Sunday, June 8, 2014

Working Out and Changing My Lifestyle

Right about a year ago, things fell into place for me to start working out and getting back into shape. You see, there were two main reasons I didn’t feel I could prior to that:
1.    I didn’t have the time to work out.
2.    I didn’t have a place to work out.

I’m a morning workout person. I’ve tried other times, and I can manage in the afternoons on occasion but not so much at night. I read an article like 12 years ago in a fitness magazine that was talking about how different bodies have different ideal work out times and how it was difficult to keep up a regular routine if you were forcing your body into a time that wasn’t ideal for it.

It was a eureka moment for me. Ah ha! No wonder I struggle to keep up with work outs unless I do them in the mornings! And no wonder Londo always chooses to work out late at night, when that sounds like misery to me! On the flip side, Londo could not understand how I could wake up really early and jump into a work out. Learning that about myself so long ago has helped me over the years realize what I need to do to get into and stay in shape: Have a work out planned and wake up early to do it.

So I couldn’t just wait until the kids were asleep and work out then, though I’d tried that a few times. It simply wasn’t working. I was at work all day long, and I didn’t want to take extra time to work out near my office because I’d rather get home in time to have dinner with my kids. And I have been on morning duty for the kids since they were born, and they’ve need pretty constant attention in the mornings. Not to mention the sleep issues that have been a part of our evenings and nights since my lovely, but not-good-sleeper daughter was born.

But last spring (Spring 2013), the kids were finally old enough and capable enough to be left alone in the mornings for brief periods of time. They were old enough to remember that if Mommy wasn’t in bed when they woke up, she was downstairs working out. They were old enough to play for a while by themselves or with each other before getting ready for the day. They were old enough to sit by themselves/with each other at breakfast and watch a show without me there. Finally, I could find the time (as long as I woke up early enough) to work out in the mornings!

The other issue was also solved last spring. I’m a yoga and cardio person. I like active/power yoga, aerobics and dance-type work outs. For aerobics and dance, I need room. For yoga, I need a quiet, calm place. The only area in our house that could be quiet in the mornings and have enough space for the workouts I like was the basement. But the basement was set up as a play room. A very rarely used playroom, but full of those large toddler toys that we didn’t have room for anywhere else in the house.

But the kids were no longer toddlers. They didn’t play with the toys, and we were ready to get rid of them. Every spring, my neighborhood has a yard sale. Anyone can participate just by setting their stuff out on the driveway/yard and start selling. And we did! We put out all the toddler toys and even some baby toys we still had. We sold all sorts of random stuff we didn’t need or want anymore. We didn’t bring anything back into the house, even if it meant giving stuff away at the end.
The kids also set up a lemonade stand, which was really cute, even though they have no concept of how to run a business. ;-)

With all the toddler toys out of the basement, I had all sorts of room down there! When I was young, my dad bought me gymnastics mats to practice on at home. We got those mats from my parent’s house, and we spread them out on the floor. Londo hooked up an old DVD player and even an old VHS player so I could work out to different videos. I made a corner for my hand weights and yoga mats. I was finally all set up!

I started with my yoga, and then some aerobic VHS tapes. I quickly realized that the old aerobics workouts were way out of date. These days, the fitness world was doing circuit training and cross-fit training. Just as our understanding of what was the best things to eat and what to avoid eating had changed, so had the way we work out our bodies.

I did a little research and then bought Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred. I did the Shred for the whole 30 days, 10 days at each level. By the end, I could see the difference. I was starting to get definition in my arms and legs. I was feeling good. I was taking the stairs up and down four flights without changing my breathing.

After the Shred, I decided I was ready for more. A lot more. I decided to do the Insanity! It was a two-month long program, extremely intensive, cardio-based workout program. It was HARD! And I LOVED it! I’d heard great things about the P90X workout, but considering my penchant for cardio (aerobics and dance), I knew that the Insanity workout was the right one for me.
In addition, I started running. Running! Me! The person who used to say, “They only way I’m running is if someone is chasing me!” But Londo got me into it by working with me slowly. I am slow. Meanwhile, he is fast. Very fast. So for him to run at such a slow pace just to help me keep going and find some enjoyment in it was really awesome.

