Category Archives: Get Fit!

Gardens, homeschooling, running, Paleo failure, mothering failure (?)

  1.  After eating mostly Paleo for about eight years, it stopped working.  I don’t know what the deal is, but I’ve talked with other Paleo people who have had to switch up their eating habits, as they have started to gain weight, even while eating grain-free, sugar-free, refined-foods-free…  It doesn’t seem fair, but I had to decide to do something different.  After gaining about ten pounds since Jean was born, which put me at 160 lbs — the most I’ve ever weighed, non-pregnant, I started hiking at the end of November.  I went two or three times a week, early in the morning, 3-4 miles at a time.  In that time, I didn’t really change my eating habits.  So, what did that effort net me?  I gained eight pounds.  Ugh.  And, no, it wasn’t muscle.  Well, maybe one pound was muscle.  So, in the last month or so, I started tracking calories — something I’ve NEVER done before — on My Fitness Pal.  I also started running more often, in addition to hiking.  I’m now running or hiking, four or five times a week.  And what has all that tedious tracking and MORE exercise netted me?  A loss of five pounds for the month.  It seems like very little in return for such effort, and I’m still way over the weight at which I feel comfortable.  But, it’s five pounds.  And I ran my first 10K.  That’s 6.2 miles.  I came in last for my age group…  But I finished!  I ran the first four miles (slowly) without stopping, then walked for a minute or two, ran the rest of the fifth mile, and then walked/ran the sixth mile.  One hour, 23 minutes.  I’m running to improve that time, and also hoping to complete the Phoenix Summit Challenge, which is in November.

    So, this photo has a copyright on it.  I'm aware of that.  I *DID* purchase a photo from the photographer, but it won't be delivered for 2-3 weeks, at which time I'll update this with the "real" photo with no watermark.

    So, this photo has a copyright on it. I’m aware of that. I *DID* purchase a photo from the photographer, but it won’t be delivered for 2-3 weeks, at which time I’ll update this with the “real” photo with no watermark.

  2.   Today is the last day of 4th grade and 2nd grade for Audrey and Fiala, respectively.  I’m kind of relieved, and I have a VERY long list of summertime projects from the mundane to the complicated.  Grant, who is in 11th grade, is still doing work, mostly because he didn’t do enough during the school year.  Sigh.  Thanks to the homeschool group that I (very loosely) lead, we have a fabulous end-of-year party tomorrow.  I really stink at planning parties, so I’m pleased that, while I had the idea for the party, other people who are much more skilled than I am are planning it.  Speaking of the homeschool group, we have 210 families who now are members.  THAT IS A LOT OF FAMILIES.  I kind of envisioned 15-20 families, but the group meets a greater need than I knew existed.  We have attended weekly park days, near-weekly field trips, and I lead a (typically small) mom’s night of grading and chatting every week.  And the girls are in piano lessons.  It has been a good year of homeschooling for them, which was my goal.  Tomorrow is my son Wesley’s last day of 9th grade at a local charter school.  It was mostly very successful:  He loves it, but his grades aren’t the best I think they could be.  As long as he finishes the year with a 3.0 or higher (which he almost certainly will), he will most likely be returning in the fall.  “Baby” Jean is no longer a baby:  she will be three years old next month!!  She is bright, full of fun, and VERY active.
    Grant promoted to the rank of Chief in Civil Air Patrol Cadets on Monday.

    Grant promoted to the rank of Chief in Civil Air Patrol Cadets on Monday.

     

  3. My oldest son, Ethan, who attended Arizona State University on a near-full scholarship this last year, very likely won’t be returning to school in the fall.  From my perspective, this really isn’t a good situation, and I cried for two hours when it all came down.  But, my son is almost an adult, and he’s making more adult-y decisions, and that’s hard when your children don’t choose for themselves what you, as the parent, see as wisest.  But, God is faithful, and Ethan’s times are in His hands, and this is an opportunity for faith on my part, bathed in prayer.  Still, it feels like a failure on my part.  I don’t know if it is, but it FEELS like a failure.
  4. My garden is thriving.  It’s nearing the searing heat of summer, and I’m hopeful for its continued success.  I have two beds:  one is 8′ x 12′, and the other is 12′ x 12′.  I am tracking, by poundage, how much I harvest.  These past winter months, things DO grow here, but more slowly.  I’d typically harvest 4-6 lbs of produce.  Now that it is warmer, I’m harvesting 8-12 lbs each week.  A couple of weeks ago, when I harvested the last of my beets, it was 16 lbs, 6 oz for the week.  I am currently reaping:  I’itois onions (bunching onions);  Greek and Italian basil; Cardinal Chard; Top Bunch Collards;  Tyfon Holland Greens;  Harris Model Parsnips;  four kinds of tomatoes; Greyzini (a summer squash like Cousa or Mexican Grey Squash);  Sweet Banana Peppers; and just yesterday, the first of the Homemade Pickles Cucumbers.  Soon, I’ll have Sweet White Spanish Onions (the largest have tops that are over 4′ tall!  I hope they’re as giant as their tops suggest);  Asparagus Yardlong Beans;  Garlic; and Honeydew Melon.  I’ve also been collecting seed from radishes, lettuces, and cilantro.  And, I have at least nine kinds of flowers blooming, including 8′ tall Lemon Queen Sunflowers.  And in another 3-4 weeks, I’ll have okra and Armenian Cucumbers.

