Wednesday, May 28, 2014

But, Einstein, there's a problem with fairy tales...

We're learning about fairy tales in first grade.  It's a really fun unit, with lots of talk about fairy tale elements, fractured fairy tales, and alternate endings.  We're also pushing story elements in general (characters, setting, problem, solution) as a way to wrap up studying literature at the end of the year.  We ask the same questions over and over again.  Does this story use the rule of 3 or 7?  Was royalty involved?  Were there magic words?  What was the problem?  How was it solved?

Identifying the problem is such an important life skill, and you can usually get into some great conversations about the different layers of a conflict in a story and which problem was the most important one.  But when studying fairy tales, it gets pretty bleak.  This week we're reading Cinderella, and we start the week with a classic version before moving into different cultural or fractured retellings.  Here are some excerpts from our post-read class discussion:

"So what is the problem in this version of Cinderella?"

"Um...they are mean to her."

"Yeah, and she does all the work, all the time."

"She has a bad life."

"I agree.  How did this problem get solved?  What changed?"

"Her sisters decided to be nice to her and she forgave them!"

"Why did they decide to be nice to her?"

"She was pretty.  They didn't know she could be so pretty."

"She did look different at the ball, that's true.  Is that why they changed their behavior?"

"I think it's because she became a princess, and you can't be mean to princesses."

[At this point I realized I had kept digging because I thought we were going to get to something deeper, but that's it.  The only positive change came from getting married to a prince.  I didn't want to write it on the board.]

"I think you're right.  The only real change in the this story came when she got married to the prince.  Then her life got better."

[The girls were smiling and I panicked a little.]

"But, even though it's romantic, it's not very likely in real life.  Do you think any of us will marry princes or princesses?"

[Hysterical laughter.  Almost in danger of losing them.  I pulled it back.]

"Doubtful.  So pretend you're Cinderella, and marrying a prince is out of the question.  What could she do to get a better life?"

"She should have stood up for herself."

"Yes!  I agree!  What could she say?"

"She should have said, 'You can't treat me that way.'"\

 [Direct from our classroom procedure for speaking to someone who wronged you!]

"I think that's a very good idea.  What else?"

"She could find a new family with nice people in it."

"That's a possibility, too.  The story says that Cinderella is strong and kind, so I know she would have found a way to get a better life, even if she never met the prince."

I wish I actually believed that.  I felt very magical sharing fairy tales with my tech-obsessed modern kiddos, but so far we've uncovered that Jack was a greedy thief who abused his beanstalk, Goldilocks was guilty of breaking and entering, and Cinderella was persecuted because she was too beautiful to stand- only royalty could get her high enough to stop being hurt by people who were jealous of her. Even the chick in Rumpelstiltskin happily marries the prince who three times threatened to kill her if she didn't produce enough gold.  That's just a side plot.  None of the characters face consequences.  Happily ever after means married, rich, and not getting in trouble for your crimes.

I know there are versions that remedy this- I just found a retelling of Goldilocks at the library in which she makes the beds, helps the family fix the chair, and then they make another breakfast together.  Fractured fairy tales are humorous and usually show character flaws in the heroes or heroines, which opens up great conversations about perspective.  But the basics, the classics, have dark themes and zero self-esteem building for girls, or boys, or anyone.

I think this is why I love the movie Frozen so much.  Love at first sight is mocked and shown to be silly and unsafe, the love that saves the day is a love between sisters, and the male lead character asks permission before kissing the girl he likes.  Not his true love forever wife- it doesn't end with wedding bells.  And the kiss is a sweet addendum to the real climax, where sisters embrace and Anna punches the bad guy all by herself.  I'm weirdly grateful to Disney that, even while retelling another fairy tale (we covered that most Disney movies are based on fairy tales heavily in our introduction at school), they were able to make this one so fresh and modern and fair.

