Chew, chew, chew – My life on the (lite) gravy train

It has been a month since I decided to get rid of a small bit of stomach for a bigger portion of good health. All in all, it’s been a really good month – the feedback from my friends and colleagues has been positive and it’s looking like this was the absolute right choice for me.

While some may think this was an easy way out, it’s quite the contrary. They tried to warn us about how much detail there is to eating after the surgery. Portions are small and divided between proteins and vegetables/fruits (the only carbs I’m willing to eat) and have to be consumed three times a day. (Meaning I have to stick to something of a schedule)

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Two iron, two multis, six calcium, two gummies a day, B-12 once a week. Oh, and at all different times in the day. Welcome to my nightmare

Vitamins, once a “leave the bottle next to your toothbrush and take one a day if you remember” ritual, are now essential because I’m not eating as much, and they have to be taken in certain amounts at certain times because of their individual absorption rate. Contrary to what you may have learned on Schoolhouse Rock, all vitamins don’t get along and some are the bullies of the supplement world.

You would think a writer/consultant like me who works out of a home office most of the time would find it easy to remember to take the right pills at the right time, especially those which are taken with meals. Not a chance. Just because they fixed my tummy doesn’t mean they patched together the scattered parts of my brain.

So I have a little note on my office bulletin board – not that it helps. I spend a good amount of time saying “Oh crap, I forgot to take my calcium” or “That feels like too much iron” and swearing about having to chew every pill into powder (digesting pills is something a stomach sleeve has trouble with for the first few months). And chugging water doesn’t happen anymore, either. Sip, sip, sip. Wait a half-hour, then chew, chew, chew, chew – up to 20 times per mouthful. I’m convinced I have jaws of steel now with those workouts, but it’s for a reason. I also realize what meats have gristle in them (had a hamburger pattie and it was a real chore to eat), that make me happy that I’m trying to stick to just poultry and fish from now on.

Screenshot 2016-02-15 12.47.35If I take that “one more bite,” or take in too much liquid at once, it feels like a gremlin living in the center of my chest is kicking and stretching. Members of my support group told me I would know if I’d taken too many bites and they are absolutely right. It’s not like being Thanksgiving full, it’s more like “ow, ow, OW!” and the only thing that will make it better is letting nature take its course. That and sip-sip-sipping water to help things move along.

That said, I have been able to work normal food back into my menu, so long as it doesn’t have skin or casing on it (my grapes must be peeled, which I think is long overdue). It’s something of a challenge when we’re out; last weekend we ventured to two movies and when we arrived at the second theater, we got there just as the previews started to play. Try and find something that’s full of protein at your local cinema. A hot dog – with mustard and relish, but no bun – was the only thing I could find, and yes, the gremlin was busy that night because I didn’t consider the casing….

I even went to Disneyland last week, vowing to find something edible wherever we went in the park. The turkey sandwich at Jolly Holiday – sans bread, lettuce (hard to digest) and mushy tomato – was delicious. Washed that down with an iced tea, but since I can’t drink at the same time as I eat (again, a space issue in the sleeve), it took me about an hour to drink the small cup’s worth. Later on, ice cream sounded good, so I suggested that my ice-cream loving friend stop into the Golden Horseshoe and get a sundae. I was able to eat three bites of ice cream and was completely satisfied. I’ve become the perfect mooch.

Met the kids and my motivation, Sadie, for a visit to the Carthay Circle lounge for an adult beverage – except my beverage was a Two Bill – their name for an alcohol-free iced tea-lemonade combo. A few hours later, for dinner at Café Orleans, I ordered a cup of French Onion soup.

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Cafe Orleans Pomme Frites. One of my former loves, now not so much.

My son-in-love ordered a basket of Pomme Frites for the table, those delicious thin French fries coated with garlic and Parmesan cheese, which I first said I wouldn’t have, but fell victim to temptation and grabbed one – and it tasted awful! They told me my tastes would change and boy, they were right on this one! I guess if I have to lose a craving for something, this one is OK. Now if only the popcorn at the park didn’t smell so delicious.

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C’mon Grammy, let’s go ride Big Thunder Mountain Railway!

One of the best things about Disneyland was that I logged 3.7 miles walking between parks and from ride to ride – a short distance from what I hear from other people, but I’m still proud. I’ve been logging at least a mile a day (with housework activity on the weekend) on trails with my friends – even got to walk 1.37 miles along the beach in Santa Monica with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. Turns out she had some questions about my surgery, which is why I’m including it in my blog subjects (don’t worry, I’m getting ready to jump into the political/election fray soon enough), and you know I’m more than willing to share my experience. I do have more energy and know that moving is critical to my success. I actually think about getting in a walk or some sort of continual movement each night when I plan the following day’s schedule. That’s something I never did before.

