Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

One of my girlfriends invited me to a Girls Night at her house Saturday. I almost didn't go. At first I was excited about going. Fred keeps telling me to get out more and meet more people. And I agree 100%. I need to get out of the house and not just to exercise. However, when one of the girls cancelled last minute I felt that all too familiar urge to do the same. I found one excuse after another as to why I didn't feel like going: It shouldn't be this cold in Spring, it is raining… again, I will only know one person there. As I sat depressed and bored on the couch, Fred hinting it was time for my Girls Night to start, I made a decision. No more excuses. I am tired of missing out on opportunities and experiences because of my anxiety. So, on this particular Saturday evening when normally I would have cancelled, I took a deep breath and walked out the door.

This might not sound like a big deal to most of you out there, but if you are someone who lives with anxiety you know the kind of courage that took. You see, anxiety causes you to live in a hyper-sensitive state. You are fully aware of everything around you. Every person, every noise, every movement, every object, every smell...therefore keeping you on high alert, ready to fight or flight. Because of this, seemingly simple situations, like attending a Girls Night, can be overwhelming. Especially when that situation threatens your comfortability. Now I am perfectly capable of stepping outside my comfort zone and having a good time. However, getting myself to actually do it, therein lies the difficulty. My whole life I have hated meeting new people and going out alone for fear of being judged not interesting enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, and thinking everyone will hate me. These self conscious thoughts fill my head each and every time I come into contact with another person. So maybe now you can understand the internal argument I had with myself on Saturday evening, and how much of a win it was to knock on her door and step through the threshold.

So as I mentioned, I am able to enjoy myself once outside my comfort zone which is exactly what I did Saturday night. I met some lovely ladies, drank some wine, and laughed so hard my face hurt. It felt really good. To be that comfortable amongst strangers and let go. I seriously cannot remember the last time I laughed that hard. This game we played, Cards Against Humanity, I had heard of it but never actually played it. If you have ever played Apples to Apples, a favorite amongst my family and some riotous fun itself, you understand the concept behind this game. Only, Cards Against Humanity is its own special kind of fun. The website describes it "as despicable and awkward as you and your friends (so true)…a party game for horrible people." Now I wouldn't go as far as that but it is definitely an ADULTS ONLY game and you need to have thick skin and a good sense of humor to play. Some of these cards are truly horrible (and disgusting) but that is part of the fun. Especially when you've had a glass or two of wine.

Many hours later, and in the wee hours of the night/morning, I made my way back to my car thankful for having stepped out of my comfort zone for the evening. No anxiety attack, no uncomfortable glances at my watch, or wishing I was back home. Just a much needed fun evening out.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Warning! Contents may cause uncontrollable laughter

So yesterday morning was probably one of the funniest mornings in a while. It started off like any other day. Morning coming to soon, me hitting snooze until I finally decided I couldn't anymore, and sleepily making my way downstairs. Mason, who I usually hear quietly making his way downstairs at around 5:30 am, was not far behind me and just as groggy. We went about our normal morning routine, albeit a bit slower; I took his waffles out of the freezer and into the toaster, then placed some chocolate chips in a bowl for the topping. I start my coffee, then go about putting his lunch together while he plays Minecraft on his tablet and eats. Once lunch is packed, I go through my mental list: homework worksheets in the purple folder, did I fill out and sign the reading log, word study notebook, math/science notebook, library books since it's Thursday, joke of the day packed in lunchbox. Check, check, check, and check.

It's been a while since Sophie made an appearance downstairs before Mason has left for school, but I hear this little voice, "Mommy?" as she sleepy walks into the kitchen. I know this will frustrate Mason as he does not like his little sister accompanying us to the bus. Big brothers, what can I say? I put her waffles in the toaster and get her a glass of orange juice as she settles at the table with her tablet, ready to watch Stampycat videos or Netflix.

7:15am the alarm goes off on my phone indicating it is time for socks and shoes, then out the door. Mason immediately turns to Sophie who is still in her pajamas and says, "you can't come with us." This stems from a few mornings ago when Sophie, desperately wanting to come with us to the bus stop, was still in her pajamas and we had to wait for her to change and ended up being late and missed the bus. Mason was angry and scolding her in the car all the way to school. As a result I instituted the rule that she had to be dressed and ready to go if she wanted to join us, otherwise she had to stay home with Dad. Sophie, aware of the new rule, turns to me and asks, "is daddy here?" Love my girl for always making sure the rules are followed and thinking about safety. Of course I would never leave her home alone, not at this age. As I was telling her, "yes he is home" Mason comes racing back into the kitchen practically yelling, "yeah he is home can't you hear him upstairs sleeping?" At this point he proceeds to make these snoring noises which sound just like Fred when he is sleeping. I tried, but I could not contain myself. A burst of laughter came forth and I looked over at Sophie who also began laughing. Mason continued with his impression for a few minutes and it was everything I could do not to snort my coffee.

