Friday, March 25, 2011

Personal Demotivator?

As my Facebook friends know (whether they wanted to or not), I had a rather demotivational consultation with a personal trainer yesterday.  Gold's Gym only gives you one free consultation, and I had envisioned that they would give me tips on my workout routine, explain the machines to me, and provide encouragement.  Unfortunately, that isn't exactly how it worked.

The trainer started out by determining my motivations and then explaining the fundamentals of weight loss and exercise.  He talked about the type of routine required for a good twenty minutes, yet somehow managed not to provide any really useful information.  He told me that eventually I would want to have a strong basis in resistance training, cardio, and nutrition.  That I would start out on mostly cardio, but they would eventually get me to the right form.  My questions on any of this tended to be brushed aside with a "that's complicated" or "we'll get to that later."  Later, it appears, is after I've started paying them $45 a session. 

Some of what happened was contradictory and confounding.  He had me use the treadmill, and when I got on, I asked if he could explain the machine.  He breezed right past my question with some mumbled phrase about how he didn't really know all about the machine or need to know.  It was clear that he just wanted me to shut up, hit the Quick Start button, and start walking.  After that, we did some floor workouts.  Earlier, he had asked me if I was sore anywhere from previous workouts because pain after workouts meant that you should rest that area for a couple of days.  I told him my legs were sore from Yoga.  What floor exercises did he give me?  Leg exercises.  WTF?  I hurt so much today that it's hard to walk.

At the end, he told me that 7 out of 10 people at the gym wouldn't make their goals or get full use out of the gym--except for the people who paid for a personal trainer.  Apparently, those people never fail.  Instead of learning what my (safe) target heart rate should be during exercise (I was told it was complicated and would be calculated later), I learned that Gold's Gym's trainers are pretty much there to try to get you to spend lots of money.  That being said, my friend BJ told me that there are some truly good trainers out there. 

How does one go about finding the good kind?  Anyone have a good experience?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Babies, the Natural Mood Boost

I have come to realize that babies are a mood boost.  I'm not necessarily talking about the joy we feel as parents nor am I in any way implying that postpartum depression can be cured by our babies.  As a matter of fact, I'm not talking about depression at all.  I'm talking about a baby's effect on other people, random strangers you see in stores, the park, the zoo, etc.  If you are paying attention, it is magical.

Now let's be honest: a crying baby in public doesn't help anyone's mood.  Pretty much ever.  But I've noticed that when Kira is happy in her stroller, the people around us are happy, too.  People who were walking by with frowns, looking harried, will stop for just a moment to smile at my daughter.  In restaurants, neighboring diners brighten when they see Kira chewing on a roll or practicing her "ma da la ba da."  Her smile has the power to alter the worst moods.

Is it her innocence, her cuteness?  Or is it the innate happiness she exudes (except at nap time)?  I wish I had her ability to be so absolutely, completely happy.  So in the moment.  Rest, a full stomach, and a nice stroller ride with new sights to see--these are enough for her.  In that instant, Kira probably isn't thinking about getting a new toy or outfit or about what kind of cereal she'll have for lunch.  She is just happy to be in that place at that time with her physical needs met.

Maybe when adults and older children stop to smile at her, they are picking up on that magical, pure happiness.  Babies remind us of hope, innocence, and joy for a reason.

Maybe we could all learn from a happy baby in a stroller.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Gyms Are for Moms, Too

When I was younger, I hated going to the gym.  Treadmills were boring, weight machines confounding.  I tried to go many times, but I inevitably quit.  But now that I'm a mom, I've found several reasons to love the gym.  Free childcare is only one of them.  :-)

Many of you know from my earlier posts that I have found being a stay at home mom sometimes unrelentingly lonely.  I adore my daughter, but day after day of being in the house alone with her starts to wear on me, especially considering she can't even talk yet.  Going to the gym is an excellent break in the monotony; it doesn't matter if I end up walking alone on a treadmill.  I'm surrounded by people, and I'm getting my body moving.  Working out is an excellent mood boost.  

