Author Archive

A Day in the Life of a Mom (Pin It!)

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

While media reports of “mommy wars” between working mothers and at-home moms rage on, Parents teamed with Quester, a research company in Des Moines, Iowa, to find out what moms really think of one another. Among the findings: 62 percent of survey respondents said that the moms they know are mostly supportive of one another. Perhaps that stems from the common ground that mothers, working or at home, share. Check out some of the most frequently cited terms that came up from moms in our survey when describing their days. (And pin it on Pinterest!) Read the story, “Calling a Truce in the Mommy Wars,” in the August issue of Parents, for more survey results!

mom wars diagram

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“That’s Not Our Baby!” Have You Ever Walked Off With the Wrong Kid?

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Yesterday I was packing up the mass assortment of towels and toys that’s standard for a family expedition to the local pool, while my husband chased our 20-month-old daughter around the nearby kiddie spray-ground, and my two older kids pleaded with me for snacks. I was almost done (with the packing and the begging), and gave my husband, Dan, the “ready-to-roll” signal.

Just as I stuffed the last pair of goggles inside a bag, I looked up to see my husband approaching with our daughter held out in front of him, face-forward, like an offering, her green bathing suit dripping and her blond curls tousled and wet. She clutched a plastic blue measuring cup in her hand, but wait…. That’s not her suit. And that’s not…her. I sprung from my knees.

“Dan!” I cried. “That’s not our baby!”

My husband turned the toddler in his arms around. She had a slightly confused but otherwise content look on her face, and he might have introduced her to her first expletive as he hustled her back from whence she came (just a few yards, really) and set her down beside her father, who was standing by our blonde daughter in her green suit, and holding a matching blue cup. (Hate to say it, but that dad hadn’t seemed to notice the switcheroo either!)

This is one of those moments you can lord over your spouse for awhile, right? It reminded me of a news item we caught together years ago: a woman had accidentally driven her car off of a ferryboat. The woman was fine, but we wondered how she survived her marriage. We predicted she was automatically on the losing end of every spat forevermore. “You think I should load the dishwasher your way? Um, whatever. You drove the car off the ferry.” This toddler-swapping incident might be the trump card that I could pull out of my pocket when I needed it. “You don’t like the way I did the food shopping, eh? Well all I have to say to that is… That’s not our baby.”

But nah…. Dan’s a great dad, we had a good laugh together, and that was it. While I haven’t physically walked off with another child, yet, after three children and years of sleep deprivation and all the other craziness that comes with raising kids, I’m probably capable myself. Haven’t you ever absentmindedly patted the head of a small child you assumed to be yours clutching your leg, only to look down, meet her gaze, and in a moment right out of Blueberries for Sal, you both realized, “Hey, you’re not mine?” I have.

So have you, or your husband, ever walked, strolled, or maybe even driven away (!) with someone else’s child?

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Would You Tell Your Kid to Quit School if He Hated It?

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

High school hallwayThis morning I opened my New York Times to a front-page story about the dotcom billionaire of the moment: David Karp, the twentysomething founder of Tumblr, which he’s selling to Yahoo this week for a fat chunk of change.

I expected to read a now-familiar story: socially awkward, hoodie-wearing kid holes up in his room with computer and a great idea, changes the face of the Internet landscape, goes on to collect his billions. I was expecting to read that Karp had dropped out of college, too, a la Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

Karp didn’t go to college. He didn’t even finish high school. But here’s the real kicker: His mother told him to drop out.

According to the Times, Karp’s mom, seeing that her son was bored with his studies at prestigious Bronx High School of Science, suggested he leave high school and be home-schooled instead. He was 14.

“I saw him at school all day and absorbed all night into his computer,” Karp’s mom, Barbara Ackerman, told the Times. “It became very clear that David needed the space to live his passion. Which was computers. All things computers.” After Karp dropped out of Bronx Science, he spent a lot of time working at MTV, building a website that went on to be acquired by Google for $50 million.

Speaking for myself, my family and I have pretty much built our lives around our kids’ education. My husband and I commute far to work, we pay too many taxes, and live in a small house, all to send our kids to good schools. These were choices we were all too happy to make, because we value our three children’s education. Even though things obviously worked out quite nicely for Ackerman’s son, I wonder if I was faced with the challenge of raising a child who was being underserved by the traditional education model, if I’d have the courage to tell my kid to give it up, and follow his true passion.

