Bad Things

(First of all “license” is a really tricky word to spell. I know there are c’s and s’s but I can’t ever remember which goes where. Same thing with “excersise”. Or is it “exercize”?  I’m really a good speller, I swear!)

Texas DPS

York, although being 16, was a bit of a dawdler about getting his driver’s permit and license. We signed India up for a driving school and she did all her stuff and got her license and it was not too hard. We decided to do the homeschool option for York because . . . we’re dumb and cheap. The homeschool version costs about $120 less than a driving school. The would-be driver has to do an online course but you do every speck of driving with the would-be driver.

Let me tell you, it’s most definitely worth $120 to make someone else learn to drive with your child. You eventually are the one who has to put in the major hours with them either way, but it’s nice having someone else show them the ropes at the beginning when they are know-nothing idiots. There isn’t anything more frustrating than a teenager who thinks he’s a great driver just because he’s played lots of driving video games. You can explain til you’re blue in the face that the very nature of Forza Motorsport is the complete opposite of driving in the real world (you have to obey speed limits, stay on the road and no running over pedestrians), but he’ll think he’s an expert already. Ah, the hubris of a teenage boy!

York did an online course for Driver’s Ed that was pretty straightforward. The rotten part was actually doing the driving.  Here in Texas you have to do about a million and a half hours of driving before you get your license (a bunch of it has to be done at night, too). This is definitely a great idea but it’s se emotionally taxing that I found myself giving York excuse after excuse about why he couldn’t drive. I had just been through the white knuckles with India, I needed a year or so to recover before I got to this business with York. Not to mention I didn’t want him to drive with his siblings in the car; if he was going to kill us I wanted him to take along as few people as possible. When there are six kids at home it’s quite difficult to find a time when only one person needs to go somewhere.

When you have toddlers and older people laugh and say, “wait until he’s a teenager” you look at them and think, “what’s worse than a meltdown in the middle of Target?”. You imagine a surly teenager and wonder “how hard can that be?”  The idea of not having to hire a babysitter anymore/make food other than chicken nuggets/wipe anyone’s bum makes the teenage years shine from afar with a rosy glow.

It’s things like teaching your kid how to drive that are simply too hideous to explain to a young mother. How do I communicate the frustration and terror of making sure my child understands how to not kill himself and others with this one ton mass of steel and soft Corinthian leather*.

York and I (I am the teacher of children learning to drive. Let’s just say that Mister’s temperament is not quite suited to patience in the driver’s seat. Plus I’m a better driver to begin with) muddled through our many hours of driving together until it was the magical day to get his driver’s license. Instead of getting it at the dumpy little office ten minutes from our house, everyone told us to go to the big fancy office way on the other side of town because it was so much easier to get an appointment. So York made an appointment–only a two-week wait!– to take the driving test way over there. I looked at the DPS† website to make sure we had the proper paperwork, although the website is as vague and unhelpful as possible (“Bring the Driver Safety Form”. Well, which of the eight hundred forms and papers that I’ve been given over the last few months is that? Why can’t they just say, “the form you got from the online driving school saying you finished all the lessons”??? Oh that’s right, this is the government. Why make something easy to understand when you can be cryptic and misleading instead?)

I pulled York out of school early (Of course driving tests are only given during school hours. Of course!) and toodled over to the DPS (a 35-minute drive and $2 in tolls) and got in line for his appointment. The lady who worked there was sweet but very insistent that we were missing a form. The form that I had left sitting on the table because I didn’t realize it was one we had needed. Naturally. It was too late to go get it and return before the office closed (an hour and ten minute round trip, remember!)   At this point York was about to lose it because he was not about to wait another two weeks for his driving test. The Prom was in two days and he wasn’t crazy about his mother driving him and his date around.

The sweet DPS lady assured us that if we arrived first thing in the morning we would be able to get a walk-in appointment. So we were on the road at 7:00 a.m. the next day to get to the DPS on the other side of town when it opened. We had all the correct paperwork and York and the driving instructor set off.

And they were back sixty seconds later.

Seems our safety sticker had expired a year earlier. In all fairness we were driving India’s car and I had no idea. So we drove around the surrounding area until we found a shop that could do a safety inspection. An hour later we were back at the DPS only to realize it wasn’t the safety sticker that had expired, but the car registration (which is a sticker on the dashboard so it’s very easy to tell when the date passes.)  There is no way we had time to drive over to a completely different government office to get a new registration so we decided to go back home and get my minivan.

Fast forward half an hour; we were about to get in my minivan when I realize that it too has an expired registration (really, people, I can’t be expected to stay abreast of everything). Our only other option was the giant pick-up we owned that mostly just sits in the driveway until Mister decides that he needs to take stuff to Goodwill. Only India had taken it to school that day because we’d been using her car for the driving test.

So we went to the High School and had her run the keys out to us in the parking lot. We swapped cars (registration and safety stickers were up to date!) and drove back to the DPS. York had never driven the truck in his life but that just made it all the more wonderful.

By this point it was noon. We’d originally left for the test at 7 a.m. Yay for missing another day of school!

