Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Name Game

“How about Jefferson?” Hmmm…. Sounds like I’m trying too hard. “What do you think of Alex?” Yeah…sounds like I’m not trying hard enough. “Oooh! What about Aiden?!?” Well….I’m a little concerned he might get mixed up with the 4 other Aidens who will inevitably be born on our floor of the hospital the same day.

My husband and I are expecting a son in September. I don’t know if you’ve picked up on it yet, but this will be our 400th little bundle of joy. We have lots of kids, or so we’re told. We love it, they are all amazing kids, and despite the craziness that is our household, we wouldn’t change it for anything. But we seem to have hit a wall. We have chosen baby names up to this point that we feel have been perfect fits for our family. Our kids have names that are uncommon, but not complicated or strange. They won’t likely have other kids in their classes with the same names, but won’t feel like weird kids who have off-the-wall names, either. They also have middle names that might make them question our judgement one day. But that’s our prerogative. We stepped out and gave them middle names we thought were particularly awesome, and they will either agree or assume Mom and Dad just don’t get it, and we are comfortable with that. I say all this to make this point: we have named our children according to certain criteria, and they definitely all have a similar feel to them.

The problem is this: once you’ve painstakingly named 1000 babies (give or take) you can back yourself into a corner. At some point you run out of names that sound just right with your other names. We have girls with names like “Adeline Montgomery” and “Campbell Kennsington” and boys with names like “Anderson Magnum” and “Henley Ace” and we feel like our naming skills are spent.

But the naming game is not just a problem for parents of 3800 kids. People expecting their first or second go through the same turmoil over choosing just the right moniker for their baby-to-be. It’s a lot of pressure! Choosing the name your child will have for the rest of his/her life is a pretty big responsibility. And there are always so many factors to consider. “Do we pick a family name to honor a loved one?” “How does it sound with our last name?” “Are there any other children on either side of the family with the same name?” “Does this name conjure up negative feelings based on someone we know by the same name?” “Do OTHER PEOPLE like it???” “Can it easily be made into a bad nickname?” “Are we comfortable with the shortened versions of the name that people will likely try to use?” “Is it too popular?” “Is it too weird?” Certainly a lot to think about.

I’m not the only SmartyPants struggling with this issue. Mac and her husband are expecting their second baby in October and have yet to choose a name for their tyke. We pour over name ideas and ask each other’s opinions frequently. And Bectoria’s most recent addition to the family spent her first 4 days of life nameless due to indecision on Mom and Dad’s part.

The thing is, when you know, you know. You know? Eventually, we settle on a name, and before long, it seems like the perfect fit and we can’t imagine that child ever having a different name. Of course, they were meant to be named “______!” Opinions are great, and maybe an idea someone mentions is just the inspiration you were looking for, or at least points you in the right direction. BUT, what others think of the name you’re considering should have absolutely no bearing on whether or not you decide to go with it. This is YOUR baby, and YOU get to name him/her. I always think it’s a good idea to consider whether the pronunciation or spelling will make your child’s life difficult, but once again, that’s an opinion you aren’t required to heed.

So the pressure’s on at our house. We are in the last 10 weeks and have never been this far before without a name. It’s a race against the clock and we are trying not to pull a “Bectoria” and nearly leave the hospital without settling on a name.

If you have kids, what are some things people said to you about the names you considered? Or, have you ever experienced any regret over the names you chose? Are you currently trying to come up with the perfect name for a bun-in-the-oven? Most IMPORTANTLY, whether you have kids OR NOT, do you have any great name suggestions I can work with?

Categories: children, Family, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

In Case of Emergency

The purpose of this blog post is to urge all Smartypants to organize a support system in case of emergency.

During my social work education, one of the first things we learned was how to develop support systems for our clients. When my family and I relocated a few years ago, I leaned on these skills to build a support system of my very own. Looking back on all of the books that have been written on the importance of such a system, I have got to say, none have come even close to illustrating the sheer magnitude of help and relief our support system has afforded my family.

