|I swear this is not ALL mine!
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|I swear this is not ALL mine!
I'm just going to assume this is already on your playlist.
2.Say Hey (I Love You) - Michael Franti & Spearhead
Every time I hear this song, I smile. I smile and I dance. If I'm driving, I smile and I bounce around in my seat a lot. If you don't own it already, go to iTunes and download it immediately. I'll wait.
3. YMCA - Village People
Not only is it great for kids to learn how to turn themselves into letters, but it's a mandatory social skill that wedding guests be able to participate in this song. So, if you don't teach them this song, you're putting them at a distinct disadvantage and I know you don't want to do that. (I leave the Chicken Dance, the Macarena and the Bunny Hop to your discretion, however).
4. Mambo Italiano - Rosemary Clooney
I love to sing along while I dance and this song is perfect for that. At two years old, my daughter knew to end this song by saying, "That'sa Nice!" It was one of my proudest mommy moments.
5. Grease re-mix - Olivia Newton John & John Travolta
Not only does this bring back wonderful college memories of being sloppy drunk off cheap keg beer and dancing with your girlfriends but it's just fun for everyone.
6. Car Wash - Rose Royce
I kinda love disco (shh!) and this one's great because little kids can have lots of fun pretending to wash cars while they dance.
7. Hips Don't Lie - Shakira
Go ahead and shake those hips like you've got rhythm.
8. Celebration - Kool & The Gang
Again, Wedding Guest 101.
9. Philadelphia Freedom - Elton John
Perfect for running around the house, while alternating fist pumps in the air. If you have short shorts and knee-high tube socks, even better. How much do you love Elton?! He's the best and he's the best in concert. I once won tickets to see him at Madison Square Garden - I died. To quote Rachel Zoe, Literally, I died.
10. Dancing Queen - ABBA
Trust me - nothing will make your heart happier than watching your daughter dance around the house, singing "I'm a dancing queen."
11. Mamma Mia - ABBA
This is a great way to reinforce the message that Mamma's are awesome and that kids should never let them go. Little ones don't listen to the verses, so all they'll get out of this is the important message that kids should love their mamma's forever - and what's not to love about that?!
12. Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) - Beyonce
There are enough viral videos out there of kids jamming to this song that I don't need to elaborate.
13. Dancing in the Dark - Bruce Springsteen
Get your 80's on with the decade's famous head bob going and side, step together action. Swing your hands, snap your fingers and you're all set.
14. Friday - Glee Cast
Hate on it all you like, this song begs to be danced to. Plus, you're dancing with your kids in the kitchen, you're well past the point of trying to impress anyone.
15. Proud Mary - Ike & Tina Turner
You've got the hand-rolling motion, followed by the jogging in place, then throwing your hands up in the air, action. It's all good.
16. Let Me Entertain You - Robbie Williams
As is evidenced by my love of the Grease re-mix, I love it when I can point my finger in sweeping gestures while dancing and this song is perfect for that. Plus, Robbie Williams just doesn't get the love here that he deserves. He is pop-tastic.
It seems that for most of the 90's and the early 2000's, the vast majority of us began to believe and embrace the Sex & The City-style consumerism that now seems somewhat dated. As we watched shows like S&TC, it began to seem reasonable that an average, middle-class woman should buy (and could afford) a pair of $500 Manolo Blahniks. Watching shows like Flip that House, it seemed that we could all make a mint buying, renovating and selling real estate. Financial prosperity was here and everybody was riding high. Even if we weren't riding all that high, it seemed like we should be and likely would be very soon.
When I graduated from college in 2000, I moved to New York. I set up an appointment with a head hunter and arrived at her office wearing my first suit. She told me how glad she was to have a candidate come in who was poised and had a proper resume put together. Before I left her office, she'd arranged a temp job for me and within two weeks, I had three job offers. One college degree and one internship to my name and I had my choice of jobs. How could I not believe the good times would never end?! Everyone else seemed to believe it too.
I was hired at a law firm as a paralegal along with a couple of other recent college grads. Within just a few months, we all received raises. Life was good and would only get better. While I never lived beyond my means, I certainly dreamed beyond them. I dreamed that I'd somehow save up and "invest" in an Hermes Kelly bag, for a cool $15,000. This never happened given how ridiculously far out of reach that purchase was, but given the popularity of the "Confessions of a Shopaholic" series, I know I wasn't alone in my dreams of being a young gal in a big city, donning designer duds.
11 years and a Great Recession later and this all seems so -- gross. Last weekend, my husband and I finally watched The Company Men, starring Ben Affleck. While it was a bit trite at the end, it clearly represented what's gone on in our country. We were all advised to buy the most house we could afford, based on the idea that housing values would always rise and we'd likely continue to make increasingly higher salaries. In the opening scenes of the movie, it showed perfectly appointed homes, stocked with every stainless steel appliance and electronic toy its owner could (or perhaps, couldn't) afford. Of course, like many Americans, he got laid off and lost everything from his house to his golf club membership.