York took his test and passed (hooray, because I really would have strangled him if we’d gone to all that trouble and he’d flunked), and it was very anti-climactic. We were just happy to be out of there. As we exited we passed a sulky teenage girl who was standing there with her mother while a DPS employee informed them that the license plates on their car were expired and they’d have to come back another day. “But I pulled her out of school for this! Now I’ll have to pull her out again!”, her mother wailed. I hear you, sister. I hear you.

So York got his driver’s license, hopped in the car all by himself and drove back for the last couple of hours of school.

The worst part of all of this is watching your child drive away alone for the very first time. Your heart has just driven off and you are sure this child will certainly die on the road. You spend the rest of the time praying every few minutes that he will be safe and not be killed. Like really, honest-to-God praying. For the first week you will nearly cry with sadness every time your boy wants to drive somewhere, certain are you that you will never see him again.

But then a few days later you find yourself making dinner and realize you forgot to buy an avocado. So you hand your son some money and have him run to the store and it’s like angels started singing and the world is bright and wonderful now that you can make somebody else run your errands.

Just like all the other things that happen when you’re a parent and your child goes through milestones, it is bittersweet. This one is the most bitter and sweet I’ve experienced, though. It’s so great to not have to pick people up from play practice at 10:00 at night. Or drive them across town at 6:30 am for the SAT. Or to have an extra set of wheels when one kid needs to be picked up from a birthday party at the exact moment when another kid needs to be at a soccer game. This is pure bliss. But now my child has the power to inflict death, whether on himself or someone else. I mean, I guess he could have stabbed somebody before but it’s not quite the same thing as a car crash. He also has the power to say he’ll be one place and be someplace else far, far away. That could mean trouble.

This parenting job, though, is all about letting go and hoping it all turns out semi-decently. It’s hard but it’s good.

Of course I’m saying all this now but let’s see how much of a basket-case I am when we take India to college next month.

 

 

 

†Here in Texas we have the Department of Public Safety not the DMV.

*You younger people won’t get this reference. But you should. I totally remember this car commercial starring the ever-suave Ricardo Montalban. Most people remember him saying “rich Corinthian leather”, but that is erroneous. Also erroneous? The leather that Chrysler used came from New Jersey, not Corinth.

This was probably the lamest day of our trip. It started out well, though. Of course we stopped by the Fête du Pain as we did every morning. We ate all our deliciousness on our way to Sainte-Chapelle, the little jewel-box of a church on the same island as Notre Dame. There was a security line that wound around the sidewalk that we had to wait in to get our bags peered into. Thanks to our Museum Passes, though, we walked right into the church after going through security, bypassing the hundreds of people waiting in line to buy tickets. Chumps!

Sainte Chapelle is an interesting church. It’s quite small and is built on two levels. The bottom level is where you enter. It’s pretty but nothing fancy. That’s where the servants and lesser mortals worshipped. Up a tiny winding staircase you’ll find the upper chapel with its gorgeous riot of stained glass. This, as you might have guessed, is where the Kings of France and the noble classes went to church.

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The stained glass windows are in the process of being restored. Some are finished and look bright and beautiful; some have scaffolding and you can’t see much at all and some still have restoration left to go. It’s quite interesting to see the differences.

It’s not a terribly large church, so it doesn’t take much time to visit. But it’s so lovely that it’s certainly worth a trip.

I split up from the rest of the family afterwards for the afternoon. I wanted to do a little shopping for some beauty products at City Pharma (the best and cheapest drugstore in town). French drugstores sell the most wonderful beauty products. None of them are particularly cheap but the quality is superb. Unfortunately a major wrench was thrown into the plans: my period started.  Normally this wouldn’t be worth a mention but it brings up a very important issue. There are no public bathrooms in France. Theoretically there are, but they are so few and far between that I have to believe that French people have bladders the size of watermelons. No store we visited had a public bathroom. Not even Monoprix which is a giant department store. I made sure to ask after I’d spent quite a bit of money there so they wouldn’t think I was just in the store to use the bathroom. Still the clerks claimed there were no toilets. You might, as I do, hate McDonalds. But when you’re in Europe your heart will leap at the idea of a bathroom, a cold drink and free wifi.

Where do people pee in France? It’s a question I still can’t answer. Every museum has a bathroom with lines a mile long. It’s really the only choice for tourists, of which there are a jillion. Occasionally we’d come across one of those automatic public toilets that sits in the middle of the sidewalk. Only once was one of the working; the rest of the time we’d get our hopes up only to waddle away, praying to find another alternative soon.

Of course I had no tampons or anything with me. So instead of shopping for beauty supplies I spent almost two hours shopping for lady supplies. I visited three pharmacies, all of which had entire aisles devoted to weight loss aids, but no tampons (seriously. No tampons. I walked up and down every aisle.) Finally I struck gold at Monoprix (which is very similar to Target). Because there was no bathroom there, I spent another twenty minutes trying to find a toilet. Any toilet. I didn’t care how smelly or dirty. Eventually I stumbled upon a modern-type shopping mall and was so happy to find a public bathroom that I almost started to cry. Naturally I had to pay 1€ to use it, but at that point I would have paid 10.

In my frantic wanderings I came across this charming beehive built into the corner of a building. You know I have such a fondness for beehives. You didn’t know? Well, how do you think I came up with the name for this blog?

