Saturday, July 25, 2009

Random conversations with my children:

Ethan and I were snuggling in one of the office chairs and I noticed a picture of Jay sitting on one of the bookshelves. It was a photo taken about the same age as Ethan is now and I asked Ethan to get it for me. I thought it would be interesting to hold it up to Ethan to compare. As Ethan picked up the photo, he commented about it. "Wow, looks like a kid who farts a lot." Cracked me up.

Lily announced to me at our afternoon tea at a local hotel, "Mommy, I want to be a boy dog."
Me: Why?
Lily: So that I can marry Dixie and have babies.
Me: Ok. (at least she understands some very basic, albeit slightly off, concepts.

We were at the pool last week where Ethan ate a corn dog. He laid the tray and remaining stick on the ground and continued to talk to me. After a while he got up to get back into the pool. I said, "Ethan," and pointed the tray and stick still sitting on the ground, indicating he needed to dispose of it in the trash. His quick and witty response, "Oh, I know, you want to lick the stick, right?"

Sadie went with me to visit my grandfather at the Hospice home. She was very brave and strong in what was a difficult visit. After while, it was time for the nurses to clean him up and rotate him in the bed. We decided to step out and let them do their job. We ventured into the kid's area where there were some toys and coloring supplies. Sadie decided she would like to color and asked me to join her. She said, "I am a little tired of being a grown-up. I think I just want to color for a bit."

One day last week, Sadie found three turtles around our house. She came to announce her discovery and I decided to check them out. I noticed from a distance that their shells seemed awfully shiny. Upon closer inspection, I saw that they had clear scotch tape covering their shells. Of course, the natural question was, "Why, Sadie, why?" Her response, "I need to repair some of the cracks and protect them." I don't know what that will do to the turtles, but she did do a nice job of covering the shells and trimming the tape around the edges.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Numbers Game, part 2

Roller coaster weight. That has been my life. Maybe the numbers don't fluctuate as much as my anxiety over them. I can map out my entire life by numbers on a scale. Every major event, every major day, I can tell you exactly what I weighed. I could probably list to you every comment ever made to me regarding my weight. Well, certainly I could do that with the negative ones.

I thought this was a normal pattern for all women until I spoke honestly with a friend. She said I might have a problem, because no, she really had no idea what she weighed at various points in her life. Therefore, my newly discovered number obsession has been swirling around in my brain lately. What is my fixation on these number? Why have I allowed them to linger and taint the most important memories I have? The battle of the scale.

Sure, I could lie and say it was really a matter of my health. I desired to be "healthy." Nope. I can blame it on society and its ridiculous images of emaciation and perfection. Sure, that played a part. But if I am going to be completely honest, I allowed it to dictate my perception of self. It is how I chose to filter what the world said, what my peers said and most importantly what that blasted scale said. I allowed that bathroom appliance to dictate to me whether I felt good about who was. I allowed a set of numbers to determine whether my memories are positive or negative at any point in time. I allowed the numbers to control me.

I believe that if you bring strongholds into the light, they just don't have the strength they had before. I want to let go of the need to "step up on the scale" every morning. And, so, for exposing myself to the is my life's weight map, and all of its absurd, skewed, mentally warped perceptions:


9.75 Sales lady at the old Tobias clothing store told me that if I didn't watch what I ate, I would have to start shopping in the "pretty plus" department. I was in 5th grade. She should have been fired.

14.110 High school football game. A guy physically picked me up and stated oh, you must be 110 pounds. He was correct, but I was NOT going to admit to what I considered to be a heavy weight. I lied and said, no, and looked shocked.

17.118 High school graduation, beginning of college. Very insecure and described myself as "chunky." Never walked around in a bathing suit, covering myself the minute I stood up from a chair.

19.128 Sophomore year of college. A dorm mate told my friends she was "worried about my health." Went of ridiculous crash diets including the rice diet and the cabbage diet. None were successful. Roommate was bulimic with some serious image issues and I was constantly exposed to her fears and choices.