But that’s not all. I also got an app for my iPhone (MyFitnessPal) where I could track what I was eating and pay attention to how all the calories add up. It’s amazing to start realizing how quickly they add up—finish a kid’s left over goldfish, get a fancy coffee drink, grab some McDonalds while on the go, eat seconds because the meal was so good, plus dessert and wine. Once I started to actually track each and every thing I ate, especially after setting a goal and trying to stick to it, I stopped eating mindlessly. I stopped eating when I was full. I weighed my decisions on food choices. I calculated how much I could eat for lunch if I wanted to have some wine with dinner. I PAID ATTENTION to what I was eating, and what I was doing.

In fact, I bought myself and Londo (for Father’s Day) the Jawbone UP lifestyle tracking bracelets. I set goals for my sleep and for the amount of steps I’d take each day (steps being the equivalent to activity). And boy, does that bracelet make you pay attention! The bracelet also lets you record actual activities, so I could time my workouts and record the type of activity and the intensity of those workouts. It even integrates with my MyFitnessPal app!

So not only did I find the time and place for my workouts, I also completely changed my lifestyle. Now, I eat mindfully. I track my calories and activities. I make smart choices in what I do, what I eat, when I go to sleep. And it has paid off. Not only did I lose quite a bit of weight (although I was not really overweight to begin with), but I now have strength and definition. Now I am in shape, and healthy and feel really good. Not just because I look good—and I do look good!—but because I feel good. Really good.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My Fabulous Mother's Day

I know not everyone has great or even good Mother's Days. I get so frustrated for my friends who are disappointed by sucky Mother's Days. However a person feels about Valentines Day, religious holidays or government holidays, even if they are "made-up" holidays, I really feel that Mother's Day and Father's Day are important.

Parenting is hard! Raising kids is full of ups and downs. Mothers and fathers work really hard for their children, and I believe that all most people want is a little recognition and appreciation! Is one day a year too much to ask? Even if you are lucky enough to constantly get recognition and appreciation, one full day of being able to take it easy is not too much to ask.

With young children, the onus of Mother's Day (or Father's Day) definitely falls to the partner. (This must be hard for single parents!) Sure, my kids make me cute things in their classes, and the schools have Muffins for Moms, but the day itself and purchased presents can only be handled by an adult. (Which reminds me, I better start planning for Father's Day!)

My husband is just fantastic! He is especially good at being thoughtful and planning in advance. He never just buys any old cliched gift, but instead really thinks about the person he is buying the gift for and what they would find meaningful. (One year before my birthday, I actually had to tell him that sometimes I just want the cliched chocolate or jewelry or lingerie! So he bought me all three for my birthday.) I wish I had his talent for gift buying, but I've at least learned a lot from him.

And on Mother's Day? He basically gives me the gift of the whole day! I get to hang out with him and my kids or without them in any way I want. I get to have the joy of playing with the kids or sitting in my bed without any of the frustrations that come up in normal activities.

This year was just fabulous. And I'm going to write out my whole day so that I'll always remember how fabulous my Mother's Days are thanks to him and the kids.

Londo woke me up with breakfast in bed at the agreed upon time of 9:00. He made one of my favorite breakfasts: a homemade breakfast sandwich with Canadian bacon-type of ham, scrambled eggs and cheese. He included fruits and a perfectly-fixed cup of coffee. Not only that, but I woke up to him and the kids coming in the room singing "Happy Mother's Day to you..." Each child held a tulip, while Londo held the tray with breakfast. Then they all kissed me and left me alone to eat my breakfast.

Yes, it was as perfect as it sounds.

After breakfast, I went down to open my presents, which Londo had the kids pick out on the internet and make me cards. I got a lavender bath set from the Pumpkin and two magnetic sheets to slide pictures into and hang on the fridge from the Pookie. Super cute stuff, and they really thought about what I might like (Daddy's teaching them well)! Londo got me gifts in a theme. The theme was "strong women" he told me as I opened the gift bag. I got an Amy Winehouse CD, a Miranda Lambert CD and the DVD set of the short-lived, totally campy TV show Cleopatra 2525... a show I totally loved and we'd been talking about recently. In addition, Londo had done all the dishes! Fabulous gifts, each and every one!