Beehive Paris

I also passed by a realtor with the same name as me! (The spelling is a bit different, alas.)  If I hadn’t been doing the potty dance I might have stopped in to introduce myself.

Hilde Realtor Paris

And look at this jaunty little car! It has silhouettes of all the most famous French sites on it. I wonder if they have one in a minivan version.

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While I was have menstrual-related anxiety, Mister took the kids on a ride in a bateau-mouche on the Seine. They had a wonderful time and I am so glad they didn’t have to get dragged on my drug store and toilet wanderings around Paris.

When we finally met up, it was time to go to Versailles. When Mister and I went to Versailles the first time about twenty years ago, we thought it was kind of lame. Don’t get me wrong, Versailles is very grand and impressive and everything you would imagine it to be. But it just really lacked something. A heart, maybe.  It was built to be fancy and ostentatious and that’s pretty much the vibe you get.  But I thought maybe I had the wrong impression when I went last time. Maybe I would like it better since I’m so much older and more mature. And it’s May and wouldn’t the gardens look so mud better now than when we went last time and it was still winter-y and cold?

Here’s what I think about Versailles: it’s good to check off of your bucket list. Is it beautiful? Well, in a very grandiose impersonal way. It’s tremendously big and gaudy. It’s not my style at all. Foreigners, especially all the Chinese we saw there, were absolutely blown away by it. They could not get enough. York was pretty impressed too. It’s cool to see a place like that at least once. I mean, there were up to 10,000 people staying there at the same time. Do you realize how big of a building that is?  And yes, the gardens are amazing. But they’re very formal with miles of hedges and topiaries. It’s not about flowers, it’s about subduing nature. The entire experience of Versailles was built to impress everyone with how the King of France was boss of everything: not just his subjects but nature too.  There aren’t big flowery fields and rolling hills and things that we find so attractive nowadays; Nope, it’s just perfectly manicured trees and bushes that could just as easily be made of plastic and wouldn’t look all that different. Everything is about order and formality. So mostly we went because the kids should see it, but Mister and I swore never to go back.

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Getting to Versailles requires you to take the RER which is the train out to the suburbs. It requires a different ticket than the métro does. Pretty much every person who goes to Versailles is doing so as a day-trip from Paris. Some are on tour busses but most people will be taking the RER. To save yourself a mountain of time, buy your outgoing and return ticket in Paris. There is the most outrageously long line at the  Versailles train station to buy return tickets back to Paris. Here’s the tricky thing, the ticket machines don’t have a return ticket listed. So you select the “Versailles Rive Gauche” station and then . . . what? There is no Versailles-returning-to-Paris option.  I was completely perplexed, especially after my sister-in-law told me that she hadn’t been able to figure it out either, the last time she was here. So I went straight to the ticket counter and asked for four tickets each way.  And here’s what I got: eight tickets that said “Paris – Versailles Rive Gauche”. And guess what! The same ticket works both ways. So just buy two tickets for Paris to Versailles. One will get you there and one will get you back. I know you’re feeling very skeptical of what I’m saying, but the man at the train station assured me that this is how it works. And it did indeed work on the way back from Versailles.

The French train system is quite fickle. Trains quit right in the middle of the route without previous notice. Make sure you find out if the train you want to take to Versailles is, in fact, going all the way out there.

As Versailles is fantastically crowded at all times, we decided to go at the end of the day when the crowds have died down quite a bit. I studied the Versailles website to make sure our plans would work out. I picked a Saturday because the fountains are turned on on Saturdays during the summer.  The largest fountain–the Apollo fountain–only turns on for a short time. Which we somehow missed. The smaller fountains stay on as long as the château is open. The website doesn’t mention this. It only says that the gardens are open two hours later than the château. The website also doesn’t state that the gardens are a separate cost than the palace. The palace admission is included in the Museum Pass. But the gardens and the Petit Trianon are not. If you wait until after the château is closed then you can get in the gardens for free. When all the fountains are shut off.  It’s all very confusing and ended up making me very angry and frustrated.

The thing at Versailles that we didn’t see last time–and I was dying to see–is the Petit Hameau. It’s the place where Marie Antoinette pretended to be a little country shepherdess. I am so entirely jealous.

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Here is the crazy thing: the Petit Hameau is a 45 minute walk from the château. It takes that long to walk through all the fancy gardens. Goodness gracious!  There are also bikes that you can rent. And golf carts. And there is a little baby “train” that goes back and forth. But to my great dismay the Petit Trianon (of which the Petit Hameau is a part) closed earlier than the chateau. Right about the time that we wanted to get in, of course. No amount of cajoling softened the hearts of the employees. Even asking if I could just stand outside and take pictures. Non madame! Ce n’est pas possible! I found most of the people working at Versailles to be smug, cross and utterly unhelpful.

We had to content ourselves with seeing only the palace itself. Which, as I stated before, was gaudy and overblown with eight hundred types of marble and gilt everything and statues and paintings of gods and goddesses everywhere. (OK, we get it Louis XIV, you’re rich and powerful! Jeez!) Despite the crowds having thinned out remarkably, the place was still packed. We literally had to wait at the door of each room for five minutes while the crowds funneled through into the next room. I was so put out and disgusted that I didn’t take a single picture. Even in the Hall of Mirrors. It happened to be wall-to-wall with Chinese people taking photos anyway. Nothing puts me in a foul mood like a huge crowd.

