Friday, September 19, 2014

Cuddle Bunnies

Hmm...I wonder what inspired the title of this post?

Perhaps I should have called it "Bed Hogs."

I took this photo in the middle of the night. My husband was in Indiana and had no idea I'd snuck the boys into our bed, which, strictly speaking, is against house rules.

So don't tell him, okay? Because, like, I'm sure he didn't notice it when I posted this picture  on Facebook and, what's more, tagged him specifically.

Okay, so he knows. It's what I did to cope.

* * *

We moms have all sorts of coping mechanisms, don't we?  Most of mine involve Facebook and the (over) consumption of highly caffeinated beverages.

I've also discovered the joys of Instagram, a new (to me!) photographic platform that gives me one more excuse (!) to take pix of the kids.

 Not that they even notice my taking their picture any more.

The good news? After taking that picture I put the cell phone away. I breathed in the gorgeous fall afternoon (we have precious few gorgeous fall afternoons) and then hoisted my bum off the quilt for a walk. George followed along on his cute little scooter, and Francis kick-kick-kicked his soccer ball.

That kid LOVES his soccer ball.  Any ball, for that matter. Oh no! More sports!

* * *

Not really. I've complained a lot (on Facebook and whatnot) about growing weary of all the chauffeuring, but I do like having the excuse to get out. Yesterday, for example, we were on double duty: my husband dropped off Joe at work and then got Felicity to soccer practice. I dropped off Angela at her soccer practice and then drove due North to Jem's soccer game. 

(He came thisclose to getting a goal.)

(I. Was. DYING!)

Anyway, if I hadn't had to drive the kids to soccer, I would have completely missed out on this view:

It may not look like much to you, but it completely filled this city girl's soul. 

I could have stood there and took in that view for days. 

* * *

Going back to this post's title...

Some friends of ours have lop-eared bunnies. (Hi, Amy!) My daughter Cate absolutely loves these bunnies, but to her great sorrow, she's allergic to them. So here's what Cate does to get in a cuddle. She holds those bunnies at arm's length, basically, with her sleeves pulled down as far as they'll go. With her thumbs, she rubs the bunnies' furry faces and then, regretfully, sets them down.

My heart breaks just a bit to hear this. It's not fair! The girl absolutely loves furry animals. "I'm so sorry, honey," I tell my daughter often. "But in heaven, you'll be allergy-free.  You'll have battalions of bunnies! You'll have dogs! You'll have dust mites!"

Okay, so maybe she won't want to raise dust mites in heaven, but she won't be allergic to them so she could she wanted to!

My point being...
"Cloud Shot" by my 17-year-old Joe
(Actually, he didn't name it. He just snapped the picture from the plane.)

Our time on this earth is all about stolen moments. We can make the most of what we're given, or we can spend our time fretting about what we don't have. (And you know I know full well about fretting!)  Recently, though, I received the sweetest email from a reader who just sent her oldest off to college. Her words so touched my heart that I asked to share some of them...

...and most thankfully, she said yes. : )
He was the first, and you know how it is with those firsts. I didn't know what I was doing, but I did firmly resolve to embrace his senior year, all of it. It was a year of lasts, you know, last time for this, last time for that, but it was good. We lived life to the full, and embraced each moment. Then, suddenly, my mother died. On a November morning, she died of a heart attack, and just like that, she was gone.

I know you're losing your dear mother. I lost a grandmother to Alzheimer's, and it's such a sad loss. It takes so long, and you lose so much. I lost my mom in an instant. No matter how it comes, loss is hard. Embrace each day!

But, with your oldest, I just want to encourage you to live each day to the full! Try hard not to live in May, planning graduation and all that. Don't live in the leaving, live in the now when he's right there, with you. Hug him every day. Love him while he's there, and cherish each moment.

It can be hard not to live in the future. It can be even harder not live in the past. My goal--and I have to recommit to this hourly--is to be as present and cheerful and thankful as possible. Yes, I'll screw up and will fret, yell and nag. Yes, I will sometimes play the "guilt card", like when I wanted to post my son's cloud photos but Joe was too busy to send me them.

"But I made you French toast," I told him pointedly. "You said you'd text me those photos if I made you French toast."

"Why is this so important?" he asked, as I begged and pleaded for the 86th time.

"Because," I admitted, more than a bit embarrassed, "I want to put them on my blog and talk about their metaphorical significance."