"OK Mason, you need to stop now. We get it." I was afraid if he didn't I would not be able to stop laughing all the way to the bus.

I'm sure Fred would not be happy about me posting this, embarrassed at his portrayal and swearing that he does not snore. (He does. Many a night I have laid awake listening to that exact sound. Which was why it was so funny. Mason really did sound just like his dad.) However, this is one of those stories I will want to remember years from now. To get a glimpse of what our routine was like when they were small and be reminded just how hysterical Mason can be.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Weigh-in Wednesday

So this morning came way too early, but I did my weekly step on the scale anyway. I was not looking forward to this weeks weigh-in because I don't like to admit that I gained some weight. It's evident in my clothes getting a bit tight, my tummy looking rounder, and me just feeling bloated and big. Ugh!  I weighed in at 132.2 lbs. this morning, actually down from the 133.3 lbs. it's been for a week now. I thought I was doing so well. I've been exercising 3-5 days a week, depending on the week. I even ran 5 miles last week! Granted it was a slower 5 miles, an 11:10 pace because I was running with my neighbor, but it was a good 5 mile run. I wasn't feeling like I would puke or pass out at the end and I actually felt like I wanted to run more. Maybe 1-2 miles more. Which is amazing because 5 miles is the farthest I have ever run. Ever. It left me with a feeling that I can totally rock a 10K, which is my goal for the year.

However my knees did act up the following day. I have patellofemoral pain syndrome, more commonly known as "runner's knee." It used to be excruciatingly painful after a run. To the point that sometimes I couldn't even walk. But I have worked on strengthening my thighs through circuit training, doing my stretches, and purchasing the right shoes. As a result, I have been running pretty much pain free for over a year now. Which is truly amazing since one doctor told me that since I am flat footed I would never be able to run again. Period. End of discussion. I'll tell you right now, it is all about finding a good doctor. Our current family practice primary care physician is the one who opened my eyes and my world to the possibility of really being able to run. He diagnosed me, printed out the stretches, and pointed me towards Potomac River Running. PRR fitted me for the right shoe which turns out is for high arches and a slight pronation. Flat-footed my ass. So anyway, I have been running for over a year now (March 10th was my anniversary of getting back out there) and I don't see myself stopping anytime soon. However, in light of my knee pain fair up, I think 5K's might be about all I can do and that is fine by me. I have no desire to go run a marathon, mostly because a) I am sure to get bored running that long and b) my knees would not be able to handle that much pounding into the ground. I have come to terms with my running limits. I am fine with 5K's and the occasional 10K. I only have time for a quick 2-3 mile run during the day anyway. I mean, I am a stay at home mom. I have things to do, places to go, and no time to waste. I need to make it count. Which is why I limit my daily exercise to 20-30 minutes.

So back to my original point of this post, I am concerned that my exercise routine has become too routine. My body has become accustomed to the exercises and it is no longer benefiting me in such a way as to maintain my weight. Clearly since I gained three pounds!!! Can you tell I'm trying really hard not to panic and overstress the situation? No? At least I am still under my original target weight of 135 lbs. (but barely). So, what to do? Up my intensity? I pushed myself to do level 3 of the 30 day shred two days in a row and it just about killed me. Maybe the real answer is to lay off the wine and late night snacking? Hmm. I think maybe I'll have a glass of moscato and sleep on it.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How To Have An Allergy Safe Easter

Easter is only two weeks away. This should be a fun and exciting time, it means Spring has finally arrived and warmer days are here. It means more time spent outside and less indoors on tablets. Most of all though, it means the Easter Bunny will bring you lots of candy and treats.

While most families relish in the idea of trying to find the biggest chocolate bunny to put in their kids baskets or jellybeans and various shaped chocolates to hide in colorful plastic eggs around the yard, those of us dealing with food allergies find ourselves staving off anxiety and stress. I can't tell you how many times I have passed the "holiday" aisle while doing my everyday grocery shopping and either wanted to bawl my eyes out or go all ninja on the displays in a fit of anger. I struggle with wanting to give my kids all the traditional holiday experiences while at the same time knowing with these new limits they are no longer consuming so much junk. And that's a good thing. It's a constant battle. Traditions that were once safe are now potentially life threatening, and while I may feel that a part of their childhood, especially my daughter since she is the one who suffers from food allergies, is being ripped away from them, I try to remember that they don't know about these "traditions" that I am holding onto and therefore are not missing out.

Not that Easter was ever a big event in my childhood anyway. Of course, I have memories of sitting in the kitchen, an overpowering smell of vinegar filling my nostrils as we dyed our hard boiled eggs. I've seen the pictures, basket in one hand and holding up the egg I just found in the other. I can even remember how I would slowly savor each bite of chocolate from my bunny before returning what was left to the fridge for later. As we got older, my dad would leave bags of jellybeans and a card before he left for work. I would separate them by color and eat them in order of my least favorite flavor to the best. I would hoard the black licorice ones which was fine because no one else seems to like them but me.

