Monday, November 26, 2012

Back on track (again...)

I did fairly well with my November goals toward making healthier choices and getting leaner. That is, until I started baking last week. As much as I told myself I wasn't going to go nuts over the holiday weekend, Thanksgiving-style eating pretty much went from last Wednesday through Sunday.

Today, however, I turned over a new leaf. Again. Because, you know, I've never been in this position before - trying to lose a bit of weight and spinning my wheels as I allow every distraction under the sun to derail my progress (sarcasm, anyone?). Anyway, today was a good day and I feel better for it.

I also feel new resolve to de-sugar my kids' diet. They probably don't eat as much sugar as a lot of kids out there, but I'm sure it is more than I realize. My husband is big on giving treats, which is really sweet (pun intended), but he tends to go overboard and not think about the cumulative effect of his treat-endowing. Not that their sugar consumption is entirely his fault, but it is something we need to work on, especially as we head into the holiday season, replete with cookies and candy galore.

I'm resolved to finish out the month with good food choices, writing down what I eat and heading in the final month of 2012 with a handle on what I'm putting in my mouth.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Being open to life isn't only what you think

A few weeks ago, I was at mass with my three kids. Daddy couldn't be with us, so I was braving the pews with my young children alone (they are 7, 5 and 3). This isn't usually a big deal. My kids aren't perfect (naturally), but they are pretty well behaved. They're used to mass, they know what is expected, and most of the time, they are just fine.

Not that Sunday.

My boys asked to sit in the front row, but that was clearly a mistake. Often the front row affords them an unobstructed view of the altar and the priest and they wind up watching what is happening a little more - and squirming and making noise a little less. That day it simply meant the whole parish had an unobstructed view of my kids being monkeys.

I did my best to keep them calm and quiet. I'm certain it was clear to anyone watching that I was struggling with my kids, but I wasn't letting them run rampant by any stretch of the imagination. And really, they weren't that bad. They were squirrely, and talking too much, and my oldest son kept making my 3 year old daughter laugh. But I've seen worse.

We'd almost made it through the entire mass. I had successfully navigated potty trips, discarded shoes, attempts to twirl, tickle, and drop things, and had hustled us back to our seats after receiving Communion. Then, as I held my daughter in my lap, insisting my other two keep to their seats, someone came up to me (an usher, I believe), knelt down and quickly said, "Could you please move to the back of the church? Your kids are distracting people."

<Insert me with my jaw on the floor here.>

He walked away quickly, not even giving me a chance to respond. I was floored. Absolutely floored. Communion was nearly over (which means mass was nearly over), and my kids were seated. Yes, we'd had a challenging time that morning, but it wasn't as if I'd had screaming and crying children and I did nothing. The worst thing they did was giggle loudly a lot.

Tears sprang to my eyes and I gathered up my kids and all our stuff and high tailed it to the parking lot. I just wanted out of there. I was so hurt and humiliated. I felt as if everyone in church must have been watching me, judging me. I felt betrayed and unwelcome.

In all the time we've attended mass at this parish, we have never been made to feel unwelcome or that our kids were a problem. We love our parish, and most of the time the atmosphere is very welcoming to families with children of all ages.

I was horrified that day, and also surprised that the comment hurt me so deeply. And then I got to thinking; what if it hadn't been me? What if it hadn't been someone who is a solid member of the parish community? What if it had been someone new? Perhaps someone who had been away from the church for a while? Someone who felt like I did when my first son was a baby, that taking kids to church just wasn't worth the hassle? I remember feeling that way very well. And if someone had asked me to move to the back of the church in those days - I never would have gone back.

As Catholics, we are called to be open to life. I'd wager most people assume that only applies to married couples. I say, it applies to each and every one of us. We have to be open to life, not just as families, but as faith communities. We cannot ask parents to be open to new life, and then shun them or shame them when they bring those new lives into our midst at mass. We have to embrace them, support them, love them all the more because they are bringing up the next generation of Catholics. If we drive them all away because someone doesn't like crying babies at mass, where will our church be in 10 years? In 20 years?

