Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

I dislike New Year's Resolutions.

On the one hand, they seem like a good idea:  out with the old, in with the new . . . full of hope for a better and brighter year.  But they end in guilt and self-recrimination when they inevitably go unfulfilled.

Nevertheless, after starting on my MILF Project at the beginning of the summer . . . and being derailed from it by an ill-advised cartwheel at the end of the summer, nowish is coincidentally a good time to pick up fresh again.

So call it my New Year's Eve Eve resolution:  I am back on the wagon to lose the baby weight and get my 37 year old figure back before I turn 43!  (Thirty-seven = the age I was when I married The Working Dad . . . plus, it's a workable goal, you know?  Not like trying to look like I'm 18 again.)

New plan, friends, starting tomorrow (because why not start on a Monday):

  • Stop eating crap.  That means less white stuff, especially sugary stuff, but starchy stuff too.  (So I'd better get to eating up the rest of it before midnight tonight!)
  • But no strict dieting.  I rebel against prohibition and end up eating a whole bag of Funyuns or something if I tell myself I cannot have it.  (But saying to myself, "you ought not to have it," is a lot easier.  It presents an element of choice, kind of . . . .)
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes at least five days a week.  (This means getting up early to do that, and that's okay, if I do the next thing, which is . . . .)
  • Go to bed by 10:30 p.m. (I fall asleep on the sofa anyway by that time, so I might as well be in my bed when that happens.)
And, too, I have set rewards for myself for when I have met certain weight loss goals:
  • 10 pounds:  Congratulations, Working Mom, you've earned yourself a pedicure!
  • 5 more pounds:  Woo-hoo!  Looks like it's time for another pedicure!  (Also, Working Mom, by this time, you might want to consider starting to run again, but don't push it if your cartwheeling injury to your tushy is still bothering you.)
  • 5 more pounds:  Twenty pounds?!!!  Wow, you get to go shopping for a couple of nice new items of clothes for your slimmed down self.  Give your good friend and CAbi Rep a call, and buy something pretty!  (Oh and, hey, go ahead and have another pedicure, you've earned it!)
  • 5 more pounds:  Is it pedicure time again?  I think so!  Plus, you've met your goal, have a manicure too!
Yes, pedicures . . . an infrequent treat for me, and something that I can definitely hang out there as a carrot.

So that's 25 pounds that I want to lose.  Losing exactly that much weight would get me to the weight I was when I married The Working Dad.  And I mean, exactly the weight that showed up on the scales on our wedding day . . . weird, huh?  (There are some things that you just will always remember....)  Those 25 pounds are 10 pounds of baby weight and 15 pounds of reproductive endocrinology weight.  And today, on New Years Eve Eve, it seems totally possible.

Happy New Year, Friends!

P.S.  Another resolution, of sorts, that I have made, is to write more frequently on this blog.  There have been a lot of things happening in the news and the world that affect parents, working women, and women in general, and I would love to explore them through writing.  I will try to do that more in the new year.  Good for the soul to examine one's heart through words.  In public . . .  Anyway, they have a Blogger iPhone app that I'm going to try out as a tool to use for more frequent posting.  Cheers, everybody!  Stay safe in the New Year!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Power of Authority

It is a near universal truth that all women who have had a baby embark, almost immediately, on an odyssey to retrieve (or re-achieve) their pre-baby bodies.  And because this is a near universal truth, I proceeded on that same quest.  This summer, in furtherance of that goal, I engaged a personal trainer.  For about eight weeks, things were going great!  I had gone down a size in jeans and I had lost 11 pounds.  I felt strong and proud of myself.  I was running two to three miles 4 to 5 times a week, with a decent time.  It was fantastic!

Then one day, inspired by the summer Olympics, my trainer made up an Olympics themed workout for us.  One of the things she asked me to do was a cartwheel.

Okay, yes, I am forty-two years old.  But I remember how it feels to do a cartwheel.  And I've done them in my adulthood:  my young adulthood, sure . . . in college . . . at the intramural fields . . . and once at the Sigma Chi house, I think . . . and possibly slightly inebriated (either on life or libations or both) . . . but still, I've done a couple of cartwheels as a grown-up.  But I'm middle aged, now.  And the sad truth is that I have not cartwheeled in decades.

So, I demurred at first.  I even told my trainer that I was a little scared to do a cartwheel.  But she encouraged me, and she was enthusiastic, and I wanted to show her that I was game and a "good," motivated exerciser.  So, I attempted the cartwheel.

Bad idea.

I sprained my booty.  And I don't just mean that I was a little sore the next day.  I mean that the cartwheel happened on August 8th and I'm still suffering from its effects today, November 19th.  I strained -- or, it seems more likely at this point, slightly tore -- a small muscle underneath my gluteus.  It even hurts to drive the car because the movement of the leg from the gas to the brake and back aggravates the injury.  (And P.S., I drive a lot with my job.)  I have tried to run a few times since then, but I still have trouble.  Even walking too vigorously or for a long distance can be painful.  It takes a long time for the middle aged butt to heal.  Maybe in a few more weeks I'll be able to run again.

Did I mention that I have a 26 pound toddler boy who still likes to be picked up by his mommy?  Did you know that you need that tiny muscle beneath the gluteus maximus to do that lifting?  Oh yes.

It has not been a good experience.

In the weeks and months (!) since the Cartwheeling Incident, I've thought a lot about why this happened.  Why did I agree to do something that my first instinct was to reject?  It's easy to just blame my personal trainer, but it's not her fault.  Yes, perhaps she should have thought twice about asking a forty-two year old, out of shape lawyer to do a cartwheel.  But I am, after all, a forty-two year old, out of shape lawyer.  I am not without agency.  I could have flatly refused to do it.  But I didn't.  Why?

You know, I tried to breastfeed my son after he was born.  (Hang with me, here; you'll see the connection, anon.)  The pediatric and neonatal communities -- the doctors, the nurses, the lactation consultants -- speak so strongly about the clear benefits to the mother and child that result from breastfeeding that it is almost implied that if you do not breastfeed your baby, you are guilty of a form of child neglect.  Like a "good" expectant mom, I had every intention of breastfeeding The Boy exclusively for at least the first six months.

