal if this doesn't stop soon.

So, we'll see. Watch the Utah news.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I love hyperbole with all of my heart!

I've been posting my blog entries on Facebook for a while. Not usually the mundane ones, just the ones I think might be entertaining. And I still catch myself saying to people in real life, "Wow, how did you know that??" and them saying "Dude, you blabbed all about it in your blog."

Oh. That.

Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable to have people I actually know reading this. I'm prone to exaggeration and embellishment for the sake of a good story, which I don't try to hide, but sometimes I can take it too far. When I know people are reading, it helps me keep it under control.

Life has been good lately. So good. I'm losing weight, and I have more energy. Spring is coming. I live IN THE MOUNTAINS. I'm finding more and more enjoyment in my children.

This may come as a shock to you, I know, but I think playing with kids is boring. Really, really boring. I know my kids need interaction and affection. They get plenty of both. But I have to make myself. I find them interesting, but the things they like to do bore me to tears. 2.0 is really into peek-a-boo these days. Cute as it is, I can only keep up "Where's Emmy? THERE SHE IS!" for about ten minutes at a time.

But lately, I've become more content just sitting on the living room floor, watching them play and playing with them. I don't know why. It just happened. It makes me happy.

I think part of it is that they're such fun to watch together. The other day I watched Grace get a running start across the living room, tackle Emmy in a bear hug and yell, "I LOVE YOU!"

I have gotten ONE spontaneous "I love you!" from her. She'll say it in response to me saying it, but never out of the blue like that.

We had friends over for dinner last night. The first time I have someone over, I'm very nervous. I kept checking the stupid chicken over and over again (I used breasts instead of legs and thighs like the recipe called for) and overdid the olive oil because I was worried about it drying out. So it took an extra 20 minutes. Idiot.

But it turned out pretty good.

I think.

See, there I go second-guessing myself. I'm so insecure by nature. It's ridiculous. Thank you, evil elementary school classmates. But I can't blame a herd of small children twenty years ago for all my problems.

I was fretting about everything under the sun last night while I went to sleep (which was all for naught, as my sick child kept me up until almost 4 in the morning). I imagined them going home saying, "Oh my gosh. We are never eating THERE again. Did you see how much oil was in the chicken dish? Ugh. How can they live like that?" And then I had a moment of clarity.

NICE PEOPLE DON'T DO THAT. They don't CARE. They don't make personal judgments based on how the stupid chicken tasted.

So my goal for the next month is to put the smack down on that voice of insecurity every time it pipes up. It's getting old, third grade self. Most adults aren't prepubescent Jeff Jooses or Jeannie Zimmermans.

And the ones that are? I probably don't want them for friends anyway.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The vanishing woman

Wow. This will have to be shortish because the kids are waking up, but I wanted to share this with you guys.

I've made motions toward trying to lose weight off and on for months, right? And even when the motions turned into something like effort, no dice.

My sister gave me some tips, and I started on Monday, and ohmygosh. I've lost about a pound a day ever since. I know that rate probably won't continue, but even if it does for a week, I will have lost seven pounds. That's like a whole baby.

Dieting goes against everything I believe in. But I don't really consider this a diet. I don't hate it. It's not constant misery and self-deprivation. It's just eating on a schedule and being careful about what I eat. I rather like the food, and I'm only mildly hungry for parts of the day.

So, my sister's diet tips:

1: Protein shake for breakfast. I mix a scoop of whey protein, a banana, a bunch of nonfat yogurt, and some frozen berries in the blender. It's very satisfying. I have to nurse mine for about an hour, and friends, I can EAT.
2: Midmorning snack: I have a hardboiled egg with some salt; it's delicious. She also recommended some peanut butter with some apple slices, or other protein snack.
3: Healthy sandwich or salad with some dressing for lunch; also, a piece of fruit.
4: Midafternoon: handful of nuts, fresh veggies, something along those lines (I have a handful of trail mix and maybe some lettuce; I love lettuce).
5: Supper: Normal portion of whatever is for dinner. I very rarely make anything too bad for us, so I can eat a normal portion of dinner without worrying that I'm consuming 1500 calories.
6: Evening snack: Popcorn. It's actually not terrible for you. And I find I don't NEED a lot of butter to eat it (even if it is better that way). I'm not crazy about popcorn, so there's no danger of me going overboard, either. I work out at night, so I also have a slice of cheese or something else with protein afterward.