Around the side of Versailles are the apartments of Louis XV’s three old-maid daughters: Adelaide, Victoire and Sophie. These rooms are intimate and pretty and I liked them so much more. Here is Adelaide’s bedroom. I took a picture of it because I have a daughter named Adelaide and I thought she would find it interesting. Also interesting is the fact the the Royal daughters were called Madame, not Princesse. How strange.

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Here’s a sitting room. It had these tiny chairs which I found quite interesting. What were they for? Children? Midgets? (Don’t laugh. Louis XIV’s mother was enchanted by dwarves and had a whole coterie of them.) Dogs?  I don’t know. Maybe they were just foot rests.  (I absolutely need this rug for my family room, by the way.)

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I just loved the walls in one of the rooms. Blue and white is a great love of mine. It’s fresh and timeless.

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We were happy to leave Versailles. We stopped by the Monoprix there to stock up on more French goodies and to buy some baby gifts for my pregnant friends back home (again, no bathroom. Aaaaarrrgh!)

The trains from Versailles pretty much all go to Paris. You just look at the screen above each train platform to figure out which one is leaving next. Some of them just sit there for ages with the doors open for some inexplicable reason. Make sure you’re on a train that actually plans on leaving soon.

If you want to go to Versailles, knock yourself out. But don’t feel the least bit sorry if you omit a trip out there. It’s not a quick jaunt; It’s about an hour each way on the train and a minimum of two hours at the château if it’s empty and you don’t see the gardens or the Petit Trianon. Most people are there for six or eight hours.  I certainly won’t be going out there again, I don’t care how many triangles Rick Steves gives it.

I bought Ada an Easter dress a couple of days ago. As I have done for many, many years I cut the bow off the front of the dress.

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I really hate bows. I always have. I don’t mind a bow on a dress that naturally occurs, say on the sash of a dress. But I hate bows that are sewn on to clothing for no other reason than to just make a dress more . . . busy.  I don’t know if this simple act has somehow been passed on to my daughters, none of whom like frilly clothes. Although I don’t want to give you the wrong idea: I love layers of  ruffles. If I see something with ruffles, I must buy it. It doesn’t matter what it is. Same for polka dots. I cannot control myself. But bows? That is another story.

Things are not so bow-covered now but that wasn’t always the case. Back when India was a baby in the mid-90′s there was a movement to encase little girls in more bows and floppy collars and gobs of fabric than should have been allowed. This movement was called Daisy Kingdom. You most likely have blocked these clothes from your memory, either because you bought it for your kids or you are young enough to have been dressed in this hideous stuff yourself. Or maybe you’re in your early 30′s you only saw these monstrous dresses from afar.

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The distinguishing factor of these dresses–besides the sheer volume of fabric and superfluous use of bows–was the cutesy bunnies and bears everywhere. I have always hated cutesy crap. Somebody made us one of these as a wedding gift and we were supposed dress it in baby clothes (different outfit for each season!) and have it sitting around our house. Naturally it found its way to Goodwill within a few month of the wedding. Who gives a grown woman a stuffed animal?

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I was living in Portland during the Daisy Kingdom heyday and we actually had a humungous Daisy Kingdom store downtown. I remember going down there and being simply overwhelmed by the ruffliness of everything. On paper I theoretically liked this stuff. I love little girls in pinafores! But in reality these clothes were much too over-the-top. I don’t remember if you could actually buy these dresses or if everything was just patterns and fabric and it was all do-it-yourself. But you know Mormons and how crafty we are. There was a parade of little girls with crazy curls wearing these dresses week after week at church. And it was just to sickly sweet for my taste.

And there I was picking the bows off of everything. I had to buy expensive socks from a catalog because that were the only place I could find non-ruffly socks (oh yeah, I only hate ruffles when they’re on socks. Or pageant dresses.)  Nowadays you can buy classy kids clothes all over the place but I still find myself picking off bows trying to make my girls look as non-cheesy as possible.

One day last year I was killing myself on the rowing machine (I have realized that I hate HATE HATE running), watching Netflix. I clicked on a show called Addiction. It’s a really good, graphic non-fiction show about–surprise!–addicts and alcoholics. The woman on the show was talking about how low she had fallen because of her heroin addiction and how she simply couldn’t stop using even though she was ruining her life and the lives of everyone around her. When she was describing what is was like with the heroin having so much power over her and not being able to stop, I burst into tears. I sat there and sobbed because I felt exactly the same way. But my drug of choice is not illegal. It is sugar.

If you scroll through my recipe tab you will notice that pretty much every recipe I list is chock full of carbs and sugar. These things are my very favorites in life. I grew up baking, teaching myself how to bake at an early age because I simply couldn’t get enough suweets (this is what I did whenever you left the house, Mom! You told me not to use the stove or oven but I just had to). Luckily I was blessed with a decent metabolism that tidily sorted through the sugar and pop I existed on for most of my life. Once I hit 40, though, my metabolism waved goodbye. Practically overnight it came to a screeching halt. I did what I had done in the past: went to Weight Watchers, tried to be reasonable about portion sizes and switched my full-sugar Mt. Dew habit to Coke Zero (sorry, but I find Diet Coke to be utterly vile.)  Nothing happened. I couldn’t lose a pound if my life depended on it.

