Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Disney Pixar Cars Movies and Music, Entry 2 of 3

"Cars 2" was our entree into the entire Disney/Pixar Cars franchise. Mal watched it about a year ago, and rewatched it, and just kept watching it. He loved it. I'm tempted to say that, though thoroughly enjoyable, it's my least favorite of the trilogy... But when I think about it, it actually has a lot going for it. It's just very different from the other two films.

Unlike Cars and Cars 3, Cars 2 doesn't focus as much on Lightning McQueen (even though the film is about his participation in the World Grand Prix). Mater actually takes center stage in this movie.

If you are a James Bond fan, this movie is likely to tickle you. There are so many parallels, from Michael Giacchino's characteristically Bond-sounding score to the intrigue plot, down to the name of a female agent recruit: Holly Shiftwell.

The story itself centers around a nefarious plot surrounding a multi-national automobile race. Finally allowed to tag along with McQueen (which isn't the first time he's had to heed Sally's empathetic advice in this regard), Mater finds himself accidentally embroiled in the criminal activity, but with the good guys, of course.

There are several international locales represented here: Japan, Italy, and Great Britain. To see a Cars take on them is a lot of fun, most notably the Japanese restrooms. Some friends recently visited Japan and said they do not understand why our toilets are stuck in the dark ages. Mater might have a different take.

Right now, Mal doesn't have any kind of context for "dead," but it comes up a lot in the movie. We don't actually see any characters die directly, but from dialogue and a cutaway scene or two, it's clear that they do. That might frighten some kids. It seems a little intense to me, but I guess is in keeping with the spy/bad guy theme.

What ends up being the biggest plus for this movie is that the overt theme is just a vehicle for the more subtle, overarching ones: being yourself, accepting people for who they are, what it means to be a friend... and maybe that you should be kind to all people because some marginalized groups might just unite under one bully who doesn't underestimate them??

No song sums up the first three quieter themes like Brad Paisley's Nobody's Fool. "Now I’m nobody’s fool/ It ain't no fun anymore/ 'Cause now that I’m nobody’s fool/ I'd rather be yours./ Well you know what they say/ The truth sets you free/ And that’s just great unless you don’t wanna be..." What great lyrics. I'm telling you: I have historically not appreciated country music, but Paisley's going to turn me, if we keep listening to these over and over and over again.

It's pretty appropriate that this Cars soundtrack also includes a Cars (the 80s band) cover: "You Might Think," performed by Weezer. Then, to go along with the global visuals of the film, there is the pop/dance "Polyrhythm" by Perfume; and the French "Mon Coeur Fait Vroum" (or "My Heart Goes 'Vroom'"), written by Giacchino and performed by BĂ©nabar.

The song I'll feature here isn't necessarily my favorite song (which just might be "Nobody's Fool," dang you), but is both a fun summation of the movie, and a gentle reminder that our world is indeed global, and we can't "sit this out no more." Although the lyrics focus on superficial differences (and, annoying to me, repeat the monetary part when I could have liked to hear a fresh comparison) and never actually addresses any of the deep issues that we allow to divide our countries from one another, the reminder that our best hope is to see the best in each other is definitely a timely one (even though the movie came out 7 years ago).

Daddy's Gone, Day 2

Here's all you need to know about today:

1) We got out the Cars metal cars to play with three separate times. I stopped cleaning up after the third time.

2) We got out the Super Wings to play with twice, including once in the bath.

3) We got out the PJ Masks twice (so far; it's only 7:48 PM).

4) We started watching videos for approximately 7 minutes at a time about 8 times.

5) I have eaten an entire bag of Doritos in the past 24 hours.

6) We went to Jump Street. Again.

7) Abby Ah Babby, Mal's invisible alien friend, requested #6.

8) Mal didn't want the white potato I fixed him, he wanted the little potatoes D was finishing up.

9) Mal didn't want the little potatoes I found in the back of the fridge after having told him that D was just finishing them up. He wanted the ones from "last time."

10) I made Mal cry because he wanted Sheriff  (with whom Mal had told me to play) to be beside McQueen, and I thought he'd be better placed caddy-corner.

11) I don't drink, but I'm eyeing some of James's stash.

12) Mal sat down to poop about 43 seconds after I'd gotten into the shower and started rinsing the dye out of my hair.

13) I turned the a/c up from 76 to 78 because I was cold.

14) It is 8:19 PM, my son is asleep, and I'm singing, "Jesus Loves Me."