Being open to life means we must embrace the young families at our parishes. We must welcome them, smile at them knowingly when their babies cry and their toddlers throw a fit. We must help them pick up their spilt cheerios and offer scraps of drawing paper and pens to help distract their little ones. At the very least, we must not cast our eyes askance at them when their children act up. Children will be children, and I remember well how difficult mass can be when you are young. No, kids can't sit still; they can't always be quiet. They will be disruptive sometimes, but life with children is disruptive and messy and chaotic and wonderful. These children who are crying and squirming and interrupting - these children are the future of our church and their mothers and fathers are in desperate need of our loving support.

So if you see a mother at church, struggling to contain her young ones, consider offering to help or at least offering her a warm smile. She's probably doing the best she can, and I think we should praise God that she is there at all.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Worries for/in the future

I am a planner and an overthinker. Like a lot of personality traits, it can be a good thing, or a really bad thing. I'm pretty good at being organized, but I'm also pretty good at overthinking myself into a tizzy. Fortunately, my chaotic, random and very spontaneous husband is great at keeping me grounded. Unfortunately, I still tend to stress about things that I really shouldn't.

We might have to move. I could go on and on about why I love living where I do. We've been here almost 8 years, we had the house built so it's awesome, we live right next door to our best friends, we have an amazing parish, quite a few friends, and now a wonderful homeschooling group, etc. etc. But my husband took a new job back in January - 60 miles away. That's a haul, and let me tell you, traffic in this area is rotten.

He doesn't have to commute every day, which was a condition of him taking the job. He goes into his office about half the time - 3 times one week, 2 times the next. He works from home the other days. This year, it has been a decent solution. The drive sucks, we spend a lot on gas, and it's hard having him gone 12-13 hours a day when he has to go into his office. But on days he's here, we see a lot of him and it balances itself out fairly well.

However, his company continues to grow - which is an amazingly wonderful thing, especially in this economy. But that also means he's going to need to be in his office more often. The half time commuting thing wasn't a forever arrangement. It was a do-it-until-it-doesn't-work-anymore arrangement. And with the company's growth, he's likely to have to hire one or two people to work under him, and that's going to mean he needs to be there more. Driving all that way 5 days a week just isn't an option. He'd go crazy, for one thing. And it would bury us in gas costs for another.

So we're faced with the strong likelihood of moving, perhaps sometime next year.

I have so many mixed emotions about moving, I'm finding it very difficult to sort through them. On the one hand, I'd love to live close to my husband's job again. His old job was literally 5 minutes away, and that was such a blessing. Depending on where we found a house, we're also likely to live closer to some of my family, which would also be great.

But my whole life is here. I don't have an outside the home job, so everything is here. Many of my friends, my support system, my resources, my routine - it is all here. I'd be starting over in a way I've never faced before, and truth be told, I'm terrified.

I need to work on letting go of the worry over this, especially because it isn't imminent. We aren't ready to put our house on the market or make this huge change, so I have time. But the planner/overthinker in me wants to know what we're doing, when we're doing it, how it's going to work, etc.

I struggle with leaving tomorrow's worries for tomorrow, but I guess this is one of those times I'm called to stretch myself and grow in virtue a little bit. Even though this one is giving me growing pains.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Random Thanksgiving-ish thoughts, mostly about pie

I'm not hosting Thanksgiving tomorrow, so the brunt of the preparation falls to my mom this year. I did, however, bake pies and cookies today, which kept me in the kitchen for quite some time. A few random thoughts I had as I was preparing for tomorrow's feast.

I like the idea of cooking with my kids more than the reality of cooking with my kids
This dawned on me today as my five year old son was blissfully crumbling butter and flour through his little fingers to help me make pie crust. He and I made a decent enough team, but there really wasn't room for two more sets of hands, as my other two kids caught wind of what we were doing and jostled for positions at the counter. I want them to have fun with me in the kitchen, but when I'm preparing food to take somewhere, all their "help" is not much help at all. I have more baking to do on Friday and I think I'll make an extra bit of pie dough so they can roll and shape it to their little hearts' content - and leave mine alone.

I want to be that really fun, hands on mom that lets them mess up my kitchen and revels in the beauty of the experience, but that is So. Hard.

