The Power of Downtime

This post is not so much about me and my downtime (which I could use more of), but about my guilt regarding my son’s lack of extracurricular activities.

I kept my son fairly active in preschool. He participated in soccer classes, t-ball, swimming, day camps, etc… Once he started kindergarten, it stopped. My reasoning was that I wanted to see how he would do in school before I signed him up for anything extra. I didn’t want him to be overstimulated and tired.

4 months into school, he’s doing fine and is now back in the swing of things after Winter Break. The first day back, We received a sheet from Afterschool Cornucopia listing several activities for his age range. I asked him in the car if he was interested in any of them and he said decidedly said “No.” I chose not sign him up for anything because I didn’t want to spend $150+ dollar on a class that he wasn’t really going to enjoy (he could have ended up really liking it, but I just didn’t feel like taking the chance).

So now I have the guilt. I don’t have him involved in any weekend activities either, mainly because that is my downtime and I just don’t feel like scurrying about on my days off. I figured that my son will request his own activities soon enough and I can scurry about then, but now I just want to rest while everyone else is taking their kids to soccer.

Now, I’m not a total sloth. We’ll meet friends for play dates, go to the playground (and get my workout in ;)), go for a swim, play countless games of Candyland…but it’s all done in leisure. Yet I still feel guilty.

I feel like I’m putting my needs before his, but I have to remember that he’s still 5 years old and his downtime is important as well. He’ll have plenty of time to pursue his interests, we don’t have to do it all right now.

My IBS Story

This topic is about poop and bowel movements, just warning if you decide to read on, but it is a subject that has taken over my life for the last couple of months. We have all suffered from gastrointestinal ailments in our lifetime, whether it is a mild upset stomach or a full blown bout of gastroenteritis. I think we can all agree that problems involving your digestive tract are no walk in the park. Well, here is my story.

Shortly after I had my son (5 years ago), I started suffering from constipation. I didn’t think anything of it, just chalked it up to not eating enough fiber and needing to up my fluid intake. I had bouts of queasiness, constipation, diarrhea, you name it, especially during that time of the month. The problem persisted and after a couple of years, I mentioned it to my doctor. She would recite the routine talking points about getting enough exercise, eating fiber and drinking water. That it. I thought it was bullshit because I did all those things and it didn’t help, though my diet wasn’t as good as it should have been. Nevertheless, I became more strict with my diet and exercise routine.I became almost militant, yet despite this, I was gaining weight – all in my belly. I wondered how could have lean muscular legs and arms, yet, have this flabby, bloated middle, but, again, I chalked it up to the “abs are made in the kitchen” mentality (which isn’t untrue). I was unwilling to further refine my diet at this point. I was tired, I was stressed and I was baffled at my new body shape – I never had this body type before, I usually gained in the hips, not in the midsection. My own clothes started fitting differently on my body and it depressed me. Why was this happening? At this point, I had enough and thought all my hard work was a waste of time.

The situation took a turn for the worse in September, on my son’s first day of Kindergarten. My husband and I were rushing around all morning and now it was time for him to go to work. We had approximately 1/2 hour to eat before he had to leave, so we decided on an unhealthy option, McDonald’s. Right before I entered the restaurant, I felt queasy. I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich and it wasn’t sitting well with me at all. I thought it was because I hadn’t eaten fast food in awhile, but deep down, I knew that wasn’t it. When I got home a few minutes later, I was on the toilet. At this point, I was certain I had a bout of the stomach flu that was circulating around my office. Funny thing about this is that this particular “flu” didn’t go away. After a couple of days, my abdomen came very distended and uncomfortable making it hard for me to eat. After a week, I was at the doctor asking what the hell was going on. I got the usual spiel about gastroenteritis and to give it time, which I did, but I was getting progressively worse instead of better. I had pretty severe pain in the left side of my abdomen accompanied by spasm. It almost felt like a baby kicking, but when you know that there isn’t a baby in there…it’s not a warm and fuzzy feeling. I kept my diet bland because if my tummy had to do any work, it was like World War III was taking place in there.

Ultrasounds, CT Scans and numerous blood test didn’t show anything abnormal. That floored me, I was at my wits end. My digestive system was paralyzed. I hadn’t had a bowel movement in 7 days, yet everything was somehow normal. I tried taking probiotics and laxatives, but my stomach would laugh at me. I wasn’t laughing back. My abdomen became even more distended, to the point where no one would question me parking in the “Expectant Mothers” parking. (No, I never did that!) One doctor finally prescribed me a major amount of laxatives. That worked, but the pain persisted and my bowel movements were accompanied by blood (due to hemorrhoids, which most likely became inflamed when I was pregnant, but were now super noticeable under my present condition.)

My doctor finally gave me a blanket diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome with internal hemorrhoids. She said that I needed to reduce my stress level. My reaction to this was “How in the world am I, a working mom, that was to battle a horrible Los Angeles commute, get my son to school, go to work, pick up my son, battle the commute home and then once home have to do EVERYTHING since my husband works most evenings…Just how the heck am I supposed to “reduce my stress level?” Like it’s just that easy. As if! 😉

Well, I had to find a way. My first step was accepting that my situation wasn’t going to change and that I just had to go with the flow. This isn’t always easy, but believe it or not, it helps. My 2nd step was making sure I was taking breaks at work. I now get up every hour, just to stretch. At least twice a day, I’ll go into our quiet room (We are blessed enough to have one) and do 15 minutes of yoga. I also take a 20 minute walk in the afternoon. During these times, I try to focus on my breathing and to make sure I’m really getting into a relaxed zone.

