Mo knows

Maia must think I’m a brainiac. When I don’t know the answer to a question, her response is usually something along the lines of, "Why not? You know everything!"

Not everything, dear daughter of mine. Your mother most definitely does not know everything. Not even close! But with three and a half decades of experience under my belt, there are a few things I do know.

  • I know there is magic in hugs from my kids and my husband.
  • I know that laughter is the best medicine.
  • I know the value of a dollar.
  • I know that silence is golden.
  • I know that raucous noise has its place too.
  • I know that Diet Coke works in place of water as liquid sustenance.
  • I know the health nuts out there are probably cringing about that.
  • I know that my memory isn’t what it used to be, and I’d better write stuff down.
  • I know that I’m a work in progress, but that’s okay because so is everyone else.
  • I know the people who say "beauty is only skin deep" have it wrong, because true beauty comes from within.
  • I know that what I get out of things is usually a direct result of what I put into them.
  • I know that the best way to get a smile is to give one.
  • I know that the best activity for a rainy day is to curl up with a good book.
  • I know that the good book gets even better when it’s accompanied by a toasty warm blanket.
  • I know that it’s not a very good idea to leave kids unsupervised with markers and paint.
  • I know that it’s not very pleasant to step on cat throw up with bare feet in the dark.
  • I know my house is probably never going to pass a white glove test.
  • I know I’d take artistic kids and regurgitated hairballs over white gloves any day.
  • I know that our TV will stay permanently tuned to The Disney Channel for the near future.
  • I know my children are growing up right before my very eyes.
  • I know that I am loved.
  • I know there is no place on Earth I’d rather be than right here and right now.
  • I know that sometimes I really need to pay more attention to the things I know.

Seduced by gadgetry

Is it possible to love an inanimate object? Because I just might have a new sweetheart in my life. I confess; I have stars in my eyes over a cell phone.

My previous phone and I had a relationship that lasted over a year and a half. That’s ancient, in the high-tech world of gadgets and gizmos. My mobile partner served me well, but it was showing its age, and its demise was imminent. I was in danger of becoming a cell phone widow. So I did the inevitable; I traded it in for a newer model.

And oh, what a model it is! Thanks to an incredible combination of rebates and buy-one-get-one-free offers, my husband and I are now the proud owners of sexy new Motorola Razrs. I am not hip, or cutting edge, but folks, I have a way cool phone!

In the past, we’ve always gone with the cheap phones. Or even better, the free ones. Because really, all I need my phone to be is a phone. I don’t need the fancy bells and whistles. I don’t have the patience for painfully punching in text messages. But the deal was too good to pass up, so for the first time ever, I have a camera phone. With voice dialing. And mp3 ringtones. And Internet access. That syncs with my computer. I can even retrieve and read my e-mail, once I figure out how to set it up. My phone can play games!

And here’s the best part — when my husband calls me, his cute mug pops up in the display. I’ll be snapping pictures of everyone in my address book now, I can promise you that. I don’t think I’ll ever be done exploring and playing with all the enticing new features!

Well really, it was bound to happen sooner or later. You just can’t keep a hopeless tech geek like me away from a trendy device like this forever.

I think I’m in love.

Pregnant elephants

I learned a fascinating piece of trivia yesterday. I bet you’ve just been dying to know why elephants in captivity have a difficult time giving birth. Friends, you need yearn for the answer no longer. I now possess the facts to set your inquisitive minds at ease.

Common sense would dictate that pregnancy in any species requires increased nutritional needs for the mother. She is, after all, feeding both herself and her unborn offspring. For years, zoos around the world have operated under this assumption, never having cause to question the accepted wisdom.

Except as it turns out, elephants don’t care one whit for common sense. Elephants, apparently, like to buck the trend. The problem for expectant elephants in captivity is that they have, with the best of intentions, been overfed. Their babies are simply too fat to be born in the usual way.

We have the fine specialists at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to thank for this discovery. They are now leading zoos around the world in live elephant births, so I’m told, thanks in large part to dietary adjustments which more closely resemble the intake of their gestating counterparts in the wild.

Someday, somewhere, at some cocktail party, I am SO going to impress someone with my knowledge of the nutritional requirements of the pregnant pachyderm.

