See ya


Life happens… I won’t apologize for not updating this blog for a long time, because I know that everybody understands that life changes, and priorities change with it. When I first started this blog, I was extremely interested in gardening and plants, and in sharing my ideas about that with other people. The topics drifted into cooking and crafts and home projects, and then I was finding it hard to define what my focus was. What was this blog supposed to be about, anyway?

I began to feel repetitive, how many updates on a vanilla orchid did I need to post? It’s doing fine in my kitchen window, by the way. How many posts on tomatoes does anyone want to read? It doesn’t help that gardening is cyclical- after the excitement of planting a peach tree, there’s just the annual maintenance of pruning, and mulching, and then eating the peaches, before the squirrels get to them.  My posts tapered off, then stopped.


As I was running out of new ideas about plants, I was growing in ideas about other topics. I started practicing yoga regularly, then started learning martial arts with my daughter. I have so many ideas and thoughts about the physical and personal growth that didn’t seem to fit on a blog about gardens and crafts. Over this winter, I have been working on my Yoga Teacher training 200 hour certificate, and I have lots and lot of ideas about movement, and physical change, and loving what your body can do. I have shifted over to a new blog that has the same name as my yoga teaching business, I plan to use it as an early draft of a book (or books? who knows?) about my experiences with yoga and taekwondo. And life, of course.

I may post very occasionally here. After all, I have a new obsession with orchids and air plants, and I’ve been experimenting with breeding a landrace of tomatoes  specifically for the conditions of my little backyard. However, if you like my style and voice, my special kind of magic, follow me over to the new location and subscribe. It’ll be fun.


Pancreas don’t care

We have had a rough fall with health problems for Kate, my baby girl, who resents it highly when I call her my baby girl.
She had a severe stomach ache back in October, with vomiting that wound her up in the hospital. She was diagnosed with pancreatitis, which is unheard of in 12 year olds. They sent her home, and she trick-or-treated on Halloween, but didn’t feel 100%.
A virus bounced her back into the hospital- not the pancreas this time, but dehydration. They chalked it up to her immune system being worn out from the pancreatitis, and an overreaction. When her brother got the same virus, but milder, we felt oddly reassured.
She was better, still not 100%, but we went into Thanksgiving break feeling good- she could catch up on missed schoolwork, sleep in and get better. Then the Saturday after thanksgiving, she got another stomach ache, started puking, and was generally miserable. When we took her to her pediatrician, he told us to get in the car and drive to the Children’s Hospital in Aurora, about an hour away. Our pediatrician didn’t have the authority to admit her, but he had been talking to a GI specialist, and they would be expecting her.
A week of driving back and forth, rating pain on a scale of 1-10 and watching cable TV. She was better, but still not well. x-rays, ultrasounds and an MRI followed, then a procedure scheduled. ERCP (huh?) a tube to look down and remove a stone from her pancreatic duct, turns out it wasn’t a stone, just a stricture, a narrowing, that was preventing the digestive enzyme from draining into her small intestine. Essentially, her pancreas was digesting itself. No wonder she had tummy aches.
The pancreas does 2 main things, I have recently learned. It makes insulin, so the body can use glucose, and it makes lipase, so the body can use fat. All that stuff you know about saturated fat versus unsaturated? Pancreas don’t care- fat is fat, and when fat goes through the stomach, pancreas releases lipase.

Before thanksgiving she had chicken fried steak and onion rings. Thanksgiving day, rolls and butter and
pie with whipped cream. Black Friday, a McDonald’s hashbrown and hot cocoa with whipped cream. Saturday, chicken Parmesan and shiny breadsticks.  So delicious. But agony for her almost-maybe-healed pancreas.

So, they placed a stent, and for the first time in months, she is pain-free.

And, on doctor’s recommendation, on a low fat diet- less than 15 grams of fat per day.

All these years I have been keeping sugar out of the house, we hardly ever drink pop, we eat plain, unsweetened cereal. It turns out I have been fighting the wrong demon. It was the fat that was hurting her.

So, how do we change our diets, lifestyles, to have much less fat than we were previously, much less than most people in the US eat? I am not cutting fat out of my diet entirely- my hair would fall out, for one thing. But to show solidarity, we are switching to skim milk, and nonfat cheese, and I don’t know what else, yet. The puzzle is, how to keep a girl going through her growth spurts healthy and happy on 15 grams of  fat a day.  Most advice on low-fat cooking is also low-calorie cooking. She needs to learn to love fruits and veggies, I know that much.

So, I will have to experiment with low fat stuff- some I can just substitute out, but some I will need to work on.

I was going to post a lowfat meatball recipe…but it needs work. A lot of work. Like…I’m not even going to put the pictures in.  Any tips? America’s Test Kitchen has a “healthy” cookbook, so I’ll try that. What else?