I went back up to sit in bed with my computer and immediately put the CDs into my iTunes. And listen to them, of course! I got out of bed before noon (11:45, but that still counts!), took a shower and then had lunch. A fantastic, easy morning. I wanted to spend the day working on a couple projects, which I did next. I finished going through and filing or throwing piles of paper I had in the guest room/craft room.

Once the room was clear (I'm not going to count the piles hidden in the closet), I set up the sewing machine I bought a few months ago. And then, I watched the DVD that came with machine and set it all up! I wound the bobbin! I threaded the bobbin! I threaded the top thread! And then? I practiced a few lines of stitches to make sure it was all working correctly and that I didn't mess it up. And IT WORKED!

I'm thrilled! I've been wanting to start sewing for a long time, and now I have the machine AND it is all set up just waiting for me to make the pillow I've been planning to start with. The Pumpkin got a sewing machine for Christmas (she'd been wanting one for a while), and I had told her that once I set up my machine and start getting the hang of it, we'd get her machine set up and start sewing together! I'm so excited!

It was a lovely day outside, so with my projects complete, I went out and sat on the glider looking through sewing books while the kids played. Londo was going to grill, but apparently wasps made a nest in our grill since last summer. He moved indoors to cook me steak and veggies. In addition, he pointed out that my dad was likely going to be home alone for dinner, since my mom was at her beach house for the weekend. After getting my approval, he called my dad to invite him over for dinner. And my dad told him that my mom was on her way back and would be home in time for dinner. So I immediately called her up and invited her over!

It was really great to have them over for Mother's Day dinner. And I could see that it made my mom especially happy too, making me realize that my siblings and I need to plan a special celebration for our mom on the Saturday of Mother's Day weekend. She may say that she doesn't want anything and wants us to spend time with our families getting pampered by them, but I could easily see that it made her so happy to have Mother's Day dinner with us. I regret not realizing that sooner and planning something that she couldn't say no to.

Londo put the kids to bed while I saw my parents out. That night, I just hung out in our bed playing games on my phone and watching the Murphy Brown Mother's Day special. Londo had been having a really hard time with allergies, but he spent the entire day not letting it show. He got up with the kids early, did all those wonderful things (including mowing the lawn so we could go outside) without even seeming like he was tired or dealing with bad allergies. And though he was trying to stay awake to have some romantic time with me, I told him to go to sleep early. I had a fabulous day and was enjoying the TV shows and games on my phone.

It was just a fabulous day! Everything was wonderful! I would have been fine to simply have a day without the kids fighting and me not having to do dishes. But this day, as the other Mother's Days, was well beyond just making me feel fine. It made me so happy. I feel so loved and appreciated and respected!

Too bad every day isn't Mother's Day! ;-)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Second Child, First Kindergarten Orientation

Yesterday was the Pookie's kindergarten orientation! This was a first for us, since the Pumpkin stayed at the Montessori school through kindergarten. The Pumpkin started elementary school in first grade, and they are both so excited that they will be going to the same school next year!

After walking the Pumpkin to the bus stop in the morning, I talked with the Pookie as we walked back home. I reminded him that we were going to his kindergarten orientation later that morning, and answered some questions he had.

He asked if he was going to start in kindergarten tomorrow (everything in the future is tomorrow to him), and I once again described the seasons and how it was spring and soon would be summer and then it would be fall. And that's when he would start school. In the fall. And then he asked, "So I get to go tomorrow?" Sigh. We are working on the concept of time.

He asked if he would be in the Fives' room with the Pumpkin. His current preschool/daycare has their rooms by age, and he goes into the room with the five-year-olds in the afternoon, where his sister also goes after school. So I explained to him that he'd be in the Fives' room at the new school, which is called kindergarten, and the Pumpkin would be in a different room--the Sevens' room, which is called 2nd grade. But, I told him that he would get to ride on the bus with his sister every day!