My three children still have a way to go before the high school years and making their billions of dollars (har). But this story got me thinking, and I’m sure it’s got you thinking, too: If your kid was clearly understimulated at school, would you make a move as bold as Karp’s mother did, and suggest he simply…leave?

Image: High school hallway via Shutterstock.

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When Bad Things Happen to Bloggers You Love

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Gavin Chasing RainbowsThis isn’t an easy post to write. And it won’t be an easy post to read.

But I hope you’ll read it, because it’s about a blogger who’s special to us here at Parents.

Kate Leong, a mother who writes the blog Chasing Rainbows, was catapulted into a parent’s worst nightmare a few days ago. On April 10 she posted this short, urgent update on her blog’s Facebook page:

“Gavin went into cardiac arrest and is being choppered to DuPont. It’s very grave. Please pray.”

Those of us who have been following the blog and Kate’s Facebook updates sent prayers, strength, and positive thoughts for Gavin’s recovery. The love that poured in from many who don’t know Kate, and knew nothing about her even a few short days ago, would be enough to restore even the most cynical observer’s faith in the human race’s capacity for kindness and compassion.

I’ve never met Kate. But in some small way, I feel like I know her. I became acquainted with Kate through our magazine’s annual Blog Awards contest, for which I’m the editor. Kate’s blog, “a mommy’s quest to make the impossible possible,” was a finalist in the category “Most Likely to Have You Reaching for the Tissues.” She had the support of fellow co-finalist Momastery blogger Glennon Doyle Melton, who believed in Kate’s blog so much that Glennon encouraged her readers to go vote for Kate.

Kate was surprised she’d been nominated, and so excited to be selected as a finalist. Chasing Rainbows didn’t win, but on the Friday after the votes were in, Kate wrote me the most gracious email. She thanked Parents for including her in the contest. It brought her many letters of support, referrals, and suggestions in her efforts to get help for Gavin, who Kate said remained undiagnosed and whose multiple health problems were “a mystery to everyone but God.” As Kate modestly wrote, before the exposure of the contest, her blog had had “a good little following.” But she’d never felt the need to promote it. The competition, she said, gave her the push to do just that.

While Chasing Rainbows didn’t claim the very top honor, Gavin, she said, was the real winner. Kate wrote: “One day, when he’s no longer a mystery, I will drive to Parents’s offices and introduce you to him so we can thank you in person.”

Yesterday, on April 14th, Gavin David Leong died. He was 5 1/2 years old.

He died on his mother’s birthday.

Those of us who were following Kate’s updates last week knew this was coming. Kate had told us the fight was over. A picture on the Chasing Rainbows Facebook page of Kate lying in a hospital bed beside Gavin, looking lovingly at her gravely ill son, unconscious and his eyes parted, is an image that will likely haunt me for the rest of my life. Through the horror (does any other word suffice?) of it all, Kate never stopped blogging, and in her words and pictures, she brought us a window in real time onto an experience that no one should ever, ever have to suffer: losing a child.

Last Friday, after I closed Kate’s Facebook page, left work, and headed home, I thought about that sweet email to Parents from Kate, which expressed such hope and optimism for Gavin. She’d sent it only last month.

That evening, I was filling the tub for my 1 ½-year-old. She was pulling bath toys off a nearby shelf, and enjoying watching them splash into the water. Rubber duck. Shark. Cup. My mind wandered to Kate again, and to Gavin. And to his brother Brian, and his father, Ed. I thought about the terrible pain Kate’s already endured as a mother, as readers of her blog know, and how really, really unfair life can be. And my heart began to race, I felt sweat at my temple, and I had to catch my breath. A casual observer might have said I was having something akin to an anxiety attack. But later, I was able to recognize the feeling, because I’d had it before: sitting in the waiting room at a famous cancer hospital, long after all the treatments and prayers for a friend’s recovery were over, after the goodbyes had been said, and we were just waiting.  Waiting for the inevitable to happen.