15) I'm having Special K Chocolaty Delight for dinner... whenever I get around to it.

16) Here's a thing Google just made me.

17) He's such a sweet kid. I'm glad I get to spend my days, even the challenging ones, with him.

18) We haven't had to change Mal's underpants due to mistimed restroom visits in a couple of days.

19) I'm probably going to go write another blog post now, since it seems like my husband is gallivanting around SoCal whilst I keep the home fires burning.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Daddy's Gone, Day 1

Good evening, fellow humans I'm sure are still out there even though I'm holed up in my house alone with a couple of kids and no one to talk to about the day's news and minutia. Okay, maybe I'm being overly-dramatic. James has left town before, but only for one or two nights. This week, he's gone the entire work week, and while I weathered longer periods of singe-handed toddler care with D, as we've noted ad infinitum, Mal is different. Good different, but, you know.

This weekend was fun and weird. A lot like our family, in general.

First, my parents came over super early Saturday so James and I could go see "The Incredibles 2." Alone. Because neither child was interested. Hmph. Well, we enjoyed it. Then we went to Logan's Roadhouse for James's quarterly meat ingestion (thanks, gout!).

After we got home, almost as soon as my parents left, I got the overwhelming urge to dig up some stuff from our planter outside. Some stuff had sprung up rather quickly earlier this spring, and I had decided to let it grow a bit to see what it was.

We have some Mexican Petunia, which bloom gorgeous purple flowers that last one day and replenish entirely the next. It's amazing. They're self-propagating, and spreading in that bed, but I knew it wasn't that. Then I was doing some research to find out this vine that's taking over our yard was, and learned it is Carolina snailseed. In the process, I realized that the fast-growing plants beside the Mexican Petunias, two inches away from our home's foundation, were TREES.

They needed to come out, and it seemed like a thing to do, so I did. In the process, I got really irritated about how nasty our rose bushes are and took them out, too. As soon as I finished, it poured rain, so I was glad to have gotten it over with.

Then Sunday morning, Mal and I went to the Hill Country Water Gardens and Nursery after church. Love that place.

Found a couple of bushes, one of which I believe I had in Sherman. If so, when they bloom next spring, it will smell AMAZING.

Got home to plant those, and I was just super beat from the day before, and the heat an humidity. Plus, I found more than twelve feet of root all down the bed from a nearby tree. Had to hack that out before I could dig holes for the bushes. Also pulled out all of the tubing for the sprinkler system, which doesn't work, anyway, and it's hard to dig around.

I was just pretty much worn out when Mal came out and wanted to play with the hose. Once he came out and gave me a shower every few minutes, I was able to complete the job! I didn't take any pictures because I didn't weed the bed or anything, so it's not pretty. I just plopped the plants down in there and we'll hope for the best.

We took James to Dos Salsas for dinner for Father's Day, and otherwise just hung out and helped (or watched) James pack for his trip.

Oh! Mal slept from about 9:30 PM until 6:00 AM last night! That;s the record to beat!

This morning, Mal was awake to watch James leave in the Super Shuttle. We played and watched his flight, then went to Target, where I bought Mal a big collection of PJ Masks characters he's wanted, with the understanding that it's all we're buying while Daddy's gone. (We'll see if he's able to keep up his end of the bargain.)

Then we came home, had lunch, played, watched some TV, and Mal was ready to get out again, this time to Jump Street. He played there for about an hour, and I didn't take any pictures, but here's one from Friday.

We actually went twice on Friday. Most kids pay by the hour, but kids 4 and under are a set price for the whole day because they can't do much. We figured, why not make the most of it, and James went with us later in the evening that day.

After Jump Street, Mal wanted to go to Walgreen's, but it and the bank I needed to visit were on the "wrong" side of the road during rush hour, so now we have something to look forward to tomorrow.

We had dinner, and Mal was asking again to go to the store. I talked him into the lake, which we haven't visited in some time. The water level is really low, but it was beautiful out here, nonetheless.

On our way home, we were getting ready to walk up the big hill when I saw a German Shepherd peeking around the curve at the top of the hill. I stopped to see what it was doing, and as it turned to walk back, I could see it was not on leash.

It could have gone back to its owner; I had no idea. So I waited a minute and when nothing else happened, I told Mal we were going to have to walk home a different way. I started to turn around when the dog and a chihuahua friend of his came bounding around the corner toward us. We were still about half a block away, but I never like to encounter off-lead dogs. These both had collars and tags but were very much alone.