Next year when we take out the fairy tale unit, one of the most important things will be modern day alternate endings that I'm going to have the students write.  I never want to stop sharing the magic of dragons and giants and castles and adventure, but I also want the students to recognize that you can have magic and still be a good person, that you can be strong without being a prince, that you can have a good life without ending up married and rich.  It seems a little deep for 6-year-olds, but this is the age where those messages get embedded.  My favorite quote about education (and life) is from Cardinal Thomas Wolsey: “Be very, very careful what you put in that head because you will never, ever get it out.”

Any tips for sharing fairy tales without completely betraying everything you believe about appropriate behavior for men, women, and dragons?  I'm going to be scanning the A Mighty Girl character list to see if any good book recommendations pop up.  I'd love any advice.  Happy reading.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

hey suburbia, we're in love with you.

(image credit: Robert Adams)

This isn't what I intended to post about today.  I actually thought today might be the day I sketch out an editorial calendar for the first time in over ten years of blogging.  I have all these post ideas- I want to tell you about our new living room, about things we're writing/eating/playing/reading, about the way I feel about Frozen, and about the way I'm building my village while confronting the sadness of living so far away from so much of my family.  I'm supposed to get directly off the computer and do a laundry folding blitz, because I think it's the most productive thing I could possibly do with a double nap time (currently happening for the first time in months) and I know I'll feel SO DAMN GOOD when it's all put away.

But I think the truth, above, that folded laundry would make me feel like a rock star right now, is exactly what I've been mentally confronting all day.  Ben is spending time today working on a movie, and visiting with friends from college.  These friends (and others like them) live very different lives than we do.  They travel for work and pleasure, create and enjoy art, make last minute plans, start socializing for the night at 11pm.  It's a foreign culture, and not necessarily one that I covet.  Still, every now and then, those kinds of lives get pushed up against mine for a moment in time and I wonder "Am I too boring?  Are we too stodgy?  Is it okay that I really don't feel comfortable inviting people over without 24 hours notice?  AM I WRONG IS THIS WRONG SHOULD I BE SHOOTING HIGHER AIMING FOR MORE?"  It can get frantic pretty quickly.

I used to want to live in a tourist town in an apartment over a shop.  I would feel the urge whenever I was somewhere charming- Newburyport, Gloucester, Northhampton, Burlington.  I thought about the vintage curtains I would hang and the way I would head downstairs and into a little organic cafe for my coffee every morning.  I used to want to live on a working farm.  I wanted to grow all my food and have chickens and milk cows and sew my clothes using feed sacks and repurposed cloth from thrift store clothes.  I used to want to live in a big city.  I would visit my sister and dream about living steps from a T stop, meeting friends in little bars and having my nightly jog take place on the Charles.  None of these things were actually long-term dreams, just reactions I would have when confronted with different lifestyles, whether I was reading or visiting or passing through.  I can't sew and I couldn't live without a car and access to a Target.

My mom told me once that she thought I was going to be the daughter who took off and never looked back.  I was always independent, working from age 14, and I have almost zero family memories from my high school years- I was usually gone.  I picked teaching because I was good with kids during after school jobs, and I picked Fitchburg State because someone told me that's where teachers go.  I only applied to one college, and never entered into any conversations about why, or why not.  At Fitchburg (which I loved- those are years I still mourn for), I usually took the path of least resistance, got through my classes by doing a bare minimum, did as much theater as I could let people include me in, and fell deeply for Ben, at first because he was older, then because my mom didn't approve (read: older), and then because he was patient with me, and we had a home together, and then we got engaged, and it was all reactionary for both of us from there.

What we have now is fire-tested and weathered with age.  In October, it will be ten years since our first kiss.  I have no memory of adult life that doesn't include him.  Ben saw me through student teaching and watched while working in schools went through all the stages it goes through- "I am terrible at this," then, "I'm getting better at this," then, "I hate this," then, "I might stick with this."  He waited while I went through a "going out" phase that he had no interest in.  We bought and fixed up a house, had kids, traded in cars and secured an eye doctor, an insurance agent, a plumber.  We are deeply entrenched in a suburban life.  Yard sales, swimming lessons, trying to eat more greens, evening walks in our neighborhood, and battling the lawn.  We never stopped and asked each other if this was our end goal.  We just went along with whatever was happening.  And here we are.

