American Eagle, Steve Jobs, and the denim belt

I went spring shopping with my tween son the other week.  I still call him a tween, but in reality he is just a few months away from stepping over the threshold and becoming a full-fledged teen.  He kindly reminds me of this on the regular, and every single time all I can see is a picture in my mind’s eye of his sweet little baby face staring at his mommy in complete adoration.  It makes me want to weep.  Also I am pretty sure I can actually hear my ovaries drying up on their slow journey toward becoming shriveled little raisins.

One of the great things about babies is that you can dress them however you want.  I used to dress my son so cute when he was small.  Most people seem to think that all of the frilly baby girl clothes are the most fun to buy, but after a while the closet just looks like someone vomited Pepto-Bismol onto a bunch of plastic hangers.   Moms of little boys,  I’m here to tell you that shopping for baby boy’s clothes is where it’s at.

Shopping for big boy clothes is decidedly much more complicated.  First of all, there are all these rules.  Probably every boy has a different set of rules, but there is always some kind of code or formula that turns the whole thing into some sort of scavenger hunt.  In order to pass the test when shopping for my son, all clothing must adhere to the following guidelines:

-must be quick dry fabric.  But not the scratchy quick dry fabric, the smooth kind.

-no itchy tags. Even better–no tags at all.

-funeral colors only.  Black, dark black, light black, grey, or a mixture of these are permitted.  Blue is sometimes acceptable.  Neon yellow was acceptable last year but now is eschewed.  Please keep up.

-if there is some kind of visible athletic logo, only Nike is acceptable.  Under Armor–NO.  Adidas–that would be a hard no.

-pants must not have ankle cuffs of any kind.  It doesn’t matter that those cute jogger pants are everywhere and it is difficult to even find pants without ankle cuffs.  No. Cuffs.

Me:  What do you have against jogger pants with cuffs?

Son:  I don’t like them.

Me:  Well, obviously.  But what is it about them that you don’t you like?

Son:  They make me feel trapped.

Me:  They make you feel trapped?

Son:  Yes.

Me:  Trapped….in your pants?

Son:  Yes.

Me:

Son:

With that all sorted out, we set off on our quest to find quick-dry athletic clothing with no tags and no cuffs in drab colors, that would also somehow fit a man-sized boy who is all arms and legs and sharp angles with a waist size that would make a Victorian woman in a double corset jealous.

Shopping this year turned out to be even more challenging than usual, because the boy is in this awkward in-between phase where he’s too tall for the boys section, but hasn’t filled out enough for the men’s section.  Glorious.  I sat in the fitting room waiting area as my son paraded out before me about four different styles of black and grey hoodies, despite the fact that our original intent was to find clothes for spring and summer.  I suppose the black and grey hoodie that he has been wearing every single day since the beginning of the school year needed a refresh.  (Side note to say that if you are one of my son’s teachers or one of his friend’s moms, I promise you I wash the sweatshirt in question regularly, and he has a few different pairs of the same/similar black pants.  So I know it looks like he never changes his clothes, but it’s not so much of a poor hygiene situation as it is a Steve Jobs situation).

Anyhow, during the American Eagle parade of hoodies, one of the other dressing room doors opened and out walked an adorable teenage girl with long, colt-like arms and legs.  She turned to her (very youthful looking) grandma and said, “Do you think this looks too big?”

If I were a cartoon character, my eyeballs would have fallen out of their sockets at that point and I would be groping around uselessly trying to retrieve them so I could pop them back in.  I am telling you:  if the denim miniskirt this girl was trying on were any smaller, it would be a belt.  You could tell this wasn’t grandma’s first go-round with a teenage girl because, instead of answering the question, she very cautiously said, “You’re going to wear shorts underneath that, right?”  Like she knew that the inevitability of an automatic sale would shoot up if she were to respond by saying, “That is ridiculously short.  There is no way you’re wearing that!” The girl didn’t answer grandma’s question about the shorts either, crafty as she was,  but instead surveyed her reflection wearing the tiny little skirt from all angles before disappearing again into the dressing room.

