Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Losing It


I recently lost 10 lbs.

Yay me.

”Recently” may not be the right descriptor for this process, as it took me 3 MONTHS to do it. Let's take a moment of silence and allow that to sink.

3 MONTHS.

A normal, healthy person can usually lose 1-2lbs. per week.

I lost an average of .8 lbs. per week.

And in reality, I lost most of the weight the first 2 weeks. By this time, I was hoping to double my loss, and trumpet my results with a shout to the heavens and a new pair of skinny jeans.

Instead, I am heaving a sigh of frustration and rehashing the difficult moments with both my blog readers. As irksome and painful as the last 90 days have been, I’ve decided to gift myself with some perspective and consider the lessons learned.

It Can Be Done. This entire journey was something of an eye-opener to me. It’s not that I thought I was special, or that the age-old formula of diet-and-exercise applies to everyone but me….. But I had begun to reach a point where I was resigned to living with the reality of an abundantly curvy body. Now that I’ve experienced a taste of progress, I can see that change can happen for me. Exhaustingly slow change.

The Formula Works. Yep, it’s true. Less calories in + more activity = a drop on the scale. But I got lazy and forgot to consistently execute both parts of the equation, so that drop slowed to a turtle’s pace. See above.

Exercise Is Key. It’s not that I dislike exercise. Once I get going, I generally finish what I started, and feel 1,000% better (hooray endorphins!). I definitely found it hard to commit to a consistent time & program. Joining the local Y (which includes childcare) helped tremendously, as did finding a few workout videos to do on busy days (30 Day Shred & Biggest Loser Sculpt). I also battled a calf strain and the realization that an ankle filled with bone fragments isn’t conducive to a running program. I continue to struggle with consistency and lack of motivation, but generally manage to work out 4 days a week - if I am at the gym by no later than 10am, otherwise it is exponentially less likely I will get there (or do anything else) that day.

Food Is Good. Food, glorious food. My Achilles heel, my weakest link. I once had a friend who told me his 4 favorite food groups were fat, salt, sugar, and butter. Mmmmm…. Butter. There’s a reason I just love Paula Deen, and it’s because she and I share an appreciation of the above. While I still hold this to be true, I’ve learned that those 4 food groups really are best saved as “once in a while” treats. My sweet tooth is still intact, but is now more frequently satisfied with fresh pineapple chunks or mango sorbet instead of chocolate covered pretzels. Other than a shaky start over the first few weeks, I didn’t really deny myself anything – I just kept track of it. PS – new favorite breakfast: Special K Red Berries with fat free milk and blackberries on top. I could eat it every day.

Inform Yourself. One of the very best things I did for myself was to sign up for Dailyburn. This site allows you to track your workouts, your progress, AND your food. For free. I considered doing Weight Watchers online, but I was very put off by the local TV commercials in our area, the cost, and the general “Food is Evil” impression I was given by reading feedback from past participants. I generally don’t think cupcakes are bad, I just think they’re bad for you when you eat 12 of them at a time. Dailyburn has been tremendously helpful in allowing me to track what I eat and see how it adds up. Consequently, I have been much more thoughtful in the food choices I make. I also read labels more consistently, and often look online for nutrition information before eating out. A regular chocolate shake from Sonic has 568 calories. A Jr. Candy Sundae with Oreo has 199 calories. Which would YOU pick??

Quantity Counts. It took a while for me to get used to measuring out my food. But after learning that people often underestimate calories by 50%, I realized how critical it was to make the effort. I don’t take my measuring cups with me to a restaurant, but I do use them consistently at home. A little anal, but it works.

Improvise. There were days when I couldn’t (didn’t want to) make it to the Y. That’s when I turned to my DVD collection, or streamed a workout from Netflix. Sometimes I just grabbed a resistance band and improvised a quick 10-minute workout of some basic exercises. Not my finest effort, but something – and I didn’t beat myself up about it.

Get Creative. I bought a protein powder to ingest after workouts, hoping it would help to build muscle and meet my nutrient goals. Not sure that it helped accomplish either, but it hasn’t done any visible harm so I’ve continued to use it. Too bad it tastes like drinking a glassful of mudpie from my backyard. I’ve gotten around this by adding ½ of a frozen banana (magic!) and a few ice cubes to the blended mix. Suddenly it’s a tasty treat! Instant milkshake for around 200 calories.