I don't think it's bad.  I like going to the park, scoring deals on kids clothes, and getting frozen yogurt for a treat.  I'm okay with never being out of my house after 8pm and falling asleep in front of the TV every single night.  I don't like live music, and Ben isn't into restaurant meals.  We don't have family close and babysitters + daycare is wildly expensive, so staying home is a natural choice, and it usually feels right.  I understand that a house, a career, a sweet husband, and two healthy, hilarious boys is a GIFT, something I barely deserve, and it leaves me no real room for philosophical musing.  This is a good life.

I'm not sure there is a conclusion to this post.  It's a wondering out loud, and there's no final paragraph that can answer the questions.  I'm curious what you think.  Have you had very structured plans along the way?  Have you gone with the flow?  Are you happy where you are?  Do you think it's too self-important to have these thoughts at all?  I wonder where you stand.  I have a feeling that no matter where I am, as long as I keep wondering, I'll be fine.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

some thoughts

Some thoughts.

I declare this the summer of the Frozen soundtrack.  I know I'm late to the game with almost all things, but I'm just getting warmed up on this one.  Yesterday I caught myself humming one of the songs while I helped one of my first graders open her snack.  I thought, "she gets me," and leaned over.

"Do you ever find yourself getting those Frozen songs stuck in your head?  I know I do!"

"Nah.  I'm actually pretty sick of all those songs.  But sometimes, I guess, I still sing them."  

She tacked that last sentence on the end when she thought she might hurt my feelings.  These kids were obsessed back in November, when I was still rolling my eyes and thinking how this generation of youth will never understand the TRUE Disney classics, like The Little Mermaid, who gave up her voice for a man and then left her family to marry him for a REAL happy ending.  But Milo still says, "SchNOWMAN!" whenever we hear the opening bars of a Frozen song, so I'm sure I'll get away with it for the next few months.

We just booked tickets to go to Story Land, and I'm about as excited as I would be if we just set ourselves up for a 10-day European cruise.  The boys and our family have traveled A LOT, but never just the four of us going somewhere because it's where we want to go.  Ben and I used to take a lot of smaller trips before we had kids.  We liked exploring, and listening to music in the car.  This vacation is going to bring a little of that back into our lives.  BTW, where are the must-bring packing lists for your New Hampshire vacation on Pinterest?

There are 23 days of school left, but this is the time of year where the focus starts shifting to the NEXT year.  Yesterday I decided I was going to move some furniture in my classroom, since pregnancy and maternity leaves have kept me from being too creative over the past few years.  I moved my desk and found a completely rotten apple and a large chunk of cut human hair.  I didn't cry, or scream, but I wondered.  I have a new configuration for my desk, and I'm planning a few other ways to make the room a fresh learning space by the time my next batch of babies comes strolling in.

Ben and I figured out (late to the game) how to sync our iPhone calendars.  Summer, here we come.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Masters of Education

I graduated from Fitchburg State (I never know whether to call it college or university- I know what I'm supposed to call it, but it feels weird) with a Masters of Early Childhood Education on Thursday night.  I am now, as the college president called during our ceremony, a "double falcon."

I felt a little guilty because I did not, contrary to all the speeches tritely given at our ceremony, give it my all, fulfill my dreams, or reach for any stars.  I know it's a law tha graduation ceremonies cannot escape using at least one of these phrases, but I did not stretch my brain to the limit.  I got by with a bare minimum, sometimes.  Often.  I was not there by sheer force of will, but because I needed further education to keep my teaching license.  All teachers in Massachusetts have to get a Master's degree.  It is unavoidable.  

