Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Confession: I Hate "Back to School"

Oh, the ugly cry.
I admit it. I'm one of the seemingly rare parents who does not rejoice wildly at the idea of her child going back to school. From the myriad of posts that come up in my news feed, I appear to be in a minority. Most people say, "Oh, I'll miss the kids, but I will love having some extra me time." There are a few who count down the days from the moment the Summer break begins. I always thought I wanted to homeschool. It was my plan since before my son was born. However, after a lot of back and forth and tons of consideration, we decided it was not the best for my son at this time. So, he goes off to public school. Last year was Kindergarten. He was there for a half day, so I made it through. He goes into first grade next week...a full day. I'm going to miss him terribly. I do love a good back to school supply sale because I have a slight office supply fetish. Most of the supplies I bought on sale this year won't be going to school with my son. They're for home. Those sales are pretty much the highlight of this time of year for me.

Today, I noticed a link being passed around from The Stir. I generally avoid this site because, frankly, it annoys me. I opened the link anyway and read this little post. Hey, who am I to tell someone that they can't be happy that their kids are returning to school? The graphic about homeschooling is bit snarky and rude (because most homeschoolers I know are rejoicing, too), but it's her page and her right to write about her true feelings. I, personally, do not feel that way about my kid going back to school, so I thought I'd 10 Back to School confessions of my own. I'm sure there are others like me out there. Right? Right?

1. I am going to shrink into a crying heap of tears before I even pull out of the school parking lot. Not just cry - but I'm probably going to do that ugly cry. Puffy eyes, awkward snot and that weird gasp that you do when you cry.

2. Would it be wrong to give the teacher a pineapple on the first day of school? I figure apples are going to be popular and I like to stand out. I might even include a note that my child happens to be awesome and I'm sure she'll enjoy having him as a student.

3. My kid still fits into a lot of his clothes from last year, which is great because I don't have a lot of money to buy many new things. We bought some new clothes and I let him pick them out. I want him to be able to express his personality and feel comfortable in the clothes he chooses without feeling the need to fit in. 

4. I have a tradition of dropping my son off, going out to get coffee and then driving by the school on my way back home to make sure he's not wandering outside or something. I always wave to his classroom from the road, even though he can't see me, and whisper, "Hi Monkey. Hope you're enjoying school. Love you."

5. We had a great summer full of great family adventures, trips and some all around relaxation at the beach and the pool. Summer went by way too fast and I'm not ready to give it up yet. I'll miss being able to snooze in the morning and then get up and plan the day's adventure.

6. The sight of school buses sends my heart racing. For starters, some of the bus drivers around here are plain scary and one wonders how they even got their license. School buses also mean more traffic and the fact that a five minute trip to the store will take 15 minutes due to the frequent bus stops. Furthermore, the buses in my area pick kids of a few yards (literally) from school, despite the fact that there are sidewalks and a traffic light. Very few walk.

7. Sometimes, I consider homeschooling. Come August, I wonder "why the fuck aren't we homeschooling?" I feel frustrated that my plans to do so didn't come to fruition for many reasons.

8. I'll be lucky if I get a perfect back to school photo. I just want one photo of my little boy with his little backpack. I couldn't give a shit about posting it to my blog, I want the memories for my own heart. I'll be fighting back tears and he'll probably be spinning around or doing laps in the front yard before we leave for school, so I'll be lucky if I can see through the viewfinder and if I actually catch him without blur.

9. I like to make a full and hearty breakfast on the first day of school and on every day of school. I believe it lays an important foundation for the rest of the day and that good nutrition and food provide what the brain and the body need to get through 6 to 7 hours of learning. 

10. I couldn't tell you how many days, minutes and seconds there are until school starts. I'm still in denial that it's right around the corner. I'm trying to do my best to slow time down. So far, it's not working. For that, I am sad.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Belly Flop

Once upon a time, there were two sides to my abs - the right side and the left side. They were in love and they secured their bond with connective tissue. They had a fight last year when I was gigantically pregnant and they separated. After I gave birth, they started to work out their differences, but the same spark wasn't there and the bond they formed was weaker than the original. There is a gap in their love and I would say their relationship is merely platonic at this point. I'm breaking my back trying to get them together again and to form that strong bond they used to have. No, literally, their strained relationship is causing me actual back pain.

It's time to talk about my belly again. It's all floppy. No, I don't hate the fact that I look like I'm 6 months pregnant at 11 months post partum. I don't dislike my stretch marks. I've made it clear that I love my stretch marks. I don't want to look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model (do those still exist?). I do want my strength back. My belly is soft, yes, but my muscles just gave up and they are the ones who have gone floppy. It's really starting to hurt my back because I don't have that strong core.