    Beets are beautiful.

    Beets are beautiful.

That’s about it from our home.  Well, actually, that’s not nearly it.  There is always more that is happening than I can write about.  And, I don’t know if this update is all that interesting, actually.  But, I felt like I was overdue for posting one.

Returning to… well, not “normal”.

The babymoon filled with tortilla chips* and ice cream** is over.

I won’t say that we’ve returned to “normal”, though that is what I was initially thinking…  “Wow!  We’re approaching normal!”  There is no “normal”.  And, upon further reflection, it was like thinking, “Hey, baby!  You’ve upset our family’s routine!  You rascal!  How could you do that??  You’ve DISTURBED things!!”  And, truly, I don’t think that.

But on the other hand, I have been working to re-establish a new flow to our family.

I wrote this to a friend yesterday, who probably instantly regretted asking me how I was doing:

But, just to be real, yesterday SUCKED. It was the worst mothering day in a solid year, if not more. Frankly, Jean cries a lot. That isn’t bad, theoretically. I was telling my kids that Ethan cried a lot, and he turned out just fine. Some babies are just… needier than others, and I am happy to provide that extra comfort, extra soothing, more careful… care. But, OTOH, it means a lot of time in my room with the door shut, nursing (not that I always nurse behind closed doors), soothing, trying to help Jean sleep… and then my children are like Lord of the Flies out there, unattended, giving into sin nature, selfishness, unkindness, sneakiness, bullying… Ugh. I kind of flipped out yesterday. For a valuable 45 min of time when Jean was napping, I sat the five down and we went over Colossians 3:12-17. We talked. I lectured. We prayed. But did things improve? No. I had to spank***. I called Martin. And today hasn’t been much better…. But, I’m trying. Played Bethel YouTube worship videos for four hours straight in the main living area of our home, both to worship and sing, and to just invite the Holy Spirit in our day. And I have nipped everything in the bud, as much as possible.

There would be days like these in the past and I would think that I have totally failed as a mother. The good news is that I feel like it’s a temporary failure from which we all need to recover. I need to pull the reins in on my kids after letting things coast, slide, for too long. And they need to be loving and to obey.

So, see?  There’s no normal.

But, this morning represented a step in the right direction:  For the first time in Jean’s six weeks and two days of life, I made myself a “real” breakfast.  Granted, I absolutely gulped it down, so as to eat it hot, in case Jean awoke.  But, it was:  Three eggs, tomato slices, avocado slices, a cup of raw milk, and coffee.  YUM.  The first week of Jean’s life, I ate like a queen, because my hubby fixed my breakfast, and delivered it to me in bed.  The time since then has been altogether spotty:  A hastily eaten bowl of cereal (and I don’t even eat cereal!), a protein bar, a hastily-eaten pear, occasionally asking one of my boys to fix me eggs…  Or, more likely, me looking at the clock at 11:00 a.m. and thinking, “Crap.  I haven’t eaten anything yet today.”

Speaking of food…  While I absolutely, 100% agree with the thought that post-partum mothers should not give in to an appearance-centered culture that pressures us, “How are you going to lose that baby weight???”****  I also know that I’m carrying 12 extra pounds from the pregnancy — not much, I know! — and

  1. It’s crazy how much even just 12 pounds can make your clothes NOT fit.  Even tee shirts.
  2. I know that most of that wouldn’t be there had I not daily indulged in food I shouldn’t be eating in the first place:  like the aforementioned tortilla chips, ice cream, and cereal.
  3. I just feel better when I’m trim, when I don’t to have to select clothes that hides one sloshy part or another.*****

So, unless I want to purchase a whole new wardrobe — which WOULD be nice, but

  1. Where would the money come from to do that?
  2. More importantly, where would the TIME come to do that??

I need to lose at least some of that weight.

Hence, the subtraction of the carb-laden foods, and the triumphant reemergence of healthier food…

So worth it...  the tears, the "disruption", the extra weight...  So amazingly worth it.

So worth it… the tears, the “disruption”, the extra weight… So amazingly worth it.

———

*Organic, from Costco.  I love those chips!!

**Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra.  It was a lot easier to resist when I had to purchase it for $5/pint from the grocery store or wait for a coupon.  In the last year, pre-baby, I probably indulged twice.  But, since we discovered that the regular price at Walmart is $2.88/pint, and I got my hubby hooked on that particular flavor, it’s been MUCH harder to resist.  “Babe!” he grins, coming in the door with a bag from Walmart, “I got you some ice cream!”  Hahaha!!

***I probably just lost a good 10% of my readers right there.  “SHE SPANKS???” Um, yes.  On occasion.  I can’t remember the last time I had spanked anyone, prior to Tuesday;  a couple of months, at least.  It’s not my go-to discipline;  it’s my last-resort discipline.

****And if you haven’t read Sarah Bessey’s fabulous post on the Duchess of Cambridge’s post-partum hospital appearance, you should.  Absolutely, you should.