I also felt a little silly because I decided to walk.  I spent my family's tight resources to buy the cap and gown, I paid a babysitter to watch my kids, and had my husband leave work early.  My mother spent her time off work and bought PLANE TICKETS.  She took us out to dinner.  There was lots of fanfare.  All for what?  For something that everyone has to do.  For a government requirement that is probably, in the long run, mostly situated to make the colleges more money.

But here is the thing: I love ceremony.  I love tradition, and I love recognition.  When I put on the robes and Milo said, "Mama, ghost!", I got a little thrill.  When I talked through the rec center where the graduates gathered and all the staff gave us numbers and checked our name pronunciation and said, over and over, "Congratulations," I felt proud.  I said, "Thank you.  So much."  When Ben jumped down from the bleachers and hugged me as I stepped off the stage, I got butterflies.  When I got to hug my mama and have her be proud of me in person, I was so happy I had decided to go through with the "silliness."  We went to dinner at Mezcal and had adult conversation and we would never do that on a Thursday if I hadn't decided to celebrate the most recent milestone.  On Friday, my vice principal congratulated myself and two other friends in a school-wide email, and I was completely spoiled with coworkers taking time to give me a hug, or a thumbs up.  The same friends who had to go through all the same hoops, and had celebrated the same accomplishments, didn't begrudge me a little "woohoo!" and shared the relief of being done.

I don't think finished with my education.  One day, I'd like to be a children's librarian, and in Mass, that requires more degrees.  That would be my true dream fulfillment.  But for now, I'm reveling in the pride of my job that supports my community, gives my family health insurance, and puts me in contact with one of the most important support systems I've ever had- my work family.  Thank you, Mama, for coming and seeing me.  Thank you, family (Julianna, Emily, Linda, Laurel, Tanya) and lovely friends (ALL OF YOU) for the messages sent from all over the country.  Thank you, friends (Shayna, Kate, and Lindsay), for watching my kids while I'm at class.  Thank you, Southeast, for cheering me on and making me feel special, even when I'm doing what all of you have already pulled off.  Thank you, Ben, for infinite patience and taking the boys when I needed to finish a paper.  Thanks for reading, too.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

coffee and blogs no.4

(My favorite bookworms.  Elliott is reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin and Milo is reading The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems)

The internet was rocking this week.  I've been busy, too- my mom is in town and I graduated with my Master's degree and we're switching into end-of-year assessment mode at work.  Whenever I had a few minutes, I was seeking out the best of the best so you'd have some excellent weekend reading.  Grab something good to drink, here we go.

The Third Annual Summer Reading Guide is out from The Modern Mrs. Darcy.  I'm usually 50/50 on her recommendations but I saw some good ones that I want to steal for my own personal summer media list (books, music, and movies for our break).

I feel so warm when I read this list of compliments that aren't about physical appearance.  On a related note, this sketch by Amy Schumer about women and their inability to accept compliments is NSFW, hilarious, and scarily accurate.  One of my favorites overall.

If you tend to obsess over your mistakes (like me!) then this article about how to move past it will be worth the read.  It's also nice to see a blogger and writer that I look up to so much admit to some oops moments.

"I drew a boat and he want fishing...I drew some stars and he went wishing."
A kids book that makes adults feel sweetly sad but also tremendously hopeful.  This post is about Stick Kid by Peter Holwitz.  It reinforces my desire to write a post called Kid's Books for People Who Hate Goodnight Moon.

I've heard before about words with no direct English equivalent, but I love this list with the words/phrases illustrated.  I'm guilty of tsundoku.

37 Children's Books that Changed Your Life.  Oh my goodness.  About half of these profoundly stuck with me.  I've always loved the way the details were laid about about the escape and survival of the kids in From the Mixed Up Files, and I loved the descriptions of chores in the Little House books.  And Matilda, of course.  I could go on.

