Day 20: I am Thankful for Chiropractic Medicine

Even though I wasn’t feeling particularly horrible, I decided to go see my chiropractor this week.

Generally, I wait until I have a problem (can’t turn my neck, incredible pain in my hip, severe lower back pain — all three at once, sometimes) to schedule a visit with her. By then I’m usually crying on the phone. “Don’t you have anything for today?”

Today, I walked in, all straight and upright, told her I felt fine, and I was just in for a tuneup. She gave me an adjustment, and I went back to my day feeling very good. She said she was proud of me for coming in *before* I had a problem. I said, You’re welcome.

The first chiropractor I ever met was my uncle, my mother’s younger brother. I had never even heard of chiropractic before he decided to attend a chiropractic college. He met and married his wife — also a chiropractor and now all-around alternative medicine guru — while there.

Having chiropractors, doctors (okay, a D.O. and a Ph.D), and pharmacists all in the same family makes for some interesting holiday get-togethers. But that is a post for a different day!

Anyhoo, I don’t remember when I got my first chiropractic adjustment, but I have been getting them somewhat regularly since I started having babies. I had horrid sciatic pain with Gabriel and Kate; chiropractors made it possible to sleep. I sprained my back at one point in the summer of 2009 — that was fun — and saw a chiropractor for that. I found yet another chiropractor when I was pregnant with M, and I still see her — she’s who I saw today.

The only reason I’ve seen a series of chiros is because I base my needs on convenience. They have all been wonderful, but at one time or another I moved on to go to a chiro closer to my home or work, depending on the situation.

Going to my current chiropractor is like a combination of massage and counseling. She asks about the children, I give her the unvarnished version of being a WOTHM, she usually laughs. If I have any special aches, she advises me on good stretches. She’s very sweet, yet direct and effective. I would recommend her to anyone looking for a good chiropractor. (Seriously, leave me a comment here or DM me on Twitter if you want. She has offices in Shadyside and in Upper St. Claire.)

If you have any back issues, and you’ve never seen a chiropractor, you should look into it. It’s true, I’m a little skeptical of chiros who tout “alternative medicine” as being able to cure all ills, or those who want you to buy wholesale into a steady intake of specialty (and expensive) supplements. But if they suggest something, and can take, “No, thank you” for an answer, there’s no reason not to continue seeing them. Most of the chiropractors I have seen are much more focused on physical therapy and keeping me in line so I can pursue the activities I want without discomfort (keeping up with my children, exercise, and so on).

Aside: Do you know what they call alternative medicine that works? Medicine.

What alternatives are you thankful for when it comes to healthcare?

Day 19: I am Thankful I Know My Limits

Because I have a couple of behavior issues with my children (and they all have something I’d like us to improve), I checked out a book that came highly recommended from a couple of different sources. The author is a well-known child and family psychologist; he’s been doing the research and applying it for 30-plus years; he’s here to give us parents the science we need to help our children improve their behavior.

I was very discouraged as I read this book. Because this program — which he assures me over and over again is short term (three weeks to a month, maybe two) — requires a point system, a sticker chart, and/or a system of rewards, small to large.

And I’m too tired to seriously consider pulling it off effectively. Especially with multiple children for multiple issues. I’d like Flora to sit down and do her homework without giving me grief. I’d like Kate to learn how to behave appropriately in public. I want them both to practice their violins at least three times a week. I’m sure M has something I’d like to improve — oh, how about sitting in his seat for dinner and actually eating. That would be nice.

I just can’t see doing a bunch of points, charts, and rewards daily.

Now, praise — I got that. Whenever I catch my children being good, doing what I want them to do, I praise them to the heavens. I cheer, I hug, I high five. I am specific.

“Kate, I am so excited that you are doing your assignment without constant reminding! How well you are printing and coloring! Your teacher is going to love it.”

“Flora, good job brushing your hair and putting it back this morning! I didn’t even have to say anything! You look very nice.”

“M, you have the nicest manners! Thank you for remembering to say thank you! That makes mommy so proud of you.”

I can do the praise shit all. Day. Long. And mean it, too. I unabashedly dole out affection and cuddling to my children as often as I can. I am trying to ignore the behavior I don’t want. And, of course, I am trying to model good and appropriate habits. I don’t want to spend the morning screaming about getting out the door. I don’t want to hover over my kids to get them to do their work.

