Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My daughter's stardom leaves me frazzled while American Idol makes me feel maternal

Blake_and_jordan A few weeks ago my daughter was proclaimed a star... at her preschool.  The whole thing filled me with anxiety. It combines all the mom things I totally suck at --producing crafts and baked goods.  Last year I at least got to do something I'm good at -- read a story.  But this year my daughter took over that role and read a book to the class.  Yes I'm really proud of her that she can read.  But let's talk about ME!

First and biggest anxiety was to produce a poster of my daughter's life.   I thought the first part will be easy.  I'm tech savvy like many Silimom and so I figure I can upload photos to Costco and get them printed.  I learned the hard way that printing photos yourself sucks up oodles of my time and produces worse photos.

But the Costco website wouldn't take my password and wouldn't email me my password. I felt doomed.  I can't even succeed at the one part I thought I could cover.  I panic and start to write this post.  As I'm writing FINALLY the password arrives.  I felt like a total idiot because my password is completely stupid.  I change my password to something less stupid.  Since I've just publicly announced I have an account at Costco.

The poster turned out to be pretty good.  It helps that my daughter can cut things herself now.  I actually can't cut properly.  Ironically using scissors to cut out shapes is one of the tests for Kindergarten Readiness.  Good thing neither Bryn Mawr nor Haas asked me for this test. :)

But another star moment for my daughter was when she sang in the Assembly at preschool.  She knew all the words and all the motions and she sang her little heart out.   But again I had the anxiety of trying to capture the moment on camera and not doing so well at that either.

Which brings me back to American Idol.  I already blogged about several reasons why the show appeals to me.  But I had forgotten that one big appeal for me is that I feel proud and maternal in a lesser but similar when "my idols" do well.  Maybe one of the reasons I like Sanjaya so much is that he sorta reminds me of my brother at the same age.  And Melinda just seemed so sweet.  Okay I'm not quite old enough to be Melinda's mother unless I had her as a young teen.  Even so.

During those weeks I got to be a proud stage mama with no real consequences and very little of the anxiety.  Yes I'm sad that neither Melinda nor Blake won.  But all I had to do was call a few times on the phone.  I did call for an hour and a half with Blake for the finale.  I knew it was a losing battle.  Jordin just outsang him that night.  But I did what I thought was right.  I'm sure they'll all do fine. 

I suspect I will buy Blake's album to hear what he does with his songs but I doubt I'll go to any top ten Idol's concert.  It would sorta ruin the illusion for me that they're my kids.  Yes I'm the Paula Abdul sort of watcher.  So sue me.  But please don't break my nose.

Crossposted to Silicon Valley Moms Blog

Saturday, May 12, 2007

300 Calorie meal

a 300 calorie meal
After looking at photos of 300 calorie meals I think that's about how much I naturally eat at breakfast and lunch at home. That's about what my mother served me. Other than pregnancy the only time I've gained weight was when I dated someone who was fat and we ate out a lot. Then I figured out I didn't need to eat the entire portion of a huge American restaurant meal.

Eating a restaurant meal portion makes me feel horribly full but it often sneaks up on you. So I didn't feel extremely full until after the restaurant. I heard a fat person on Oprah say that she loves that feeling when you feel the need to loosen your pants and if you eat any more you might be sick. I really hate it.

Now at a restaurant I just tell myself as the plate is being put down "I can eat only half" of however much seems like a reasonable amount.

We have started eating out more because restaurants do serve higher calorie items that Little T likes like "burger fries." I eat less because the food has higher calories and therefore makes me feel more full.

Like today we ate at a deli. The bread is the same I would eat but a lot more salami and cheese and little mayo and mustard than I would eat on a sandwich at home. I ate half of the sandwich plus one bite. I also ate about 7 fat fries. I still feel full 2 hours later though not nauseatingly full. My husband ate the rest of my sandwich and part of his meal and some fries. He is gaining weight on this "new diet."