The feeling was helplessness.

When you irrationally say to no one listening, Make it stop. Just make it stop.

Why do bloggers affect us so much?

They’re not our family. They’re not our friends.

Certainly, what we feel for someone we know and love is not the same as what we feel for a person we’ve never met.

But that’s the thing about blogs: They affect us because they generously invite us in. Bloggers share many parts of themselves, their families, dreams, hopes. We feel a connection that transcends the barrier of a screen monitor. And when a blogger you like is suffering in a way you could have never imagined, and you’re watching that pain unfold post by post, picture by picture, it hurts because it almost feels like it’s happening to a friend. Because in a way, after reading dozens or hundreds of their posts, you do know them, maybe even better than you know some of your “real-life” friends. When a child dies, it hardly matters if you’ve been acquainted with that mother’s circumstances for years or since last week. You hurt deeply for her.

As one woman on Facebook posted to Kate, reflecting a sentiment that was repeated over and over: “We don’t know each other, but my heart is with you and your whole family.”

People often lament the breakdown of community in our society. And therein lies the power and beauty of the blogging world: In a few days, Kate’s fan base and support network grew from hundreds to thousands. Her fellow bloggers rallied around her, as did an ever-growing army of caring strangers. In the past few days, I’ve been receiving thoughtful emails from other bloggers in our contest, wanting to tell me about Kate, and Gavin.

They feel like they knew them, too.

To honor Gavin’s memory, Kate is asking for this:

“I have a special project that ANYONE can do—that can be FREE—and would be the best birthday present you can give me…. I’m asking you to help someone… document it with words and or a photo… and place it on the Chasing Rainbows Facebook Page. Then be sure to check the page often to get inspired by the outpouring of love.”

Will you help someone?

For Gavin, and for Kate?

Photo: Gavin via Chasing Rainbows Facebook Page

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6 Reasons We Have a Crush on Momastery’s Glennon Doyle Melton

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

We loved meeting Momastery blogger and brand-new author Glennon Doyle Melton when she dropped by Parents’s offices recently to talk about her new book, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, which went on sale today, and to tell us more about her online fundraising mission Monkee See — Monkee Do.

Just as appealing in person as she is online, Glennon’s like your favorite girlfriend: game to talk about anything, unafraid to take chances, and refreshingly honest about her past and present struggles. Plus while Glennon’s a blog-world rock star, she’s still a busy, multitasking mom like the rest of us. (Via her cellphone from New York, she was helping husband Craig find the girls’ leotards back home for gymnastics.) Among the many reasons we were instantly smitten:

1. She’s refreshingly unselfconscious: ”There are tons of things I do that I’m horrible at, like dancing. I mean, painfully bad. Singing? Horrific! But they make me happy. These are things we’re just made to do, and telling our stories, even if we don’t think of ourselves as writers, is one of them.”

2. She’s a great listener: ”I spend half my day reading stories from women—I get tons every day. People just have amazingly complicated and beautiful lives. And that’s one of my favorite parts of my job: reading other people’s stories. That’s my safe place, my adventure place, and where I get to know other people.”

3. She’s wise about toxic people: “I was reading some of my criticism recently, which I’m not allowed to do—my sister even sneaked into my computer to block some of the websites that criticize me!—but I do anyway. And there was this website and they said, ‘She was a total drunk, and she’s overly dramatic, and she only got married because she was pregnant.’ And I called my sister to complain and she said, ‘But that’s all true.’ And I said… ‘You’re right! I should not be upset about this!’ My sister says everyone comes to a party to have a good time or to fight. There are going to be people who come to your party to fight.”

4. She says things others won’t: “When I began Momastery, I was feeling very isolated at the time, and I wanted to see if others were feeling the same things I was feeling. We think it’s safer to stay on the surface of things, to talk about our jobs or our husbands or our kids’ temperaments—we think those things are safe, but I think those things actually isolate us more, because those surface things are different for everyone, and can make you feel alone. But the deeper things we talk about, like our fears and joys: Those things are universal. When we do go to those places, we end up feeling less alone.”

5. She’s classy: (Glennon and Craig recently separated.) ”Talking about separation doesn’t have to be trashy. It doesn’t have to be one person pitted against another.”

