My Journey in Pounds

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Churchy Misconceptions

So I've been wanting to blog this whole week and I just now have the energy, mental fortitude, and blank to-do list to do so... Here it goes!

God is still talking to our family and it's exciting to see. More than that, He's speaking to our church.  Or should I say, THE church.  It's incredible!  Specially to see it personally.

Last week Sunday I found "Walking with God" by John Eldredge in my closet and decided to give it a read. I also found old bibles and blank composition books that my children absolutely loved and are using for their personal study, but that's not the point.  I read a few chapters of it. Then I went to church.  And Pastor preached... And everything tied in together!  Not just the book with Pastor's sermon, but my own devotionals and Bible reading/prayer time.  It was the same message!  Even an instagram meme from Lysa TerKeurst that read, "Lord, help me to underwhelm my schedule so You can overwhelm my soul."

You see, I shared last post that I struggled with pulling back from all the church activities I normally enjoyed. And God has been answering. Wanting to lead me gently, not drag me across the pastures like a stubborn mule.  He's speaking to my misconception that a true Christian is a busy Christian.  When in fact, a busy Christian might be an exhausted Christian, who is too busy being busy to be Christ-like, and doesn't look like much of a Christian at all.  In the end, I was convinced last week that I'm more effective when I have the time to listen to God's prompting and do those spur-of-the-moment, on-the-fly things He's impressing upon my heart on a daily basis (listening to that whisper regularly, you know? Making the time to be available to do His will every day, at any time) than when I'm running from one activity to the next, even if they are all churchy things.

And I love church.  Do not get me wrong.  Nor do I undermine anyone in full-time or part-time, paid or unpaid ministry. My point is not to diss them because we need them.  I love and appreciate all the hard work of everyone at my church.  My point is that I had become a mediocre jack of all trades and master of none.  And I was completely missing the point with my family at home and my main ministry as a MOM.  My life was so out of balance I didn't look like a representation of Christ to my children, nor anyone else that saw me clench my teeth as I walked through the doors on a Sunday morning.

Last week Sunday our Pastor preached on communication in the family.  He believes that if the church is ever to be strong, the family unit has to be strong first.  And as he was pouring his heart out, I had this epiphany: What if, what my Pastor needs now more than ever, is families who will actually go home and LIVE out his sermon?  I mean, here he is giving us practical tools for sound biblical application so that our family can communicate openly and honestly.  What if every family in this congregation took these tools in hand quite literally and transformed their household?  And we lived it out in such a way that everyone around our families sees the difference? And God showed up in our homes with power?

I really do believe that this is what our Pastors need more than anything.  They spend a lot of time in prayer preparing a message that God gives them specifically for their congregation.  And I'm sure (although please, correct me if I'm wrong) that what our Pastors dream of more than anything is a church crowd who go home and LIVE God's Word Monday through Saturday more than any number of Sunday morning volunteers who live in defeat the rest of the week.

That's when I realized that I was exactly where my Pastor needed me most, and where my children need me most.

A common misconception is that people who aren't involved in things at church are "pew-warmers".  Nope. Pew-warmers are people who go to church to sit at church for Sunday morning's sake, but aren't receiving or giving anything other than the usual exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen.  But the church is a living organism of many families who live out the love of Christ among their "blood relatives" and their "blood-bought relatives", as my Pastor would put it.  So don't under-estimate coming in with a smile, saying good morning, bringing your children, loving on the people that are there.  Listening and obeying is so much more precious than anything else because then, if you learn to listen to the Spirit, you can volunteer where God wants you and exactly where you'll be the most effective.

I've actually been to church and I've been listening, not just to the sermon, but to the people I interact with.  And God is giving me prayer points!  And I'm learning to intercede in prayer more effectively.  And then at home, during the week, God would bring people from church to mind and prompt me to pray for them - at that moment during the day.  So not being burned out, and not having my schedule full, I felt more connected to my church than I did the previous 3 years of attendance or so!  Because my big confession here is that I had not experienced this before!

I feel like right now I am a more effective church member and a better contributor to my Pastor's mission than I've ever been. Again, he can correct me if I'm mistaken.

And I will always be involved to some degree.  I enjoy being in nursery with the babies now because it's not "another thing on my plate", and I'm sure the kids enjoy me more now too.  And I still attend youth and listen to those kids.  Paul and I spent this Friday night on a boys/girls night out, where Paul hung out with the boys and I hung out with the girls all night (sleep over! YES!).  I was so thankful to God for the opportunity to be a part of that and be a part of their lives.  I love the girls of our youth group.  I will proudly proclaim that we have the best youth group ever!  And I know there's like, 4 generations of youth groups that Paul and I have been involved with since we were youth ourselves, so it's a loaded statement.  But I love these kids.  They are awesome.  And when their out there, changing the world, I'd like to see them on the news or a Facebook report and say, "I painted her nails at a sleep over when she was 16!"