I also don’t want to do a point system. If this makes me an abject failure as a parent who wants the best for her kids, I suppose I’ll have to cop to that.

One of my Twitter peeps suggested an app, and that’s something I bet I could do. I’m going to look into it anyway. And, who knows, maybe at some point … next year … I will have the wherewithal to take each issue and each child, and implement a system.

But right now? I know it would only be more stress on me. And that would be bad news bears for everyone.

Have you accepted your limitations? Are you still learning what they are?

Day 17: The I am Thankful for Random Thoughts Two Edition

• I am thankful for 7 p.m. Sunday mass. Some days it lets Sunday unfold without stress and hurry, and then Flora and I can go to church to close out the weekend. I don’t know about her, but I use that time to give thanks and then pray for a good week.

• I am thankful for scheduled posts when they work. (ahem)

• I am thankful for my slow cooker and for local cows; more on this in a later post.

• I am thankful for Christmas lights. They always give me a boost. It seems silly to me that people bitch about other people “putting their lights up too early” or whinging about waiting for Thanksgiving.

Listen, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And if you have the time to put your lights up now, before the weather gets too harsh, go for it. I, for one, like seeing the twinkly lights as I drive home from work.

• I am thankful for children who are excited to travel for Thanksgiving. I do wish they hadn’t stayed up Saturday night packing four bags of entertainment stuff for the car. We’ll negotiate on that later.

• I am thankful for a sweet son. Saturday, Kate had a birthday party in Sewickley. I thought Dan would be home in time to watch M while I took Kate, and then wandered around the “village”. This didn’t turn out to be the case, but the weather was good, so I dropped Kate off, and M and I found a tiny toy shop with a play area in the back. We played with the toys, browsed, I found a gift for one of my nephews, and then found a small toy to buy M for being such a good boy.

Later that night, as I was tucking him in and kissing him good-night, M said, “Thank you, mommy, for buying me the monkey ball popper.”

I melted from the sweet. And I extravagantly praised him for being so nice for remembering to thank me (again).

What made you thankful this weekend?

Day 15: I am Thankful for Writing Prompts

This was yesterday’s writing prompt from NaBloPoMo, and I am using it today, because I’m on Day 2 of Noticeably More Cranky Than Usual, and what I’m really thankful for is the fact that it’s Friday and every second is a second closer to quitting time.

Prompt: Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I am a night owl in a family of night owls in a morning person’s world.

If I had my druthers, I would get up later, workout after work, eat a later dinner, and stay up until… oh 11 p.m., midnight. Possibly later. I would construct my day to match my internal clock.

However, since I am a grown up, I have managed to become functional in the morning, if not a morning person. I have even managed to become a person who gets up about three times a week earlier than I ever wanted to in order to actually work out. I AM STILL DOING THIS, AND I AM IMPRESSED WITH MYSELF.

Also, let’s face it, until a certain age (probably adolescence), children are morning people. So in some ways, it’s good that I’ve worked full-time jobs that have required my transformation into a morning person who had to be dressed and someplace by 8:30 or so in the morning. It helped immensely with motherhood, and becoming adjusted to the early morning needs of my progeny.

As my children have gotten older, though, the night-owl natures of their parents — Dan is more of a night owl than I am — has become evident in their own temperaments. They want to stay up late — past 10 p.m. if they can. They do not like to be awoken. Mornings are full of drama and dragging feet. Weekends are fine — God bless my children, they usually do not wake me up too early, and the girls even ask if I’ve had coffee before they get too outrageous with their demands. And this fact — that we are night-owl parents of night-owl children — is pretty much the reason we hire a nanny in the summer.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Day 14: I am Thankful for First World Problems

Today I am cranky.

The things I am cranky about are, with perspective, minor things. However, they are my problems today, and I will feel cranky about them if I want to.

I got a new computer at my job, and it’s an adjustment learning how to navigate the upgrades. However, I’m thankful to have a job.

I had to park in a different lot at work, and I’m probably going to forget, and walk out the wrong door. However, I am thankful to have a car.

I look nice today, and no one’s given me a compliment. Seriously, this is the most shallow complaint you will read all day today. I have on a tan and black sweater dress, opaque burgundy tights, ankle boots, and I look *good*. Stylish, even.