I knew I didn't want to approach them, and also knew that there was not time to unstrap Mal from the tricycle stroller thing and try to get anywhere away from them, so I just stood there and left Mal confined so he couldn't do anything to spook the dogs. I also turned both Mal and me sideways so we weren't in an apparent stand-off with the dogs.

When they got closer, I held my hand out and down and looked at the German Shepherd. He clearly wanted nothing to do with me. He and the chihuahua watched us carefully as they pulled up to us and then walked past. Once they were clear of us, they sped up.

I started slowly up the hill, looking back every few feet. I have to tell you: adrenaline really helps that climb not seem so deathly. It was barely an effort.

Anyway, it was a tense few moments and, of course, Mal had no idea what an iffy situation it was. He just came home all chill and with his treasures and construction trucks in tow.

At about 9, Mal announced that he was ready for bed, and he was! I love easy early bedtimes. So we survived Day One! Only four more to go...

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

When to Visit Kids' Spaces if You Have a Sensitive Kid

Twice now, we've made unfortunate timing decisions in visiting local kids' destinations.

First, last month, when school was still in session, we tried to visit the Austin Aquarium on a Friday (May 11, specifically) at about 10:30 AM. Oh my goodness. Well, we waited in line while two field trip groups checked in, then bought our admission, and went into the first room.

Cool cool... but no sooner had we looked at this first tank when a whole school group came in and circled one of the displays. A tour guide with a mic and speaker started talking to them, and Mal ran for the gift shop. It was SO LOUD.

We hung out in the gift shop for a few minutes, but the spiel didn't seem to be winding down, so we decided to go in the "exit" side of the loop to see what we could see there.

See these fish? This is how it felt. Unfortunately, we found that every single display area: sting rays, sharks, these guys, the birds, etc. had a school group so kids were packed in with no room for us to look at anything. Also, more guides with more amplification systems.

I'm not overly-sensitive to noise, but the volume both in terms of sound and of people nearly made me cry with panic. There was no way to navigate the space in a stress-free way.

Finally, I appealed to the admissions desk, who told me my admission was good for the whole day, and I could come back. When I explained that I had afternoon plans, they were gracious enough to give me two tickets to come back another time. 

I've learned that if this is what we see outside of a venue, we might as well keep driving.

Incidentally, that was two of four ISD buses, and there were at least four day care/private schools there, as well.

Our intent is to try to go back next Monday, after 3 PM. Google has a great feature that is hopefully accurate. We're going to test it and will let you know.

We do have reason to be skeptical, however.

Because today we tried to go to Mt. Playmore for the first time. We got there at about 11:15. Good. Gravy. Okay, first, here's what Google says about Saturdays.

Which is why we never do any of these things on the weekend.

And here's what it said about today.

No. Maybe that was just during the school year and they haven't had a chance to factor in that it's summer.

There were HUNDREDS of kids there. So many kids in matching T-shirts, part of schools or summer camps or day cares. And then there's a reptile show on Wednesday, so that lady had her, of course, mic and speaker up loud to talk over the hubbub. Then we got there at around lunch time, and a bunch of the child care people were trying to get kids out of the play structures and over to the eating area for lunch, so they were walking around YELLING AT TOP VOLUME into the tubes to get the kids out.


So we cheated a little.

There's an area called Kiddie Kanyon that has contradicting signage regarding the height limit. Several signs say 42 inches (we're good there, but barely) and several say 36 inches. Thing is, there's a measuring stick that SAYS 42 inches, but it's at the 36 inch height, because it was much shorter than Mal, who is probably right at 40.5=41 inches.

Regardless, the toddler area wasn't busy, and they do allow bigger siblings, and it was quieter in there, so we happily killed enough time to make the $6.95 combined admission not seem like such a waste in there.

We plan to go back to here literally never, as it's 35 minutes away on a low-traffic day, and if we're driving that far, we're just going to go to Catch Air, which is HUGE but somehow manages not to be overwhelmingly loud, and is much cleaner and more imaginative in the general play area. (This toddler area is a lot more decorated and fun-looking than the general play area, which I did not photograph because I was running away as fast as I could.)

Another fun facet about our trip to Mt. Playmore is that the girls' restroom was out of order. They had two single-family-use family restrooms, but that was it. So when Mal needed to go and the family rooms were occupied, I sent him into the boys' alone. He emerged a few moments later having not gone and generally freaked out. I'd seen the only kid I'd seen walk in come out, so I just marched into the guys' room with Mal and helped him use the urinal. When we walked out, a kid waiting in a LONG line for the water fountain said to another kid, "Look! That girl and that lady just came out of the boys' bathroom."