*****And we’re not talking “skinny” here.  I’m at 150 lbs now, and my goal is 140.  Pre-baby, it was 138 lbs.

Running and dreaming (but not TOO much)

This isn't me. Too skinny. But the background looks reeeeealllly similar to my route. Thanks to this blog post for the pic: http://www.allthingsheartandhome.com/2009/08/20/keep-moving-woman/

I haven’t hiked in months.  I have recently, though, started jogging around my neighborhood.  I love getting out in a natural setting, and my feet take less of a beating on dirt than on asphalt.  But, I had to drive to my hike-location-of-preference.  Now, my jog starts roughly fifteen minutes after I roll out of bed, no car needed.  Less travel time to get out means I can wake up a half-hour later, spend more time hoofing it, and get back home earlier.

Previously, I was mostly concerned with arriving back home before my hubby left for work.  However, we were having trouble with our littlest one, Fiala, getting out of bed early and wreaking havoc while my husband was getting ready for work and I was out hiking.

We live in a fairly hilly location, which is unusual for Phoenix;  most everywhere around here is flat.  So, even though it’s on asphalt, I can still go for a challenging, scenic run, with virtually no traffic, which is almost as good as hiking.  Well, actually, saying “run” is pushing it;  a slow trot, alternating with fast walking.  I hope to work up to a run.  Right now, I’m at about a 14 minute mile, which is lame, even though I can blame some of the slowness on the hills.  I can, right??

According to Map My Run (which is REALLY frustrating to get a handle on;  it took me more than an hour to create a map of my little route, and that’s after I viewed the tutorials), my route is 2.79 miles with an overall 3% grade.  It would have a greater grade percentage if I disincluded the flat part that starts and ends my run, but I guess that would be cheating.

I have to fight my dreams about this whole running thing, though.  Well, not really.  Sort of.  What I mean is that I’ve been out jogging a grand total of about seven times now, and I already have lofty visions of finally completing a marathon.  That’s not a BAD dream, certainly;  it’s one I’ve had for years.  But, I tend to count my chickens before I even have a henhouse, let alone eggs, if that makes sense.  I start thinking in my head about how amazing it would be if I completed  this project — any project — that I can actually start coasting on my dreams instead of actually DOING them.  And, I tend to get discouraged when things don’t turn out as rosily, as rapidly as I’m dreaming.

So, like virtually everything else in my life, this is a plot to strengthen my character, as well as my physical endurance, and hopefully to lose enough fat that I don’t have to pick out my outfit by how well it hides the various bits of chub surrounding my middle section.

Here’s hopin’.

Garden! Honey laundering! Motivated Moms! Obsessed with bread! New glasses! Hiking!

  • Rhubarb Chard from Seeds of Change

    I have carrots, green onions, broccoli, and red chard seeds planted in my garden.  I’ll be planting more of everything, plus lettuce and bulb onions, as space allows.  Still growing:  Mexican grey squash (I’ve eaten lots of them, raw, when they’re about 3″ long, right before they turn yellow and die); Yoeme purple string beans (tall and mostly green, but appears to be heat-stressed… some blooms… I’m waiting to see if the plants will do better as the weather cools);  basil (the only thing that’s really thriving;  we eat basil in stuff 4-5x/week now);  tomatoes (loads of blooms, but not really vigorous, strong plants… again, waiting until it cools to reassess);  hot red chile plants (healthy-looking, but small and no blooms).  I’m trying to decide what to do about my ginormous Hopi pumpkin plant.  It is literally spilling out of my raised bed… the squash plant is about 10′ x 4′, and it is taking up so much room that could be used for something else.  The plant appears to be thriving, with huge, green leaves and dozens of blossoms, and it would be a shame to rip out something so vigorous.  But, the pumpkins grow about 2-3″ big and then die, much like my Mexican grey squash.  My husband thinks it’s due to the heat and that I should give it some time.  I’m trying not to think about all the other, possibly more fruitful veggies I could plant in the space that dumb pumpkin is hogging.

  • PLEASE READ this article on honey.  Please.  Who knew that honey was such a controversial topic??  It is imperative to your safety that you buy honey that is a product of the USA, or at least the western hemisphere.  Honey from China — tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals — is saturating the American market, because honey from China is banned in Europe.  “Some of the largest and most long-established U.S. honey packers are knowingly buying mislabeled, transshipped or possibly altered honey so they can sell it cheaper than those companies who demand safety, quality and rigorously inspected honey. … Almost 60 percent of what was imported – 123 million pounds – came from Asian countries – traditional laundering points for Chinese honey. This included 45 million pounds from India alone.”  HONEY SMUGGLING.  Who knew?
  • "Like" OSC on Facebook for new post updates, quick responses to any questions and comments, plus additional tidbits.

    Perhaps it’s too early to make a true judgement, but Motivated Moms seems to be working great.  It’s oddly helpful to be accountable to a sheet of paper which is waiting for me to tick the boxes.  The system is a real change for me, because instead of cleaning the bathroom in one fell swoop, it has you clean the toilet one day, the mirrors another day, the sink the following day, etc.  However, breaking each task into 2-to-20 minute segments makes each of them more do-able for me.  Plus, I find it difficult to disappear into my bedroom for an hour and a half to clean the master bath from lighting fixtures to tile;  I just don’t have that large chunk of time often enough, and I just can’t leave my kids unsupervised for that long.  But, pretty much everyone can function on their own if mom is only “gone” for 20 minute segments.  It’s just now noon, and I’ve already accomplished more than I would in an entire typical day.  Plus, I’ve gone on Facebook, done some gardening, made a loaf of bread, and busted a few heads.  Not really “busted”.  I’ve applied some mothering.  😉

