Children: A Social Experiment

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So, my son let’s me put things on his head. Books, toys, cups, bowls, it really doesn’t matter. He sits there as still as he can with a big, fat grin on his face and waits for me to do it again. I’m not sure if he really enjoys balancing things on his head or whether he’s jus t responding to the fact that I get such a kick out of it, but it’s become one of our favorite games to play.

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I love how he alternates between a look of concentration when he’s trying to balance it and a look of triumph when he does it successfully. Notice the way that his grin gets progressively bigger with each successful attempt. I think we should all have such joy at the small victories in life.

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It’s my goal in life to make this kid laugh as much as I possibly can. Fortunately for me, this is not a hard task. The other game of ours that gives endless entertainment is the high five game. Most of you should remember this from your school days and it goes something like this: “Give me five…up high….down low…TOO SLOW!” Parker thinks the too slow part is just the funniest thing ever. He will intentionally miss your hand just in case he wasn’t slow enough just to play the part. What a good sport!

Food/Exercise Log, July 30th:

9am: Kashi trail mix breakfast bar

11am-1pm: Ran 3 miles, taught a 60 minute spinning class

1pm: Cliff protein bar

2pm: 2 slices homemade pizza, 1 cup baby carrots

4pm: Homemade guacamole and baked tortilla chips (if you don’t feel like making your guac from scratch, just mash up an avocado into a 1/2 cup of your favorite store bought salsa and viola!)

6pm: Smoothie (8 oz. vanilla soy milk, 2 Tbs. peanut butter, 1 banana)and a mixed greens salad with almonds, raisins, diced pears, and a raspberry vinaigrette.

July 31:

9am: 40 minute run (speed workout)

10am: Kashi breakfast bar, coffee with hazelnut soy milk creamer

1pm: Smoked salmon sandwich with olive tapenade and waffle fries from an excellent french restaurant

5pm: Romaine salad with olive oil and vinegar, an apple and watermelon

6pm: 1/2 cup 2% cottage cheese with fresh pineapple

On The Menu

So, I thought I would start doing something new here. People ask me all the time, “what do you eat?” Whether they’re my spinners looking for tips or friends bored with their own recipes, I thought I would start a daily log of both my food consumption as well as my workouts. I stopped eating meat (beef, pork, chicken) about 5 months ago, so this will be a vegetarian log, but it’s really easy to add meat in to any meal. In fact, that’s how I cook around here. I start off by making whatever it is that I want to eat and then I just add a meat portion for the Irishman, be it a grilled ribeye or a lemon roasted chicken. I haven’t had a problem making the switch. If it’s a more complicated dish like lasagna, I just add meat to half of it.

You’ll also notice that I eat most of my food raw. I’ve done a lot of research on nutrition and how our bodies process foods. As a result, I try to keep most of my foods as close to their natural state as possible. That goes for sugar and salt too. I stay far away from fake sugar products because they are completely synthetic (for example, Splenda is touted as being made from sugar and it is – 1 part sugar and 3 parts chlorine – yum!).

Oh and you’ll notice something else – I do eat junky foods on occassion! (Gasp!!) I started out living by the 80/20 principle (eat things that are good for you 80% of the time and splurge the other 20%), but I’m closer to 90/10 now. The funny thing is that I just kind of gravitated towards things that were good for me as soon as I started thinking of food as fuel. I challenge you to eat a fried meal and then try and run for an hour. Can you say cramps?!?

One last food tidbit is that I don’t view junk food as a reward. As a result, I don’t feel the need to “treat” myself with it. I’m ok with anything in moderation (except for arsenic because even a drop will kill you) so if I want dessert I have it, if I don’t then I skip it. Easy as that. Ok, so here we go.

Tuesday, July 29th:

Breakfast (9am) – Whole grain bagel with light veggie cream cheese, coffee with half and half and sugar

Gym 10:45-1:00pm – Ran 6 miles and taught a 50 minute spinning class (the earlier bagel was a big mistake because I had a cramp for my entire run – tomorrow, something lighter for breakfast)

Lunch (1pm) – Veggie burger on a sesame bun (Amy’s Organic brand which is made up of actual veggies, not processed soy), pint of blackberries, pint of raspberries, a banana

Snack (3pm) – 1/2 cup 2% cottage cheese and fresh pineapple

Dinner (6pm) – 1 slice homemade 4 cheese pizza (I bought a pre-made crust from the health food store made with spelt and flax seed – it turned out to be awesome!), a large romaine salad with white balsamic and olive oil, 1 pint strawberries, 1/2 a banana that Parker didn’t finish.

Animal Kingdom

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We just got back from Parker’s first trip to Disney World. We met up with with a nice sized group of the Irishman’s family and we all stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The best thing about the resort was that our room was located on the Savannah side, so there were all kinds of animals right outside of our balcony. Parker thought this was the coolest thing ever. Here are some pictures from our balcony.