The sickies

We’ve all been sick in my family over the past week, with the exception of Maia. She’ll have her turn, I’m sure. Nothing more than a nuisance cold for Kent and me, but in the little ones, it seems to never be so simple. Noah developed that distinct barking cough over the weekend which signifies croup. Then, for no good reason that we could tell, he simply stopped swallowing. Strangely, he didn’t rebel against eating or drinking. He just held the offending liquids and solids in his mouth until they dribbled out.

Yesterday, instead of enjoying his first day at his new daycare, his visit was to the doctor. It turns out he has strep throat. Poor little guy! He never even complained that anything hurt. But it reminded me of the first time Maia was ever able to communicate a sore throat to us. She kept telling me her neck hurt. It took forever for this then inexperienced mom to figure out what she meant! 

Noah is feeling better, so after a day’s delay he has embarked on his new daycare adventure. By all indications, he’ll enjoy the new place. He went right over and started playing with the other kids, like he’s always belonged. My sweet little boy is just so darn agreeable about everything!

High School Musical

We have a new obsession in our household. The Disney Channel original movie, High School Musical. Maia is constantly quoting lines and singing songs from this made-for-TV musical. I watched it with her, and it is kind of sweet. It’s a familiar storyline — you could call it a Grease for the new millennium. Boy meets girl. Girl later transfers to boy’s school. They bump into each other. They are from different worlds (she’s a brain, he’s a jock), but share a desire to break free of those labels, and they find a common bond in singing. The rest, as they say, is history. After just one viewing, Maia could recite the storyline almost verbatim.

I can relate. I remember my mom taking me to see Grease in the theater as a kid. I didn’t want to go, having never heard of the flick. Really, who wants to see a movie about grease? How wrong I was. To this day, Grease holds the distinction of being the movie I have watched more than any other. I watched it over and over and over and over. And then I watched it some more. I pretty well had the whole thing memorized. I had the soundtrack album (as in vinyl LP), and my friends and I would take turns singing the male and female parts. Grease holds many fond memories for me, and there is no way I can listen to the music even now without singing along.

I have a feeling I know what Maia is getting in her Easter basket this year. It might be the soundtrack to a certain modern update on an old classic, which has so captured her attention. 

Diet FAQ

Skinny Mo

I’m a fairly short person. Five feet, two and a half inches, to be exact. Apparently, 50 pounds on someone of my stature is quite a dramatic difference. I am flabbergasted at the kind compliments that continue to pour in, all these months after reaching my goal weight. A girl could get a big head, if she’s not careful. I am going to share here what I have been experiencing, not because I am fishing for more compliments (I am most definitely not), but because I am still in a state of disbelief. These kinds of things just aren’t supposed to happen to moi.

I am frequently told how much younger I look now, and that I don’t even look like the same person. Over Christmas, I was mistaken for my 25-year-old sister. I have been told I don’t look old enough to have a 7-year-old child. Just this week, someone I met for the first time thought I couldn’t be more than a couple of years out of college. I have even been told I look like a teenager, if you can believe it. Not bad, for a 35-year-old.

I have had words used to describe me that I haven’t heard since I was a kid. Or ever. I have been greeted with jaw drops from acquaintances who have not seen me in some time. I have had people who know me not immediately recognize me. Just today, in fact. And at my doctor’s office a couple of weeks ago, the nurses, who hadn’t seen me in over a year, went simply gaga. They excitedly flipped back through 10 or so years of my personal weight history (the only people alive privy to such painful information) to make sure their eyes weren’t deceiving them. After that, I’m more determined than ever to make sure my current weight stays a permanent home, not a temporary visit.

And I have, inexplicably, been receiving attention of the sort that I have never been accustomed to before. Last weekend, for example, I got the “hot babe alert” from a passing motorist while biking with my family. Or so my husband says. I was oblivious. I don’t even know what a “hot babe alert” is. All I can do is laugh, and think that such things might have meant something back in the days when I never thought I’d get a date. I’ve also had complete strangers stop me to compliment me on my style. What? Who, me?? I’m the least fashion-conscious person alive. The first time, I wrote it off as a fluke. Yet just days ago, it happened again. This is all completely foreign to me.

Everyone still wants to know how I did it. I’ve answered the same questions so many times that I can recite the answers in my sleep, so I’ve put together my own personal diet FAQ. What the world apparently wants to know about how Mo lost 50 pounds.

_____________________________

How did you do it?

