30 May 2011

An Idiot's Guide to Exercise

The summer I was 10, I swam every morning for an hour during swim lessons. I rode my bike the mile or so back to the pool every afternoon and swam around for about 3 more hours. I think I was in pretty good shape then.

And that was probably the only time. I have what French scientists have recently identified as a genetic mutation of the 19th chromosome, also known as Canapé-Pommes-de-Terre Syndrome. This is a very serious syndrome in which otherwise perfectly healthy adults find themselves inexplicably drawn towards soft, fluffy places to sit for extended periods of time. There is no known cure for this syndrome, and various studies have found mixed results for treatment applications.

Nevertheless, I recently began a personal campaign to treat this affliction and described part of the process here. My desire has been fueled mostly by (in this order) the determination to get into a size 8 before all is said and done, and also to be healthy and live longer and all that rot. It’s a two-pronged approach, but in the blog entry I spent far more time discussing the healthy eating bit than the exercising bit and here is the reason: I suck at exercising. If Gardner ever identifies exercising as the 10th multiple intelligence, I would probably score a 32 on that IQ test.

I am actually amazed that I have yet to seriously hurt myself in this endeavor. And don’t think it’s through a lack of research. I’ve taken time to read plenty of websites and blogs on how to exercise (specifically jog), carefully digesting and considering every piece of information. Then I go to exercise, and I totally 1) forget everything I’ve read, or 2) think that I am some sort of Super Human to whom the rules do not actually apply. The only way I seem to remember anything is to expose myself to seriously embarrassing and/or painful situations in order to permanently scar the piece of information into my exercise-impaired brain.

All that being said, I will therefore share a few rules that I have (finally!) learned throughout the entire process:

1. DO spend the money on nice exercise clothes. Wearing your husband’s old boxers or exercise pants and a cotton t-shirt seems like a great idea until you remember about Newton’s Fourth Law of Motion: Chafing.

2. DON’T keep thinking that you don't really need to being water for a short jog. You are not immortal, no matter how many times you have seen Thor.

3. DO engage the services of a personal trainer. Mine is about 2 ½ years old. He sits in the stroller on our walknruns and shouts things like, “Run, Mommy! Go fast! No walk!” It’s terribly motivating but sometimes we have to stop and have the talk that if Mommy keeps running, she might possibly die, which means that Eamon would then be in charge of waking everyone up in the morning, feeding the dog, giving everyone their medicine, and driving himself to his grandparents’ for the day. That is an awful lot of responsibility for a young child, so maybe Mommy should just walk for awhile. That is why we call it a WALKnrun.

4. DON’T eat right before exercising. Just don’t, okay?

5. DO consider whether your ancestors came from cold-weather climates when planning your run. Just because you can comfortably jog in 75 degree weather with only 10% humidity does NOT mean that you can comfortably jog in 90 degree weather with 70% humidity. Listen to your body or else train your child how to dial 9-1-1.

6. DON’T forget to buy new exercise clothes when you go down a size. Unless you enjoy running down the street with one hand pushing a stroller and the other hand holding up your shorts so that you don’t expose the entire neighborhood to your Laundry Day underwear.

That’s all that I can think of right now. There are probably more rules that I have learned that I have already forgotten until I can manage to embarrass and/or injure myself somehow and remember them permanently. Hopefully, writing these few things down will help ascertain that they stay in my brain a little longer than usual.

Of course, those of you reading this probably had 1 of 2 reactions: either you are not exercise-impaired like I am, and you are now dubious as to whether I am actually bright enough to live; or you and I are of equal exercise-intelligence, and you have already forgotten everything that I wrote. Either way, happy exercising. I have to go do some laundry.

28 May 2011

I Have to Think of a Title Too?

Here’s the reason I could never be a professional writer: because I can only write when there is other stuff that I should be doing instead. It’s like writing is my tawdry secret affair (that I then go and post on the internet). If I were to ever give up my day job so that I could just write…well, then writing would become my day job. And I would have to have a tawdry affair with the Angry Birds app on my phone instead. And anything that I did manage to write would be about nefarious pigs stealing eggs and birds launching themselves at the pigs in retribution. I have a feeling that plotline would get pretty old pretty quickly.

