Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why I Want To Be Captain America

Let's start simply - as anyone who reads this can probably figure out, I'm trying to better myself.  This is primarily blossoming in a fitness manner at the moment.
As part of this figuring myself out journey I found Nerd Fitness.  I will admit, I adore Steve - the creator.  I enjoy reading the site and have been trying to involve myself on the forums.  Typically on forums, I'm a lurker not a participant.  So participating is a big deal to me and I'm trying to get to a regular posting schedule.
Today, a bit late to the party, I read one of his articles, "Don't Escape, Get Inspired" (Link: http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/10/02/dont-escape-get-inspired).  Also, watching the video is a big plus.
I don't know why but this particular article hit me just right.
So now, I want to be Cap.
But, why Captain America?
Steve Rogers (the guy under the mask) believes in doing what's right - even in the face of extreme adversity.  He doesn't compromise and the means do not always justify the ends.  In a comic book my son owns with Captain America in it, there is a scene where Cap is given the chance to murder a bad guy in order to save the day.  The other good guys (not avengers in this case, aliens) are basically urging him to do it because they see no other options.  Captain America lowers his stance and says "Doing the wrong thing, even for the right reasons, is still wrong."  That line is one part to why I like him.
Other points about Captain America, he is the fighter, the defender, the rally point, the leader.  Everybody looks to Cap for guidance, including Iron Man, Thor, Hulk.  The one guy that is still basically just a person is looked up to by a technological genius, a god, and all the confounding things Hulk is.
Cap also admits his faults.  He has no problem with admitting if he doesn't know something or isn't the best choice for something.
He is also highly adaptable.
I watch Super Hero shows with my son.  Anything with the Avengers in it and Captain America (even when in parody, like Super Hero Squad Show) is still a cornerstone, even when the spotlight isn't on him. 
He doesn't just talk though.  He leads by example.  Captain America was labeled a traitor at one point due to the Skrull invasion (nasty shape shifting aliens used Captain America's personality to further their purposes).  While the world reacts to him with anger and hatred, he carries on doing what he has always done.  He stands for what is right, fights injustice, and ignores that anger directed at him as best he can.
So, yeah, I want to be Captain America.
I think that's a valuable goal.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Stereotyping and Villainy: Creating Hatred With An Us Versus It Mentality

Let me start this post by saying: We all say dumb things - even me.  Sometimes we know right away that it was dumb.  Sometimes we realize it later.  Sometimes it takes seeing, reading, or hearing a similar comment to realize it.
This is not about the one or two times we all say something dumb.  This is about when that something dumb starts becoming our mentality.

The first question you might be asking yourself is, why is the title Us vs. It instead of Us vs. Them (like the popular phrase goes)?
Well, the reason is that us vs. them works okay in sports and competitions but not so much elsewhere.  In life, when we start thinking of a group of people as a "them", we slowly stop thinking of them as people.  And as soon as people are no longer viewed as people, they become things, its, they are no longer "real".  Once we stop making people "real", they no longer matter because things don't have thoughts, things don't have feelings, things can always be replaced.

The inspiration for this post started with my son talking about the Pledge of Allegiance.  It made me think of the huge debate about the "Under God" add in.  Then previous thoughts sort of clicked into place.

Take a look at the comment section in news articles and watch how quickly it become "Evil Republicans/Democrats" and "Whiny Liberals/Conservatives" are all to blame for everything from Obama's presidency to Brad Pitt and Angelina (seriously, an article about a fluffy kitten who purrs can become a political battle ground).

Now, a reasonable person can deduce that not every Democrat is trying to turn the US into a Welfare State and not every Republican is trying to destroy Equal Rights.  However, if every time you look at the internet, these are the messages you receive - how long will it take before you believe them?

Let's look at race.   All black people live in ghettos and are criminals.  All Hispanics are illegal immigrants that abuse welfare.  All Asians are technological geniuses.  All white people look down on everyone else.  All Middle Eastern people are terrorists.  How many other stereotypes like these and worse have you heard?  These are what I've noticed lately.

Let's try religion.  Christians are bigoted bible thumpers. Jews are greedy. Muslims are extremists.  Atheists believe in anarchy.  Again, how many of these and worse have you heard?

Oh, how about gender?  Women are gold diggers, bitches, sluts, shrews, harpies.  Men are idiots, assholes, violent, oppressors, entitled. 

So what is the point to airing this dirty laundry?  To point it out.

See a lot of people get pissed off at advertising agencies and magazines that promote unrealistic body image to young girls.  Since young females are so impressionable it is irresponsible of these entities to inhibit the growth of self-worth and confidence that these girls need and deserve to have.  The reasoning is that after being bombarded with all these images, girls will believe that what they are shown is the ideal, they will believe the photoshopped hype.

If we can all understand that bombarding a young girl with the idea she can only achieve success in life if she is as fashionable, chic, sexy, skinny as a modified model is bad, why don't we get that bombarding anyone with bad ideas is bad?

If every time you log on to the internet or turn on you TV, you see women bashing other women - how long will it take you to believe that this is okay?  That if another women does something different from you, she deserves to be shamed or harassed?

There is a website for moms that I once hung around - mostly because they had an online game that I played.  Every once in a while I would read part of the forums and it would disgust me.  I sincerely mean that too.  I was disgusted by the attitudes and venom spewed from the keyboards of the women on the site.  Some mother would post a question, asking advice for a parenting concern and the replies fired off had me looking for the trenches.  I was not on the website very long.
I have enough of an issue with people being jerks to each other normally but this is relevant here because this website furthered a stereotype of competing moms.
Some of the women that posted were out of control - you would seriously question what they were doing to raise their kids.  But this only reinforced that "crazy girl" idea.

