Monday, July 25, 2011

Insert funny title here


Mom, today I learned that if I want to have fun at church, I need to go to this guy's sermons.

I lost 30 pounds!  Over a month ago!  And I haven't lost anything since!  Woohooooo!

There are many words people use to describe where I'm at now.  Trapped.  Stuck.  Stopped.  Spinning my wheels.  Notice anything about them?  They're all negative.  They're all powerless.  They all create a sad little, helpless victim of the person who is trying to lose weight and somehow isn't anymore.

People get to a plateau in their weight loss efforts and they start to get angry.  "Why am I not losing weight?!" they demand.  "I'm doing everything the same, and I'm just STUCK!"

The thing about weight loss plateaus is that they happen to almost everyone, and we have a word for something that happens to almost everyone.  It's called normal.  Isn't it kind of silly to get angry over something normal?

"I had my oil changed 3,000 miles ago and now I have to have it changed again! What the crud?!"

"I'm moving in a few weeks and these boxes aren't packing themselves! What's WRONG with me?!"

"I'm 34 and my hair is turning gray, which is completely normal and not a cause for concern!!  WHY, GOD?! WHYYYYYYY?!"

If your body is doing what it was made to do, it's okay to take a breath and let it.  The problem with many people is that when they hit a plateau, they get discouraged and give up.  If they could just let it happen and move through it, they would come out on the other side ready, willing, and able to move down the scale again.

Wow, Sarah.  That's a pretty balanced perspective.  How did you manage to come by that?

I think I learned all of this from my years studying and working in the homebirth arena.  See, women in labor plateau just like people trying to lose weight do, and it's just as normal.  Many doctors expect labor to follow a nice, linear pattern of a centimeter of dilation every one to two hours.  Labor doesn't work that way, though, and so when normal women do what normal women do, these docs declare a problem and step in to intervene.

"Doctor, this woman's labor has stalled.  She's been at 5 centimeters for more than 2 hours."

"What?  She's doing what nearly every woman does in labor?  That will never do!  Her body is obviously broken!  We'd better get some pitocin in that IV, stat, and bring in the machine that goes PING!  It's a good thing I was here to save the day."

Sound ridiculous?  It is.  A natural labor plateau can mean any number of things.  Mom needs a little rest.  Baby needs time to move into a better position.  Hormones need time to be produced at higher levels.  Mom needs time to prepare herself emotionally for what's happening.  Doctors and nurses need to stay the heck out of the room so mom can labor in peace and not stress about an arbitrary measure like cervical dilation.

If you allow the labor to proceed on its own and let mom do what feels good, more often than not, the plateau will end when it's good and ready to, and the labor will continue on until a baby is born.

The same is true for a weight loss plateau.  It can mean any number of things.  Maybe your body needs time to get used to the weight you're at before moving further down the scale.  Maybe you've reached your set point and it's going to take a little more work to create a new one.  Maybe you need time to prepare emotionally for being a little bit thinner.

For me, it's about getting used to where I am.  When you lose 30 pounds, you don't realize you're still fat.  You're so excited you lost 30 pounds that you feel just as thin and beautiful as you ever wanted to feel.  I think that's important.  If I don't stop to feel beautiful where I am, I will never feel beautiful where I'm going to be.

That's not to say that it isn't annoying.  I would like this plateau to be over, and it's not really fun that I don't get to just decide for it to be over.  I'm just not cursing the god of cellulite that it's happening.  When I'm ready to move from this weight, I'll do it, and then I'll plateau again, and then I'll do all of this again.

Basically, the dreaded weight loss plateau is like the Dread Pirate Roberts.  There's a big, bad, mean reputation on the outside, and a gentle farm boy named Westley on the inside, just dying to shout "As you wish!" as he tumbles down the side of a hill.  It's not as bad as it seems, and it will probably help you get through your emotional Fire Swamps unscathed.

Just keep doing what you're doing.  And watch out for ROUSes.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

 I mentioned in my Awesome Product post that a) I don't like to sing by myself on a stage and that b) I had managed to do just that at the end of MAT Camp this week.  Not only that, but the moments when I sang alone, I was forced by my fire breathing tyrant of a teacher, Mike Giles, to improvise in the grand tradition of terror inducing jazz music with no notes.  (Okay, he was more cheerleader than tyrant, but still.)

I expounded on the other blog about my experience singing scat for the first time.  To sum it up here..."I can't! ... I did it!"