(On a side note: how long until someone in Hollywood gets the bright idea to make Angry Birds: The Movie? Maybe I should get around to writing that screen play. I could go all Adaptation, and write about a professional writer who can’t think of anything to write about except Angry Birds…it would be almost as existential as Curious George 2: Follow that Monkey. Which is a study in the internal debate between the Id and the Ego and finding a balance therein, which is obvious to anyone who has watched it 5 times in 3 days.)

But back to our topic.

Wait. What was today’s topic?

Oh right. Today’s topic is that I do not have a topic for today. It’s not that nothing is happening, it’s just that without deadlines from William and Mary looming over my head, I am afforded legitimate time to sit down and write. So of course, the only thought trickling through my brain is:, “Stupid pigs. They deserve what they get.”

But I want to update the blog because it’s been a week.

Therefore, here are a few totally unrelated stories involving Eamon (it is his blog, after all). I find them all rather endearing even though I fully admit that they have no real relevance or bearing on the greater meaning of life.

You’re on your own for that, I’m afraid.

(Then again, you always were. And if you were coming here as part of your quest for the meaning of life...well, you have bigger problems than my lack of a coherant story-line this week).


Eamon is all-boy, and loves throwing things and banging things and smooshing things…but slowly, we are brainwashing him into acknowledging his softer side. (Okay, it’s mostly me doing this). It involves constant hugs and kisses and saying, “I love you,” but finally, he is not only reciprocating these emotions but sometimes even initiating them.

He’s still very much a boy, though. Hence this situation:

I was dressing Eamon after bath. I had managed to get the lotion and a diaper on him when Eamon suddenly hugged me, patting me on the back. “Be okay, Mommy,” he said sympathetically. “Be okay. Don’t cry, Mommy.”

I wasn’t crying, for the record. But I was a bit upset. And Eamon was trying to comfort me.

Of course, the reason I was upset was because Eamon had taken his pajamas and thrown them across the room about 2 seconds previously.

But that isn’t the point.


We were eating dinner. Eamon smiled and said, “I wuv you Daddy.” Aaron smiled back.

“Oh no!” cried Eamon. “Teeth! Mess!”

“Does Daddy have some of his dinner stuck in his teeth?” I asked.

“Yes!” cried Eamon. “Oh no! Daddy dinner-teeth!”

And now, whenever anyone has anything stuck in their teeth, Eamon announces that they have “dinner-teeth.” Upon retrospection, this is a word that we have needed for years, because saying, “You have something stuck in your teeth” is far less efficient than saying, “You have dinner-teeth.” But it took a 2 year old to figure that out, to see what we adults have been missing for years. It’s like the Emperor’s New Clothes, only without any sense of poignancy or importance.


Eamon has a rather limited arsenal of adjectives with which to describe his new observations. He does the best he can, though, and doesn’t mean to offend anyone as he attempts to discover and make sense of the world.

That being said: Nini, we’re sorry that he called your arms “soggy” the other day.


There really wasn’t a Story Four. But I figured my mom would want me to end on a different note. So give me a second to think of something else.


Okay, got it:

The other day while driving back from the grocery store, Eamon and I got stuck in some heavy traffic.

Eamon has little patience for this kind of thing. When we stopped behind a line of cars at another stoplight, Eamon announced, “No stop! Go, Mommy! Go! Drive fast!”

I explained that I could not drive through cars. Darn Physics.

“Too many cars!” he informed me. I agreed. But Eamon had a solution.

“Throw away, Mommy! Throw away cars!”

Apparently, my son sees me as a sort of traffic-induced Hulk-Mommy who can repeatedly heave thousands of pounds of steel from our path so that we can get home 5 minutes faster.

And while I have been working out recently, I am still short of any car-throwing aspirations.