21.123 College graduation. Heading out to the Netherlands to work. Wishing I had dieted and lost some weight.

22.132 Returned from the Netherlands and although very in shape from all that biking, realized that I was heavier than when I left. A comment made to me after I returned revolved around the "fullness" of my face. It was devastating to me.

26.140 Wedding. Absolutely hated myself for not dieting, not losing weight and being my "best" for my wedding. At the same time decided that enough was enough. I would just have to enjoy this day.

27.146 Weight at first pregnancy appointment with my doctor who informed me that I was already borderline for my weight and I would need to be a little careful about what I ate. I gained 40 pounds during this pregnancy.

29. 198 At birth of second child. Serious weight gain. Painful days prior to delivery as a body that is 5'2" tall is not meant to carry nearly 200 pounds. Yes, 200 pounds.

31.120 Determined to get it off, LA Weightloss brought me back to my high school weight. I ran a 5k. Instead of anxiety and stress about being heavy, I was panicky about gaining the weight back. I discovered that I was pregnant with my third child. I was depressed as I saw all my hard work go down the drain. But, I didn't gain as much during this pregnancy and with Ansley's cancer diagnosis, it was easier to lose the baby weight.

35.113 Ansley's death. Very thin. Many people thought I had "lost too much weight." It was the only thing I could control in the months prior to her death. I just didn't eat often. It was the only thing I felt good about. Over the next three months, I packed on 10 pounds of solid chocolate binging weight.

37.120 Today. Where I am. Always in the back of my mind is the fear that I will begin to gain weight uncontrollably. When the rest of my life is spinning out of control, this is the one area I grasp to control. It seems I am always thinking...I am always happiest when I am just 3 pounds lighter.

There is a lifetime of number addiction here. Mostly it is spurred on by that square, glass digital scale on my bathroom floor. And like an addict, I will need to purge my surroundings of its existence and its temptations. Goodbye daily number check. Goodbye.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Breast, Back and Free

This year, we joined the local Elk's Lodge. Like many of its members, we did it for one reason: the pool. Prior to this summer, our kids were basic swimmers at best. We joined the YWCA this past winter in order for Jay to teach them how to at least tread water and swim across the pool using any means necessary. Clearly, Jay was not an expert swimming instructor, but he was making attempts to teach our children how not to drown. It has been an intense parenting goal for Jay that our children become strong swimmers, with me sort of lagging along behind in support.

It is no surprise then, to know that when Jay heard about a swim team for the kids at the Elk's, he insisted that our children join. It wasn't that I was opposed, it was that I knew it meant more work and shuttling than I had planned on this summer. Ethan wasn't particularly enthralled with the idea either and I knew that meant much encouragement and cajoling on my part. And so, swim practice began. Every. Day. Sometimes twice a day. Swim meets happen once or twice a week. Meets last at least 4 hours, longer if you count in the warm-up time. For the novice swimmer and parent, these meets are a bit overwhelming, chaotic, exciting and tiring. Overall, it is a hefty time commitment for what are to the be the "lazy days" of summer. I was completely not prepared for this entire venture, but probably not in a way you think. I was completely unprepared for how swimming has changed our lives.

For Sadie, my little crazy wild cat, swimming has become "her thing." Never have I seen her so completely delighted with any activity she has tried. And, we have tried quite a few. She always becomes bored before the season ends, particularly at practices. Not with swimming. At the first meet, Sadie realized that someone was chosen to swim the American flag across the pool while the national anthem was played. Setting her sights on this lofty goal, she set to work at the very next practice. She was very determined and after showing her newly, self-instructed "flag holding while swimming" skills to her coach, Laura, she was allowed to bear the flag at the next meet. She was thrilled.

At times (well, a lot of the time) I have difficulty embracing the confidence, the assertiveness and the zaniness that is Sadie. It was during this flag ordeal that I realized that she is who God created her to be, for a purpose. I doubt her purpose is small in nature because that just doesn't seem to fit her very large personality. Therefore, I realize that I need to sit back and just watch it happen instead of worrying over the details and constantly trying to restrain her.

My best guess as to why swimming appeals to Sadie is that it combines a lot of physical activity, competition and socializing - all essential components to her happiness. After the last meet, I asked her, very casually, if she wanted to continue swimming. Her response, "I want to swim, forever and ever and ever." Therefore, I now find myself inquiring about year-round swimming programs.