One Thanksgiving has never been enough
Since I was a kid, I've always had two big dinners Thanksgiving weekend. Thanksgiving day would be spent, alternately, with one of my parents (they were divorced). Friday would be spent at my grandma's house, as she always had a casual, but delicious, Second Thanksgiving. I miss those dinners. Luckily for me, my grandma is still around, but her ability to cook a big meal is not, so it has been years since we've had that dinner at her place. My husband and I took up the tradition though, and we always have a second big turkey dinner on Saturday, usually with a random assortment of friends and family. It is a fair amount of work, but it is always a great time.

I show love by feeding people
I love to feed people good food. Like, I really, really love it. Watching someone enjoy my cooking is so satisfying. I am not a fancy cook, but I can cook some things really well, if I do say so myself. And I make really good desserts. Again, not fancy, but stuff that just melts in your mouth and makes you want to eat nothing else for the rest of your life. Yes, I'm bragging a little. Pies, cakes, cookies - they are my masterpieces. And few things give me such warm fuzzies as watching people ooh and ahh and mmmmmmm over my goodies.

Which is probably why I have a hard time taking criticism for my cooking
My husband is... particular. He likes things a certain way, usually the exact, precise same way as always. Especially when it comes to food. Food is really important to him. If you ask him about our honeymoon, he will to this day, tell you about our trip in terms of where and what we ate. He's not mean or unkind, but he will also tell me when something new I make isn't all that great, or when an old standby isn't what it used to be. He means well - in rather guy-ish fashion, he sees his comments as a help to me, letting me know how something could be better. But I have a hard time not feeling crushed because the approval I so crave wasn't there; the mmm's and oooohs and ahhhhs so glaringly missing.

So I'm a bit nervous about my apple pie
Today I feel like I took a great big step up the ladder of pie making, at least in my family. I made my Grandma Dorothy's apple pie. I love her apple pie. It is so wondrous, so delicious, so tart and sweet and flaky and buttery and perfect. My husband also loves her apple pie and has been bugging me for years to get her recipe. I don't know why I've never attempted it before, but today I called her up and not only did she give me the recipe, she gave me rather detailed instructions as I furiously took notes. I'm excited to try it tomorrow, but I have such enormous shoes to fill, I don't know if my apple pie will ever be as good as hers. She has magic pie hands. I actually think I got my baking gene from her (of course that's a real thing - baking could be genetic), so hopefully my first attempt at the greatest-apple-pie-ever will be a smashing success.

In any case, I know tomorrow will be filled with lots of good food, fully bellies, warmth, love and fun. I'm blessed with a great family and I'm excited for the festivities to come.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Slow Burn: steady as she goes to a slimmer me

I'm joining Calah of Barefoot and Pregnant on a journey toward better health, and hopefully a better waistline. She's doing a series of posts on establishing better habits and making better choices and she's calling it "The Slow Burn."

This hits something that has been on my heart and mind recently as well. Did I say recently? I meant always. Sigh.

I was a skinny teenager who thought I needed to lose weight. I became a not-so-skinny 20-something who wanted to lose weight, and did briefly before I got pregnant for the first time. I lost weight again between my first and second pregnancies, but since then I've been on an up and down cycle of losing a little, but having a couple more babies and never really getting to where I want to be.

Have you ever heard the phrase, "You can't out-train a bad diet"? That's me. I do crossfit anywhere from three to five days a week, which means I have my ass handed to me in the gym on a regular basis. I'm in pretty good shape. I started crossfit almost 7 months ago, and although I've gotten a lot stronger and fitter (which is awesome), I still have this pile of jeans gathering a lot of dust that I can't wear. And it is killing me to work out so hard and not see the results I want.

I just want to fit into my jeans.

Clearly I need to do something different. I need to quit making excuses and exceptions and buckle down to drop some fat. I don't want to be super skinny, I just want to lean down. I don't have a huge amount of weight to lose either, but over the last couple of years I've been spinning my wheels and not losing it, so it is time to make a change.