Sure, we have dabbled with traditions in the past. The kids and I dyed eggs. It was messy, the kids got bored, and no one wanted to consume that many hard boiled eggs when it was all over. Lesson learned, I got over it, and we've stuck to plastic eggs ever since. If I am being truly honest with myself I will admit that my kids don't even remember it being any other way then how we do it now. So what's my point you may ask?  That I shouldn't be focusing on what traditions my daughter can't have because of her food allergies, but instead embrace the new ways in which we celebrate these holidays.

I did find a new brand (Gimbal's) of completely peanut and tree nut free jellybeans (yay!) and plan to pick up a bag at my local Walmart sometime this week. If you aren't a food allergy parent, you can't imagine the complete excitement we feel upon finding a new food to add to our "safe" list. I can only describe it as euphoric when I find just one item that is traditional to a holiday, like candy canes for Christmas, that is completely safe for Sophie.

Other than the jellybeans, all the other items in my kids baskets will be non-food related and that's OK. I have gathered fifteen ideas that I have either used in the past, or plan to do this year to fill their Easter eggs as well as a few items to put in the basket itself.  If you are new to food allergies and have no idea where to start, or you just don't want your kids consuming any more sugar for yet one more holiday, this list is for you. So here we go! Fifteen ideas for you to stuff into those pastel plastic eggs.

1. I am insane over little tiny figurines. Really, I tend to gravitate towards anything mini and they are just perfect for filling those plastic Easter eggs. Find something that your children like to collect. My kids used to collect the tops to commercial hangers that stated the size of the clothing. They called them tick tocks, I have no idea why, but something like that would be perfect. Some more ideas would be: mini lego men (the one pictured below is from World of Warcraft, a video game my son loves to play, and they happened to make lego sets based off this game),  My Little Pony mini series, Minecraft or Hello Kitty blind bag figures, mini animals, etc. You get the point.
2. Little notes. You can handwrite a little note of "I love you" or "Happy Easter" to your child, or you could stamp an image like I did with the dog and cat. You could even write a small message and fold it up. Whatever you desire, as long as it is heartfelt and cute. 
3. Small toys. This can be just about anything. A few ideas are: spin tops, silly putty, key chains, punch balloons (these area favorite in our house), matchbox cars, play dough, and mini bubbles. Other ideas, pictured below, can be: bouncy balls, stickers, tattoos, erasers (novelty erasers are such a hit with kids these days and they are functional too), and pom poms (which we call warm fuzzes thanks to their Kindergarten teacher. She hands these out each Friday with a hug before they get on the bus. Mason loved collecting them and now so does Sophie).
4. Money. You can never go wrong putting money in an Easter egg. Whether it be a few quarters or a folded up dollar bill this one is sure to be a hit!
5. Small game cartridges. If your child has a LeapPad from Leap Frog the game cartridges fit perfectly in the plastic eggs.
6. Movie tickets. You can get cheap prepaid movie tickets at Costco and use them to take your kids out to see the latest Disney film, or let your kids use them to go by themselves with a group of friends.

7. Jewlery and hair accessories. My daughter can't get enough of these cute hair clips and pony tail holders. She also loves the novelty rings you can find in the dollar bins at Target. If you have an AC Moore they sell these adorable rings like the one pictured below that would be perfect for an older girl or teen to add a little bling. Necklaces like the Sophia the First pictured below work perfect. Even the mardi gras type beads work, just throw a few various colors into one egg and voila! Jelly bracelets or those silicone bracelets that are popular nowadays fit very well in here as well. Better yet, dump a package of rainbow loom rubber bands into one or make a bracelet on the loom and put that in. I could go on for days giving you examples for this category.
8. Nail polish or lip gloss goes over real well with any girl. Opi is my go to brand, but we have also used Bon Bons and Tweets. For little ones you will want to go the non-toxic route. For those you can use Hopscotch Kids, Piggy Paint, Play Laugh Love, or Crayola mini which comes 8 in a set.
9. Washi tape is all the rage right now. Even I am obsessed with the stuff. It comes in various colors, sizes, themes for you to decorate just about anything. If you have a Monster High fan you can get a set of 30 decorative tapes they call tapefetti for only about $13. They come in their own mini holders. Aren't they totes adorbs?
10. Ribbon bookmarks. If you have a child who loves to read, I recommend making or purchasing a few of these to put in their eggs. (I apologize for the photo quality, these were hastily taken with my phone.)
11. Confetti! Simple and easy to make. I just punched out a bunch of various shapes such as hearts, circles, stars, etc. from colored paper and filled a bunch of eggs with it. My kids had so much fun opening each egg, wondering if would be a small toy or full of confetti.

12. A pair of Earbuds would be great too. Not just for everyday use but for your little athlete as well. Yurbuds are my go to brand.