Not only was I tasked with 4 bars of scat, but I was given a 6 bar call and response section that contained words and no notes past the first 2 phrases.  For someone who becomes nearly paralyzed with fear at the thought of any kind of solo, this is a lot to ask.  But I signed up for the class because I wanted the challenge...and because I have more spunk than I worked through my issues with the help of positive self talk, a poem I wrote a few years ago, my "swagger and strut" anthem by the same name (as played by Phil Woods), and the generous prayers of my friends.

The following video contains performances from three separate groups, and I'm a member of the first two.  Vocal Jazz is up first, and even though I can pick out every mistake I made, I'm choosing to feel really good about the overall performance.  I'm the dumpy one with the glasses in the middle. ;)  (Can you believe that's me AFTER I've lost 30 pounds? Wow...)

You can choose to continue on to the opera performance, but just know we had a total of about 2.5 hours to prepare.  It's silly and rough, but mostly silly.  If you really want to know, I counted the dance moves as my exercise for the week.  Lame?  Maybe.  But it was fun.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Awesome Product: MAT Camp!

So, today's Awesome Product is not a product in the traditional sense, and you can't even purchase it for another year.  You'll find this is a good thing, though.  Music, Arts, and Technology Camp is located in Wyoming, and you are probably not, so you'll need a year to get your ducks in a row and plan the trip.

I know you probably have a lot of questions, not the least of which is "Why would I want to go to Wyoming?"  I'll write this post as a series of FAQs and will hope I hit all of your potential queries.  If I don't, well, refer to the paragraph above for an idea of how much time you have to get all your questions answered.

Q.  Why would I want to go to Wyoming?
A.  Excellent question and one I asked myself the first time Richard proposed we pack up and head to cow country.  It is a little known fact that in Wyoming, everyone smiles.  All the time.  No matter what.  And they give you dollar bills just for coming to a complete stop at an intersection.  And there are jugglers performing on most city sidewalks and cobbler is served for breakfast every day.

(Did I overshoot it?)

Okay. I don't know anything about Wyoming as a whole, but what I can say about the little city of Evanston is that it's small enough for a week of peaceful relaxation but large enough that you can manage with most of the usual comforts of your bigger city life.  The air is fresh, the nights are quiet, and the sky is full of stars...but there's WiFi at the McDonald's and vegetarian food at Subway.  There's not much more I need.  You?

Q.  So, what is MAT Camp?
A.  Stealing from the website: "Students of all ages enjoy 5 days of arts related classes including music, art, dance, and theater."  MAT Camp is held from 8-5 in the local middle school building, and there are concerts and activities scheduled most evenings.  Friday affords students and teachers the opportunity to show off what they've learned in a series of concerts and exhibits.

The concerts are a really great time to take pictures to commemorate how awesome your spouse is.


But you might want to entrust your camera to someone who knows how to use it when you're the one on stage singing.


Q.  Do I have to play a musical instrument to go to MAT Camp?
A.  Nope!  I've been known to play a piano or two in my time, but I have no interest in taking classes from people who really know how to play and would expect me to play correctly.  For me, MAT Camp was all about singing.  For my 6 year old, it was all about art.  Cate chose only one class with her clarinet this year and spent the rest of her time studying acrobatics, stage management, lighting, and Flash Mob technique.  Anyone with any interest in the arts can have a full schedule of classes with or without any major musical background.

I thought about trying a dance class next time...until I saw Miriam execute this move on stage...


Yeah, I think I'll leave it to her.

Next time, though, I'll get over myself and be in the flash mob.


We'll see if Wal Mart lets us back in.

Q.  Isn't MAT Camp just for kids?
A. Not at all.  Adults are welcome in most classes.  According to the website, students ages 2-102 are welcome to enroll.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and say they won't actually turn away anyone over 102, so get Great Grandma Juniper's bags packed and sign her up for Stage Combat class.  It'll keep her limber. She'll thank you for it!


Q.  Just how professional are those teachers?
A.  The MAT Camp teachers are so professional, they get paid to teach! But seriously, folks, these are incredibly talented people who intimidated the snot out of me on day one and had me doing things I never thought I'd be capable of by day 5.

Case in point: Vocal Jazz.  I don't like to sing on stage by myself.  Ever.  And by the end of the week, my teacher, Mr. Mike "I Play the Saxophone Like a Madman Because I'm Awesome Like That" Giles not only had me on a stage, singing alone, but singing scat and improv (YouTube video to follow).  The following picture sums up my feelings on the matter.