Okay, now let's move a little further on this...Where do kids spend a significant amount of time?
Connected to the internet.

Over and over kids are presented the worst in stereotyping and vilification of anyone and everyone.  Straight, Gay, Transgender, Gender-Neutral, Married, Divorced, Single, Male, Female, White, Black, Asian, Latino, Native American, Christian, Pagan, Muslim, Country Music Fan, Pop Music Fan, Heavy Metal Music Fan, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Spartan-Living, Consumer-Living, and anything else you can think of has haters, professional bashers even.  There is not one thing you could do that is not criticized somewhere online.

Congratulations - we have a culture that not only condones hate, it propagates it.

...
....
.....
The people who speak the quietest often speak most profoundly.  The smallest voices on the internet belong to the people who believe in moderation, who believe in living freely.  That needs to change.
There are places were you can find the lovers, the encouragers, the people that don't bash others for no reason (they may call out dumb but will expect you to call out their dumb too).

Thankfully, there are more and more people getting the message that we need more positive and less negative.  More approval and less reprimand (and vice versa where applicable). 

The first place to start though, is with you.

I've come to a point where I see the differences in people and those differences don't matter.  To me, nearly everyone is lovely and fascinating. 
I'm not saying that you need to run out of the house and start hugging strangers.  But maybe look at where you are biased.  Can those biases be changed?

Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror' talks about change the quite effectively:
"I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change"

Remember, only you can prevent forest fires (sorry, couldn't help it).
Only you can change your actions.  You can't change other people but maybe, you can inspire them to change.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Adventure Saturdays, Mellow Sundays

Since spring of this year, my kids and I have done, what I like to call, "Adventure Saturdays".
These are Saturday only activities because my husband gets the car on Sundays (we only have one car) and serve several purposes.  First, they get me and the kids out of the house for several hours; second, this time gives my husband time to sleep since he works third shift (two kids + small apartment = not much sleep for daddy); third, these days are times for us to explore everything.

The places we've gone on these days include: Boston Museum of Science; our local Children's Science Museum; Two different zoos (a third one come this weekend); an Art Museum; Movies; an indoor playground; and visits to family.
Every single Saturday the kids and I take off for at least half the day and enjoy it.  These days create amazing opportunities for them to explore.  They are also a fantastic opportunity for us to bond.

This year, my son has developed a love of taking pictures.  He was so thrilled when I had photo albums made for him with the pictures he'd taken from one zoo trip.  You would have thought it was his birthday.
Generally speaking we spend between 2-3 hours at whatever place we go.  Sometimes it's more and sometimes it's less.  These days are always so much fun.  They are also very tiring.

Now, to introduce Sunday.  Sundays are our down days.  The kids and I kick back at home, play games, watch movies, and take walks to the park.  We may also get in some early morning grocery shopping.  Sundays are just as much about bonding as Saturdays - just in a different way.
On Sundays, my son helps me more with his sister, we fold laundry together, and learn the simple pleasure of being together without necessarily doing anything.

Sundays also teach me patience.  My son and I are enough alike that if we don't figure out how to manage each other now, his teenage years are going to be hell.  I have learned some of his triggers and how he pushes my buttons, just perfectly to annoy/frustrate me.  I am learning to mitigate the clashes we have and stop them in their tracks.  I will not proclaim to know all of it because as soon as I do, he'll find some new way to aggravate me.  So it is a work in progress and likely always will be.
Sundays we learn how we as a family work together and it gets better all the time.

Honestly, my favorite part of Sundays is when my son and I fold laundry together.  My daughter will play in her crib next to us and we will tell stories and sing songs.  Together we sort all the clothing then he folds the kid clothes and I fold everything else.  It is fun, goofy, and a little outrageous sometimes - we had the baby laughing so hard as I belted out "She'll be coming 'round the Mountain" and he was performing a wacky interpretive dance to it, by the end, we were all laughing.

I'll be honest, there are days when I just want to be alone and not worry about the little ones running around.  But I would never trade them for anything, the little moments and the big moments are all so awesome.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Best Me Today Makes Them Better Tomorrow

So this post is kind of twofold but it is kid focused.  My children are not my life but they are certainly at the center with their dad.  All three of them have impacted my life tremendously.  This is about the kids today.  Maybe I'll talk about the husband another day.

One of the biggest things I want for me kids is for them to "never look back".  This idea is from an article I read years ago.  The point of the article was simple that when kids grow up confident, they will move forward in life and won't look back to their parents - because they know that their parents will always be there.
Think about that for a second, really think on it.  Imagine, you wanted to be a stuntman.  You would start with small stunts and work your way up to leaping off buildings.  By the time you are flying backwards off buildings, there is one thing you are certain of - there will be something there to catch you.  You would be okay with doing those stunts because every other time you've done them, you've been caught.  You consistently fall but know you will always get back up.
Guess what?  Parents are that safety net, the giant inflatable catching the falls.
Every time kids try something new, good parents are right there. Whether that something new is easy or hard; hated or loved; stimulating or boring, the kids need to know that their parents are there.
And every time we adults support them, those kids learn we are there.

At first they will keep checking to make sure but soon that will stop.  Not because they are "too big" but because they know who's behind them.  Who is there to catch them if and when the fall.