He stared at me and then said, "Huh?"

"You know," I said.  "A picture you took? From the plane?  And you 'flying off' to college next year?" 

"You're such a mom," he told me, grinning.

That's right; I am.

It's what God made me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Roots & Wings & Other Things

It's started already so go ahead and be warned.

Last night, as the kids were doing their various kitchen clean-up chores...

Our dry erase board's a mess but it works.
Note that we cycle the chores based on the day of the week,
and that my kids are extremely fond of butter.

The high school senior starting fighting with the 4th grader. He glared at her fiercely; he shot daggers with his eyes. “Don't,” I told him, putting a protective arm around his sister. “Life's too short. Plus we've only got this one last year with you...”

I burst into tears and grabbed my son, who stood there awkwardly regretting that fight.

“Just be glad it's not your college campus,” I sobbed. “Just be glad I'm getting it out of my system now.”

(Except I'm not.)

(I'll be just as big a wreck on that college campus.)

* * *

THIS is why I work out and such. I need that seratonin to keep me sane!

(Except I'm not.)

(Sane, that is.)

Happily, I did my first very first 12-minute “Fat Blast” kettlebell workout this morning and have two—no, three—things to say about this. One, never in my life did I think that I'd be using one of these weird, Russian devices of torture.

Honestly, I hadn't even seen a kettlebell before Michelle “graciously” sent one to me.

The second thing, though, is that I loved the workout! It was only 12 minutes long and it was fun.

Note: In no way did I resemble this.

Who hasn't got 12 minutes to do a fun workout?

The third thing I want to remember is what my 5-year-old said to me when I'd finished:  “Are you all mine now, Mommy?” My heart, still beating vigorously from the workout, flew out of my body and melted on the floor at his feet.

5-year-olds are awesome. They're like heaven in a milk mustache.

* * *

Meanwhile, that high school senior just keeps maturing.  He and my husband are leaving for Notre Dame TONIGHT (the college, not the church in Paris) to check out the campus and get a first impression. He hasn't applied, mind you, and there's no guarantee that he'd even get in...but I'm happy he's taking this time with his dad.

 Recognize Him? My husband just emailed this picture from their visit.

And yet...and yet...his flight tonight is, for me, a small taste of next September. In other words, the kid is close enough to the door at this point that I just have to let him go. "Give 'em roots then give 'em wings," they say, but they don't say how to prepare your heart. 

Besides, like, staying close to Mary and drinking lots of wine.

(Which I'm not, right now, so don't even worry.) 

* * *

It's okay. It'll be okay. I've still got my little men, you know—the funny five-year-old who still loves to cuddle, and the impish toddler who likes to stuff stuff down his pants.

Right now it's Trio blocks so I should probably go.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My First Whole30

Alternately Titled: When Food's the Factor

"You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north."

                          Deuteronomy 2:3
I did it! I completed my first Whole30! (This was three weeks ago but hey, who's counting?) For 30 days, I went without grains, dairy, legumes and sugar. No artificial sweetener of any kind; no beans; no beer; no wine; no whining.

Was it hard? You bet! Would I do it again? Absolutely.

In a nutshell, this is why:

I. Felt. So. GOOD!
For, like, 30 days, I felt really good! 
(Plus, on a side note, a happy wife = a happy husband. Bonus points!!)

Never before have I succeeded at a program like this. Never have I committed to a healthy plan and then stuck to it as originally planned. (Losing 35 pounds on Weight Watchers doesn't count. I ate junky things like diet Jello and eventually gained most of the weight back.)

I'll tell you: I really needed this shot in my self esteem's butt.

I needed to know that I could do it.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 
because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." (James 1:2)

Okay, enough of these starry-eyed reminisces. Let's move on to the nitty-gritty.

What I Ate

I had a lot of people make the comment: "No dairy, no grains, no legumes. For heaven's sake, what did you eat?" 

You wanna know what I ate? I ate stuff like this:
 Yummy green smoothies like the ones found here...

 Lots of eggs, lots of sauteed veggies...

Skillet dishes like ground turkey, onion and apple...

Rotisserie chicken with a splash of cayenne...

And finally, fresh fruit! (a close second to chocolate ; )

In the end, it wasn't bad at all. On the contrary, the food tasted incredibly good on the program. Even my 20-month-old agreed: 

Chowing down on a sweet potato with sauteed cabbage & cilantro...

