Monday, December 31, 2012

A-Z List + 2 Funny Stories to End the Year


A. Age:  No.  No, thank you. 
B. Bed size:  Currently a queen.  Would like to have my own king-sized bed someday, in my own bedroom. 
(I kid, I kid.  A little.)
C. Chore you hate: Cleaning bathrooms.  Tedious AND Gross. 
D. Dogs: 1 beagle mix who likes to eat Christmas decorations and poop in my front room. 
E. Essential start to your day: Eggs for breakfast.  No protein = no thinking for Amy.
F. Favorite color: Blue.
G. Gold or Silver: White gold/ silver/ platinum
H. Height: 5'2"
I. Instruments you play: n/a 
J. Job Title: AA
K. Kids: 2
L. Live: I don't even know how to respond to this.  Yes, I live.  Yes, I am LIVE. I RESIDE in Ohio (for now).
M. Married: Yes, to Big Daddy: Joker, marksman, and expert bacon cooker.
N. Nicknames: Miss Amy
O. Overnight hospital stays: Only when I had my babies. 
P. Pet peeve: (how much space do we have here?)..... Sub-par restaurant food, people with no common sense, Wal-mart, commercials, grammatical errors, white cars, tight shoes, dust bunnies.

Q. Quote: “To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common - this is my symphony."
~ William Henry Channing
American Moralist, Unitarian Clergyman, & Author
1780-1842


R. Righty or Lefty:  Righty-tighty
S. Siblings:  1/2
T. Time you wake up:  Pre-dog: 7am; Post-dog: 5:30am :(
U. University attended: Fear the Fork!
V. Vegetables you dislike:  Eggplant.  SHUDDER. 
W. What makes you run late: KIDS, and husband who waits to go to the bathroom until we are all in the car & ready to leave. 
X. X-rays you've had:  Teeth & a chest X-ray once (pneumonia)
Y. Yummy food: A nice steak, medium rare. 
Z. Zoo animal favorite: River Otter

Funny Stories:
1.  Last Sunday I went to church wearing a new(ish) green dress that I really like.  I paired it with brown boots and a denim jacket on top.  I felt cute and comfortable.  Half-way through the first hour, I started wondering why I felt SO comfortable.  And I immediately realized that I had forgotten to put on a bra.  This has happened.....let's see.... NEVER.  I quickly buttoned up the jacket and said a little thank you prayer that I had worn it in the first place.  

2.  After Christmas Big Daddy, J, and I hit the mall to look for some cold weather running gear.  As I was waiting to pay, the cashier looked over at J, asked how old he is, then asked me if I was his Grandmother.  

What?

As my husband shook his head and sidled away, probably thinking I was going to go out with guns a-blaze, I waited several beats before informing my 18 year old cashier that I am his MOTHER.  She didn't even blink or appear embarrassed in the slightest.  As my husband later pointed out, this is probably more an indictment of where we live than of my personal appearance, but it still stung a little.  

And on that note, Happy New Year!  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

End of the Year Confession

I've debated for weeks whether or not I should write this.  I feel like no one reads my blog so in the end, it's probably more an exercise in catharsis for me than anything really revelatory for a happenstance reader.

{Deep Breath}

I've spent the last 5 months working on my health and fitness.
And I've had some success.
In fact, I'm down 25 lbs.

Let me say it again, because I can hardly believe it:

I'VE LOST 25 POUNDS.
I wish I had a better visual, but this is what I came up with:


(Boy, do I wish my abs looked like that!)

I cannot remember a time when I haven't either struggled with, been unhappy with, or thought about my weight.  After having kids, I simply assumed that I would never be the same, and I viewed those "skinny" moms as having been blessed with a naturally fast metabolism, an amazing personal trainer, or  a talented plastic surgeon - things I certainly did not have.  

Did I know about the uber-secret formula: Eat Less and Move More?  Yes, I was aware.  But I just couldn't seem to put both the pieces together. I've started many exercise programs, but always been reluctant to track my food. And I firmly believe that food is 80% of the equation.  Anyone who tells you that losing weight is simple or easy is lying.  Anyone who tells you it is worth it is being honest.  

Part of me sometimes wonders what took me so long to figure this out, but that seems a bit defeatist.  Instead, I am trying to appreciate the benefits here and now.  