  • Speaking of bread, I’m an obsessed baker again.  I’m really motivated to find a recipe that WORKS, simply.  I have been making my Best Ever Gluten-Free Flour Mix for the last couple of months, consistently having it on hand to whip up some cupcakes or muffins or pancakes, and that has been wonderful and helpful.  Though it is a really versatile mix, I haven’t been able to successfully make sandwich bread with it, and I’m determined to come up with a bread recipe that will work using that flour mix.  Simple = sustainable.  I want to be able to daily (or nearly so) bake bread, and I know I won’t do it if I have to get out twenty billion ingredients, or remember a complicated process.  So far, the results are tasty, but too dense.  I’m tinkering with everything tinker-able — amount and kind of liquid, oven vs. breadmaker, amount of sugar and yeast, amount of rising time, etc.
  • They make me look hipper than I actually am.

    I got new glasses.  🙂

  • I went out hiking, early Saturday morning, with two friends, Cristi and Wendy.  It was the first time I hiked in about six weeks.  The hike wasn’t particularly strenuous, but it was good to just get out and get moving again.  What with the heat, a summer Bible study, my garden, our vacation, and simply getting out of the habit, my hiking went by the wayside.  I’m re-motivated now.  🙂

Just about everything but parenting

  • Writing:  If you have read here for a while, you may remember that much of my 2010 and part of 2011 was taken up with ghostwriting a book.  The book is now available for sale — here at Brushed by God — and soon elsewhere.  🙂
  • School:  During the school year, it seems like a genius plan to work for six weeks then take off a week.  With these regular breaks, my house gets clean, special trips happen, everyone breathes a deep breath.  But, ’round about this time of year, when just about everyone else is done with school and we still have four weeks left, it seems less than brilliant.  We’re not finished until June 10.
  • Garden:  Thanks to repaired irrigation tubing and some short, cute fencing, my garden now really looks like a garden, according to my husband who blessedly did the irrigation and fence work.  🙂  However, the fence does not keep out our dog, who has an odd — and maddening — affinity for corn plants.  My corn, some of them 18″ high, does not like it, either.  The garden sits in a side yard, and we may have to run a sturdier barrier from house to side-fence to make the garden dog-proof.  Otherwise, the garden is taking spectacular shape.
  • Fitness:  I am now feeling stronger after nearly three weeks of hiking 3.5 miles, three times a week.  This makes me happy.  My “fat” jeans are looser, too, even though I’ve really lost no weight.  I guess that’s from muscle gain?  I don’t know.
  • My bodybuilding cousin Romney, military wife and mother of two.

    Random extended family thoughts:  I’ve been reflecting on how widely differing my extended family is.  It’s really a cross-section of American society in general…  Just amongst my cousins (including both sides of my family), one is a nun, one is gay, another just placed fourth in a body-building competition — it has been interesting to watch her really transform in the last 18 months,  one is a single dad, one lives in a neo-hippie commune, one is teaching English in Japan, one is a theater professor, some are academics, some are blue-collar workers, some are Christians (in various manifestations), some are pagan, some are married, some not…  Lots of really disparate interests and paths of life.  I find it really fascinating.  Are most families similar to mine in their dissimilarities??  I don’t think there’s enough closeness in my extended family, and I’m sure there’s some cause-and-effect somewhere in there, but I’m not sure of the root…  I’m sure I’m part of the problem, too, sadly.

  • Church stuff:  Over the summer, I’ll be attending a Beth Moore Bible study (the updated version of Breaking Free).  Yesterday, my pastor’s wife asked me if I would, during one of the weeks’ meetings, give a little testimony based on the story I wrote last week, on the story of my son Wesley’s life, and how God really saved my life (literally) through him, when I thought it would kill me.  I was really pleased with her request.  I printed out and edited the original story because I have to hold it to seven minutes, which required me to cut it roughly in half.  That’s OK.  My writing is generally too bloated and filled with unnecessary asides, anyway.  I have pared.  🙂
  • Household stuff:  My hubby installed a “new” microwave over the weekend.  Our “old” one was just 5½ years old, but literally falling apart —  the vent broke off and had already been replaced (then broke again), the door handle completely broke off…  Replacing the door was going to cost us nearly $200.  Ack!  We couldn’t do that.  Thankfully, he works for a homebuilder, and we were able to get one out of a model home for less than half of retail.  Cool!  So, it’s five years old or so, but it’s never been used.  A friend of ours has the same model and is very happy with it.  I now have to figure out how best to clean stainless steel, as it is the first stainless appliance in our home.  Small complaint, though;  I’m happy to have a functional microwave.
  • Birds:  A Northern Cardinal (and today, his mate) has been visiting my back yard for the last three mornings.  Cardinals are not rare in the Phoenix area, but they are uncommon, and in the 5+ years we’ve been in our home, this is the first time that we’ve had a daily visitor.  Mr. Cardinal has pleasantly interrupted my mornings.  🙂
  • Other cardinals:  My husband was asked to design a home — like a manse — for a cardinal in California.  I’m very proud of him.  It’s a modest 1600 s.f. house on a very narrow lot.  My man is brilliant and thinks in 3D.  He whipped out the plan in one day.
  • My mother:  In sad news, my mom is back in the hospital.  I can’t remember how much I blogged about it last year, but in July, we nearly lost her.  She has Marfan Syndrome, and her skeleton is collapsing, which has given her decreased space for her lungs (and other organs).  Additionally, half of her diaphragm is paralyzed.  Then, she got double pneumonia.  She recovered, to our great relief.  She is a stubborn lady, and that can pay dividends when fighting illness.  She has lost a tremendous amount of weight and is very frail, and has been placed on oxygen “as needed”.  In the last month or so, her need for oxygen has been 24/7, with her oxygen saturation dipping into the 60% range or even down to 50% if she’s off of oxygen for even a short while.  After a doctor appointment yesterday, the doctor sent her straight to the E.R.  She has double pneumonia again, and is correspondingly hypoxic.  She was supposed to have major surgery (an estimated 12 hour ordeal) on the 25th of this month to resection her spine and to put in metal supports inside her ribcage area.  This is a risky procedure even for a healthy person;  for her, the doctors had given about a 60% chance for surviving surgery, mostly because of the extremely mushy shape of her arteries — she’s had two AAA repairs and one femoral artery replaced already due to aneurysms.  However, the surgery is really her only hope — aside from miraculous healing — for longer-term survival, since right now, she’s slowly being suffocated.  With this bout of pneumonia, the doctors have indefinitely shelved the surgery.  She’s crushed about that, but — unlike past stays — she’s relieved to be back in the hospital.  Normally, she is an unwilling patient.  I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or not that she’s happy to be in the hospital.  Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

