Good Things

If someone told me I would start getting zits again as I sauntered into middle age I would have punched them in the face. And then fainted. Because it’s not bad enough that my hair is getting really wimpy and my metabolism has come to a screeching halt. Now I’m getting pimples again like I’m 16 years old. What the heck, body? Why are you doing this to me???

But I have good company because both my teenage sons are breaking out too. I’ve only got chin zits now and again but they definitely need some help, skin-wise. So I did what I do anytime I think there must be a product to cure my ills: hop over to Amazon! Sho’ nuff, I found something magical.  This stuff:

Gel peel

It’s Perfect Image’s Salicylic Acid Gel Peel. It eats pimples. I’ve had professional chemical peels many a time and I’m a huge fan. This is a similar kind of thing but it doesn’t make my skin peel like the professional ones. It does get rid of zits, though. Totally. I use this once a week and I have not had one single pimple since then. I’m not exaggerating. No zits whatsoever.  Just wipe this on with a cotton ball, let it sit for between 45 seconds to 2 minutes and then rinse it off very thoroughly. Easy peasy.

Just a warning: it burns like a mother. The first time you use this you will barely be able to handle 30 seconds. Each week I upped the time until I got to about two minutes. That’s my limit.

After I use the gel peel my skin is super dry so I slather on some of my extra-luxuriant homemade moisturizer. The chemical peel makes skin more sensitive to the sun, so products with an SPF are a must! The rest of the week I use this Roc Retinol Correxion moisturizer which my dry skin just drinks up.  It’s quite heavy but since I have dry skin, it works for me. Sometimes I get this on Amazon but I can usually find it cheaper at Costco.

Roc moisturizer

(Yes, I use a product that is designed for “deep wrinkles”. Let’s just gloss over that little detail, mm-kay?) This moisturizer has got a big fat SPF 30 and you’d better believe you need that every single day. Especially if you live someplace sunny. If you have greasy skin this isn’t the product for you, but if you’re on the dry side, this Roc moisturizer is great.

Truthfully my sons haven’t had as good of results with the chemical peel as I have. Their zits are of the angry teenage sort and they’re hard to stop. The gel peel has reduced their break-outs by about 50%, I’d say.  I’ve given them a face wash that has also helped. Because Finn has dry skin he uses a moisturizer too.

They’ve had good luck with this cleanser
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And this mositurizer:
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The good news is that we’re a lot less zitty than we used to be a couple of months ago. I think you’ll agree that nothing is as big a drag as having a big fat pimple on your face.

 

P.S. Okay, yes, there are things that are a lot more of a drag than a big zit. No need to give me a laundry list of what a drag it is to be missing an arm or whatever.

P.P.S. I bought all these products with my very own money. Well, my husband’s money if you want to be technical. But I do receive a small pittance if you buy any of these products through my links. Which you should definitely do because I try to do right by you guys. And these products are legit.

 

I haven’t posted for over a month??? Wow. I hadn’t realized. I’ve just lost the mojo or something. I feel really bad because I didn’t even post any of the cool stuff that happened over the summer. Some of it made me sad. Like this:

Somebody flew the coop.

India Trees

 

 

India Jane senior

 

India Bluebonnets

 

Baby India graduated from high school. Mister’s parents came down, despite their health being not so great these days.

India Grands Graduation

I don’t know how that happened. I mean, one minute she was starting kindergarten and all of a sudden she was putting on her cap and gown. You know how old ladies at the store tell you when you’ve got your hands full of squirming kids that time flies and the kids will grow up so quickly? And you’re like, “yeah, right. Starting when?”  Because every day lasts for a hundred years when you’re children are small. You seriously wonder if you will ever not be wiping somebody’s butt and stepping on stray Legos.

It does go fast. Not until they get into school, though. Every year goes by a little quicker and by the time they’re Seniors in high school, the year lasts about seventeen minutes.

And then they’re leaving for school and you wish you could trap every day in a bottle because it’s the end of an era: the era of having your babies in your nest. Now they’re flying away and it’s exciting but it’s also terrifying.  People keep asking me how I’m doing and the answer is, “I’m kind of blue.” Not depressed, but just unmoored. Life is shifting and even though I knew it would happen, it’s unsettling.