I know working out at night is not ideal, but it's pretty much the only time I can do it, unless I want to leave Jeremy alone with the kids for half the evening. Yes, I could do it in the morning, but I know me, and I know that I would fail at any endeavor involving early mornings. I get on the elliptical for 20 minutes during naptime (their napping is not reliable enough to get a full workout in), just to kick myself out of the sluggish, idle eating part of the day, and then at night I do either 40 minutes on the elliptical or 20 minutes as a warm-up for weightlifting. Last night I was feeling so great after lifting that I got on the elliptical for another 20 minutes. Nothing hardcore; I'm extremely careful about overdoing it. I felt like I could have kept going for another hour, but I'm sure Jeremy would have worried that I got kidnapped in the parking lot.

And yesterday I lost another pound. I know they say quick weight loss like this is not healthy, but that's just not the case here. My diet is very balanced, I get everything I need, and the exercise is not so intense that I will injure myself.

It feels so good to see those numbers on the scale drop. I'm starting to feel lighter, more limber, and it's so much easier to get up and down from the floor to play with the kids.

I promise to lay off the weight loss talk in future posts. I'm just really excited about this right now.

ETA: I've added an extra 20 minutes to half hour on the other end of my weight-lifting sessions, and it has made a big difference. It's not intense; it's just enough to keep my heart rate up for a little bit longer. But wow, do I feel great. And I have lost almost another pants size.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I sound like a Mac lover, except with exercise

Do you know the surest way to drop a pants size? Go out to Savers, dig through every single rack of pants in your size until you come up with six pairs of pants that might not be horrible. Try them on. Discover two that are more than okay. Two pairs of pants that you love and that kind of fit (I have given up EVER finding pants that fit perfectly, without getting them tailored).

Buy said pants.

Go home.

Wait three days.

Voila! You have dropped a pants size.

This is strange because my weight hasn't budged since the trip back to Wisconsin (where I lost ANOTHER pound, during a weekend spent sitting and eating and exercising only once).

So it must be the newfound happiness with pants that I don't hate. I am not allowed to have clothing that I love.

Speaking of which! I don't really care for ellipticalling. It's my least hated of all cardio-type exercises. I love things like soccer (I'm so terrible at it, but I love it), and hiking. But I have a crunchy knee (yes, I DO know I need to see a doctor, thank you; I am weirdly averse to it because I'm so afraid I'll be told I need to have surgery NOW, and there goes my getting back in shape, which I know is really stupid, but I'm working on it), so I have to be very, very careful what I do with it.

Every time I've gotten into this exercise thing, I've pivoted wrong while cleaning house, or picked up one of the girls a little too vigorously, or jumped off a chair in a fit of youthful exuberance and idiocy. Then, BAM! no more walking, much less exercising for a week or two. It's quite discouraging.

Anyway, until I get my knee fixed, I'm stuck with low-impact machine exercise. If I don't look utterly horrifying in a swimsuit by summer, I may try the apartment pool out, but it looks too small to do anything useful, and I'm too cheap to go anywhere. Maybe once we sell our house, that will free up a few hundred a months, and I'll get back into swimming. I'd really like that. I went for a bit while I was pregnant with Emmy, but it was too hard to breathe.

Despite me not caring for the ellipticalling, this time is going much better. I'm more motivated, more into it. I dread the idea of getting on and running for forty minutes, but once I'm on, I don't have an off switch. Maybe that's the reason I dread it; I approach it much the same way I used to approach housework--tell myself I'll take it easy and chip away little by little, then once I get started, I nearly overdo it.

So, last night I ran 4.6 miles in 40 minutes on level 3 (out of 10). This is amazing to me. Just after we got the elliptical, I ran at least 30 minutes every single day for six weeks. I didn't get anywhere near that distance, stamina, or level. Not even close. So it must be the weightlifting.

I hate to sound like a weight-loss evangelist, but seriously, weightlifting is magical. MAGICAL. My weight might not have budged, but I see muscles now! I have triceps and the beginnings of defined abs (at the very top, near my ribs; the rest is hidden... but I'll take it!). And I enjoy it. After a run, I feel good, and it definitely gives me a boost for the next day. But after lifting, I'm practically euphoric.

I put off getting in there for far too long. They're all gonna laugh at you! kept ringing in my head. Guess what! Nobody cares! I still feel self-conscious, especially at the bench press, but I'm getting over. It's rare that anyone is in there, since I go at night, but when there is, well, I have yet to see anyone follow me around and take notes on the weakness of my chest muscles.

I never would have started if we didn't have a free weight room 50 feet from our door. But now, if we ever move, the first thing I am doing is getting a gym membership. Even if it means I have to go without fabulous makeup. Or electricity.

Weightlifting might not be the magical thing for everyone that it is for me, but if you've struggled to get back in shape, I highly recommend just trying it for a few weeks.

I'm not even doing it to slim down anymore; I'm doing it because it's fun, and because I feel strong, and because it makes me feel good. Try it, if it's possible!