But boy can I launch an angry bird at a pig.

And now that I have updated for this week, I must excuse myself. Those pigs aren’t going to destroy themselves.

In keeping with the spirit of this blog entry, some pictures that have nothing to do with any other topic discussed here today:

20 May 2011

The Sink and the School

Two days ago, our kitchen sink stopped draining. If we turned on the garbage disposer, the water from one sink would erupt from the other in a spectacular geyser of gunk. We realized we had to call a plumber, so we did, and while he was here, we asked him to look at the upstairs toilet that wasn’t filling properly.

He finished everything in about 20 minutes. He had to plunge the sink and replace 1 part on the toilet.

And we paid him the $150.

I should have been a plumber.

It was the second time today that I felt like I had missed my calling.

The first was when we went to visit the Montessori school down the street where we hoped to enroll Eamon this Fall, which you may remember from this blog entry. The Montessori process is this: first, you express interest. Then, you go and observe to be sure that it would be a good fit for YOU. Then, they meet with you and your child to make sure you would be a good fit for THEM.

Unbeknownst to us, we did this out of order. Eamon has already had his interview, and it consisted of him chasing bubbles and looking darling at the Montessori Spring Fair. Apparently, the Head of School was watching him much of the time and has already decided that he is a sweetheart. She is not wrong, in my completely biased opinion.

So when we observed today, it was really more to make sure that we were really sure that we were really interested. (Huh. I wrote that sentence and I’m still not sure I understand it.) Aaron and I both took the day off work and observed 2 of the ages 3-5 classrooms for about 30 minutes each.

And all I could think was: Hey! This is how I always tried to teach in my classroom! I should have been a Montessori teacher. I love the idea of giving kids choice and working with them at their own pace. I love the emphasis on consistency and respect and manners and the way the kids treated one another. Aaron also agreed that it would be perfect for our curious but active little man, who is bright but wants to work on what interests him at his own pace. The Head of School shared a few more of the Montessori philosophies with us, and all we could think was: Yup, that sounds like how we look at it. I guess we were always Montessori people without knowing it.

During this debrief, I finally broke down and asked, “Okay, we love it here, but when will you make the decision? You’re only taking 12 kids…do you need to meet with Eamon?”

The Head of School looked amazed. “Well, I’ve met Eamon. He’s delightful. He’s already on the list for the program, and definitely has a place here in August.”

So on August 29, Eamon Wolfe will attend his first day of pre-school.

15 May 2011

Scenes from a Sunday

7:16AM: Eamons's Room

I enter the room. Eamon, lounging against a pillow, gasps loudly and points at the 16" T-Rex that somehow moved into bed with him through the night.

"Oh no, Mommy, Sharp Tooth in bed!" he exclaims, putting his hand over his mouth.

"Eamon Wolfe, did you crawl out of bed and get your T-Rex?"

He raises his eyebrows in a "Who me?" expression before dissolving into fits of giggles.

8:45AM: Target

"Good morning!" Eamon shouts to the clerk working the fitting rooms as he walks along, holding my hand.

"Good morning!" she calls back.

He holds up a green plastic ball that we picked up near the front of the store. "Ball!" he yells to her. "Gween ball!"

"Is that your green ball?" she asks.

"Yes, all right. Go pay now. Okay?"

"He's so cute," she calls to me.

"Come on, Romeo," I mutter. This is the third Target employee we have stopped to talk to. We have been in the store 7 minutes.

9:17AM: The Car

"Eamon, when we go to see Grandpa and Nini, you can show your green ball to them but then you have to let Nini take it and put it away otherwise their dog Socky might get it. His teeth will put a hole in it and then it will be broken."

"Oh no!" cries Eamon. He had a similar purple ball that he himself broke and he took it rather hard. This green ball is a replacement.

I attempt to check for understanding. "Eamon, why do you have to give the ball to Nini? What will happen if Socky gets it?"