I have read research that people have a "set weight point." I think that's actually a simplistic answer. I think rather people have differing

  • tolerance of fat - I just can't eat too much fat. It makes me feel full.
  • the way foods taste aka food preferences - I can taste red no 5 and other artificial ingredients. They taste a little weird. I can't stand the taste of diet coke. I naturally prefer fresh meat and vegetables cooked simply. I hate preserved things. I have a friend who is the opposite and would choose diet coke and cheezits over stirfry any day of the week. I think McDonalds food tastes gross.
  • amount of food needed to feel full - my husband clearly has a higher set point than I do
  • feelings about being over full - my husband and I both hate it
  • rate of conversion of excess calories to fat - I do not gain weight easily. I think this also varies by body part. Any weight I do gain goes to my belly first then my breasts and then my face. My arms and legs remain the same. To gain weight during pregnancy I had to force myself to eat several times a day. Not eating caused my nausea to be worse. In the first part of both pregnancies I actually dropped a few pounds.
  • rate of conversion of fat to muscle/energy - In most areas of my body I am pretty static. I still have a fat belly from pregnancy. Otherwise I have dropped back down to my prepregnancy weight. I think I could work really hard to get rid of this belly fat but it would be very difficult. It has slowly gone down over time but very slowly.
  • rate of metabolism - my metabolism is pretty high. It has slowed down since I was a teen and I think pregnancy slowed it down further.
  • amount metabolism is affected by exercise and amount and type of exercise needed - I find I need to walk everyday to be happy. Faster exercise also makes me happy but I get "the runner's high" or feelings of well being just from walking. I walk fairly fast on my own but often I walk with kids. However when I can't walk due to injury I gain a few pounds which I drop after I start walking again. Oprah says she needs to work out an hour a day to keep her current weight. I just don't have time to do that.
  • ability to do a task over time that has long-term benefits - My ability to do this is low if it's just for myself but I'll do anything for my family.
I think people who are fat most likely have the "gain fat" side of many if not all these factors. Both of my parents come from a long line of people who were well-fed their entire lives i.e they lived in prosperous farming communities. With a constant supply of food the body reacts differently and there are different selection pressures.

Few people except Jared Diamond talk about how a culture's access to food resources affects its ability to expand. I would say that coming from a heritage that includes low and inconsistent access to food promotes genes that all lead to being fat in a culture that has consistent access to very high calorie foods.

I guess what I'm saying is yes my observable weight point is set lower than many Americans and I exercise less than the recommended amount. I don't do a lot of hard exercise like going to the gm. In fact when I did the most time at the gym I was also gaining weight from restaurant food. My BP etc is all low. It's just from following my natural tendencies.

I think someone like Oprah who comes from a background of slaves and before that prolly hunter-gatherers has all the factors to make her fat. With a lot of hard work she overcame her natural tendencies to get to a lower weight. I think other fat people could do the same if they had the resources and time of Oprah. Some fat people do and some don't.

But I think saying "everyone has a set weight point" or "everyone can be an ideal body weight if they only followed my lifestyle changes" misses the point.

At this point in my life if I had to do what Oprah did to maintain my current weight I would be fat. I don't have the time to exercise an hour a day or rather I feel my family needs that hour more. I can often walk with my family. I just eat what I like when I like. I don't spend time craving foods that are bad for me. I don't deny myself much in the way of food. Yes I love chocolate but in moderation. But I also don't think I need to be worth a billion dollars to have Oprah's genes and not be fat. I just need the time and resources.

At my current socioeconomic level I guess I could force myself into weight loss lifestyle changes if both my children were functionally school-age. Not true for me now. I don't know if I would want to. I prolly might if I was convinced I would die too young. I dunno.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Becoming more like House MD

I want to live in the world of House MD where most medical mysteries are solved in an hour. I'd like to think of myself as Cameron. Though to be honest I'm more like Foreman. I'm a scrappy minority. I really do care but in a medical crisis I'm very detached. My exploits in high risk medical deduction and bizarre medical conditions are confined to my son. But that's enough for me.

But sadly my life resembles House more than any of the other doctors. I deal with constant pain every day although it's in my wrists and not my leg. I took Vicodin for a few months when I broke my toe. But I'm off it now. House says "antidepressants make me fuzzy." Vicodin makes me fuzzy.