I don’t know, maybe you can’t give compliments in the workplace anymore.

Conversely, maybe I don’t look as good as I think.

However, I am thankful to have these clothes. And they are clean. And my boots were fixed by a shoe maker, so I didn’t have to go buy a new pair.

I am thankful that if I needed to, I could actually go buy a new pair.

I am anxious because I have a lot of work to do, and I have to leave work early to take my 9-year-old to her well-child visit. I am thankful I have a 9-year-old. And health insurance that covers well-child visits.

My younger daughter will be getting the flu vaccine (the mist) at the same time. She is going to be whiny about it. However, I am thankful I have an almost-7-year-old. And that my pediatrician’s office offers the mist. I won’t have to fight with them about shots.

I am thankful that my children are healthy enough to be immunized.

And you know what? Today is Pie Day, and I should just get over myself, because I am going to have dinner, wine, and pie with people I like!

On that note: What are your little problems today?

Day 13: I am Thankful for Late Releases

Up until September, 2013 was a desert in terms of good music in my opinion. I hadn’t liked a thing I heard released this year.

This was such a marked difference from 2012, the Year of Indie Rock. I loved so much from last year: Black Keys, Jack White, fun., Mumford and Sons, Lumineers. Even when I heard something that caught my ear, it was an album that came out last year (see: Passenger).

2013 was shaping up to be the Year of the Auto-Tuned Pop Diva, and I was not enjoying it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Katy Perry’s “Roar” is basically lyrically strung together cliches. “I used to bite my tongue…/ Scared to rock the boat…/ I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything…” I mean, come on. I got the eye of the tiger? I am a champion? Doesn’t anyone have to vet this stuff?

And the hiccoughing delivery of singers from Miley Cyrus, Perry, and Taylor Swift. Who told them that was how to sing? I can’t stand it. Even my former pop star hero, Lady Gaga, has released a mediocre dance album rife with auto-tune effects. Very meh.

Fortunately, the boys and girl (props to Ann Powers) at NPR Music put together their Fall Music Preview, and I found a few reasons to not write off 2013, musically speaking.

Avett Brothers, Magpie and the Dandelion — I was late to the game on this group, and I blame my shallow nature. I was taken in by the fiery bombast of Mumford and Sons, and their heartfelt adaptation of Americana-based pop. Hey, I like shiny things. But somewhere along the way, “I & Love & You” and “January Wedding” managed to catch my ear, and Avett Brothers put out an album this fall that continues the rich tradition of simple, earnest, American music.

Interestingly, this is the only band on my list who is not lead by a female vocalist. While 2012 was the year of (let’s face it) white-boy indie rock, 2013 for me has become all about the ladies.

Here’s my short list of what I’ll be listening to the rest of the year:

Luscious Jackson — This all-female group from the 1990s has reunited, and is releasing a new album, Magic Hour. I heard the single “So Rock On” on the NPR Fall Music Preview show, and I am so excited to hear they are still around and still making funky, hooky music. Cannot wait to hear Magic Hour in its entirety.

Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady — I just love this artist, from her ruby red lips and gravity-defying hair, to her theme album The Electric Lady. She’s sassy and saucy, and she brings a fun, fresh funk to R&B.

Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe — Last year was about guitars, this year is about synth-pop for me, apparently. Darkly themed, twee, Swedish synth-pop in this case. Can’t stop listening to this one.

Lorde, Pure Heroine — You didn’t think I’d given up on my pop vocalists, did you? While I love the playfulness of the song “Royals”, what stood out for me was her real-sounding, sultry voice. The single is catchy as all get out, so I went looking for the album on Spotify hoping that the rest of it would be just as good. I was not disappointed. Plus, I love that her real name is Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Conner. She’s Croatian Irish, for goodness sake.

POLIÇA, Shulamith — With affected vocals and a slow, synth groove, this is complex, layered music. A refreshing change to my ears, which are usually bludgeoned by nothing more complicated than three-chord guitar rock.

What are you listening to these days? Or has 2013 been a wash?