He thinks for a minute and responds, "Socky break. Oh no!" More thought, then: "Nini buy new ball. Okay."

Every time I think I am a step ahead, I realize that he is three more ahead of me.

11:08AM: Mommy and Daddy's Bedroom

It is Aaron's turn to sleep in, and Eamon has been asking about him all morning.

"Where Daddy?" he keeps repeating, with his palms face-up in the universal "where" sign.

"Asleep, Eamon. He's sleeping."

"Oh," nods Eamon sagely. "Wake up Daddy," he then says and begins climbing the stairs screaming, "DADDY! DADDY! WAKE UP! EAMON COMING!" At this point I lunge for him, attemping to hush the screaming child who cannot understand why his father prefers to sleep occasionally rather than play with him constantly.

But finally, just after 11:00, Eamon is allowed to wake Aaron. Which he does admirably, climbing on the bed and pounding on his father's chest while screaming, "Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!"

But when Aaron finally does sleepily raise his head, Eamon has already scuttled off the bed.

Having decided he is not getting enough attention from his prone father, Eamon has wandered over to the bedroom mirror. "Love you, Eamon," he says, then kisses the mirror. And kisses it. And kisses it.

The love-fest is only broken when I finally yell, "Come on, Narcissus!" and Aaron scoops up the boy to get him dressed for the day.

12:29PM: The Food Court

Aaron stares blankly ahead while chomping on a yummy, yummy taco.

Eamon grabs Aaron's arm and shakes. "Wake up, Daddy! Wake up!"

I attempt to hide a snort in my turkey sub.

4:45pm: The Fresh Market

We stand in line to buy our steaks for dinner. Eamon announces to the cashier, "Eamon pay!"

She giggles. "I don't mind," she says. "You can give him the money and I'll take it from him."

"Well, we're not using cash, " I explain.

"Oh well, just have him swipe the card, then."

All we want are our steaks, and yet somehow Eamon has orchestrated a situation where we look like cruel parents if we don't give our 2 year old a run-down on debit card basics. Aaron sighs and shows Eamon how to swipe the card.

Eamon beams, and before anyone can say anything, announces, "Yay! Good job, Eamon!"

The clerk laughs. "Oh, he's so cute!"

As I push the cart out to parking lot, I hear Eamon say matter-of-factly, "Yes, Eamon cute."

Luckily, there are no mirrors around for him to kiss.

7:08PM: The Backyard

Eamon is enchanted with "umbreddas." He wanted to use one out at the store, but we feared for the ankles of passersby and therefore promised him he could play with the "umbredda" all he wanted at home. He does not forget such promises.

It was a simple Sunday. We didn't go anywhere terribly special or do anything particularly out of the ordinary. And yet, it is the type of day that you never forget. Every day with you seems like the most memorable ever, and for that, we love you Eamon Wolfe.

(But you already knew that, didn't you?)

11 May 2011

When Losing is Winning

As I discussed with my friend Tiffany yesterday, it’s true that I only write blogs when I am supposed to be busy with other stuff. Should be writing a 10 page paper on choice theory in education? Excellent, time to craft a western-style narrative featuring my son as the sheriff and a vengeful Spinosaurus as the evil outlaw. Have a lesson to plan for coaching tomorrow? Not right now, because that Petrarchan sonnet on the pain and anguish of stepping on a small plastic dinosaur first thing in the morning on your way to change a stinky diaper on Mother’s Day IS NOT GOING TO WRITE ITSELF.

So, I just got this BIG, HUGE project at work that suddenly has the entire admin building all aflutter and there’s so much work that needs to be done that it makes my head swim, so that means it must be time to write a self-help blog on how to lose all that weight you gained being pregnant in the short time-span of 2 years and 4 ½ months.

It turns out: losing the baby-weight is actually REALLY easy, if you just follow my 6 easy steps (patent-pending).

STEP 1: GET PREGNANT. I am not giving you details on this one. Figure it out yourself.