I tell people I’m sad that India is gone but not half as sad as I’d be if she were still living in her bedroom with a lame future ahead of her. Because India is awesome she got a full-ride scholarship to college. And she got a couple of other scholarships too that are covering most of her room and board and books. So yay for that!

We dropped her off at Brigham Young in August and Mister sobbed the whole way back to the airport.  Real, blubbering loud sobs. I finally had to remind him that India is not dying. She’s just going to college and we’d see her at Thanksgiving. But he’s the softie in the marriage. I’m the mean, heartless one. But still it was sad leaving her there.

I can’t be too sad, though, because is there any time as full of excitement and awesomeness as the first time you leave for college? She’s got a shiny, spectacular future ahead of her and as sad and boo-boo as I feel for me, I feel happiness and excitement for her.

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India Jane college

 

Plus it’s not like I don’t still have fifty million kids at home. York is in 12th grade this year so we get to do the whole thing all over again.

Here are some other milestones we had:

My baby, my littlest kiddle, turned eight. Jasper Presents

 

Because we’re Mormon we believe that little children who die go straight to Heaven. Thus we don’t baptize kids until they’re old enough to know right from wrong which is at age eight. So Jasper was baptized. Having your youngest child get baptized in another milestone. It means you’re not a young mother. For so long I’ve always had little kids and that means I’m a young mother. But with my youngest being old enough to get baptized I feel like those days of having little kids is ancient history. Again, more unmooring.

Mormons do baptism the old-fashioned way: immersion just like Jesus did. So the baptisee and the baptizer both dress in white, symbolic of being born again and forgiven of our sins.  Jasper was baptized by Mister and it was a lovely ceremony.

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We had a bunch of fun Texas Tuesdays which I’ll tell you about later. Right now I’m just trying to keep afloat. Mister has gone back to school to get his Masters degree and I’m still as busy as ever. But I’ll be a little more diligent. I’ve got some cool new tutorials in the works; it’s going to be fun!

 

Tomorrow is Fast Sunday for Mormons. When I say “fast” I don’t mean the opposite of slow; I mean not eating or drinking. This is something that all Mormons around the world do on the first Sunday of every month. We go hungry. And thirsty. On purpose. We then take the money that we would have spent on food and give it to be used by the poor. The church has huge farms around the world where food is raised especially for church members who are in need. They are run by members of the church and staffed by volunteers.

When we lived in Utah Mister and I worked a few times a year helping out at the production facilities. We packaged cheese at the dairy, screwed lids on jars of spaghetti sauce (they were going down a conveyor belt and I felt like we were in the opening sequence of Laverne and Shirley the whole time. But with spaghetti sauce not beer.)  Once my sister and I even worked in the meat-packing plant. We were on the clean-up crew and it’s probably one of the grossest things I’ve ever had to do. We had to wear giant rubber boots to keep from slipping as we hosed the congealed fat off of every single surface. Gah! So nasty! But being a Mormon means working hard to take care of those around us.

Now that I’m the Relief Society President I help the needy families in the congregation figure out what food and toiletries they might need and fill out an order form for them to go pick it up at a special store every two weeks.  It’s like a food pantry but on a much bigger and more organized scale. The members who receive help are expected to help out in other ways where possible. It’s a pretty fantastic system to make sure that everyone is watched over and helped the way the Lord would want.

Here’s a cool video that shows how the system works around the world.

I haven’t done a Makeup Monday in a while. I got pink eye at the beginning of the Summer and I’ve been keeping the makeup minimal to prevent contamination with my germy eyes.  I’ve also gotten pretty sick of doing my nails too. When summer got here I just needed a break from everything!

But now I’m back with a minimalist manicure and a great new product that I’m kind of in love with. (What? This is a minimalist manicure for me!)

green dot manicure

If you do gel nail polish, you know it’s the best to apply. It “dries” super quickly so you can get a great manicure and not worry about smudging anything. But removing gel polish is the worst. Really a complete drag. You can either soak your nails in acetone which is smelly and awful, or try to come up with a system of soaking cotton balls and wrapping your nails with tin foil. That method is drippy and inconvenient and I don’t recommend it.

