Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pie throwing

Some women manage to hold down a job, raise their kids and find time to blog.

Clearly, I'm not one of those women. I don't know how they do it - and I don't even have a job. Well, not one that pays, anyway.

My blogging time has tended to be when Miss Pie has her naps, but we're currently going through that god-awful transition where day sleeps are becoming a thing of the past.

I am peeved. I need that break. Hell, she needs it - trying to rouse her from anything less than two-hours' sleep (when it's school pick-up time) is a nightmare and only results in a stroppy uncooperative child for the next few hours, making the school run hellish at times. It's kind of a lose-lose situation. If I try to enforce a nap, she fights it for ages, until sleep wins... but by then it's not enough sleep to keep her happy and willing to wake up when required. If I don't enforce the nap, then I'm tearing my hair out (unless we're out and about all day - it's at home that this is a problem). The only bright side to not napping is the speed with which she goes to sleep for the night... but I'm in denial. I love the down time I get when she naps.

I've been debating whether to write about this or not. After all, my girls may be reading this one day. The truth is, though, I'm struggling with a certain toddler. Really struggling.

We seem to lock horns and battle all day long, and I hate that. I used to think that the Faery was stubborn and we've certainly had our moments, but Miss Pie takes things to a whole other level. Resistance. All. The. Way.

There are many days where - psychologically - I'm exhausted. I have nothing left in me.

Just the simple act of getting shoes on and out the door can take up to forty minutes, because she flat out refuses to wear them, or wants to bring something entirely inappropriate along to the shops (like her pillow and top bed sheet). Often, no matter how gently I've approached things, it ends with me forcefully carrying a kicking, screaming, sobbing child down to our car park.

She has no interest in toilet training - and I'm fine with that because I'm a big believer in not forcing it until they're more than ready - but there are some days where she'll have the same nappy on for eight hours. All because I cannot get her to cooperate for a change. You can bring the horse to water but you can't make it drink, and all that. She's strong. She puts up a good fight. She won't lie down. It's incredibly frustrating.

I don't judge other parents for smacking, even though it's something I've tried to avoid so far. I understand that there's a breaking point, and my hand itches so badly some days. There's a button that's getting pressed - a lot - and I worry that the urge is going to override me one day.

I'll ask her to stop doing something, or to come to me (and explain that it's not safe/is going to break something etc) and she will look me square in the eye and continue what she's doing. She doesn't just respond with a simple 'No'... I get an emphatic "Never, Mum. Never." Or "Of course I'm being careful, Mum!"

I have forward flashes of her as a teenager, kohl-rimmed eyes, flicking a cigarette butt my way and telling me to fuck off.

Most Mondays, within half an hour of taking the Faery to school and J leaving for work, she's having her first meltdown for the day. This is despite us having had a (usually) pleasant enough weekend. It's something about one-on-one time with me that induces her fits of fury. That it happens so soon on a Monday is upsetting for me, and makes me feel as though I'm failing her in some way. The thought of enduring another five days of this leaves a dark, thunderous cloud over my head.

J's (unsympathetic) response? That I need to get a job. On one level, I know he's right. I worked three days a week when the Faery was P's age, and it seemed like the best of both worlds. It wasn't easy, but it also meant that the Faery and I didn't get a chance to butt horns all day long, all week. And so, I've started the process. My resume is brushed up, applications for casual work have been submitted... and I fantasise about Miss Pie toilet-training so that preschool can be an option a couple of mornings a week (she'll be three in a matter of months).

Giving her choices doesn't work. Cajoling doesn't work. Counting down doesn't work. Bribes don't work, unless they're of the sugary variety. A time-out corner sometimes works, but obviously I don't want to overuse that. She responds well to lots of positive feedback, but I'm not always in the frame of mind to construct what I say in a positive slant when she's being a royal turd.

Who is this complex little being that she's growing into? She has such a strong sense of self. Taking things literally, if we dare call her a clown or monkey, she defiantly tells us, "No, I not. I P----!" She insists on doing everything herself, even especially things she's not physically capable of.

Her current favourite phrase, when we're walking somewhere and she wants to stop a moment, is "Wait a second minute!" Hard not laugh whenever I hear that.

And despite all the headbutting we do, when she hurts herself enough to cry and need comfort (she's a tough cookie), I'm the only one she wants. Every little thought or desire that pops into her head, she runs to me to share it with. At those times, I remind myself that I must be doing something right.

It's hard to always see it that way, though. A lot of the time, I just feel like I'm doing it wrong.

Toddlers, eh?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Electric skies

I find myself looking at the sky a lot. Nothing special about that; I'm sure most people do.

Even here in Southern California, where the sky is blue so much of the time, there can be subtle differences as the seasons change. Whereas a month ago, the sky was nothing but unbroken blue, the start of autumn has guaranteed there are often whispy clouds and contrails - making for much more interesting sunsets now.

Living in a city of palm trees, there's always a pretty photo to be taken. In the past, I've been frustrated at trying to capture those palms and pretty skies... without them being obscured by the millions of power lines around us. This year, my attitude has shifted and I've embraced those power lines. There's no point trying to pretend they don't exist. The tangles of lines which criss-cross the boulevards, follow the alleys, and frame the horizon, are now something that I have fun with.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

You go, girrrl

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the waiting room at my chiropractor's, when a woman waiting nearby heard my accent.

