Monday, March 28, 2011

Confession: My Kid Likes TV

All right, folks. You might judge me for this post, and that's okay.  When I had Ellie, I too scoffed at parents who let their kids watch TV.  I swore a television wouldn't raise my daughter.  I promised myself not to get sucked into Nick Jr or the Disney channel or even PBS.

Yet here I am. Another victim to the television.  Another helplIess parent who switched on the TV and found something fun to watch.

My first parenting confession is this: I let Ellie watch TV sometimes.

Although experts recommend that you keep your kids away from the TV until age 2, I have to argue that it's not really feasible.  What kid isn't going to see a TV by then?  We watch TV and I'm fooling myself if I think Ellie's not watching it too.  Hell, my kid loves football, as we discovered this NFL season.  That made me very happy indeed, and it introduced me to the notion that the television might actually hold her attention long enough for me to get a fresh cup of coffee.

Yeah, it sure does.  It also helps distract her when her poor little mouth hurts from teething.  And when we sing along with her favorite show, she's learning how to dance.  Through some intense self rationalization, I've realized that TV isn't really all bad.  It's got some handy benefits.

The thing about TV is that you can't let it raise your kid, sure.  If I was plopping her in front of it for hours and doing my own thing elsewhere, I might feel guilty.  But her favorite show is "Bubble Guppies," this really cute little show with songs and dances in it.  And we both enjoy watching it together.  She's not old enough yet to learn colors or absorb the other content, but we can work on language and practice those toddler dance moves. 

Yes, it gives me time to go to the bathroom.  Sure, it's nice to relax and let someone else take over for a few minutes.  But it's more than that.  It makes her really happy when it comes on, and when she looks over at me all excited and starts clapping because I've cued up an episode, I can't really feel that guilty at all.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Harder Than Advertised

I'm still running, in case you were curious.  Sometimes I have a tendency to abandon these "missions" that I get into my head.  Sometimes I fall off the wagon.  I have tied myself to this wagon and I'm not letting go.  This chick is running a 5K, alright?

So running... it's still happening. But it's harder than I thought.  Why can't I just jump on a treadmill and run 10 miles, you know?  I get to the gym all motivated and ready to rock at running. Then, poof! I'm five minutes in and all that motivation dissolves.  My muscles hurt, I've got a cramp, my nose is running (more than I am)... etc. Not good.

I push through and I do the best I can, but some days are such a struggle that I do think about jumping from the wagon.  Will it ever get easier? Am I training the right way? What if I don't make it?

Then I have days like Thursday, when I manage to run for 18 minutes straight, no break. A record for me.  I was feeling good, almost like I could call myself a runner.  Almost. 

And just as quickly, the pendulum swings back the other way and I have a day like yesterday. We decided to go for a jog outside (gym was super busy) and I go about 2 minutes before I want to die.  Hills. Cold air. Pavement.  Things I don't encounter on the treadmill, things I will encounter when I attempt that 5k.  What happens when I get off that treadmill? What's the big deal about running outside? 

Why I am torturing myself like this?

Right, new commitment to fitness. Right.  Stay focused, Haddad.  Stick with it.

But in all seriousness, this is so much harder than it looks. I'm doing my best and I'm improving, for sure. I just wish it wouldn't take so darn long.

And as for that pavement.... you better look out. As soon as it gets warmer, I'm comin' for you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Read More of Me Online

Now is the time on my blog when I shamelessly promote myself.

If this is a newsflash, I'm a freelance writer when I find the time.  I write about health, skincare and beauty, pets, shopping, saving money, pregnancy, motherhood, and lots more. Juggling a handful of jobs, I try to paste together a small income.  Sometimes, I get paid per number of clicks my article gets. So even if you don't want to read it, clicking on it helps me make money.  Clicks are much appreciated!

Here are some of the places you can view my writing online:

Burlington Patch:
I'm a columnist writing about new parenting issues. 
Read my weekly column, Crib Notes every Saturday!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Paths We Walk

Yesterday, I watched Mike emcee a local variety show.  It was mostly a concert for a community orchestra, composed of purely volunteer musicians. And I gotta tell you, they were pretty darn good.  Mike was good too, but I already knew that. :)

But watching a huge orchestra, adults of all ages, musicians playing all sorts of instruments, well it got me thinking. I know, I know. I always "get thinking" about these things.  In this case, I started thinking about my own days as a musician.  A long time ago, I took both piano and flute lessons.  Even voice lessons, at one point.  I was decent - I needed practice, it's true - but I had a natural inclination towards music.

And before music, it was dance.  I once took tap, ballet, jazz, and even hip-hop.  I loved dancing, hated the practices though (some of that I attribute to how mean little girls can be, especially when you're the chubby kid).  In time, just as I walked away from the flute and the piano and my voice lessons, I walked away from all those dance classes.

