Old Dog, New Tricks

Tom Dewey eats hummus … and roasted chickpeas, celery sticks (without a Bloody Mary), and even (gasp!) protein shakes.

Who is Tom Dewey and why is this shocking?  Or better yet, why should you care?  Because it proves that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

My mom and dad

My mom and dad

Tom Dewey is my 70-year-old father who, for decades, existed on chips, salsa and Rolling Rock beer.  Regardless of the man’s dietary choices, his weight and size never fluctuated.  A runner, he was tall and slender with “well-oiled pistons” (read: strong legs, which he liked to show off in shorts), wearing the same size 32-32 pants for as long as I can remember.  Until a couple of years ago.  As we all know, with age comes change — and a little extra weight around the middle.

Two months ago, on the day before he turned 70, my dad asked for my advice.  Pigs were flying and hell froze over (and you thought it was the Polar Vortex!).  He wanted to lose some weight.  He wanted some help on what changes he could make to his diet, and he wanted me to tell him.  [Disclaimer:  I am neither a nutritionist nor a personal trainer, but I have made some major changes to my diet and lifestyle over the past two years with fantastic results.]  Stop the presses!  After two years of preaching the benefits of eating whole foods and increasing protein intake, it seemed that my dad was now ready to hear me.

So I spoke and he listened.  He then went to Trader Joe’s and the rest is history.  My chip-eating, beer-drinking dad has started eating “clean.”  Ok, not really clean per se, but he is making some healthy swaps:  lentil chips instead of tortilla chips with salsa; carrot sticks instead of pretzel sticks (and with hummus now); a breakfast smoothie with protein powder and fruit instead of a buttered roll; and an actual lunch (e.g., low sodium turkey on low-carb, whole grain bread) or at least a (hopefully not-too-processed) protein bar instead of nothing at all.  Baby steps.  I don’t see him going full-on Paleo anytime soon, but I am proud of him for taking steps to improve his nutrition and, ultimately, his health because I’d like him to stick around a lot longer.

I know it wasn’t my nagging that finally got him to make these adjustments.  The man is stubborn and I say that in a loving way.  He’s old-school, set in his ways like most septuagenarians and octogenarians.  I’m sure the impetus came from his doctors.  But does it really matter?  No.  Does it give me a little satisfaction knowing that he’s doing it “my way?”  Yes, frankly, because it’s nice to be listened to, especially for a (recovering) control freak like me.  But that isn’t my point.

What is my point, you’re wondering?  That an old dog can learn new tricks.  That it’s never too late to make a change.

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It’s the end of February now and for many of us, those New Year’s Resolutions that we swore we’d keep this year have fallen by the wayside.  So what now?  Start over.  Today.  Every day is a fresh start.  A do-over.  A chance to be better than the day before.  For my dad, that chance involves making healthier eating choices.  For me, each day is a chance to speak kinder, be more patient and enjoy life more.  If I mess up, I’ll try again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.

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Eventually, I’ll get it right.

– LJDT

 

 

Parenting is Just Like the Winter Olympics

As I watch the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, I can’t help but draw comparisons between those amazing, awe-inspiring events and the mundane, unremarkable routines of a busy mom or parent.  I might be reaching here, as my analogies are loose and some are steeped in hyperbole, so take these with a grain of salt, a bit of humor and just go with me on this, ok?

As busy parents, we’d like to think we get through each crazy, hectic day with the grace and poise of a figure skater.  In reality, it looks more like freestyle skiing or even skeleton as we whiz through our recurrent course at record speeds in order to “get it all done,” flying by the seats of our pants as we figure it out on the fly.  On the good days, we stand on the winner’s podium with an invisible medal around our necks, exhausted but proud.  On the bad days, we may cry a little in self-disappointment, but we dust ourselves off and pledge to work harder the next time.

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Multi-tasking is a parent’s way of life.  Doing two things at once under the pressure of a clock, as in the biathlon?  Please — that’s child’s play!  We parents make breakfast, pack lunches, sign school papers and check for clean teeth all in a matter of minutes.  Unlike Olympians, we don’t specialize, we generalize.  Stop at just one Olympic parenting event per day?  I don’t think so.  Each morning we get our hearts racing with short track speed skating, also known as the sprint to the school bus stop.  Then it’s on to post-breakfast curling (i.e., sweeping the kitchen floor for the umpteenth time), some cross country skiing (read: errands all over town) and of course, nordic combined cleaning, laundry and cooking  — all before the kids return home from school.  But wait, there’s more … Homework help and monitoring, which should be like ice dancing, feels more like ice hockey with checking, trash talking and more than a few 2-minute penalties handed out.  After a quick uniform change, it’s into the bobsled we go, full of neighborhood kids carpooling to sports practice, religion class or music lessons, depending on the day and/or child.  When the after-school activities, post-practice showers and evening dinner are finally over, the rest of the night is downhill, alpine skiing until bedtime.  And that’s just the preliminary round.  Does any of this sound familiar?

Have younger than school-aged children?  Your biathlon might be reading to a toddler while feeding an infant or changing a diaper.  Your nordic combined competition may include booking an appointment on the telephone while cooking dinner and soothing a cranky baby … Who hasn’t had that experience before?

Parents of older kids, you get to layer in teenage drama, S.A.T. prep and college applications, to name a few.

