Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Never let them see you sweat

For years, I’ve walked the streets.
Rain, snow, cold weather or hot, I’m out there daily with my headphones on, listening to Pacifica Radio or NPR — talk radio keeps my mind occupied.
Last Saturday morning, I was home following the big snow storm. Flipping the TV channels, I turned to Discovery Health and found “Total Body Sculpt With Gilad.”
It was a reunion of sorts for me — I used to do Gilad Janklowicz’s shows “Bodies in Motion” and “Basic Training the Workout” since age 19, when I first began really getting into shape.
I managed to lose 30 pounds back then and get fit enough to run 5K races.
After two kids and cresting my 40th year, walking 30 minutes a day just doesn’t do it anymore.
I poured T a big bowl of Froot Loops Yogurt Smoothie and told him to stay in the kitchen. (“Sweetened multi-grain cereal with yogurty-covered cereal pieces! Good source of calcium! 7 vitamins and minerals!”)
Dinosaur city and the multi-car pileup were swept to a table at the edge of the room.
T giggled between mouthfuls as I pumped my arms and marched to warm up.
“I’m very glad you joined us today in sunny Hawaii,” Gilad said. “Pick up your light weights and get into the squatting position.”
I got about two sets in before T scrambled to my side, eyes glued to the screen, and started to reach — side to side.
A string-bean-skinny 4-year-old doing pilometrics put me to shame.
I doubled my efforts.
“Now, shotput arms! Keep your chest raised, your abdominals in, and pivot to the side, keeping your knees slightly bent!” Gilad screamed over the crashing surf.
A wind surfer floated by, his body a "C".
“Auughh!” I screamed, my waist burning.
That old love/hate feeling returned.
“Awww! When is this going to be over? I have to go poopy!” T complained.
“Just go,” I huffed. “Ask Daddy to wipe you.”
T ran to the bathroom, then ran back out after a minute.
“There’s a commercial. You can wipe me,” he said, happily.
Great. I’m supposed to be “working through the break.” I’m sure Gilad would blanch at what I was doing. I think he meant biceps, not buttocks.
Floorwork — time for the abdominals.
“On your back, press your lower back into the floor, and lift to the count of two ...”
T picks this moment to take a running leap onto my stomach.
Now I remember why I haven’t done this in 11 years. The dreaded little-boy abdominal tackle.
T can’t resist the temptation of jumping on my back when I’m on all fours cleaning under the couch. Why am I surprised?
The good news? I got through that workout in one piece.
Naturally, I was sore as heck the next day, and felt like I was in 100 pieces. Still, today — five straight early morning “Total Body Sculpt” workouts later, every muscle in my body aches.
I’ve read it takes 21 days to start a habit.
Check back with me in 16 more.
I might even start to resemble those ladies who stand behind Gilad, in black Spandex pants and scoop-neck red halter tops, grinning while exercising, in perfect form — never even breaking a sweat.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I'm a big girl now

Last week was February vacation and I bit the bullet.

I took the week off of work, hung out at home and forced Nikki into potty training. We've been working on this for almost two years now. Both preschool and daycare have been working on it as well. For some reason she does much better anywhere but home.

I'm tired, however, of having two in diapers.

The first day was a bit of a disaster (and a mountain of laundry) but as the week progressed it was amazing to see the difference. Although my husband and I aren't really sure who got trained, Nikki to use the potty or mommy and daddy to put her on it every hour or so. Either way she went to school yesterday without disposable training pants and did great.

Do you think the baby is too young to start training?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Garbage is Beautiful!

We have three garbage trucks in our house.
They’re not the city’s — or full-size, for that matter, but just as real as any one you see rumbling down the street.
Real to my 4-year-old, who wants to be a garbage man when he grows up.
And he is a garbage man every day at home, as he piles up his Legos, scoops them into the tiny trash cans, then loads them into the back.
He got his first truck two years ago for Christmas from his grandma. That came with a tiny man, whose trunk fit into the cab or in a hole at the back of the truck. That man, and the two garbage cans, have been lost so many times I've given up count. I’m always recruited to find them, since the guys in my house think I keep a running inventory of every object’s location — along with the olive oil, car keys, bottle opener, PSP games, sneakers, winter hats, and any of T’s three Spider-Man toys.
He got another, longer, green one with electronic buttons that make life-like sounds. This Christmas, Santa brought T a jumbo one, complete with a gray Dumpster that lifts into the back via a lever system. The little square garbage cans have lids, miniature replicas of the brown, wheeled ones the city gives to every household.
Between the recycling and trash pick-up, three early mornings a week are occasion for the thump-thump of half-asleep little feet running to the window to spy on the garbage man.
Later, when we wake up, we’re given a run-down of activity: The garbage man threw the can and cracked it, he didn’t empty it all out and some trash spilled into the street, he didn’t see a box by the can, he activated the crusher for the broken chair pieces.
One day, my husband took T with him to the Haddam town dump to drop off trash for his mother. What do you know, a trash hauler noticed my son’s unwavering interest and asked if he’d like to sit in the cab for a minute.
He talked about that moment for many a day.
Last night, the kids were leaving for a party.
"Wait a second," T said outside, after descending the front steps. He marched toward the side of the house. My husband heard a dragging sound, then some grunts.
From the darkness emerged T, both hands gripping the plastic garbage can, slowly pulling it toward the curb.
Next, the recyclables. T pushed the blue tub down the slight incline of our side yard, neatly lining it up with the garbage can.
"All ready?" Dad asked.
"Yup," T said, marching toward the car.
I must have read aloud the slogan on those light-blue Dainty garbage trucks that haul around the city, because one day T and I were walking the neighborhood, he in the stroller, and he piped up, “Garbage is beautiful!”
“No, it’s not,” I say. “It’s stinky.”
He entreats, “It’s beautiful!”
My silence signifies resignation.
There must be some redeeming quality about refuse if it elicits such devotion from a 4-year-old.
I just haven’t yet figured out what it is.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Like a sore thumb