But without Vicodin, it seems I must add a new way to identify myself as House. I must use a cane. I doubt I'll go for a cane with flames as House did. But my cane will be cool in some way. I'll show pictures when I've chosen it. Like House, I need a cane to help prevent myself from falling.

Prekids I sprained my ankle about once a year and limped around on crutches or a cane for several months. Annoying but manageable. My neurologists told me that "hypermobile ankles" are part of my rare movement disorder, myoclonic dystonia. I just figured it was something I was stuck with like the jerking.

Then my son started receiving regular physical therapy and then finally walking at 2 years old. And I noticed that like me, my son had moments of great balance and then he'd suddenly fall down. At first falling down involved "a lot of head hits ground". Any sort of hit on the head resulted in massive egg bruises on his forehead due to low platelets. His hematology doctor said he was okay falling down walking, but if he fell from any height he ran the risk of brain bleed. Needless to say I watched him very very carefully.

I developed a sort of safe distance to watch. If I hovered over him he got annoyed. I and his nanny noticed he fell more when tired. I also noticed he fell when distracted or when moving from one surface to another. That's exactly how I stumble and sprain my ankle.

Prekids I used to hike on rough terrain and occasionally ski. Never a sprained ankle. I was being careful. I sprained my ankle or torn liagments

  • stepping down from my house to my garage
  • walking onto fake rocks near the Stanford barn without noticing
  • tripping over a gouge in the sidewalk shortly after receiving a flu shot
  • stumbling while pregnant - okay I think being clumsy comes with being pregnant
I broke my toe tripping over my daughter while my ankle was still recovering from a sprain.
I stumble a lot less with my son, because I have to be a lot more conscious of where he's going. I have never once stumbled while holding my kids.

But Little T's rapidly moving out of the "must watch with constant vigilance or he will hurt himself" stage. His platelets are normal. He has perfected the trot. My body already knows I need to be less careful. Today I stumbled and knocked against him and he merely swayed a little. A few months ago he would have fallen on his head. I was so proud of him. And sad that he needs me less in that physical way.

So I need something new to watch out for. A new baby would solve the issue but has other costs. We're fine with two kids. A cane will do. It will "provide additional sensory input."

I'm on the waiting list for a service dog from Canine Companions for Independence. So at some point I will have another creature to look after. One that I will always need to keep track of. Then I can ditch the cane and I will be less like House again. Being a big fan of House, I know that House kept a dog for a couple episodes. A very poorly behaved dog that chewed up everything even his Vicodin. House could probably use a service dog, but I'm not sure which organization would take him.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Why I love American Idol: an embodiment of American values

I'm definitely what we'd call in Silicon Valley a "late adopter" to the whole American Idol thing. This is my first season ever watching any episode of the show. But I guess blogging about it several times and watching every single episode this season makes me a fan now. I blame Jill for the blogging part. Her hatred of Sanjaya prompted me to write my first blog about American Idol: Sanjaya makes me laugh.

Okay maybe blogging does not a fan make. But what makes me a fan is American Idol embodies some American cultural values (both good and bad)

* Absolute faith in the democratic process. The people decide who wins
* Glorification of entertainment and the entertainment industry
* Belief that individuals can make a difference not only by voting but in huge problems like poverty by voting and donating their money - Idol Gives Back
* Like the idea that "anyone can be president" (some restrictions apply), "anybody can be the Next American Idol(TM)" (some restrictions apply)
* Entertainment covering entertainment
* The belief that you can know someone's heart from watching them on tv, even though you have never met them.

And since I'm a fan, I know the show started in the UK, but it has really taken off here. I had shied away from American Idol for years, because I thought it was only about entertainment, and silly at that. And I still feel we get carefully packaged versions of these singers, but after all that's entertainment. It's the moral values that kept me coming back. And as an import from the UK myself, I think that makes me an American to believe that a show about entertainment can have morals.