In a concerned voice, she said, "Oh, you're from Australia? Tell me, how's the situation there now?"

Puzzled at what the hell she was referring to, I asked, "Er... what situation, exactly?"

"Well - and this is going back about thirty years - but I had a client who was from Australia. She told me she was never going back; that women were treated like second-class citizens and all the men there slam doors in women's faces and just treat them awfully."

In her voice, I could hear a smug that doesn't happen here in America, and I kind of wanted to punch her. I hated the idea that she was basing her view of Australia on what one individual told her, three decades ago. I have no doubt her client had experienced sexist treatment and that her feelings were completely valid... but thirty years ago, those experiences were hardly limited to Australia. Last time I checked, women in the US - and many other developed nations - were subjected to inequality in various forms back then. They still are, and we have a long way to go before the status quo is truly equal.

Having said that, I've been grateful for the opportunities I've had. I attended an all-girl public school, where we were told from the beginning that girls and women can achieve whatever we want, so long as we study and work hard. I gained access to university. I never had any problems finding employment, and worked in fields where pay was equal and - down the track - supportive of me when I needed time off when the Faery was sick. Furthermore, I know plenty of women who were able to have more than a mere three months of maternity leave, without fear of losing their job (as opposed to a number of mothers I've met here).

I could be blowing hot air completely out of my arse here, and I'll admit there's a lot that I still don't know of the official policies - both in Australia and the US - but personally speaking, I can't say I've ever felt victimised because of my gender (although I want to emphasise that I understand it does happen, and I don't want to downplay the negative experiences of other women).

So that's what I essentially told the woman in the waiting room. Along with the fact the thirty years ago,  I was just a young kid and unaware of that kind of treatment, and had certainly not witnessed such behaviour firsthand.

If I'd seen her today, I'd have shown her a fantastic video of Julia Gillard (the Australian Prime Minister, for the non-Australian readers) opening a verbal can of good old fashioned whop-arse on the Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, in parliament this week. Based on past interviews and policy endorsements, he is known for his conservative, religious views and general misogyny ("abortion is the easy way out").

It was the most brilliant piece of footage to wake up to today. Whether a person agrees with her politics or not, there's no denying that what she said, needed to be said. I am excited at the thought of my daughters growing up, seeing women in power who will not accept sexist shit.

(Click here for source)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Half full cups

When I first began the whole weight loss regime at the beginning of the year, there were two things that never even entered my head - 1) It might actually work, and 2) Clothes will start getting too big, and more clothes required.

With the first matter, all I was concerned about was going to Australia (in September) looking better than when I'd left. Trimmer, but nothing radical. I think I achieved that, but I am actually far slimmer than I thought possible.

With the second matter, I generally find clothes shopping a pain in the arse. I never got that particular girly gene, but I did get the frugal gene. I don't get excited about clothes. I see something, I might think it looks okay, try it on, and if it doesn't make me look like crap, then I might buy it - as long as it's priced within my budget. I've never been one of those women to blow half a week's pay packet on a pair of shoes or a pretty dress. I can never justify spending much on clothes for myself when I have two growing daughters who need clothes too.

Which brings me to where I am today. When I joined the gym at the end of January, I weighed 87 kg (191 lbs). Keep in mind that I'm 183 cm tall (just over 6")... so my height allowed me to carry the extra weight better than on a shorter person. I wasn't unhappy as such, but I hated how hard it was to find things in my size that I liked. Nothing seemed to sit the right way on my frame, so I decided I needed to trim down.

(I should also add that what I weighed then wasn't baby weight. No, it was pretty much what I've weighed since my mid-twenties. I only gained a small amount during pregnancy, and lost it within days of giving birth, both times. No tricks, I was just lucky.)

I am currently around 68 kg (150 lbs).

That's a grand total of 19 kg (41 lbs) lost.

I honestly never thought that would happen.

I reached a point (a few months back) where I stopped being so careful with the calorie-counting (via MyFitnessPal). When we visited Australia, I didn't bother at all; I just enjoyed myself completely. I still watch the calories now, but it's become more about maintaining where I'm at. It's been easy because I've managed to successfully change my snacking habits and certain things I eat. I have much more awareness now about how high in calories some things are, so I know to limit those (but not avoid - I love sugar too much!). On Fridays and weekends, I eat what I want, and have fun with it. I'm hoping that soon, eating within a range will become second nature most days.

The exercise I've been doing has changed as this year has progressed. Initially, I was going hard with cardio-based classes and the cross-ramp, along with some strength-training. Gym visits were three nights a week. Then, not long after we moved during the summer, I hurt my neck and shoulders pretty badly, so I decided to ditch the weights altogether and just focus on cardio workouts. Since returning from Australia, I've gone easy on the cardio and rarely do that. Instead, the most bizarre thing has happened: I've begun to enjoy yoga - something I've tried repeatedly over the years and never taken to in the past. I guess it goes to show what an impact the right yoga instructor can have, because I just love the teacher I have now. I usually go twice a week, and love how my body feels for the next few days.

