Friday, May 31, 2013

Lets Go Fly A Kite...A Year Late

Last summer I made up a bucket list of things I wanted to do with my kids.  We managed to cross off most of the things on my list, but a few of the items just never worked out.  This past weekend when we were at the Lake House, with the weather being too cool to swim, we had to come up with alternatives for entertainment.

We had an old kite in the closet; one of those cheapy things.  I pulled it out and gave it to the kids to play with in the yard.  They loved it!  And fought over it.  One kite + Three kids = A problem.  The next day I asked Hubby if we could stop at our favorite dime store and pick up two more kites and head to the beach.  Hubby, being a kite flying enthusiast, agreed.

I imagined we would buy two more cheapy kites but Hubby had different plans.  He let the kids pick out whatever they wanted from the selection.  Joy picked out a fish, Lizzy a dolphin, and David a trick kite.  And then Hubby threw a kite on the pile for me.

I can't remember the last time I flew a kite.  It's been years, decades.  But I decided I really needed to fly a kite just so I could mark it off last year's bucket list.  We took our new kites down to the beach and that's where the fun began--putting together four new kites, two of which were really complicated.  And just to add to our fun, it was a really windy day.  But we did prevail after much muttering and cross examining of the directions.

And here are two of our kites in all their glory:

Kite flying so.  It was a fun family activity, but after a while it gets kind of boring.  All you do is stand there and watch a piece of cloth flap in the sky.  So the girls and I wound up our string and went to dip our toes in the lake.  It was cold.  Beyond cold.

Today I met up with a friend at an indoor play place that has a HUGE play structure and bouncy houses and slides.  My kids have been asking to go for months now and it never worked out.  But I promised them we would go before summer.  It worked out that my friend asked if we wanted to go there with them.

I spent most of the time watching the kids play and talking with my friend.  But then my girls got it into their heads that Mom needed to go up there with them.  "Please, Mom.  There are other adults up there.  We want you to go down the slide with us."  Oh boy.  I try really, really hard to hide my weird aversions from my kids so they don't get like me.  So my girls aren't aware that I don't like play places.  At all.  I don't like the tight spaces.  I don't like crawling through all those kid germs.  And I really hate twisty tube slides.  I know I'll never actually get stuck in there, but they're small.  And closed in.  And...blah.

I sat there for a few minutes making up excuses for why I couldn't go up there with the girls.  And then I gave myself a pep talk and convinced myself I needed to do this for my kids.  So I crawled through tiny spaces, walked hunched over, gave myself bruises on my knees from crawling on those hard plastic floors (ouch!) and came out of all that mess to the platform in front of the tallest twisty slide out of all of them.  Puke.

The slide of death

I tried to slow myself down and that only resulted in a scraped up elbow.  So after a few seconds of realizing that plan wasn't going to work, I went straight as a board and just let myself go down the slide fast.  And it wasn't so bad but I wasn't willing to go back up there again.  But, it made my girls happy and they told Hubby that the highlight of their outing was seeing Mommy go down the slide.

So, this week I did two new things and discovered I don't really like either of them very much.  But I laughed and made memories so it's okay that they weren't my favorite.  Because really, when it comes down to it, my most favorite things to do are things that make memories with my family.  Even if they aren't at the top of my fun list.

(Only as I was getting ready to post this did I realize that it's been weeks since I posted an update on my 52 Weeks of New project.  Oops.  I am still trying new things all the time, even if I haven't been blogging about them.  Like many people experience at this time of year, I have had the worst case of school slump ever.  Complete burnout.  It took every thing in me just to get school done and keep up with the house, let alone finding the mental energy to blog.  With the end of the school year next week, hopefully I will get back on track with my blogging and my 52 Weeks project.  So excuse the gap between weeks.)