My facetious answer is “math.” That is, I burned more calories than I ate. The real answer is that I strictly counted calories. I allowed myself about 1000-1200 calories per day, with an occasional weekend splurge.

Did you give up any foods?

Give up french fries? Are you kidding me? I ate whatever I wanted, just less of it. Extreme portion control, rather than depriving myself entirely, was how I found success. I still take my kids to McDonald’s (though much less often than we used to). Now I just get a kid’s happy meal instead of a large Quarter Pounder meal.

Are you eating healthier?

Maybe sort of, by default. Not because I’m eating more healthy food, but because I’m eating less unhealthy food. For the most part, my food choices haven’t changed. I still love burgers and carbs and all things fried. As mentioned above, I just eat less of it.
Any other tips?

This sounds surprising, but I gave up watching TV. It turns out that I had a bad habit of snacking while watching TV in the evenings. Kind of a Pavlov’s dog thing. TV = snacks. When I stopped watching TV, the snacking followed with no effort at all. I didn’t even miss it. I also replaced the occasional meal (usually workday fast food lunches) with a SlimFast meal bar.

Where did you find the willpower?

Just one of the many, many blessings God favored me with last year.

How long did it take?

About 9 or 10 months. I officially started in January 2005 as a New Year’s resolution, but didn’t start seeing any pounds come off until February. I reached my goal in early November, just in time for my 35th birthday, and have remained there since.

Did you hit any plateaus?

(Men, you might want to skip to the next question.) I noticed a very strange phenomenon in that I would regularly see no progress for 3 weeks, then in the 4th week when I was off birth control, the 3 weeks’ worth of pounds that seemingly wouldn’t budge suddenly melted off. It happened every month like clockwork. I suppose it must be a hormonal thing. It was incredibly frustrating, until I recognized the pattern.
Was it difficult to do?

Getting started was hard. I didn’t even tell anyone I was doing it, because I didn’t want them to see my failure. After the first 20 pounds or so, when people started noticing, it became much easier. The compliments really kept me motivated. After a while, it wasn’t work at all. So much so that when I was ready to transition into a “maintenance” mode, it was almost anticlimactic. I hardly knew how to let myself add more calories back into my diet.

Did you exercise?

Off and on. I started out walking a 2.8 mile loop around my neighborhood on weekends, until it got too hot last summer. I did the occasional workout video at home and later joined a gym, but only go sporadically. I take the stairs now instead of an elevator, wherever I can. I’ve also recently taken up weekend biking with my family. My strategy has been to be more active in general, rather than a strict exercise plan.

Has it been hard to keep off?

So far so good. All those compliments I mentioned above? They help. A lot. And after paying such strict attention for nearly a year, mentally calculating the calories I consume is now second nature. But right now I’m really using my scale as my control. I weigh myself often. If I creep up a pound, all I have to do is watch it for a few days. It’s been working like a charm.

Road warrior

I’m writing from a hotel room. This year has been unprecedented for travel. Some of it is work related; some is not. It began with our road trip to Tennessee. I’ve also been in Nashville for work. Twice. Yesterday’s was merely a stopover for an afternoon meeting. I didn’t even spend the night before heading straight to my next destination. I’ve been to Michigan and Atlanta (more work). And of course there was our fabulous cruise vacation, which I have yet to write about. But wait, there’s more! Between now and the end of the year I am looking at another Tennessee road trip. More Michigan. Las Vegas. San Francisco. New Jersey. New York. Some of these are tentative and some are confirmed, but folks, that’s about five years’ worth of travel packed into one, and it’s possible there could be more.

I like the opportunities to get out there, but I miss my family when I’m gone. And it’s part of what’s been keeping me so busy and away from my blog.

On the plus side, the work travel subsidizes some of the fun trips. Frequent flyer miles are a wonderful thing. One of the outings is to visit a friend later this summer. I’m really looking forward to that one!

My heart is on fire

That’s what I wrote to a friend yesterday. That I wanted God to be lighting my heart on fire all the time. The words and imagery stuck with me, and I have decided it is time to speak openly about that which has been foremost in my mind for quite some time now. Readers, if such subjects turn you off, you have been fairly warned that this post is a departure from my usual material and may not be for you. But I hope you will read on anyway and be inspired.