13. Shoelaces. My son goes through shoelaces like crazy. I don't know what he does but he manages to tear them to shreds on a regular basis. If your kid is like mine this may be a good choice. You can get all kinds of shoelaces, such as: camoflauge, glow in the dark, Pete the Cat, or to show support for your favorite cause. Buy one in every color in you want. They can change to match their mood, clothes, or shoes.
14. Stamps. For those crafty kids, getting stamps will make them smile. You can choose between the foam version, the wooden block, or the clear acrylic. A good place to start would be Michaels or AC Moore. They usually have some kid themed ones in their clearance section.
15. Lastly, we have infinity scarves. These are also all the rage right now, especially with teens. You can make one by cutting up an old t-shirt or just buy one at the store, scrunch it up, and shove it in the egg.

As for filling up my kids baskets, I like to give them one kinda big gift each year. This year Mason will be getting a joke book for kids and Sophie will get a new pair of headphones. If you would like to go this route as well, I recommend thinking of things your kids like to do the most. A new Skylanders character would be great for your video game enthusiast. To go along with the bookmark for your book worm or emerging reader, give them a book in their favorite series or one you think they might enjoy. A new purse or a rainbow loom would be good choices for girls. I would even consider a DVD of their latest movie obsession or TV show.

Included in the basket along with these big ticket items I like to sprinkle in a few smaller ones, maybe some educational and maybe something personal. These items could be any of the following that are just as fabulous as any chocolate bunny, and last a lot longer.

I like to make my kids personal certificates for things. For example, I made a certificate for my son that entailed him to 3 hours of uninterrupted Wizard 101 playtime with me. He loved it! You could make ones for the following:  staying up 20 minutes passed bedtime, kids choice for dinner,  get out of chores for a day, one download from iTunes or Google Play store for an app they want but limit the dollar amount, a day out with mom/dad doing whatever they want, dessert or candy pass, extra time on tablet/computer/video game play, movie night, trip to the dollar store, bake cookies/cupcakes or make homemade ice cream and the enjoy a sampling, etc. You can get real creative with these.

My kids love to help me bake in the kitchen. If you have a fellow baker you can purchase some baking tools designed just for kids. Curious Chef is a brand I see all the time at our local Wegmans, or you can just mix and match on your own and make it a "theme" basket. In it I would include an apron, mixing and measuring spoons, spatulas and whisks, cupcake liners, sprinkles, a box of safe mix or a recipe card, and oven mits. Place into a pastel colored mixing bowl and be sure to fill with Easter grass to make it complete.

Those EOS lip balms are already shaped like eggs so they are perfect for Easter. Hint: they even sell mini ones that you could use to fill the eggs as well. If your kids love little stuffed animals like mine, those TY Beanie Boos are super cute. Last year I got Sophie Carrots the Bunny and Mason Spells the Snowy Owl.

If you have an artist or crafter, I recommend getting them a set of watercolors with a pad of watercolor paper, or a coloring book with a pack of crayons. You could also include the egg-shaped sidewalk chalk and some Mandela stencils. A journal or notebook would be ideal for the budding writer or even those just learning to spell. If you have a teen scrapbooker, I recommend a Smashbook for them to collect memorabilia, stories, and whatever they want from their school year or summer vacation.

For some family fun, you can include card games like Slamwich, Go Fish, or Uno. Other games such as Jenga, Boggle, or Spot It are also good choices and still small enough to fit into the basket. Anything that encourages family togetherness is top notch in my opinion and this is a good way to increase your inventory for family game night.

I hope these ideas gave you some starting off points while at the same time proving that you don't need to stuff your kids full of candy and junk to have a happy, fun, and memorable Easter.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Weigh-in Wednesday

I have to admit I was a bit nervous stepping on that scale this morning. As a result of this depressing and never ending winter I have quite possibly indulged in too much wine, ice cream, and chocolate; and not enough effort in exercise. Oops. Despite my lack in nutritional eating, it did not escape my attention that I had no problem still fitting into my clothes so I probably had no reason to fret. My weigh-in today was normal, coming in at 130.8 pounds. So, okay, it was a .6 increase and while the old me would have looked at that number and freaked because, "oh. my. god. I am almost 131 pounds, a whole pound heavier! Well, I should just give up because all my hard work is going down the drain…." and so and so forth. You get the idea. This morning, I just shrugged and said, "eh, still 130 pounds. Now where is my coffee?"

That might not sound like such a significant accomplishment to you but, as I come up on my one year anniversary for getting back out there and exercising on a regular basis, I have this overwhelming feeling of pride. For no other reason than I managed to overcome my internal fear and negative stigma of daily exercise. I managed to push myself to do something, whether it was a run, 30 minutes on the elliptical, or a Jillian Michaels workout, at least three days every week for the last tweleve months. That is an incredible feat for me. So forgive me as I revel in this celebratory moment, with a pat on the back, fist bump, and quite possibly a glass of wine.