If you live in Massachusetts, the Highland Street Foundation sponsors Free Fun Fridays over the summer  There is free admission to a specific list of cultural places (museums and zoos) each Friday from the end of June to the end of April.  We get great ideas for day trips every year.  

This quote stopped me for a second: "Your handwriting.  The way you walk.  Which china pattern you choose.  It's all giving you away.  Everything you do shows your hand.  Everything is a self portrait.  Everything is a diary." -Chuck Palahniuk


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

at the moment no. 7

at the moment, I'm...

...relieved.  I turned in my final paper for my master's degree.  I gave a presentation and I bought my cap and gown in the bookstore, which is much fancier now than it was 7 years ago when I was an undergrad.  Thursday night I will walk across the stage and graduate in the same place for the second time.  At this point, I have a different last name and a little less naivete.  How do you spell that word?  I'm trying to say I'm less dumb this time.

...waiting for my nephew!  My sister Julianna is due any time now and I'm feeling that rush from the arrival of something that always felt like it was light years away.  I wish I could be there with her, to tell her in person that she's amazing because she created a human and bring her toast and eggs and make her sit and read Us Weekly while I give her a break and rock her son.  It's what was done for me, and I know it will get done for her.

...preparing for my Mama to come.  Tonight!  Of course, arrival of said baby could tweak our plans, but no harm will come of cleaning the horrendous bathroom and stocking up on groceries either way.  I am most looking forward to watching Frozen with her (I've been saying all week "We're going to watch Frozen with Mimi," so now when I even say her name, Milo yells "Snowman!"), talking, uninterrupted, on the drive to and from the airport, and hugging her after I accept my diploma.

...disciplined.  After my crazy meeting with a crazy dietitian last week, I started going into information overload about healthy eating. After so many health professionals were dismissive about calorie counting last week, I stopped tracking my food.  I didn't meant to do it forever, but after a week and without consciously changing what I ate, I gained back one of the pounds I'd lost.  I still don't know what the perfect plan is, but I'm going to keep tracking what I eat, even if the calorie number isn't the most important piece of information I have.  I'm thinking so seriously  about Weight Watchers, but before I pay to commit, I want to make sure I can keep to tracking on my free apps for at least a solid month.  Thanks, as always, for cheering me on.

...spoiled.  The past two Sundays Ben has taken the boys to his parents' house so I could have the day completely to myself.   Ben's parents surprised me with a really cool necklace with the definition of "hug" on the charm, and my mama sent me a Mother's Day card..  This week started the online self-love course that a dear friend invited me to take with her. Laurel surprised me with the perfect graduation gift (bookstore gift cards steal my heart every time). I've got love raining down on my from all sides, and I don't take it for granted.

*I borrowed the idea of at the moment posts from yourwishcake- her blog is a do not miss.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

coffee and blogs no. 3 (mother's day edition)

(My mom and I in 1987.  This woman had just given birth.)

It's Mother's Day, which means people are looking at baby pictures and everyone in the world is eating brunch.  At least I hope that joy is extended to as many mamas as possible.  I have plans to eat in my favorite college diner with my family, then spend some time with my sister and come home to an empty house.  An empty house is still my favorite Mother's Day gift.  I'm also spoiled because Ben decided to skirt our "no-presents" agreement and ordered me a Fitbit!  I'm a lucky lady.

I want to take a second to recognize that Mother's Day is not an all-out love fest for every family.  Some people have lost their mothers, some people have lost children, some people just have icky feelings around this day and it's going to be shoved in their faces until Monday comes.  Whatever you're dealing with today, I hope that you feel peace and spend time with whatever happy memories you can muster.  If anyone needs a distraction, here are some links (a few are mama-themed!) to check out with your coffee this morning.

I've been a fan of Yes and Yes for quite some time.  I liked this round up of mothers sharing what they're trying to teach their kids.  So far, I feel most successful at teaching Milo and Elliott to love books.  Score.