Off and on over the years, I’ve felt the need for more of God in my life. Kind of a nagging notion that I should take more responsibility for my spiritual growth. Except I never really did much about it. We’ve always been the kind of family who dutifully attends church on Sundays and prays with the kids every night, and… and… and… nada. That’s it. At least for me. Sure, I’ve had bursts of enthusiasm here and there. After 9/11, in prayer at church was where I most wanted to be. But that has been the exception rather than the rule.

My Christianity has never been a secret, but I’ve always claimed to be uncomfortable talking about matters of faith. Partly because it’s felt personal — something that should remain between me and God. But if I’m really honest with myself, it’s also because I’ve been afraid of being found out for my lack of spiritual maturity. How do you talk to people about what you believe in when you don’t know why you believe what you do? And how can you explain that you’ve called yourself a Christian for so many years now without ever having made any serious attempt to study God’s Word?

Somehow, all that has changed. My love for God has been pent up, and it wants out. I can’t put my finger on any one event that triggered it, though I have tried. It’s a confluence of people and experiences that have all converged over the past year or so with God’s perfect timing. A sister-in-law who has been eager to learn together. A biblically themed project at work. A former employee who referred the client, seeing past my silence to understand that I would be receptive to taking on such an assignment. A friend in ministry who asked the right questions to get me talking, giving me the courage to speak up. A daughter who has been showing interest and asking questions of her own, leading to the realization that I should be setting a better example. A book that left me tearfully longing to experience the joy of God’s love all the time. A minister whose timely sermons always seem to speak to exactly whatever is on my mind. A year full of abundant blessings that I can only attribute to God’s divine influence. And a husband, whom God used to lead me to Him in the first place, who is ever supportive of my renewed desire to seek a deeper relationship with Christ.

God is all around me. He’s trying to capture my attention from every conceivable angle. It’s perfectly obvious, and I’m listening. It’s tempting to ask “why,” and “why now?” I certainly have asked, though perhaps it is wrong to question His motives or timing. I’m not sure what God is preparing me for, but I’m certain He has a plan. In the meantime, I’m bordering on information overload, trying to quench my appetite. Everything I read fulfills me and lifts me up. When I fall behind, I get restless. I have embarked on a bible reading plan. I am engaged in bible study with my sister-in-law. I keep a devotional journal. I talk to God more, and more sincerely, than ever before. I talk to my husband and my children about God more than ever before. And my learned youth minister friend is patiently answering questions and allowing me to “practice” and build confidence in my God language.

And so here I find myself with no greater wish than to model my life after the example and teachings of Jesus. I’m not always as successful as I’d like. I often fail completely, but I’m learning. I know He loves me and forgives my imperfections. And I know He’ll always be there in my times of need. All I have to do is ask. There is so much hope and promise and relief in that truth. Jesus is preparing an eternal place for me in Heaven, and someday I will join Him there, along with many of my loved ones. It will be a glorious day indeed.

Friends, some of you may be surprised at my candid talk and the depth of my conviction. You may have never heard me speak on this topic much or at all. Nor are you likely to at any great length, unless you express interest. Even now it remains far outside my comfort zone to share my feelings so boldly. I have not become a bible-thumper and I will never preach to you, but if you are in the neighborhood, I might invite you to church.

So it is that what I have written here today is not for your benefit or mine, though I will be blessed if you take something from it (I hope you do). It’s for the benefit of my children, who inspire so much of what I record here. Someday, when they are old enough, they will read this material. They will laugh at many of the stories I have written, delight in seeing themselves in the occasional starring role, and maybe learn a thing or two about their old mom. And therein lies the key. I want them to recognize that God is important enough to me that I am willing to share Him with friends and strangers alike. I want them to see beyond my quiet but unwavering belief and know something of my personal journey in getting there. They’ll probably know anyway, but I’d like them to read about it all the same. I pray they will share in my enthusiasm.

And now that this blog author has poured out all that her heart, lit with fire, feels on this subject, we return to your regularly scheduled blog programming.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

In just over one week, we will be making a big change in the lives of our children. We are moving them to a new daycare. The reasons are many, but it’s a sad moment for me, because we’ve been going to the same location for over seven years. Since Maia was a baby. At one time, she was the big fish in a small pond. Everyone knew her and loved her. The teachers gave her lots of individual attention. They made her, and every other kid, feel like their special favorite. I knew she was in excellent hands. At one time, I raved about our daycare and recommended it to everyone. I credited them with teaching Maia most of what she knew.