Okay, so back to what I was saying. Oh, yes this horrid winter… well thankfully the Horae, greek goddesses of the seasons, haven taken pity on us mere mortals and deemed that it is time Spring FINALY arrived on the East Coast. Temperatures have been in the 40's and 50's all week and even hit 60 degrees today!! Can you tell I am just a bit excited about this? I stepped outside on Saturday into 52 degrees and was all, "Screw my coat, it is gorgeous outside!!!" I was even able go for a run outside last Wednesday and again on Monday afternoon. Yup, you heard that right. OUT. SIDE. Can you believe it? I'm feeling so relaxed just thinking of the fresh air that I got to breathe. Ah-mazing!

Please pinch me because this does not seem real. Can this really be Spring making its appearance or just another tease before the next snowfall? Just this morning walking to the bus stop Mason and I commented on how warm it felt. It was 43 degrees, and I found myself questioning whether I actually needed my coat at all.  I guess this is what Oprah would call an A-ha moment. This winter has ruined me! I used to find 40-50 degrees so cold, and now here I am contemplating t-shirts and tank tops. This change has not gone unnoticed by Fred either. While eating breakfast he commented on how I used to tell him he was crazy for running in 40 degree weather and how under no circumstances would I get out and exercise in that low of a temperature. Now here I am overjoyed that it's 40 and itching to get outside for a nice long run. Oh, and now that it is daylight savings time that means more light in the evenings. I think it's time I commit to the pub run on the 27th.

And before I forget, in case you are curious I got a chance to do the abdominal portion of the Kickbox Fast Fix, and wow! It may not look it but that is a workout. Phew! I am breathing hard and sweating so bad by the end and seriously I feel my abs getting the workout they need. Only after about two weeks of this I am already starting to see some definition come back. So if you are looking for a quick 20 minute exercise that will get your mid section in shape, this is it. I absolutely recommend it. After seeing my results I told Fred I was contemplating a bikini. What?! I know. The endorphins from all this exercise must really being doing their job. Not sure I am 100% ready for that just yet, but its always nice to know that I could if I wanted.

How is your progress coming? I want to know. What motivates you? What has the potential to derail your efforts? Better yet, do you have any exercises you'd recommend?

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Valentines Day 2015

Handmade Valentine cards

And just like that a year flew by and another February come and gone. Well almost. It's the last week of the month and I couldn't be wishing March, and hopefully warmer weather, would arrive any sooner. 

Valentines Day this year was just like any other day. Nothing special. I spent the morning rushing to make Valentines cards for all three of my sweethearts before Sophie headed out to spend the day with my mom and sister, thrilled that it was her weekend to go to Grandma's. As we always do, we made plans to meet them later for dinner. IHOP, one of Sophie's favorites. The snow began to fall as we were finishing up our meal. I had decided to try something new with the double blueberry pancakes and quickly came to the conclusion they were not for me. Next time l'll stick to my tried and true, plain pancake combo. It was a wonderful surprise that my dad joined us, it happens fewer and fewer these days and before I know it, it's been months without having seen or talked to him. I was happy to get a chance to catch up and talk books. He is so much faster at reading that I am, going through one or two books in a weekend. Oh to be able to read that much in my lifetime. My excitement quickly turned to worry as my gaze turned to the window. The snow had begun to fall faster, harder, and whip around like a blizzard. I looked around the table and sensed the same feeling in everyone's eyes, maybe we should hurry this up before it gets too nasty out there. 

We stepped out the door and were immediately blasted by the frosty air. I turned to my sister, trying to shield my face from the snowy whirlwind surrounding us and said, "doesn't this remind you of that time when dad was in California and that terrible blizzard came through?" "We were driving home from that small convenience store, High Up, in the rusty old Monte Carlo and mom missed the turn into our neighborhood off Crestview, the visability was so bad." We practically finished in unison, laughing. We were not much older than Mason is now, and still that story is shared almost every year we have a horrible winter.

It was getting pretty dicy out and I worried my dad would be unable to get into the car safely. These are things I constantly worry about now, ever since he had his stroke and can no longer walk without a cane. We said quick good-byes and slowly made our separate ways. 

That storm dumped only a few inches on us, but with the windchill and temperatures continuing to drop, the kids were out of school four of the five days, with one 2-hour delay, the following week. We all made it home safely that night but it had me thinking. Winters like this aren't normal in Virginia. We keep saying that, yet it seems more and more this is becoming the new norm. Even as I sit here writing this post and wallowing in my winter woes, my mind wandering as it always does, I took a look back at Valentines Day last year and found this:

…with the winter storm that had just dumped 13+ inches on us, closing schools for the 10th time this year (no, not the school year, I'm talking about just in 2014 our kids have missed 10 days due to snow. This does not include all the holidays and teacher work days that happened to coincide with those snow days. But don't get me started on that. How I feel about the lack of school my kids have attended since we rung in 2014 is a whole story in and of itself).