I want my kids to move confident throughout their lives, so much so that they don't need to see me or talk to me to know that I'm there should they want me there.

I believe that self confidence is crucial to leading a content, happy life - to succeeding how you want to succeed.  I know from my own experience that my confidence wasn't that strong as a pre-teen.  Then a made a series of choices from where I went to high school to joining the military.  When I came home from the military, I felt the difference in how I perceived myself and it didn't matter what others thought.  Then the addition of a supportive relationship to work out some more kinks and there are people I know today who cannot picture me as the person I was.  Let's be honest, some of it is just growing up.  But I wouldn't have made the decision to join the service without knowing my parents had my back.  I had friends and teachers who told me that it was a bad choice and basically that I would be deployed and they would never see me again.  It sucked.  At home though, my choice was respected and that helped me push through the naysayers and navigate that minefield.
To this day, my military service remains (in my head) one of the best decision I ever made. 

Not to say everyone needs to join the military (I wouldn't even recommend it to some people) but at some point we all make a choice, a decision, that is made infinitely easier or harder by the people standing behind us.  And having the people who have been there your whole life behind you - that makes it easier.

So, in line with the idea of wanting to have confident children who grow into confident adults, they must first have an example.

Every action I take in front of my kids send them a message.  A message about me, about adults, about behavior, about relationships. 
My husband and I have never fought - no, I am not exaggerating.  We both grew up in households where there was yelling and made an agreement not to have that in our house.  When we disagree about something, annoy each other, or even hurt each others feelings, it is handled without a fight, without screaming.  We handle our issues through honest communication - talking and listening.  The biggest thing is honest.  If a topic is "put to rest", we both have to agree to that and let it go (it does not become something to harp on 3 months later).  We solve problems through calm conversation.
What do my kids learn when they see that?
I hope they learn how important a communication is in a relationship.  How important honesty is in a relationship.
When I make a mistake, even to the kids, I apologize.  Yes, I do say "I'm sorry" to my son and mean it.  I hold myself to a set of standards of behavior and that includes admitting when I am wrong.
I hope they see and learn that lesson too.
I always say "please", "thank you", "you're welcome", and "may I?"  Because how will they learn, unless they see someone else doing the very things we adults are always telling them to do.  And yes, that does mean that when I forget, my 7 year old will correct me.  I'm okay with that, since I correct him too.

This is why I part of why I want to be a better me.  If I am constantly pushing myself to try new things, to explore my boundaries, then that is what my kids will see.
I don't hide that I go to the gym to go running - my son wants to come with me.  I have to remind him he can't go yet but I'll take him once he's old enough.  When I try a new food, I'll tell him about it.  He is then more willing to try something new too.  Just not too new because you know he didn't like it last time he tried it...in his batcave...when I wasn't there (Translation: Too new/strange looking, check back later).  I'll take the victories I can get and we celebrate him trying new food.

Of course, as my daughter gets older, there will be different issues and different examples to set too.

I will seek to continuously grow and improve myself.  Not out of shame, disgust, peer pressure, or any other negative reason.  I will do it because I want to be better and more awesome than I already am.  And I will do it, so they know that you don't have to be perfect to be awesome and amazing and ultimately to be you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Worrying about Boys or Girls

I have come to the conclusion that I really loathe the statement (and it's various incarnations), "With a boy, you only have to worry about one penis but with a girl, you have to worry about all of them."
The sentiment basically boils down to - A girl can get pregnant and a boy can't.


So, why does this bother me?  Simple, it is inherently sexist and makes it sound like every daughter must be protected from villainous penises.


I have two kids, one of each.  I have to worry about both of them equally.  I would be just as concerned about my son impregnating a girl, as my daughter getting pregnant.  Why?  Because my son will be responsible for his actions.  If he gets a girl pregnant, you can bet he will be held responsible for that situation and all the headaches, heartaches, and changes that come with it.
He is being raised to understand his actions have consequences and he has responsibilities.  Right now, those have more to do with punishment for breaking stuff and making sure he dresses himself in the morning. 
If he ever finds himself in a situation with a pregnant girlfriend, he will be expected to step up to the plate in whatever capacity is required.


For my daughter, yeah, I don't want a pregnant teenage girl any more than a teenage expectant-father.  But I will not teach to run the other direction from boys.  I will teach her that she alone is responsible for her actions and her body.  And she can only hold herself accountable for them.


I want my children properly educated, so that whenever they decide sex is okay for them, they will approach it smartly.  Utilizing effective birth control measures if necessary (who knows, one or both may decide "not until marriage" and at the point they are okay with letting life happen). Not hooking up with someone while impaired.


I may have joked about a bullet-proof vest for the boy or picking buying a shotgun.  But truthfully, when the kids are teenagers, I just want them to live that time of their lives without worrying about an STD or baby or who knows what else.
I want them to experience high school as kids and nothing else.


Right now, these thoughts may seem out of place - my oldest is only 7 - but the foundation for the people my kids will become is laid down now.


I need to think about what kind of people I want my children to grow into now because by the time they become teenagers, some of it will be too late and some of it will require hard lessons.  I would rather start now and build a strong foundation.