While I've contemplated my relationship with consumerism before, somehow this movie has really made me re-examine not just my individual motives as a consumer, but our society's relationship with consumerism as well. While I recognize that our economy's largely dependent on our consumeristic habits, I can't help but wonder how we all got so off-course. How did we come to a place where everything has a brand-name version of it that we all aspire to? From jeans to candles, from Sub-Zero to Wolf appliances, things that were once reasonably-priced and fairly generic have gone designer. 20 years ago, most Americans just wanted a dishwasher from Sears that worked, now it seems like it has to be Bosch or it's bad.
Clearly our spending and over-spending has gotten us in the predicament we're in today. Aside from our aspirations to expensive goods, there's the more common problem of consumption for consumption's sake. Most of us are guilty of buying things we don't really need and maybe don't even really want all that much just because they're there and we're bored.
The question is, how do we get out of this retail approach to life? Where do we draw the line between wanting and having nice things and not going overboard with it all? How do we re-capture more of a balance between our purchases and our incomes? I certainly don't have the answer. One moment, I'll be rational, wanting to sock money away for a rainy day, only buying the things my family absolutely needs. The next, I'll be coveting a new sweater or something out of that darn Pottery Barn catalog again.
A while back, my husband and I got the book, Smart Couples Finish Rich, and in it, the author suggests people evaluate their values and then make sure their purchases are in line with those values. For instance, if you want to spend more time at home with your kids, don't buy an expensive car that you have to work that much harder to pay off, thus preventing you from spending that time with your kids. Sounds easy and logical enough, but I've found the reality can be a lot harder.
While I think people are quieter and less blatant about consumerism now than we were a few years ago, it's still running rampant. At the height of the recession, I read about wealthy women shopping on Fifth Avenue in New York and asking the designer stores for plain, non-branded bags, as they didn't want to be so ostentatious about their purchases during a time when people were struggling so hard to make ends meet. So, while they didn't want to be so in-your-face with it, they were still buying it.
In 2008, I had hoped the one positive thing to come out of this recession would be a collective shift in values away from so much consumerism. Despite periodic reports of Americans moving away from McMansions and the like, it doesn't really seem like anything's changed too much. Watching House Hunters, it seems we're all still wanting the biggest house with granite countertops as much as we ever were.
Wall Street bankers are still taking home insane bonuses and the rest of us are still coveting, well, everything. I certainly can't point fingers as I'm guilty of this as much as the next guy but still, I wish we'd somehow, collectively agree to forego some of this stuff and turn our attention elsewhere.
It's been proven time and again that our collection of things hasn't made us happier -- on the contrary, we're less satisfied with our lives than we used to be. In general, we have so many things they've largely lost their value, yet we continue to pursue them. We all see it with our kids, who generally have so many toys they don't really know what to do with them and don't enjoy them all that much. I know these aren't the values I want to instill in my kids -- what I'm less sure of is how to prevent it.
I'd been thinking of writing this blog post for a while, then Scary Mommy over at The Stir, beat me to it. But, I'm going to do it anyway. Parenthood is often described as being a chance to relive your childhood through your kids. This is so true. It also gives you an excuse to go to some of those family-oriented events that you kinda wanted to go to in your childless days but would have felt a wee bit creepy showing up at without a purpose (i.e., child). Here are some of the best "bringing out the kid in you" things and experiences I'm now reliving and re-loving via my kids.
As Good as I Remembered It
1. Coloring. I don't know what it is, but there is something so satisfying about taking crayon to paper that thrills me just the way it used to as a kid. Alas, my skills and subject matters have not improved since the second grade. I still draw stick figure people, which might be cool and ironic, if they weren't surrounded by my lame attempts at rainbows, trees and houses, just as they were in elementary school. I'm certain you could show someone a drawing I made this week and one I made 25 years ago and the only way they'd be able to tell which was older would be by the yellow-tinge to the paper.
2. Swinging. No, not that kind of swinging. Minds out of the gutter, please. Holding those chain link handles and seeing how high you can get is every bit as wonderful now as it was when I was nine. It's just hands-down, one of the simplest and happiest sensations a person can have.
3. Boxed Macaroni & Cheese. Yes, I often lament my kids' addiction to it, but the thing is, I understand it. One summer in elementary school, my BFF at the time and I spent the night, rotating back and forth between our two houses, for the better part of a month. We ate as much of the boxed goodness as our parents would allow. My dad eventually forced us to put tuna fish, peas or hot dog into it to give it a little substance. Hmm, and I wonder why I'm back on Weight Watchers...