Then I was called to be the Relief Society President. This means I was put in charge of all the women in my church congregation. Not only am I in charge of planning activities and lessons, but I’m the one on the front lines when the women have major setbacks due to illness, depression, death or unemployment. All sorts of fun things. All this new stress and responsibility left me exhausted and depleted at the beginning. So I did what every red-blooded American would do; I turned to food. Now I wasn’t stress-eating just for my own problems, I was stress-eating for everyone’s problems! The results were not pretty. I didn’t even know you could gain weight that fast!

I cut down on calories and took up running (I had to try it before I realized I hated it so), and rowing and exercise videos. Unfortunately my weight stayed exactly the same. The scale would not budge. I cut out most white flour and ate nothing but whole grains (hey, whole wheat chocolate chip cookies are really fantastic, by the way! Super chewy!). And there were no more calories from soda since I was drinking diet. I couldn’t figure out what was going on or how to change it.

I knew exercise must be important but so far I hadn’t found the thing that rocked my world. And I knew I needed a partner to help me find some accountability. I’d been hearing about crossfit a lot so I found a place near us that had fantastic reviews on Yelp and got my friend Anna to go with me. It was hard. Really hard. But I really liked it. And hated it. If you know crossfit, you know what I mean. I’ll talk more about it another time. But the foundation of crossfit is good nutrition. That’s a really big deal. In particular, crossfit people are totally into paleo.

My crossfit coach suggested I try Paleo but once I found out that sugar and grains are forbidden I was like, “HELL NO!” Like, no way would I ever, ever eat that way in a million years. My coach just smiled, “after about a month of crossfit I bet you’ll try it.” I snort-laughed because there was not even a shred of possibility that that might happen. Obviously he didn’t know who he was talking to; I have won blue ribbons for my baked goods! That stuff is in my blood! Sugar and flour are my soul!

But this voice in my head kept nagging at me to think about it. Even doing crossfit several times a week was not helping my weight. The numbers refused to get lower. I began to face the fact that flour and sugar were like a dysfunctional relationship: they were doing me nothing but harm although I still loved them desperately. It was time for us to break up.

I read several books about eating Paleo* and here’s what turned me onto it: it’s all about getting over sugar and carb cravings. It’s about teaching your body to have a healthy relationship with food. It’s about healing your body from the damage you’ve done over your lifetime, and becoming as healthy as possible through clean eating. And most importantly to me it means eating foods that provide a healthy psychological response.

In other words, not eating because of sadness or boredom. You don’t think of food as a reward (that’s a big deal for me. I think of food as the ultimate reward). You can find all sorts of “heathy sweets” that have honey or agave. Or sugar-free chocolate. But those aren’t going to do you an favors if you’re a sugar addict. I needed to teach my body how to not crave things like that anymore. And the only way to kill a craving is to starve it to death. (Not starve as in “no calories”, starve as in “no more sweet things whether they are ‘healthful’ or not”.)

Paleo pyramid

Not eating carbs and sugar is pretty much the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Without a doubt. I face a temptation every hour of every day. Unlike heroin addicts, though, sugar is not only served everywhere, it is encouraged!  (Who’ll bring refreshments? Who wants some birthday  cake? It’s free slurpees today!) I’ve had to stop bringing people cookies because I can’t bake them and not eat them. I have to buy snacks for my kids that I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole so I won’t be tempted (It would have to be the end of the zombie apocalypse before I would put a baked Cheeto in my mouth.) I psyche myself up and do a pep-talk before I go to any church function (Refreshments are so hard to say no to!). And I practically wear blinders when I go to the grocery store .

It’s getting easier, though. I pray a lot (seriously. “Please Heavenly Father, do not let me think about peanut butter M&Ms”. I know it sounds pathetic and cheesy but it really works). This morning I took my kids to our favorite donut shop  (I love donuts with a grand passion) and I sat and watched them eat their donuts without even having a bite. I abstained from ordering a donut for myself even when I saw them carry out a fresh, hot tray of chocolate glazed with peanuts–my favorite! I haven’t had soda or caffeinated anything since New Year’s Eve and I’ve stopped staring at the soda fountains longingly. I no longer think about how great a Big Gulp would taste right now. When it gets really hot out, though, I’m probably going to die without pop. Gotta stay strong!

The good news? The weight is coming off. Slowly. But it is coming off. And unlike Weight Watchers** or starving myself, I have plenty to eat. I’m never hungry. Thank goodness bacon and cashews are paleo or I would probably kill myself. The best thing, though, is that I feel strong and healthy. Not just physically healthy but mentally and emotionally healthy. I don’t reach for food when I’m bored. Although I have discovered that I am not a bored or sad eater. When I’m depressed I don’t want food. I’m an angry eater! When I’m frustrated and angry I want to “show everyone” by pigging out. I know, it doesn’t make any sense. But that’s what I’ve discovered about myself.