It is incredibly invaluable for a mother to have an hour to herself.  If you've been thinking about joining a gym but feel insecure or doubtful, do it anyway!  We aren't going to lose that baby weight sitting on the couch, and people are not very likely to make fun of someone who is obviously trying to get healthier.  Find a gym with good childcare, and savor that hour of time to think, daydream, or plan.  Your baby will love seeing other children--and you might just find it helps to save your sanity!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Diaper Woes

Before Kira was born, I was convinced I would use Huggies Little Snugglers Diapers. They looked so cute and had the little cutout for her umbilical cord.  The only problem--they didn't work well for her.  I ended up going with the Pampers Swaddlers that the hospital used because they were wonderful for Kira.  They held up well and rarely leaked.  I even ordered the size 2-3 from Amazon so she could stay in them longer.  Although she could still fit into them now weight-wise, her increased activity has made it necessary to move to the next stage.

Unfortunately, so far I haven't found a diaper that works as well.  Pampers Cruisers are great when she's awake, but they leak at almost every nap.  The back is just not designed for a baby who likes to prop her legs up on the breathable bumper in her crib.  Huggies Little Movers work great at nap and bedtime because they have a gather at the back, but they have leaked on three different outings for no apparent reason.  I tell you, fellow parents, it's enough to drive me just a little crazy.

I guess my next try will be Target brand.  I've heard good things about them.  I'm still too intimidated to try cloth diapering, especially since my husband will then change zero diapers.  Guess we'll see how my next try goes.

(Disclaimer:  I was not paid by any diaper company for this post.  Darn it.  Alas, we had to pay for the above diapers.  But if any diaper company wants to send me some to try, I'll certainly post about it.  ;-)  I do have the Amazon Associate links, but there's no obligation to buy anything.)     

Friday, March 11, 2011

Eyes on Japan

I got up this morning ready to do my usual blog post.  But you know, as reports of the devastation in Japan plays in the background, I have a difficult time concentrating on the usual topics.  If you are not aware, a 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit off the Northeast coast of Japan.  Aside from earthquake damage, there was also a tsunami that wreaked havoc on their coast and is still heading toward North and South America, though tsunami waves are not expected to cause much damage here.

One of the first stories I saw on Yahoo has a collection of earthquake and tsunami footage.  Scary stuff!  It's one of those things that makes you want to hug your family close.  Whatever your religion might be, say a prayer for the people of Japan.  There are reports of hundreds of bodies from the tsunami alone.

If you are willing and able to donate, you can visit sites like the American Red Cross.  They also have a Facebook page with news and a place to donate.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What We Are Not

Okay, this has nothing to do with motherhood, which tends to be one of my main themes, but it was inspired by my last post.  Remember when I said that things are defined not just by what they are but also what they aren't?  Ever since, I've been wondering--what are the implications of that?  How deeply does that shape our world?

Though this could easily get political, I'm going to try to keep it neutral.  I could write an entire post alone about how I don't fall into any of the popular political categories, but I'll spare you unless it is requested by popular demand.  :)  But think about this for a moment: Could the us vs. them mentality sweeping the United States at the moment be a sign of a people who are so completely confused about how to define themselves that they can only do so by announcing vehemently what they aren't?  Is our country in a definition war?

This can be applied on a much smaller scale, which is probably a good idea if I want to avoid politics.  Think about high school--the jocks vs goths vs geeks vs whatever.  Think about the angry mom forum debates over things like breastfeeding and vaccinations.  It seems to me that a great deal of the arguing and attacks in such cases are really a way for insecure people to define themselves.  I actually touched on that a bit in one of my first posts (Motherhood: The New Competitive Sport).  What point is there in attacking another person's lifestyle choice except as a way to make yourself feel better because you are not that?

We must be honest when we ask ourselves--does that person's decision affect me?  No?  Then why do I feel the need to attack them for it?  If you are truly confident about yourself and have defined without doubt who you are, then there is no need to rant at a mom who chooses to feed her baby another way or to tease a fellow classmate who wears black.  Such teasing is a way to set yourself apart, to make it clear that you are not part of that group.  If the core of who you are can be changed by associating with someone different, then you need to take a look at how you have defined yourself. 