I stumbled across a new nail polish removal product while I was reading one of my favorite nail blogs. Intrigued by the product, I ordered it for myself. And wow!  It’s fantastic! Totally non-drippy things you stick on the tops of your fingers. They took my polish off in less than ten minutes. No scraping involved either! The polish pretty much just fell off.  They’re called NailMates.

nailmates

They come with thin, little sponges that you dip in acetone polish remover and slide into the pink rubber covers. You wear them on your nails and they work like a charm. You’d think that they would be pretty leaky but they aren’t at all. You can’t exactly type at your computer while you wear them, but it’s way better than being stuck at a table with your hand in a bowl of acetone. And NailMates are reusable. Just rinse out the sponges and that’s it.  I’m just loving these!  They’re $14 for a set (includes shipping) and right now they’re giving an extra set of liner sponges for free. You can get them here.

I wasn’t paid to recommend them and I bought them with my very own money. I just think they’re a great product.

 

We woke up, had breakfast at our flat and hurried out to take a tour of The Changing of the Guard. This is where the guards who are watching Buckingham palace switch places with the new guards. It’s a little ostentatious and a big deal and only happens every few days. And most importantly, it doesn’t happen when it rains–what with those big bearskin hats and smart uniforms the guards wear.

Most people show up at Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard but all of the interesting parts take place away from Buckingham Palace. We signed up for a tour with Matt at Fun London Tours who promised to show us everything from the best points of view. (Have I mentioned how much I love walking tours?)

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The day started out cloudy, as usual, but seemed promising as we headed over to the Royal Mall. Matt showed us a bunch of cool sights on the way there. Here’s a statue of the Queen Mum and her husband Edward VI (the king featured in The King’s Speech, which I made India watch on the flight to London. York refused, little jerk. Ironically, that king was born as the Duke of York.)

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We came across another statue of another Duke of York. This one we made York pose in front of (well, the sign at least. The statue itself is very tall). York was named after York, England (not New York which is what everyone asks him. His name is not New York so I really have no idea why they ask such a dumb question.) With there being so much York-this and York-that, it was only fitting.

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Here is the British Household Cavalry (AKA the Horse Guard). These are Irish Draft horses that have been used for hundreds of years because they look big and imposing.

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The Queen’s Guard leaves from St. James’ Palace which is down the street from Buckingham. Here you can see the cops opening the gates for the guards to exit.

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And that’s when it started to rain. And rain. Deluge is the word that comes to mind. By the end of the tour York’s raincoat was letting water through and all of us had soaking wet pants. Ah, England!

There were still some Royal goings-on, however.  The Queen was in residence and having some sort of meeting with several ambassadors. Instead of the ambassadors just showing up, the queen sends her fancy coach to go get them. Back and forth it went several times.

When the fancy  Changing of the Guard doesn’t happen, there’s just a quick, small changeover. Only a few guards come out–wearing little capes!–and it’s quite dull.

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Matt, our tour guide, took us by Clarence House which is where Prince Charles lives (The Mall–not the shopping kind–is kind of like the Royal strip. It’s all palaces and fancy royal houses everywhere.) The guard out front informed us that Prince Charles was on his way out if we wanted to stick around. Heck yeah!

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That’s his Rolls Royce Limousine. The Range Rover behind is his security. He waved at us stupid tourists as he drove by.  You can’t see him in this photo, although you can see his driver a bit. We were so close!

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Of course we had to stop by and have our picture taken with a Royal guard. What a totally boring job. I wonder how many photo albums around the world this guy is in.

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Below is one of the horse guards who is guarding the royal stables. Or something like that. These guys are actually returned fighters who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And now they must wear preposterous costumes and pretend to guard horses (“Stop or I’ll stab you with my ornamental sword!”) Although I do have to say I like that snappy coat immensely.

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They have mounted guards as well. The horses have to get used to tourists. Like India.