This is where grandma and I locked eyes and, without a word spoken, had a moment of sisterhood.  I could see how she had blazed the path that lay before me, come out the other side, and had now brought the wisdom of our foremothers to this moment.  As my boy came out in another black hoodie, she gave an almost imperceptible nod that seemed to say, “I know.  He wears the same thing all the time.  Boys are like that. Don’t worry.”  I, in turn, lifted up a quick prayer asking for strength for the girl’s mother, who I am certain would rue the day she allowed grandma to take her daughter shopping for spring clothes, only to find that she came home with a denim belt.

 

Advertisements

Goals

IMG_3633

I have a few goals for the summer.  I tried not to make too many, so as not to set myself up for failure.  My main goal this summer is to be more present.  Everyone seems to talk about the joy, peace, and fulfillment that comes from being present–my yoga teacher, the Dalai Lama, Oprah.  It sounded like a noble goal.  So I said to myself, “Self, let’s spend less time on the smartphone, and less with the obsessive email and Facebook checking.  Let us notice our surroundings.  Let us be in the moment.  Let us soak up this beautiful summer with our beautiful family.”  Apparently when I talk to myself it is in the first person plural.

Being present in the moment is not natural for me.  I live in this whole other world in my head.  Unfortunately it is not a lively, creative, inner world.  I am not like Anne of Green Gables.  I have heard the description of a woman’s mind being like a browser with  dozens of tabs open, and this is exactly how I would describe it.  An endless stream of consciousness that would bore the average person to tears.  A rushing river of pragmatic thoughts.  Picture with me, if you will, me in my pajamas this morning with a thought bubble reflecting my current inner dialogue:

My head hurts.  Why do I always get so many headaches?  Maybe it’s a brain tumor.  No, I had an MRI two years ago, they would have seen it.  I’ll just go grab some ibuprofen.  Do I have to take chicken out of the freezer for dinner?  Where’s Leah?  Has she gone over her screen time limit?  When was the last time she pooped?  Should I send that medicine to overnight camp with her so she doesn’t get backed up?  I would have to get the doctor to sign the stupid form–I don’t have time for that.  Why can’t I sign the form, for heaven’s sake?  Crap, we’re out of trash bags.  I was just at the store yesterday.  Why do I always forget one thing?  Wait–did we miss garbage day?  Oh, we’re ok, it’s delayed a day because of the holiday.  Maybe we should hire an exterminator to spray for bees.  There have been so many wasps around the pool this year.  I bet that’s not cheap.  We have to have the driveway sealed too.  Maybe I should go to yoga today to see if that helps my headache.  Wait, wasn’t I going to go grab some ibuprofen?   

You get the idea.

So being present means what, exactly?  That I flick some kind of inner switch that turns off the cacophony in my brain?   Where is that switch located?  My yoga teacher suggested that I take notice of each thought as it comes, without judgement, and just let it float away like a bubble.  So now I have this internal bubble machine cranking out rapid fire bubbles, which doesn’t really help me be to be present, but instead gives me the vague impression of a bathtub overflowing after your toddler empties out an entire bottle of Mr. Bubble.

So, here are a few real life examples of what being present looks like in my life. A few weeks ago I took the kids to church in the morning.  The hubby was out of town so it was just the three of us on a rainy, dreary Sunday morning.  When we were leaving the kids asked me to pull up the car, since it was raining and we only had one umbrella.  So I walked out to the car, plugged in my phone, quickly checked my email and messages, fired up the windshield wipers, and buckled my seat belt.  As I was pulling out of the parking lot onto the street, I thought, “Wow, the kids are pretty quiet this morning,” and stole a glance in the rearview mirror.  And…. I had forgotten my children.  Apparently I had driven right past them, while they watched in confusion as their mother abandoned them at a house of worship.  It’s OK though, because I turned around and got them.  They won’t need therapy for that, right?  It will probably help them to straighten up and fly right.