I read somewhere that "you achieve what you measure," or something to that affect. In that spirit, I think it's important to set some measurable goals for myself. Sooooo... my goals for November are:

  • Go to the gym at least four days a week
    (except next week because they will be closed a couple of days)
  • Avoid sugar (already half way there, so this isn't a huge sacrifice for me - I just need to quit making so many exceptions. Planned splurges will be Thanksgiving (I'm making pie!) and the Saturday after when we do Thanksgiving Take Two (again with the pie).
  • Said splurges will be mindful - enjoying what I love and not stuffing myself beyond belief simply for the sake of stuffing my face
  • Keep a food log of everything I eat. I'm not planning to count calories, that feels to daunting right now (even though I've done it in the past). Writing things down will be my first step, and I'll reevaluate in the next month or so.
Thanks Calah for sharing your journey with us and hopefully your bloggy friends can be a help and a support as we all strive to treat ourselves better!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kids and Creativity

I'm a big fan of the blog Deep Space Sparkle. This lovely blog is run by an elementary school art teacher, Patty. She shares wonderful art projects, including how to's, supply lists and even pictures of the art her students produce. Her love of art and her passion teaching her students is evident, and her art lessons are so much fun and easy to implement, even at home. Love it!

She recently wrote a post about "open ended art" in response to a critique someone wrote about her blog. An art education student wrote a review of her site and in it, this person called her projects "cookie cutter" and said there was a lack of open ended art projects on her site. She wrote a very gracious response to the critique (and not everything this art student had to say about Deep Space Sparkle was negative), but the topic got me thinking as well. Should we be teaching art in a specific way, with a singular end product in mind? Or should we be teaching kids to do art their own way, keeping it open ended so their creativity can flow?

It reminded me of something I read with regard to teaching language arts and writing - I can't recall where I read this particular nugget, but it has stuck with me. Paraphrased, the person said, "We expect children to be creative, but we don't give them anything to be creative with." In this context, they were talking about exposure to great literature and using copywork of great writing to expose kids to how language can be used.

I think the same thing applies to art. We want kids to be creative, but until they've been exposed to the masters, to great paintings, sculpture and other works of art; and until they've been taught how to use watercolors versus acrylics and oil pastels, crayons and colored pencils, how can they really BE creative? Art instruction, both in technique and in art history, gives students the tools to unlock endless possibilities! How else would they know that if you draw with oil pastel and then watercolor over it, the oil pastel will resist the paint? How else would they know how to draw a vanishing point or learn about perspective and form?

I love the idea of creative kids, but without feeding their imaginations with great stuff, they don't have much creative with. Great books, art, music, and even instruction in technique, is all important to unleashing their creativity; giving them tools to be creative with. And then, the sky is the limit.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Losing the family pet

Today we had to say goodbye to our kitty, Gambit.

It is a hard thing, to lose a pet. We got the news two days ago and I was not at all prepared for my kids' reactions. I knew they would be sad, and I knew they would cry. But the depth of their pain was heartwrenching. I told them we were going to have to say goodbye to Gambit, that he was very sick and not going to get better. They begged me to find a way to save him; they suggested taking him to a differet vet, calling a surgeon, calling an ambulance, and finding medicine for him. I had to gently keep explaining that there isn't anything we could do for him; he's just old and he's going to die.

This is my kids' first experience with the death of someone close to them. It hit them so hard. As much as I am going to miss my kitty, walking my kids through this process has been the hardest part. As much as we would love to keep our children from experiencing pain, we can't. And seeing the looks on their faces as they cried and begged me to do something made me want to cry, for them as much for my own sadness. I hate that they have been hurting so much over this.

Gambit was a good cat. He was quirky, but I suppose all cats are. He liked doritos and goldfish crackers. He would dash outside every time someone opened a door, even if we'd just let him in from the pouring rain only minutes before. He refused to drink water from his water dish, preferring to drink from the bathroom faucet, but he would drink any nasty, slimy puddle water outside. In his healthy days, he was a big 17lb dude with bright green eyes and a beautiful black and gray tabby pattern. He was great with my kids, although I don't know if he ever completely forgave us for bringing them into his domain. We used to call him our dragon kitty, and joke that he let us live in his lair.

We'll miss our kitty and I hope the pain in my babies' hearts subsides quickly. It isn't an easy thing to say goodbye to a family pet. Rest in peace, little meow-meow.