Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thanks Jillian Michaels, For All of the Pain in My Thighs

Apparently, the Kellogg's Special K diet doesn't work when you only eat the little bits of chocolate out of the box of Chocolately Delight cereal. And Slim Fast shakes are not supposed to be consumed as a side dish to your daughter's leftover french fries either - no matter how delicious they might taste together.

These are the lessons I've learned in the past six weeks as I've slowly struggled to shed the lingering 25 pounds that are plaguing my plans to fit into dresses for various weddings, engagement parties and christenings that currently decorate my calendar. Seriously, why does everyone in the family and firehouse have to celebrate such big affairs when I look my absolute worst? The nerve.

You know those ridiculously thin moms who smile and say they just simply can't find the time to eat? Those skinny-minis who claim running after the baby keeps them so active they don't even need to work out? Well, I hate those mothers.

I love food. I always have. And no matter how many tasks I have to squeeze into any given marathon day, I always find time for lunch. And a snack.

My friends and family say I look good, but what else do you say to a new mother?

"Wow, you really packed on the pounds there. Do you plan on taking that off or do you like all of the extra insulation?"

And any shades of slenderness on my part is all smoke and mirrors. It's amazing what you can do with a pair of Spanks.

That's why I started working out again last week.

Mainly because I washed the only pair of jeans that fit me and I couldn't button them. If I don't lose any weight, those jeans will just have to remain dirty until I do lose five pounds. My ego can't take another turn in the dryer. I'm also tired of wearing a girdle with my sweatpants.

So I tried level one of the 30-Day Shred - one of those Biggest Loser DIY workouts I used to zoom through after I had Erin. (Or at least I remember zooming through it.)

Jillian Michaels wasn't so nasty on this DVD before I got pregnant.

Why is she yelling so loud? And why is my heart beating so fast?

I did so many lunges I needed help sitting on the bowl the next day to pee. But I didn't feel svelte and sexy, I was just sore. And I only mourned "ice cream time" even more. (It was every night at nine.)

Time to get serious. Back to kickboxing. Three nights in one week. I must have a death wish. Is it actually possible to break something doing a jumping-jack?

Next up, Weight Watchers. Points. Yes, I can do this.

Off to Pathmark to buy a week's worth of healthy foods.

Wheeling through the produce section I'm confident. Bell Peppers for my salad. Bags of fresh baby spinach and bushels of vine ripe tomatoes - uncooked, they're 0 points!Told you I could romanticize food.

Meats are next. Boneless breasts of chicken - I'll marinate and grill. This actually sounds appealing.

Next aisle.

Entenmann's full line sale. Ooh. Louisiana Crunch Cake. Chocolate Donut Sampler Pack. Abort. Abort. Time to focus, Jess. Think bathing suits, halter tops. Turn away and look at the soap, the mops. Anything to divert attention.

Somehow I survived. And I've made it to day three of this diet. No big weight loss yet, but at least there's no gain. And I've actually found a few tips, tricks and delicious diet foods along the way.

If I could only figure out how to make my thighs stop throbbing, I'd be set.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Build An Easter Bonnet, With All The Frills Upon It? Get Me My Glue Gun

The news arrived sometime last week - typed on a slip of paper in Erin's backpack: "Easter Parade to be held on March 30, creative, fancy hats required."

My inner bedazzler immediately jumped for joy. Before I pulled out of the parking lot, I had four prototypes sketched out in my head. I was channeling Judy Garland, humming Irving Berlin, picturing Erin grandly strutting through the gym arm-in-arm with the likes of Fred Astaire and Peter Lawford.

I could hardly wait to get home and whip out my glue gun.

"Did anyone start making this hat yet?" one mother asked the next day at pick-up time.

"No," someone else countered. "I'm completely dreading this."

"Me too," another mom added. "I guess I'll just pour glitter all over it and try and make it look presentable."

I nodded along.

"Such a pain in the neck," I said.

Fifteen mothers all agreeing over the extracurricular nuances of preschool.

Normally, I'm on the same page as everyone else. The at-home projects, wrapping paper fundraisers and holiday goody-bag patrol can be completely overwhelming. But because I'm a closet crafter, this was an entirely different story.

How could I admit in front of all these people that I had already been to three stores, cleaned Michael's clear out of glitter eggs and was planning a family hat decorating dinner party to celebrate the occasion?

To be clear, I'm no overachiever. It's just that I've had a strange fascination with the arts and craft world since I was a kid. When my friends were riding bikes on the weekend, I was doing needlepoint. Hopscotch and hide-and-seek? Nope. I was making my own friendship bracelets, hooking rugs and trying my hand at a complicated paint-by-number.

My sister predicted that I'd be making tissue-box cozies by the time I was in my thirties. She was close, I suppose.

