Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Falling Down

A few months ago, our family spent a weekend at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Every year, for a few weeks, a wide, shallow river flows down the edge of the dunes and makes for fantastic family water fun. As we were walking across the river one afternoon, Ally--watching the water run over her feet--lost her balance and fell into the water. I was reminded of the same sensation a month later when we were knocked over by the waves on the Ocean City, MD, beach.

And again in the past few weeks, when I've been knocked down by a sickness. It seems like nothing is getting done, including writing this blog. So, sorry, dear Blog, for neglecting you in the face of my acute health concerns and the care of my children, husband, and pets. May you fare better now that I'm faring better.

I recently read this fantastic article about environmental chemicals and how they influence the development of obesity. I can't say that reading it was an "a-ha" moment for me, as in, this is why I'm overweight, but there was a great deal of information that I hadn't previously read. And, as an added bonus, it included a reason to avoid soy that I hadn't read before. Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Breathing to the Rhythm of Walker's Sleep

One of my greatest parenting challenges is sleep deprivation. Peter and I make a conscious choice to respond to our children's needs and cries at all times, during the day or night. While it is en vogue to ignore a child's cries at certain times in order to teach them to "self soothe" and sleep on a schedule that is convenient to the parents, I know of no mental health association that condones this practice. Never mind article after article after article discussing ways in which controlled crying is harmful to the child.

That being said, it's easy to understand why the promise of a quick solution is so appealing. When, night after night, you have to find a way to practice compassion and patience while being inflicted with that which is literally a method of torture. This has been the story of our last few months, as Walker has been suffering through teething, developmental leaps, and dietary changes. Tonight, like far too many other nights recently, he was having a terrible time falling asleep. We snuggled on the couch for about an hour after bedtime, him bouncing between Peter and I, never comfortable and increasingly irritable. Then we walked in the sling and sung songs. Finally, I took him back into the bedroom to bounce between laying in bed and rocking in the rocking chair until he fell asleep.

Unlike any other night recently, though, I consciously breathed. I'm not going anywhere, why not meditate a little? My friend Clea recently made a blog entry about the electric current of the mother's heart, and how our little ones are constantly bathed in it. Tonight was the most phenomenal example of this. As I breathed, through throat, ribs, stomach, and c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e exhalation, Walker relaxed. The moment my mind began to wander, he would jerk awake and cry. Over and over again we repeated this dance, until finally he grabbed my arm and tried to pull it around his head.

He's been doing this for the past few months, and I could never figure out what he was doing. Tonight, being present and open to him, I finally figured it out. He wanted me to slide my arm under his head so he could use it as a pillow. I did, and he drifted off to sleep almost instantly. It was such a sweet, delicious moment watching his little eyes grow heavy, heavier, asleep. Amazing what a little presence can bring to a relationship.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back to the beginning

Tonight, I took a class at the Kriya Yoga Center. Before I was pregnant with Ally, I attended at least two classes there per week, plus weekly Satsang (fellowship, practice, and instruction). I stopped attending classes when I got pregnant because it made me sick, and then stopped attending Satsang when Ally was born because I couldn't take her with me (it's hard to meditate while holding a screaming baby!).

Since then, there has literally not been a day that I haven't thought of the Center, or of Michael, my yoga Teacher. I was raised Catholic, went to a Catholic school, attended Mass every weekend for my whole childhood. None of those beliefs make sense in my life, and I abandoned them late in my adolescence. But that didn't negate my longing to know a truth and to feed my Spirit.

The Yoga Center filled that need for me. There are very few things that I KNOW to be true, realities that I know unquestionably. I reflected to Michael this evening when I saw him that those few things come from him and the Center. Being away from it for the past several years has been the most painful twilight for my soul.