Throughout this year, I've been really careful about the discussions I've had with the Faery regarding my exercise. She has no idea that I've been losing weight, or that I even wanted to. I don't want her to to even get a whiff of the concept of body image, or dissatisfaction - she'll have enough of that to deal with as she gets older. Instead, I've focussed on the health aspect of exercise.

My own body image has been a strange affair. I never suffered from the intense loathing that so many girls and women seem to. Growing up, I was always one of the skinniest girls at school. Super skinny, and eventually, super tall. There were other girls at school who called me names like Lurch, Hightower, Beanpole... you get the picture. Naturally, they were shorter, and not so skinny. I wish I'd just known at the time that they were jealous, but my teenaged self-esteem had no idea.

After finishing high school, I gradually gained some curves and was thrilled to finally have boobs. The following years of tertiary study, partying and travelling saw the curves keep on coming, until I was no longer that skinny girl. It took some adjusting to, but I accepted it and began to view my amazonian-junk-full-of-trunk as the way I was meant to be.

And yet, here I am. A bit of careful eating and regular exercise... and I am almost the old skinny me again. It's a bizarre thing to get my head around, and when I catch glimpses of myself in shop window reflections, I'm often surprised to see the tall chick who no longer has bingo-lady-arms. People make jokes about having a 'fat' person inside, trying to get out. With me, it's almost a case of the opposite - who knew there was a former skinny girl still in me?

Last week, I went bra shopping for the first time in about a year. Walking around in my 36DD bras, I'd been feeling fraudulent for a number of months, knowing those DDs were half full of air. My poor boobs. They seemed so much smaller that I'd put off bra shopping, not wanting to know the truth about my newer size. Was I now a C, or even a B?

I was buying a few other things from Target, and on a whim decided to grab a handful of various bras to see what size might fit. That in itself was a novelty, as I haven't had much luck finding decent 36DD bras from Target in the past. Armed with various bras, I headed to the fitting room, bracing myself for whatever sad news was about to become official. I started off with a 36D bra, expecting the cups to be too big.

Boom! It fit like a glove. Thinking it might be a fluke, I tried another 36D on. Boom! Another glove.

I can't describe the purely vain relief I felt. Skinny girl, curvy girl, skinny again... whatever adjustments I've had to make in my own perceptions of my body size... drastically shrunken boobs wasn't part of the package in my mind. All my adult life, my ego has thoroughly loved and enjoyed having a good old rack. Even now, a little smaller, I'm happy that their overall shape has generally withstood the challenges of pregnancy, breastfeeding and weight loss. I've been very lucky. We all need at least one body part that we love and want to show off, right?

Yesterday, the Faery was playing with J's old phone, and took a photo of me as I was sitting in a chair. I assumed she was just using the regular camera app but a few hours later when I was browsing my feed on Instagram, there my portrait was - eek! She'd somehow managed to apply a filter as well, under J's Instagram account. Needless to say, that phone is going into lockdown mode with the apps, so she can't do worse damage. Anyhow, I was more than bemused when I saw the photo she'd taken. Who was that skinny chick? Look at those long legs unfolding out from under her, not unlike a praying mantis? It wasn't a flattering angle, but the photo could have been much worse. I just looked plain gangly, and reminiscent of the photos of me as a teenager.

Not sure where I'm going with this ramble. I just thought it was time to put down into words what has been happening to me, physically, this year. Also, it's important to acknowledge the way those physical changes are affecting the way I see myself, even if I do forget from time to time that I'm now a slimmer version - a Madeleine 3.0, I suppose.

Bring on autumn, and the new clothes I shall be requiring. Knitted, shorter dresses with boots, here I come...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Catching up with the Faery

We've been back in L.A. about four weeks now. In some ways, it feels much longer but when I close my eyes, I can smell Sydney. Enough about me, though.

Kids amaze me with their resilience. For the Faery, leaving Australia wasn't easy. The goodbyes had her crying for hours. Not the quiet kind of tears, but full gut-wrenching sobs. She's so much older this time, and understands the distance, the geography, the time apart. I think this is the hardest part about our decision to live overseas for a few years.

The new school year began a couple of weeks before we returned, and we decided to get her back into the swing of things sooner than later. Our flight landed on a Tuesday morning, and rather than wait until the following week (and for jet lag to completely disappear) we sent her to school that Thursday. She needed to see her buddies and have some structure to her days again.

I was expecting battles with homework, but it hasn't been too bad. For the most part, she's enjoying being able to show what she knows now with her improved literacy skills. There have been birthday parties, park playdates and Korean (Thanksgiving) performances. She's had some sad moments missing Australia, but she's not letting it get her down too much.

The highlight, though, has been her first visit to an L.A. Dodgers game at the Dodger Stadium. She went with J last Friday evening, and came home many hours past her usual bed time - her face flushed with the excitement of it all. Hotdogs, cotton candy, fireworks... she'd loved it all, and I think we have a new baseball fan on our hands.

I can't believe the wise little lady she's turning into at the age of six. She does me proud, every single day.