After walking her to the bus and watching her ride off in the bus every day for the last 9 months, he is REALLY excited to ride the bus. Especially with his sister! In his words, "I want to sit next to my beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, BEAUTIFUL sister on the bus!"

When we got to the kindergarten orientation, it started with the Pookie writing his own name on his name tag! (He learned that in the last few months, and he's getting really good!) I had brought the Pumpkin's lunch with us, since I was in a hurry in the morning and figured I would just bring it in when we got there. So while we waited for the orientation to begin, the front office called the Pumpkin to the office to get her lunch. It was so cute to see them both in the elementary school hall together! They were excited and hugged each other.

Then the orientation started. A group of the future kindergarteners went into one room, and the parents were to go into another room. The Pookie suddenly shied away, saying he was scared. Neither of my kids is great with transitions, and the Pookie has an especially hard time going into groups or classes on his own. And he is especially clingy to me. So I started to ask a teacher if I could just go in with him, but I was hesitant, since I knew once we were in he would  not let me go easily. Thankfully, Londo knew all of the issues going on, swooped the Pookie up in a fun way, and got him into the classroom, pointing out the cool carpet and other things as they went.

I went into the other classroom to submit the paper work and register the boy for kindergarten. Londo met me after just a minute, letting me know that the Pookie was in the room and doing fine, listening to the book a teacher was reading to the kids.

We registered the Pookie, and then we went into another area where the principal talked to us about the school and starting kindergarten and the Core 2.0 Curriculum they use at the school. While she was talking, the kids came into the other side of the room and were coloring. The Pookie was as happy as could be, chatting with the other kids and having fun coloring. When they came over to us, he was so excited! He was LOVING everything about it!

Best of all? The next thing we did was take a ride on a school bus!!! We went out front and got on a bus that took us around the neighborhood. It was so cool! And it'd been so long since I'd been on a school bus!

One other cute thing: When we were leaving the last classroom to go to the bus, there was a box of legos sitting on the floor with quite a few legos left out on the ground. My little guy went over, saying indignantly, "Someone left the legos out!" He started cleaning them up! I told him to leave it so the kid who left it out could clean it up and so we could go on the bus. But what a neat guy! He was ready to clean up and keep the room neat, which gives me hope for him and what he's learning in his preschool!

It was a really neat experience for him, and for us. It will be hard to wait for the elementary school to start, but we still have to finish spring, then summer and then start in fall. Which I know I'll have to explain many more times until school starts, and I plan to show him on his calendar and we can mark off the days, if need be. But that's okay. He's learning so much, and I know he'll understand that soon, too.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Beauty of My Children in Two Poems

Poem from September 2012

Shine of Moon

Her beauty amazes me...

Her long curls
spiral
down
her
back.

Her pale skin that elegant
shade of white and rose
that women bleach and
paint to try to attain.

The sprinkling of freckles
across
her nose and checks,
light
brown and soft looking.

Her almond eyes, my shape eyes, crinkling
when she smiles her engaging
smile, laughs her infectious
laugh, grins in her incorrigible way.

Her long, lean
body is steady
sure
strong
balanced.

Her expressive face
announces her intentions,
determined in her goal or
anxious in her need, tight
with anger or free with love.

She has the beauty of the moon,
pale and engaging,
bright and interesting,
so lovely it's hard to look away.


Glow of Sun

His beauty enchants me...

His face and eyes are round with apple dumpling cheeks.
The hazel of his eyes are becoming the same rainbow as mine,
brown, green, yellow and blue melding together, shining bright.
His curls spring close when his hair is short, loop large when
his hair grows to droop below his ears, soft and silky.
He smiles that smile, stares up with those eyes, charming
everyone who benefits from his attention. He gives a devilish
smile, almost taunting with his eyes, face shining with naughty
excitement, daring you to say no, turning back on the charm
when you do say no. New freckles occasionally appear, on
his chin, his arms, his legs. His body is growing leaner, longer.
His bottom is still round, his hands are still full, but his body is
no longer little and padded. He shines like the sun, warm
and full, strong and gorgeous, so handsome it draws you in.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In Truth, It's Not Easier

I've been a parent for just over 7 years now. It's been wonderful. And a pain in my butt. And rewarding. And madness-inducing. And everything in between.