And my body. I've maintained a basic yoga practice in my home for several years now, but I am appalled by some of the things I learned about myself tonight. Most startlingly, I've forgotten how to breathe. Breathe. It's the most basic of human functions, the root of any meditative practice. And taking a full belly breath is incredibly difficult for me right now. I've always been a breath holder, because being present often feels so overwhelmingly painful, but this is truly appalling.

It's hard to shift anything if you don't have the foundation loose to shift. The breath. The foundation. The truth. If I'm really going to shift my attitude and cultivate some joy, this is where it needs to begin.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I've been trying to get some time on the computer to write this post all week. However, karma fires, and my family life is suddenly (again) so crazy that I'm finding it hard to take care of myself--let alone write about it! This is the endless conundrum of being a mother: how to give your children all of the attention that they need to thrive while simultaneously taking care of your own needs. Add to that chronic health problems, food allergies, and my role as housewife (which makes me the de facto primary house cleaner), and any semblance of balance flies right out the window!

Tuesday was my 34th birthday. I am grateful for the many blessings I have at this time in my life. My husband, beautiful children, loving family and friends--they are literally what keep me alive. At the same time, I'm humbled by my ongoing health crisis. This obesity that I just can't get under control. Anxiety and depression, which go hand in hand with the obesity. I'm exhausted, my body hurts, I'm paralyzed by depression, I'm so busy taking care of my kids, I'm not eating well or exercising, I'm not getting anywhere near enough sleep, I can't seem to make the time to see the doctor . . .

What a drag! So I'm trying to focus first on my attitude. Because I don't think the other things are going to clear up dramatically enough to make it better. I'm spending far to much time in this endless tautology, only getting more miserable and feeling older every day. It's no way to live, and no way to raise my kids.

There's a therapeutic modality known as brief therapy, and one of the tools generated from it is the miracle question: if there was a miracle tomorrow and you had everything you wanted, what would your life be like? Well, I can tell you one thing, I wouldn't be spiraling miserably in my head over and over and over! The second part of the miracle question is something that, in yoga, I've learned as ewa, meaning "as if." Life as if you have what you want, and what you want will come to you.

I think some people call this the Law of Attraction. Whatever you call it, I'd like to start attracting some positivity, energy, and, most importantly, joy into my life. Hopefully year 34 will see some real advances in that direction.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The White Flag of Surrender

I'm officially stepping away from the rotation diet. While it was useful, it was so much work that I could hardly handle it. Especially after Walker stopped sleeping suddenly and we all came down with the stomach flu. There was a night over the weekend when, after holding a screaming baby for 2 hours, waiting for him to fall asleep, I literally stumbled into the kitchen and cooked for 2 more hours so that we could have a picnic lunch at the zoo the next day. Because Walker woke up around 4 the next morning, I didn't get more than 5 hours of sleep that night. Totally not worth it, especially after it happened several nights in a row.

I did learn some valuable things in the short time we were following the rotation. I clearly need to do some eliminations and reintroductions for Walker. I was surprised that Ally didn't visibly react to anything, though she also refused to eat for much of the rotation. The entire time she wanted junk food, and I can't tell if this was a detox reaction or if was stress from starting school. I haven't been on a scale, but I'm sure I gained significant weight on the diet. We wound up eating alot of grains, which are healthy but not at all what my body needs to be its best.

On the rotation, I noticed how our limited diet restricts the variety that we consume. I think I do a good job of including a wide variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables, in my family's diet, though coming up with the variety required by a rotation diet was very, very difficult. The rotation magnified the way in which I tend to reach for the same safe, reliable foods that my children like over and over again. From a nutritional standpoint, I find this disturbing.

Two, eating a completely whole-foods diet is incredibly difficult. By whole-foods, I mean including no processed foods in our diet. I was, again, amazed by the amount of processed foods we eat, even though they are all gluten/dairy/soy free, mostly organic, and mostly things I could make myself if I had the time. Cutting these things our entirely was incredibly difficult, and the amount of associated cooking and food prep to provide my children with a basic, complete diet every day was nearly impossible.