What actually happened was this:  I starved my son for the first five days of his life and he ended up losing almost 10% of his birth weight.  So we started him on formula.  Nevertheless, I continued to attempt to breastfeed him.  During my entire maternity leave I would play with him when he was awake, then attempt to feed him with the breast, then I would bottle feed him, change him, put him down for a nap . . . and then, rather than sleep myself (which is what everyone says you should do, "sleep when baby sleeps"), I would hook up to the breast pump to try to stimulate more milk production.  It made maternity leave exhausting and miserable.  I became resentful of the pump and the lactation consultant/breastfeeding community.  Nevertheless, I kept doing it.  And, even after I went back to work -- even when I would bring home a scant 6 to 12 ounces of expressed milk from my 3 to 4 pumping sessions at the office -- I continued to do this to myself until, finally, my son, at the age of six months rejected both the breast and the anemic expressed breast milk that I offered to him.  Had he not been a wise infant and seen the futility of this endeavor, I probably would have continued with the pump until there was a mere trickle.  Why did I do this?

When I was in private law practice, it was not unusual for me to work 10 to 12 hour days.  I was rarely home before 8:00 p.m.  But I had learned quickly in law school and after that if I wanted to make partner, if I wanted to be a successful lawyer, working like that was what was required.  Here's what working like that also did:  it isolated me socially, it took me away from physical activity, it made it less likely that I would cook for myself and more likely that I would eat take out.  It made me fat, lonely and miserable.  And I knew that not exercising was bad for me, that eating fatty food was bad for me, and that having little social life was bad for me.  But I went ahead and worked the hours and gained the weight because conventional wisdom said that these were the personal sacrifices that are required to be a law firm partner, to be a "good" lawyer.

At the root of all of these adventures in self-destruction is the power of authority to cause you -- to cause me -- to ignore your better instincts.  If I had it to do over again, I would certainly take back that cartwheel.  I'd still be running.  Maybe I'd be down to a nine minute mile by now.  I would also hang up the breast feeding immediately. The emotional toll -- including the massive guilt trip that I could not give my son all of the magical whoosie-whatsits that come only from my boobies -- was just not worth it.  Instead, I would happily feed him formula and enjoy my maternity leave rather than wearily slog through it, a slave to the boob vacuum.  And I certainly would not have worked myself into serious unhealth at the law firm.  I would have left early more often to go exercise, to cook for myself, and to have a little fun.  Knowing, as I do now, that few people actually make law firm partner -- and, in fact, I took myself out of the running for partner precisely because that misery was not worth the prize -- I would have given myself a break.

In every instance, I knew that the better choice was to reject the thing that would make me seem, in the eyes of some real or perceived authority figure, to be a "good" exerciser, a "good" mother, a "good" lawyer.  But the authority of the chick with 6% body fat, or the doctors and the nurses, or the legal community bent my will away from my better instincts.

And I'm not the only one . . . we humans have a knack for closing our ears to our own guiding voices when authority tells us to take another path.  Think how wrongly white people behaved in the early-to-mid-20th century to people of color.  These white people were not all monsters.  They were not mostly monsters.  But they were so strongly influenced by the power of authority in their lives -- the authority that said that black people should drink from different water fountains, use different toilets, and go to different schools -- that they switched off that little voice of reason in their heads that asked them whether it was the right thing to do.

Of course, I'm not saying that all authority is wrong.  But I am saying that authority is incredibly powerful, and we should check it and question it.  You are not a slovenly mess because you question the wisdom of throwing your forty-two year old body upside down as if you were a ten-year-old.  And you are not unpatriotic to question government when it sends young men to war for a cause you do not understand. Nor do you commit blasphemy when you question your pastor's words when those words sound a dull tone in your ear.  There is a reason that your brain draws a question mark in your mind.  Rather than erase it and blindly accept the word of authority, examine it.  Rather than accept authority, take a moment to think -- and sometimes that thinking requires serious research, examination, and exploration -- about whether this authority really deserves your acquiescence.

So what about parents, right?  I'm a mom of a 20 month old, now.  And he is bright, cheerful, and strong-willed.  Conventional wisdom says that I and The Working Dad are in charge and that he, as our son, should obey us.  For now, this is true.  Twenty-month-old boys are not renowned for their sound decision-making acumen.

But one day in the not too distant future, he will rightly question my authority.  And I should be ready to have a conversation with him about that.  It is not acceptable to tell him, "because I said so."  No, my boy deserves a reasoned and honest answer from me as to why I exercise my parental authority as I do.  (P.S., to the extent that he can understand such reasoning now, he gets it now.)  And, I, as his parent must be acutely aware of the awesome power my authority has in shaping him as a person.  In large measure, he will do and believe as I and The Working Dad teach him.  So in everything that I do and in everything that I say, I am quietly exercising my authority over him and teaching him how to behave in the world.  So I must always remember that his little eyes are watching and his little ears are listening.  They are picking up every opinion, every behavior, every prejudice I carry and they are lodging it in his little brain-sponge.  I do not want to lead him astray.  And I do not want him to feel that he can never question me if the little voice in his head might say to him "this seems wrong."  He should ask why, and I, as the authority figure, should be able to tell him.  Indeed, I, as the authority figure, should also be ready to say, "yes, you're right, this does seem wrong."

So the Cartwheeling Incident turns out to have been a very painful and very good life lesson:  When your internal voice asks "but why?," before you take another step, take the time to answer the question.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rainy Day Play: Homemade Play Dough

We finally got a whole weekend of rain in North Texas!  Hooray! Our yards need it!

We rely a lot on the local park to let The Boy work off his energy.  So a rainy weekend, welcome as the water may be, makes for a long weekend inside the house for a very active toddler. After playing chase around the house, hide-and-go-seek, tickles...pretending to feed his menagerie...lunch out, going grocery shopping and working on letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and sight words, we started to run out of things to do on Saturday.

Luckily, my sister-in-law "liked" a page on Facebook yesterday around nap time that featured homemade play dough. Brilliant!  I looked up a recipe for cornstarch play dough on the Internet, and got to work.  I used gel food coloring to make the colors vibrant, like store-bought Play Doh.

My play dough was ever-so-slightly stickier than the real deal, but I think I used too much water, so I would advise to follow the recipe at that link precisely. One batch made four small balls of play dough.

When The Boy woke up from his nap, all three of us got to work with the cornstarch play dough, and a fun time was had by the whole family!

The Boy playing with his play dough:

Dad's green piggie just before The Boy got his hands on it:

The Boy disassembling Mom's pink and yellow angel:

You can store the play dough in the fridge in a plastic container with a damp sponge or paper towel to keep it moist. We can't wait to have more fun this afternoon with our rainy day play!  (P.S.  Yes, The Boy tasted it, but since it's just cornstarch, salt, water, and food coloring, there's no need to worry about toxic whosie-whatzits getting into his system.)