6. She totally inspires us: “Just a few weeks ago we did a ‘love flash mob.’ Do you remember a few years ago when everyone was doing flash mobs? I love those. I know it’s over, I know it’s like three-years-ago, but I still watch those, because it’s so…metaphor! One person starts dancing, then everyone starts dancing! That’s what I decided to do on the Internet and is the idea behind Monkee See — Monkee Do: I’m just going to start dancing, and then everyone else will start dancing. What I do is find a need in the community—usually it’s someone who’s reached out to me, and it takes us a long time to vet it and plan it—so recently when my book went to #4 in pre-orders on Amazon, I wanted to do something to express my gratitude. A woman in Indianapolis who ran a nonprofit for teen mothers had written me and essentially said: “We don’t have any money, and there’s no reason you’d help us, but these teenage moms having babies need help.” So we forged a relationship and they had some extra space in their home for another girl to come in, and had a teenage girl with a 4-month-old baby on the waiting list, but they didn’t have the state funding to have her. They needed $83,000. I asked if we raised it would she be able to move in, and the answer was yes. So we started a ‘love flash mob’ online: The rule is no one’s allowed to donate more than $25, because I want the single mom who is working her butt off and has just four extra dollars to feel as good about contributing as someone who can easily donate 25 dollars. In this case, five hours later we had $83,000—the average donation was 17 dollars, and there were tons of women giving five or six dollars.”

For more Glennon, be sure to check out her book!

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Young House Love Comes to Parents!

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

We were superexcited at Parents when two of our favorite bloggers–and first-time authors–John and Sherry Petersik of Young House Love dropped by for a visit this week to talk about their debut book.

They were so fun to chat with and to have around, we would’ve kept them here all afternoon, if they didn’t have a flight to catch home to their kids. Followers of the Petersiks’ wildly popular DIY home-improvement blog–it gets 5 million hits per month–know that would be almost 3-year-old daughter Clara and beloved Burger, their chihuahua. (Daughter and dog get featured on their parents’ lovely spinoff blog, Young House Life.) But we did have a chance to talk to Sherry and John about their house, their blogs, the book, Sherry’s hair, John’s favorite project, and having a J.Lo moment….

Congrats on the book. Beautiful cover! Did you have a hand in it?

Sherry: It was a total group baby. Originally the book wasn’t going to be called Young House Love. It was going to be called Spruce. The subtitle is “243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love,” and we thought it would be wrong to have “love” in the title and subtitle. But then we were told, “Everyone loves your blog, it should be called Young House Love!”

John: Those wood letters that spell “house” were actually hand-carved and are in our home now.

Sherry: We threw on those keys on the “e” at the last minute.

 

And cute picture of you two on the cover….

Sherry: At first we didn’t want to be on it…

John: …and to have to look at our faces at every signing.

Sherry: Yeah, it was more like we didn’t want to see our faces big on the front every time. But our shot is small and we’re very happy with it!

 

How does it feel to be authors?

John: Throughout this whole process I was so excited to say my book is in a library somewhere, and that someone can check it out. It still has an element of being surreal. It’s exciting because not everyone reads blogs, and it’s nice to be able to dip our toe in different waters.

 

Do you notice you have new readers now, thanks to the book?

John: We were just taking about this at lunch!

Sherry: Someone will say, “I got your book as a gift at Christmas, and now I’m reading your blog.” We’re like, “Oh weird—it’s backwards!” For so long it’s been people reading our blog. So it’s funny to hear people who went book-then-blog.

 

What’s your favorite project?

Sherry: We have the same favorite project. It’s number-one in our book. [The project: "Faux Wallpaper the Back of Your Bookcase."]

John: It was one of the first ones we came up with.

Sherry: It’s gift wrap! It’s so easy. You probably have gift-wrap in your house already. You could do this on a rainy afternoon without leaving the house. Or you can use fabric or wallpaper or posterboard or foamboard. It’s really wrap anything with anything.

John: I have another favorite, though. It was that desk I painted. That took a very long time.

Sherry: Oh yeah, John was the tapemaster with that one.