Most important of all, I want them confident enough to be themselves inside and outside the home - whoever that self is.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

To Run Again

At the start of this year and this blog, I had jumped back into the fitness game.  Then my work hours changed and the momentum that I'd built vanished.  I hadn't given up on it but I needed to reevaluate what was going on in my schedule and reconfigure things.
For the record, I'm routine based.  Changes to that, depending on the nature of the changes, can throw me off track for a while.
Hence, now, my work schedule has been altered again.  Which brings me back to a more favorable schedule.
I haven't been inactive since my "break" but it's be mostly limited to Saturdays when I'm out with the kids.  Our Saturdays involve a minimum of 1.5 hours of walking for me and running/walking for my son.  Typically, we are moving about for 2.5 hours.  But that is only one day a week and not enough for me.
So, I started thinking.  When I think of myself in terms of exercise, when did I feel at my best and most capable?  Running.  There was a time when I could run at 12 minute mile pace for what felt like forever.  I'd reach a zone and just go.  It was consistent and relaxing for me.  I also felt like I was amazing because I'd reached that point.
When this year started I focused on strength training because, in all honesty, strength training is the "most bang for your buck" in terms of exercise - particularly with free and body weight.  However, while I enjoyed feeling stronger, it didn't get to the same point that running did, the point where I just wanted to go.
One of the biggest things about any type of exercise is that if it feels like a chore, you are less likely to succeed.  There are always opportunities for excuses especially if it is something you really don't want to do.  However, an exercise you enjoy - soccer, dancing, weightlifting, etc. - you will go back to it over and over again because it isn't a chore.
I thought about that in terms of my own situation and realized while I like strength training, I didn't love it and wouldn't miss it.  I miss running.  I miss being able to hit my pace and not gasping at air.  I missed feeling awesome when I went a little bit further and little bit faster than the day before.  Those were success I could count on and feel every single time.  When I ran, I never stopped improving and never stopped pushing.  Running, I have realized, is my exercise of choice. 
Now it is time for me to pursue running again and I'm excited.  I'm looking forward to hitting the treadmill.  I'm thinking I might set mileage goals just for fun, once I get more established.


Right now, I might only do one day during the week to get started and back into the swing.  I need to rebuild a habit I lost and slow changes work best for me. This week, tomorrow actually, will be my first day back on the treadmill.  I'm looking forward to it.  I'm looking forward to becoming a faster me.  Again.

Monday, July 28, 2014

In Defense of Barbie: Why She Doesn't Totally Suck As A "Role Model"

Lately, I've noticed a trend of people bashing on Mattel's Barbie.  The reasons why Barbie seems to be so loathed is based on how she looks.  Barbie is blond with blue eyes and exists in unnatural proportions (most commented on is her waist - which was apparently designed for ease of dressing/undressing the doll during play).

So Barbie has inhuman proportions.  So do Cabbage Patch Dolls, Bratz Dolls, and any number of other doll toys (even action figures).  As a kid, it wasn't about how precise a toy's proportions were, it was about how much fun I could create using the toy as a prop.  That's right, Barbie was a prop.  A tool, used by myself and my friends to aid in the creation of a story.

Let me add to this that the standard Barbie was not my favorite and versions I had of her were typically relegated to side characters.  My favorite Barbie was from an international collection, India Barbie.  I am a Caucasian female and grew up in a predominately white community.  My favorite Barbies were all ethnic (India, Tibet, China, Middle Eastern, Native American).  Since these were my favorites, I actually wound up doing a lot of research into foreign cultures and still love that kind of research to this day.  Gee, Barbie helped me become a xenophile, what a bad role model she is.

Now let's take a look at Barbie's accomplishments: She graduated college; worked at a grocery store; worked at a coffee shop; has been a pediatrician;  was an obstetrician (yup they had the set and she wasn't the pregnant girl, she was the doctor); was a business woman; worked in politics; was a singer; an astronaut; and so many more.  Barbie is quite literally an unstoppable woman.  She has held traditional "female" jobs and also traditional "male" jobs.  Yup, a toy that shows a woman in every line of work you can imagine.  Last I checked, Bratz dolls and Monster High dolls were all about fashion and popularity.  Which one do you like better?

Additionally, Barbie owns a house, a mansion, a condo, a convertible, an RV, a boat, and plane (yeah, she was a pilot too).  She also has several pets, ranging from cats to dogs to horses.  Look at the cats and dogs sometime, they are not easily identifiable breeds which means probably mixed breeds adopted.
Wow, she's a successful property owner and pet owner.

By the way, the whole Barbie and Ken thing, it's an on-again/off-again kind of thing.  Most importantly though is that they are friends first and foremost (or at least that was how I'd always interpreted it, even as a kid).  She succeeded where she did with Ken as an add-on - having a man has never defined Barbie nor been a requirement for her.  I like to believe that he cheered her on the whole time though.  Not too mention the cadre of friends she has, who also engage in as many careers.

If children learn by seeing, then why is a woman who is marketed as achieving and accomplishing so much vilified?  Is it really because "she's unrealistic"?  So, we will ignore the apparent intelligence that Barbie possesses (let's face it Doctors, Astronauts, Teachers, etc. all tend to be fairly intelligent people) and focus on her body.
In a time when we are trying to get young girls and young women to accept different body types and different appearances, we will make body image the reason to completely disregard a toy who visually demonstrates a woman's ability to accomplish whatever she wants as a confident, independent female.
Because that isn't a mixed message.

Accepting and valuing you personal body image is for all girls, tall, short, small, large, and everything in between.  But that is a different rant for a different day.

Did I play with Barbie as a kid?  Absolutely, I holed myself in my room with my cousin for entire weekends.
What did I learn?  To create stories, to appreciate life in different cultures, and different times.  I learned the only limits I had, were my own.