You could even use this recipe to make Christmas ornaments!  Just dry it at low heat in the oven and then spray it with lacquer. I think that may be a project for another rainy day.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

To be still

We're very busy people.  It's not just work that makes us busy.  We feel like we need to fill every moment with edification.  If we aren't improving -- either ourselves or our child -- then we are wasting time.  I'm not making any ground-breaking statements, here, I realize.

So tonight, after bath time, when it was reading and singing time, and The Boy preferred, instead, to sit on the floor between my legs, leaned back against me, enveloped by me, and do nothing else but be still and quiet with his mom for 20 minutes, it was unexpected.  We were supposed to spend these last moments doing things together.  But it wasn't just that he was content to be still, but that I, at first, was not.  I kept asking him if he wanted to sing this or read that.  He'd shake his little head "no."  No, he wanted to sit with me and be still.  At first, I was a little nervous doing nothing, a little impatient.  But slowly, I relaxed and I understood that we were, in fact, doing something together:  we were being still.

There's a lot to be learned from this little bundle of 18 months of human.  He knows what so many of we adults have forgotten:  there is pleasure, there is meaning, there is value, there is edification in simply being in the presence of another human being who loves you and whom you love in return.  You do not always need an activity to have a meaningful time.  You can simply sit with your darling loved one and be still.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Blueberry Muffins

The Working Dad and I enjoy a good blueberry muffin and a cup of coffee of a Saturday morning.  And I enjoy baking them.  The problem is that I feel sort of guilty carbing out in the morning . . . particularly this morning when I cannot exercise because I have to rest, having strained a ligament in my posterior doing a cartwheel this past Wednesday.  Yes, really.  Hopefully, I'll be back in my running shoes by Monday.

So I experimented this morning with stuff we had in the pantry and fridge in attempting to make a healthy-ish muffin, and it turned out pretty well!  Since it turned out so well, I decided to do a little self-congratulatory blog post and share my success.  So here we go!

The Working Mom's Whole Wheat Blueberry Carrot Muffins

1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c rolled oats
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

1 c carrot puree (I made my own in the blender from some carrots we had in the fridge and a little water.)
1/4 c 1% milk
1 egg

1 c frozen blueberries

2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Heat oven to 375 degrees convection (or 400 regular).  Mix dry ingredients together.  Mix wet ingredients together.  Stir the blueberries into the dry ingredients until they are just coated.  Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients+blueberries until incorporated.  (It took me about 15 strokes.)  Spoon into your muffin pan.  Mix 2 tbsp of granulated sugar with 1 tsp cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of the muffins.  Bake for 15 minutes.  And you get this!

They're quite moist and not at all chewy, like recipes that lack oil can sometimes be.  Here's my pig, Charlemagne, enjoying one with coffee.

And they even garnered the approval of the biggest food critic in the house, The Boy.

If it passes the 17 month old toddler test, I'd say I've actually done something good this morning!

And . . . according to this website, here's the nutritional information on them (which may or may not be accurate).

  Total Fat1.0 g
     Saturated Fat0.3 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat0.3 g
     Monounsaturated Fat0.4 g
  Cholesterol15.7 mg
  Sodium15.7 mg
  Potassium82.6 mg
  Total Carbohydrate22.8 g
     Dietary Fiber2.6 g
     Sugars10.2 g
  Protein2.6 g

Kind of on the high end with regard to calories and sugar.  (Carrots have a lot of sugar in them.)  But not bad on the fiber, huh?  You might be able to omit the egg and reduce the sugar to 1/4 c, which I might try next time, which would reduce the calories and sugar.

If you try them, I hope you enjoy them!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Ferberized Family

About a week ago, I wrote of how a mini-breakdown fueled by complete exhaustion impelled me and The Working Dad toward employing the Ferber Method of sleep training with The Boy, and I promised I'd report back on how things went.  (Click the link on the word "wrote" if you'd like to read more about how we got to Ferberland.)

So, here's a night-by-night synopsis of our Ferberization week.  The general evening schedule we planned out was as follows:

7:30 -- Bath
8:00 -- Quiet time, read books, listen to music, quiet play, cuddles
8:30 -- Bedtime

I will call this the "Evening Routine."

We chose 8:30 as The Boy's bedtime for the purposes of the Ferber Method because Dr. Ferber suggests that when you employ this sleep training method, you choose a bedtime that is no earlier than the time your child regularly goes to sleep.  The Boy typically would start to get drowsy at 8:30 -- and it had been his general bedtime when he was first sleeping through the night -- so we chose 8:30.

Monday, July 23rd, Night 1:
This day was discussed in my prior post, but to recap, we did the Evening Routine.  He started screaming immediately.  We went back to check on him at three minutes, then five minutes later, then seven minutes later, then ten minutes, ten minutes, ten minutes, ten minutes.  He fell asleep around 9:39 p.m.  He woke up at 12:30 a.m.  I checked on him after a three minute wait and then after a five minute wait, but he fell asleep before the next seven minute wait was up.  He woke up again at 2:30 a.m., but went silent before the first three minute wait had passed.  It was the same story at 4:00 a.m.  The Working Dad woke him up at 7:00 a.m. and he acted like he wanted to go on sleeping, but he was soon a cheery, smiley, happy toddler.

Tuesday, July 24th, Night 2:
We did the Evening Routine.  The Boy cried again when I put him down.  I waited five minutes to go check on him.  At the five-minute check, he was rubbing his eyes and voluntarily laid down to sleep when I went to place him on his back.  The next check was supposed to be seven minutes later, but he did not cry after the first check.  He was asleep before 9:00 p.m.  He woke up at 11:44 p.m. and 3:01 a.m., but was asleep again before the first five minute wait was over.  He woke up on his own at 7:24 a.m.

Wednesday, July 25th, Night 3:
We did the Evening Routine.  It was a bit of a struggle to get all the way to 8:30 p.m. because The Boy was so sleepy.  Now, that The Boy is sleeping longer hours, he actually seems to want an earlier bedtime.  But, at least for the first week, we strove to keep bedtime at 8:30 p.m.  When I put The Boy into his crib at 8:30, he flopped over onto his tummy, laying on his lovey.  He cried for a couple of minutes after I left the room, but was asleep before the first check, which was to be after seven minutes this night.  In other words, he was asleep before 8:37 p.m., which was extraordinary!  He woke up briefly in the night and cried out, but went straight back to sleep.  He woke up on his own at 7:30 a.m.