4. The Fourth of July. This has long been one of my favorite holidays. It's low-key and embodies all that is wonderful about summer. It is summer, wrapped up into one day. Summer has that timeless feel to it, and feels like it could go on forever, but in a good way. (Unlike winter, which also feels like it could go on forever but in a get me somewhere tropical before I lose my ever-lasting mind way.) From the parades to the potlucks to the fireworks, there's just something about the 4th, where you feel like you could be living in 1942, 1972 or present day and I love that about it. Somehow, I always feel like I'm 17 (in the best way possible) on the 4th.
Good Again. Thanks to the Kids.
Then, there are those experiences that become good again, once you have kids, simply because it's wonderful watching your kids enjoy them.
1. Christmas. As an adult, Christmas can lose its luster -- becoming nothing more than five weeks of errands, baking, shopping and mandatory office holiday parties. However, with kids, it becomes great again. Decorating cookies, going to see Santa, singing carols, having kids brings back that magical feeling. This year, I actually got so into it, that on Christmas Eve, I started worrying that my husband and I needed to hurry to bed so Santa could come. Yeah, I thought this as I was filling the stockings. You dope, you are Santa I had to remind myself. I'm actually not sure whether this shows how into the festivities I was or how much my brain function has decreased in recent years...
2. New Year's Eve. Okay, kids don't actually make New Year's all that great but they do take a lot of pressure off to have a wild, fun night. When I was single, and even married, pre-kids, it always seemed like I should be doing something monumental and absolutely fantastic on New Year's and it often just came up short. Now that I'm a parent, it's okay. Who wants to pay a sitter New Year's rates? Assuming you can even find one, that is. So, getting together for a low-key, multi-family dinner at a kid-friendly restaurant, then playing games, is fine by me.
3. Family Functions. One of the biggest reliefs of having kids is that you're no longer bombarded by the question, "So, when are you two gonna have kids?" What is it with people?! If you're single they ask when you're gonna get a boyfriend. When you do get a boyfriend they ask when you're getting married. The second you say "I do," they start asking when you're going to have kids. Actually, sometimes this starts even earlier -- we actually had someone ask us this question six months before our wedding! I figure I have a good 20 years left before people start asking me when I'm going to die (as that seems to be the only major milestone left), so now family functions are much less-stressful. Plus, if you get stuck talking to someone and you want to get away, you can "notice" your kid doing something bad or needing something and run off to help them. Children are ideal at getting you out of uncomfortable conversations in a group setting.
Things About Childhood I Didn't Even Know Were Good.
1. Costco-Receipt-Checker Who Draws a Smiley Face. I don't remember this much as a kid but when the person checking our receipt as we leave the store draws a smiley-face (or even better, a smiley-face balloon) on our receipt (as opposed to a wiggly line down the paper), before giving it back to my daughter, it makes me so grateful to that person, who took the extra five seconds to make my children so happy. Tiny little thing that brightens my day.
2. Garbage Day. As the mother of a two-year-old boy, who is fascinated by all things garbage, garbage day is an exciting day in our house. The garbage man who waves at us as we stand on our porch, in our jammies, makes me very happy. I often find myself listening for the garbage truck, then yelling to the kids that he's here before scooping them up and running outside with them to wave at the garbage man. I wonder if it makes him feel like a rock star, having people run out of their house to catch a glimpse of him in action, or if he just bemoans the fact that he has to collect trash from such a crazy family.
3. Bubbles. I don't remember being that excited by bubbles though maybe it's something I've just forgotten over time but man, are they fun. When you can get a ton of bubbles out of one blow, what a sense of accomplishment. I love watching the kids (and the dog) chase and pop them. I also love trying to catch bubbles on my bubble wand so I can blow it off again.
As Sara mentioned recently, she and I are both dealing with the Terrible Three & a Halfs. A couple of months ago, I was ready to tear my hair out. I too, got the book, Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy. It's short, more of a pamphlet, really. However, it was so depressing I couldn't get past the third chapter.
Then, a friend mentioned to me that she'd started a "Big Girl Chart" for her daughter. For every kind, considerate thing she noticed her daughter doing, she gave her a sticker. I loved the idea and immediately made one of my own. Every time my daughter does something the first time I ask her to do it - sticker. Every time I notice her do something nice for her brother or a friend - sticker. Every time she does what she's supposed to without being asked - sticker. I used to have a "sleep chart" but I've now incorporated that into her Big Girl Chart. So, now all of those rewards show up on the big girl chart as well. Every time she earns $100 stickers, she earns a prize. A trip to Target where she can pick out a toy, under $10, which we buy her.
While we still have our moments, things in our house are a lot better these days and I think the Big Girl Chart's had a lot to do with that. Not only is there more incentive there for her to do "the right thing" but it's helped me change my perspective a bit. When a kid's on a bit of a naughty tear, it can be easy to forget or not notice all of the little things they do right. Having the chart's helped me pay more attention to those things. Like the times she waits on the sidewalk for me while I get her brother out of his car seat. It's made me praise her in the moment and also give her a sticker later on. I have to say, it's nice for both of us to look at the chart and watch it fill up and think of all the good, big girl, things she's done and remember that while this age can be trying, it's also filled with a lot of goodness.
