Friday, July 9, 2010

Past Deadline: Seeking a Waistline

Next week marks the one-year anniversary of my first run with my Calgary friend as part of our virtual self-improvement project.

The idea, as regular readers may recall, was that we would do the beginning running program together, which is a plan of walking and running alternately for about 20 minutes until you spend more time running and less walking. We report in to each other online. After a few agonizing months I could run 20 minutes straight – and more – several times a week.

Despite all this activity the pounds did not melt away from my frame as I had expected. I’m not sure what made me think running was going to be the answer to my tight-waistband issues, but it turned out, surprisingly enough, not to be the miracle cure. In fact, I suspect I could run 10K per day and still be mired where I am.

At some point many months into our plan my virtual buddy informed me you don’t actually lose weight by running.


So, as a one-year anniversary present we decided to come up with a revolutionary plan to take care of that little problem. Are you ready for it? We’re going to – get this – eat better! I know! t’s crazy!

I announced our plan to Groom-boy, who was smugly sitting in a chair reading a men’s health magazine, possibly contemplating his own waistline. “It says here,” he said, “that the sure recipe for being heavier five years from now is to be on a diet today.”

So I threw a running shoe at him. Actually I didn’t. I just threw him a shoe-like glare.

Thing is, I wouldn’t say virtual buddy and I are on a diet. We’re actually just being smarter about eating. Look at it this way. Decades ago, when skinny girls bragged about the fact they could eat anything they wanted and not gain weight, their mamas were probably feeding them reasonably portioned home-cooked meals that didn’t come out of a package or from a drive-thru. So, sure, they could squeak in a cupcake or a sinful snack now and again with barely a blip on the scale.

Now enormous portions are routine and we are tempted by more ready-made junk than ever before.

You don’t need to go on a fad diet to eat better, though. It’s not rocket science. I’ve known how to eat properly (healthy foods and reasonable portions) forever, I just haven’t been doing it well.

We’re talking about things like when that man shows up at the grocery store to make mini sugar donuts in his little booth and they pump the lovely aroma out to the front of the store so you are drawn in like zombies. Eating well can be the difference between walking past those sinister little donuts and bringing them home. Once they are at home, my willpower is gone.

Recently I had to fast for a routine medical test. That was a reminder about what it actually feels like to be “hungry.” For a couple of days afterwards I found I wasn’t eating as much, and (gasp!) I was okay. I survived.

So my friend and I have pledged to watch our portion sizes and to make sure our meals are more balanced. We want to eat less of the junk we shouldn’t be eating anyway.

We are starting by vigorously targeting our mutual trouble spot – supper and beyond. The bedtime snack is a bane of our existence. For a million years I have eaten a bowl of cereal each night while I mock the anchors on the late news. It turns out that something I thought I “needed” is actually just something I “wanted.”

You know, that’s a meal. And who needs a meal to go to sleep? So I’ve been having a glass of milk instead and you know what? I’m okay! I don’t die of hunger in the night! I don’t feel weak and faint in the morning!

And as I continue to combine this earth-shattering food revolution with running, I eagerly look forward to the return of my waist. I’ll keep you posted.
Published in The Perth Courier, July 8/10.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Past Deadline: Sixty-Nine Days and Counting

The kids finished school this week!



I have mixed feelings. For one thing, I am utterly overjoyed about not having to pack lunches every day. I’m quite certain the kids are happy about this, too, as the creativity level on that front had dwindled rather dramatically with the passing months. I won’t overly miss tussles about homework, either. Although these skirmishes were relatively mild, it’s still nice to get a break from it to enjoy uninterrupted gardening time for me or play time for the short people.

I’m also looking forward to not having to navigate the construction zone and busy detour area with large groups of children in tow after school. There’s something vaguely kamikaze about some of the drivers by times, and crossing streets with occasionally absentminded short people has left me slightly frazzled.

Those are the reasons why I’m happy to see the school year end. Now for the main event: Keeping Children Busy for 69 Days. But who’s counting?

I was lamenting the end of school to one mom recently, but she is apparently a Good Mother who looks forward to the summer because she likes to have her kids near her. (I probably smiled weakly and nodded in feigned agreement while backing away slowly.)

Since I am clearly not endowed with the same sort of enthusiasm for the summer holidays as good parents are, it became evident I need a concrete survival plan. I’m Type A, you know, so things have to be Just So.

Groom-boy and I are both currently working predominantly from home, so you’d think Keeping Children Busy for 69 Days wouldn’t be a big deal, right? I mean, we’re both in the building.

Well, let’s just say it’s not always that easy.

Despite the benefits that come with working from home, a few things are a tad more difficult, and navigating summer holidays as working-from-home parents is one of them. For example, despite having a communal work calendar at our disposal, it never seems to fail that when one of us has a one- or two-hour commitment, the other one will have a simultaneous obligation, requiring the involvement of third-party child care.