Two weeks ago, the value of having such a support system in place proved itself when what initially seemed like a small procedure turned into an all day event followed by a week of helplessness and pain. Of course I’m not looking for sympathy. Debbie Downers aren’t good for anybody. My point is to highlight the extent to which I needed help with just about everything for the next several days as my body recovered. I have an amazing spouse, but he works and I did not want him to take too many days of leave during a very stressful time in the office. Having absolutely no family in the area, a mom in a similar situation would have been sunk. This was when my support system was crucial to the function and overall wellbeing of my family. Yes, I do realize that there are services designed to aid in such an emergency but I much prefer not to have strangers in and out of my family’s life, especially when I’m under the weather. Being able to lean on a support system of individuals who are invested in providing all the love and nurturance my family required while I recovered was an amazing blessing. So much so, in fact, that I urge every Smartypants to not go another day without developing one such support system of their very own.

How does a Smartypants go about developing such a support system? Let’s go through this step-by-step.

Step One: Identify the Unconditionals

What the crap is an unconditional? These are the people in your life on whom you can rely regardless of circumstance. They are the very nearest and dearest loved ones in your life. These people will never stop loving you no matter what. They are the people in your support system who can provide you with ongoing support throughout life’s bumpy road. Unconditionals could live next door or on the next continent. It’s their proximity to your heart that matters. These are the people you can call at any hour when you are sad and the first people you will call to share your greatest joys. They will not judge you for the mistakes or detours you are bound to make on life’s journey and they will keep your heart full of the love you will need to make it all the way down your intended path.

Step Two: Locate the Ole Reliables

Ole reliables may not be the people with whom you would share your deepest, darkest fears but they could definitely be considered the close friends and family whom you have in your life most of the time. Ole reliables are also the friends who will visit you in the hospital when you are sick, they are the people you want to have come over regularly as well as holidays and they are most definitely people you can call on to help you out when you’re in a bind. Ole reliables are the people on whom you can rely because your relationship dictates that when the tables are turned, they can also rely on you.

Step Three: Pinpoint the Sociables

Being a Smartypants of the social nature, I am under the impression that we can never have too many friends. Because of this, I believe in adding a whole additional layer of friends to the support system. “Sociables” are the individuals with whom you are friendly in your day-to-day life, be that at work, the gym, your neighborhood, etc. You invite sociables along to share your life’s happenings. You might invite them to celebrate birthdays or you may have them over frequently for barbeques, a day of shopping, or a night on the town. Sociables are friends you would call on for kicks and giggles, but you could also rely on them to bring in your mail when you travel or to give you a lift somewhere on occasion.

Step Four: Community Cunning

A true Smartypants will use savvy to utilize all of the resources that a given community has to offer. Begin using that savvy by identifying local health and wellness resources BEFORE you have an issue. Next, learn where community resources are located, what types of services they have to offer and how to go about utilizing those resources. For example, you can find carpools for commuting to and from work, car-share programs if you don’t have your own vehicle, dog-walking services for that four-legged unconditional in your life, places of worship to fill spiritual needs, the list goes on and on.

To show true community cunning, you must first invest your time and efforts into your community. For instance, you could donate or volunteer at any number of charitable organizations; go to art shows and book readings, join a performing arts troop, visit local parks, join or start a running club, see what your local library has to offer, or attend community events. Chances are, when you do these things, you’re likely to meet people who will quickly become a part of your support system.

Taking a Constructive Look

Now that you have read through all of the steps in making a support system, I am curious to see how successful you were in identifying individuals and groups to fit into each category. One thing you may have noticed is that I did not identify specifically who in your life should go where. For some readers, biological family would definitely be considered “unconditional” while others might leave family out of the support system altogether. Identifying who is closest to you and who belongs in your support system is completely up to you.

The individuals in our support systems help us meet the needs of our lives but also make our lives full of the meaningful relationships we all need. If you are finding that you don’t have many people to fit into your support system, you may need to ask yourself why that is. I would challenge you that this may be because you are not putting in the necessary work to become an integral part of someone else’s support system. If you find your support system needing work, use the information gleaned from this post to declare a case of emergency.

To address this emergency, go back through the above steps and work at putting yourself out into society enough to begin completing these steps by forming genuine relationships. You can begin with Step Four, and use your “community cunning” to meet people and then work on those relationships until they are meaningful enough to be considered the “unconditionals” described in Step One. Obviously everyone you meet will not someday become an unconditional, but think of the meaningful relationships you will have and of what a full support system you will acquire if you look at every person you meet as a potential “unconditional”.