STEP 2: GAIN WEIGHT. In my case, I’ll be honest, it was about 50 pounds. Eamon weighed about 9 pounds when he was born. So…yeah. I don’t think I really ate that much more…but instead of running around a classroom all day, being all active and stuff, as I got bigger and more uncomfortable I found I had to become one of those teachers who just sat in a chair and told the kids what to do. So, I was eating the same but burning not nearly as many calories. Turns out you gain weight that way. Huh.

STEP 3: HAVE THE BABY. Your doctor can probably provide you with several helpful pamphlets on this one.

STEP 4: LOSE ABOUT 20 POUNDS IMMEDIATELY IN BABY, FLUIDS, ETC. Think: wow, losing this weight is going to be EASY. All you need are positive thoughts, apparently.

STEP 5: STAY ABOUT THE SAME WEIGHT FOR THE NEXT 25 MONTHS. Realize: screw the positive thoughts.



So, you see? It’s THAT easy, folks.

Okay, are we all done laughing now? Obviously, it is NOT that easy, and obviously, Steps 6 & 7 took a bit more work than shown above. But I did, I think, finally crack the code on what works for ME, and it involves several important realizations:

A. When you get a desk job, you will get NO exercise if you don’t make some for yourself, and your weight will begin to SKY ROCKET if you don’t get it under control quickly.

B. I am a total idiot when it comes to knowing what foods are healthy.

C. I am a total idiot when it comes to knowing anything about portion control or when I am full.

D. According to Radio Lab, things like losing weight are all about short-term versus long-term wants. My long-term want was to lose weight, but my short-term want was to eat 20 Starburst candies. The way the human brain works, short-term wants always win over long-term wants. The only way to make a difference is to somehow transfer the long-term want into a short-term consequence that will win the battle against the short-term want.

E. I needed something that would 1) educate me on how to eat better so I could eat less and yet not be hungry, 2) help me better understand portions, carbs, fats, calories, etc., 3) provide a short-term consequence for over-eating. From what I had heard, Weight Watchers would have done all this, and I researched one in my area, but it met the same night I had class and cost a lot of money. I finally found a similar enough program at www.myfitnesspal.com. It certainly doesn’t provide all the supports of a program like Weight Watchers, but it does have a huge database of foods, helps you set realistic goals, and allows you to track your food and exercise. The best part? It has a cell-phone app so that I could track everything no matter where I was or what I was doing…and that was my short-term consequence. I might not mind eating 20 Starburst candies, but in no way did I want to input that into a food diary. (NOTE: That worked for me as a short-term consequence. It might not work for you. But seeing those little red numbers at the end of the day when I had overeaten really bummed me out and inspired to eat better throughout the rest of the day so that didn’t happen).

F. I started taking workout clothes to my parents’ house when I went to pick up E. My dad has an exercycle that tracks calories burned, heart-rate, etc., and I like it better than the gym because I can wear my headphones and play air guitar while I ride and no one thinks I’m insane. If I don’t do that, I take Eamon for a walk or light jog around the neighborhood. I’ve also tried to use the gym facilities when E is there for his swim lesson. I try to keep track of how many calories I burn and make them up in food for that day. I have also noticed that when I do NOT work out, even if I stick to my food goals, I don’t lose as much weight. Working out increases your metabolism, so it’s necessary even though, honestly, I still HATE this part. I have never been and will never be a person who enjoys exercise. Oh well. Like flossing, it is a necessary evil.

The upshot is that over the last 3 ½ months, I’ve managed to lose about 26 pounds and 2-3 dress sizes (I’m currently at that awkward stage between two sizes). I’ve been losing it really slowly (about 1.5 pounds a week), which is better for your health and I hear means I’m more likely to keep it off.

The best thing? I’m at that point where people are finally starting to NOTICE. It’s nice to walk down the hallway and hear compliments from people, especially when I have worked really hard to get to this place.

No, wait, that’s cool, but the BEST best thing? I feel better. And I feel like finally, I can keep up with the little person running around my house.

You know, the one who caused me to gain all the weight in the first place.