Thursday, July 26th, Night 4:
By now, we were really feeling like we were accomplishing great things.  The Working Dad and I, while still fighting off the colds we'd caught due to our prolonged sleeplessness, were getting more rest.  And The Boy was well rested too, which paid dividends we didn't expect:  Fewer tantrums.

We did the Evening Routine.  Despite the fact that it was becoming more and more difficult to get to 8:30 for bedtime, The Boy still did not want to go to bed.  It is a hard thing to deal with as a parent because, basically, The Boy does not want to go to bed because he wants to hang out with us.  Because we know that one day, he won't want anything to do with us, and because we really enjoy hanging out with him too, it takes some discipline as a parent to, nevertheless, refuse to give in to the temptation to satisfy your own desire and his and let him stay up.  The child needs his sleep.  And so do his parents.

One of the things the Ferber book recommends (and that I do), is to tell the child at certain intervals how long there is left before bedtime/lights out.  So at about fifteen minutes before bedtime, I tell The Boy that we have fifteen more minutes.  I also tell him that we can read one/two/three more books and then bedtime.  So this night, despite the fact that he was obviously tired, The Boy tried to prolong bedtime by handing me more and more books to read.  I suppose he thought that I really liked reading these books (which isn't wrong), and if he would just hand me more to read, I would just keep on reading and he could keeping hanging out with Mommy and not go to bed.  It's sweet, and a little heartbreaking.

When I stood up from the floor and said it was bedtime, he fussed briefly, but settled down when I put him in his crib.  He laid quietly on his back and resignedly turned his head to the side.  I couldn't help feeling a bit like I had somehow broken his will.  And that didn't feel great.

But, really, that is exactly what was happening.  It was a battle of wills, The Boy's versus The Parents'.  There will, I think, inevitably come a day when he will be in charge.  But, for now, The Working Dad and I are The Boss.  It is not the first time that I have had to remind myself that I am the grown up in the situation and it is my responsibility to make sure he gets enough of everything he needs:  food, shelter, sleep, love.  It is okay if he's mad at me every once in a while because, in doing my duty toward him, I have not done his bidding.  And I think that's what that little resigned head turn was about:  he was mad at mommy.

There were no night wakings by The Boy this night.  Unfortunately, The Working Dad and I were still recovering from our colds, so we woke ourselves up a few times in the night with our coughing.  The Boy woke up on his own at 7:30 a.m.

Friday, July 27th, Night 5:
We did the Evening Routine.  It was still a struggle to get to 8:30.  He fussed a little bit when I said it was bedtime, but did not fuss or cry when I put him in his crib, but laid right down ready for sleep.  There were no night wakings.  The Working Dad and I slept until 8:00 a.m.!  (But The Working Dad was up for a span of the night, coughing, poor hubby.)  I went to The Boy's room to check on him, and he way quietly laying in his crib playing with his lovey.  He was happy to see me and pleasant, smiling.

Saturday, July 28th, Day and Night 6:
This was our first Ferber day in which we had him all day and were responsible for naps as well as night sleeping.  The Boy typically takes a nap at school from about 12:45 to about 2:45.  It makes the most sense to keep him on this schedule for the weekends.  So, after getting him out of his crib at 8:00 a.m., I gave him breakfast of a cereal bar and milk, and then he and I went to the gym and let Dad get a little more rest.

We have consistently had difficulty getting The Boy down for a nap on the weekend, so we were hopeful that Ferber would help with our nap situation too.  At  school, there is usually a mid-morning snack before lunch, so I gave him a graham cracker and water while we were at the gym.  The Boy's class usually eats lunch around 11:00 a.m., so that's when he got lunch at home too.

At noon, we went up to his room and had quiet time just like at night.  I had had 12:30 pegged as the time I would put him in his crib for a nap, but at 12:22, he walked over to where his froggy blanket was laying on a chair, picked it up, grabbed his lovey, and then crawled into my lap ready for a nap.  I cuddled him for a few more minutes and then put him in his crib with absolutely no fuss.  I said, "love you, bye-bye," and as I went out the door and he called back to me, "Bye!"

Whew!  That was easier than I thought!

He slept until about 3:00 p.m. and The Working Dad and I got a few things done around the house.  (And I wrote a blog post about running skorts.)  When I went into The Boy's room to get him, he was all smiles and he said, "Hi!" I gave him a snack and we went to play at the indoor playground at the mall because it was 105 degrees outside.

At night, we did the Evening Routine, except that it was so difficult to get to 8:30 that we decided not to keep struggling.  We put him to bed at 8:20.  He did not wake in the night, except . . . .

At 5:09 a.m., he woke up.  The Ferber book says that if the child is awake at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning, he is not likely to go back to bed and you shouldn't use the method anymore.  Just start the day.  Still . . . it was five o'clock in the morning on a Sunday.  And The Working Dad and I, inured to The Boy's sleeping so soundly until 7:30 a.m. or later, stayed up watching the Olympics and playing Words With Friends with each other.  Oh, we would have loved to have slept another two hours!

So I waited.  He quieted down by 5:14 a.m., so I thought we were safe.  Alas, he started yelling again at 5:24.  I went to check on him.  He was standing in his crib holding his Elmo puppet, rubbing his eyes, clearly still tired.  I debated whether to pick him up, as Ferber would advise, or lay him back down.  In engaging in this internal battle, I stayed longer than the 1 to 2 minutes advised by Ferber.  I decided to try to put The Boy back to bed . . . since he was clearly still sleepy.  I was back in bed by 5:30.  Still, he was up crying again at 6:03.  Dr. Ferber was right.  He wasn't going back to sleep.  We were up for the morning.

So here's what The Working Mom and The Working Dad learned in the course of this very early morning:  (1) when the child gets Ferberized, we all get Ferberized, and (2) any sleep past 5:00 a.m. on the Ferber Method is bonus sleep.  Never take it for granted.

Sunday, July 29th, Day and Night 7:
In an efforts to get The Boy to a noontime-ish naptime, we gave him breakfast around 6:30 a.m.  We let him play for a bit (until he pooped), then we went to the grocery store around 8:00 a.m.  Then we came home and while I gave The Boy a mid-morning snack of yogurt, The Working Dad unloaded the groceries.  Then The Working Dad and I got dressed for the gym and we all went to the gym.  At 11:00 a.m., we came home and gave The Boy lunch.  At 11:30 a.m., we had struggled long enough and The Boy and I went upstairs for some quiet time.  I put him into his crib at 11:50 a.m., and he giggled as I put the blanket over him.  He was ready for his nap!