I don't feel the need to share my tipping point, but I will say that once it happened, there was no looking back.  I began by joining Weight Watchers, plunging in with a full 12 week commitment.  I'll be frank - I didn't love it.  I bear the blame for some of that.  After the first few weeks my schedule became really busy, and I wasn't able to attend meetings regularly or for the full amount of time.  I also resisted having to convert all the foods into points.  The Type-A in me kept thinking "What makes Weight Watchers so special that they can't just count calories like everyone else?".  I know, I was sort of doomed from the start.    

But I did have success and I lost each week.  

After the first few months, I switched to an iPhone app called My Fitness Pal, and it has been a huge part of my success. I set a calorie goal based on my desired weight loss, and I can track my food, water, and activity.  It allows me to track what I eat using a database of thousands of foods.  I can also input my own recipes and it will formulate the breakdown of calories, fat, protein, etc.  I use it multiple times a day.  I now eat between 1300-1500 calories per day, and I do eat back my exercise calories.  I record everything I eat, but I don't deprive myself.  If I want some ice cream, or I know I am going out to dinner, I make sure I have the calories to enjoy myself.  It can be done!   

And to make this post even more illustrative, let's look at some embarrassing pictures!



                             Then                                                                             Now
                                          
As for exercise, I started doing the 30 Day Shred (again).  After I finished I moved on to Ripped In 30 (also a Jillian Michaels program), which I completed but hated.  I feel like the circuit training formula has contributed to my success.  Although I have slacked off since Thanksgiving, I am still working out 5 days a week (currently 3 days of weights, 2 days of walking or cardio).  My goal for next year is to work up to running by completing the Couch to 5K program.  I want to run a 5K in the Spring/ early Summer.  Do I love working out?  Nope.  But I love how I feel afterwards.  I love feeling like I am ready to run when I go for my walks.

I also appreciate that I did this without a gym membership, a trainer, or any expensive equipment. All I had was a smartphone, a DVD player, some handweights, and a decent pair of sneakers.  Would I love a treadmill at home?  Sure, but it's just not realistic right now.  I used what I had, and again, it's working.  It CAN Be Done.  

This has been a long journey, and it is not over yet.  I was surprised at how mentally exhausting it sometimes was.  But the benefits have been awwwwwwwesome.  I always thought that the saying "Nothing Tastes As Good As Skinny Feels" was a bunch of crap.  But after 5 months, -25lbs. and feeling better than I have in 10 years, I am totally on board.  There is nothing better than hearing my husband say "You look amazing."  But if there's anything that's a close second to that, it's being able to pull on my old jeans without even unbuttoning them.  I love having my flexibility back.  I love setting a better example for my kids by exercising AND enjoy treats in moderation.  I love buying clothes that are two sizes smaller than before.  And I love not being afraid to pass by a mirror.

See, now aren't you glad you stayed to the end of this incredibly self-centered post? I mean seriously, what is more boring than reading about someone blathering on and on about weightloss?  Crap, I just bored myself to sleep, and I am both the writer and person in question.  Yawn!  Go do something!  Read a book (because I certainly haven't in the last 5 months)!

Here's to a great 2013!

 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Organization

During our recent trip back West, my sweet sister-in-law asked me how I stay so organized.  It was a busy trip, and we juggled a packed schedule filled with multiple family visits, friends, shopping, family fun, and many hours on the road.  It was also one of the best family trips we've had in ages.

First, I am flattered that she sees me as such.  Some days I feel on top of it, and others, well, I'm hanging on by my fingernails.

So, here's a few things that help me to stay at the top of that mountain of To-Do's.

First, my type-A heart is at its happiest when I feel like I have a handle on what's going on and when.  I live and die by my iPhone.  I know, it seems a little silly, but it's my phone, my silent communication device, my organizer, my map, my weather girl, my personal assistant (and yes, sometimes it's my electronic leash).  Whatever is going on with work, school, or play, it goes into the calendar.  And I check my calendar multiple times a day.  I do not like surprises (unless they come in a small blue box), and that calendar keeps me sane.

My second favorite part of my phone is the 2Do app.  I use this to make checklists of all sorts of things - Christmas gifts, random things I need, shopping lists for trips to the Big City, and most importantly, I use them to keep up with what I need to do each week.  I almost always make a list for each day of the work week, and even if it contains such tedious items as "Work Out" and "Buy Milk", it helps keep me on track.  I find it especially useful when I have a lot going on & I use it to break down tasks that would feel overwhelming if I made a week-long list.    