Will I stay paleo forever? I don’t think so. I really do think that whole grains need to be part of the human diet. I’ve been doing a lot of research and really feel like whole grains are important. But I need to be in a healthy state of mind before I can make that happen. I need to exist without thinking/wishing/pigging out on sugar day after day. I need to get cravings out of my system so one cookie doesn’t turn into fifteen cookies (which is what happens now, no lie). I need to be able to say, “that’s enough” and so far that’s not part of my lexicon.  But I’m hoping that I will be able to change that soon. And permanently. Until then, bring on the pea pods!

 

*If you’re interested in Paleo (which is a stupid, stupid name), I would HIGHLY recommend getting the book The Paleo Coach by Jason Seib. It’s fantastic.

**Weight Watchers has worked really well for me in the past but recently it just hasn’t done the trick. Plus it doesn’t really help with my sugar addiction. Instead I end up eating all my points by lunchtime and then I’m left with ten more hours of starvation. You’d think I would learn my lesson but I never did. Then there is the whole issue of weight being the ultimate gold standard. Weight is just a number. It doesn’t mean you’re healthy or that you look good. And who hasn’t felt great going into a meeting because you’ve tried so hard only to have all the feelings negated because of what the scale says. It’s not right!

According to all the stores. January is the time to organize stuff. And you know what? I agree. After the mayhem of the holidays, it feels good to clean and organize everything. Mister has been getting very put out with the state of clenliness lately. Let’s just call it “laissez-faire housekeeping”. It all came to a head a few days ago when I came home from . . . . I’ve already forgotten. But Mister was having a meeting with his Boy Scout committee and as the house was in disarray, he had cleaned it nicely. Or so it seemed.

This is the main difference between men and women, I think. Most men (mine included) think cleaning up generally means shoving stuff in baskets and boxes and putting it somewhere less visible. I walked into our bedroom while Mister’s meeting was happening and what do you know? There are three laundry baskets piled with everything from shoes to my glue gun to actual clean clothes.

Meanwhile I had several boxes of Christmas decorations sitting in the mudroom because I couldn’t put them away. The attic was a complete mess due to kids looking for winter clothes. Every person woman knows that you can’t put stuff away when everything is already disorganized. First you have to organize, then you clean. And if you don’t have time to organize everything? Well, that means the cleaning kind of grinds to a halt.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve done my share of stash-and-dashes when we’ve had company coming over. Having a master bedroom on the main floor means that there is always a place to put things in a hurry and feel fairly safe that nobody will see anything. But if I’m going to clean–like, really honestly clean, I’m going to do it right.

Or course there are superwomen out there who always have things organized and clean. These women perplex and slightly frighten me.

But I’ve been working hard on organizing and especially throwing things away/giving things away (been to Goodwill a whole lot lately). You cannot fathom the huge amount of receipts that I have been storing in every nook and cranny. But you can’t organize clutter, so I’m jumping on the January bandwagon and cleaning out the hidden spots in my house first. The attic is done. My closet is in progress.

Two weeks ago Mister chided me for having two grocery bags full of canned goods sitting in the garage (they’d been there for oh, a week or so). “Put these away already!” he said before he left for work. They were all meant for storage, not the pantry. But the food storage room/closet was thoroughly disorganized and stuff was all over the floor. So I spent the day dragging everything out, cleaning the weevils out of the carpet (thanks to a ripped bag of flour. It’s as gross as it sounds), and reorganizing all the food. Of course this took a million hours longer than I had hoped. Half an hour before Mister got home from work, the grocery bags still hadn’t been unloaded. But I made it just as he pulled into the driveway.

Deep cleaning and organizing is partly satisfying (yay properly organized stuff!) but nobody ever appreciates it like they ought to. (Would it be too much to have one of my kids say, “Wow, Mom, you did a great job placing all the spice jars in alphabetical order, and in order from oldest to newest ensuring we rotate through our supplies wisely.”? That’s all I ask!)

I still have to unload my new shoe shelves from the car, but once I get that closet cleaned the world is going to look a lot shinier.

I was at the library last week and thought I would be nice and check out a movie for the kids. I know they are fans of the entire Spy Kids oeuvre so I rented Spy Kids II (or was it Spy Kids III or IV? As if there is any difference). When I got home they informed me that the Spy Kids movie I’d checked out is already on Netflix and they have already watched it nigh unto a hundred times.

So I put somewhere and completely forgot about it. Until it was several days overdue. I ended up paying $3 to rent a movie nobody watched which was on Netflix anyway.

And I wonder why I have no money.

PC240599Whew! What a Christmas! It’s taken me a whole week just to recover from our vacation. We went to The Motherland (Utah), where several relatives on both sides met us. We spent the entire time going from family to family with tiny interludes of seeing old friends. Relaxing, it was not. Not even close. But it was still a good vacation because we got to spend so much time with the people we love the most. I always have this crazy notion that vacations are meant for relaxation and if that doesn’t happen then I feel gypped and angry. And of course when I feel angry I like to take it out on Mister and vice versa, so there were a lot of fun moments where we sent daggers from our eyes to each other.

I may or may not have also taken my lack of sleep and stress about the holidays out on my mother-in-law.  We had a little “incident” over a lemon pie (formerly Lemon Truffle Pie but hereafter known as The Pie That Ruined Christmas) that ended with me being unpleasant and my mother-in-law sobbing at the kitchen table. If you want to know how to make my husband madder than he’s ever been, try being mean to his mom. On second thought, don’t.