Note: The above list of steps to forming a support system is not exhaustive. Use the information included in this post as merely a springboard. Feel free to tailor it to suit your needs in creating a support system that is unique to your life. Once you have done so, comment back to me on this post. I’d love to hear what you’ve come up with!

Categories: Exercise, Family, Medical Teams, Organization, Parenting, Social Life, Social Work, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Wake up and smell the coffee!” The story of my conversion.

Ah!  The fresh black beverage first thing in the morning!  It has become my ritual, my aid, the best part of my waking up.  Maxwell House’s South Pacific Blend is my favorite lately, but Dunkin Donuts Vanilla is one of the more admirable roasts on the grocery store shelves.  Someday, I’ll become a sophisticated coffee snob with a French press and my own bean grinder, but in my current lifestyle, it’s best that I just stick with an extra large, prepackaged brew from my local discount retailer.  If it’s hot, black, and ready to pour, it’s already my favorite mug!

I’ve not always been like this.  I have a few friends whose parents let them grow up drinking the stuff.  (Craziness.)  But most of us come to the beverage with virgin lips at some point in our adolescence.  I remember as a child adoring that coffee smell in the church fellowship hall where my dad was custodian.  I remember the aroma taming even the smoke filled kitchen of my grandparents home.  Though she was no coffee enthusiast, I remember my mom putting a coffee bean scented candle in our home while I soaked up that sweet sweet smell!  Imagine my confusion when I finally got my mits on the beverage and found it tastes NOTHING like its smell!  How can something that smells so sweet taste so bitter?!

When I left for college, I just knew I was going to be so super hip.  Surely, my taste buds would have matured!   After all, college obviously meant hanging out in coffee houses, sipping all sorts of sophisticated blends.  “This is not a sitcom, Mac”, my roommate reminded me when, to my dismay, it took me till the second semester of my freshman year to take advantage of this rite of passage.  Another friend geared me up for the experience:  “You have to walk into a coffee house KNOWING what you want, as if you’ve ordered it your entire life.  There’s nothing hip about getting to the counter and saying, ‘Er–uh…'”.  (Yes, I built up the importance of college town coffee houses in my head so much, that I was actually seeking counsel on the subject.)  I vividly remember walking into Old City Java in Knoxville, TN with my boyfriend.  There was that sweet familiar aroma.  Hipster indie music played softly through the speakers.  Beautiful local artwork hung from walls where old plaster partially shed to expose the historic structure’s antique brick.  The wood floors creaked as I found a spot on a nasty old couch in front of a coffee table decoupaged with local black and white photography.  I just knew THIS was what being a cool college kid was all about.  With great anticipation, I tasted the sweetest brew they sold, partially gagged, and with watering eyes, barely sipped my cappuccino down to a lukewarm half mug.  It took about two hours.

I can’t tell you how vexed I was.  Everything about the experience was just what I’d dreamed of… except the beverage I so longed to love.  Resigning myself to chai latte or hot chocolate, I decided my love affair with coffee just wasn’t meant to be.  I continued to try coffee in various forms at practically monthly intervals, but I still couldn’t stand more than a sip or two.  Even the beverage that most folks swear doesn’t taste like coffee:  Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha, was no match for my picky palate.  A few tastes was the most I could ever handle.

How do you suppose then, that 10 years later, I find myself sitting in front of my desktop savoring my steamy black mug?  It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago when I was sitting in the lobby of our church, feeling pretty much like I was going to die of exhaustion before the start of the service.  A new mom enduring another sleepless night, I’d been there with my husband helping with some prep since before sunrise.  One of the perky teenagers sat down beside me chipperly:  “Why don’t you just have a cup of coffee?”  We were in church, so I couldn’t cuss at her.  Instead, I told her the tragic tale of my heart’s longing and my taste bud’s rejecting.  “Stay right there!” she said, and rushed off to the counter to get me a mug.  “Try this!”  I expected the typical beverage coffee drinkers try to force onto my kind.  Three to five sugars, four creamers, nothing enough to mask the sheer black bitterness.  Instead, I sampled a heavenly invention!  Why… it was JUST LIKE hot cocoa, but with the tiniest bit of scrumptious “bite” to it!  I loved it!

“What is this?!”  I asked!