Week 33 in the series of 52 Weeks of New

Week 18--Having too much Christmas fun to blog
Week 19--A Week of Firsts
Week 20--I Passed the Test
Week 21--???  How did I miss this?
Week 22--I Didn't Scream
Week 23--The Reluctant Servant
Week 24--Snow Day!
Week 25--I Hate Change..Even if it Does Present Me With New Opportunities
Week 26--Bribery and Cooking With Kids
Week 27--Best Laid Plans Interrupted
Week 28--Gluten Free Bread Baking

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Vacationing THM-Style

Sunset over the bay

I have been doing really, really well with eating the THM (Trim Healthy Momma) way 99% of the time.  It has been almost two months now and the weight it coming off slowly but surely.  As of this past Friday, I was down 16 pounds.

So when it came time to get ready for vacation this past weekend, I made up a menu that followed my eating plan.  I brought sausages and summer squash for my breakfasts (topped with a little cheese and it's my new favorite), Joseph's Pitas with lean chicken lunch meat and cheese for my lunches, and dinners were brats with veggies, tacos with low carb tortillas, and burgers without the bun and salad.

Meal planning, I did great.  All of my meals were THM friendly.  But then I made a few critical errors. I didn't plan enough snacks and I didn't bring enough food.  I had ingredients for two breakfasts, but not the third.  I had enough snacks for a few snack times, but by Sunday afternoon, I was out of THM friendly snack food but had a whole other day to go.

But my biggest error, that I definitely felt the hardest, was not making provisions for sweets.  Everyone else was indulging in ice cream (my favorite two flavors), s'mores, and cookies.  I brought nothing I could eat.  And after two days of watching others eat sweets in front of me, I caved around the campfire and ate a s'more.  I don't even really like s'mores, but I really wanted something sweet.  It was the most delicious s'more I have ever eaten.  LOL!

What I've learned from my short vacation is that when we get ready to go to the Smoky Mountains, I need to plan better.  I need to make up a menu that includes meals and snacks and sweet treats.  Will power is a beautiful thing, but it's best to have options when temptation gets strong.  I also need to come up with snack options that don't require cooking or a blender.

Next time I plan to bring along chocolaty treats, prepackaged mixes to make a muffin in a bowl (it tastes like chocolate cake), more snack foods like Wasa crackers and Laughing Cow cheese, nuts, cheese sticks, whey protein powder to mix up a quick protein shake, hummus and raw veggies, and whatever else I can think of.  I don't want to be caught unprepared again.

A Hike In The Woods To The Beach

We went to the Lake House for the holiday weekend.  Memorial weekend is always a toss up of how the weather will fall out.  Sometimes it's hot and sunny and we can go swimming in the icy cold waters of Lake Michigan.  Some years it's cold and rainy and we wonder why we even bothered leaving home.  And then there are the years like this one where the weather is crisp but sunny.  Perfect outdoor weather.

As swimming was out of the question this weekend, we turned to other vacation pursuits.  Saturday we went hiking.  About eighteen months ago we hiked the trail we did this weekend, except it was covered in snow.  And we ended up having to carry Joy for part of the time because she couldn't make it the entire way on her own steam.  Hubby and I were expecting a repeat.  But, because we are all in training for our big summer trip to the Smoky Mountains, hiking we went.

I am sad to say that we did not see any wildlife on our hike.  While my children are turning into excellent hikers, they are still working on the whole quiet part.  They scared away every creature within a mile radius of our path.

On top of the world...or just a sand dune

Our hike's first stop was an overlook situated at the top of a sand dune with a panoramic view of Lake Michigan.  We watched the seagulls swooping down to the water.  We saw a few boats way in the distance.  And then we decided to hike the entire loop rather than turn back the way we came like we did last time.  A short walk through the woods brought us to a long staircase down to the bottom of the dune and out to the beach.  The kids got their first visit to the shore of the season.  Joy and Lizzy splashed their hands in the water while David looked for shells and rocks to throw into the waves.

And then began the yucky part of our hike...back up the stairs, down the short dune and then back up over the tall dune.