John (pointing to project in the book, “Paint a Graphic Pattern on a Desk”): These were all individually cut pieces of tape, so I’m pretty proud of that! I was excited about how that came out. We didn’t need that piece for the house, so It was fun to loosen the reins and do bold colors.

 

It seems you’ve gotten bolder with your design picks over the years.

John: Before Clara was born, before we were parents, we tried very hard to make our house look like a “grown-up house,” like because we’re 25-year-olds who have a house, we have to make sure you can’t tell!

Sherry: Everything was beige. The cream slipcovers with cream pillows and a tan rug and tan walls!

John: And when we had Clara we realized, OK, we don’t have to convince people any more we’re adults. That gave us a little more confidence to be more playful, to realize we have a child—let’s be fun for her. We don’t have to put up these airs anymore.

 

What are some of the biggest misconceptions you think people have about decorating?

Sherry: I think the general fear is you have to hire someone who knows what they’re doing, like “I need to hire a design consultant,” or a painter. It’s surprising to me when someone who’s been reading our blog for years says, “I’m going to hire a painter to paint my bathroom.” I’m so tempted to say, “Don’t you dare! It’s a bathroom! It’s small and you can do it!” And it takes everything in me not to say it. Ultimately, though, people need to do whatever’s in their comfort zone.

 

What’s one of the more surprising questions you’ve received?

Sherry: Someone asked me if I wear thongs!

 

Um. What?!

Sherry: When I was really pregnant, someone asked me! I said, “I’m going to plead the fifth on that.” And I get loads of questions on my bangs—why aren’t I wearing bangs?

 

You’ve overhauled two houses, have an almost three-year-old, the dog, the book, the blog. How are you so productive?

Sherry: The truth is we sleep much less than we should. The misconception of blogging is, “What a cakewalk, you work at home.” But it’s like working for a newspaper and you do it all yourself: Every day there’s another story due, and some days you have two stories due, but you don’t have a photographer so you shoot it yourself, you edit yourself because you don’t have an editor or proofreader, and because it’s on the Internet you answer questions indefinitely. I’m answering questions for posts that are three years old, every morning, and then I’ve got new questions. Then I also have to find time to do projects. So we do 90 percent of our projects when Clara’s napping or sleeping for the night–mostly when she’s sleeping for the night

John: Or sometimes I’ll get up before she gets up.

 

What time do you get to bed?

John: About midnight.

Sherry: Sometimes we’ll light a room at night like a stage, and paint it then collapse into bed at 1 or 2 in the morning.

John: This is the year we said we’d find more balance, but….

Sherry: We’re learning, to say no more. We realize we don’t need to take every single thing, every interview.

 

With readers feeling such a connection with you and expecting so much, how do you decide which parts of your life go on the blog, and what stays off?

John: I think that’s a line everyone draws differently. I think many readers would like to know more. We judge it on a case-by-case basis. If people want us to write about potty training, we will—but we’re not going to share pictures about it. We think about whether this is something that might embarrass Clara later down the road….

Sherry: Right, like when she’s 13! The Internet is forever. The best thing I ever came up with was when I was lying in bed one night is: Our blog is like a window on our house. We know we don’t have shades on it, and we know people look in there, but there are a whole bunch of other windows with shades on it, and that’s the life people don’t see. Like when a family member’s ill, or when we get the flu, or we’re doing our taxes—we don’t talk about everything. We have a real life behind the windows, and the same is true with Clara. When we show a 30-second video of Clara, that was 30 seconds of her whole day.

John: You missed the tantrum, and the bath, and the mealtimes…

Sherry: Right! Its not like her whole life is on the Internet. You saw a video of her singing her favorite song, or a picture of her on her birthday—you’re not seeing her whole life.

 

Do you get recognized in public?

John: Yes!

Sherry: Yes, but it’s funny. We’ll go to an event and 700 people will be lined up to see us, then we go around the block to a restaurant and nobody knows who we are! So it’s funny because one minute you’re like, “Wow, people are yelling our name! They want pictures with us!” It’s like a J. Lo moment! And then we get on the plane, and no one knows who we are…

John: …and you’re quickly brought down to earth!

Sherry: In certain settings, we’re setting ourselves up…

John: Yeah, like Target or Ikea or Home Depot….