“Coffee cocoa!”  Her perkiness did not relent, though it suddenly seemed much less agitating.  “I just made you a mug of hot chocolate and added a splash of coffee.  It’ll be enough to give you a LITTLE push this morning.”

When you’re not used to anything stronger than a Mountain Dew, let me tell you, that “LITTLE” push was sweet relief!  I happened to be playing djembe (it’s an african hand drum) on stage that morning.  While part of me feels that the Holy Spirit should take credit for the energy in the service that morning, I can’t help but think coffee cocoa made a certain contribution as well!

I’m not a scientist.  I know that a cup of coffee varies in caffeine content depending on strength of the brew and the darkness or lightness of the roast.  I can, however, tell you the energy boost I get from coffee is like a cleaner, truer energy that I’ve obtained from any form of soda.   While coffee may cause temporary staining to your teeth, it’s not the cavity magnet that both sugared and diet sodas create!  And, I can tell you that coffee has changed my life!  So this is what it’s like to feel READY to take on the day within 30 minutes of waking up!  This is what it’s like to actually feel like getting in a workout before I start my day! My husband and I agree, our lives are healthier, more productive, and generally hold a more beneficial structure when we start out with coffee!

I took that recipe for “coffee cocoa” and started adding just a little more coffee and a little less cocoa every day.  It only took a couple months before I was drinking straight up Foldgers with one packet of Splenda!  I can’t believe it’s taken this long, but my new morning ritual is worth it.  I usually only have one cup a day, first thing in the morning, but it’s great to have the OPTION of coffee when a waking baby has made the evening lest than restful.  It’s great to have a cheap alternative to dining out when my husband and I have a sitter and just need to kill some time together outside the house.  And nothing says “I love you” like the hot carafe he often leaves for me before he takes off to work.

So, if you hate coffee, try just mixing a tiny bit into some cocoa.  Who says you have to fall in love with coffee overnight?  Instead, just take it in small doses, and see if it changes YOUR life the way it’s changed mine!

Here’s some comment fodder:  Have you ever converted yourself to a food or beverage that you couldn’t stand at first?  How did you do it?  I used a similar method to convert myself from regular to diet soda.

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Just ignore this and scroll down…

Here’s our first podcast again…

smartypantspodcast001

I apologize for the repetitiveness.  We’re working hard to get content into the iTunes store!  Do a search for us and tell us what you think!

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Highs and Lows

“Yes, but those spikes in insulin cause weight gain and all sorts of horrible diseases!”

“Mmm hmm, mmm hmm…”  Inside, I was saying “Blah, blah, blah!  Whatever!”  I was on the phone with my mom and she was, once again, defending her low carb lifestyle.

I did Atkins once.  I pretty much killed or nearly killed everyone around me within one week’s time.  Atkins + Mac = homicidal… or at least general bitchiness.  Anything that makes me feel like I could single handedly initiate world wide Armageddon can’t possibly be healthy.

Fast forward to the very  next day.  I was just finishing up my grocery shopping trip, walking out to my car when, WOAH!!!  What was that?  For a split second I was actually losing consciousness.  In every other way, I felt fine… I felt like I could have been one of the victims of the recently canceled “Flash Forward”.  If the sky had been glowing, it might have felt like “LOST” which would have been infinitely cooler.  But no, I drove the five blocks home as quickly as I could, because with NO warning whatsoever, I had nearly passed out!

Fast forward to the ER visit my OB/GYN instructed me to make as soon as I got her on the phone.  A tall, middle-aged man in a lab coat introduced himself as the doctor handling my case.  A simple finger stick had confirmed I was hypoglycemic, and the peanut butter and jelly sandwich they fed me had me feeling much better.  “You see, you’re not a teenager any more.”  (Why do those words sound so hateful?)  “You can’t just eat all the carbs you want and not expect a crash later!”  I already saw where this was going.  “Concentrate your diet with fewer carbs, more proteins and fats.  Especially in your condition.” (I’m pregnant.)  “You’ll have to talk to your OB/GYN about a diet plan that will work for you.  I like to carry packets of nuts and trail mix with me to snack on throughout the day, but of course, I work out quite a bit…”  Are you KIDDING me?! “You see, we think fats are the problem, but its actually the carbs that cause these insulin spikes and inevitably can cause all kinds of diseases if we let it get out of hand…”  And now I’m talking to my mom again?!  I grabbed some extra peanut butter packets, payed my $50 and got myself home.