This is when Hubby and I realized our mistake.  For the past few months we have been taking walks with the kids to get in shape for our trip so that we could go on longer hikes in the mountains.  We missed the fact that we live in flat suburbia.  Walking three miles on flat, paved sidewalks is not the same thing-at all-as trudging up a sand dune or a mountain.  We made it to the top and back to our car, but the girls were huffing and puffing and contemplating taking up permanent residence right there on the side of the dune.

Playing on the beach

On our way home from the Lake House, Hubby and I got to talking about our hiking experience.  While taking the kids on walks through the neighborhood and at the local nature preserve are good things to do to build up endurance, they are not enough for real mountain hiking.  Where could we find a place to hike that has hills??

We have an elliptical machine that lets you set the tension, but not the incline.  No good.  We could have the kids walk up and down the small hill in our neighborhood over and over, but would that really be effective enough?  We could run the bleachers at the local high school football stadium.  Or we could find a really hilly road in our area and drive there, park, and then walk the hills.  Hubby and I are resourceful people; we will figure something out.

I'm glad we went for our hike because it made us realize we have more work to do.  Our kids did great on our 2.5 mile hike, so our training has helped.  Just a few short months ago our girls were one big bundle of whine just walking a mile through our neighborhood.  With a little (or a lot of) hill training, we will be all set to take on the mountains.

Because there is waterfall in the Smoky Mountains National Park with my name on it and I intend to hike to it to show my kids the spot where I was standing knee deep in the pool at the bottom of the falls when my father said, "Back up a little more, Lisa, so I can get a better picture," and with one step back I was suddenly in water over my head.  Yup, we are definitely going this time, I am going to make my dad stand in the water while I take the picture.  "Back up just a little more, Dad..."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Simplified Summer

Some phases of life are really busy while others are much more laid back.  Usually my favorite season of the year is winter; not because I love snow so much, but because life slows down.  My kids only play soccer at this point, which is a spring/fall thing.  We end up staying home a lot more due to snowy roads.  There's just something about winter that is peaceful.

Unfortunately, this winter wasn't like that at all.  We were busy, busy.  Running all over the place.  Co-ops, outings, library runs, grocery shopping.  All I know is that I got to the end of winter and felt more tired than before.  Then I thought, Spring.  Maybe spring will be better.  So far, not so much.

We always seem to be going somewhere.  Some weeks it's hard to find the time to get to the kids' school work.  We always manage to get it done eventually, but lately the kids are working right up until when Hubby gets home from work where before we were almost always done with school by lunch time.

And so it is little wonder that I am feeling burned out and stressed out about school.  I've talked about schooling through the summer, but there's just no way.  My brain is toast.  I need a vacation.

But then there is the part of me that just can't let it go.  A whole summer with no school work at all?!  I can't even imagine.  Since David's very first year of school, back when he was in a Young 5s program, once summer hit, I had him (and eventually the girls) doing math and reading every day.  Some summers I did more than that, but always at least math and reading--one lesson of math and an hour of reading.

When I am torn about a decision, I turn to the Lord and ask Him for wisdom.  So I prayed about our summer and what I should do.  Of course there aren't any verses in the Bible that say, "Thou shalt make thy children do math and reading every day."  (Wouldn't that be nice if there was.)

On Mother's Day, my Grandma gave me an Amazon gift card.  I was looking for something else for my kids when a book popped up in my recommendations box.  It's a book I've read before and used years ago back during that first summer that I started summer schooling my kids.  It's Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola.

I glanced at the book sitting there on the screen and thought about the time when I used it before.  Back in the day when we used to do more living education versus book education.  When we used to take nature walks armed with our field guides and magnifying glasses and nature journals.  When we went on walks with the sole purpose of listening to birds sing, collecting and identifying leaves, and classifying clouds.  You know, back when homeschooling was fun rather than a chore to trudge through.  Back when my kids liked to learn and begged to do school instead of whining and writing "I hate school!" on their math worksheets.  In the days when I let them use glue and glitter and make a messy project out of the "specimens" they collected on our nature walks without thinking about the cleanup.