I've strived to be honest about what parenthood has been like to me. On this blog, I spent years writing about the good, the bad and the ugly. In real life and on Facebook, I share the joy and the pain. After all, being a parent is not easy, and anyone who says different is either a liar, delusional, a bad parent or extremely lucky (possibly all of those).

During the early years, the baby years, I struggled. But I kept thinking that it would get easier. That we'd get through the developmental and growth spurts and make it to the other side. The thing is, there is no other side. Just as life itself is really a circle, a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, so is parenthood.

I now have a 7 year old and an almost 5 year old. It's not easier to parent them, but it is different in so many ways. Their personalities don't change, but what they are dealing with and how they act do change.

There are different challenges to having a 7-year-old girl who gives me sass than the challenges of her looking at me defiantly while doing what I just told her not to do when she was a toddler. There are different challenges to having an almost-5-year-old boy who says I'm a mean mommy because I make him take a bath than the challenges of him throwing a tantrum and trying push me away when he needed his diaper changed.

What I've come to realize is that it's all variations on a theme. Their themes. So it doesn't necessarily get easier to parent them as they get older, but the challenges changes. The dynamics change. The tricks and techniques I and Londo use as parents have to adapt.

And though I believe it is so important to talk about the difficulties and not paint parenthood in some unrealistic way, I also believe it's vital to keep in mind the wonderful aspects of being a parent.

My daughter still is an amazing communicator and loves to snuggle up to us, just like when she was a toddler. My son still tells me how much he loves me and is great at puzzles and putting like things together, just like when he was a toddler.

We still deal with developmental regressions (and corresponding leaps forward) on a quarterly basis with both kids. And though the regressions are and always will be frustrating, the leaps forward are incredible! The things they can do now! It's just amazing!

So, no, it isn't easier. But it is still absolutely worth every second of the ups and downs to watch these wonderful kids of mine grow, develop and learn.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Week of Firsts

The Pumpkin just stared 1st grade this past week. For the other 6 year olds in the neighborhood, this means going back to school in the next grade up. For the Pumpkin, this means starting in elementary school for the first time. Last year, we had a bit of reprieve because she stayed at the Montessori school in the classroom that was ages 3 through 5 and included a "Kindergarten Class" for the 5 year olds. So we didn't deal with the OMG-my-kid-is-going-into-kindergarten-and-leaving-the-nest that all my other friends with 5 year olds went through. But the Montessori school only went through Kindergarten.

So, we had a reprieve, but that ended this year.

The Pumpkin was very excited to go to the elementary school for the first time, to ride a school bus for the first time and take the daycare's bus to aftercare for the first time! The local elementary school is excellent, and I was looking forward to gathering at the bus stop with the other parents. We meet the teacher at a back-to-school sneak peak the Friday before school started. She was warm, friendly, funny and great with the kids. We are very hopeful about the Pumpkin's transition to the new school.

The first week has gone really well. The Pumpkin loves the teacher, has a friend in her class that was in her class at the Montessori school (I requested that they be in the same class on the sheet in the admittance paperwork), gets excited about the bus, and she even got to get food in the cafeteria (hurray for no more peanut allergy!). By day 2 or 3, the Pumpkin was a bit sad about not making a bunch of friends already. She is so outgoing and friendly that I think she expected to make a ton of friends immediately. Londo and I both talked with her about it and explained that making new friends does not always happen right away. That other kids may be nervous or shy and that all the kids need time to adjust to the new class. Those talks seemed to help a lot.

Her teacher called parents on Friday to give an update about how the children are doing so far! She talked with Londo, and she said that the Pumpkin was doing well so far. How awesome is that for a 1st grade teacher to do?

She is aware of the Pumpkin's previous school and that we were worried about her transition into the non-Montessori environment, and she agreed that is an area that the Pumpkin needs to continue working on. Based on what I've seen and what the teacher said, I do believe she'll fully transition soon.

This is hard, though. This letting go of my child. This letting her out into the world without my supervision in a school with older kids. This is not sending her to a carefully picked daycare/school and letting her spend 3 years there with the comfort of knowing the kids and teachers and administration. She is in a new environment with new rules and new kids.