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And here is Buckingham Palace in all it’s cloudy, touristy glory:

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Matt was such a wonderful guide. He felt terrible that we got so rained on but he showed us lots of cool parts of London around Buckingham Palace. He’s quite a fountain of knowledge and has a great sense of humor.  I’d highly recommend his tours. We liked him so much that we went out to lunch with him for TexMex food afterwards! (It was kind of like Chipotle which was so good after eating fish & chips for days.)

We had other plans for the afternoon but had to go back to the flat to change our clothes. By the time we were done it was time to hop on the train to Cambridge. (Mister’s company has offices in London and he spent the afternoon meeting with them). The kids and I went to see our old friends, The Staines family. They lived here in Austin for five years but because they’re from England originally, it was only a matter of time until they moved home.

It was so fun to see them again. York and Peter Staines were best friends back when Peter lived here (the pair of them were known simply as “Pork”). York was happy to hang out with Peter while his mom, Becky, and I took our daughters to see the King’s College choir. The architecture of King’s College is a Gothic delight. Towers and turrets and peaked windows galore.

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Even though Becky doesn’t live too far from Cambridge and her husband works in town, she’d never been to see the choir which is one of the best in the world. For shame! If you’re planning to go to Evensong you need to line up outside King’s College gate at least an hour early. Becky drove us there but she says that the college is quite far from the train station so you’ll need to take a taxi if you’re planning to arrive on the train.

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India is a big old choir nerd which is why we took this detour in the first place. She was just in heaven being there. The choir–which is made up of men and boys–was even more fantastic in person. I have a ton of their albums, but it’s so unbelievably beautiful being there live. Of course they were total stinkers and wouldn’t let us record anything or even take pictures. I was so tempted but I didn’t want to get tossed out.

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This is somebody else’s picture of the church. It’s quite a bit darker than this in real life. Absolutely magnificent. Gorgeous windows everywhere and the most stunning woodwork. We got to sit right up in the alter section in the fancy wooden seats next to the choir. This was one of the highlights of my entire trip.

The Choir of King's College, Cambridge

Cambridge, the town itself, was lovely and charming too.

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This scene below made me laugh because the sign reads, “Please do not lean cycles against this wall”.

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Once the concert was done (although it wasn’t really a concert. It was an actual church service) we had a nice dinner and took the train back to London. We met Mister back at our flat. After his meetings he’d gone to see the musical Once and absolutely raved about it. He’s a fan of the movie already but he said the play was even better. So put that on your lists of things to see when you’re in London if you’re fond of musicals.

Probably my best and favorite thing that happened during our time in Paris was the Fête du Pain (The Festival of Bread. Can you imagine anything more delightful?) It’s an annual event held in front of Nôtre Dame in a gigantic tent that is turned into a bakery. The idea is to draw people into the career of becoming a baker (Okay I’ll do it!).  Bakers from all over France come dressed in bright orange polo shirts (not really what I picture un boulanger traditionnel wearing, but oh well) and bake in front of people. Lots of local kids come and watch and see what it’s really like to be a boulanger. There are no separate kitchens or back rooms, everything happens out in the open.

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But the absolute most wonderful thing about the Fête du Pain is that everything is sold on the spot. Food is baked all day long so anytime you walk by, there are fresh baked goods being taken out of the oven. You don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to get a fresh baguette. It’s heaven. Heaven!

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The Fête du Pain was in between our apartment and our métro stop so naturally we found ourselves there quite often. Let me just tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve had a pain au chocolat that’s still warm from the oven with the chocolate still soft and squishy. Speaking of pain au chocolate . . .

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First you place the little bars of chocolate in the dough, then you roll it and cut it. Then you wait for your adoring public to gobble it up, closing their eyes and moaning with each bite.

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I could have watched these guys bake all day.  Here are the baguette bakers. Instead of baking the bread on a tray or in a pan, each loaf is placed in a big piece of fabric called a couche, row by row, scrunching the fabric between each one.