Some of these changes were necessary.  We moved around a few times during my formative years, so I had to find a new piano teacher or locate a new dance studio.  Sometimes, lessons were just to expensive.  But giving up the classes didn't have to equal giving up the hobby. I owned a flute, a piano, a pair of tap shoes.  Instead of practicing, embracing my passion for these arts, I let my talents rust and my music and dance muscles atrophy.  Those things were easy to give up, easy to ignore as I chose a different path.  Why?

What makes us choose what we want to be good at?  The men and women of that orchestra remained committed to playing the flute, the violin, the tuba.  No matter the odds, they kept at it.  Perfected their craft, honed their skills, and dedicated time as adults to pursuing their beloved hobby.  I didn't choose that path and I wonder why not. 

In the two years since I found out I was pregnant with Ellie, I've given up another hobby: theater.  For a long time, acting and working backstage on shows was my life.  It got me through the tough parts of college, the rough patches in my life.  I turned to the stage as a refuge and came to relish the sound of applause.  Acting turned me from a shy person to a confident one and it stayed a huge focus of my life for nearly a decade.  After college, I started to let go, still dabbling in costumes and props here and there.  I got back onto the stage a few years ago, happily acting beside Mike, and then just gave it up again. Just like that. 

Mike, as many of you know, is still very active in theater.  That is his passion.  Acting, directing, writing plays... he's even on the board on one local theater and hoping to coach a summer program for another.  His talents are alive and well, they get plenty of exercise, and he chooses to spend part of his free time dedicated to this craft.  Theater is part of who he is.  He chose to let it define him.  I let it go; I didn't choose it.

As you know, I chose a different path.  A more solitary path.  Writing.  It's a craft you must do alone, but that you can share with others when it's done.  You can't practice writing with a friend, not really.  You can't get a troupe together and perform a night of writing (umm... boring). I chose the most solitary artform there is.  What made me choose the path? What made me say, "Yes, this is the talent I want to develop"?

I guess we all face many times in out lives when we have to choose a path. How many talents in your life did you discover and choose to walk away from?  Today, if I pick up a flute, I can still play it...kinda.  I still remember how to do a timestep, with a few minutes practice.  And if I wanted to read you a dramatic monologue, I'd probably get by okay.  The talents lay dormant, the paths unexplored.

So watching that orchestra reminded me of these things.  Of how all the little choices we make in our childhoods can result in one big path.  One path to writing, for me.  One path to acting, for Mike. One path to playing the xylophone, for someone else.  I like to think of how I might've done, had I picked another path.  But I didn't.  

In 20 years from now, Ellie will have picked her own path too.  I guess I'll just have to tell her to follow her heart, her gut instinct.  It doesn't really matter to me what she does - professionally or as a hobby.  Maybe she'll make a career out of one of the things Mike and I choose to do as a hobby. Maybe she'll have an extraordinary talent for something I've never attempted.  Whatever it is, I'll push her to follow it.  I have my
path and she needs to find her own path too.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lenten Fitness

Some people give up stuff for Lent.  As a child attending Catholic school, it was always a big deal to choose the perfect Lenten sacrifice.  One year, I gave up candy. Another, it was ice cream.  When I got older, the "sacrifices" became more sophisticated and specific: no Snapple iced tea, no Jelly Belly jelly beans, etc. 

And then I discovered that the Sundays in Lent aren't counted in the 40 day total, so you could "cheat" on Sundays. Pretty soon, with the tug on that one tiny thread, my commitment to Lenten sacrifices unraveled.  What was the point? So I don't eat candy for a month or so, and what does that do to save starving people or benefit society as a whole? What good comes from me saving a few bucks on a treat here and there?

Not much.  Sure, the sacrifice is more about being a metaphor of your willingness to sacrifice as Jesus did.  But man, he really did something.  Maybe instead, I should make a commitment to do something instead of not doing it.  I can't heal the whole world, but I could do something positive, right?

In my first year of this new positive commitment to the Lenten season, I'm choosing to stay small.  You all know about my constant struggle to bring my weight down and get in shape.  It's hard not to know if you read this blog.  My getting healthy is for more than just myself.  It's to ensure I'm around to see my kids grow up, to grow old with Mike, to avoid diseases that have plagued previous generations of my family, and to set a good example to my children and others who look up to me. 

I can't afford to feed a hungry family or go away to build a house with Habitat for Humanity.  The bigger things will come when the time is right.  For now, I can change things in my tiny bubble of a world.

So the treadmill keeps rolling. If the weather stays nice, these daily walks will keep up too. And Jillian Michaels's 30-Day-Shred is in the DVD player.  If you're interested, there will be a mini Just Dance party on my Wii here every night.  I'm going to get moving and hope it creates a ripple effect throughout my life and others'.  I hope that doesn't sound shallow or egotistical in any way, because it isn't meant to be. 