But things change. New ownership took over, and our experience has steadily declined. Our favorite teachers left. Long-time families have moved on. Noah is not getting the kind of individual attention he deserves. Whenever we are there, the teachers are talking to each other, not the kids. The classes are too large for such young ones. A crying child receives no attention or comforting words. Communication with non-English speaking teachers has become a concern. I’ve always been thrilled for my children to have exposure to other languages, but not at the expense of the development of their primary language, and not when we have a hard time communicating with the teachers to find out how Noah is doing. Sometimes I really wonder who is running the place. It didn’t used to be that way. But we’ve stuck it out, because my children were happy and used to the routine. We allowed ourselves to be content with the status quo. We’ve given the current owners every fair chance to learn from the exodus and turn things around to how it used to be. But Noah is reaching pre-school age, and he needs a foundation of love and learning, not a half-hearted babysitter.

In the new daycare, we are being reunited with a few of our most favorite teachers. They were thrilled to see us, and Noah will be in one of their classes. My kids are being reunited with former classmates. Maia has been with me twice to inspect the place and both times was greeted by hugs from friends she already knows there. I went in the other night to pay our deposit, and I felt very welcome. Everyone seems happy. At the old place, they know we’ve been restless. I’ve found myself avoiding the owner because of the constant (well-intentioned) attempts to sway us to stay. And any communication with the director just feels like an imposition. Last night she took it out on a fellow parent and good friend of ours because of our decision to leave. She’s leaving too, but it unfairly put her in an awkward position. Such things only reinforce our choice.

It’s time. Maia can’t wait, and Noah is so angelically easygoing about everything that I know he’ll adjust just fine. It couldn’t be any other way, with a teacher who already loves him.

Bicycles and bruises

The voting from my most recent entry is still open (for sequence, since I do plan to get around to all of those topics), but as luck would have it, this blogger happens to be perfectly equipped at the present time to honor Peach’s request for a first hand account of both klutziness and bicycles in the same post. What are the odds of that? Pretty good, actually, when you consider that I am not exactly one of God’s more graceful creatures. I point my newer readers to this post for a perfect example.

On to the story. Let me begin by explaining that biking is a pastime we’ve taken up as a family. Our county is home to several bike trails, including one within riding distance of our house, and it’s a resource that we have decided to take advantage of. So in January, during an after-Christmas sale, Kent and I took the plunge and bought bikes, along with a carrier seat for Noah to ride as a passenger. Since then we’ve tricked ourselves out with accessories such as rearview mirrors (so whoever is in the lead can see the others); bike computers that show our speed, distance, and other information we’ll never use; cushiony seat covers; and a bike rack for the car so we can venture beyond the immediate area.

On Saturday we went for a ride, as we often do when schedules and weather cooperate. It was a beautiful day for being outdoors. Slightly cooler than normal temperatures for this time of year, in just that perfect zone where you can be comfortable in long sleeves or short. Sunny, cloudless skies, with just enough breeze to feel the effort of pedaling against it. What the rest of the country calls Spring, which typically lasts about a day in Florida before the oppressive heat and humidity of summer set in.

So there we were, riding along on our return home after a leisurely afternoon jaunt in which Maia had delighted in racing past us on several occasions, chanting “see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya” as she blew by, her ponytail streaming behind from underneath her helmet. Without warning, in a non-racing moment, she veered to the right and ran off the sidewalk. There was a bit of a drop from the sidewalk to the grass and she could not recover in time. She toppled over, and I saw immediately what would happen next. I was riding behind, too closely, unable to stop or otherwise react. I crashed right into her still spinning rear wheel. I and my bike landed on top of her.

It was my right handlebar, I think, that caught her in the back. It left a temporary red mark, but she’s a trooper and it was forgotten within moments. I’m not sure which piece of cycling paraphernalia attacked my leg, however. Once we had recalled Kent to the scene of the accident for assistance, untangled ourselves from our bikes, and ascertained that Maia was not seriously injured, I discovered that I am now the proud owner of a colorfully bruised and scraped knot on my right shin that still hurts to the touch. (“Well then don’t touch it,” I can hear you all telepathically coaching me.) The knot resides immediately atop a scar in the same location, the result of a previous graceful episode wherein I fell down a set of stairs in light rain, not even a year ago. There’s no hope that I’ll ever have sexy legs.

Moral of the story? You can’t take me anywhere. But if you do, bring a first aid kit.

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