At 1:10 p.m., he cried out.  We waited.  By 1:15 p.m., he was quiet again.  I woke him at 3:15 p.m. because we did not want him sleeping all afternoon such that he would not be sleepy at bedtime.  I offered him a snack, but he did not eat much of it.  As a consequence, he was pretty cranky until dinner, which was at his favorite Mexican restaurant.  (And smearing black beans all over your face has a way of cheering a body up.)  When we got home, it was a little early for bathtime, so he and I shared a single serve package of Goldfish graham crackers for dessert.  (He likes to reach his hand into the little bag . . . he also likes to feed me crackers, which is fun.)  Then we did the bedtime routine with one exception:  we put him to bed at 8:00 p.m. because he was so, so tired.  He woke up at 6:19 a.m. the next morning, crying, but was soon soothed with some milk and Cheerios.

And after the First Ferber Week . . . .
The second week of the Ferberized Family, we stuck with the 8:00 p.m. bedtime because he is obviously tired by 8 o'clock.  But he does not seem to go to sleep any earlier, seems crankier during the day, and seems to wake up more frequently in the night.  So as of this weekend, we have gone back to the 8:30 bedtime, which really does seem to fit his little circadian rhythm.

Final Thoughts:  The Ferber Method is not for everyone, but it has been a mostly effective means of addressing our sleep problem with our willful and persuasive toddler.  Fingers crossed that we all continue to get more restful nights' sleep.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

In defense of the running skirt

The ladies on one of my favorite podcasts, this week, quizzically mused about the running skirt/skort.  They seemed, at a minimum, bemused by the prospect of running in a skirt:

"When did skirts become work out gear?"

"I don't know, and it doesn't seem comfortable."

"Is it somehow an offshoot of tennis?"

"What's the point?"

"I ran a road race recently, and every time a woman passed me in a skirt I was like, 'Fuck, I can't let that girl pass me.  She's wearing a skirt!  That's not okay!' "

Oh, ye, of little chub-rub . . . .

So, here, my dear weekly Double X Gabfest friends, let me elucidate "the point" of running skirts.  Here's the one that I wear running, five to seven days a week:

This is the Brooks PR Mesh Skort II.  It is available in black, gray, pink and light blue.  I have it in all four colors.  It features little stretchy-pant shorts underneath.  There is a little pocket on the side of the right short leg and a little zipper pocket at the small of the back.  It is, in fact, incredibly comfortable to run in -- far more comfortable than your normal running shorts.

And why is that?

Well, for many of us who are not so blessed that we can stand with our feet together and see daylight between our thighs, regular running shorts bunch up in the crotch.  This phenomenon of running gear is the opposite of comfortable.  Your thighs end up rubbing together, and they get chafed.  You spend time you should be just running tugging your running shorts out of your crotch.  It's not fun to run this way.  It's not easy to run this way.  It's a little embarrassing to be constantly pulling at your crotch as you skip down the road.  Digging your shorts out of your crotch does nothing for your minute/mile time.  It is way more comfortable to run in this skirt because the little stretchy-pant under-shorts do none of this annoying crotch-bunching.  They stay in place half-way down your thigh throughout your run.  I have run farther and faster this summer because I've been running in this skirt.  (And I have lost more weight on account of it -- some running bodies are not yet perfect, but are actually chasing perfection.)

So why not just wear the little stretchy-pant shorts without the skirt apparatus over it?

Oh, slim-thighed friend, if you've got chub-rub enough to make crotch-bunching a problem, then you've also likely got a couple of little saddlebags hanging around your posterior too.  Nobody wants to show off those jiggly bits while they're running.  (And I'm going to guess that nobody wants to see those jiggly bits bouncing past them either.)  So the skirt gives you a little modesty when wearing your stretchy-pant shorts.

Plus, yes, they're pretty darned cute, especially when worn with a long-sleeved (yes, even in the summer, even in Texas -- it saves your skin) running shirt like this:

Running shoes like these:

And a running hat like this:

So lay off the running skirt, ladies!  I've lost 12 pounds and two jeans sizes while running in this skirt.  Sure, maybe I look like a middle aged mom as I run down the street in my skort, but, well, that's what I am.  But there is no denying that I am a happier runner because of this skirt.  See you at the 5K!  Catch me if you can!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012



Several months ago The Boy got sick.  The Boy got off of his sleep schedule, and we were never able to get him back to the old schedule.  The Boy, for several months, has been waking several times during the night.  Lately, he will be awake for, literally, hours in the dead of night wanting to play.

It's difficult not to love the fact that he wants to hang out with us.

Still.  We are exhausted.  My exhaustion culminated on Monday, July 23rd when I couldn't get a particular computer do-dad to work at the office and I burst in to uncontrollable sobs.  I'd only had about an hour and a half of sleep, after all. And it was not the first night of too-little sleep for me, The Working Dad, or The Boy.  I ended up going home for the day and sleeping, using way too many hours of my ever-dwindling leave balance . . . needlessly, really.

When we first got The Boy on a sleep schedule, we didn't have many tears.  I would simply put him in his bed and every time he stood up, I'd lay him back down until, eventually, he fell asleep.  Then I left the room.  Admittedly, this took a big chunk of the evening, but it would work eventually and we were proud that he was "sleeping through the night" around age seven to eight months.

But that was back when a night waking might go on for 30 minutes to an hour with a kid who was still learning to crawl.  Hours-long night wakings with an out of control toddler have literally been wearing The Working Dad and me out . . . weakening us to the point that we actually were getting sick.  It was affecting our ability to function at work and, indeed, The Working Dad and I were arguing in very irrational ways that I can only attribute to exhaustion.

Besides, the method we used before no longer worked with The Boy, now a toddler.  If you put him in his bed, he would scream, not merely stand up and look at you, but scream.  So in the last several weeks, we have employed a variety of ever-more elaborate techniques to get The Boy to sleep and those techniques had developed some bad sleep habits and associations for The Boy.  Those inappropriate associations needed to be corrected in order for him to be able to have a restful night's sleep.  He had become dependent upon, inter alia, The Working Dad dancing him to sleep to do-wop music, for instance.  This was untenable in the long run.  We needed a new way.