A list showing 25 of the happiest words in the English language.  My favorites include easier, dearest, and gently.  Side note, mental floss is a ridiculously wonderful magazine.  They have a great online presence and twitter feed, and a subscription is one of my go-to gifts for smart people who have everything.

I've followed IROCKSOWHAT for awhile, and I love this article about getting away from judgment, especially around parenting.  This is important.

Some of my favorite people are librarians, and it is by far my dream job.  These vintage pictures of rad librarians get me going.  I will run a library one day, no matter what it takes.

My therapist used our second session to read me a personality test from her iPhone, and surprisingly, I connected with the results.  I've taken Meyer Briggs a few times, all with different results.  This weekend I got ENFP, and the profiles seem to be the closest to hit home.  You can take the test here, and tell me what you get!  (The whole time I was taking it I kept thinking that maybe I wouldn't get a profile at all and they would call me Divergent and I'd have to run...)

I'm putting together a reading/watching guide for myself and for the evenings Ben and I flop on the couch.  This is an old blog post I had bookmarked where people shared their favorite summer reads.  DO NOT SKIP THE COMMENTS.  And read Fortune's Rocks by Anita Shreve.  You're welcome.

Top Baby Blogs reset their stats, so if you don't mind voting, do a double click, starting here.  This is the last time I'll ask for awhile, thanks for your patience.

Here is a mother's day quote to dwell on.  This one is so good but hurts a little, like pushing a bruise:  "Yes, Mother.  I can see you are flawed.  You have not hidden it.  It is your greatest gift to me." -Alice Walker


Friday, May 9, 2014

thinking over coffee

It's a very cozy morning.  I've read some blogs and answered some e-mails.  Milo came out of his bedroom holding my paperback copy of Goblet of Fire and hasn't let it out of his grasp all morning.  Ben and Elliott woke up in a good mood.  We had teacher appreciation week and I've been feeling really appreciated.  I had a good observation in my classroom.  I think I have just one more round of revisions on my last paper of grad school.  My mom is coming next week, barring the early birth of my nephew, and both things are so welcome that it's win win.  

If you're just stopping by from Top Baby Blogs, welcome!  The stats were recently reset, and I've used the opportunity to check out some new blogs;  I was bummed to go back to zero, but it's actually refreshing to see all the titles mixed up.  Top Baby Blogs has been the gateway for me to connect with bloggers I would have never come across, and it's due to your clicks that I have that chance.  If you can spare another vote, go ahead and click on the banner below, then click on the left owl.  Thanks for keeping me up there.

Thank you for reading here.  Thank you for reading if you know me and thank you for reading if you don't.  I'm feeling so helped and strong and supported after sharing about my health plans this week.  And also about our canceled move.  And everything I blurt out on this online journal.  I'm starting to meet more people, and more people are starting to read and share.  Friends of family,  friends of friends...the sphere is widening.  I asked Ben if he wanted me to pull back, be a little more private, now that our family is getting more attention and I'm sharing so much of our business.  He said no, keep it up.  I was so relieved.  Thank you for commenting, sending me messages and e-mails, stopping me in the hallways, the thumbs up, the encouragement.  It means more than you know.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

ashlie gets fit

This post is about struggles with weight and disordered eating, and may contain triggers for people who also struggle with these issues.  I talk about goals based around specific numbers and time frames, and all of these goals have been set for me with a TEAM of doctors who are focused on the health of my organs and not the size of my pants.  The real focus here is the nitty gritty of approaching health, whatever that means for you.

"Please- if you have not had your mammogram- do not call getting a pedicure “taking care of yourself.” Love is not that easy. Love is not an escape from reality- it’s facing reality." -Tish from Momastery

I spent this April Vacation getting real, and it felt weird.  It started with an appointment to see my midwife about a month ago.  I hadn't been to any kind of doctor since Elliott had been born, and I don't really chastise myself for that, not too much.  Things were too crazy, for a little while.  But a little while was over, and they wanted me to have blood work done.  I went, annoyed to waste a morning getting poked and prodded, and went about my week.  And then I got a call that my resting blood sugar had come back high.