The teachers are pretty good with the visual aids, too.  My Chamber Choir teacher taught us to sing from our foreheads instead of our mouths in order to get the best quality tone and allow our voices to carry.


Okay, so maybe this illustration traumatized half the students in the choir.  The concept was sound.

Q. How much does it cost?
A.  Up to 4 classes a day: $75; 5 or more classes a day: $150.  There are opportunities for work study, financial aid, and scholarships, so your camp fee can be significantly cheaper than that.  For instance, I attended all of my classes this year for free AND we got a small break on the kids' tuition because I taught a class on blogging.  Thank you, my need to make everyone in the world read everything I write.  

Q.  What if I have other plans that week?
A. Change them.  Unless your plans include an extensive hospital stay for a heart transplant, and even then, I think you could work around it, you should make MAT Camp a priority.  It's that good.  Besides, I'm sure the Evanston Fire Department has defibrillators.

Q.  Will you be there next year?  I've always wanted to hang out with you.
A.  Heck, yeah!  If you come to MAT Camp, I will personally hang out with you between classes every day of the week.  If they do a flash mob, I will request to be in your group and will sing and dance by your side...unless you sing better than I do, in which case I will sing a few people away in order to appear more talented than I am.  Basically, if you come to MAT Camp, I'll be your best friend.  With sugar on top.  And then we'll go on a nice walk to work it off.

Don't believe me?  Check out this year's Sarah Clark BFF:


That could totally be you.

Q. How will I remember to register when camp is a whole year away?
A.  Oh, you know I'm going to repost this sucker when registration time rolls around.  Your job now is to save your pennies and your vacation time.  Leave the reminding to me.

Q.  Did you miss me while you were at camp and I wasn't there?
A. Terribly.  I don't know how you could have done that to me.  It was really hard to be there without you, and I feel the only way you can make it right is to come next year.  So do it.

Q.  Are you just going to keep writing FAQs until I agree to come?
A.  You know me so well...

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Mom, today I learned that the kids do NOT like leaving camp for a non-camp jazz band concert.


Until they realize there will be floats.


And face painting.



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stupid Product: Happy Hot Dog Man

Is your lunch boring? You must be eating hot dogs! Do you know how to make hot dogs less boring? Replace them with actual food!

What? There's a new product that allows you to have "fun" with hot dogs and avoid eating anything with nutrients? I must see this amazing invention!

Aha. Ahahaha...ohohoho...ahem. Pardon me.

I have a few problems with this contraption?  Would you like to hear them?  I knew you would. 

* The meat. Making a hot dog look like a person does not change the fact that it's a hot dog. It's as American as cancer and obesity.

*  Cannibalism.  I'm not keen to start my kids on the path.  I just don't think I could look down into that punched out face and say, "Sorry, happy little processed meat man. My children are going to eat your flesh now."  Hmmm...maybe if we served him with fava beans and a nice chianti?  No, still not okay.

*  The product.  Okay, I guess that goes without saying, considering this is a Stupid Product post.  But seriously, you couldn't do that yourself with a knife?  You need a piece of plastic to make a little man out of your hot dog?  I know there are artistically challenged people out there who crave any little helpful product to help them in their creative endeavors.  I'm one of those people.  However, I refer you to my first point.

* The special offer.  WHY would anyone need FOUR of these things?  I don't even need one of them.  What in the world would I do with four?  I mean, I know I have five kids, but this product takes exactly 1.5 seconds to use.  I'm not that pressed for time.  If I wanted to use it (, I could certainly manage to manify 5 hot dogs with one Happy Hot Dog Man.  At least the Hug E Gram gives you an ugly bouquet of wooden roses for your trouble.

*  The gifts.  When I want my mustard to come out of a monster's head like a steady stream of yellow snot, I'll let you know.  Until then, yuck.  And ew.  And don't.

*  "Make your dinner a wiener."  You. Did. Not.

If you think this should have made awesome product status, then please, for the love of blog, don't invite me over to eat.  I'm too obnoxious for your kitchen.  I promise you that.  If you're with me on this one, you have a standing invitation for some soy burgers and brown rice at my house.

If you want me to make your burger look happy, I'll see if we have some fava beans.

(Thanks to Corey O of Payson,, UT, for the heads up on today's stupid product.  Corey is allowed over at my house for soy burgers any time she wants!)


Mom, today I learned that this will always make my heart pound.  Always.  (Think that's why he insisted on getting us here?)


I learned that glow in the dark bead projects can be a walking hazard.


And post lunch naps require a hallway far from jazz band practice.


I learned a sad, sad truth about this little Wyoming town.