I had heard about the Ferber method, but had rejected it because I thought allowing a child to cry was cruel.  Plus, it hurts me to let him cry like that.  But desperation and not having any other answers led me to reconsider.  Also, at our last pediatrician appointment at 15 months, The Boy's doctor said that we might need to employ a little "tough love" to get him back into the habit of regular sleep.

So.  I bought Dr. Richard Ferber's book for Kindle.  We implemented the strategies set forth in Chapter 4.

It has been like magic.

The first night, The Boy cried for a little over an hour.  Here's how the schedule went down:

7:30 p.m. -- Bathtime.
8:00 p.m. -- Read books in The Boy's bedroom floor while listening to music.  This part was just lovely and so much fun.  The Boy, who is usually so rambunctious that getting him to sit still to read had been a real challenge, was very happy to sit in my lap and allow me to read several books to him.  (We listened to Rock-a-bye Baby, Beatles, by the way, which was a shower gift from a high school friend and college sorority sister.  Thanks, again, sweet friend who knows who she is!)
8:28 p.m. -- Music off, night light on.  Cuddles.
8:30 p.m. -- Bedtime.  Hugs. Kisses.  "I love you.  Night-night."
8:30:30 p.m. -- The Boy commences screaming.

I and/or The Working Dad went back to check on him, hug him, reassure him (but never lifting him out of the bed, per Dr. Ferber's instructions) that we were there at three minutes, five minutes, seven minutes, ten minutes, ten minutes, ten minutes, ten minutes and then . . . at 9:39 p.m., The Boy instantly fell silent.  Standing at his door, you could hear the deep breathing of sleep.  At about 10 p.m., I crept into his room to see him cuddling his lovey, sound asleep with his tushy in the air.  It was amazing.

He awoke at 12:30 a.m.  I checked on him at three minutes and five minutes, but he fell silent before the next seven minutes had passed.  At 12:50 a.m., I again went in to check on him:  sound asleep with his lovey, tushy in the air.

He awoke again at 2:30 a.m., but was silent again before we even made it to the three minute mark for the first check.  Around 4 o'clock a.m., it was the same story.

The Working Dad woke him at 7 a.m., his normal waking time, and he wanted to go on sleeping, even though he had had between 9 and 10 hours sleep that night.  This is a child who in recent days and weeks had been averaging 6ish hours of sleep a night.  (Kids his age need between 12 and 15 hours sleep a day. He was no where near getting that much.)

We are now on Day 2.  The evening ritual went down the same way as above, but this time, we waited five minutes before the first check.  The second check was supposed to be seven minutes later, but he did not cry again after the first check.  In fact, when I checked on him at the five minute mark, he was rubbing his eyes and he voluntarily laid down on his back to sleep.  He did not cry again.  I just crept into his room to check on him, and he is sound asleep.

I know that this method is controversial, and people think it is cruel to allow a child to cry.  Hey, I thought it was cruel too.  But The Boy is, we are told, among the easiest kids to put down for a nap at School.  If this is the case, then he already has the skills to go to sleep on his own.  It was The Working Dad and me, with our well-intentioned but apparently ill-advised interventions, that prevented that from happening.

(I will say this, though, I think that it is important to read the book, or at least heavily skim it, in order to understand what the sleep issues are and to determine whether your problem is merely bad habit, or something more serious.  It's also important that you understand the method so that you can implement it properly.  You might even want to throw in a call to your pediatrician if you're not sure whether it is a problem of habit or a health issue.)

Now, perhaps, it will all fall apart on Day 3, but so far, it seems to be working for us and we seem to be on our way to having a happy well-rested family again.  I will report back in about a week with our one-week results.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why Women Still Can't Have It All

Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote a piece for The Atlantic Monthly entitled Why Women Still Can't Have It All.  I had thought to write a true, point-by-point response to it, but to be honest, it took me days (okay, weeks) to finish the six page article, and I just don't have time to read it again, and even a third or fourth time, in order to give it a considered and true point-by-point response.  I am, after all, a working mom whose job is not writing responses to other writers' essays.  (I do this sort of thing in my spare time for fun.)  But the article got me thinking about a couple of things and I thought I might as well type a few lines about those thoughts.

The article has gotten all kinds of backlash from all kinds of feminists.  Among other things, Slaughter suggested that women and men react differently to their children, which is at least part of the reason why talented, well-trained, otherwise ambitious women choose "softer" or "easier" career paths than do their male counterparts.  Ms. Slaughter  suggests that the difference in the way men and women react to their kids, is both biological and sociologically programmed.  In other words, girls are too different than boys.

This is, classically, antifeminist.  But I also think that it is at least a little true.  By way of example, I always feel guilty when I take a little time for myself and leave The Boy at daycare.  The Working Dad never feels that same guilt.  He told me that he feels that those little breaks make him better when he's with The Boy.  And he's absolutely right about that.  But I still feel a twinge of guilt every time I do it.  Some feminists don't like the admission that women and men are in any way different because it might lead us down the Larry Summers path that ladies' brains just aren't wired for math and science (I paraphrase).  And that's a fair point.  But Slaughter also has a fair point that we need to recognize that there are differences in the way the sexes react to situations.  The recognition, to me, is not a sign of capitulation or an acceptance that one way of reacting is better than another, but just that they are different.  In recognizing differences, we can begin to attempt to create a workplace that is friendly and helpful to both men and women.

And that's a point I want to stress:  we should strive for a workplace in which men and women can have "it all."

But first, what the heck is "it all?"  How are we defining that?  Because if we're defining "it all" as being the partner at a law firm who shows up to work the day after Christmas to get the call from a new client or the Night Creature who sends e-mails to associates at 2 a.m. when all good, sane people are sleeping (not that I'm thinking of any particular gentlemen I've known in my life, she said sarcastically), well, thank you very much, I don't want "it all."

And, in doing those sorts of things, these men did not have it all.  They had powerful careers that made them a lot of money and took them away from their families.  They left the care of their children to their wives while they pursued careers to the exclusion of nearly everything else.  One of these gentlemen once related that his kids said that they were going to put on his tombstone "He lived.  He worked.  He died."  They were joking, I think, but to even pose that sort of joke seems very, very sad.

"It all" is not having ultimate career success at the expense of one's family life and health.  "It all" is having success in both.  And we can all have that, men and women.