Ha. Ha. I had to laugh because the reality was just so sad I seriously wanted to cry. Here we are a whole year later and facing the same situation. Kids have missed I don't know how many days of school, probably at least 10 at this point. We just had another storm dumping around 10" of snow. Thank the lord it only resulted in a two hour delay on Monday and the kids have been back to school as normal the rest of the week. *Enter foot in my mouth. After putting this post away for the evening, I would surely have time to finish tomorrow while the kids were in school, good ol' Wayde called me this morning. Yup, schools are closed again today. I didn't even bother to inform the kids. Just hung up the phone and went back to bed. As excited as I am at the prospect that this horrid weather is quite possibly killing off the remanding population of stink bugs, one can only hope, I am so over this winter! Honestly, I can't be the only one craving some sense of a routine around here.

With all this winter weather advisory hoopla, at least the kids got to have their classroom Valentines parties. Unfortunately they were both scheduled during the same time on the same day. Ugh! Problems I am sure I will encounter more and more as the years go on. This meant I could only attend one party. This meant I had to let one of my kids down. I agonized over this for weeks when I found out. I hate having to chose between my kids. I love them both equally and don't want to let either of them down. Ultimately I decided I would try to share my time. I've heard other parents talk about doing it all the time. It would be easy right? However, as always, I was running late. 

I had signed up to make the cupcakes for Sophie's Kindergarten class. Mostly because of her food allergies and I don't trust other parents to make homemade food without fear of cross contamination. Sorry if that offends you, but after you watch your child almost die you take this shit seriously, and don't leave anything to chance. Most parents, and shockingly to me even ones who have children with food allergies, don't know or either don't care enough to understand the dangers of cross contamination. So many times I have seen the eye rolls and heard the sighs when mentioning the extra precautions that need to be taken, or special brands of ingredients that have to be bought in order to ensure the food is safe for ALL kids to consume. As if it is just too much work for them to buy the Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips. Because of this, I just don't bother to ask anyone to provide safe foods for my daughter. I always make sure I have a safe alternative on hand for her wherever we go. 

Being a mom of a child with food allergies I am super sensitive to other kids with food allergies, and there are quite a few in Sophie's Kindergarten class. I am no expert on food allergies, in fact I have freaked out a few times over the milk allergy. It's harder to avoid then you think. At first I figured I could just pick up a box of the Cherrybrook Kitchens fudge brownie mix. I soon discovered that you need to add butter. Guess what butter contains? You got it, milk. Now I could have purchased the vegan butter and been done with it, but the cost of that butter was more than the box of mix and we are on a seriously tight budget in my household. Not wanting to be defeated, I went to task scouring Pinterest for a recipe that is not only peanut and tree nut free, but also free of eggs and milk. That is when I happened up this vegan chocolate cupcake recipe with strawberry filling. I had most of the ingredients already on hand so it was perfect. 

I do not claim to be any baking expert, far from it in fact. I have no idea the difference between raw cane sugar and regular sugar. So as I stood in the baking aisle at Wegmans I thought, I have regular sugar at the house, and if it's not a major difference I think I'll just use that because when am I ever going to cook with raw cane sugar again? In case you are wondering, the regular sugar worked great. 

I made the cupcakes the day before so I wouldn't be rushed. I must have been craving some chocolate because I licked the hell out of that bowl and spatula, glad the kids were at school and I didn't have to share. I chose to substitute the strawberry filling with store bought strawberry preserve. I am all for baking from scratch, in fact those tend to be my favorite, but sometimes you just need to simplify when possible. However stuffing the cupcakes with the preserves was not as easy as the author of the recipe made it sound. The reality was so much harder, and messier. I ultimately decided to use a cookie cutter and partially cut a heart shape in the tops, removing it to spoon in the strawberry preserve before squishing it back into the cupcake and sprinkling with powdered sugar. I would have made it on time to the party if not for the powdered sugar having absorbed into the cupcakes and needing to quickly sprinkle more on before rushing out the door. 

The kids Valentines Bookmarks and the vegan cupcakes

The parents who tried the cupcakes all said they were very tasty. Yay! During the Valentine exchange portion of the party I snuck out to Mason's class for a bit. I arrived just as they were in the middle of enjoying a snack. I was disappointed when he told me I missed the skit they put on earlier, but what can you do. Your a mom of two kids in public school and as much as you hate to admit it out loud, you can't do everything. Noticing the time, it was just about dismissal, I raced back to Sophie's classroom. (All this running around, I was sure to get my 10,000 steps in for the day.) All 30 cupcakes that I had stuffed and powdered were gone. Yes! Less cupcakes I would feel obligated to consume over the weekend. We packed up and headed back to Mason's classroom just in time for his exchange of Valentines and clean up.

In public school if you are going to hand out Valentines you have to hand them out to everyone in the class. This means you have to get around 26 cards times two classrooms, that's a total of 32 cards at $4 a box, and each box only contains around 10-12 cards so you have to purchase at least two or three. If my math is correct, that means I would need to spend possibly around $20 for silly little cards that are going to get thrown away as soon as these kids get home. No thank you!  I knew I could do this better, cheaper, and give the kids themes they really wanted.