I’d like to say I changed my life after this… but no.  I just tried to snack more often.

Fast forward to last Monday.  I get a message from Stephanie.  She’s in a bind, and needs someone to stay with her 5 billion children while she runs an important errand.  I had plenty of notice that morning.  I knew where she had to be and when she had to be there, but I admit, time got away from me, and I didn’t feed my son before I got to her house, close to 1PM.  She greeted me apologizing profusely:  At the mercy of others while she scrambled to get everything ready to get out the door, she hadn’t had the chance to get her kids their lunch yet, either.  What followed was an adventure of epic proportions.

It has never taken longer for a pot a macaroni and cheese to boil.

The youngest was the first to start screaming.  My own son soon wondered into the kitchen… seeing a baby screaming, he seemed to think he needed to do the same thing.  I tried to tide him over with juice, but nothing seemed to make him happy.  One by one, and in order of age, each child made their way into the kitchen, each with a unique compliant, and each started bawling.  None of them complained of being hungry, except for possibly the oldest boy, who, when I asked why he was crying, could calm himself just long enough to utter some indistinguishable mumbles.  I’m pretty sure the gates of Hell sound exactly like Stephanie’s house when food is late to the table.  (This must be how she found her passion for cooking.)  I was also starving, and also felt close to tears as I tried to figure out how I was supposed to calm all these babies and still get lunch finished.

Rewind to the night before.  (I know.  Non-linear storytelling is overrated, but bear with me.)  My husband had just left for a week-long work trip.  I was pretty much beside myself.  It’s not that we’ve never been apart, but for some reason, I was just seriously bummed out this time.  I had been moping all night.  The loneliness hit even harder after I put my kiddo in bed.  Overall, the world was just seeming like a dark dark place, and once again, I felt close to tears.  Enter a fresh bowl of strawberries.  Within minutes… I felt rational again.  Marcus would be back, and I would even get to see him for a mid-week visit.  Within an hour… the world was a bright happy place again.  I wasn’t depressed after all!  I was just hungry!

Back to Stephanie’s kitchen with thousands of screaming babies.  Don’t fire me, Stephanie, but I just realized it was time to ignore everyone and just get the dang food on the table!  Within minutes: Silence.  Mouths were full, tears were dried.  We started up a rousing game of Bee Bee Bumblebee.  The rest of the visit was spent peacefully playing, showing each other silly kid tricks, enjoying some classic Elmo… as soon as they were fed, her 400 million kids were about as easy to care for as my singleton.

Well, THIS experience, much more than my tall middle-aged doctor that works out all the time, has had me changing my mind about watching those blood sugar levels. I’m finding my mood swings aren’t so much a pregnancy symptom as a symptom of poor nutrition. Those life changing 10 minutes waiting for the macaroni to boil got me digging out some of my old health food books to look for things with plenty of proteins, good fats, and unprocessed carbs.  If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it’s probably the best place to start!  Here’s my own protein pancake recipe.  A food processor and an electric griddle will get a week’s worth made up in about 30 minutes, but I’ve done it using just a blender and a skillet.

1.  Heat up that griddle!  I pump it up to 400 degrees.

2.  Run three cups of old fashioned oats in the food processor till it’s like flour.

3.  Toss in one 24 oz carton of low-fat cottage cheese, one 16 oz carton of egg substitute, a splash of vanilla, a few shakes of cinnamon, and six packets of your favorite sweetener.  Blend till it’s batter!

4.  Use your 1/4  measuring cup to scoop your pancakes onto the griddle.  It depends on the variety of egg substitute and the brand of cottage cheese exactly how they’ll cook up on the griddle.  A runnier consistency will have bubbles on top when it’s ready to flip, while a thicker consistency will require you to watch a little closer.

Makes apx. 20 pancakes.  I refrigerate or freeze them and pop them in the toaster throughout the week.  Last night, my son kept helping himself to the stack I had cooling on the counter!  It’s great snack for toddlers that are picky about meats and other proteins.  I like to top with a good brand of sugar free maple syrup, (such as Smucker’s) or sometimes just some fruit.  The options are endless!

Do you have stories of low blood sugar woes?  Or do you have great ways to hide extra protein in your meals?  Please share.  My husband and son will thank you.

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