And found sad, sad evidence of it.  Just say no, Wyoming.  Just say no.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

You probably think I put a little too much Weird Al on this blog.  I say there's no such thing because...helloooo...he's Weird Al Awesome Amazing Artist Yankovic.  Also, I say it's my blog, and if I want to make it a virtual shrine to my one true love, then it's my prerogative.  The fact that you guys get to bask in the glory of his music for a minute or two is just a bonus.

This particular song (one of the tracks on his recently released "Alpocalypse" album) is more of a public service announcement to society in general, the internet savvy but gullible part of society specifically.  Trust me, you want to forward this on.

You probably had at least 50 Facebook friends who were convinced they needed to tell everyone that a certain number of Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during last month happens only once every 823 years and that they were going to get lots of money because of it.  Those are the kinds of people who need this song.  You are the kind of person who needs to educate those kinds of people with this song.

Share it.  Share it now.  The world will be better for it!

(Author's note: MAT Camp is short for Music, Arts, and Technology Camp where we've holed up for the week to learn lots of cool stuff.)


Mom, today I learned that when you show up for your first day of Vocal Jazz and find out your teacher is the coolest guy at camp it's only THAT MUCH MORE INTIMIDATING when he tells you he's read your blog.

(Additional Author's Note:  Seriously?  Terrifying...but kind of awesome.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

So, hi.  My name's Sarah Clark.  I used to blog a lot...

And then it was summer.  And kids were home.  And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  And then kids were gone at their dad's house.  And there was much wailing and out-of-sortsness at my house and much TV watching at his.

Then there was the week my mom flew in, and I had to get ready for the BIG DAY (more about that on my other blog), and there was much cooking to be found.

And there was definitely not much blogging.

But I assure you...readers old and new...I'm totally a blogger.  Totally.  Pay no attention to the lack of posts over the last month.  Your blogger has returned.  She is back.  She will blog.

(And there was much cheering to be found in cyberspace?  Yes?)

See, I have to get my bottom in gear this week because I'm actually teaching a blogging class at Music, Arts, and Technology Camp, and it would never do for my students (all 2 of them) to seek out my blog and find a whole lotta nada.  Can't have eager learners thinking, What? This woman calls herself a blogger?  This is no blog!

Also, there are all of you...the devoted...the deprived.  A friend and coworker cornered me at our recent company retreat and said, "You need to blog!  I need something to read!"  Properly chastised, I am here a mere week (two?) later.  Here you go, Jenn.  These are words and you are reading them.  Be at peace, little tan one.

So, what's on the schedule for the week?  Probably some pics from MAT Camp...lots of singing and dancing and music playing and general geekiness.  I'll throw in some specific geekiness too.  Interspersed, expect to find some photos of beautiful Wyoming, where the cows outnumber the trees 254,679,902 to 1.

I've got a little Weird Al love for you tomorrow, and I have a doozy of a Stupid Product for Wednesday.  I'll be updating my Mother Unload weight loss progress soon...probably today, and I have a new recipe to share for sure.  Awesome Product Thursday will go forward as planned, and there will be an actual, real, true, bonafide Mother Load column up on Friday!  We'll also probably have a bonus YouTube video of the MAT Camp Flash Mob, of which my family will be a part.  (No more details on that in case there are readers in Evanston who like to shop at Wal Mart.  I probably should have even said that much.  Blast!)

I'm less able to post links on the Mother Load Facebook Fan page because the internet at the school has social networking sites blocked.  Middle school students aren't old enough for a social life, I guess.  Either that, or they're worried about kids Facebooking during class.  That's more of a problem among college students...I mean...I've heard...

So, there you go.  I'm happy to be back.  Happy that the wailing and gnashing and TV watching and cooking have all been toned down (well, the wailing is still going on), and I can get back to the world of blogging!

Because I'm totally a blogger...


Mom, today I learned that Michael HATES red shirts...


until he's told he gets to keep one.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Mom, today I learned that on some rides, it pays to be married.


Except when you're married to someone who wants to take on you the crazy rides...


Like this one.


And this one.


Of course, once you master your fear and ride them, you realize it wasn't that bad after all.


I learned that someone at Lagoon is dumb enough to need this sign.


And someone is misshapen enough to need this one.


I learned that people are gross.


But anyone willing to collect this money is even more so.  (Richard was tempted...)


And finally, I learned that if you stay until the park closes, you're likely to be tired.


But the attendant at this ride will let you ride it three times in a row just for fun.


Awwwww, yeah!