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We all went to the Polynesian Resort’s luau for dinner the first night there. They had a very entertaining show complete with Polynesian dancers and lots of fire, which Parker also thought was very cool. I had no clue that he even knew the word “fire” until he started pointed and shouting it over and over. Hmmm, what are they teaching him at school? Here are some pictures from the luau. (Yes, Patrick and Parker are wearing matching shirts. Yes, I had one too, but elected to not wear it because it was dang hot out there! I’m a spoilsport that way.)

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(Here’s one for the ladies!)

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We woke up bright and early the next morning and went on the Savannah safari first. There are an incredible array of animals there. I ended up getting some great pictures and while we were decently close, these were all taken with my telephoto lens.

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As a side note, I get depressed as hell seeing gorillas in small enclosures. Read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn for full enlightenment on this.

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After running around for another couple of hours and going on a couple more rides, Parker decided to crash during lunch.

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He woke up recharged and ready to go so we took him on his first kiddy ride! (Truth be told, I think I was more excited about this than he was. Notice the look of apprehension on his face.) That’s my mother-in-law riding in our cart behind us.

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“Mom, are you sure this thing is safe?” “Don’t worry son, it’s Disney, they have great accident insurance.”

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After the ride, the Irishman and Parker played (and won) every game they had. As an aside, I would like to draw your attention to my husband’s ridiculous hat (as if you could have missed it!). I have a severe aversion to drawing attention to myself in public. As a result, my darling husband usually does whatever he can to make us the center of attention simply to make me uncomfortable. I have no idea why. If you know, please clue me in. Thank you. So, as soon as we got up that morning and he realized that he forgot his baseball hat, he went off in search of the most obnoxious hat that he could find. He succeeded.

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And here are some other random shots.

Parker’s Nana (as he calls her)and his Aunt Carol giving him some love.

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Parker and his great-grandma.

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And with his Uncle Michael outside of the Magic Kingdom.

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And that concludes Parker’s first trip to Disney. Never one to stop moving, Parker is already gearing up for his next big adventure.

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Lulu Belle

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Lulu Belle is the only real cat in the house. It’s quite possible that you’ve been to my house and have never seen her. She’s elusive that way. She graciously allows the rest of us to share her space, but it’s always on her terms. If she hasn’t screened your application, chances are that you won’t get within 5 feet of her.

Weighing in at just over 7 lbs., she’s the most diminutive of the gang. As such, she treats the house like it’s a hostile territory. For example, if she wants to go outside, you have to open the door and get out of her way. Then, she’ll scan the surrounding area to make sure there are no predators lurking about before running at warp speed through the door. It’s important during this time that you don’t make any sudden movements in her direction or she’ll abort her flight and you’ll have to get up 20 minutes later to open the door again after she’s satisfied that it was a false alarm.

The amazing thing about Lulu Belle is that she’s a completely different cat when all of the other animals are away. This only happens during meal times. The dogs eat in the office and Payton has to eat on the porch because he’s a gluttonous fatso who would scarf down both his food and hers without batting an eyelash. So, he eats outside and then stares longingly through the window while Lulu meanders her way through her meal. I think she does it to torment him. She’ll take a couple of bites and then wander away. Maybe get some water, lick her paws, or come and sit on my lap before eventually strolling over to resume her meal. Yup, she’s a stinker all right.

Anyway, back to Lulu Belle being a different cat. You see, when she’s all by herself in the house and there are no predators lurking in the shadows, she becomes the most affectionate cat you can possibly imagine. She’ll sprawl on your lap and roll around. She’ll follow you around the kitchen and rub against your legs. I sometimes wonder if she wouldn’t be happier as an only cat somewhere else, but then I remember that being alone only has value because she’s accustomed to being crowded.

It’s kind of the whole “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” thing. For example, I recall before having a child that I was once bored. HA! I was bored because I didn’t have anything to do. I had all of the free time in the world and not a single obligation. Woe was me. That single recollection is probably the most laughable thing in my life. I guess that it’s possible that I’ll be bored again one day, but I doubt it because I now know the value of having a single hour completely to myself with absolutely nothing to do. In other words, I think that Lulu Belle and I can enjoy those brief moments of freedom because they’re sandwiched between chaos and mayhem. Secretly though, we wouldn’t change it for the world.

My Favorite Things: Jeans Edition

Now that I’m no longer working in an office with a dress code, I’ve noticed that I’ve unofficially adopted a uniform of my own. Probably 6 days a week, I grab one of the 20 long tank tops that are stacked in my t-shirt drawer and pair it with one of my 20 pairs of jeans. Even when class is in session, I always start off with the intention of looking professional, but typically I regress to jeans within a matter of weeks. I figure two weeks of dress slacks is enough to establish my authority as Dr. Cyn. In fact, my jean addiction is so established that when my friends invite me places, they have to specify whether jeans are appropriate because without fail, that’s what I’ll wear unless told otherwise.