When both parents work full time away from home, it’s pretty obvious they’ve got to set up some sort of full-time child care in the summer. When you work from home on a freelance basis, you often have the flexibility to juggle your schedule in a way that accommodates summer holidays, but it’s not always possible to know when work will suddenly become busy as stink.

Indeed, even though you’re at home, things need to be done. You know, like work. This means it is not uncommon to find both Responsible Adults with heads bowed over keyboards pecking madly away at something whilst Lord of the Flies-style anarchy ensues somewhere in the abode.

It has taken me a while to realize that despite a hundred or so years of marriage, Groom-boy and I can’t read each other’s minds – at least not when it comes to work. So even though he might say, “No, I don’t really have much on the agenda this morning,” that doesn’t mean the agenda is clear and that I’m free to work uninterrupted (and vice versa).

Hence the need for a plan – a schedule, even – that clearly denotes when one of us is devoted solely to parental duty. This means avoiding e-mail and phone calls and appointments in favour of carting short people to swimming lessons or frolicking happily in the dew with lambs or whatever.

I also see some visits to grandparents in the short people’s future. I haven’t told the grandparents yet, so shhhhhh!

And, lastly, is the glorious “Lost Harbour Summer School and Military Camp” card. Do you know this place? I’ve been telling my kids about it. The camp is located so far away (on a remote lost harbour) that once you go you have to stay for weeks. The program consists of four hours of school each day followed by marching and building walls out of heavy rocks.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch for the delivery truck for my Mother of the Year Award.

Published in The Perth Courier on July 1/10.

Past Deadline: Gulping Down Summertime

It’s officially summer, and that means it’s time to get all nostalgic (as I am wont to do) and start singing “…why ain’t it always suuuummmmerrrr….”

Or maybe not.

Summer is just one more thing on a long list of items that have changed for me now that I am one of those so-called grown-ups. First came all those novelties like laundry and dishes and cooking that seemed pretty neato when I was living on my own for the very first time. Boy...that wears off after a while. Then came the whole “getting older” part of life, when certain parts of the body become unpredictable or even mutinous. I’m thinking metabolism, blood chemistry, knees and hips to name a few examples. Then there is the part when you truly understand the “responsibility” of adulthood. In general, I more or less grew into my brains as I neared 30. Then I had kids and the weight of being responsible for guiding two young lives hit home. Whoa.

Another notable grown-up thingy relates to summer. During the years a person is attending school, summer tends to be the shining beacon at the end of the tunnel. Whether you like school or hate it, finishing a grade or a year comes with that sweet reward of having anywhere from eight to 16 weeks of holidays.

Through high school and university those weeks came with having summer jobs, but they were jobs I really loved, so they didn’t feel like work at all. Plus, I made money. My own money. How cool is that?

So when I graduated from school and got my first full-time job, it took a little while to adjust to the new schedule. It also changed the way I felt about summer. No longer was it a span of time that involved seemingly endless days of frolic; it became a season to be scheduled and navigated. Instead of miles of fun punctuated by occasional spates of boredom, summer became a race to cram everything in – and not all of it was frolic.

I particularly have noticed this when it comes to vacationing. Before having kids, vacations were a time to get out of Dodge and relax and unwind. With very young kids, however, you pretty much have to take Dodge with you in order to be comfortable, and it sometimes takes more days to pack and then recover than the vacation itself.

My kids are a bit older now, so the days of lugging strollers and playpens and extra everything and ample toys have subsided. It definitely makes me appreciate all the preparation my parents had to do when they took us camping.

Now that the kids are a bit older, there’s still a lot to do and it’s still super busy, but the busyness is peppered with more relaxing times.

Lots of people have talked about how parenting allows you to return to your childhood and relive things. At first, as the resident pack mule, I didn’t really find that happening so much, but now that Girlchild is four and Boychild is eight I can see it.

I think back to my eight-year-old self and I remember those summers of camping in the tent trailer with my parents and brother and sometimes my grandmother. We went all over Ontario and also to New York State and I remember how everything seemed special and different.

Sometimes kids today need a big “wow” factor to get their attention, but I’ve seen my kids’ happiness unfurl at a cottage or a playground, so I feel confident that experiencing some of the little things I loved as a kid will etch good memories for them, too.

I remember the smell of my new Nancy Drew books mingling with the scent of canvas as I lay on my sleeping bag and immersed myself in reading. I remember “surfing” rollers on Lake Ontario. I remember how cool it seemed to wade out into a big lake and suddenly climb up onto a sandbar. I remember camping not far from a farm field and watching hundreds of fireflies cavort with sleepy, lowing cows.

Now if I only I could figure out how to make summer slow down so we can drink it in sips instead of gulps.

Published in The Perth Courier, June 24/10