I just want it all to go well, to go smoothly. I want everyone to love her and think she's fun and funny and realize how wonderful she is. I want her to make friends easily and enjoying learning and study hard even when it's difficult. Isn't that what all parents want for their kids? But we don't get to make that happen. Instead, we have to let them go and see how they do on their own. It won't all be easy and there will be ups and downs. But I know that she will be able to stand up for herself, she'll be friendly and nice to other kids, and she'll always have us as a safety net.

First grade. Where did the time go? The nights may have been long, but the years have flown by.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Intricacies of Language

My kids are now each of an age where they are learning new concepts in language. The Pumpkin is 6 (almost 6 and a half! those halves count!), and the Pookie is 4. They have each just come through another leap in development, and I can see that language was part of those leaps.

For the Pookie, he is now able to explain himself, and he is able to state words more clearly. Although his little lisp has been adorable, it has also lead to frustrations for himself and us. Now, he is able to explain "smah gitah" is not the "big gitah [we had just been talking abut]. He played the smah gitah" which was actually the violin, or "fiddle" as the Pumpkin explained.

Conversations with the boy are lengthier and have more details. When we ask him about his day or what they did in Soccer Shots, he actually tells us about an actual thing that happened. This is WAY better than the previous "I don know." And lately, I've been reading the kids chapter books at bedtime, and when I ask each kid what happened when we stopped reading the night before, he is able to remember some details and answer! This is really neat for me to see develop.

Unfortunately, he still likes to push his boundaries using words. I think we've finally gotten him to stop saying "bam your face." This was more annoying that you might think. At first, it was an occasional answer to an innocuous question, "like what do you want to do?" "I want to bam your face!" And then it morphed into random answers to EVERYTHING just about ALL the time: "Do you want a bagel or cereal?" "I want a bam your face!" Or even replies to statements: "Stop doing that, Pookie!" "Stop bamming your face!" I'm sure you get the picture. Ah, the fun of boundary-pushing four-year-old boys. "Bam your face" took a LOT of reminding and reprimanding to get him to stop, but he still adds "blah blah bloo blam" and other nonsense words in random sentences.

However, one of the cutest things he says is 45. It is so cute because we realized that the Pookie thinks that is the highest number evah! We could be talking about how much or how many of something and saying there are thousands or millions, and he'll say there are "FORTY FIVE!" And we all (the Pumpkin included), go "wow! That's a lot!" cause we know he thinks it's the highest number.

As for the 6 (almost 6 and a half!) year old Pumpkin, she has been learning language at the next level. Specifically, we've been working on sarcasm and figures of speech. Londo and I can be sarcastic at times. It helps keep us sane. And though we've read the research that says kids don't understand sarcasm until they are about 7, we give pretty good facial cues and flat out say when we're being sarcastic so she can learn. (I believe the research also said that they can learn a bit earlier if they are around it and it's explained to them.)

For example, if I say, "I really love it when you don't listen to me, Pumpkin." She knows enough to look at me, and I raise a single eyebrow, and she says, "That was sarcasm, right?" Yes, yes it was, Pumpkin.

I have been really enjoying teaching her figures of speech and sayings! I think it started with "it's raining cats and dogs!" That's a pretty crazy image, if you think about it--or if you are a kid just hearing it. That's when I explained that it was a saying and what that meant. A few days later at bedtime, I said, "What's wrong? Cat's got your tongue?" And then I realized that the last thing we needed was for her to have some nightmare where a cat was getting her tongue, so I quickly explained that it was a figure of speech, and what that meant, and how silly it was, and gave her a few more examples.

It's pretty neat to see how their language skills are evolving. Since Londo and I were both English majors for undergrad, we are very interested in language and teaching them about language. In fact, just the other night, I introduced them to poetry with the Shel Silverstein book I had as a little girl--Where the Sidewalk Ends is still a favorite of mine, and I LOVED introducing them to it. Language is beautiful and fun and interesting and frustrating and hard to understand and wonderful. Getting to watch and listen and teach my kids as they learn the intricacies of language is definitely a highlight of this parenting gig for me.