Any kid who plays with Barbie and thinks she is the ideal, epitome of beauty and has to look like her, probably has more going on than a new "body-conscious" doll would ever fix.
I could be wrong but that is my experience.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Young at Heart

Recently, I've been assessing what it means to be an adult and a woman in her late 20's.


My assessment for the first is this: Being an adult is understanding your responsibilities and accomplishing them to the best of your capabilities.


For the second: I have no freaking clue.


For some reason I was pondering my age and it occurred to me that I don't feel 27. Or maybe this is exactly what 27 is supposed to feel like?  I don't identify myself like a teenager - I'm like way too like old for like that.  I identify myself as an adult but, maybe I'm just comfortable in me, since I'm not having any of those "OMG, 30 is coming soon" feelings (which apparently females start suffering from at this point).


My friend Ryan and I use the playground to workout on.  I'm as excited as my son for Zoos and the various adventures we take on weekends.  I truly enjoy going to see a kids movie or watching the "Saturday Cartoon" style shows with my son.  I don't remember the last movie I saw in theaters that was rated PG-13 or higher.  But I saw Lego Movie, Frozen, and so many others.


Recently, I spent time with my best friend (we haven't seen much of each other lately).  We had dinner and spent a lot of time talking - some of it while driving aimlessly around the area where the restaurant was located.  My daughter was with us but it was still like so many other nights she and I have spent hanging out when we were teens.


I am an adult.  I work a full time job outside and inside the home.  I pay bills, cook family meals, pack lunches, raise children, and maintain a happy marriage.


I am also young at heart and in spirit I guess.


I believe there is nothing wrong with playing on the floor with Legos or on a playground.  With or without kids.


Maybe that's one of the many keys to life - having fun like a kid (all excitement and energy).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Week 6, 7, & 8: Progress, Taxes, Vacation

Okay, so I slacked a bit a missed two weeks.  Mostly due to prepping for my vacation (week 6) and said vacation (week 7).  Sad excuses but rather than create two backdated posts, I figured I'd just do a combined one.




The week of February 9th, was spent at work grinding through things and cleaning off my desk so I wouldn't be leaving any work unfinished.  Which basically meant far more paperwork and filing than is tolerable, while having a limited attention span.


Outside of work, the custom workout really came into play and was a lot of fine.  All this strength training is awesome.  This week I actually made my excel sheet even easier to manipulate by adding drop-down menus for each area, loaded with the appropriate exercises.  Now, switching up everything will be easier.




For trying something new, Ryan and I went to a local Indian place that has a lunch buffet.  Great for trying new foods without worrying too much over hating them.




The week of February 16th, was vacation week.  It was awesome.  For perspective, I have not had an actual vacation for almost seven years (when I was pregnant with my son).  Yeah.  My husband also had the week off.  After the holiday on Monday, the kids went to daycare and he and I stayed home.  We had no plans, no running around, just stay home and relax.  I wound up cleaning the bathroom, rearranging the living room, and getting the oil changed in the car.  But I also got to relax without worrying about the kids, had dinner with the husband, got a haircut, and bought a cookbook.




On of the best moments though was taking the kids to see the movie Frozen.  It was playing a our local dinner theater, which is also a second showing type theater, so we had dinner and a movie for under $30.  My son and I loved the movie.  Baby Girl was perfectly behaved.  She did start to fuss a little so the last 15-20 minutes of the movie had me standing in the aisle rocking her until she fell asleep.  This is why we picked seats to the side and in the back.
It was a great night.




Saturday mornings have also become busy again with indoor soccer. Right now, they play in the middle school gym and focus on ball technique.  The kids slide across the floor, with plenty of face plants, but they all have so much fun.  The little guy has an absolute blast.  I am loving that he is running around.


Winter has been really bitter and cold in New England this year.  So any activities to burn energy are a plus in my book.




This week, Ryan and I tried doing assisted pull-ups.  The gym has one.  Let's just say it didn't assist as much as he and I would have liked.  I think I got one.  He got like 3.  But hey - maybe next week I can get 2.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Week 5: Building Workouts and Trying New Things

Alright, so the beginning of this week, I had the attention span of a goldfish.  I was so easily distracted.  Mostly because I had a lot of energy that did not want to be focused on my desk job.  I was so excited about building a workout and re-integrating deadlifts.


I finished my multiple choice spreadsheet put together some exercises and totally wiped the floor with me and Ryan.  It was awesome.  What's fun for me is the feeling of success every time I walk out of the gym.  Push-ups are continually getting easier, so I'm pondering moving up to full body ones soon-ish.  I can do a full body push-up but like 3 of them.  So that's my next step with that goal.  I can feel myself getting stronger because I do better every time.


This custom workout I'm playing with is also changing every three workouts.  It'll constantly evolve as Ryan and I improve - yes, he does get some say in things (I don't totally blindside him).


Additionally, as a personal goal, I'm aiming to try at least 1 new food every week.  So far so good.
Last week I ate jalapeƱos for the first time (a little too much kick for every day consumption but not bad).  This week, I went to a local Indian restaurant for lunch.  They do a lunch buffet, so I was able to try a couple new things without feeling wasteful.


I've also come to hate cooking with thin chicken breasts - those things dry out too fast.  Maybe if I buy again I'll just use them in a stir-fry.


Today, is a day of preparation for tomorrow.  Tomorrow, barring another heinous snow storm, I have a busy day with BB.  It is the first day of indoor soccer, which we are both excited about (he so needs to burn off energy).  Then the afternoon is a birthday party for one of his friends.