Last Friday night, I spread all of my craft-store bounty on my mother's dining room table and went to work.

"Love this!" my mother - a fellow crafter - said as she pulled yellow glitter eggs and strings of lime green grosgrain ribbon out of my bags.

For hours we cut, glued, laughed and introduced Erin to our weird and creative world. The house was ensconced in the warm smells of melting glue sticks. The sound of crinkling cellophane filled the room.

"Could it get any better than this?" I thought as my mother and I fastened strips of velcro to a pink straw topper and filled in the gaps with very realistic-looking fake blades of grass.

"She might have the most outrageous hat in the whole parade," my mother commented as we put the finishing touches on a bonnet that now measures more than one foot tall and weighs about three pounds.

"I can't see, mommy," Erin said as we placed this monster on top of her head. "It's really heavy."

Crap. Judy Garland's hat never made her fall over in that movie, right?

So we made some adjustments, took a couple of the heavier items off and added a chin strap to fasten this thing down. Is it wrong to hot glue it to her head on the day of the parade?

It might be a little outrageous, yes, but it sure was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I Met Up With The Gambler - We Were Both Too Tired To Sleep

When I was about six- or seven-years-old, I formed a strange sort of fascination with all things Kenny Rogers. Don't ask how it happened. But if I had to pinpoint a reason, I guess I could blame my parents - they were fans of his music and they never stopped me when I belted out "Lady" in the shower or decided to sing a rendition of "The Gambler" at a school talent show. (Yeah, it's a painful memory, thanks mom and dad.) Whatever the reason, by the second or third grade, I was a full-fledged Kenny fanatic.

A few weeks ago, when searching my own internal songbook for any sort of lullaby not currently covered by the Wiggles, I somehow returned to my Kenny Rogers roots.

"Sing to me mommy," Erin requested during a particularly difficult bedtime session: Pat was working a 24, baby Jeremiah was unusually fussy and three books, a couple of cookies and some serious hypnotics had done nothing in terms of helping my toddler fall asleep.

She couldn't be serious. I'm the girl that people usually ask to stop singing. I get booed at karaoke. People change seats at church. As Pop puts it, I can't carry a tune in a paper bag.

But she pleaded and I was desperate, so I tried Twinkle, Twinkle. She loved it. I moved on to Itsy, Bitsy. Big hit. I pulled a Peter, Paul and Mary favorite out of my back pocket and she totally rocked out to Puff the Magic Dragon. But there was only one problem: We were one hour into this ritual and she was still wide awake. Command decision: I needed to move away from kid friendly and move on to something completely non-stimulating.

I dug deep: The Eagles, Peaceful, Easy Feeling. Nice. She's dozing. But I only know the refrain. I start humming the rest, she opens her eyes. How 'bout Billy Joel? Piano Man. I sing "the microphone smells like a beer," and she starts to giggle. I realize all of the songs that I truly know by heart are bar music from a variety of jukeboxes - totally inappropriate for bedtime. Damn you Waterside. Damn that Budweiser minor I picked up in college.

And then it came to me.

"On a warm summer's evening, on a train bound for nowhere, I met up with the Gambler, we were both too tired to sleep."

She's completely still. Are her eyes closing? Yes!

"So we took turns a-staring, out the window in the darkness, til boredom overtook us and he began to speak..."

I could have stopped, two lines and she was snoring. Jeremiah even liked it. He stared open-mouthed, eyes wide open. I think he was in awe of my lyrical interpretation. But then again, it probably was gas. Either way, I was impressing myself, so I sang some more.

"He said son, I've made a life out of reading people's faces, knowing what their cards were by the way they held their eyes...and if you don't mind my saying, I can see you're out of aces, for a taste of your whiskey, I'll give you some advice."

How could I remember all of these words after 25 years?

"So I handed him my bottle and he drank down my last swallow, then he bummed a cigarette and asked me for a light. And the night got deathly quiet and his face lost all expression, if you're gonna play the game boy, you gotta learn to play it right."

This is like poetry.

"You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run. You never count your money when you're sitting at the table, there'll be time enough for counting when the dealings done."

Could this possibly be my answer to bedtime woes? A couple of verses about dead cowboys and whiskey? I tried it a few more times that week and each night it worked like a charm.

A few nights later, I read the obligatory books - Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty - before Erin turned to me and asked for a little music.

"Can you sing that song about the train again?" she said.

"The Gambler?" I countered.

"Yeah, the one with the cards and the whiskey," she said.

Awesome, I thought, I really hope she doesn't tell her preschool teacher that I sing her songs about beer and whiskey at night.

And so the tradition of Kenny continues. Bedtime might be for stories and cuddling, but in the Gorman house, I take requests.