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"It looks like your gestational diabetes might not have gone away."

The nurse was cut and dry, and my stomach dropped.  That's bad.  That's the cornerstone of gestational diabetes, that it goes away when the baby is born.  I knew that my wake up call was coming, that this was more than postpartum.  If my blood sugar was still high a full year later, something needed to be done.  I mourned for old, ignorant me, who had no idea what blood sugar numbers were good or bad, felt sorry myself, and then made an appointment with my primary care provider.

While I waited, I did some research online (I am beyond good at internet researching as a form of avoidance) and talked to a lot of friends and family.  To be honest, I found talking to friends and family VERY HARD.  You know I'm not a private person, but discussing weight problems with people who love you- especially when you're sensitive to criticism- is a minefield of discomfort, burning red cheeks, and people falling all over themselves to say, "Well, you DID just have two babies" (I was overweight before my first pregnancy) or "You look fine to me!" (I like a lot of things about how I look, but now the doctor is telling me that body isn't able to function properly, so this is real).  No one wants to talk about fat as a health problem when its about someone they love, and I understand that. It's uncomfortable.

I felt nervous because I am a smart, smart lady. I have lost significant amounts of weight before.  I know about Weight Watchers, myfitnesspal, calorie counting, exercise, running apps, portion control, walking with my kids outside, low carb, no carb, clean eating, and "trying not to reach for juices or soda."  I've dabbled in every weight loss THING I'm aware of, any it's been many years since anything stuck for me.  I'm beginning to realize that my actual weight problem is not grossness or laziness, but the fact that I am an emotional eater, and when you're eating for emotional reasons, all your valuable health knowledge isn't going to rationalize away a binge.  And when you're already an emotional mess and you wreck your diet on a binge, it's even harder to get back on track.  Because you're sitting there hating yourself.  Which makes you get all emotional again. 

I've been overweight for many years, but I've never admitted to myself that I am an emotional eater or that I have problems with binging until about a month ago.  I been listening to a podcast called Half Size Me, which is all about weight loss and maintenance.  I started listening for some motivation to stick to calorie counting, but it's giving me complete power to get myself healthy once and for always.  Many of the guests have lost between 75-150 pounds, and they all refer to their progress as "their journey."  And all of them, even the ones who are at goal weight, discuss their struggles with binge eating, and how the psychology behind diets makes binging almost impossible to avoid.  So many of the journeys start with the typical approach to weight loss: restricting calories, cardio at the gym.  Then, at a certain point, most of the stories shift to a place where the women realize that what they're doing to lose weight isn't sustainable, and they face the fact that when they stop their program or diet, all the weight will come back.  This is combated by strength training to boost metabolism, learning about nutrition and eating with the goal to fuel your body, setting scale and non-scale goals, and crafting a healthy lifestyle.

Hearing people talk openly about failing on their diets was revolutionary for me.  It's not the way weight loss is described at Weight Watchers (which, honestly, was a tool that TONS of people used successfully in their journey on the Half Size Me podcast) or in before and after articles.  I also gathered practical tips for accepting binges when they happen and moving on without letting it completely derail you.  These are the parts of weight loss that I haven't been able to highlight or connect in my lifelong struggle to lose weight.  And one of the changes I need to make is to reframe that struggle.  This is not my struggle to lose weight.  This is my quest to get healthy.

In the short term, losing weight is part of what I need to be healthy.  After she saw my weight, blood pressure, lab results, and listened to me ramble at her for twenty minutes, my primary care physician had a very frank talk with me, which was brutal and I deeply appreciated.  She told me I needed to lose some weight.  She suggested seeing a therapist to discuss issues behind emotional eating and strategies for managing that, a nutritionist to evaluate my eating, and a program like Weight Watchers retrain myself on portion control and lifestyle change.  She said I needed to work up to 30-60 minutes of exercise- sweaty, elevated heart rate exercise- and to do that daily.  She told me that, if I didn't make these changes, I face hypertension and prediabetes, sooner rather than later.  We set an appointment date 4 months in the future, and she wants me to lose ten pounds by then.  I'm shooting for ten percent of my body weight: 21 pounds.  Yes, if you do math, I just published my weight on the internet.  It's time for real talk.