Then last week I went to yoga on the lake with my friend Mary.  She just finished yoga instructor school, so she is extremely present.  I felt the sunshine on my downward dog, and listened to the waves as they lapped gently against the dock.  I set my drishti on a beautiful, majestic tree as my bubble machine released all thoughts of trash bags and driveway sealing.  After we finished, Mary and I agreed to meet at a little cafe for an iced tea so we could catch up.  I got in my car and, lo and behold, my gas light was on.  Why don’t I ever notice that I’m low on gas until my gas light comes on?  I don’t know why.  Because I’m an oblivious airhead, apparently.  So my gas light is on, and I’m in an unfamiliar part of town, and, oh–look at that, I forgot my wallet.  Hmmm.  What a pickle I have gotten myself into, once again.  So I find a gas station nearby, hoping I can pay wth the app on my phone, but no, the gas station I found doesn’t do that.  There’s another gas station several miles away, but at this point the gas light has been on for a while and I don’t know how far I can make it.  So I drive toward the next gas station in a panicky state (which really killed my yoga buzz, by the way), praying that they will let me pay with my phone and that I won’t run out of gas on the way there.  (Don’t worry, mom, I made it and I was able to pay with my phone!). Mary sat in the cafe, patiently waiting for me, probably being extremely present as she received my anxious texts about my latest predicament.  She was not surprised, I am sure.  And after I got there, she bought me an iced tea.  Because I forgot my wallet.

So in regard to my goal of being more present, it’s going pretty well, as you can see.  Today I said to myself, “Self, perhaps we should lower our expectations about being present, and work on just keeping the car filled with gas.”

My new summer goal is to keep the car filled with gas.

P.S.-I wrote this post this morning, and then this afternoon I went to the library, and instead of discarding my snack wrapper I threw my keys in the trash. Then of course I couldn’t find my keys, so my daughter and I, along with three concerned librarians, searched high and low until I remembered that there was a big garbage can at the entrance to the library and that sometimes I throw important things away by accident.

Screaming Into My Pillow’s comprehensive guide to comfortable pants

I think we really need to talk about something.  It is a long overdue conversation.  We need to talk about pants.  There are more serious things going on in the world, I agree. But I have a lot of feelings and thoughts about pants, and I think we need to get some of these things out in the open.

Pants.  Ah, pants.  Those belly pinching leg prisons.  Pants are not my friend.  And yet, they are so necessary for warmth, coverage, and the health of our society.  I mean, I wouldn’t want to live in a world where people walked around with no pants.  Please do not make any such inference.

But, seriously–how many of us spend the better part of our days thinking about how uncomfortable and frustrating our pants are?  Most of the time they are tight in all the wrong places, even though you thought they fit perfectly when you tried them on in the store dressing room with the flattering lights and the mirrors that made you look two sizes smaller than you really are.  Sometimes they stretch out and sag in the butt or the knees by midday, and you spend the rest of the afternoon hiking them up to avoid a plumber-bummer situation. Quite commonly, they start out feeling fine in the morning, but then by the afternoon it becomes clear that your pants either have room for your body or your lunch, but not both.

Is it me, or have dress pants become so complicated?  Some of them have a zipper, a series of buttons, and then two or three hooks over top of the buttons.  And what’s up with that clear button that you have to fasten on the inside before you move on to the outside buttons?  Is it a modern day chastity belt? Is it some kind of backup plan to hold your pants up in case the three outer hooks and two outer buttons experience some kind of equipment failure? I personally have left that particular button undone many a time and I did not suffer any noticeable consequences.  In addition to the fact that it leaves a semi-permanent button imprint on my belly, it just seems superfluous.  And it’s very labor intensive, especially if you are striving to maintain proper hydration.  I went through this really embarrassing phase where I kept leaving my fly down at work, because by the time I fastened the inside button, two outside buttons, and three hooks, I had forgotten all about the zipper.  I just felt like I was done at that point.

My current job affords me the opportunity to wear scrubs every day if I want to.  If I want to?  Well, let me think about this for a second.  I can either wear dress pants that require hemming, dry cleaning, high heeled shoes, and a 4 minute re-fastening procedure every time I go to the bathroom, or I can wear pants that are basically work pajamas.  Not a hard decision.

On the positive side, I think one of the best things that has happened to pants is the mainstreaming of the legging.  Leggings are everywhere.  They are taking over!  You can get them in colors and patterns.  You can dress them up or down.  You can wear them with a dress or a sweater or a blouse, with flats or boots or slip-on sneakers.  When I was a kid, leggings were for dance class or worn as an extra layer under your “real” pants in frigid weather.  No more!  I know some would argue from various directions that leggings aren’t pants.  These are not my people.