It Does Not Have To Be Expensive. Yes, a new workout wardrobe is fun to wear, and new trainers can put a bounce in your step. But what you have is a good place to start. No equipment? Walk around the block & bust out a set of pushups at the end. No gym? Queue up at the library for some workout DVD’s. And speaking of DVD’s: for the cost of a Value Meal, you can go home with a new workout DVD. Yes, you may end up with something that’s not a good fit (I always read Amazon reviews before buying), but then see if a friend wants to trade.

Life Happens. Some days were just THOSE DAYS. When the kids woke with fevers or were up vomiting all night. When the list of errands seemed never ending or the drivethrough was the best dinner I could muster up. I used to view those days as another check mark in the column entitled “Why This Will Never Work For Me”. Now I see them for what they are – challenging moments. Sometimes they win, sometimes I win. But when it’s not my day, I realize that tomorrow is another chance to make better decisions and move forward.

Net/net of all of the above: It’s a long, slow road. Success takes consistency, information, a sense of humor, and the knowledge that there will be bumps, roadblocks, & potholes on the path. I know that every day I am lowering my risk of diabetes and heart disease, increasing my knowledge base of nutrition, enjoying 40 minutes of free therapy, and building a nice set of biceps.

But I still have my eye on those skinny jeans.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Recital Time

After we moved last year, Big Sis was eager to continue her ballet education. We found a good school associated with a local ballet company, and signed her up. I liked that her teacher seemed to be no-nonsense, and there was a greater emphasis on precision. I also liked that the observation window was always open so parents could watch during lessons.

The year passed, she enjoyed the lessons, and as Spring bloomed, we prepared for the recital.


Recital review: The theme was Michigan - Places to Go, People to See, Things to Do. After two years at the beloved CCDC in Des Moines, I have to admit I was sorely disappointed by this recital. While it showcased the variety of classes offered at her school, including hip-hop, jazz, tap, and modern, the show itself was completely disjointed. Each class or group did a different routine, and while each routine was supposed to represent a different aspect of Michigan, there was no introduction to the routines so you had no idea what class was performing or what the theme was.

I also felt that the school took recital preparation very lightly. Perhaps it was just Big Sis' age group, but during recital week, they did one run-through at the school (performing the routine ONCE) and one run-through dress rehearsal on stage with no feedback (which I was totally unprepared for & consequently have no video of).

It was really a bummer of an ending for an otherwise positive experience. If we hadn't been a part of CCDC, I wouldn't know the difference, but the contrast between the two schools is significant. Des Moines moms, you are fortunate to have such a professional, focused dance school available to your children.

The End of Year 1

Thankfully Big Sis' school is not invested in the notion of a 'graduation' ceremony for each and every passing occasion. But her class did hold a small event to honor each child & their accomplishments for the school year. It was nice to see her with her schoolmates and teacher.



Big Sis and Mrs. C

First Day of School

Last Day of School

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Start of Summer

Summer, I am not your biggest fan. In case you've been blinded by your own hype, here's a short list of your failings as a season:

  1. Weather. It's hot. It's humid. It's time for a nap.
  2. Moisture. Heat + Humidity = Sweat. I have never been familiar with the mystery of the female 'glow'. I sweat, I shine, I trickle, and I even occasionally drip. No delicate flower am I.
  3. Sunshine. While I enjoy the sunshine, sunset at 10pm just throws off my internal clock. And sunrise at 5:30am? NO THANK YOU.
  4. Birthday. My birthday arrives at the height of summer. It is after the best warm weather sales are over, when the stores are heavily stocked with Back-to-School garb. Nothing says Summer Birthday like a wool sweater! Plus, it's far enough into the season that most school friends were vacationing with family & couldn't join me for a little celebrating. An August birthday is a lonely time for a kid.
  5. Bugs. Between the mosquitoes outside and the fruit flies inside, I spend the days & nights flailing like a marionette with a 4 year old puppeteer.
  6. Clothes. Tanks, shorts, and teeny bikinis are not my garb of choice. Less is more, ladies - Wrap The Gift!
  7. Food. OK, this is my least contentious point about summer. I love the fresh fruit, the sweet ripe berries, the taste of a burger right off the grill. What I don't like is not using my oven from June-September.
  8. Driving. Road Rage, anyone? I swear, bad drivers get even worse when the mercury rises.
  9. Time off. I have the worst luck booking almost any appointment in the summer. Everyone opens late or closes early or is shut down for 3 weeks of fly fishing in Sweden.
I am so tired I can't even think of a #10. I am going to retire to my bedroom, crank the window A/C, and refresh myself with a 'rest'. Throw the kids a couple of popsicles & wake me when Fall is here, OK?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fab Friday: Do You Zappos?