Sherry: Those are our places!

 

Be sure to check out Young House Love for more details about YHL, the book.

Thanks for visiting Parents, Petersiks!

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In Defense of the Mom Who Put Her 7-Year-Old Daughter on a Diet

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

What is it like to have the whole world call you a bad mother?

Mom Dara-Lynn Weiss would know. Last year Weiss wrote about putting her obese 7-year-old daughter Bea on a strict diet, and posed with her, post-diet success, for the pages of Vogue. Weiss has now authored a slim memoir called The Heavy, out yesterday, about the experience. (The heavy is Weiss, who was the one to monitor Bea’s diet, and get tough when necessary.)

I’d read the Vogue article before I read the howling on the Internet over Weiss’s piece—she was called “abrasive,” “irrational,” “truly disgusting,” and a “monster,” among other things—and I was always sympathetic. Weiss’s story didn’t fit the profile of your “typical” overweight American family’s. She had served well-rounded dinners with healthy vegetables. She kept no junk food in her cupboards (which is more than I can say). And she reserved fast food for a semi-annual treat (ditto).

But the darling Bea, who was never content with the serving sizes that would satisfy her younger brother or other kids her age, gained weight at an alarming rate anyway. Weiss, who like many of her peers had had her own up-down relationship with weight and fad diets, freely admitted she was unprepared and ill-equipped to handle Bea’s obesity. Feeling discomfort about her daughter’s growing size but reluctant to say anything about it, Weiss chose silence instead, even after Bea’s pediatrician said it was time to get the 7-year-old’s 93 pounds under control.

The problem didn’t disappear, and sadly, Bea was starting to notice it, too, and began referring to herself as “fat,” in spite of reassurances from her parents that she was beautiful. Eventually Weiss chose a child-friendly, calorie-restricting plan that would give Bea the lifelong skills necessary to make judgment calls about which foods were indulgences, and which were healthier choices, without depriving Bea of treats altogether. It wasn’t always easy, and there are examples of interventions by Weiss that her (many) critics saw as excessive, even psychologically damaging, but Weiss was taking on a daunting task: helping a child lose weight in a world of doorstopper-size cupcakes.

Perhaps I felt for Weiss, and for Bea, in part because I recently struggled with weight myself. (Not surprisingly, Weiss writes that others who had been overweight as children confided that they wished their parents had done more to help them.) I’d read moving stories written by plus-size women about loving their bodies the way they are, and while I admired their self-acceptance, I’d never been able to feel that for myself. Besides the obvious worries about my health, being fat sucked. I felt uncomfortable, embarrassed, even sad about my weight. I wouldn’t want my daughters or my son to go through it, and Weiss’s book says what I and most parents I know would feel squeamish saying aloud: No one wants her child to have to struggle with being fat.

Like Weiss had done, I watch my language around my kids, having banished “fat” and “bad” from my vocabulary when we’re talking about food, doing whatever I can to help my daughters, now 7 and 1, in particular sidestep a painful path towards self-loathing or an eating disorder. But I admit I also don’t want my kids going down the road to obesity, and its social ostracism and disease. So I felt drawn to Weiss’s candor about childhood obesity, and I just plain old liked her for her admissions about having made some mistakes along the way. (Who hasn’t?) I winced for her after reading about the surprising amount of pain she felt from the (international!) criticism of her Vogue article, and her genuine regret about having allowed Bea to pose with her.

I know some will accuse Weiss of trying to profit from her daughter’s battle. But I found it eye-opening to read an honest, firsthand account from a parent willing to speak difficult truths about her family’s experience with childhood obesity.

It takes a lot of courage to bare your failures and frailties as a parent. Perhaps a few moms and dads who read Weiss’s memoir will walk away from it, as I did, with a more intimate understanding of what it’s like to raise a kid who struggles with weight.

And maybe we can all be a little less judgmental of the friend or neighbor we know whose kid is coping with one of the last taboos: the public, painful experience of childhood obesity.

For a different view, read why one writer and mother strongly disliked The Heavy: Mother Puts Daughter on Crazy Diet in “The Heavy’

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I Kept My New Year’s Resolution and Lost 80 Pounds

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

“Lose weight. Get fit. Do a triathlon.”