A side effect of the surgery, and maybe the weight loss (I am talking to my regular doctor about it today) is that I have developed my own weather system that flips quicker than the heartbeat of a speed freak. One moment I’m fine, then I’m grabbing a sweatshirt (I never used to layer, but now I’m an expert), then I’m stripping off what I can to accommodate a hot flash. Happens 24/7. Chilled to the bone in the middle of the night, huddling close to the pitties for warmth, then throwing off the covers. I may have suppressed the hormone that causes me to be hungry, but I think I accidentally kicked into high gear the hormones I thought I left behind after my hysterectomy six years ago….

And my wardrobe is changing, little by little. I’m wearing my 2- and 3X T-shirts for walking and housework and digging out the smaller shirts from the bottom of the drawer to wear out. Since I have several sizes of pants in the closet, I’ve moved from the biggest to the comfortable ones a size or two down. It’s strange that some of my favorite items now hang or bag a little, at first I was confused, but then I was thrilled! My husband frequently tells me how much difference he’s seeing and that definitely helps me along.

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One step at a time. I can do this.

So the bottom line is that I feel terrific. I have learned a lot about myself, I’m still learning how to live with limitations and I am flabbergasted at how much food is still in the refrigerator (I have to get my hubby to eat more fresh fruit!) because I’m not eating more than a few bites. I learned how to think about what’s on the plate, now I need to learn how to shop for just one and a half people. Either that or invite friends over for my leftovers….thanks all for your support, in person and online.

Now let’s talk about something else that’s eating at me….this upcoming election and what we’re teaching our children…..coming soon!

A Little Squishy Changed My Life

So it’s been awhile since I’ve been here. I really have to work on that. Sorry.

It’s been a little busy in my universe.

We became grandparents. I watched my granddaughter come into the world with my very own eyes and am still in amazement of the miracle. Grandparenting is everything my friends told me it would be – and then some. Holy crap, what an adventure!

The day she was born was crazy enough, starting with a 6:30 am call of “time to ride” and her arrival around Starbucks time midafternoon. Our oldest daughter spent 8 hours on the freeway making the normally 5-hour trip between Sacramento and Orange County to get to her sister’s side. I watched her anxiety melt away as she sat next to the new mama’s pillow and held her swaddled niece.IMG_0006

My “Free Gift With Purchase Son,” the new uncle also known as my son-in-love’s brother, proudly wore his Mickey Mouse ears that read “Uncle Travis” over his Kings cap as he strode proudly into the room.

Two of their friends who I consider my children from other mothers fought the traffic as well, arriving just soon enough to spend an hour before it was time to tiptoe out to the parking lot. One great-grandmother, four grandparents, two siblings, two friends – good thing it was a big room.

Have I mentioned Sadie Jane is just peaches? We call her Squishy.

What a day. What a whack to the normal orbit.

Along with the world-changing event of her birth, we had holidays.

Her first Thanksgiving was less than a week after she came into the world, surrounded by family. Preparing for her first Christmas. Decorating. Cooking. Getting work done so I could kick back for a couple of weeks. Feeding a house full of people, more than once, during that magical week.

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Sadie’s first Christmas turned out to be the most perfect Christmas our family has ever experienced. All my cubs were home – our son from Virginia, who fell so hard in love with his niece that I saw his heart blossom right before my eyes, our daughter from Sacramento making it  home in the normal 5 hours this time and of course, the sleep-deprived, but blissfully happy new parents, my youngest daughter and son-in-love and Sadie.

Group (85 of 100) copyAfter the dinner dishes were cleared, the guests departed and it was just the principal cast left in the living room watching a Christmas music concert, you could feel the love. Seriously.

Thick enough to envelope all of us. Strong enough to make every motion hesitant. Nobody wanted to be the first to get up, because it would bring the inevitable round of endless goodbyes.

And tears. We are shameless criers.

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What magic. What a great visit. And what a welcome new beginning.

 

Running quietly beneath this was a subplot, something I’ve been working on all year that was finally coming into focus. But that’s a story that I’ll unfold on another page. This one is too perfect.

 

Coming Soon: Grandparenting 101

The ears that debuted at NASCAR. As the granddaughter of a Bawdy Broad, she already has a boa
The ears that debuted at NASCAR. As the granddaughter of a Bawdy Broad, of course she already has a boa!

Have I mentioned that I’m going to be a grandmother soon?

Really soon. Like doing everything in the OC “because that’s where the hospital is” soon.

Yikes.

Children do more than just eat, sleep, go to school, get jobs and eventually move out. They make us do things that challenge us. We didn’t travel much until our son joined the Army and his graduation was on the other side of the country. I got to see Canada and New York as a choir chaperone and my oldest daughter lives four and a half hours north of here – a quick trip that lends itself to the impromptu.

I never thought I would like racing, especially NASCAR, until I went with my daughter and son-in-love, but I was there with the rest of the family last February when they made us close our eyes so they could put Mickey Mouse ears embroidered with “Arriving 2015” in our hands, followed by lots of joyful screaming and crying. There were a bunch of cars going in circles for the few hours after that, but I didn’t really notice the race….