It also helps me to avoid the "can't remembers".  It began with pregnancy brain, and moved into Mommy brain, and whatever you call it, it is firmly entrenched in me.  As the kids get older and they get more busy, it almost gets worse. With a checklist, I have no excuse.   The personal rule I use is that if a task goes into a certain day, it HAS to be done that day.  There are few exceptions.  BUT I try to limit my tasks on a given day.  A 12 task list is crazy!  I do my best to list the top 3 things I have to accomplish, and if the list is longer than 6 items, then it is generally because I can knock off at least half the list in 15-20 minutes.  

Next, I take time on Saturday or Sunday, and look over the week ahead.  This is when I will often begin my checklists for the week, and fill them with the tasks I MUST do to stay on track.  For example: This week, I had 2 potlucks in a row, and a school party that needed a treat made.  I had committed to making certain items for each, and so I used my lists to keep me on track with WHEN to prepare what I needed to bring.  Plus, checking my calendar each morning reminded me to not leave the house without that delicious food!  

Finally, I have found meal planning to be invaluable to my peace of mind.  Although I only map out a week at a time, choosing - in advance - what to make and when has helped me to cut down on my spending AND to give me a little peace of mind.  I check the plan in the morning, pull out what I need, and at 5pm, there's ALWAYS an answer to the inevitable "What's for dinner, Mom?".  

What's your best tip for staying on top of things?  


Friday, December 14, 2012

December Happenings

I'm shaking off the December lethargy and have finally gotten a boatload of stuff done this week.  


On Sunday we made pretzels to give to neighbors (and a few to enjoy ourselves).  Everybody had fun rolling and twisting the dough.... and eating them hot out of the oven.  YUM!


I made teacher/ pal gifts using a printable from Our Best Bites, cozy socks, and nailpolish.   


Hanging Christmas cards from the kitchen cabinets. 
 Of all the ways to display cards that I've tried over the years, this is my favorite. 


I miss having a cozy fireplace in the winter, so I made my own!  
I had everything on hand already, and I used these general instructions.  


I hung a few ornaments from the chandelier....


And decorated the picture ledges we hung in the dining area.  


I think it needs a tiny poinsettia and it will be all done.  


I printed out these "chalkboard" drawings and framed them to hang on either side of the ledges. 


Thank goodness for Pinterest - that's where I found most of these ideas!

And finally, I received my December Birchbox a few days ago!


Perfume, dry shampoo, eye cream, $50 credit to renttherunway.com, and a tiny fragrance atomizer.


I have loved all the items I've been getting from Birchbox, and highly recommend signing up or giving a gift subscription if you have a beauty lover in your life. I'd say that for $10 a month, you receive $25-$30 in samples.  Last month included a full-size lip gloss worth $16, Kerastase hair masks, and a gorgeous metallic nailpolish.  I look forward to the 10th of the month, knowing my Birchbox is coming soon!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Let's Panic About Christmas!

I think that going away for Thanksgiving completely threw off my Christmas mojo.  I feel like I am utterly unprepared for this holly jolly season.

It's not the gift-giving.  That part is mostly covered. (mostly)

It's sort of the dog.  We're still getting used to each other.

It's sort of the fridge - after 3 weeks, it's finally coming tonight (almost a week late).

It's mostly the decorating.  I never feel like I have the time and money to do what I'd love to do.  And as  I currently own 5 plastic bins of assorted Christmas tchotchkes, I am under a family ban that prevents me from bringing in any additional decor.

I'm usually a "Make It Work" kind of girl, but this year, I just feel bummed.  My ornament-stealing dog is not helping.  His first (and hopefully last) victim:

Mary no longer has a little lamb. 

I know, I blame myself.  The second he gave those ornaments the side-eye, I should have moved them all out of reach.  But I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and I shouldn't have.  Lesson learned.  And now the bottom 2 feet of my tree is decorated with paper snowflakes.

I'm not feeling my fake tree this year.  But without a tree stand, why buy a real tree?  I still don't have the shelves hung in the dining room, and I am balking at doing anything beyond the tree until they are hung. And I'm reluctant to put out anything from the floor to about 3' up - because of Luke and his teething.