It’s a funny thing, peer pressure. In my experience, growing up a girl is fraught with moments of self-consciousness or outright embarrassment.
Comparatively, my sons show little shame, but when it does rear its head, it’s like the moment last week when the O’Rourke’s Diner sign and building were ringed in pink-and-green neon lights for the first time in years — glaring.
The 10-year-old suddenly doesn’t want to change in the bathroom at school prior to basketball practice, because he’ll look funny carrying out his clothes.
The 4-year-old made me remove Dora the Explorer fruit snacks, perfectly fine to eat at home, from his lunch box, because “the kids will laugh at me.”
I went into the house and replaced it with “Cars” fruit snacks. T ate Dora in the car on the way to preschool.
B says I should stop making jokes and laughing when I read books to his class, because “it’s embarrassing!” I counter with, “maybe I shouldn’t read at all and the whole class will have to do more schoolwork.”
B counters with, “I still want you to read, just don’t act like a jerk, Mom.”
Child psychologists say peer pressure can be negative or positive, as in the case of bathing. Not so much in my house, however. I cringe every time one or another son sports telltale bed head — announcing to the other mothers like a bullhorn: “She hasn’t washed them in days, maybe weeks!”
‘Course the kids could care less, swatting at my wet palms trying to smooth down offending clumps of hair.
Ever the thinker, I try to gauge the percentage of parents who think said cowlick represents: a) gone-to-bed-wet [and thereby clean] hair, or b) dirty hair.
I figure I can glean at least a couple votes from the slept-on-the-pillow-wet constituency, avoiding the above-mentioned embarrassment at the expense of one’s peers.
These being the married-and-near-40-mother-of-two-boys crowd.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A gift that keeps on ... knitting

I belong to the Russell Knitters, a genial group of ladies that meet every second Saturday of the month at the Russell Library in Middletown. Last Saturday was an ordinary meeting day, eight or so members attended. Halfway through, an older woman poked her head through the door, asking if we’d be interested in some craft supplies that belonged to her late sister. She passed away recently at 83, she said.
In she brought dozens of needles — straight, circular and double-pointed — crochet hooks, books and even a half-finished tatting project. She left, amid our profuse gratitude, and without a pause we rushed, elbow to elbow, to examine our fortune.
The stash said alot about its former owner in its magnitude alone — she had every size and type of knitting needle available neatly arranged in a clear plastic box. The booklets were in terrific shape and plentiful, the needles in their original sleeves.
I scored a dozen circular needles and half-dozen double-pointed, rounding out my collection substantially, and a slim book of socks for men, women and children.
It wasn’t until I took my findings home that I realized how well-preserved her supplies really were. Double-pointed needles by Susan Bates, Zephy, Boye and Marcia Lynn bore their original prices, astoundingly cheap now — 39 cents, $1.10, $1.25 and $1.65. But the most remarkable piece was "Hand Knits by Beehive," stamped with "Kay Burns Yarn Shop, Needlecraft and Accessories, 150 Main Street, Middletown, Conn."
Price, 25 cents. Copywrite 1944.
In a year when the presidential front-runner could well be Hillary Clinton, today’s woman will surely appreciate such nuggets: "Knit your way to his heart. Any man goes soft and romantic over the little woman who makes socks ‘just for him.’ So knit them in his favorite style, his favorite color ... "
At first, I thought raiding this woman’s stash of needles was crass, but upon reflection, I think I hope to have such a thoughtful sister to make certain my beloved craft supplies are passed onto others who share a similar passion for an age-old pastime. With two boys and an editor husband, my yarns will languish upstairs at home in their orange tote boxes until some one or another decides they need said orange tote boxes for more important uses — like old newspapers, or toys, or clothing that no longer fits.
I’ll be hovering above, like Reese Witherspoon in "Just Like Heaven," unable to "cross over" until I let go my earthly attachment to ... the Butter-colored Classic Silk Top-Down Pullover I never managed to finish or the Tricot "sporty jersey-style sweater for the stylish soccer mom" pattern I printed out but failed to attempt.
If the delicately tatted handkerchief, carefully organized collection and a sister’s generosity are any indication, my unnamed benefactor was a woman worth knowing.
And remembering — every time I finger her gifts to me.

Daycare blues

OK so I know I'm lucky in that I haven't had to send James to daycare until now -- he just turned 7-months-old.

And I know I'm lucky that, because of the flexibility of our schedules, James only needs to go to daycare two afternoons a week. I know I'm lucky because I have a wonderful daycare facility for him to go to -- the same one Nikki has attended since just before her first birthday.

But today is his first day. My husband will be dropping him off this afternoon when he heads to work.

I packed everything up for him last night. I know he will be in good hands and with teachers who have be anxiously awaiting his start.

But I just want to sit and cry.

And to all of my bosses -- thank you for making it possible for me to keep him out of daycare this long.