Summer panic… and peace

Right about this time every year, there gets to be a tight feeling in my chest, which I have to fight for… oh, about five months.  It’s a bit like claustrophobia, but it’s more along the lines of heat-o-phobia.  Truly, I despise summer in the desert.  Some people really love the heat and thrive in it.  That, however, is not me.  I have worked hard to find things to appreciate about the place I live so that I’m not living with a crappy attitude and wishing to be elsewhere, half of my life.  My husband is a native, his dad is a native (which is REALLY rare;  the Phoenix area is a valley of transients)…  My mom and stepdad are here, my sister and brother-in-law are here, my niece is here… plus, we truly have the most amazing church where we both serve and are fed.  Not to mention my husband’s fabulous job that he’s been at for 19 years.  It’s highly unlikely that we’ll be leaving any time soon.  I have come to value the benefits to living here, apart from the weather, which, any time I really let myself think about it, I could pretty easily conjure up some tears.  I mean, I really despise summer in the desert.

But, I will not dwell on the endless 110°+ days;  I will, instead, continue to look for things that make the desert tolerable or even pleasant, and fight the heat-o-phobia and its accompanying tears which threaten to steal my peace.

Several things have made the transition into summer easier for me this year:

  1. There have only been a handful of 100° days so far.  Today, as I write, we have been the beneficiary of some low-pressure front, or something like that, and the temps are supposed to top out in the 70s.  Yesterday’s high was 80°.  I know that God doesn’t allow these sort of days solely for me, but I like to think of them as Him giving me a bit of hope and reprieve, letting me know that I can make it, and that it’s not ALL oven-like misery.
  2. I have been waking earlier.  Much earlier.  A couple of weeks ago, I started hiking a mountain — hill, more like it — that is nearby.  I wake at 5:30 a.m., am on the trail by 6:00, and home by about 7:15 just in time to help my hubby gather his lunch for the day, his to-go mug of coffee, and to kiss him goodbye.  The first day I did the early-morning hike, Martin said, “You could do that every day and it would be OK with me.”  Other than a spunky 2yo who sometimes wakes way too early and won’t stay in bed, and has the power to open the fridge and take out everything she can’t eat and have a surreptitious binge whilst Daddy is in the shower and Mommy is not yet home, it works really well.  And, I have the great feeling of becoming fit and healthier, as well as breathing in the cool, early morning air and being there to (almost) greet the sunrise.  I do a balloon-shaped trail that is about 3.6 miles, savoring the temperatures that are in the 60s or 70s…  It has been wonderful.  And, somehow, it’s SO MUCH EASIER for this night owl to roll out of bed at 5:30 for a hike, instead of, say, the stationary bike.
  3. I think ours is taller than this, and it's in bloom.

    Our backyard is now over five years old, and the pathetic little saplings have matured and grown into a lush (for the desert) green oasis.  This may not seem like much, but when I’m surrounded by hot, brown, and dry, it’s such a blessing to be able to walk into my back yard and breathe in a little bit o’ GREEN.  The trees are now climbable, and one of them even has a little rope swing attached.  We have two medium (but lovely) fruitless pistachio trees and two large tipu trees.  Wonderful.

  4. My garden.  Again, it’s only May, and I got it in a good month later than I should have, so who knows how fruitful it will actually be.  But for now, it’s medicine to my soul to push the dirt around and coax and nurture little plants into being.  Usually once a day (at least), I pull out my kneeling pad and just sit on it, looking at the garden.  Even when there’s nothing to do in it, I feel good looking at it either up close, or just glancing out the window while working in the kitchen.  Over the weekend, my hubby installed soaker tube for the irrigation and put up a little wire fence to keep our dog (and small children) from romping through the tender growth.  He proclaimed, “Now it looks like a real garden.”  I concur.