Ding, ding, ding!!!

I bought that book and made the decision that this summer I am sticking with my no-school decision, except I am changing it to no-formal-school.  We're really going to toss the workbooks.  I'm really going to let my kids go an entire summer without doing math.  I'm not going to think about the summer slump, the regression, and the review work we're going to have to do come September.  I'm putting that out of my mind.

Instead, we're going to dust off our field guides, nature journals, walking shoes and glue sticks and we're going to spend our summer focusing on nature.  Lots of nature walks, nature studies, books about nature, drawing in nature journals, making messy projects utilizing the things the kids collect, sitting on blankets in the grass watching clouds go by as we listen for and identify the animals around us.

Our winter and spring may be/have been crazy, but I am putting my foot down on our summer.  When this summer is over, I want us to be relaxed and ready to start a new school year.  I am not going to worry about test scores, I am not going to worry about my kids learning enough, I am not going to think about curriculum and if there's something better out there that I've missed.  Nope, not going to do it.  In fact, I am going to go so far as to BOX UP my curriculum catalogs and hide them in the basement until fall.  I might even do the same with our school books.  Just so I won't be tempted.

So, if you are local and are up for a walk in the woods, shoot me an email or give me a call and we can set something up.  Because we are going to be taking a lot of walks in the woods this summer.  And a walk in the woods is always more fun with friends.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Homeschool Burnout

Examining the piano mechanics rather than practicing for his lesson

I remember being a kid sitting in school during the month of May wondering if the school year would ever end.  The second half of May and the first week of June were always pure torture.  Don't even get me started on the years when multiple snow days resulted in the school year being extended.

Upon receiving my college diploma, I thought my days of "end of the school year" burnout were over.  But that was before homeschooling entered my world.

I have a horrible, mind-numbing, uninspired case of homeschool burnout.  I am ready for this school year to be done.  Done, I tell you.  Every year I have these grand plans to school year round; but by mid-May, there is nothing left in me to make it happen.  I just want to pack up the school books, end the feuds (wars) over math and other unfavored school subjects, and kick the kids outside while I get to work digging out my very neglected house.

Sitting and watching the river

I want to get out into the sunshine--working on my garden, going to the park, vacationing to the lake house, swimming, taking walks in the woods.

I have read a lot of studies about the necessity for children to get lots of time out in nature both for their cognitive and developmental growth.  I fully support those studies and regularly let my children loose on the woods behind our house.

But where is the study about adults needing lots of time out in nature?  Extended time to think about nothing beyond what that fluffy cloud looks like.  No one talks about the effects of a 40 hour work week stuck in a cubicle under artificial light.  Or of being stuck inside the house all day schooling your kids and cleaning the house.  About the mind numbing effects of year round work.  Because I am done.  I need a mental health break.  And I'm pretty sure my Hubby would love one, too, if only his work was more cooperative.

Learning just how long a giraffe tongue is

If I ruled the world, I would institute summer vacation for everyone, not just kids.  The whole country would go on holiday for at least three weeks, staggered of course to allow for businesses to keep running.  It could be real vacations or just stay-cations.  But a mandatory, extended break from the daily grind.

Watching worms in the gutter

So if you have heard me say that we will be continuing school through the summer, you can just disregard that message.  School is ending the first week of June and I will not be picking the books back up until the middle of August, possibly not until after Labor Day.  I might not even require my kids to do math at all this summer like I normally do.  Just lots of lots of free reading--in their beds, in the living room, on a blanket outside in the sun, up in a tree.  Wherever they want to sit with a fun, non-educational, non-required, fluffier than marshmallow fluff book.  Because that's what I'm going to be doing this summer.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mamma Belly Progress Report

Earth Milk--My new favorite drink

Today marks the end of my two week experiment of daily exercising my transverse stomach muscles to see if it would shrink my belly.  When I started the experiment, I took measurements of my stomach and checked myself for a diastasis muscle separation.