Before the designer jean boom, I used to have a perpetual jean dilemma. You see, I’m 5’11” and it was virtually impossible for me to find a pair of jeans that was both long enough and a good fit. With the average American woman standing at a petite 5’4”, I was clearly not the target market for most stores. However, about 6 years ago, something changed. First, the cost of jeans skyrocketed to the triple digits, but with this price hike, the average inseam also went up from a 32 to a 34/36. For someone like me, that was like winning the denim lottery!

Once the denim world was open to me, I went to Saks Fifth Avenue and tried on every single pair of jeans that they sold in my size. I’m really not exaggerating here. I told the saleswoman to please bring them all to me. (I had mentally committed to buying three pairs so that it was worth her while.) I quickly learned which brands catered to Greek hips and which ones were made for women built like 12 year old boys.

My new love when I left Saks that day was Citizens of Humanity. They were perfect. Really. They fit well in all the right places, they were more than long enough and I felt like they were made for me. I bought 2 pairs of Citizens (same cut, different washes) and one pair of Seven For All Mankind jeans in a wide leg. (Random fact: the creater of Citizens left the Seven For All Mankind corporation and started his own company. If you’re thinking right about now that I know way too much about designer jeans, you are correct.)

Anyway, over the last 4 years, my collection has slowly grown from 4 pairs to 20 pairs. I acutally even have two pairs of Citizens in maternity! I have every cut, leg width and wash imaginable and I wear every single pair. I love them all equally – really, who can pick a favorite? I’m sure over the next 4 years, that number will most likely increase by at least 10 pairs as they come out with new styles.

Now, in my defense, I generally do not spend much at all on shirts (my favorite tank tops were $7 each), I don’t gamble and I’m not an alcoholic. If this sounds like I’m rationalizing my demin addiction, I am. But seriously, if you’ve never sought out the perfect pair of jeans, I strongly encourage you to make the pilgrimage because once you find them, they only get better with age. Besides, is there anything sexier than a perfect fitting pair of jeans that are comfortable to boot? I don’t think so.

How Did I Get Here?

So, my 30th birthday is about 6 weeks away and I’ve spent a lot of time wondering exactly how I got here. I don’t mean that in an existential way (although I do spend a lot of time thinking about that too). But this time, by here I mean having a family, living in Florida, working as a managing editor of a sociology journal…

When I think back to the eve of my 20th birthday, I would have pictured my 30 year old self still single, living abroad (maybe in Paris), working on my 3rd novel. I wouldn’t have even cared if any of my fictitious novels were published. I just craved the experience of it all and wanted to be accountable to no one but myself. My days would consist of waking up with the dawn, meandering down to my favorite cafe, feeding ducks by the river. Ok, that last part is a total lie because I hate ducks, but you get the point.

Fast forward a couple of years and in my alternate future plans, I was still single (are you noticing a theme here?), still traveling as much as possible, but working as a special agent for the FBI (or another federal agency). I was really serious about this one. I did all of my research and knew the pros and cons of each agency (I had contacts in several of them). I met all of the basic criteria and knew from speaking with several different recruiters that I was a strong candidate. I just needed to make the decision and move forward.

Free will is a funny thing, isn’t it? A single decision that you make can change your life so drastically. I have to say that I still remember the moment when I veered away from this almost reality of mine. I had just finished my Masters degree and I had to choose whether I stayed in graduate school to pursue a PhD or start moving full speed ahead towards federal law enforcement. The deciding factor for me was the defining characteristic I had listed above in my fantasy life #1 – I wanted complete control over my life. So, I shelved all of my applications and began learning about criminological theory and it’s practical applications.

Then, something else happened. Something very unexpected. I fell in love with my best friend. Talk about not seeing that one coming. I had gotten out of a long relationship earlier in the year and I was all about living the single life (finally!) for a good, long time. But, life happened. You know, I had always thought that I would eventually marry a brooding intellectual who drank red wine and wore horn-rimmed glasses and black turtlenecks. We would discuss critical theory during our morning runs and vacation on a yacht.

That image now seems completely absurd as I conjure up a picture of the Irishman in his Steelers t-shirt and jeans, drinking a pint of Guinness. As I ruefully shake my head over the image, I can’t help but think of him rolling on the floor playing with Parker or reading a book to him during bath time. Somehow, I can’t imagine my brooding intellectual getting spit up on his black turtleneck or putting Neitzche down long enough to read Curious George.

No, I’m not exactly sure how I got here, but who knew that here would be such an unexpectedly delightful place? It’s like finding a beautiful waterfall on your way to your final destination and then deciding to build your life there instead. It’s also interesting how we all make our “here” work for us. Even though I now have a husband, a child and a hord of small animals, I still live each day for myself, complete with indulgences and no regrets. The one thing I always swore is that I would always be the captain of my own ship. I don’t believe in sacrificing yourself for the sake of others because you only get once shot at making your own happiness. So, while I may have other passengers on my ship, some for long stays and some for short ones, I’m happy to report that I’m still in charge of my final destination, but I’m certainly open to noticing the waterfalls along the way.