But, like I said, it was a good trip because we got to spend time with our relatives; all of whom we adore. These are all the cousins who were in Utah from Mister’s side. A whole bunch are missing but hopefully we’ll see them soon.

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The kids also got to go skiing. It was the first time Ada and Jasper had seen snow since they were babies. Nothing beats that Utah snow. I, of course, did not go skiing because I don’t go outside when it’s that cold unless the house is on fire. There’s not enough hot chocolate in the world to make outdoor sports worth it.

On the second day of skiing Arabella and India ended up stranded at the top of a “terrifying ski run” (from the way they made it sound it was a black diamond, but turned out to only be a green. But they’re newbies, OK?). The Ski Patrol tried to lead them down but they preferred to sit at the top of the mountain and cry for over an hour. Finally one of their grown-up cousins tracked them down and coaxed them down the hill, reassuring them the entire time that they weren’t about to die.

Skiing at Park City

We flew to/from Utah on Southwest Airlines. This was necessary because of the two free bags that are allowed for each person. When Christmas presents and winter clothes are involved, you need all the baggage you can get. The trip north was fine (only nine suitcases!) but the trip home was a little iffier. We ended up with two additional suitcases and a box of beautiful wreaths that I bought the day after Christmas (yay for sales! And yay for Tai Pan Trading!).*

We required our own shuttle out to the airport parking lot when we got back to Austin, we had so much stuff and people. Mister had actually come to Utah on a later flight than the rest of us so he brought the near-empty minivan to the airport when he left. He had the brilliant idea to throw the rooftop luggage rack in the car at the last minute since he knew we’d be short on space.

Only it turns out the luggage rack doesn’t fit our car. It was for our old minivan. He swore up and down that we’ve used it on Betsy, my current minivan. But evidence proved otherwise and there we were with not only a million bags but a giant roof rack that didn’t come close to fitting on the top of my car. Where there’s a will, there’s a way and with the help of a luggage strap and some yarn from a knitting project, we strapped that roof rack on the top of my car. It jiggled and rocked precariously the whole way home and I expected it to go flying off onto the car behind us at any moment. But we drove 45 mph on the freeway the whole way home. It took us an extra 15 minutes but nobody behind us was decapitated. Success!

We did manage to get all the bags in the car but everyone had to sit Indian style so we could put bags under the kids’ feet. And then we all had to pile suitcases in our laps.  You should probably know that by this point I was screaming, “shut up!” anytime someone tried to speak. Never has anyone been so glad to pull into their driveway. I made a quick dinner, took a sleeping pill and was in bed with earplugs by 8:30. And I slept until 8:00 the next morning.  The perfect way to end any vacation.

I’m quite sure we won’t be taking our show on the road for Christmas again. Although it was lovely to spend the holidays with our relatives, the stress and trouble are simply too much. Unless our relatives want to spend Christmas in Hawaii. I’m pretty sure we could make that work.

*I’m going to overdo it on decorating next year. I have to make up for this year; Although I decorated my house, I didn’t put up the Christmas tree. We wouldn’t be home for Christmas! Can you blame me?  The sad thing is that I bought a new star and a new tree skirt and didn’t even try them out. I’m so lame sometimes that I shock myself.

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I may or may not have announced on Facebook a couple of weeks ago: “If you post pictures of your Elf on the Shelf I will unfriend you for the month of December.” Partly to be funny, but partly out of spite I felt I needed to issue my warning. Some people like this “tradition” (Nobody was doing it five years ago so it’s not really that much of a tradition), but some people really despise it (me!). There are so many reasons I hate it: using weird bribery to get kids to behave, furthering the “I Believe” cult of people bearing their testimonies of Santa, and it does have such a creepy little face. Mostly, though, I hate this Elf on the Shelf thing because it symbolizes all the crazy stuff we do to ourselves during the holiday season. Somehow Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day have come together to create a completely bizarre tradition: an Elf that gets into crazy mischief every single night. As if buying presents, giving neighbor gifts, attending concerts and/or parties, making travel arrangements, decorating our houses, doing one or more advent calendars, and baking at least a few more times than we usually do isn’t enough. Now we have this Elf to worry about to.

I know that most of the people who do it say it’s a fun and harmless tradition. But it seems to be a bit overboard. It seems to be just one more thing to increase the chance of being in a bad mood come December 25th. I would just ask all the big proponents of the Elf movement how many times they’ve posted pictures of their Elf hijinx on Facebook, blogs or Instagram. Because it seems that the people who are most into the Elf are the ones who are most active in social media. Are they really doing it for their kids or are they doing it to impress everyone else?

Is the Elf on the Shelf really to blame? Or is it just a symptom of our runaway culture? Is everything about Christmas getting out of hand? I have to admit that a few years ago when I had had enough of “all this materialism” and decided to make every single Christmas present by hand for all our relatives that I became a stressed out basket case. That Christmas was sheer misery. I thought that by making everything I would somehow get in touch with the spirit of Christmas, only to find myself knitting and making soap at 3 am on several occasions.