So, the tree is up, and I may just call it a day.  No outside lights.  No glittery trees.  No nativity scene.  No wreath on the door.   Just..... enough.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I Must Be Crazy: A Dog Story

My kids have been begging for a dog for years.  

Our last pet was a fish we had to leave behind when we left Oregon 5 1/2 years ago, so there has definitely been a void in our family life.  

Until recently, I didn't feel ready to take on the responsibility, and my kids weren't quite old enough/ ready enough.  But in the last few months I've thought more and more about it.  

Our trip to AZ was especially good timing because it gave me the chance to see the kids up close with 2 dogs.  The Chihuahuas were the perfect ice breaker - too small to intimidate the kids, and old enough to not exhibit puppy craziness.  Both the kids were sweet and appropriate with the dogs, and the thought grew in my head.  We also visited a mall with a pet store, and at one point Husband caught Big Sis whispering softly to a sweet looking Husky puppy in one of the large glass cases.  My heart melted when he told me.   We talked it out, and decided to gift Big Sis with a dog collar for Christmas - with the idea that we would look for a dog as a family. 

Well, as soon as we came home, I started checking the local shelters online, and came across a sweet looking brother and sister.  I drove out on Friday to see them, thinking that the girl would steal my heart. 

But no.  

It was the boy.  


Meet Luke!


He is a 5, possibly 6, month old beagle/ lab mix.  He is 20 lbs. right now, and I am hoping he gets only a little bigger.  

When we went to pick him up, we decided to surprise the kids.  We told them we had to get up on Saturday morning and go do some errands.  Despite some general grousing, they got up, and we started on the 40 minute drive.  Half way there, J asked what kind of store we were going to, and what they had there.  Husband replied "Buddy, I guarantee they will have something you like.".  

We pulled into the McDonald's parking lot, and got out, with puzzled looks on my kids' faces.  When the lady parked and proceeded to pull Luke out of the kennel, they still didn't get it.  Then I asked if we should take him home with us.  Understanding dawned, and I've never seen M look so happy.  

And now he's my 3rd child.  

Things to remember:
  • He's not (wasn't) housebroken, but after just 1 solid and 2 liquid accidents, he's getting the idea that "Let's go potty" means exactly that (Outside!). 
  • He had never had a collar or been on a leash, but he is adapting.   
  • He was quiet both nights in his crate, and I am hoping he keeps it up.  A few whines & barks, but several stern "No's" and leaving the hall light on seem to help.  
  • We decorated our tree last night, and he thinks the soft felt ornaments are toys just for Luke!   I think we're going to have to redecorate and move those out of his reach (see, 3rd child).  
Merry Christmas to us!

(Can't wait to get a Dog Whisperer book)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

November? December?

As much as I love this blog, it was sort of nice to take a break in November.  The month just flew by, and I am amazed/ panicked that it is already December.  The days are long, but the months are short, and that is the sad truth.

For Thanksgiving we took a rather "last minute" trip to Arizona.  It was last minute in that we weren't planning for months to do this, but the opportunity arose, we grabbed it and overall had a really great trip.

We started off with a Thanksgiving feast at preschool.  Each child signed up for what they wanted to bring to the feast.  Our contribution was originally supposed to be "chicken and smoothies" (what?) but we changed it to "pumpkin bread".  Other contributions included rice, cereal, pancakes, strawberries, crackers, and Italian ice. It was quite a feast!


We flew out Thanksgiving morning.  There was a little hiccup with delayed flights, but Delta rerouted us, and we arrived only an hour after our original anticipated time.  Great customer service, Delta - thank you!


We stayed with my Dad, and had lots of great time visiting and getting to know his wife, and Duke and Daisy (their Chihuahuas).



We also took some family photos (yes, I might actually send out Christmas cards this year - BEFORE Christmas!).  



Did a little shooting.....



Ate some delicious Mexican food from Casa Ramos in Mesa.....


Tried fishing with cousins....


Played 'submarine' with a bin, blanket, pillow on top & a galley well-stocked with homemade pretzels.....  


 Met our new nephew....


And visited a cool Aquarium.


We also visited with friends, decorated Grandma's Christmas tree, did some shopping, and enjoyed the sunshine and 80 degree temperatures.  It wasn't enough to make me want to move back to Arizona, but it was great while it lasted.