I know who I am.

I'm a loner, a rebel.
(name that movie!)

I like sweet & salty together, Fall, hot chocolate, old movies.

I am a decent cook, a marginal driver, and an excellent friend.

I am far more Old Skool than Cutting Edge. I was probably the last person in the U.S. to jump on the iPhone bandwagon (totally lived up to the hype).

I still own a VCR.

My cautious soul is hard-wired to be suspect of the new and the now, and so I feel I am once again behind the curve in my discovery of Zappos.

OK, so maybe discovery isn't the right descriptor. I've perused Zappos for a long time, but never took the plunge until this week.

I am a bargain hunter by nature, and have difficulty paying {gulp} full price for much of anything. As such, I have previously enjoyed Zappos' sister site 6pm.com. But with a Major Event looming and a very specific look in mind, I turned to Zappos to meet my footwear needs.

I can say with 100% honesty that this was one of my most enjoyable online shopping experiences EVER.

The Good:
  1. Huge Selection. Bags? Shoes? Clothes? Check, check, check.
  2. Great Filters. Search by brand, size, color, price, style.
  3. Solid Suggestions. While you are browsing, the system makes suggestions based on what you've looked at.
  4. Reviews. While I don't think another's opinion will determine my own choices, I appreciate clear, honest feedback.
  5. Favorites. Find something you like? Save it to your account and view it in comparison to what else is out there.
  6. Out of Stock? An email can be sent to you the moment it's available!
  7. Payment. Along with all major credit cards, they accept Paypal. While this will be dangerous for my Paypal surplus, this is a boon for my bank account.
  8. Turnaround. A Saturday order = Wednesday delivery. And shipping was free!
  9. Return Policy. AMAZING. You have 365 days to return your purchase, return shipping is free, and exchanges are just a pleasant phone call away. And processing a return is super simple - click which items you want to send back, print out a shipping label from home & drop off the sealed box at any UPS location. Easy!
  10. Customer Service. FANTASTIC. Seriously. I worked retail for years, and know that a business can be made or broken by it's customer service. While the custy is not always right, being fair and equitable can turn around almost any bad situation.
The Bad:

So far, so good. I can't think of anything negative yet. I guess all I can say is that their fabulous return policy and free shipping could encourage you to spend more than intended. Order several items to choose from & you may end up keeping them all. Still a win-win for all!

Here's how my experience went:

After shopping at my local retailers & finding nothing to suit my tastes, I began perusing the interwebs for footwear. Repeated searches failed to produce The Perfect Shoe, and so I began to rethink my strategy. A Sunday Morning Program yielded a segment on Zappos, and I was thoroughly impressed by what I saw - a smart CEO, happy employees, and an impressive record of growth. I searched, pondered, (and possibly even prayed) then ordered on a Saturday afternoon.

My selection of shoes arrived on Wednesday and a quick try-on session yielded both a clear winner and the need for a slightly larger size. A 3 minute phone call to customer service produced a size exchange, a status upgrade, and free overnight shipping. I had my new, larger shoes in hand by 2pm the next day.

Drumroll please.......
Franco Sarto Electra

And they were even on sale!! Silver may not be your cup of tea, but they are exactly what I was looking for. Plus, I think they are going to be adorable with cropped jeans for the summer.

Zappos, I will be a loyal customer for life. Thank you for doing things right!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

This Has Gone Too Far


I am a girl who likes to have a plan. I understand that plans change, and sometimes you gotta roll with the punches. I am fine with that, as long as there is some sort of loose structure in place.

For as we all know:

If you fail to plan.......

But Motherhood has forced me to reset my expectations. I still enjoy a good plan, and garner further delight in the flawless execution of said plan. But kids create complications. They smear peanut butter on new outfits just before Picture Day commences and glow hot with fever on the first day of a cross-country family reunion. They melt down at wedding receptions and break their arm the night before heading into the Magic Kingdom. My psyche has had to learn to embrace the impetuous and hold hands with the spontaneous.