For Ethan swimming has not come as easily. His first foray on the swim team comes at a time when most kids have been swimming a couple of years. At the 9-10 age level, you are required, for the first time, to swim the lane down and back, not just down once as in the 8 and under. He barely knew how to do free style, let alone any other strokes. Ethan is also my child who is fiercely afraid of how he looks to others, afraid if someone will laugh at him and or of failing. He resisted the entire idea of the swim team and after the first practice declared that it was too tough. He asked if he could quit. I said no. After the first meet, when he came in last place in the last heat, he was nearly in tears and begged me to take him home. I said no. That was a tough one, but I held firm. During his next event, my heart was in my stomach as he battled out of last place. Again, he came to me trying to be brave though tears welled in his eyes. I mustered every single "word of encouragement" and "rising to the challenge" verbiage I could during the ride home. It was a tough night to be a parent. Later that week, he came down with sickness and then went to Weeblo/scout camp leading him to miss a meet and several practices. Once he returned, he asked to just practice with the team and not have to do the meets. I said no, again. I did opt to invest in a couple of private lessons with one of the coaches in hopes of improving his strokes a tad, thus building his confidence for the next meet.

And so, the stage was set for our meet this past Tuesday. I told him all he had to do was improve on his time. Actually, that has been our mantra for this entire season. I ask, "Who are you swimming against?" The answer is "me." Or, "What are you swimming for?" The answer is, "To improve my time." To add to the incentive, I offered up the prize of beef jerky for any improved time. And here is where I must give kudos to his coach, Taylor. He heard of this little prize and gave the challenge to Ethan...shave off 2 seconds of his time and Taylor would get him the beef jerky. The time came. Ethan dove in. He gave it his all while Taylor cheered for him down the entire lane. He touched the wall...and had shaved 8 seconds off his time. He was beaming. I was elated. Several of the coaches, including Taylor, were there to pat him on the back. Did he win the race? No, not by a long shot. But, what I saw in Ethan's eyes and in his heart was worth more than that. He didn't care that he hadn't won the race. He was thrilled knowing he had accomplished more than he thought capable. He had learned a fantastic life lesson about perseverance and commitment. And, as we left the meet, Ethan said to me, "Actually, I can't wait to do it again." Yes, I had tears.

It would seem a bit strange that an activity that is geared toward my children would have an impact on me, personally. However, if you have read my blog for any length of time, you know I have been in a bit of a funk. Actually, a 2-year vastly fluctuating, emotional funk. My pleasure in socializing pretty much vanished after Ansley died. Grief, sorrow and bit too much introspection led me to isolate myself. Unfortunately, a little isolation snowballs into more isolation. Before you know it, you are nearly a hermit. Thrust into the swim crowd on a daily basis has reminded me how enjoyable other people can be. It is amazing, really, that I am sad the season is nearly over.

Not to leave Lily out of the mix...she was able to join the Jr. Elk's team. She has evolved from not wanting to get her head wet to diving into the water and swimming a crude little freestyle for about 15 yards. She loves going to the pool and I can see how this has improved her social skills just in time for kindergarten.

Finally, this post about the swim team would not be complete without mention of the young adults that are employed as the swim coaches. They have restored my faith in this next generation. Sure, I know I am not privy to all the behind the scenes. However, I do see dedication, organization, leadership, instruction, compassion, concern and a genuine desire for these young swimmers to succeed. One example is in Ethan's coach, Taylor, who had me write down his mobile number. Taylor will be out of town during the next swim meet and he asked me to have Ethan call him right before his free-style event. Ethan just beamed upon hearing the request. The head coach, Laura, is just beyond her years in her leadership, organizational skills and enthusiasm. And, the other coaches, Chris and Brooke among others, call my children by name, ask about them, request hugs, dole out compliments and encouragement. I doubt they understand, fully, what positive influences they have been on the Dumoulin clan.

In regards to next summer...well, I'll just quote Ethan, "Actually, I can't wait to do it again."