Not in order of importance

  • Wish I lived in Minneapolis!  Well, not really, but if I did, I would DEFINITELY be going to this:  A Procraftinator’s Delight, hosted by one of my favorite bloggers.
  • When I was in the process of choosing which college to attend, I automatically disqualified any whose promotional literature had misspellings, glaring grammatical errors, sloppy art layout, etc.  With that in mind, one might be leery of a website called The Best Colleges when it publishes articles rife with the same.  Still.  This article, The World’s 15 Most Extraordinary Homeschoolers, is well worth a read.  Tim Tebow?  Who DOESN’T know he was homeschooled?  The Jonas Brothers?  Knew that, too.  But Condoleezza Rice?  Francis Collins (the evangelical Christian and renowned scientist, appointed by Obama, no less, to be director of the NIH)?  The list is inspiring and profoundly interesting.
  • The lift pin assembly

    Weird things make me feel old.  Yesterday, it was the fact that my pressure cooker apparently needs some parts replaced, the gasket and lift pin assembly.  Why does this make me feel ancient?  Because these parts are made of rubber, which becomes brittle (and ineffective) with AGE.  ~sigh~  Finding out that these parts would cost me $21 plus shipping made me a wee bit upset.  Doing some searching to find out that

    • a) a replacement pressure cooker would run me upwards of $50, and
    • b) doing some price comparisons online would save me $10 or so (from here) made me feel slightly better about my purchase.  I still feel old, though.
  • I am THRILLED to report that Fiala is doing much better. The infection on her face is gone, though it’s having a hard time clearing up, as she keeps scratching the still-healing spots.  The bed situation that I wrote about a week ago or so finally came to pass;  I set up both girls in their new beds yesterday — Audrey in her new-to-us twin bed, and Fiala in the toddler bed that used to be Audrey’s.  Fiala fell out of bed once last night, in spite of a guard rail, and she did not nap well — well, didn’t nap at ALL — in her new bed yesterday, but that was really due to the visit of our beloved nephew Nick and his darling girlfriend PLUS it being a new bed PLUS us working on potty-training PLUS her having diarrhea every 10-15 minutes because of horrid Augmentin due to her ear infection.  I don’t think I wrote about that.  Her eardrum burst on Friday.  Apparently, the bacteria which caused it were not covered by the antibiotics that she’d already been on for more than two weeks.  In spite of the fact that the Solaray BabyLife probiotics that we have for her contain rice maltodextrin, and she’s previously demonstrated that rice is an allergy problem for her wee body, I had decided that an eczema outbreak from the maltodextrin was the lesser of two evils, even though her skin is finally starting to clear up from the six weeks?  two months? of outbreak that she’s suffered through.  ANYWAY.  I was remarking to a friend that the “good news” from her having diarrhea is that it seemed to be giving her a greater awareness of her… elimination process, of which she was blissfully unaware, which made potty-training heretofore impossible.  We’re not all the way there yet with toilet adeptness, but we’re getting there.  I have hope.
  • Having local gluten-free friends ROCKS.  These may seem minor to most of you, but I am so thankful for:
    • a neighbor, whom I “met” through the Phoenix Celiac Yahoo group (and subsequently discovered we live a couple of streets away from each other), dropped off a darling little box of goodies:  three truffles, some oat-almond candy crunch, a mini pumpkin pie, and a mini cheesecake.  Usually, treats received from loving friends and well-meaning neighbors receive wistful glances from me, as I give them to my two gluten-eating children, Ethan and Grant.  I can’t recall ever having something dropped off to our home where I could eat every single thing.  I meant to only sample the goodies, but, I confess, I schnarfed down ALL of them.
    • Last night, at the grocery store, I called my friend Kim.  We live across town from each other, but she feels closer.  😀  Even though she was sick, the poor raspy-voiced thing, we chatted about teff and millet, and grinding our own grain, and what grain works well in which application, etc.  She looked up some stuff online for me, as I shopped.  I had a goofy grin the whole time, because it is SO NICE to be able to just pick up the phone and talk with someone about things that are akin to a foreign language to most people…
  • I am thankful for:  At least $300 in new or nearly-new jeans, given to me by my sweet friend, Brenda, who had been given them by her sister.  Her sister had recently lost a lot of weight, and now, two pairs of Lucky jeans, a pair of Guess jeans, and five or six other pair, are now nestled happily in my drawer.  🙂  I’m set.  That’s a good thing for me, because I wear jeans virtually every day of my life.  I have to lose more weight for some of them to fit better, but that’s a good thing, right?  Motivation.

Karen, the non-girly-girl-DVD-aerobic-dancer

There are many times I just don’t feel adequately “girly.”

One of them, I must say, is when I got a DVD program to do some step aerobics to, nearly three years ago, now.  I was looking for something by which I could exercise without leaving home.  I love to walk/run, but that’s logistically difficult to figure out.

  • Running in the early morning would require that I get up early.  I am not a morning person, and in order to get myself enough rest, I’d have to go to bed earlier.  The thought of losing that extra nightly hour or so that I frequently spend by myself, after everyone else has gone to bed, makes me twitchy.  I’m an introvert, and that’s my recharge time.
  • Running in mid-day is becoming more of a possibility, as my youngest is now two years old, and my oldest is 13, and I can leave everyone alone at home for short periods of time, occasionally.  However, the best time for running would be in the afternoon when the little girls are napping, and that time valuable in a lot of ways that I’m loathe to give up.
  • I really enjoy running in the evening after dinner, but that decreases my time with my husband, and would add even more evenings where he puts the youngest children in bed.  I like putting my girls in bed, and feel sad when they don’t have Mommy to pray for them and read them a book and tuck them in…  Daddy does a great job, but we already have two nights weekly (small group and grocery shopping nights) when he puts them in bed, and I just don’t want to add any more to the mix.