However, I do believe that one should follow certain guidelines in order to successfully wear LAP (leggings as pants).  If you are over the age of 13, wear a long top.  Please make sure it covers your crotch and preferably most of your booty.  I don’t have a problem with people who think they have a nice butt trying to show it off, but sometimes you just don’t really know what’s going on back there.  You can’t see what the rest of us see.  We don’t want to see your panty lines or the pattern on your underwear.  We most certainly do not want to see your camel toe.  These are relatively easy guidelines to follow, given the fact that tunics and long, flowy tops are all the rage.  Please follow them, for the sake of your fellow citizens who have to walk behind you in the grocery store.   If you are indeed going to the gym, you may disregard the guidelines about wearing a long top and covering your butt.  However, continue to avoid camel-toe at all costs.  P.S.–mom and dad, if you’re reading this, DO NOT GOOGLE camel toe.  Trust me.

While we are on the subject of the gym, let’s discuss the athleisure trend. Athleisure is a way that we can wear sweats around the town and still look presentable–super cute, even.  Your old ripped sweats with the hole in the butt from college say to the world “I just rolled out of bed because I was up all night with my vomiting child who now needs Pedialyte, so here I am in the grocery store at 6 AM.”  And by all means, if you were up with your vomiting child all night and have to go out for Pedialyte, wear those crappy sweats.  Or if you’re going to Walmart on a random Tuesday. Same/same.  In comparison, your sporty space-dye joggers and fun long sleeved hoodie with those thumbhole thingies that look adorable but are such a pain for people who wash their hands a lot say, “I can be cute AND comfortable, and now I’m going to Target.”

While athleisure is both comfortable and cute, and LAP are a huge leap forward for womankind, nothing beats pajama pants.  I like to go right from my scrubs/work pajamas to my sleep pajamas, while strategically avoiding any weeknight activities that may require me to wear anything nicer that a pair of sporty joggers.  I mean, after I have worked all day, there is no greater reward than changing into my jammies and some soft, fuzzy socks.  I get very grumpy when this reward gets delayed by things like band concerts, parent-teacher conferences, dance class, or any number of pajama pant delaying activities.

Alright, let’s talk about jeans.  Jeans have come a long way since the pair of Buffalo jeans I had in ninth grade with the leather button fly and pleats.  And thank the Lord that the low-rise trend appears to have mostly run its course.  It seems that the people who make denim have recently gotten the memo from women that we want to look like we’re wearing jeans, without feeling like we’re wearing jeans.  Because let’s face it, jeans are not very comfortable unless they’re doctored up with all kinds of stretchy fabrics.  I’m not talking about 98% cotton and 2% spandex.  If this is the best your jeans can do, they are underperforming in the comfort arena.  Especially once skinny jeans came on the scene, this sort of fabric scenario became completely inadequate.  You need to look for words on the label like elastane, modal, and sometimes even words that are completely made up but someone trademarked them to make them look legit.  A good pair of very stretchy jeggings can take you to many a social outing feeling stylish and relatively comfortable until such time that you can politely excuse yourself and sneak home to get in your pajamas.

I realize that I have just thrown a lot of information at you.   I am very invested in helping all of us be more comfortable and avoiding constrictive waistbands.  So for your convenience, I have summarized my thoughts into this helpful flowchart below.

CLICK HERE TO SEE ENLARGED IMAGE

Microsoft Word - pants infographic.docx

That is all for today.  Until next time:  Stay comfortable, my friends.

Cupcake shame

Let me tell you a little story about my childhood.

In order to fully appreciate this story, you have to understand a little about what six year-old Tracy was like.


Six year-old Tracy was the new kid at St. Joseph’s Catholic School that year.  I had knee socks and pig-tails and really hairy legs because my dad is Indian, so I can’t help it, OK?  I was the kid whose hand would shoot up in the air immediately after the teacher asked a question, my fingers waving and twitching, my bottom halfway off the seat, levitating  from the energy of knowing the exact right answer before anyone else.  Often the teacher didn’t call on me, which was weird, because while I was waving my hand in the air I would say things like “ooh ooh ooohhh, meeeee” to let her know I would make it worth her while.  I don’t know what her problem was.  Anyhow, I also had a major sweet tooth, which has carried over into my adulthood and has also been genetically passed down to my daughter.** As an adult, I have been known to eat fudge for dinner. Being able to eat fudge for dinner has turned out to be one of the only good things about being an adult so far.