Now, kids birthday parties can be lots of fun for kids and adults or just fun for the kids and awkward social hour for the parents (depending on who's invited).  Either way, that's fine.  As long as Big Brother has fun with his friends, I'll cope.


For this particular party we are going to a gymnastics place. Naturally there is a liability waiver.  Me, being me, I read over that stuff before I sign it - every time.  Doesn't matter what it's for, if you want me to sign something, I'm reading it.  And oh, boy am I glad I read the one for this place.  The waiver contained the typical, "You agree not to sue us for injuries" spiel.  Then at the end, the vary last sentence states that signing the waiver also gives the place permission to use photos and videos of you and your child in any of their promotional material (newsletters, brochures, website).
I barely allow my son's school permission to use his photos.  Why the hell would I want to allow these people to use them?
The worst part - they don't have any alternate waivers.  So I either get to tell my son he can't go to a party that he's been looking forward to or deal with it.  I'll most likely bite the bullet on this one.
I called them about it, the girl seemed uncomfortable dealing with my question - most likely she doesn't get phone calls like mine very often.  She put me on hold when I ask for an alternative waiver, then came back and said "it's the standard waiver" and couldn't do anything.  Her only additional statement was "we don't have photographers". Oi.


That's life I suppose.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Week 4: Feel the Power...a little

I found out last week that I won a raffle from one of my vendors - that was exciting.  I won a high heeled shoe tape dispenser in pink.  Not quite my style but still cool to know I won something.  The sales rep came into the office on Monday to drop it off and we had an impromptu meeting.
For the record - he is one of my favorite sales reps to work with.  So meetings with him are always fun.  I didn't keep the dispenser, since I'd recently bought one for my desk but instead gave to a coworkers daughter.  It apparently made her day - which I was very happy to hear.


Tuesday was my cousin's birthday.  Now she and I are best friends too, so I wanted to get her something this year.  I had a box of chocolate covered strawberries and apples, from Edible Arrangements, delivered to her.  Wednesday, I got a message, all in caps, about how much she loved them.  That totally made my day.  I love it when she gets excited over things.  We are both the same way - big giggle-y squee-ing kids when we are happy and excited.  It's goofy but that's us.


Now onto the workout stuff.
More Angry Birds this week and I became super excited about it.  I went to do the 40 push-ups and could feel the difference.  The push-ups were easier this week, still took too many sets than my goal but I improved.  At the moment, my push-ups are knee push-ups.  My goal is to be comfortable going back to full body.  I hurt my back a few years ago and full body push-ups used to hurt because of it.  My back is in better condition (though my pregnancy didn't help), so I'm working back up to that point.
Ryan and I both showed improvements in all areas.  Though now I'm looking at creating a new program.  The Angry Birds Workout is fun and kind of got me back to feeling comfortable in what I was doing.  The feeling of comfort makes me want to branch out some more.  (Comfort in this case does not mean easy - just familiar)
Using the excel sheet that ABW came with, I'm going to modify it a bit to adapt different exercises and provide options for swapping some in and out.  I'm geeking out a little, kind of like "ooo, maybe I can do X!" 
Also fun to note - the squats didn't murder my thighs day after.




On the work side of things, work has been a little dull, making the days long.
However, at home everything is going really well.
Life is fun like that.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Week 3: Angry Bird Attack

Last week, Ryan and I did the Angry Bird Workout from Nerd Fitness (I love that site).  It was a lot of fun and made me feel focused.
Part of what makes the ABW so much fun is that there are 6 levels. So every time you do the exercises you are trying to meet goals that will "Level Up" your exercise.  I'm a nerd - leveling up is awesome.


That's actually what makes Nerd Fitness resonant with me.  The idea is to "Level Up Your Life".  The creator of NF, also lives he life this way.  He has a checklist of things he wants to do, and each one helps him level up.  He practices what he preaches and he researches what he talks about.  Being that I am personally a research junkie, I appreciate that aspect.  I am also a gamer, so having someone explain healthy lifestyle through experience points (XP), makes it that much more fun.
After all, if life's a game, wouldn't you want to be the Warrior? Or Ranger?
So Yeah, I'm having fun.




Anyway - after day one of ABW, both Ryan and I leveled up on 2 of the exercises.  Tonight we are hitting the gym again and trying to improve our numbers.  Tuesday was bust courtesy of snow and him being swamped by a work project.  Ryan did his workout on Tuesday night at home. 


That's it for the moment...




Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Bicornuate Uterus: My Story

NOTE: This post deals with a medical anomaly and my experiences with it.


A bicornuate uterus is an abnormality most women find out that they have after becoming pregnant.  After reading so many forum stories about how much women go through courtesy of this unique condition, I've decided that it is time for me to put my story out there and hopefully make at least one woman feel more comfortable.



To start with - What is a bicornuate uterus?  It is an abnormality of the uterus, where instead looking like a rounded square/rectangle, the uterus looks more heart shaped.  This happens when two horns form while the uterus is developing.  There is a septate uterus, where a woman can have (as my friend likes to put it) "uteri".  I don't know as much about that condition.



** As a side note to this, my "disclaimer": I am not a medical professional.  Every woman, pregnancy, and situation is different.  Please keep this in mind. **



Now as I said, most women find out about this when they are pregnant and go in for an ultrasound.  I found out when I was 16 - yup first time seeing the GYN.  Basically the doctor tried to do an exam...and I totally wigged out (I felt really embarrassed at the time).  So, in lieu of an actual exam the doctor offered to do an ultrasound to make sure everything was normal.  After a really long ultrasound and a battery of other exams, I was informed I had a bicornuate uterus.  Outside of being pregnant - it wouldn't impact my life, but in the future, I could still have kids (very important for me, even then).