I have two bonus thoughts to add: If you decide to go to Catch Air in the Austin area, the one in Round Rock is larger, quieter, and seems better maintained than the one on Anderson Mill. There's a lot more to do, and neater options in Round Rock.

Also, I get a little weird feeling in my stomach when I see kids all dressed the same and waiting in lines for literally 10 minutes before they can change activities and who are involved in loud, constant activity. I know it's summer and they're out of school and parents work, and I'm glad there are options for kids to get out and do stuff... but, man, it was overwhelming for us for an hour. I can't imagine either of my kids being able to handle that for hours a day all summer long.

I'm sure not all kids are as sensitive to stimuli as mine are; I think it's rubbing off on me, because it not only makes me nervous for them, it's starting to stress me out of my own accord!

If you have sensitive ones like I do, I've found that once people start getting ready for lunch, public kid spaces clear out a little. So at about 12:30-1. Then again, after 3:30ish when day cares need to get their kids back, and families are heading home to plan dinner. We just have to remember to plan to get out and about then instead of doing things earlier in the day.

Here's to a peaceful summer!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Hey, Friend Who Lost Weight and Gained It Back... You Look Amazing!

Friend, I've wanted to affirm you for months, but wasn't sure how to bring this up. It's an awkward subject in our society because Diet Culture has so brainwashed us with the ideas of what is "good" and what is "bad." What is "virtuous" and what is "shameful." I don't buy into any of that anymore, but most people still do.

So how to tell you that I see you, and I am super proud of you?

I'll bet back when you were losing weight, you got a lot of positive feedback. "Looking good!" "Wow, you're so dedicated!" "Your hard work is paying off!"

An aside -- "paying off"? How? Because you're thinner than you used to be? Is that a reward? Being skinnier is the payment you get for obsessing over food and exercise? Um. Pass. Anyway...

It seems like such a big, loud deal when you lose weight. It's full of accolades and appreciation and maybe even some jealousy thrown your way. Then, over time, you realize something. Maybe it's a year or two. Maybe it's more than five. My longest was more than seven years (and, yes, I've had at least three major weight cycling events, with other fits and starts in the midst).

But eventually, you realize that one of the biggest lies of Diet Culture is the "maintenance phase." Dieting to lose weight isn't easy, no. But it is a walk in the park compared to maintaining an artificially low body weight. Once you hit your goal weight, you have to eat less and/or exercise more to keep the weight off. Not for a while. For the rest of your life.

Maybe you didn't realize it until the weight started slowly creeping back on. Maybe you realized it when you hit a plateau from which your body would not budge. Maybe it's just dawning on you.

And whereas your weight came off with visible work and "discipline" and praise, it can creep back on in silence and shame. Maybe you think people are wondering why you would "let yourself go" after working so hard. Maybe you feel like a failure. Maybe you're just waiting for a life season to pass before you buckle down and have another go at taking the weight back off.

Might I encourage you not to do that? Any of it?

Unless there is a 1-to-1 medical reason for you to lose weight, fighting your body's "natural" weight is not a battle you can win unless you're willing to wrestle mightily with it for the rest of your life. So, seriously, if imminent death or disease is not on the line, maybe think about why you're willing to devote such a large chunk of your emotional and physical energy to the pursuit.

(And, to me, even if you're a "yeah, but my knees" person... I'd encourage you to find out what you can do to build strength in your legs. Go positive and strong instead of negative and "less.")

I just wanted you to know that I see you, and I'm proud of you, and I am cheering you on.

I'm so thrilled that you can go to Texas Roadhouse with your family without having to spend half an hour perusing the menu online first to see what is "safe" for you to order. I'm ecstatic that you don't have to write down everything you eat, or to measure every portion before you can sit down to a meal. I'm happy that you have the time you used to devote to a specific, repeatable, boring gym routine to do things you love and that make your body happy.

I'm glad you're not fighting your body. I'm glad you're not sucked into the trap of spending valuable time, talent, energy, and money on something as vapid as "thinness" and are instead able to channel those amazing resources to bigger and better things. It looks amazing on you.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Stupid Things I Did to Change My Body, Entry 2

From January 1993 until Octoberish 1996, except for one cheat day a week, I only allowed myself to consume 7 grams of fat (with no differentiation between types of fat; this is just any fat, period) per day.