I began with a three finger separation between my stomach muscles.  Today the gap is one finger which is right where it should be.  As for my waist circumference, I lost 2 inches from the area 3 inches above my belly button and 1 inch right at my belly button.  Pretty impressive results considering how easy the exercise video I used is.  Ten minutes of really easy exercises that don't even seem like they will make a difference.

I thought about ending the exercises right here.  I closed the gap and lost some inches.  Mission accomplished.  But then I started wondering if another two weeks of faithful exercising would make even more of a difference.  So I am going to try it and see what happens.


After-2 weeks later

In the mean time, I had to buy new shorts because my old ones were too saggy baggy.  And my shirts are starting to hang on me--not my most favorite look.  I've been trying on my shirts that were too tight before only to discover they fit now.  Woohoo!

This week I am doing something called a Fuel Cycle.  This is where you eat all S (high protein, higher fat, low carb) meals for 3 days, then all fuel pull meals (high protein, low fat, low carbs) for 2 days, and then E meals (high protein, 45 grams or less of carbs, and low fat) for 2 days.  And then repeat for another week.  This is to help rev up my metabolism and get it burning all my fat stores even faster.

The S days are even stricter than Atkins induction--no nuts, no seeds, only limited cheese (otherwise no dairy at all), non-starchy vegetables, and no fruit.  When I tried the Atkins diet, I remember feeling like poo during the induction.  But apparently my diet has already been low enough in carbs that I have been energized the last three days eating such a carb restricted diet.  My brain fog and mid-day tiredness have disappeared.

I admit that it seems weird to think that I need to eat MORE fat.  I eat a meal and realize it was rather low in fat, so I eat a skinny chocolate covered coconut crack bar for the fat.  They taste a lot like Mounds Bars.  Next time I'm going to add almonds to make them Almond Joy bars.  It helps keep me full and satisfied.  You would think that all the extra fat would make me gain weight; but the opposite is true.  I lost 3 pounds after the first two days.  And no, it wasn't water weight since I lost all of that a month ago when I first started the THM diet.

Tomorrow I start the Fuel Pull days.  I admit I am most nervous about these days.  Low fat and low carb.  I have a list of food choices and I am confident I can do this without feeling hungry.  I will just load up on lean white meats, egg whites, fat free dairy (plain Greek yogurt and 1% fat cottage cheese), salad and other non-starchy veggies.  And I can't forget my new favorite drink, Earth Milk.  Even if it glows bright green and looks...suspicious, it actually tastes pretty good considering it's basically blended up leaves with a few other ingredients (this batch is spinach and parsley).

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Diastasis...Otherwise Known As Mamma Belly

The cause of my Mamma Belly

I've heard about "Mamma Belly" before, the condition where your stomach muscles split due to pregnancy which causes you to look four months pregnant despite the fact that your youngest child is...five.  I remember doing crunches after Joy was born and seeing my belly look a lot like a bell curve--flat on the outside with a big arch at the middle.  Despite knowing of the condition, I never researched if there was a cure for it.

But then I came across some ladies who are following the Trim Healthy Mama diet who swore by doing exercises to close the gap between the muscles.  They posted before and after pictures that were truly astounding.  They went from looking pregnant to not pregnant in just a few weeks of daily stomach exercises.  Well...

My Mamma didn't raise no dummies.

I checked my stomach for diastasis using this video as my guide.

After discovering that I have a three finger gap between my muscles, I took a before picture and committed to doing a quick and easy video every day for two weeks.  It only takes ten minutes.

When I have time I throw in these two exercises for good measure (hopefully smaller.)

I'm only a week into the program and have already closed my gap by an inch and can feel my stomach getting stronger.  So far I've shrunk my stomach by an inch.  Not bad for something so simple.  I still have another week to go, but I've talked about it to several people who were interested so I thought I'd share about it even before analyzing my final results.

So, if you are like me and have a Mamma Belly and would like to do something about it, try this and let me know if it works for you.