Fast forward a few years and I found myself pregnant with my son.  At the time I had recently moved to a new area, so I didn't have a set doctor.  I wound up at a local women's clinic and my OB/GYN was doing his residency there.


I told him about the bicornuate uterus, wondering if he was going to send me off to another doctor or even to a high-risk OB/GYN but he just nodded and notated it in my file.  He told me that as long as everything in my pregnancy progressed normally, then I shouldn't need to worry about seeing anyone else.  So instead of being immediately treated as "high-risk", I was treated more as "normal-with-the-potential-to-become-high-risk". 


Now here is the part where most pregnant women will hate (or strongly dislike) me - I never had morning sickness, acid-reflux, or any other typical pregnancy symptom the entire time.  I threw up 3 times the entire time.  The worst side effect of me being pregnant was pregnancy-induced gingivitis.  My son was growing perfectly with no issues and I was given no extra medications or preventative measures.
One of the bigger concerns with a bicornuate is the risk of a breach birth position - which comes about due to the limited space available to the fetus (half a uterus, instead of a whole one).  My son positioned himself head down and stayed there.


I went into premature labor at 34 weeks. Ready to hate me again?  I was in labor for 2.5 hours (from the time I realized I was in labor to the time my son was born).
It was a natural birth - the only drug I had was an antibiotic since didn't have a Strep test. 


For the record, my choice for a natural birth was largely because I didn't want anyone to stick a needle in my spine.  The idea of an epidural makes me uncomfortable.  However I know several people who swear by them. So, whatever makes the pregnant lady happy.


He weighed in at 4lbs 10oz, overall healthy, and spent 2 weeks in the NICU.


Ready - fast forward again - and pregnancy number 2.  This time a little girl.  New baby and new doctor - again.


I meet my new OB/GYN and tell her about my last pregnancy as well as the bicornate uterus.  She makes the appropriate notes and here's where the story changes, slightly.  After the second or third time seeing my doctor, she tells me about progesterone shots.  My doctor told me to think on it and let her know if I wanted to start these shots.  So, I did some research.


Progesterone shots are designed to prevent preterm labor.  These shots are used for women who have a history of preterm or who are at risk for preterm.  The shots are given, 1 per week, starting at about 14-16 weeks, and going for about 20 weeks.  The studies for this shot utilized women who have a normal uterus.  The effectiveness is something like, 33% of women the shot will work for and bring them to full term.
I then hunted through some forums catering to the bicornate crowd, trying to see if the shots worked for anyone on their second pregnancy.  The information I found was either A) "I'm taking progesterone shots now" or B) "It's my first pregnancy and my doctor is having me take these shots".  To me, that wasn't good enough information.  I'm not one of the "No Medications EVER!!!" types - honest - but I also try to be aware of what is going in my body and avoid over-medicating.


So, on my next visit with my OB/GYN, I told her I didn't want to take the progesterone shots.  Due to the limited information about it's effectiveness with bicornate uteruses, I wasn't comfortable with it.  (And as my mom put it - "If it's a real estate issue - the shot's not going to do anything anyway")  To my doctors credit, and the reason why I adore her, she just nodded and said "Okay, then here's plan B".  Plan B was to take a Fetal Fibronectin (FFN) test when I was between 30-32 weeks along and have weekly exams after 34 weeks to ensure proper fetal growth.


FFN is most useful when it is negative because that means you will not have preterm labor in the next couple weeks.  A positive is less useful because there are a lot of false positives.  But a positive could indicate that you will go into labor within the next 2 weeks or so.


If my FFN came back positive, there is a steroid that they can use to speed up the baby's development to help ensure that her lungs and everything finish developing.
I liked this plan a lot better.


My FFN came back negative and I stayed pregnant...and stayed pregnant...and very soon wondered when the hell my baby girl would show up.


Allow me to explain something to you.  When you have preemie one pregnancy and your next goes past that preemie week (in my case once I passed 34 weeks), at first you are happy.  Then when you hit full term - you are so ready to be done because last time, you were done.  The longer hit goes the more you are like "get it out!".


Now for everyone that decided to hate my easy first pregnancy, you can now laugh.  The duration of my pregnancy with my little girl - I had morning sickness for half the pregnancy and a weak stomach for the rest of it...which meant everything set me off.  I also had crazy migraines to the point that I stopped wearing my contact the last half of my pregnancy.  Everything hurt, was sore, and I was exhausted.  By the end of my pregnancy I couldn't sleep though the night - I was up 1-2 times every night and woke up early every morning.  Yeah - my friends and I said the next time I got pregnant I wouldn't get so lucky and I didn't.


I went into labor, 2 days shy of 42 weeks.  Yes, 42 weeks - my little girl took her sweet time getting ready.  But just like her brother, when she was ready to be born - she was ready.  I was in labor - start to finish - 2 hours.  One of my nurses heard how fast my son came, looked at me and said "When you come to the hospital to have a baby, you come to have a baby."
Once again I opted for a natural birth...though I was ready to throw in the towel for any non-epidural options.  As previously stated Epidurals scare me and they still do - I never want one. 
Now, for everyone out there wishing for an equally fast birth, there is a down side.  Normally as you go into labor your body will produce and release endorphins which helps to ease the pain.  With how fast baby girl came - I didn't get to produce that many, so it hurt a lot until I was ready to push.