Day 12: I am Thankful for Emails with Subject Lines Like “Pie”

Once you have children, spontaneity takes a hit. It’s hard to do things on the spur of the moment. If you want to have a date, you have to get a babysitter. Sudden spousal romantic interludes are things of the past. Even a “spontaneous” outing with the children can turn into trying to get out the door for two hours.

So it’s fun when a tweet about pumpkin pie turns into a weeknight dinner with friends. Granted, lots of the planning happens over email — “Will your kids eat this?” “Should I bring red or white wine — or both?” “What time?” — but then an ordinary weekday becomes something special to look forward to. Just like that.

Now, I’m a control freak, so I’ll do things like: pack a bag of clothes for the children, make sure I have Flora and Kate’s spelling words so I can still quiz them the night before their tests. I’ll probably bathe the children the night before as well so that I can change them into their pajamas and let them loose in my friend’s playroom.

But still. Something that comes together because of the offer of pie, and is going to happen in two days instead of two weeks — that’s as close to spontaneous as it can get for me!

Are you spontaneous, or are you a planner?

Day 11: I am Thankful for Flora

Of course.

Dear Flora,

My sweet, sensitive, scatter-brained darling. You are 9 years old.

As always, I am so very proud of you for all the things you do well. You are an easy-going child. Even when you plunge into sadness or frustration, we find ways to figure it out. You have much in the way of a dramatic personality, but I see you learning to control your emotions. Good meals and sleep help a ton! So does talking one-on-one with me, and time one-on-one with Daddy. As our oldest, I see you trying to recapture the quiet of those first two years!

You love to learn, and some days you hate to go to school. You are endlessly curious — I think I have been writing some variation of this sentence since you first learned to speak — but you don’t like all the social aspects of school.

When interpersonal relationships are rocky, you’d rather stay home all day and read and watch television, and you don’t understand why you can’t. At the same time, your teacher says you participate eagerly in class, and that you are a good friend to your peers. So despite your dragging feet and puppy-dog eyes, I’m going to keep making you go to school.

You are quiet. You like to read. You like to be alone. You are SO my daughter.

You are nice to people, and you want people to be nice to you. You follow the golden rule, and you go along to get along, and you get so frustrated, and probably a little angry, when sometimes people don’t treat you the way you want to be treated. All I can say about that is hold onto that anger a little bit. It will help you to be assertive as you get older.

Kate gets under your skin, but you tolerate her most of the time. You clearly adore being M’s older sister. You are a mini-mother to both of them.

You eat well, and fight bedtime. You lose your temper when things don’t go your way, and then move on to the next thing. You like to make people laugh.

I think you like soccer, and you definitely like running around with your teammates, but you sometimes get discouraged about actually playing. That’s okay. You’ll get better.

You like that you play violin, but you’d rather not practice too often. You’re definitely getting better, however.

Your passion right now is birds. You love spotting birds, telling me what kind they are, reading facts, asking questions, and learning more about them. We’ve recently seen a yellow-bellied sap sucker, a tufted titmouse, and a heron, and you have been nearly beside yourself with excitement at each new sighting. We have bird feeders, bird books, and bird apps on our phones for you. Next you want a sketch pad and colored pencils so you can draw all the birds. The National Aviary is your favorite place in Pittsburgh.

Last night, as you and I set off for 7 p.m. Mass, I realized that nine years ago at that time I was checking into the hospital to have you. That the next day, I would hold a tiny creature that would change my life forever.

And I realized I wouldn’t have it any other way. I burst with love for you, my dearest older daughter. I can’t believe you are getting to be such a big girl, sometimes mature, and sometimes silly, and sometimes a drama queen, and sometimes so quiet that I don’t notice you (this usually when you’ve snuck downstairs to be with your father as he watches television).

I hope to God, I pray to God to be a good mom to you. I would protect you from every hurt and confrontation if I could, I *would* keep you home so you didn’t have to navigate the rocky terrain of interpersonal relationships. If I could. If I didn’t think that teaching you navigation was far more important than never, ever letting you get hurt or frustrated. As long as I don’t hurt you — I’m bound to frustrate you, that’s a given — I think I will have done what I set out to do as a parent.

I hope when I’m not being too frustrating, that you know my love for you knows no bounds. That even though I have to send you off to do hard stuff, you can always find safety in me.

I love you, my Flora-bean. Happy 9th birthday,

Mom