The croissants were the most interesting to watch. And most delicious. Theoretically there is a point at which you get full of croissants and you don’t want to eat any more. I have never reached that point, which is a bit distressing. Fortunately I enjoyed all the rich, fatty food in Paris without a second though because I walked such an insane amount.

Each batch of croissant dough is rolled into a square. Then a giant slab of butter is placed inside each one. The dough is folded over the edges of the butter like a tasty envelope. It’s then chilled, rolled and folded again. And again. That’s what makes all the delightful layers of a croissant.

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I don’t think this photo catches the massive amount of butter used in a croissant. If you want to know why they taste so good, watch this little video. That thing he folds in half and pounds out at the beginning? That’s butter not dough. Try not to faint.

There were some other tasty things being made. No idea what these could be. Any guesses?

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The charming man in the video below was making an apple tart. You can actually hear me speaking pitiful French in the video. The lovely baker was asking me where I was from, and when I told him Texas he informed me that he’d been to Florida. Which is actually right across the gulf so I give him points for that. Usually when you tell people abroad that you’re from America they’ll inform you that they were in New York/California/Seattle last year. In other words, a thousand or two miles away. It’s like telling someone from Denmark that you’ve visited Czechoslovakia.

 

At the end of the Fête du Pain there was a contest amongst all the bakers. What amazing bread from all the different parts of France.

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I would seriously come back to France again during May to visit the Fête du Pain again. That’s how grand it was. Bread is my one true love.

My British accent is more like Jennifer Coolidge’s in Austenland but maybe if I watch this video a few more times I’ll get the hang of it. Which accent is your favorite?

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!

I have a real love-hate relationship with cleaning ladies. On one hand I love them because who wants to clean their own house? (Hint: not me.)  On the other hand, it’s expensive and what kind of lazy bones can’t clean her own house? What am I so busy doing that I can’t scrub it myself? Or make my minions do it? (Oh yes, I’m being a mom to six kids and a Relief Society President). Sometimes we’re too broke to have a cleaning lady. Sometimes we’re desperate enough to pony up the money. Lately it’s been the latter.  Also, I’m the only person in my neighborhood who cleans her own house. Seriously!  But then I watch Downton Abbey and they don’t even do their own hair, let alone scrub their own toilets. So then I feel totally cool with it.

Mister is not a big fan of my lackadaisical housekeeping skills. I’ll scrub toilets til the cows come home–there is nothing grosser to me than a stinky, dirty toilet. Even if I’m about to throw up I’ll be madly scrubbing the toilet first. But my floor mopping schedule is a little more–how shall I put it–elastic. So Mister finally insisted that I find someone to come in every week or two to do the dirty work.

In the past we’ve always managed to have really sexy cleaning ladies. They always come in sweats, though, not in French Maid outfits. Although one time our Russian maid, Tanya, came dressed in teeny tiny hot pants and high heels. It looked like she was going to go dancing afterwards, but those Russians–they can dress oddly at times.  On that particular day I walked into the bathroom while Tanya was bent over scrubbing the tub and wow! Did I ever get an eyeful.  I can now say with absolute assurity that that woman did not have an ounce of cellulite anywhere. It’s probably a good thing that Mister wasn’t working from home.

We had Flavia after that. She was a Brazilian girl with a rocking bod. She’d wear skin tight cropped tank tops and sweatpants rolled down to just under her pelvic bone. Flavia always wore her thick wavy hair cascading down her golden brown shoulders. It was almost waist-length and she never wore it in a ponytail. I can’t imagine that it was very convenient but it looked really pretty while she was wiping off my appliances.  She was a real butter-face, though. You know, everything is fantastic but her face. She was as sweet as sugar and loved babies which I had about a million of at the time.

This week I finally got around to finding a new cleaning lady. Carmen came highly recommended by one of my friends. And she also sounded pretty cheap. Definitely a bonus. Carmen speaks Spanish and that’s all. She didn’t even know the English word for broom or mop–definitely a handicap in her profession, I would think.

The way our cleaning ladies have always worked is that they charge by the house, not by the hour. So cleaning my house is always X dollars, whether it takes them two hours or five hours. Their first visit always lasts a little bit longer since they have to do everything. They won’t be dusting the blinds and cleaning the baseboards every time, but they start out the first visit by getting everything done.