Thus, I thought the DVD thing would be a good idea.  But, lemme tell you, the idea of having SIX DVDs of really intricate, difficult, strenuous steps, set to music, to memorize and do….  Golly.  That stressed me out.  I forever felt like I was behind the learning curve, could never quite get the steps right, and felt more than inadequate, stumbling around the family room.  Ugh.  I thought, “This should be fun.  I think most women would think this is fun.  I sure don’t.”  It was easy to find reasons to not break out the DVDs.

However, my “diet” thingie had plateaued, even as I continued to decrease the number of carbs I was consuming daily.  I was down to 75 grams.  That’s a really small number of carbs.  I was micro-careful, and still only losing about half a pound a week, at most.  Two weeks, in spite of really careful eating, I lost nothing.  I found myself completely unwilling to go lower than 75g.  I don’t want to starve myself.  That’s not healthy, and it’s really not sustainable.

I began to see that exercise was what was needed to pull me off of that schlumpy plateau.

Even before the diet, I knew I needed to be more active, to exercise.  I am 37 years old, and am really starting to see how easy it is to slide downhill, physically.  I want to be able to hike with my kids without twisting an ankle due to really poor muscle tone in my legs.  I want to not get winded simply by sitting up in bed, or leaning over to pick something up off of the floor!!

So, those DVDs, and the incline step box kept taunting me.

Instead, I decided to post a wanted ad on Freecycle, to see if anyone had a stationary bike they wanted to get rid of.

This is the exact model I have, but it looks like it's unavailable to purchase any more.

Voila!  I had a recumbent bike by that night.  That was Monday, a week ago.  I have since put about 45 miles on the thing, and look forward to “working out” on it.  I’ve snuck a few two-a-days in, as well.  I must like monotony.  😀  I’d so much rather just hop on this thing and pedal mindlessly than have to learn endless dancey moves to a dumb DVD host who never gets winded and who has a fixed, gleaming white smile and an impossibly perfect body.

On the bike, I’ve been doing the model where you start slow, then ramp up effort until you’re maxed out, then bring it back down and slowly build again.

It works for me.

What I’m trying to establish with my kids is that, after I get the little girls dressed for the day, and get everyone started on breakfast, I lock the door of my room and do my 15-20 minutes on the bike, shower and dress, then come out to find everyone almost done with their chores and just about ready to start school.  🙂  It hasn’t quite worked out that perfectly, but that’s the goal.

After just a week, I feel tighter.  Less flabby.  Stronger.  In six weeks of total diet time, I’ve only list 8.4 lbs, but I’m really starting to feel like I’m seeing some fruit from my efforts.  Clothes are fitting just a little better, and I just feel healthier.

This past week, the week of the Advent of the Recumbent Bike, I lost 1.4 lbs, and that was even with sampling some of the candy from my kids’ “Harvest Carnival” Halloween alternative party, AND not having a kitchen scale.  I had been meticulously weighing and documenting everything I ate, but I left my scale at my friend Kim’s house, when we had our magnificent cooking day.  So, I was without a scale for a week.  I got a new one, this past Friday.  I was tempted — highly tempted! — by the $17 glass-and-stainless electronic scale.  But, instead, I spent $3 on a little plastic version, very much akin to my previous scale.

This week, I’m trying to figure out the whole carb + bike thing.  I’m still shooting for 75 grams daily.  Seventy-five grams pretty much equals absolutely no grains and no sugar.  It’s a healthy existence, but it will be nice to see if the bike will give me some leeway for days when (a one ounce portion!) of Stax blares its Siren’s call and I give in…

So.  With bike and scale, I feel very much back on track, and with renewed motivation.  I feel like a nerdy dieter, happy about the bike and scale.  I also feel relieved that I can now sell my videos and incline step on Craigslist with a clear conscience.  😀

I found my yogurt!!

Well, Chris, this won’t count for one of those meaty posts where you walk away thinking deep thoughts…

But I keep forgetting to share that I found my ideal yogurt:

In a post a week ago, I mentioned that I needed to find a healthier yogurt that was around 20 carbs each, not artificially sweetened, and that wouldn’t break the bank.  Voila!!  As if made especially for me, in waltzes Cascade Fresh.  All-natural, labeled gluten-free, fruit-juice sweetened, and 100% cultured.

A pet peeve of mine, lately, is fake yogurt.  Read the ingredients of your yogurt.  If it says something like, “milk, cultured milk, gelatin, corn starch…” that means that PART of your yogurt is actually yogurt — the cultured part —  and the other part is simply thickened regular milk.

Very briefly, yogurt cultures “eat” lactose (milk sugar), which produces lactic acid.  Lactic acid both gives the yogurt its tart taste, and causes the milk protein (casein) to coagulate, thereby thickening.  So, if you have true yogurt, there is decreased sugar and no need for thickening agents.  For the sake of full disclosure, many of Cascade Fresh’s flavors have fruit on the bottom, and THAT is thickened with tapioca.