The week Sanjaya stopped being entertaining and I stopped voting for him, he got voted off. Even my 5 year old daughter wouldn't watch him that week. I sorta miss Phil and his big blue soulful eyes, but he's not a good a singer as some of the others. And as for Chris, there's only so much Boy Band a girl can take.

I like the Final Four. I still want Melinda to win. She combines both a wonderful voice and a lot of heart and delivers it week after week. Plus my 2 year old son still screams like a groupie whenever he hears her sing. But Blake comes a close second. He makes every single song his own. Jordin has a great voice and great potential, but sometimes does seem young and misses in her performances. And LaKisha sometimes just blows me away with those pipes of hers, but other weeks, her heart doesn't seem to be in her songs.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Baby Orange

golfishLast Saturday I foolishly agreed to let the kids toss their balls into goldfish bowls to win a goldfish.  I figured they'd never actually get the ball into the bowl so no goldfish.  I was right. The kids missed entirely. I was wrong. They each got goldfish anyway.

My son insisted on carrying his home and the fish had a very rough ride. My daughter somehow had two in the same plastic cup and asked Daddy to carry both home.

We put all three in a giant pickle jar with filtered water. My son's fish barely moved. Within an hour it was floating on its side. My husband touched it lightly with a stick and it rallied briefly and swam a little. Then it started floating again. My husband tried fish CPR which consists of flowing (filtered) water over the fish. The fish just lay there.So we sent it to the big white drain in the sky.

Within twenty-four hours the other fish started floating and it too went to the big drain. My daughter rewrote history and said both were her brother's. My son didn't seem to notice that two fish were gone. My daughter named the remaining fish Little Baby Orange.  She insists it's a she.

Baby Orange swam about vigorously and ate as much as she could.  After a week we decided that Baby Orange might make it.  So yesterday we bought Baby Orange stuff:

  • Baby Orange $1

  • 10-gallon tank $9.99

  • gravel $6.99

  • power filter $12.99

  • water conditioner $3.79

  • bacterial supplement $3.79 (adds good bacteria to break down fish wastes)

  • net $1.79

  • ornamental bridge that my son grabbed and broke $11.99

  • Fish pellets $6.99

Having Baby Orange is priceless. I don't know why this little fish makes me happy. But I feel like I'm getting to know...a feeder fish. She was clearly so excited to get into her new tank that she kept swimming against the bag.

Over twenty years ago my sister brought home Edward a feeder goldfish from a fair. Edward is huge and too big for his tank. His eyes are popped out and he can't see.  However he still lives on at my parents' house.

I'm a little concerned about our family's ability to feed a creature that doesn't ask for food.  We have killed many plants. But unlike a plant, Baby Orange is very active.  She swims around a lot. I think hope that's good.  I do like watching her.  Her resilient spirit reminds me of my son's.   Both have survived against the odds.  I also find the soft flow of the pump strangely soothing.

Keeping a feeder goldfish won at a fair is an act of faith.  I make no predictions for Baby Orange's future, but I'm enjoying her while she's here.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Migraine bright burning spikes in my brain

Yesterday I experienced the worst migraine I have ever had. I explained a migraine to my husband as "super hangover combined with the nasty aspects of being drunk". At least I often feel and sound incoherent and it's hard for me to move without throwing up. Replax didn't seem to help much but Replax and Ibuprofen got me to the point where I could stand the voices of my children.

I put them in front of the tv downstairs and I moaned upstairs until my husband came home. I completely missed my daughter's potluck for incoming Kindergarteners. I'd been looking forward to it.

Little T expressed him so loudly to my migraine ears. I asked him to speak more softly. "No speak softly." he screamed at me and bright burning spikes flashed in my brain. I chuckled a little that he chose now to express himself now. That hurt my head too. The day before I'd half written a post about my concern about his lack of expression. Now I wanted him mute again.

I asked Special K to whisper and she was so sweet. I also asked her not turn the light in the bathroom that shone so brightly in my bedroom. My husband turned on the one further away. Even in the middle she remembered. She came and whispered and turned on the further away light.

Just now I saw a little shooting star on my computer screen. So pretty but a warning sign. So I must get off the computer now.