To put that in context, the general recommendation for daily intake of fat for an adult is 70 grams. I was eating 1/10 of the daily recommended intake of fat, back when fat was super demonized, and no one was talking about how important adequate fat consumption was.

To my black and white brain, fat=bad and no fat=great.

Obviously, I wasn't eating any meat. Or eggs. Or peanut butter. Or nuts. Or omega-3-rich fish. Or avocados. I was eating candy corn. Jelly beans. Fat free bread with fat free "butter" and fruit spread. I could have chosen fruits and vegetables, but usually didn't. I felt so deprived from food I loved (pizza, French fries, anything robust and hearty) that I ate for comfort and for what a food DIDN'T have (fat) instead of what it DID have (any nutritive quality whatsoever).

Oh, and I was instinctively doing what I learned manufacturers do when they remove "excess" fat from a food product: Add sugar to make it more palatable. I was eating a LOT of sugar (no more than 1500 calories a day, but we'll get to that in another post) to make up for the fact that was I was eating was empty garbage and mostly tasted that way.

Why do our bodies need fat? It helps up absorb many vitamins, including A, D, E, and K. Fats also help the brain to produce serotonin and dopamine. In fact, extremely low fat diets have been shown to contribute to suicidal tendencies, but even without being that serious, a fat deficiency can contribute to anxiety and low self-esteem... Which might explain why I still felt like a big fat failure at 148 pounds (5'8") because the scale at GNC still considered my skinny butt 8 pounds overweight.

In addition to the sugar I was eating to make up for a more well-rounded fat profile, there's an item that really bothers me about our "food as fuel" or, worse, "food as medicine" mentality pervasive in diet culture. It says that as long as we meet the micro- and macro-nutrient goals for our weight and exercise levels, we're "healthy." This completely discounts our mental and emotional health. There are demonstrably food that makes us FEEL better, and a reason they're called "comfort foods."

"Comfort foods" need to be un-demonized. Meeting our emotional needs is every bit as important as making sure our nutritional needs are met. And I was just in an endless cycle of deprivation, totally ignoring my desire to eat something satisfying because I believed that all of the "sacrifice" would yield a look that would make me... more worthy? More admired? More desired? A more virtuous appearance?

Ugh. It was dumb and unhealthy. No more. Never again.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

D and Mal at age 3 3/4

I came across this picture at my parents' the other day.

This is of D skating. I took it August 6, 2005, so this is basically the exact age Mal is now. By this point, D was skating like a pro, and Mal has never gone skating before.

That got me to thinking about some other things. At Mal's age, D had been in gymnastics for more than a year and a half.

Though you might have to trust me on that one.
And had also taken tae kwon do.

Testing for an orange belt.
And some tennis lessons.

Mal and I did 8 out of 10 Music Together classes, and he took one trial gymnastics class a few months ago. It was obvious that he wasn't ready. We're going to try a trial swimming class Thursday, but my prediction is that he will freak out and refuse to go into the water without me. I hope I'm wrong.

Also, at Mal's age...

We rode the log ride as much as we could, often getting off of the ride and getting right back on. Mal freaked out on the Ferris wheel at Kemah, but made it because I held him.

When I took this picture, D was watching the boat splash we'd just gotten off of. See the thumbs up? Mal screamed and cried and basically freaked out on the tilt-a-whirl.

Here, D is riding alone because I was too big to go on this kiddie ride. Mal not only HATES spinning (see tilt-a-whirl plus any other thing he's ever been on that spins), but there's NO WAY he'd get on something like this alone.

It's marked to me how different these children are. D was reading before 5; Mal shows no interest. Mal spends a lot more time in his imagination, both recreating scenes from movies, and making up stories. He continues to speak of his alien friend Abbey-A-Babbey when he is scared or wants to do something we can't do.

D was intrepid. Mal is trepidatious to the point that I've started carrying noise-cancelling earphones with me in my purse. He is suspicious of anything he thinks might be scary, and there's no talking him into even attempting it.

In addition to these differences, I ponder how D's become more anxiety-prone as a teenager. I wonder if Mal will become more self-assured as he matures, or if his fears will increase.

Neither is better. And I love them both so much. I am just finding that I have spent most of Mal's life reframing my expectations, because my tendency continues to be "At this age, D could..." and they're just very different kids.

But not totally different.