And for those who work outside of the home, a typical biathlon might be juggling a business call while attending a child’s piano recital, or drafting a business memo during soccer practice.

You get the picture.  No matter where you fall on the parenthood spectrum — work out of the home, from home or for the home — the daily course may look different with varied twists and turns, but ultimately we’re all on the same track, aiming for the same finish line and the same gold medals.

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But what about all those other “events” that moms/parents engage in on a daily basis?  What’s the Olympic equivalent to managing the family schedule? Or simultaneously being the maid, chef, chauffeur, tutor, referee, coach, nurse, knower of all things and finder of all things, all day every day for everyone?  I know I could medal in those competitions.

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I have the utmost respect for Olympic athletes and what they do.  They are strong, conditioned and trained.  They are dedicated, motivated and focused.  They are passionate, persistent and unstoppable.  They are very much like every parent I know.  Like athletes, some days we win and some days we lose no matter how hard we try.  Like athletes, we use our setbacks to push harder the next time, competing with ourselves to get it right and earn our place on the winner’s stand.

So to all the 2014 Winter Olympians, I applaud you.

And to all the parents out there, I applaud you as well.  Please take your place on the podium … next to me.

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– LJDT

Happy Presidents’ Day, a.k.a. Happy Valentine’s Day, Round 2

“You Don’t Suck!” Be My Valentine

Today is Valentine’s Day — a Hallmark holiday filled with flowers, chocolate and sappy cards.  Being a closeted romantic, I usually get into it — making heart-shaped, chocolate chip banana pancakes for breakfast, using all red and pink food for lunch, leaving tiny love notes in coat pockets, lunch boxes and briefcases to be found later in the day … But this year, I wasn’t feeling it.  Is there a Valentine’s Day equivalent to “Bah humbug!”?

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Valentine’s Day Scrooge

This winter has been rough.  I’ve lost count of how many snow, ice and subzero-degree days we’ve had.  All those canceled school days and the resulting “family together time” have moved beyond refreshing and fun, to redundant and irritating.

Until now.

Just as I was about to scream after reading our 9th (yes, you read that correctly — 9th) school cancelation message, I came across an awesome video clip of a North Carolina principal and his deputy rapping their school closure announcement to Vanilla Ice’s 1990 hit, Ice Ice Baby.  Genius!

Check it out at http://www.ryot.org/video-durham-academy-teachers-declare-school-closed-epic-weather-announcement/567613

Not only did it have me smiling and singing along, it changed my mood.  The cloud has lifted and I am once again back in the spirit … until, of course, we lose power again and the boys start bickering out of shear boredom.  But while I’m in the mood, I’m going to embrace the snow day and try to see it through the eyes of my kids, who are looking forward to more sled races, snowball fights and hot cocoa.

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snow day #999

As for our Valentine’s Day celebrations, I’m back on track.  I’ll continue on with my traditions of red food and love notes, but I guess today I’ll have to put the notes inside snow boots and gloves instead of lunch boxes and briefcases.

And my special Valentine?  I’m choosing Mother Nature if we can call a truce.  I won’t be so bitchy anymore if she stops sending us winter storms.  Maybe if I sweet-talk her … in the words of my 10-year old son (who — spoiler alert! — is giving each of his best buds a lollipop with a handwritten tag that bears this same statement), “You don’t suck!  Happy Valentine’s Day.”  Will you be my Valentine, M.N.?

– LJDT

Resolution Do-Over

January was not a very successful month when it came to my #3 Resolution — to be a better version of myself.  Let’s just say that if screaming burned calories, I’d be shopping for smaller pants now.

Maybe it was the post-holiday food hangover guilt.  Maybe it was the bitter cold and all those extra days home with the kids (between holidays and snow days, I think they had only one full week of school in January!).  Or more likely, it was the self-imposed, unrealistic pressure to live up to all my resolutions in the first month (I know — crazy.  This is why I’m rehabbing.).  Whatever the reason, I failed miserably in January.  I yelled too much, cursed too much, and stressed too much.  If you live anywhere near me, I’m sure you heard me.  It wasn’t pretty.  [I am, however, giving myself a pass for that one week I was on a detoxing cleanse (hungry + angry = hangry!), but even that was my decision so I have to own it and my bad behavior, too.]

Depending on which article you read, researchers indicate that anywhere from 33% -to- 95% (!) of all resolutions will be abandoned by the end of January.  So should I join the ranks of those who throw in the towel after round 1 and keep on screaming (I am really good at it), or do I stand strong, start over and learn to use my “inside voice”?

Turn the page on the calendar because I’m calling for a do-over.

It’s now the beginning of February and I say bring it on! My head is in a different place and hopefully my mouth will follow.  I am encouraged and motivated by all the kind messages I received this week after my inaugural post.  Having this blog and announcing my intentions publicly makes me accountable.  I thrive on accountability.  No hiding, no excuses, just do it.

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I’m on a mission to “do better” this month.  February is all about love (and chocolate, my vice), so what better month to start over than February.  Maybe I’ll reward myself for each successful day with a small treat like I did for my boys when they were being potty trained.  Instead of stickers, lollipops and Matchbox cars as enticements, I’m thinking more along the lines of a (gluten-free) cupcake, a mani/pedi, or even new workout clothes.

Then again, the satisfaction of knowing that I’m setting a good example for my boys will be reward enough … but if I do see a cute pair of yoga pants on sale, I might just get those, too.

– LJDT