Both kids agreed to the bookmark idea for their Valentine cards this year. Simple to make, and you can use it again and again. Each kid was heavily involved in the decision making process. Sophie was very adamant about the pink background with her Monster High ghouls, even though I felt a white background would be better. Hers read, I like you so much its scary Valentine. Mason was more particular about the image he wanted and finally settled upon Deathwing from World of Warcraft (WoW). His read, You melt my core Valentine. Fred made some comment about using Deathwing to say Happy Valentines Day. I mentioned these are second graders and would probably have no idea who Deathwing is, it's just a cool dragon to them.

After all was said and done it cost me a grand total of around $8 for 36. Now that's a win. I suppose you could say my kids have an advantage with me being so crafty and willing to create custom valentines for them. To that I reply, such is life. We all have our weaknesses as well as our strengths. Mine just happens to be a love for crafting, and any excuse to do cute things during the holidays. Especially if it involves the kids and making them happy. I guarantee you no one else was going home with more than one WoW Deathwing valentine in their bag that day. Couldn't say the same for TMNT though.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Weigh-in Wednesday

Happy Wednesday Folks!!

I know you are probably mentally scolding me at this moment for missing my weigh-in post two weeks in a row. But here's the thing. I'm in maintenance mode right now and though I am still working hard, and finding it extremely difficult, probably even more so than losing the weight (have you ever heard a teacher say that its harder to keep and A than to earn one? Same concept), my weight doesn't fluctuate much from week to week. So rather than bore you with a post each week about how my weight stayed the same (yay for me!) I thought I would make it an every other week thing. This way, I am not flipping out and feeling like a failure because I dropped the ball on posting for the week as well as it giving me time to come up with a more interesting discussion for that particular Wednesday. More than, "Hey guess what? I am still 130lbs. Toot toot!" By the way, as I said two weeks ago, I am back up to 130.2 lbs. as of this morning. In case you were at all interested and that is why you continue to read my blog. That said, what I have planned to discuss tonight are my setbacks, my motivation, and my review of a new exercise DVD I started.

So these last few weeks have been especially rough. Scratch that, this whole winter has been especially rough. Once the temperatures dropped below 40 degrees, and stayed there, my running started to dwindle. I don't like to run when my body parts feel like they are going to freeze off, and the treadmill makes me feel like I just downed a whole bottle of wine on an empty stomach. When the forecast calls for snow, ice, or a median high of somewhere in the teens you can bet my little butt is staying inside, unless I have to walk my kids to the bus, and then I bundle myself up like Randy from A Christmas Story. This, my friends, has been the state of affairs here in Virginia for oh, the last three months. It's been miserable. To top it all off, this dramatic drop in temperature led to me developing acute bronchitis, which I suffered through since late November, and ultimately rendered my exercise routine kaput. It was admittedly arduous, this sudden stop in being active after habitually maintaing a workout schedule of 4-6 days a week. I fretted this newfound laziness would undo all my hard work. Dreading the number on the scale each week, convinced it would reach absurd heights. This undoubtedly lead to the stuffing of my face with all the foods I knew would only lead me to the one thing I dreaded. I know that sounds counter intuative but once again we are dealing with a mind that is anything but rational. Just ask my husband. This momentary hiatus with fitness lasted only a few weeks, when finally sometime in January I was able to reintroduce cardio without erupting into uncontrollable fits of hacking up a lung, but the damage was already done. I was used to spending my days sitting on the couch reading; my mornings sleeping in (because the kids have yet to experience an unaltered week of school! Damn snow days.); and my evenings snacking on chips and candy late into the night.  Follow that up with excuses as to why I am unable, or unwilling, to cook a meal while suffering through this ungodly weather, and we were consuming McDonalds on a schedule I should not have been comfortable with. This brings me to my current state of being.

I no longer had a viable excuse to keep from exercising daily. Yet I was petrified that I wouldn't be able to do it without feeling like I wanted to die, and then subsequently give up because that is what I have always done whenever I hit an obstacle. I am the queen of throwing my hands up in the air and screaming, "I give up!" whenever things get too hard. And it had gotten hard. I had let my eating habits run amok and tried in vain to deny the bulge that now peaked over the top of my size 4 skinny jeans. The slow emerging proof that I was a failure. So began the daily tongue-lashing I always manage to inflict upon myself. I manage to beat myself up far worse than anyone else ever could. Stripping myself of any confidence I might be harboring, believing the words I've repeated in my head so often, aware of the power they had to break me down time and time again. I'm my own worst enemy. This time though, I was faced with the plain and simple truth that I didn't want to be that person anymore. Hadn't I proven to myself these last 10 months that I was more than able? That I had the commitment and strength to stick to it even on the days when my muscles ached, my body screamed at me, and I thought I would pass out? I wasn't a failure. Surely someone who could start, and survive, a rigorous fitness routine after sitting on her cushy ass for months, and turn it into a habit which resulted in a drop of 3 pant sizes and 20+lb. weight loss could not be described as a failure. I metaphorically slapped myself across the face and did my best to keep control as I inwardly screamed, "Do. not. give. up."