So Carmen (who is not even slightly sexy) came over on Wednesday morning right after my kids left for school. After pantomiming a list of what supplies she needed I scurried off to fill her order. It took three tries of bringing back the wrong item before I figured out she needed a step ladder.  All those years of French have really come in handy. Not.

I let Carmen get to business while I spent most of the day planning my trip to Europe in a couple of months. Hmmm, I guess I’m more of a spoiled American than I thought.  After three hours Carmen was still in my room. Slightly humiliating, I guess. My room was apparently dirtier than I thought.

It got worse. I told Carmen only to vacuum the kids’ rooms. Their dressers are piled with all sorts of random kid crap and some of their beds weren’t made. But of course she made everyone’s beds, straightened everything up, dusted and vacuumed. I half expected her to leave their towels folded into origami animals like when you go on a cruise.  The lady didn’t even take a break and was still at it when Mister got home from work.

All in all Carmen was there for eight hours. Eight hours. She did a great job but compared to our regular cleaning lady (me and/or my slovenly children), it didn’t matter much. I’m not that picky. As long as I’m not the one doing the cleaning, I’m happy. I got over my shame of hiring a cleaning lady right quick.  Now I just need to figure out how to say “mildew” in Spanish.

Screen shot maid

I’ll be buying this outfit for Carmen, of course.

 

Is it just me or is everybody pregnant? Wait, that makes it sound like I’m pregnant. I am NOT pregnant. My eggs are shriveled and dried up. But everyone else, it seems, is very fertile. (If you are struggling with infertility, I’m really sorry. You are probably very aware that everyone but you is pregnant. Sucks.)  But I was thinking back to the stone age (mid-90′s) when I had my first baby. That baby is about to jump ship and go to college. We actually can’t talk about that because I still feel like she’s still about eight years old and why the heck is she leaving already? Also, I was just in college about fifteen seconds ago myself. I swear!

But I remember when I was pregnant and working at this super ritzy photo studio (how ritzy? An 8×10 was $400. Gag.) and one of my coworkers, a mother of two,* said to me, “don’t worry if you don’t love your baby right away.” I thought this was probably the most bizarre and uneccesary thing I’d ever heard. Hadn’t I been watching A Baby Story non-stop for months? Everyone on the show always said how they fell in love with their baby the second she was born. I shook my head and thought my coworker was key-raaazy.

India and mommy

Fast forward a couple of months and here I am with this newborn and although I feel a fierce protective instinct, I can’t exactly say that I love this little bundle of joy. All I really feel is tired and my boobs hurt soooo much. I started to feel like I’m one step away from Charles Manson. Or at least a crack whore. Who doesn’t love their baby? There must be something wrong with me. But I remembered those words from my coworker. And I felt peace. Like maybe I wasn’t crazy after all. Maybe there have been other mothers who were a little slow on the love-uptake.

And when my sister-in-law volunteered to watch baby India overnight (thank goodness for breast pumps!) when she was merely six weeks old (India, not my sister-in-law), I jumped at the chance to stay at a hotel with Mister. And you know what? I missed that baby. And, dare I say it, I actually felt love. You know how the grinch’s heart cracks open and starts growing? That’s exactly how it felt.  And within a few weeks I loved that wee little lass like crazycakes.

I ended up loving my baby and loving being a mom so much that I could not wait to have another one. I started trying for my next baby (and got pregnant right away) when India was only seven months old.

So the moral of the story is 1) it’s OK if you don’t love your baby right away. You will eventually. Cross my heart. And 2) sometimes you really do get good advice when you’re pregnant.

Have you gotten any really good or really horrible advice when you were pregnant?

P.S. Yep, that’s a photo of me and India on the day she was blessed (christened). Appearances to the contrary, I wasn’t 15 years old. I was actually 24. And isn’t it about time for vests to make a comeback?

 

*Sadly, my coworker was murdered a couple of months later when she went home for a lunch break. We all suspected who did it but he never went to trial. Crazy, huh?