While much has been made of women's struggles to lose the "baby weight," for me, it's been all about the "toddler weight." After my daughter was born, I simply ate fairly healthily and walked every day. Being home with a tiny baby all day, I found the walks to be a treat and often the only chance I'd have to get outside. I knew our poor dog, who was used to being the focus of our parental attention pre-baby, must be feeling a bit left out as well, so I did my best to make it up to him by giving him some extra exercise. Lo and behold, by the time I went back to work, the baby weight was gone. (The 10 lbs. I'd gained the year I was trying to get pregnant was another story...)
So, when I found myself pregnant again, I thought nothing of indulging in nightly hot fudge sundaes (I don't enjoy being pregnant - at all, and found my highly caloric nightly treat to be the one saving grace of the experience. Aside from being blessed with a ridiculously cute and lovable baby afterwards, that is). After all, a little exercise, a little breastfeeding and voila! What's the problem?
The problem was that this time around, I had a toddler and a newborn on my hands. As I've mentioned before, my kids are picky eaters and mainly partake in typical toddler fare. Trying to juggle a newborn, breastfeeding, keeping an 18-month-old occupied and fed, left me little time and zero brain capacity to focus on my own food intake. So, I did what many a mom has done. I started the "toddler diet" myself. Macaroni & cheese, pb&j's, grilled cheese sandwiches, etc. Plus, getting a newborn and a dog ready to go for a walk is one thing. Getting a newborn, young toddler AND a dog ready for a walk, is something else entirely. Before we got out the door, I was often exhausted. While I didn't give up on exercise entirely, I didn't have nearly the dedication that I did the first go-round. Neither kid was sleeping through the night yet and I was exhausted and frankly, didn't feel like I had the brain capacity to think about what I was putting into my mouth.
You're going to be totally shocked when I tell you that two years later, the baby weight's still there. Here and there, I'd attempt to fix things but mainly just went along feeling rotten about my appearance. Half of my clothes didn't fit and the other half weren't flattering. Buying clothes is depressing when you're not buying the size you want to be in and when you just have to select the item that looks the least bad on you, rather than which is the most adorable.
A few months ago, my kids started sleeping through the night. I finally started feeling like I had both the energy and the brain capacity to think about my extra weight (all 18 lbs of it). We got an elliptical machine and I started waking up at 5:45 to get a half hour in (which also happens to be the exact amount of time of one Sex & the City episode). I was feeling more energized throughout the day and even though I was waking up earlier, I was doing it on my terms, rather than whatever demands I was greeted with when the kids woke me up. By the time they got up, I'd done something good for myself, had some time to clear my head and felt ready to greet them and the day with a smile.
Then, my son got very ill and spent the better part of the month vomiting on me. Exercise: by the wayside. Since then, I've tried to keep up with it but have been sporadic at best. My son's taken to waking up at 5:30 or so, which means my designated workout time's gone. And, the weight remains...
A couple of weeks ago, I decided I'd had it. I found a Weight Watchers meeting nearby that met early on Saturday mornings. My husband could watch the kids while I went to the meeting. I've done the program twice in the past and it worked tremendously well. Until I hit "Lifetime"/goal and started getting cocky, thinking I didn't need to go to the meetings and track my Points every day that is... So, I went back, yet again. I stayed afterwards to learn about how the program had changed since the last time I was on it and left feeling optimistic and thrilled to be taking control of the situation again. I tracked my Points carefully and entered in everything I ate that week. The next Saturday, I went in there, feeling proud, ready to be told I'd lost two pounds. Down .8. I was so depressed, I started bawling on the way home. I'd been so careful, I'd tracked everything and hadn't even lost a full pound. I felt discouraged but kept at it the following week. I'll admit, I wasn't as conscientious as I'd been the week before, but still pretty darn good. Another .8. This time I was prepared and it was okay.
I've realized that I can't compare my experiences with past weight loss with this time around. Before, I hadn't given birth to (and breastfed) two kids. I had ample time to both exercise regularly and focus on meal-planning and food preparation. That's just not my life now. However, even if it's just losing a sad little .8 per week, it's better than nothing and better than .8 in the other direction. I'm now partway into week three and I'm feeling optimistic. I'm committed to sticking with this and now I'll be happy and proud when I get to my goal weight, whenever that may be.
As a mom, I want to do this not just for myself but for my kids. I want to model good eating behavior for them, as, more than anything else, that will influence their eating behavior as adults. So for me, for my kids, for my hopes of once again taking a picture I'm not horrified by, I'm sticking with it and hoping I have what it takes to go the long haul with this.