Much the same process as when cheese is made, since the culturing bacteria eat the lactose a reduced-sugar state results, and, correspondingly, fewer carbs.  But, when a company takes uncultured milk and adds corn starch to thicken it — presumably so that it won’t be so tart — and throws loads of sugar into it to make it palatable (to American tastes), not only do you get the carbs from the added sugar, you get carbs from the lactose and corn starch which shouldn’t be there in the first place!*

Hrmph.

I find this offensive both to my Eat Real Food standards, and to my current diet, which needs fewer carbs.

So, like I said, Cascade Fresh is made-to-order.  Well, not really, but it fits all my needs.  At a local natural grocery store (Sprouts), the regular price is $0.79 per 6 ounce container.  When I went shopping last week, though, they were on sale for $0.59 each, which is about the normal price for a Yoplait.**  Each container has about 20-23 carbs.  And, as mentioned, entirely fruit juice-sweetened, natural colors and flavors…. Perfect.

I prefer whole milk yogurt, and I see on their website that the company does produce a few flavors…  but I didn’t see any at my store.  I’ll have to keep an eye out for them.  🙂

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*In a similar fashion, Yoplait Greek yogurt is not actually Greek yogurt.  From what I can discern by interpreting its ingredients, it is their normal yogurt, thickened up even more, and to which additional — gritty — milk protein powder has been added.  Fake!

**No coupons for Cascade Fresh, though!  😦  Bummer.  With sale + coupons, I can regularly purchase Yoplaits for 3/$1.00 or so.

The enemy of the good

Left to my own devices, I am very much an uncompromising idealist.  I heard, a number of years ago, a saying:  “The ideal is the enemy of the good”* and the understanding of that began to change my life in a way that is still on-going.

I have discovered that being an idealist isn’t really an effective way to approach life, at least for me.  It led to, among other things:

  • Arguments and disappointment with my husband, because he wasn’t doing things right.
  • Difficulty in making friends, because there just wasn’t anyone who was just the right kind of person with the right interests who was available at all the right times and with whom I could relate.
  • Inaction or even paralysis in countless decisions, because I knew what the right way, the perfect situation, the ideal approach was, and it was just impossible for one reason or another.  It was the Ideal Way or the highway.
  • A dirty house.  Why?  Because I — who do an excellent job of cleaning — just wasn’t available to clean as much as I used to be, prior to having children, because I was doing things like making a meal for seven, or nursing a baby.  My kids didn’t do things right, so I wouldn’t even let them clean!

And on and on and on.  Seriously, that list could have 100 bullet points.  Even stupid things like not listening to music, because ideally, I’d be able to purchase a whole CD (which I had discovered through research — reading a cool magazine or online review), and sit down and listen to the whole thing, whilst reading the liner notes, noting that they had the same guitarist for tracks 3 & 7 who played for another band I like, or guest vocalist on track 8 who normally sings with this other great band.  God’s honest truth.  It was hard for me to even turn on the radio, because it was full of bands that had emerged while I was changing diapers, and it bothered me that I would hear a song and not have any idea who it was.  I used to be IMMERSED in music when I was younger, especially before I was married.  I adored music, and loved unearthing obscure bands who were… just right.  And because I no longer had the time or money to give myself to music, as I used to, for literally years, I stopped listening to most music, other than worship music.

STUPID.

I have shot myself in the foot countless times with my strict idealism.

I work, daily, to come out of unbending idealism into a position that is action-oriented and pragmatic, without tossing my morals and standards to the wind.

In other words, if my marriage is not all that I think it should be, I work both to be content in the moment, and not fault-finding, yet with a goal of doing x better both today and in the future, so that, even if my husband and I couldn’t write books about The Perfect Marriage, at least we can look back and honestly say, “This is better now than it was last year.  Five years ago.  Ten years ago.”

Does that make sense?

Coming out of idealism means assigning chores to my children, knowing that they just aren’t going to notice the smudges by the light switch or the dried drips on the soap dispenser and clean them, like I would if I was cleaning the bathroom.

It means reaching out with a friendly bit of conversation or an e-mail or a comment on Facebook to an acquaintance, even when I know that that woman is not likely to ever become my Best Friend Ever.  I can still be friendly — I NEED to be friendly — even when the results of my efforts may not bear ideal fruit.  I can’t just keep myself to myself and say, “That woman would never really like me, so why bother asking about her father’s health?”  I can still care — I NEED to care — about people.  I can be satisfied with a not-so-deep level of relationship, when before, that was entirely unacceptable.  It was either deep, true, lasting, intense, loving, mutually beneficial friendship or nothing.  And, much more often than the first, the second usually happened.  People just don’t measure up.  I don’t measure up.  My time is not as available as it used to be…  However, I have finally learned that I can’t keep pining for ideal friendship, disregarding potential relationships with the wonderful women who daily cross my path just because they will likely never be that Best Friend Ever….  That’s just stupid.  It really is.

Thus, I will be satisfied with losing 4.3 lbs this past week, and celebrate that, instead of dwelling on the fact that I never exercised. It means saying, “OK.  Well, fitting in a half-hour for working out, even twice a week, is harder than I thought it would be.  But, hey, I can drop down right now and do a bunch of sit ups!”  So, I did my 61 sit ups of various varieties, even though the ideal would be a total body workout, or some cardiovascular activity where I reach my target heart rate for x extended minutes.

Know what I mean?

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*It turns out that the whole quote is “The pursuit of the ideal is the enemy of the good,” and it’s from Voltaire.

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