Savoring the complexity of one of Mom's green smoothies...
("Is that a hint of avocado I taste?")

And finally...

 Whoa, buddy! That giant marshmallow is NOT Whole30 approved.

 Moving on to...

My Favorite Resources (i.e. I couldn't have done it without...)

Seriously. I would have been in BIG trouble were it not for:

1. The daily emails that I received from the Whole30 folks;
2. Food blogger extraordinaire Melissa Joulwan
3. My Whole30 partner in crime, Michelle Reitemeyer.

The Whole30 daily newsletter was an invaluable resource, worth every penny of the $14.95 it cost. I learned so much about human psychology and the power of habit! It was fascinating, truly, and I came to really lean on this daily email.

Melissa Joulwan, author of the website The Clothes Make the Girl, is simply wonderful. I made my own mayo thanks to her and felt like a rock star when I did! Her photos are fabulous and her recipes, amazing. What more can I say? Melissa is smart, funny, humble & helpful. She's an enormous sweetheart and I love her lots.

And finally, on the day before I took up this challenge, I asked my friends on Facebook if anyone cared to join me. Michelle said yes and I am so very grateful. We emailed almost daily with our various ups & downs, and when I was sorely tempted to step on the scale (which my husband had hidden, by the way), she told me don't do it, adding, "If you make it 30 days without weighing yourself, I'll send you a copy of my favorite work-out video."

(She made good on her promise, by the way. A kettle bell workout that looks {gulp} fun!) 

Was following the program expensive? 

You  know, it really wasn't that bad.  I splurged on a couple of fancy items, like ghee and coconut aminos, but for the most part, I found what I needed at Trader Joe's.

Note: generally speaking, I don't buy grass-fed or organic. We can't afford it, period, and so I put those worries out of my mind. When I think of how well we eat compared to some third world countries...well, I'm not going to obsess about all my food being "clean." We're eating fruits and veggies, and that's what counts.

You're free to disagree, of course. : )

The Hardest Day

August 15 was definitely the hardest day. It was both my son's 17th birthday and the feast of the Assumption, and it just felt wrong to not be eating cake.

I grumbled (inwardly) and may or may not have snuck a taste. And then I took a slice, wrapped it in foil and froze it. "No one eat this," I warned the gang at the table. "It's for my first day off the program."

And on that day...the 31st'd better believe I had cake for breakfast.

The Best Day

I'd be hard-pressed to pick just one "best" day. There were many small triumphs that strengthened my resistance muscle, like watching a movie with a kids and not snacking; (or having an apple if I was really hungry), and good-naturedly chiding the girls for baking cookies in front of me.

It was only 30 days, you know? I could do without sugar for 30 days.

What else. Well, I had tons of energy and my mood swings were gone. My trips to the bathroom were {ahem} most regular, and what's more, praise God,  my libido came back! (cue happy husband) Finally, I stopped feeling helpless when it came to my eating, and that was without a doubt the biggest reward of all.

 One of the only selfies I took during the program.
Take it or leave it! It's all I got.

Did I lose weight? 

Even though this program's not about the weight, I know that you are dying to know. Yes, I lost weight--about seven pounds--but the truth is, I've stopped relying on the scale as a marker. It's too unpredictable! It's too fickle a friend.

For example...

I felt a lot lighter than I really weighed. I know this because I had a "target weight" in my mind, and I haven't come close to it in quite some time. And yet, I am happy (more or less) with what I see in the mirror; I feel healthy and centered, and that's all that matters.

There are a couple of things I will say about having had such a limited diet. First, it was very liberating to not have to worry about treats. You know the drill..."I'm making cookies for the kids. Should I have just one? Can I stop after having one?" For 30 days, that option was gone and along with it, the stress and worries.

(That said, I was really glad that Medjool dates were allowed. I needed the sweetness of an occasional date!)

Here's the other thing: given that there were so many things I couldn't eat, I started to pay more attention to what I could. Food tasted better--richer, more rewarding--and what's more, this enjoyment of food has carried well past the 30 days of the program. Oh my goodness, words can't describe that first bite of frozen cake...

(I thawed it first. Red velvet heaven.) 

And that's the thing. Food should taste good. It shouldn't be eaten in haste or in guilt; it should nourish your body and strengthen your soul.  It's only taken me--what?--nearly 48 years to learn this?

 Even still, the learning curve is steep, which is why people like me need programs like this one.

I would (and will) do it again in a heartbeat.


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