Those were among my new year’s resolutions last year, and for once, I accomplished them.

In hindsight, my goals for 2012 seem preposterous. I’d just given birth to my third child three months earlier. I was weary from sleep deprivation, carpooling duties, homework, laundry, slapping together meals, freelance work, and postpartum hormones. I didn’t have a lot of “baby weight” to lose, because I hadn’t gained much. It didn’t matter, though: I went into my third pregnancy already vastly overweight. I remember stepping on my ob-gyn’s scale that first visit after I learned I was pregnant again: I weighed 198 pounds. By the time I was ready to deliver, I weighed in at 220.

Through the miracles of birth and breastfeeding, by the time the new year rolled around (so to speak), I weighed 185 pounds, heavy by any definition but especially large on my 5’4″ frame. I posted only pictures of my kids on Facebook, and retreated from public view like Greta Garbo, if Garbo had been a puffy-faced mom and not a movie star.

After the new year, something clicked. I’d been committed to losing weight before, but as corny as it sounds, this time I had a mantra in mind, “This is your year,” and I just believed it. When I got roughly 30 pounds down, people really started to notice the change. Their kind words–and the thrill of clothes shopping–encouraged me to keep going, until I’d lost a total of 80 pounds: 45 of those through my own work and 35 due to delivery and nursing (thank you, my baby girl Fiona!). And just shy of my baby’s first birthday, I completed my first sprint triathlon.

People sometimes ask me how I lost weight and now seems like a good time to look back, as a handful of those pounds crept back on over the holidays and like a few of us here at Parents and well, everywhere, I’m on a kick again, getting up before dawn to exercise and deleting emails about free brownies in the office kitchen as fast as I can. (Trade secret: There is always free food when you work at a magazine!)

Here’s how I did it:

I gave myself infinite time to lose weight. There would be no crash diets or crazy schemes I couldn’t stick with for a long time. I needed a sensible approach with flexibility. For me that plan was Weight Watchers. I did it online.

I shook off setbacks. Sometimes, I ate more than I’d planned. There were weeks I’d lost only a half-pound, or nothing. I remembered my goal, and kept going.

I didn’t exercise right away. My past attempts at doing it all at once–dieting and hitting the gym–left me discouraged, and hungry. I focused exclusively on my food intake for a good six weeks, before I started feeling a little lighter, and felt encouraged to get moving. I walked my kids to school, and started jogging home with Fiona, just a few yards at a time at first, until I was running a mile, and then another, around the neighborhood.

But I did set a big fitness goal. That was a triathlon. I hadn’t laced up a pair of running shoes in years. I didn’t own a bike. But I had months to train. Think about it: What can’t you accomplish with months to prepare? I seized opportunities to exercise: If my husband met us in the evening at our outdoor community pool, he handled the kids while I swam laps. Sometimes I didn’t get to the gym until after 9pm, but I never regretted peeling myself off the couch to go.

I surrounded myself with crazy people. When you have a vision of yourself in mind–for me, it was “athlete”–it’s not the time to listen to skeptics wonder aloud how you’re going to fit in exercise between your baby/kids/commute/job. I hooked up with an awesome training group of crazy-in-a-good-way local women called the Triwomen. Why crazy? They believe anyone–that includes you–can do a triathlon. I met a 65-year-old who learned to swim just so she could compete in her first tri. Talk about inspiring!

I bought a bikini! I’d like to say I got fit for my health, and for my three kids. That’s true. But my happiest moment, second only to finishing the triathlon, arrived in the form of a Nike two-piece I bought for our beach vacation last summer. My body’s far from perfect, but in my new midnight-blue bikini I felt…good. I felt free playing in the ocean with my kids and husband, and boogie boarding to shore beside my son. I was healthy, happy, and for once, completely unselfconscious about how I looked. That tremendous high is motivation enough to keep me on track this coming year.

In 2013, I plan to run a half-marathon, another reach, considering I hadn’t run more than 4 miles at a stretch in all of 2012. But with the help of (crazy) committed friends, time, and training, I know I’ll get there.

Good luck with your goals, whatever they may be. This is your year!

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