So what do you think?  Do you sometimes define yourself in such a way?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Linguistics for Babies

You know, for a person like me who loves all things related to linguistics (except for William Foley, whose horrible writing skills have forever scarred me), watching a baby learn language is a rare and amazing opportunity.  Okay, okay, it is a rare and amazing experience for every parent, but I can't help but examine this with the fascination of a linguist as well as the wonder of a mother.  How can a human go from "bababababa" to writing dissertations, novels, or articles?  No one really teaches us language.  The amount of deductive reasoning required  is, if you stop to think about it, quite boggling.

At seven and a half months, Kira is just starting to really exhibit signs of comprehension.  As a really small baby, she would try to mimic sounds without any understanding.  She would try to repeat "good girl" and "I love you," but it was obvious that she didn't know what she was saying.  Around four months, she went practically silent for 2-3 weeks.  Then, she starting practicing in her crib.  We would hear "bababa" and eventually "dadada" over the baby monitor, but she refused to repeat it around us.  Until one day, she yelled "dadadada" triumphantly while playing in the living room.  Apparently, she likes to practice in secret.

Kira loves the song "If You're Happy and You Know It" and would get super excited every time we clapped.  It didn't take her long to learn to join us.  Within a week of first clapping to the song, she would clap every time she heard the song.  I was amazed, though, when she learned to clap when I asked "Can you clap your hands?"   

What is even more fascinating is watching her learn doesn't mean clap. Should she clap for any song or any phrase that starts with "can you.."?

At first, it seems like a simple error or that maybe she doesn't really understand, but when you pay attention, it becomes obvious that she is trying to narrow down the meaning in a similar way to how we learn to classify objects (i.e. a cat has four legs, a long tail, and pointy ears, but so do some dogs.  We have to narrow down the criteria to differentiate between the two).  For instance, I started to sing "Bingo" to her and she clapped.  She didn't get the same response from me as when she claps to the other song, so the next time I sang "Bingo," she did not clap.  She learned that singing in general does not mean "clap".  She clapped when I asked "Can you kick your feet?"  I moved her feet the next few times I asked until she started kicking instead of clapping at the question.  With each of these interactions, she learned to narrow down the meaning of what I say.

If you think about it, it really comes down to this: In order to understand what something is, we have to know what it isn't.  A cat isn't just defined by having four legs and a long tail and by meowing for attention; it is also defined by the fact that it doesn't bark, have floppy ears, neigh, or eat grass.  These are things that we must all learn to reason out for ourselves, though others may help us.

Isn't language an amazing thing?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Shop Link Up Party

A quick word for my fellow crafters: Remodelaholic has a "For Sale By Owner 40, Shop Link Up Party" going on.  This is basically a place for crafters who work at home to place a link to their shop.  So far as I can tell, the only thing you need to do is go to this site and refer them via your blog.

The more the merrier!  Here's hoping we can get some new business.  :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chocolate Bars, Attempt One

Recently, I decided to eliminate excessively-processed foods from my diet.  If it comes mostly from a box or if I can't pronounce the ingredients, then I'm avoiding it.  Since I know that I will probably have some trouble with this, I do allow 1-2 exceptions per week.  But the thing is, I love chocolate; unfortunately, there are also a lot of additives in most chocolate bars, like PGPR (Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate), which falls under the "unpronounceable ingredient" category.  What's a girl to do?

Experiment, of course!  I bought a bar of unsweetened baker's chocolate and melted it in a crock pot.  Then I blended in honey and milk until I had a yummy, dark chocolate concoction.  I also added coconut, though walnuts or almonds would have been equally wonderful.  I poured the chocolate into a bar-shaped mold I bought and put it in the refrigerator.  Ingredient list?  Chocolate, honey, whole milk.  That's it.

The only problem is that it didn't want to set.  The consistency turned out to be more like fudge, which isn't really a problem if you only care about the taste.  But the taste... So. Unbelievably. Good.

I'm thinking that next time I'm going to try using a combination of honey and unrefined sugar in the hopes that it will set more like a chocolate bar.  I'll let you know how it turns out!