So when Jason Nelson stood up at the front of the classroom and said, “If anyone can tell me what this word spells, I will give you my cupcake”, my ears perked up.  Cupcake?  Spelling?  Two of my favorite things.  

Then he proceeded to spell the word:

A………..S…………S. *  

Never one to shy away from a challenge, I got to work sounding it out, just like the purple two-headed monster on Sesame Street taught me.  “A” made a sound like “apple”–I silently repeated the sound “a–a–a” in my head.  On to the next letter….I had to hurry!  I couldn’t let someone else win that cupcake!  It looked homemade too!  Luckily the letter “S” had recently been the letter of the day on Sesame Street, so I was well studied.  I silently made a hissing “s” sound in my head, and then quickly but efficiently started to scootch the two sounds together, sounding it out ever so carefully.

Aaaaaa………Ssssssss…….Sssssss

Aaa…..Sssss…..Ssssss

Aa….Ss….Ss

ASS!! ASS!! ASS!!  I jumped to my feet and exclaimed the word with great enthusiasm.  And the room went silent.  All eyes were on me, as I beamed from ear to ear and strutted up front to receive my cupcake.

But the temperature in the room had changed.  My classmates were staring at me, mouths agape, as I peeled the paper wrapper off the bottom of Jason Nelson’s cupcake.  It didn’t take too long to figure out that they were more shocked than awed, except I had no idea what I had done wrong.  All I knew was that I felt suddenly ashamed, which totally ruined the spontaneous spelling bee for me, not to mention putting a damper on my cupcake enjoyment.

I don’t remember how I learned the truth about my faux-pas.  And I’m sad to say it wasn’t my first experience with food shame, nor was it my last.  However, I have been able to do the psychological work necessary to push past this painful memory and boldly eat cupcakes without fear.  And sometimes I eat fudge for dinner.

 

*Where on earth were the teachers while this was happening, you ask?  It was 1981, we ate lunch in our classrooms because our school did not have a cafeteria, and there was one teacher who would make periodic rounds to all of the 1st-3rd grade classrooms while the other teachers smoked cigarettes in the teacher’s lounge, which meant that a bunch of 1st graders spent much of their 30 minute lunch unsupervised.  Ahhhh—the 80’s.  


**This is my daughter.  She inherited my sweet tooth but thankfully lives her life completely unencumbered, with ZERO cupcake shame.

Parenting exercises


There’s always a lot of talk around the water cooler, on social media, and among friends about what kind of exercise programs we are all “doing”.  My Facebook newsfeed is typically peppered with an array of cut biceps, flat abs, Beachbody ads, post-workout selfies, and inspiring weight-loss transformations.  When someone is doing something and getting great results, it makes the rest of us want to try it too, right?

But our bodies are not the only things that need exercising.  In fact, if you want to be really good at anything, you need to practice it.  In order to get good results, you have to work for them!  I do not have flat abs or cut biceps.  And my “after” picture looks suspiciously unchanged from my “before” picture, so I am unlikely to be an inspiration to you in the physical arena.  However, I am really invested in being the best mom possible.  I know that these kids o’ mine are a gift entrusted to me, and I have a huge responsibility in raising them.  To that end, I have developed some parenting exercises that really work for me.  Just like there are different categories of physical exercises–strength, cardio, flexibility, agility, and speed, there are several distinct types of parenting exercises.  I will share some very effective examples in each category, but would love to hear what others are doing as well!   If I can help or inspire just one person, it will all be worth it.  My methods are not yet patented, but I am considering it for the future.

Exercises in futility:

-Try to clean the house while your children are at home.  Go ahead, try it.  It’s about as effective as brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.  For those of you looking for an advanced version of this exercise, make sure your child is playing with or has full access to one or more of the following: Play-Doh, Moon-Sand, a Lego set containing a million tiny pieces, non-washable markers or paints, or glitter.