Like many women, my abdominal muscles separated during my pregnancies. They snapped back into place after my first pregnancy, but they are now weak and out of place after my third pregnancy. I have what's known as diastasis recti. That's the fancy term to describe the separation of the abdominal muscles. It can be caused by many things in men and women, but pregnancy is when we commonly learn about it. They usually go back to where they belong after pregnancy, but some women are left with a bit of a separation. This can result in a protruding belly. I'm a good example as I have lost all the weight I gained in pregnancy, but I still look pregnant. My muscles should be holding my abdominal organs back, but since they are separated that job has been left to some thin old connective tissue, which leads to the protrusion of the belly. This isn't life threatening, but it can increase your chances of a certain type of hernia. (Side note - I'm discussing post partum diastasis. I do want to mention that, while this is very common in pregnancy, a severe case of it can actually cause the uterus to tilt forward too much which leaves the cervix misaligned and can lead to positioning issues with the baby.  I just wanted to get that awareness tidbit out there.) Not only does this leave you with a protruding belly, it actually hurts your back. I have a ton of lower back pain from this, because those core abdominal muscles also play a part in proper posture and movement. When they are weak it causes your posture to suffer and you may not move as well. I know that I actually feel strain just from walking. Another perk is that it can affect your pelvic floor and make you more prone to a tinkle or two when you sneeze, cough, laugh, hiccup or think of Snooki.

How do you find out if you have diastasis recti? Check out this website for a simple test that you can perform on yourself. Here is a video showing you how to test for it. If you're curious, I have a severe case. I can feel my organs and my pulse. Yum! 

Thankfully, this is something that can be repaired in the majority of cases. Extreme cases may require surgery, but it's not common. There is loads of advice out there for dealing with diastasis recti. Some folks recommend belly binding post partum. I have no personal experience with this, but I have been told that it can be helpful, with the addition of exercise, especially in women with a severe case. There are exercises that you want to avoid because they will make the diastasis much worse. Often, when we think of toning our abs, we think of doing all sorts of crunches and lying leg lifts (when you lay down and lift up your legs). This is actually counterproductive. I personally don't believe in crunches at all, but these types of exercises are especially bad when you have a diastasis as they work to worsen the condition. Actually, too many crunches can cause a diastasis. My friend, Eve, from Nurturing Our Roots runs a business with her husband called Optimal Performance Systems and one of the many things they do is teach people how to heal their bodies with functional exercises and corrective movements. I get a lot of advice from her and she has sent me information on someone who does functional exercise videos. I'll let you know what I think and how that's working for me when I check them out.

In addition to functional exercises, my plan is to heal my belly with some belly dance. Despite it's name, belly dance utilizes the entire body, not just the belly. It's a dance form that arose from the natural movements of a woman's body during childbirth. Due to the fact that belly dance movements are based on real movements, it works with your body rather than against it. Belly dance requires you to be aware of your body and your muscles. There is a lot more to belly dance than simple shimmies of the hips or belly rolls. Muscles all over the body are given a chance to work. For instance, you may look at me and only see my hips moving. However, to move my hips a certain way, I am utilizing my oblique muscles, my glutes, my quads and those pesky rectus abdominus muscles. There are plenty of fast movements, but there are plenty of slow movements as well, which provides balance in the type of work your muscles have to do. In a belly dance class each move is broken down and students quickly learn how to isolate their muscles, leading to greater body awareness and proper movement.  Posture is extremely important in this dance and awareness of the proper posture is a must when dancing in order to properly execute the movements and to prevent injury.

I've been taking belly dance classes for nearly three years. I started with the traditional form, Raqs Sharqui, but have recently moved to learning Tribal Style, which is the form I plan to stay with. I take a class once a week and it is just amazing. I love dancing (and I look pretty good doing it, for a clumsy girl) and the movement just lifts up your spirit and really empowers you. Belly dance is incredibly inspiring because it caters to ALL women and you most definitely see all types of women dancing - stick thin, big bellied, big hipped, big everything, super muscular, not-so-muscular, pregnant, post partum - every size, shape and color is represented in belly dance and it's beautiful. Unlike other dance forms, there is no pressure to conform to a certain body type or weight. You are accepted as you are. Anyway, I admit that I slack off during the rest of the week. I should practice everyday or every other day, but I don't. If I practiced once a day, I know it would improve my muscle strength, as well as my technique. So, I'm issuing myself a challenge to dance at least once a day, even if only for 10 or 15 minutes. Not only is it good for me as a dancer, but I am certain that it would improve my diastasis recti and help me regain some of that strength back.

Honest moment - I have hesitated writing this because I don't want it to come off the wrong way. I see nothing wrong with the way my body looks as it is right now. I don't want a change for looks because I absolutely adore my body. Part of me is sad at the thought of losing my soft belly. But, I'm in pain and I'm not able to do the things I am used to thanks to the diastasis recti. Self love is not just about accepting your body shape, you stretch marks and the skin you're in, it's also about taking care of that body and making sure it's in it's optimal shape. I can't ignore my back and my muscles shouting to me that they hurt. I have to take care of them in order to take care of all of me - because I love me.

I'll be updating my progress here and on my Facebook page now and then.
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