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Ada soccer close

You might not believe this since I’m the mother of six, but it’s is my first year being a soccer mom. I’ve avoided the stigma of soccer mom-dom for many years, for the same reasons that many mothers refuse to drive minivans: you feel like you have lost every bit of cool-ness and are now nothing but a slave to your children. Unlike a minivan, which is pretty much the greatest thing ever invented, soccer is a life-sucking drag. OK, it’s not really that bad. But somehow I ended up sitting on a soccer field three nights per week and for a few hours on Saturday.

Listen, I don’t hate team sports. Well, I kind of do, but my children–Adelaide especially–have been begging to play soccer for years. Yes, years. And when my friend Anna called saying her son and Jasper could carpool, I threw caution to the wind and signed up Ada and Jasper for the local soccer club.

Now I finally get it when people ask me incredulously how I juggle everything. Before we did soccer, life was pretty much a cake-walk, schedule-wise. We really only did piano lessons and those lessons were mostly before school. After school we just all hung out, I helped kids with homework, listened to tattling/fighting children and made dinner.  Once soccer started I was required to drop everything right at Prime Time and head over to practice. That meant that dinner became a pre-made thrown-together affair. If I was on top of things (ever so rare) I’d have some sort of crock pot thing ready. Most of the time, though, it was easy-to-heat up food like Kirkland pulled pork tacos (it is sublime meat, by the way). Better than McDonalds but I think feeding a family is a job that mothers need to take seriously.

Toward the end of the season I just dropped the kids off and went home, picking them up later. The field is only 5 minutes away so it’s not a huge commute. But then they feel bad that I never watch so I’d get sucked into staying. While I’m complaining let me just remind you that September and October are hot here in Texas, even at night, and sitting outside was definitely torture.

And then there were the games on Saturday. Saturday morning is my special time. My laze about time. Not my hustle-up-and-find-team-shirts-and-remember-that-it’s-our-turn-for-snacks-and-then-sit-in-the-hot-sun-for-three-hours time. And if you even suggest that I’m being selfish, pardon me while I laugh in your face. You can accuse me of being lots of things but when you’re a mom of this many kids, selfish is one thing that is simply not possible.

By the end of the season (which was last week) I realized that the whole family was suffering. Yes, two children got to do something fun but ultimately playing soccer wasn’t the biggest deal to them. I felt like it added a whole new layer of craziness to our lives. I wasn’t able to spend as much time helping the older kids with homework (and yes, older kids need help with homework and it’s way harder than learning times tables). I didn’t have that down-time to connect with everybody.

When I stopped to think about it, why were even playing soccer in the first place? Yes, the kids wanted to. But they also want to drink Hershey’s syrup straight from the bottle and stay up tip 11 pm. In other words, who cares what they want? But maybe they were soccer prodigies that would never have a chance to develop their talents? Uhhh, yeah. If they were born to play soccer we would have figured that out years ago.  Maybe so they could learn teamwork? They’re already on a team. Team Hildie and they’re on this team for eternity. Because they’re the only kids who’ve never played soccer and I’m starting to feel like a loser mom? Ahhh, now we have the real reason. It’s just the grown up form of peer pressure. Heaven forbid your kids aren’t the only ones taking dance/soccer/gymnastics. Kids don’t see the benefit of eating a nice dinner as a family every night. But experts have been saying that this is the one thing that determines whether kids take drugs or become successful. Not soccer.

It may make me sound like I should live in Communist China but what is good for the individual is less important to me than what is good for the whole. And soccer hasn’t been good for the whole. So toodle-oo shin guards, may we never meet again!

Here’s the latest update on my stupid arm. I got my cast off a week after my injury. My arm felt so feeble and defenseless. It was nice to be able to wash my arm though. Since I’d gone to the hospital straight from crossfit where I’d been doing pushups and burpees, my hand was still filthy when they wrapped it up. Hence it looked like this a week later:

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In order to keep my elbow from popping out of place again I was sent over to Enrique. He fitted me with an incredibly uncomfortable brace.

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I had to wear it all the time. Even sleeping. Normally I sleep like a dead person but this made it totally impossible.

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The worst part was having to wear it outside. It’s still in the high 90′s here and all the plastic made my arm drip with sweat. I had a few cotton sleeves that Enrique gave me but by the end of the day they’d all be soaked. Gross. So I ordered 25 yards of the sleeve material on Amazon and was much happier.

On the positive side, though, I got a lot of sympathy and people offered to do everything for me. I’d just wave my arm pathetically and people would carry things, pump my gas or whatever else I wanted. You have to make the most of a bad situation, you guys! Also, I looked pretty bionic which was cool.

I got the OK from my doctor to get rid of the brace and I have to say that I’m thrilled. My arm feels way better. It doesn’t really ever hurt. it’s just incredibly weak and my range of motion is pitiful. I can’t make a ponytail, fasten a necklace or hook up my bra. And forget touching my arm to my shoulder. It will be a while. I’m supposed to start physical therapy one of these days and I’m sure that will help loads.

Sadly I can’t lift weights for another six weeks which means no crossfit til then. My doctor is an avid crossfitter so I don’t think I’ll blow off his advice. He did tell me that I’m okay to do box jumps, though. I was like, “Box jumps? That’s what got me here! Forget it!”

But best of all I can type again! So yay for being able to blog more!