But it requires a recognition on the part of employers and society that both parents need support in being parents and employees.  Slaughter says, "Ultimately, it is society that must change, coming to value choices to put family ahead of work just as much as those to put work ahead of family."  That's true for all of us.  Slaughter is right that there should not be "face time" macho.  Slaughter talks about flexible schedules and the ability to work from home as ways by which one might balance work and family.  But it's really not that easy.  How does a doctor, for instance, or a police officer, work from home?  Still, a recognition in these professions in which flexible schedules and telecommuting are not viable options that parents will be called away to the very important task of raising the next generation of citizens would help.

And even employers who offer the benefit of flexible scheduling -- in those sorts of jobs that can accomodate flexible scheduling -- often have restrictions on their use.  My organization offers "telework," which allows an employee to work from home up to two days of every two-week pay period.  I take advantage of the telework plan.  My telework day is every Wednesday.  Having a set day to telework does not offer the sort of flexibility that being able to work from home as life demands would offer.  But it's a start.

This sort of recognition of the reality of family responsibilities is needed for the family, for moms and dads.  I think that The Working Dad and I are lucky that we work where we work and have bosses who largely understand that we both will be toting the load when it comes to The Boy.  The Working Dad stays home with The Boy just as much as, if not more than (given that I barely have any leave after my pregnancy and maternity leave), I do.  I've written before about The Working Dad's contributions to our home.  It is not a question of me, the fabulous lady lawyer, getting ahead in This Our Man's World, but of our family forging ahead in a fashion that allows The Working Dad and I to have professional successes and personal rewards.  This is what our society and our workplaces need to come to grips with.

Feminism did not bring about the day of the dominant woman.  It has brought us companionate, co-equal marriages.  It has brought us to a place where men and women share the responsibility for rearing children and earning a living.  It has brought us equality.  Or at least, it approaches that equality . . . .  (I should note that I am aware that not all women are married and so this co-equal marriage thing does not apply to, let alone work to the advantage of, a single woman.  But I'm writing about my particular circumstances, which are that of a wife and mother.  I do not discount that society needs also to address the needs of single parents too. I'm just not "screeding" about that today.)

And I think that our feminist foremothers need to recognize that if we have equality in the home and in the office, that means that both the mom and the dad are going to have obligations and responsibilities in both arenas.  And those responsibilities are probably not going to allow either of them to be the Night Creature shooting out e-mails to harried associates in the dead of night.  We, both sexes, will have to compromise and sacrifice a little to gain the greater good of a satisfying work/life balance for both partners.

To me, that's having "it all."  Because if I had ultimate power and success in my career at the expense of my spouse's career, that would not be a mutually satisfying arrangement.  Likewise, if he had a triumphant career while mine foundered, well, that would not be nice either.

Now, to my last thought, which really does not fit with the foregoing discussion of "it all."

Slaughter observed that the older generation of feminists -- those to whom I owe quite a lot -- feel disappointed in women like me who check out of the high power/high stress jobs favoring ones that offer more flexibility and work/life balance.  My experience with this attitude is mixed, but Slaughter is not wrong that that attitude exists.

An anecdote from real life:  After a two-year federal clerkship, I went to work for a large law firm for which I still have great affection.  I have friends and valued and respected colleagues who still work there.  I worked there for between three and four years.  I tended to work 10 to 12 hour days.  I was single had very little time or energy for a social life.  We were extremely busy at work.  I was gaining weight at an alarming rate because I did nothing else but work.  I was extremely unhappy and burning out incredibly fast.  Maybe this was my mistake because I didn't set good professional boundaries, but I was a young lawyer in my early 30s and I believed in that whole face time thing.

The bottom line was that I needed a different life:  one in which I could do good legal work that I was proud of and still have time for regular exercise, hobbies, and even, dare I hope, romance.  I got my resume together and eventually found a position as a government lawyer.  I tendered my resignation.  I was 33 years old.

On my last day at the office, as I was leaving the floor for the final time, one of the female partners -- a woman 15 to 20 years my senior, who had spent most of her career as a single woman -- called after me, "Give us a call when you get married!"

I had no prospect for marriage.  I wasn't even dating casually.

Now, perhaps she was being sincere, but to my ears it sounded taunting and derisive.  It sounded like code for what she perceived to be my lack of ambition, as demonstrated by my checking out of that particular career path.  And I didn't even have the excuse of "but I have a baby at home."  I did this for me, for my health and for my sanity.

And anyway, why must our ambition be focused only on career success?  Can't we have an ambition to have a family someday?  Isn't that also valid?  And if it's not, how can you argue that women can have "it all"?  Isn't having "it all" premised on the idea that you can have a successful career and a satisfying home life?  And if it's not, then we've been lied to by the older generation.  I sincerely hope that is not true.

Leaving law firm life was the best decision I ever made.  I am happier and healthier as a result of the move and, in fact, I met my husband at the very job I left the firm for.

It is not failure to recognize that you want more in your life than 12 hour work days, whether or not you are a mom or a wife.  It is not failure to want to define yourself, not just by the terms of your education and training, but by your avocational interests, family life and friendships.  And, in fact, it is not failure or lack of ambition to desire to get married and have a family, nor is it failure to recognize that your current situation is a suboptimal path to attaining that goal.

I am ever grateful to our feminist foremothers for opening the doors and giving us choices.  When we, however, choose not to walk through any particular door, it should not be seen as failing to succeed or an abdication of power so hard won by the generations before us.  It should be seen as the exercise of a bona fide choice . . . a choice that really did not exist 40 years ago.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How to Put Your Wife Out of Business

Perhaps I missed this op-ed by Michael Lewis back in March of 2005 because I was, in fact, not at wife at the time.  But I heard it discussed recently on a podcast I listen to, so I decided to look it up.

You know Michael Lewis:  author of Moneyball, author of The Big Short, former bond trader, husband of Tabitha Soren.

Oh yes, that Tabitha Soren, the cuter, feminine Kurt Loder.

So that's what happened to her after MTV News:  her husband put her out of business.

But what does that even mean?  And is this the destiny of all working women?  And the secret goal of all of their husbands?

It's all tongue-in-cheek -- or at least I hope it is -- but Lewis offers three basic guiding principals to put your wife out of business:  (1) never mention money because she knows the value of it, having earned it herself, and she suspects that you may use your money-making as a weapon against her; (2) cushion her fall because she will suffer psychologically from stepping out of the spotlight of a dazzling career; and (3) lie a lot, mainly about the fact that their unemployment is temporary.  "The longer you have her believing [that she can go back to work whenever she wants and that demand for her skills is higher than it ever was], the less true it becomes."  It's a short essay and worth your time to read it.