-Channel your inner June Cleaver and make homemade applesauce on a crisp fall day.  This is an exercise that can fill a whole day with futile activity if you wish, starting with a trip to the orchard to pick the apples, continuing with preparing the luscious, comforting applesauce in your kitchen and savoring the fragrance that fills your home, and ending with your children declaring that they don’t like this applesauce.  Can they have that kind that comes from the store instead?  You know mom, like in those little pouches?  For a less time-consuming variation on this exercise, try making homemade chicken fingers or macaroni and cheese, so the kids can tell you they like the stuff from a box better.

-Read a parenting book!  We all have something to learn when it comes to guiding our precious ones through the ups-and-downs of childhood.  There are a ton of resources out there, whether you want to become a more consistent and effective disciplinarian, help your child to self-regulate their emotions, or learn how to get your child to sleep through the night.  All you have to do is read the book, take careful notes, and spend the next few months carefully and consistently implementing all of the suggestions with the support of your partner.  Then, leave a review on Amazon telling everyone about how THAT BOOK WAS CRAP because your kids still don’t eat their vegetables/sleep through the night/do their homework without whining/play nice with their siblings, etc.  Just read a good novel next time.  At least you won’t feel like a failure after you’re done.

You don’t have to devote a ton a time or be an expert to do these  kinds of exercises.  Personally I find it quite easy to fit in my exercises in futility throughout my day, whether it is asking my kids to pick up their socks, trying to read a book undisturbed, or attacking the never-ending laundry pile.  Basically, anything you do over and over with no hope of meaningful or lasting change counts in this category. 

Exercises in humility:

-Attend your child’s parent-teacher conference.  This exercise is particularly fruitful with your firstborn’s first-ever parent-teacher conference, in which you naively assume that the teacher will spend the whole time talking about how sweet and perfect and smart and wonderful your little cherub is.  Like most first time exercises, you will be sore the next day.  The good news:  it gets easier every time you do it.

-Invite some old friends over for dinner. Make a nice dinner and wear actual pants in an effort to make a good impression.  Watch helplessly as your children slowly and systematically embarrass you in front of your company by repeatedly engaging in inordinate amounts of potty humor, partial nudity, horrible table manners, and tantrums.  In other words, they act like themselves, and you decide that you will no longer host dinner parties.

Exercises in frustration:

-Go do the grocery shopping.  Discover to your dismay that the grocery store moved the coffee aisle again in order to accommodate the Valentine’s day display, which was put up one whole day after Christmas.  Wander aimlessly about trying to track down everything on your list, taking 1.5 hours instead of your usual 1 hour secondary to the new floor plan.  Get home and realize you forgot the milk.  Repeat weekly.  Forget a different item on your list each time, to keep things interesting.

-Eat dinner with your family every night.  Prod you child repeatedly to eat her food, despite her insistence that she is not hungry.  Warn her there will be no dessert and no snacks after dinner if she does not eat, and listen to her comply willingly.  Then, sit back and wait for her to start whining 5 minutes after dinner that she is soooooo huuuuuungry, plllleeeease can I have a yogurt?

Exercises in anger management:

-start planning for your children’s summer break in March.  Plan a variety of camps throughout the summer, peppered with a few carefully placed weeks for down-time and family vacation.  Spend several hundred to several thousand dollars on this exercise, depending on your budget.  Then stifle your hysteria like a pro as your child comes home in September with their essay about their summer break, which reads, “My summer was pretty boring.  I didn’t do very much.  It was soooo boring.  I’m so glad school started so I don’t have to be bored anymore.”

-Plan family time!  It doesn’t matter whether you want to stay home with board games, movies and popcorn, or go out and explore all of the fun things your community has to offer.  I am sure that if you put enough time into it, you can plan something that will cause at least one member of your family to pout, whine, complain, or declare extreme boredom or their desire to go home.  What better way to practice shoving your anger deep, deep down?

The beauty of these exercises is that you get to do them all the time whether you want to or not!!  You don’t even need an accountability group.  Your exercises will be available to you all day, and often at random frustrating intervals throughout the night.  All for free.  No need to wait for motivation to strike, since opportunity is always knocking!  Now, let’s see some before and after pictures of THAT!