I guess you could say I'm sacrificing time on the couch for a healthier lifestyle.  That sounds a lot more productive and exciting, don't you think?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reading Is FUNdamental

So I'm a writer, right? And writers, to perfect their craft, have to read.  Actually, nine times out of ten, writers become writers just because of how much they love to read.  I find myself wanting to write the stories I haven't read yet, creating the characters I haven't met yet...and the like. 

So I'm a reader, too.  And I read a lot. Not as much as my sister, who devours entire novels in a day. Honestly, no one reads like her.  But compared to the average person, I eat books for breakfast.  Well, not like Ellie, who actually does eat books. (Her favorites are Kristan Higgins's romance novels. On this we can agree, we just have different ways of showing it.)  But yes, reading is kinda my thing.

I hear a lot of people say things like "I don't have time to read!" or "I can't get into any books right now!" and other stuff like that.  Reading is a dying past-time, from my perspective, and I can't understand why, especially with e-books and Kindles and stuff.  I don't have tons of time on my hands -- what with writing novels, freelance writing, raising Ellie, taking care of the apartment, taking care of Penny, etc. -- but I squeeze it in.  Even if it's only a few pages a day - during nap time, just before bed. Whenever.

A few years go, I was one of those people who didn't have time to read. Or so I thought.  The first New Year's resolution I ever kept was to read more - one book a month, to be exact.  That was in 2004.  I've read at least one book a month for the past 7 years thanks to that resolution.  Now, I'm reading more like two books a month.  Right now, it's March and I've just started my sixth book of the year.

So why do I do it? It's the one thing I enjoy that doesn't take up tons of time or require that I go anywhere or wear something special.  I can read anytime, anywhere. I just need my book. Last year, when Ellie was in the hospital for 67 days after birth, reading was the only thing I could do to occupy my mind.  Writing required too much concentration and movies were tough to watch on the commute back and forth or hanging out in that hospital room.  Books fit in my purse, so I just kept reading and reading.  In 10 weeks, I read 14 books. It kept me grounded when my life threw me a curveball, so to reading, I owe a huge debt.

I'm glad I've rediscovered my love of books and I won't be giving it up any time soon. And between my packed shelf of "Books to Read" and the Nook I got last Christmas, I'm gonna be busy for many months to come.  But just think of all the inspiration - and enjoyment - it will bring me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Run, Stephie, Run!

In January, I started a new commitment to fitness.  I realized that all my diets (a decade worth of them) had always focused on the diet.  Diet's the wrong word, to be honest.  I changed my eating, practically starving myself, desperate for the first cookie I saw.  My diets were always a sham.  And I never lost that much, since I just took in fewer calories and continued to live my mostly sedentary lifestyle of writing and watching TV.  No bueno.

Two years ago, Mike got up and started moving.  He watched what he ate, adding fiber here and there, cutting down portion sizes, making healthier choices.  But the biggest change he made was a frequent gym habit.  Mike made friends with the elliptical machine, started running on the treadmill, took the bike out for 20+ mile rides when the weather was nice.  He got his butt in gear and he dropped 60 pounds that he's maintaining with minimal effort today.  He's probably cut his risk for heart disease and diabetes in half and added 20 years to his life.  Also, he looks pretty damn good in a pair of jeans.

I'm pretty jealous.

But I'm also realizing that if he's gonna be around for 20 extra years, I want to be there with him.  I want to run after Ellie without getting winded, not be a huge whale next time I get pregnant, and lead by example to teach my kids a healthy lifestyle.  So I put on my sneakers one random January day and I went to the gym. For real this time.

Changes to Site

Hey there,

If you've noticed the changes around here, that's because Ellie has reached her first birthday and it was time to redecorate!!!

Don't worry, you can still view all the missing pictures! I have moved all the photos from the sidebar (birth to one year) to a new page: Ellie-Vision Photo Gallery

The left hand side bar will now feature monthly pictures as we journey through Ellie's second year!

Thanks for taking the trip with us. Hope you keep reading!

- Stephanie & Elissa

Updates & Such

I did it again even though I swore I wouldn't.  I took over a month away from my personal blog.  I'm a jerk.

So here's what you've been missing since then...

#1 - Ellie turned one! She has officially made it to one year and beyond, a milestone that her daddy and I (and a few dozen family and friends) were only too happy to share with her.  More on the birthday and my little princess's big pink dress in a later post, I promise.

#2 - Mommy's got some new jobs.  I hemmed and hawed and left the one big writing job that was paying most of my bills. Why? Because it was also killing me.  My schedule was atrocious. No mom can stay up until 3 AM working then get up at 7 AM with a baby and be happy about it.  It's just not possible.  I traded that in for some new gigs that I was only too happy to find.  Another forthcoming post on this, I promise.

#3 - Get your running shoes, it's almost spring! Eager to get back outside soon, I've become super active Mommy and started training to run a 5K. Crazy, I know.  More on that later.

I'm sure there's lots more going on and my new commitment to blogging will capture it all. I promise!
Stay tuned for more in depth posts :)