I'm not gonna lie. It was painful. It was tough. I thought I was going to die. And I had only completed one day of Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred Level 1. Ugh! I wanted to curl up into a ball, cry, and pass out. Though not necessarily in that order. Only I didn't. I regained control of my breathing and said out loud, to no one in particular as I was was the only one in the house, "I. did. it." Yes, my muscles ached in places they hadn't for months and I could barely get through the cardio without, as Jillian puts it, gargling my heart, but the point is that I did it at all. And then I did it again, and it was a little bit easier.

January 18th I joined my first, Moms Run This Town group run. I was nervous and wanted to back out, especially when I walked out the door. This would be my first run since my bronchitis diagnosis and it was cold. Frost covered the ground, and not just the grass. Parts of the sidewalks were slippery with it. I wanted to turn around and go back inside with every step I took and every puff of white cloud that emerged as I breathed. I didn't. I walked all the way to my neighbors where we rode together to the coffee shop to meet the group. The more women that showed up the more relaxed I felt. Before we ran they made sure everyone had a running partner for their pace and off we went. Starting off slow, unsure of how fast I would be able to run, and slowly realizing I could do more. At the halfway point (15min.), I had made my way to the small cluster of women out front. We talked about the different races we'd run, the best place to purchase workout gear, and our goals for the year.  When I lagged behind a bit near the end, one of the ladies stayed with me encouraging me the whole way. By the time we made it back I felt on top of the world. Thirty minutes of running in the books for 2015, a total of 3.2 miles at a pace of 9:34/mi. Not my fastest, or where my average was the previous month, but not bad by any means. I am so glad I went. I did much better than expected, proving to myself that even though I took a month off to heal, and stuffed my body with crap, I still had it. It didn't hurt that I got to enjoy a warm cup o' joe while sitting down to chat with everyone who stayed. On the way home I mentally noted to make these Sunday morning Coffee Runs a regular occurrence on my future fitness schedule.

While I have yet to attend another group run, they keep getting cancelled due to arctic temperatures, I have continued to stay on track. I even sucked it up and have run on the…dun dun dun…gulp treadmill. Ah! I know, but my god it is way too cold and I just need to run somedays. A few weeks ago, after one of my circuit training days with Jillian Michaels, Fred mentioned that I should look into getting some new DVDs to try out. You know, so I don't get bored. He had a point. I was coming up on the one year mark of having started my fitness regimen and though I switch up my cardio somedays by having started to use our elliptical again (thanks again for the machine Mike and Dani), I haven't changed my circuit training to anything but the 30 Day Shred.  While I was sure I wouldn't get too bored as I still had not come close to being able to do level 3 for more than a day or two, and not in succession, it had me thinking and one particular trip to Target I found myself perusing the fitness aisle for a new DVD. Having stood there for what seemed an eternity to my kids based on their whines of, "can we go home now?" I took the advice of my son and purchased Jillian Michaels Kickbox FastFix.

This workout consists of three 20 minute kickboxing routines: the first focuses on your upper body, the second tones your lower body, and the third zeroes in on your abs. I started with the first workout, choosing to focus more on my upper body, as I had lost the tone and definition in my arms. I found myself getting frustrated during the routine, sometimes even stopping to rewind and try the move again. By the end I was huffing and puffing as I always seem to do with a Jillian Michaels DVD, though I didn't feel like I had received a satisfyingly hard workout. I moved on with my day having only 20-30 minutes to devote to exercise and didn't think too much about it. That was until I woke up the following morning and went to get dressed. I pulled my arms above my head and, ouch! My muscles were definitely sore. Apparently I had received a decent workout after all, it just took a day for it to hit my body. The next day that I decided to do the Kicbox DVD again I first watched the tutorial video that is included on the DVD intended to get you familiar with the moves and perfect your form. Funny how when I took the time to learn the moves and practice them before doing the workout I performed much better. These workouts are not so much a, feel it at the time hard core cardio type of workout but more of a, that was decent enough and I'm gonna feel it tomorrow type. If you are looking for a less impact workout I totally recommend this one. You get to tone your muscles without all the jarring to your knees, which comes in really handy for someone like me who has runner's knee, also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome. I think this is one I will work on perfecting and ultimately use as a supplement to my regular routine.

For now though, I'll grab my regular morning cup of coffee, bundle myself up on the couch while checking email and maybe sneaking in a chapter of two before its: Did we get our homework done today? Put on warmer clothes its only 15 degrees outside, are you crazy!? What would you like for lunch? Juice and Pirate Booty OK for snack today? Did you hear that? The alarm went off.  Let's go, let's go. Shoes, socks, backpack… and somehow hope that I don't freeze to death before this winter is over.

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