05 May 2011


NOTE: I actually wrrote this post about a week ago, but couldn't get it posted before now because...uh...I was being lazy? Is that sufficient explanation? Because honestly, due to said laziness, I can't be bothered to come up with anything better right now.

This morning, I went in to wake up Eamon. He had probably been awake for awhile but had diligently been trying to go back to sleep like a Good Boy, and was lying with his pillow atop his head. When he heard me enter, he popped up, the pillow flying across the bed, and immediately said, "Good morning!"

After some discussion regarding which dinosaurs he could bring downstairs (not the 12 inch T-Rex that sleeps at the foot of his bed to scared away any rogue, hungry alligators), we ventured down while he told me, "Eamon sleep good. Big boy."

It was true. He had soothed himself back to sleep all night, which is a welcome relief after the past couple of weeks.

Then, at the bottom of the stairs, he suddenly got an impish smile.

"Echo!" he shouted into the stairwell, which yeah, echoed slightly.

I looked at him. "Did you just say 'echo?'" I asked.

"Echo!" he shouted again, grinning.

I didn't know he knew that.

But I wasn't amazed or surprised. This is happening a lot lately. He has full conversations (usually about dinosaurs), engages in imaginary play constantly (usually with dinosaurs), and is retaining information like the dickens (about...well, you get the point). He is helping more around the house, and attempting to do things for himself like take off socks or put on shoes. He helps set the table and clear it off at dinner. He attempts to sing songs and loves to play hide and seek.

He knows all his letters and most of the sounds.

He can recognize all his numbers 1-10 (and a few in the 11-20 range).

In short, he is growing up.

And we have finally come to the conclusion: it's time. Time for more stimulation than can be provided at home. It's time for preschool.

The decision which preschool wasn't difficult. I have long been a Montessori fan since learning about their math program years ago. The problem was that the Montessori school down the street from us only took toilet-trained kids.

And despite wanting to be a Big Boy, Eamon has ZERO interest in potty-training, thank you very much. I figured that he would probably toilet-train faster in a more social environment where other kids might be training, too, but what was I supposed to do? Put him in a daycare long enough to get toilet-trained and then yank him out for Montessori? That seemed ridiculous and cruel.

But then that same Montessori school decided to offer a toddler program starting in August. It's 5 days a week from 8:30-11:45. And their main focus is making the child independent: including toilet-training. Huzzah all around.

BUT (you had to know there was a "but"): they are only admitting 12 kids into this new toddler program.

I hurriedly emailed the head of the school explaining that we were wonderful, safe, sane people who would adore to have our fabulous, funny, sweet young gentleman of a son attend their new program. (Well, I hope that was all implied, anyway.)

She emailed back saying that we could attend the Information Session the next week. A friend whose daughter goes there told us about the school's Spring Fair that was open to public that Saturday, so we went to that as well. We introduced Eamon, who had no clue what was going on but nonetheless very obligingly frolicked around chasing bubbles looking cute as could be, charming everyone.

And get this: the head of the school knew how to pronounce "Eamon" without us telling her. Because the head of the school, who has the most influence on deciding who attends the preschool, is Irish. Like, from-Ireland-Irish. Like, she-and-Aaron-had-a-10-minute-discussion-on-the-history-of-Eamon-de-Valera-Irish.

There are more hoops, of course. We, the parents, still have to observe a class at the school, then they will decide whether they want to officially "interview" Eamon. (Who knows? Maybe they'll ask him to identify his dinosaurs or something, and we will be golden, baby).

And you might think we're crazy, but we love the Montessori curriculum. And the tuition is pretty comparable to any other daycare. The school itself is an "international school" and has students of many different cultures who attend, so Eamon would be exposed to new and different things. The hours are perfect--my parents can still spend half the day with Eamon but will get a break in the mornings. As soon as Eamon is ready, they will move him from the toddler program (I'm guessing as soon as he is toilet-trained) to the 3-6 year old program.

But only 12 kids.