Despite my love of a plan & my newfound pal improvisation, shades of laziness have taken over my being. It's been too easy to wallow in sloth since coming to Michigan. First, I allowed my discontent to take over. I felt sorry for myself, and spent my time missing friends and pining for familiarity. Then I slowly began to enjoy the freedom engendered by an eldest child in school. I fell into the rut of drop-off, gym, shower, errands, lunch, naptime, pick-up, dinner. And it was good.

Since 'summer vacation' has officially begun, my rut has been disrupted and I am not liking it one bit. It's only been a week, and I know our schedule is even more out of the norm due to rehearsals for the ballet recital..... but I am going nuts! Our days have been a little too aimless, my kids are at each other's throats & racking up Time Outs by the hour, and I am snapping at them far more than usual. If this first week is an indication of the remainder of the summer, I am afraid for what my mental state is going to be by the end of August.

I am seriously considering sitting down and mapping out a plan for each week, and possibly even each day. I am envisioning most days being quite ordinary, but planning for special events (splash pad, museum, park, library, camping) will make everyone more excited for the actual happening.

The spontaneous (and lazy) part of me is fighting this urge, believing that it's better to just be open to what the summer presents us with. And the organized, list-loving, schedule-keeping part of me is secretly squealing and clapping her hands together.

If my husband is going to insist on continuing to call me the Activities Director, I may as well fully embrace it & start earning my clipboard.

Any words of advice from organized families?

PS - 400th post! Woot!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jam-tastic!



It's been several years since I have flexed my jam making skills, but this summer season I am feeling the itch.

While I have yet to schedule in our first jam-boree (oh, I crack myself up!), I will surely be using some of these adorable labels for my kitchen creations:




My favorite is strawberry jam, but I am also craving cherry and peach this year..... and maybe I will really stretch my preserving wings and and make some chocolate raspberry sundae topping again.

BTW - these are my favorite canning jars:

I love the wide mouth, the 8 oz. size (perfect for gift giving!), and the brushed stainless lid & band.

What do you like to can in the summer?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Summer Fashion Trend: Jeans Diapers??

You know you're the Alpha Mom, always on the cutting edge. All the other playgroup Moms look to you for their next move. And now you can be the first to show them the hot summer trend: Jeans Diapers from Huggies!

Every kid is adorable in jeans, and now you can get that denim look without the worry of actual pants. Just fasten your little one into a pair of Huggies Jeans diapers, and they are good to go!
Need a little more style for your budding Sartorialist? Well you know denim is a blank canvas to be embellished upon! Here's a few ideas on how to de-frump your tiny tyke.

Southern Comfort: For girls, just add a halter or tube top for that provocative Daisy Duke look. Butch up the boys with a dirty wifebeater, or a plain T with the arms cut out, accented with fake tattoos. Don't forget the tiny can of beer - in the bottle, of course!

Casual Friday: Jeans at work?! Of course! But workaday style calls for something a little more dressy than the usual T and flip flops. Girls, get out your crisp white button-downs and sassy bejeweled flats. Boys, add a bright T or buttondown, throw on a blazer, and pair it with a sweet pair of Bucs for summer comfort.

Urban Dreamz: This look is a bit more edgy, but I know your fashionista can handle it - especially with Friday night just around the corner! Girls, get out the gold jewelry and the Bedazzler - it's time to add some bling to those jeans. Once you've glitzed up the bottoms, don't forget the top half: add a bra top under a (faux) fur vest, throw on some chains, add platform high heels, and she's ready to hit the club! Boys, make sure your diaper is nice & full so it can ride low and give you that baggy-chic look. For extra street cred, add a T from your fave sports team (preferably the Raiders or Yankees), a matching ball cap, Nike RT1's for your kicks, and don't forget the shades!

Emo Style: Is Baby a little moody today? Some days they just feel mad at the world and can't help but show it. Girls, a black lacy top with long flowing sleeves and skull printed Baby Legs show your sweet and sassy edge. Boys, make sure your black T shirt is adorned with safety pins, and all your hair falls in your face. So Tough! So Sensitive!

Huggies Little Movers Jeans are available for a limited time in the summer months. Get yours today!

Or better yet, retain all your mental faculties as well as your sense of dignity and DON'T!!