I also changed my outlook on exercise. Working out is something I did to stay healthy and in shape. It wasn’t something I did to actually “relax,” so in essence, my workouts were stressful. I had a slotted amount of time to do a cardio sculpt or zumba class, but in the back of my mind I knew I had to get home to get my son bathed and tucked in to bed. I would hit the beach to play volleyball, but I didn’t allow myself to fully enjoy what I was doing, because I knew I had work waiting for me at home. I have incorporated more yoga into my routine without worrying about what my heart rate monitor is reading and how many calories I’m burning. I also do more workouts from home, so I don’t have to worry about the clock, and having enough time for making dinner. 🙂 Of course, working out at home does provide some challenges and distractions, but it is working for me right now. At this point, I have added a bit more intensity to my routine, through workouts now that I’m feeling a bit more zen.

I also made changes to my diet. The main thing was adding the right balance of fiber to my meals. I aim for at least 30 grams of fiber a day and I try to balance the soluble (rice, squash) and insoluble (beans, berries, raisins) fiber with each meal. At first, I had cut out wheat and dairy, but I didn’t have major issues when introducing them back into my diet, but I eat them sparingly, especially refined breads. I consume a tablespoon of whole psyllium husk in water or a protein shake twice a day. This provides me with more soluable fiber and also regulates my blood sugar, which keeps me satiated throughout the day. I drink 64 ounces, minimum, of water. This was a tough one for me before, but now I’m keeping myself in check. (I’ll get more into diet specifics in another post)

With all these changes, I feel better. However, this is a long recovery process, so I’m not going to worry about how I look or how fast the weight is coming off. I just want to be as healthy as possible on every level – physically, emotionally and spiritually. This whole ordeal has taught me that the stomach/brain connection is no joke, that I don’t have to carry the world on my shoulders, that I need to be aware of my state of consciousness and not get trapped in illusion and toxicity. I need to be me and I need to be happy being me.

It’s my Party and I’ll cry if I want to…

I’ve never been much of a party person. I don’t handle large crowds very well. I start to get grouchy if I’m the least bit uncomfortable. This does change after a couple of drinks, I hear I can be pretty fun, but then it ends badly. 😉 I don’t know if this is because I grew up an only child, isolated in my own fortress of solitude, getting spoiled by my parents day in and day out. I have plenty of cousins and spent lots of time with them, but ultimately, I went home and had “me” time whenever I needed it. I enjoy my alone time and feel that it energizes me. Being around more than 5 people is draining (not that I’m having a terrible time, but I just find it energy sapping). My husband is the opposite of me, he thrives off being social and finds it invigorating.

My parents were pretty good at hosting parties. Our parties mainly involved family I had some pretty memorable ones as a little girl. That pretty much ended when my grandmother died on my 7th birthday. It was hard for me to handle for a myriad of reason. My Grandmother lived pretty far away from me, so I didn’t feel particularity close to her, but  did have memories (which I cherish) of her. It was really hard to see my family deal with the news of her passing, and then in subsequent years, having to deal with the fact that my birthday was no longer a day of celebration.  With time, came understanding, but that is no consolation for an 8 year old that wanted to blow out candles on a birthday cake instead of spending a couple of hours in church praying the rosary.

Needless to say, the parties went on hiatus in our household for quite some time. My next party was in my teens. My parents invited a bunch of my closest friends from 9th grade to go out and have dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I was really excited! My friends arrived and we were ready to go. We hopped in the car and my parent drove straight to church so we could pray for my grandmother. This didn’t go over well at first, I was mortified (comes with the age, what can I say?) and my friends were confused,  but we were there had to deal with it. Once we got the the restaurant, we had pleasant time, but I made sure that was the last party my parents planned for me. Again, I love my grandmother, but it was just hard for me to deal with.

Once I had my son, I thought that I would plan lots of parties for him. I had great memories of my parties when I was little and my husband has some wonderful pictures of his mom’s custom made cakes back in the day. I wanted that for our son. Once I got to planning his first birthday, I felt clueless Perhaps, because I was :). I felt like I was planning a mini-wedding, by myself, with no wedding planner to help me (How mortifying, I know [/sarcasm]). The party went well, but I felt stressed out the whole time. Perhaps the fact that I had the soiree at my parents house made me stressed. We live in a condo and having 50+ people there just doesn’t work. There is a nice pool area, but that doesn’t help us in March unless all our guests are from Siberia and would consider the pool water warm, but I digress. Even for the small get-togethers we have in our home, I’m stressed if the guest count goes above a certain threshold. It’s just me and my weird social phobias that I have to deal with…

So, after my son’s first birthday, it’s been about going to Disneyland and avoiding the Party. I thought everything was going swimmingly until my son asked for a big party for this 5th birthday this year. I couldn’t say no. Number 5 is a milestone birthday in my book, so I wanted to make the party somewhat memorable.  I scoured the internet for cute “Dinosaur Train” party ideas, and while I didn’t get everything planned the way I wanted it, I think I did a damn fine job. Socializing wasn’t my strong point yet again,  so I found it hard to relax and enjoy the moment, but I think our guests had a good time and our son thoroughly enjoyed his party.  My husband had a great time too. 🙂

Here are a couple of pictures that I loved:

I found these adorable dino toppers on the A Baked Creation blog and thought that they were too cute not to use. I looked to for a fondant artist and found Crafty Rosy. She was willing to create the toppers for me and as you can see, she did a wonderful job. The kids loved them, they were practically tackling each other to get a cupcake after we sang “Happy Birthday!” 🙂

I also found these through Etsy:

I thought they were too cute to pass up.  They are from Cherished Blessings at Etsy. There were a few squabbles about which character they could get, one character was more popular than the others, but it wasn’t a big deal. The mask were from Oriental Trading Company.

Thank you for enduring my practically never ending ramblings on parties. I’m surprised you made it this far. I appreciate your patience. 😉