When we arrived the hospital, I was asked if my water broke and what color it was.  The answer for the first was yes and a quick look at my discarded clothing showed green - a bad sign.  Green means meconium which is baby's first bowel movement.  When it happens in utereo, it can lead to some really bad issues for baby.  So the hospital had NICU doctors on standby.


She weighed 7lbs 14oz and was perfectly healthy - if in need of a bath.  It's been a blast these past several months watching her grow and seeing how her brother interacts with her.


So to recap: 2 pregnancies, 2 healthy children; 1 preemie and 1 late, 1 bicornate uterus, 0 cervical cerclages, 0 progesterone shots, and 2 natural births.


When I hear about all the preventative measure women undergo - just because they might become high risk, I wonder if they were given all the information.  The biggest thing I learned with both my pregnancies is that I only have the potential to be high risk and I need to work with my doctor to watch how they progress.
I trusted the medical team that worked with me and felt confident with every choice I made.  To me that is the important part.  I was confident with my choices.


Just as I started this essay - every situation is different so I don't expect everyone to make the same decisions I did.  They were the decisions that I felt were best for me and my children at that time.  And I'm happy with them.


** Please note: Medical information changes all the time, so please don't quote me outside of generalities - do the research and make informed decisions, always.  Again, I am not a medical professional and this is my personal experience.  **


Any thoughts, questions, or comments?  I'll do my best to answer as truthfully and accurately as I can.



Monday, January 13, 2014

Week 2: A Good Start

So, last week ended on a high note.


In Couch to 5K (C5K), I did days 1 and 2 with my buddy Ryan.
Overall a total of 25 minutes my distances were:
01/07: 1.49 miles
01/09: 1.53 miles


I'm having fun with this running program since it eases into running for a full 30 minutes over the course of 9 weeks.  It'll probably take me a bit longer to complete the training, since right now I'm only hitting the gym twice a week.  But as long as each run gets better and my total distance continues to improve, I'm okay with that.


I know every one says 3-5 days a week.  However, I am still working on the best ways to cement my morning routine and with two kids plus myself to get ready and out the door, it may take me a while longer (which is why that is part of my goals).


Tomorrow, we hit the gym again and I am excited for it!  I'll be honest, I always liked going to the gym - even in high school. 
I signed myself up over at Nerd Fitness last week.  I spent a good week and a half lurking through the website before signing up.  I like how it works.  And I am instituting the Angry Bird Workout tomorrow.
Yes - it is called the Angry Bird Workout. 


Ryan is along for the ride, so he let's me mix things up a bit without complaint.  He is also looking forward to it too.




Additionally, Baby Girl hit 4 months old last week too.  A healthy growing little girl with lots of smiles.  Big Brother is also being an awesome helper.
Melissa and Doug have a magnetic chore chart that my husband and I bought years ago (mostly for us to have reminders) and BB found it recently.  He looks forward to getting his smiley faces for doing chores, which means he's been helping out mommy a lot. 


Now, I just need to finish getting my apartment back in order after the flood (living room is done, kitchen is almost there).

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Week 1 of the New Me

It's been 4 months since the birth of baby number 2 and my little girl is growing healthy and wonderful.  Even before she was born I was plotting my route, not back to my pre-baby body, but to the body I've wanted for years.


Now when I say "the body I want" it is not as simple as wanting to lose X number of pounds - oh no - I want to shape my body with muscle.  This is a journey that I have started and stopped for years for a number of reasons.  The most honest, I think, is that I didn't have the right mindset.


I've grown as a person a lot over the years (as I hope to continue to grow) and I've learned a lot about myself.  It is time for me to bring these lessons into play and truly work on things I want to change.


  
So why am I writing this out for the world to see?  In part, I feel the need to write about what is running through my head.  In part, I want it to be part of the process and help me hold myself accountable.  As of right now, I don't think I'll be writing every day but at least once a week.


Let's Begin:


     End of October, 2013 I weighed 242.2 pounds
     End of November, 2013 I weighed 237.2 pounds
     End of December, 2013 I weighed 230 pounds


Right now, I will be tracking my weight but as I progress this tracking may stop.


I like running and miss being able to do it.  I used to be able to run a 12:00 mile like I could do it forever.  I'd like to be able to hit a 10:00 mile in the same fashion.  So, I am making use of the Couch to 5k program.  I've heard many good things and it seems a great way to start out.


Running Goal: 10:00 Mile


I have always had a special distaste in my life for push-ups.  I suck at them. But I know how awesome push-ups are as an exercise.  So, I don't want to suck at them.  I want to be awesome at them.  So, I've whipped out a handy-dandy training program thing that the Air Force put out.  It's designed to help people pass their fitness exams in the push-up section.


Push-Up Goal: 25 in a row


Now as I stated above, I may not track my weight for the entirety of this adventure but for now I am.  So even that has a goal.


Weight Goal: 165 pounds


All of these goals are prone to change and likely will.  I want to improve my overall health and fitness and that is a journey and challenge that will last a lifetime.  I want to continuously improve my entire life.  So in that vein, I have non-fitness goals as well.  Some will be easier to accomplish than others.


Finish Sudoku Book (easy-ish but keeps my mind happy)


Establish a consistent morning/evening routine (currently at semi-consistent)


Take my kids to three places they haven't been yet, in the local area (a great chance to explore)




Let's get this year going.