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?'”



DIY yoga mat spray

I’ve been doing yoga a lot lately, and one of the facts of yoga life is that the mat starts to smell funky. Research on the interwebs reveals that people spray with Febreze, or with store-bought yoga mat spray. Further research tells me that these sprays are pretty much alcohol, which kills most of the bacteria,and fragrance, which covers up the smell of the alcohol.

I hate the smell of Febreze, too strong, too fake. ( I had a student a few years ago whose mom put Febreze in his Christmas stocking. What was she trying to say, do you think?)
This is another of those non-recipe recipes. I hate to say this even is  a recipe, or a project, because it’s so simple.

Step 1: Buy cheap vodka.  You might already have some, I don’t know.

Step 2: Get a spray bottle (thank you, dollar store)

Step 3: Half fill spray bottle with cheap vodka, add tap water, add “some” drops of essential oil. How many drops will depend on how strong you want it.
Step 4: spray onto stuff that’s stinky.

I have a bunch of different varieties of essential oil; the last batch I made I used geranium and lavender- refreshing and “green”. Tea tree oil is also supposed to be anti-bacterial, but I’m not in love with the smell. I guess I’m picky. Peppermint would be refreshing, rosemary smells kind of like cheap men’s cologne.
Here’s the thing- if you don’t already have cheap vodka and some essential oils, you might be better off just buying some official yoga mat spray and just be done with it. Amazon has different varieties for around 10 bucks, but it strikes me that you can buy a lot of cheap vodka for that, and some essential oils, which you can use for other things.
For example, I use the oil for homemade handcream, and just adding drops to my bathwater. I use the cheap vodka for…cheap vodka. Nah, I’ve made homemade cherry liqueur, and limoncello.  You know, not just screwdrivers and jello shots.

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… 

what yoga is teaching me about pulling weeds

Every summer, it would be the same thing- I would spend an evening plling the weeds out of the garden, then limp into the house, stretch out on the living room floor, and moan about tweaking my back. There would be a sore spot, always on the right hand side, and I would feel it for a few days, then go right back to pulling weeds, re-injuring myself over and over.
This summer, I have been doing yoga, taking a class about twice a week, and doing a little practice on my own on the in-between days. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. “Halfway lift and lengthen” there’s a move we do, hanging like a rag doll, bent at the waist, where we lift up halfway, to get a flat back, and lengthen the spine conciously. This has helped so much while I’m out getting at the bindweed under the burr oak. I’ll stretch and pull, then conciously, “halfway lift and lengthen.” It strengthens my back, takes the curve out of my spine and prevents the tweaks.
2. Sweat is good for you- I’ve been doing Vinyasa yoga, where the studio is heated to at least 80 degrees. Easy in the summer- it’s been cooler inside the yoga studio than out, but I come out of class wringing with sweat, and it feels so good. Gross, but good. Same with weeding. Pulling up the thistles before they go to seed, lugging buckets to the compost pile- it isn’t exhausting. It shows me how strong I am and how much stronger I’m getting.
3. Gardening is a practice. There won’t be a time when I’ll “know yoga” and be finished. It is something I can continue to do and get better at my whole life, if I’m lucky. “Landscaping” is something that can be installed and finished, but a garden is a process- I pull up the weeds between the flagstones knowing they’ll come back. Mother nature bats last- there will always be more seeds coming along, and the roots of the perennial mallow stretch way down. I can look at it as a never ending battle, or I can look at it as a practice, something I’ll be able to do the rest of my life, if I’m lucky. The plants are collecting sunlight, protecting the soil from erosion, and once I pull them, providing me with material for compost. So, breathe, stretch, pull, halfway lift and lengthen, and get that bindweed before it goes to seed.