Contagious Crazies

This morning I was insisting that Kate* comb her hair before leaving the house, no, really comb it, not just wave the comb in the general direction of her head, and she said, “You just hate that you have an ugly child, and you want to make me perfect!”
The thing is, Kate looks strikingly like me, scarily like me, except for hair (hers is naturally a to- die-for auburn, mine goes back and forth between brown, and to-dye-for auburn) and eye color (Her eyes are hazel, mine blue)  We have the same face, nose, hair texture. We’ll probably have the same body type- (late-blooming) tall and thin. If I believe that I gave birth to an ugly child, then I believe I am an ugly person. If she believes that I believe that I gave birth to an ugly child….she believes she’s ugly. And that I’m ugly.

I just want her to comb her hair.

Some of this is bubbling up because she is finishing 6th grade and going into 7th- it is a natural stage for her to criticize her looks, when everything is changing too fast, but not fast enough.

Some of this is bubbling up for me because I have been consciously dieting for the first time in a long time.

With my “baby” almost 9 years old, I have decided I need to really work on that baby weight…I have been doing yoga pretty regularly for almost 2 years, and generally exercising more.  Also, for two years, I have been stuck in the no- man’s-land of pant sizes- 16 is too big, 14 is too small, I waver in between, depending on the brand. I have always hated shopping, and this makes it even worse- taking in 2 sizes of everything into the dressing room, being unsatisfied with all of it. Coming out of the dressing room believing I’m ugly.

Odd- It is awkward right now, publicizing my pant size- my inner voice saying, oh my god, don’t tell them that!  I’ll tell you my credit card number before I tell you my weight.

It was 186 pounds a few weeks ago. I don’t own a scale, and the only one I know of is at the pool, and we haven’t been swimming for a while. I get a little psycho when I weigh myself, anyway. I suspect many people do, but we don’t much talk about it. It’s a secret number.

The diet program I am using is an app for my iPod called My Fitness Pal (link) I put in my weight, and height and level of activity, and how much weight I’d like to lose. Each day I add the food I eat, and the exercise, and it totals up the calories and fat and protein and subtracts the calories from exercise, and at the end of the day there’s a little graph showing whether I was on target for the day, or over, or under.

I have set the goal of losing a pound a week, and it made me pretty neurotic for a while (noooo…that’s not what made you neurotic…) but this week, it is having the effect of making me aware, and conscious of what I put in my mouth. For example, I often stop at the grocery store by my school on the way home and get a doughnut and coffee on the way home.  I deserve it, right? Um, sure, but the latte is 250 calories, and the doughnut is 250 calories, and that is really a lot, for it not to be a real meal. Today I didn’t stop, I came home and had some peanut butter on toast. It sure wasn’t a doughnut…but it had some nutrition, at least.

So, as a fretful mother of a middle schooler, I worry that this consciousness, this awareness, or hyper-awareness, is rubbing off on my sweet girl. When I first started tracking, she said she wanted to track her food too, so she could fit in with the other girls who are on diets. Ack!

So, how does this work? How do I improve the way I look, without rejecting how I look? How do we minimize the craziness?  I just want to be able to button my pants, and it has opened up a can of crazies. Or maybe the crazy can would have been opened anyway. What are your thoughts?

*the girl has decided she wants to be referred to by her real name. “How am I supposed to get famous if you just keep calling me ‘the girl?'”


There is no joy in warball

            One of the good things for me about doing yoga is the non-competitiveness of it. I have spent a lot of my life feeling klutsy and bad at sports, and I finally have found a way to move my body where I’m not at risk of losing. When I was in middle school, I was placed in an “adaptive P.E.” class. It was me, another similarly clumsy smart girl, and 2 older kids with Down Syndrome. We threw balls at targets, walked on balance beams, caught bean bags. It was awful, as if regular P.E.,  they gave it to me as an intervention. I remember feeling so frustrated. That clumsy 12 year old is sometimes alarmingly close to the surface of my everyday adult life. I cried a few weeks ago in Yoga class, because I couldn’t do “Dancer’s Pose”- which is where you stand up, reach back, kick your foot up and grab it, then lean forward, balancing. 

Step one, reach back, step two, find your foot...can I go back to step one again...

 That physically retarded (can I use that phrase? probably not)  12 year-old-swam up to the surface, and I wound up just bawling in child’s pose for a while.

After I got myself back together, I got up and finished the class.

I went to class the next week though, and managed to find my foot after asking for help from Kristin, who’s awesome. I’m still not great at the balancing part, but I get stronger every time.

            I had a realization today, in the shower (don’t all great realizations come in the shower?) that I shouldn’t be doing yoga to get better for next week’s class, but to get better for life. See,  when I couldn’t find my stupid foot, I made plans to practice holding my foot back, grabbing it, leaning forward, then I felt guilty when I didn’t follow that plan. A lifetime of experience with gym teachers gave me the idea that I should throw balls at targets to improve my eye hand coordination, or do squats to have stronger glutes, or run faster so that I can … run faster.

            I need to try to keep the idea before me that I walk because walking helps me think, and dancing is fun, and riding a bike feels good, and yoga gives me peace.  I can’t blame the gym teachers- maybe they were trying to teach me this all along, and I wasn’t ready for it. They found joy in war ball? doing the shuttle run gave them time to think, doing jumping jacks brought them peace? Maybe.

            So, what is your favorite way to move your body now? What did you hate in gym class?  Bonus points if the answer is the same, but the attitude has changed…