Here's what it really says to me, though:  It's really hard to choose to be a stay-at-home-mom after being a very powerful professional . . . or even a semi-powerful professional.  And, indeed, women may suffer psychologically from the shift from, say, a seat before the Court to a seat before a highchair.  The loss of financial power can also be acute and, indeed, can be weilded as a weapon by some men against their formerly-working wives.  And, certainly, there is a belief among lots of SAHMs that they'll go back to work when the kids are older.  And I believe that some of these women harbor a secret (and probably well-founded) fear that their skills and professional usefulness are deteriorating while they are out of the workforce.

Love for your children is a powerful thing, but it is not the only thing.  I do worry about the women who want to step out of careers "temporarily."  I wonder how temporary it will really be.  For me, it has never been a question, because I never assumed I would leave work.  And that's partly because I like to work and partly because I feel like my skill set would diminish if I left the profession for a time.  There are lots of article about women having trouble re-starting their careers.  And if those article are worrisome to me, they must be terrifying for the "temporary" SAHM.

I also wonder about the concept that Lewis puts forward of the new sort of trophy wife.  Used to, the trophy wife meant smoking hot (by a certain metric), big boobed, empty vessels.  Lewis suggests that the new trophy wife has a Harvard MBA and that it is an accomplishment to acquire her brain and then ensure that that brain is not gainfully employed.  I wonder if some men really think that way.  Maybe men want to marry the Harvard MBA because she's more interesting to talk to than the empty vessel.  But it's still hard for me to understand why the Harvard MBA would want to quit work.  Why get the Harvard MBA if your career is going to be SAHM?

Anyway, as I said, the essay is very much tongue-in-cheek . . . but it tweaks, it disturbs, it rankles.  Just as, I'm sure, he meant it to.

And, P.S., Michael Lewis didn't put Tabitha Soren out of business.  She just changed the sort of business she was in.  Take a look her photography.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Patriotic Cookies

I don't mean that title ironically.  I mean that Independence Day (you know, The Fourth of July) is approaching and I've made some patriotic sugar cookies.

What does making cookies have to do with the tenuous work-life balance of a working mother?  Well, other than we mommies often like to make, and are sometimes asked to make, cookies for the kiddos, not much.  No feminist screed today, ladies and gents, just a photographic tour of my afternoon of cookie baking.

So, here's my attempt as some Independence Day, patriotic pinwheel sugar cookies:

First, make your favorite sugar cookie dough.  (Or, hey, working lady, make it easy on yourself and go buy your favorite pre-made dough at the supermarket.  I won't tell.)  Divide into thirds.  Leave one third alone.  It's your white stripe.

With the other two thirds, dye one red and one blue with gel food coloring.  (Gel food coloring will get you more vibrant colors.  If you're fine with more pastel shades, the liquid kind is fine.)  I found that the best way to get the color fully incorporated into the dough is to knead it in with your hands.  I wear vinyl gloves  to do this so I don't dye my hands.  You can get the gloves in the paint section of your hardware store.  (I like to keep such gloves in my kitchen for cutting up peppers so I don't accidentally wipe serrano juice into my eye an hour after I've cooked dinner.)  Use a different pair of gloves for the red and for the blue, unless you want purple.  In which case, carry on.

Once you have the color incorporated, form it into a round and place it between two pieces of parchment paper for rolling.

I sort of eye-balled it on the size of the cookie-dough pancake I wanted to roll.  As you can probably see, the oils from the prior cookie dough rounds (I rolled white first, then blue) left an image of the size of the prior cookie-dough pancake, so I just made the subsequent pancakes fit the oil spot.  If you want to measure yours out precisely, go for it, but who has time to find a ruler when they're baking and who, other than the people on America's Test Kitchen, keeps a cooking ruler in their kitchen?  (But good for you if you do, friend, you are a better baker than I.)

So I rolled the white out and set it aside.  Then I rolled the blue out and placed it on top of the white.

Then I put the red on top of the blue and the white...

... so that I had a stack of three cookie-dough pancakes.  Time to start rolling.

Use the parchment paper to help you roll your giant colorful pancake into a log.

By this time, your dough will have gotten pretty soft because, even though you're in an air conditioned house, it's hot as blazes outside and you've been working the heck out of that dough.  So be patient and go slowly.  (And rest comfortably in the knowledge that when you make red, white and green ones for Christmas later this year, the dough won't have gotten nearly as loose by this stage.)

Now, wrap the parchment around the log and use your hands to form it into a log shape (if yours, like mine, sort of started to go a little oblong on you).

I wrapped this parchment covered log of red, white and blue sugar-goo in a couple of layers of plastic wrap to help it keep its shape.

Next, I put my 4th o' July Log into the fridge and let it harden up for a few hours.  I used the little wine caddy thing in my fridge to hold the cookie log to help keep its shape.

(If your wine caddy thing still has a wine bottle in it, maybe you want to have yourself a glass of wine while you wait for the log to firm up.  Or fold laundry, like me.  Whichever.)

Soooo . . . after a sufficient amount of time . . . probably several hours, depending on your dough, you should have a nice firm cookie-dough log like this:

Slice the log into approximately 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch (depending on how big you want your cookies) slices and bake according to your cookie dough recipe's directions (or, according to the package directions, if you took a short cut).  My cookies needed about 12 minutes.

I recommend using a very sharp cooking knife to ensure that the cuts are clean.  And you should rinse and wipe your knife several times during the process so it won't stick.  Don't worry if your first few slices aren't super-swirly.  Once you get into the middle of the log, you'll see nice swirls like this:

Also, you may want to toss your dough back into the fridge to keep it cool and, thus, firm enough to cut.  Or you may want to do what I did, which is probably not as effective and putting it back in the fridge:

And, after 12 minutes, or however long you need, you've got your finished cookies!  I let them cool on the pan several minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.  (I found that if I didn't let them cool awhile in the pan, they sort of fell apart on the transfer and became a red, white, and blue mess.)

When they're completely cool, transfer them into a storage container and get ready to wow your friends, neighbors, and countrymen with your fantastic patriotic pinwheel sugar cookies!

Or, maybe just go ahead and pour yourself a glass of milk and plate one up for yourself.  Mmmm-mmmm, star-spangled goodness.

Happy Independence Day, Everybody!