I've spent a little over a month taking in the reality of this situation, and I'm feel motivated (obviously) and scared.  I'm scared because I really don't want this to be another chapter of my life where I start something with great intentions and let it slide.  I don't want it to be another experience where I lose a ton of weight, look and feel great, and then let depression or a life change wipe out all my good work.  I want this to be permanent, and for it to last, I need to go slowly and deliberately.  I'm never going to get away from my metabolism or my predisposition to certain weight-related diseases, but I have a feeling that I'll have more luck tackling them at 28 then if I wait.

Right now I am on myfitnesspal under the name ashlieelizabeth, and using Map my Walk and Couch 2 5K apps to keep track of walking or interval jogging, depending on the day.  I've been keeping a food and exercise journal for two weeks.  I've been seeing a therapist and am meeting with a nutritionist today.  I have lost two pounds.  I am feeling strong.  But I'm not celebrating yet.  I've been at this point before, and I'm getting close to the time where I let something derail me.  I'm sharing this for accountability, and to keep track for myself, and in case there is anyone else who might feel inspired reading it.  I'm hoping to revisit the subject of my progress and share resources and information as they come to me.  I'm willing to do anything to make it stick this time.

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mother's Day Gifts For People Exactly Like Me.

Mother's Day is shockingly soon.  I think a late Easter is the reason, but honestly, as soon as I start talking about how late Easter was this year and how I can't even believe it's already May, I begin boring even myself.  I'm only 28, so why are my conversational instincts so ancient and mundane?  Neither here nor there.

In real life, all I want for Mother's Day is to go to breakfast and then have a day to myself.  Last year I had breakfast with the boys and then left for Boston and spent the day with Laurel and we went to the SOWA Open Market and ate from food trucks and it was a dream.  This year I will likely be working on my final grad project, but at least it will be quiet.  If the gift of time is something you can give the mother in your life, I vote do it.  If not, here are some other ideas for dynamite mamas.

1. I think this I'm So Tired shirt from  hello apparel is so funny.  
2. Cute card I found on Etsy.  I want to send this to my mama.
3. My favorite way to treat myself is getting my nails done.  If you get your mom a gift certificate, have it be for pedicure and manicure.  No one wants to choose. (image credit)
4. This cheery alarm clock is gorgeous.  If you hear it go off, LEAVE YOUR MOM ALONE.  It's her time.

5. Another card from Etsy.  This one caught my eye for the color and cute design; it totally reminds me of Madeline.  The whole shop is lovely.
6. You need to make sure your mom is in the market for a fitness tool or this gift will be rude and awkward, but I really want a Fitbit Flex.  The tangerine wristband is rad.
7. I no longer take pictures with anything beyond my phone, but these Instax Mini cameras spit out ridiculously cute instant pictures.  I've been coveting one for awhile.
8. This picture is actually from Mother's Day last year, when Ben and the boys humored me and we went to one of my favorite diners for breakfast.  Does your mom have a favorite thing?  Do it with her.  Better than any gift. contacted me awhile back and asked me to review one of their products for mother's day.  Zazzle lets you customize almost any item you can possibly think of, so I ended up using a cute picture of the boys and putting it on a phone case- when it comes in, I'll share!  For now, check out their sale prices (good through today) and see if anything looks good for mama over there.

Of course, the greatest gift of all is getting the hell out of dodge (if you're younger than 18) or showering your mom with attention (if you're older than 18).  Don't wonder what your mom wants- ask her!  What do you want/want to give for mother's day?  

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