I will have to revise my resume within the next couple of weeks, inserting the title “Sadie Jane’s Grandma” over the formerly-more-important “Media Consultant.” All of my friends tell me that things are going to be wonderful and that I’ll have trouble concentrating when this little bundle is placed in my arms. I believe them because I’m already bumfuzzled when I think about her.

I really try to minimize the advice dispensing, sharing just one tidbit with new parents as I admire their little ones: Love them the most when they deserve it the least. I truly believe it’s the policy we used the most, raising our three. They all turned out pretty good and two of them can’t wait to be called Aunt and Uncle.

The adventure continues! Not feeling quite Shirley McLaine yet, but I'm gonna be a GRAMMA!
The adventure continues! Not feeling quite Shirley McLaine yet, but I’m gonna be a GRANDMA!

But now that it’s my own daughter becoming a mother, I worry – have I told her enough? Did I give her enough clues to survive the long sleepless nights or the endless stream of people trying to tell them the best ways to do everything? Have I shared my thoughts on the best way to swaddle, the perfect way to hold a bottle, the tried and true techniques to get them to go down for a nap?

Nope. Have I failed? Absolutely not. They’ve got this.

You’ll find that no one has all the answers, but the truth is out there. The key is that nobody can figure it out but you.

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was taking classes at Cal State LA and my advisor said that he and his wife should have been arrested when they left the hospital with their first child because they had no idea what they were doing.

He told me that I’d figure it out and he was right.

One kid liked the football carry that my husband perfected when she was colicky. My son sang himself to sleep when he was nursing. And the Mom-to-Be was my cuddle bunny. I learned to lower my housekeeping standards because my kids were the priority. And I appreciated every carrot-and-raisin salad dropped off by a friend and every load of laundry done by my awesome Mother-In-Love who came in and took care of everything so we could catch our breath.

When my kids were little, we had to rely on a few dog-eared books written by another generation’s Dr. Spock. Now you can Google ‘diaper rash,’ ‘fussy eater’ and when to go to the hospital depending on what they put up their nose/swallowed/stuck in their ear (and yes, I had personal experience with at least two of those).

So kids, here’s the truth: Parenting is the greatest adventure. You will never feel overwhelming love like you will when you first see Sadie and hold her in your arms. And when you have more, don’t worry – you always have enough, because your heart grows a little more every time.

You will never sleep as well as you used to, though. Even when they start sleeping through the night, you will walk in and angel-touch their backs to feel their warmth and gentle exhale. As they get older, you will listen for mischief and mysterious nighttime noises. And once they start to go out, driving or dating or are just out for the night, you will sleep with one eye open because you’re waiting for that front door to open and hear them talking, safe at home. Sirens take on a whole new meaning, because when you hear one, you will immediately think about where your kids are and worry if they are OK.

And even though you might get creaky with advancing years, when you hear a little voice say “Mommy” in the middle of the night, you will fly, your feet never touching the ground, as you rush to comfort your crying child. (Ask your sister about that one)

It’s almost impossible to break children, and you will get the hang of parenting through your own trial and error. Give yourselves enough time to figure out what works best for your team. Don’t let anyone push or criticize you.

It is also completely permissible to scoop up the baby and leave the room for a sanity break. I’m pretty sure that move kept me out of jail a few times.

Another cool thing about having a baby around the house? Most of the time they smell terrific. They are always happy to see you and holding them will lower your stress level, guaranteed. However, if they are having a crying jag and you’re ready with your own flood of tears, it is OK to either join the pity party or hand them off to someone else who might just be a baby whisperer. Don’t be angry that you couldn’t calm them. Be thankful that you got the break.

And when they are being really, really loud, try being really quiet when you talk to them. They’ll stop crying to hear what you’re saying. Reverse psychology was a religion in which I frequently dabbled.

When people come by to visit, don’t feel like you have to entertain them. Your lives just turned upside down and you’re entitled to a little survivor shock. They should be bringing you Tito’s Tacos and desserts from Porto’s and taking away the trash. Remember, you have a baby. That’s like having a hall pass for a messy house for at least five years.

Like I said before, you’ve got this. You’re going to be fine. Sadie’s the luckiest kid in the world to have the two of you as parents and when you have questions, ask everybody and average out the answers.

Welcome to parenthood. But remember to be patient with us because, even as you hold little Sadie swaddled in her hospital blanket, consider that in that moment, all four of us grandparents may still see you as the beautiful bundles of happiness that taught us so much about life not that many years ago.

Love you.

Mama Casey and Daddy Tim practice for a walk on Main Street. Photo by createandcapturephotography.com
Mama Casey and Daddy Tim practice for a walk on Main Street at the Happiest Place On Earth. Photo by createandcapturephotography.com