So this week we worked on the family's communication.  And as a result, on Friday - which was the busiest and most stressful day this week - everyone commented on how well behaved my kids were.  And they were behaving great! But we had opened the lines of communication through out the week, their needs were met, and they understood that Mommy needed their cooperation at that time.  There was no passive-aggressiveness. No threats.  No warnings through clenched teeth.  Just clear communication as to how the day was going to go and what I needed.  In return the kids participated in the youth activities and stayed up later than ever, having tons of fun.  It was a win-win for everyone!

And God is still talking...

On Thursday I had a strange dream. I normally don't remember my dreams, but this was distinct - I was in some sort of wild-life conservatory, which had this beautiful - almost Eden-like scenery - but all the animals there were uncaged and unfenced.  Which I thought was strange.  And there was a pack of wolves with wolf pups in this valley.  Then through the grass I saw a lioness - looking like she was ready to pounce on me.  Her stare was so fierce, I froze in fear in my dream.  I saw another lioness and a male lion, all coming towards me - at least I thought, originally, until I realized that they were focused on something past me.  Almost on cue they ran into the wolf den and started devouring the pups, and I was so lost as to what to do.  I woke up and the dream bothered me.  Mostly because I've never associated lions with anything negative before.

Saturday night I told Paul about the dream as we were driving home.  I mentioned that the strangest thing was the open spaces, no fences anywhere in sight, and how I felt completely helpless.  We drove in silence for a bit and then Paul said, "We can't become so complacent in where we are that we stop guarding the things that are under our care."  It brought to mind a book by Beth Moore where she shared a story of a friend who owned a barn, and was neighbors to a wildlife rescue.  One day this friend looked out the window to see a lion devouring one of her favorite mares.  It turns out the fence between the two properties had fallen in disrepair and she didn't notice it.  Beth Moore used this story as an analogy for how sin (or problems, if you will) can come into your life - by not paying attention to the fences!  I found it odd that this book and particularly a lion came to mind, and fences... and I knew that I had to pay attention.

This morning Pastor preached about us being gatekeepers in our family, and how and what to guard in our personal lives as well as our home to keep our family safe.  As there's a projected image of this beautiful gate, and he's preaching on guarding the gates, I look at Paul and whisper, "Fences!"  And he knew exactly what I was talking about.  God had started getting my heart and my mind ready for Sunday since Thursday night, so that I would pay attention today.  I felt like Pastor heard our conversation in the car that Saturday night and answered all our questions.  And yes it took this WHOLE blog for me to make my point that God is still speaking, and He's teaching me to listen.  And that the obedience that follows listening is putting my family and me exactly where we need to be.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Does God speak to the average?

Confession time: I've been wondering if I'm just nuts this whole time.  I mean, I hear from God to stay home and homeschool my kids and get healthy. That's it. It seems so... average.  Why would God bother speaking about something so average? He told Noah to build an ark to save the world from a flood (and if you watched the Russell Crowe version, you can totally get this feeling of, "Really?  Is this really what I'm hearing?! Or am I making this up?), and on that key word, he told Joan of Ark to save the French... So it's human to second guess yourself and your relationship with God when you look around and everyone else seems normal-er than you.

And it has been difficult. Because I know God clearly told me to back off all the church activities that were filling up my calendar. This almost seemed unholy.  But He distinctly told Paul and me that He wants our family to sit through Sunday School (as opposed to teaching), be in the service during worship (as opposed to running sound or visuals), sit through the sermon and be fed, and that's it.  With our family, specifically, to model this for our children.  This is hard for me because anyone that knows me can testify that I love being active in church - sometimes to the point of burn out.  And other than attending the youth services on Wednesday night and doing nursery once a month, we are not doing anything else. Because God specifically told me so.  He made it very clear what I need to put 100% of my effort and energy to.

So I have.  I try to make our home an environment of prayer and worship, where academic failure is an opportunity to ask God for help and try again - nothing more.  We do Bible devotions, we do reading and math, we do a creation-centered science lesson with emphasis on nature and how God ordained things to function. We do social studies on current events in Israel and learning about the Hebrew culture.  I try very hard to control my temper.

And in between all this, I'm fostering a puppy (which I call a homeschooling compassion experience for the children where they can learn to care about something else and be gentle and tender) and I exercise.

With me exercising, I've had people offer more than enough suggestions.  They see me as someone who is trying to get healthy, so here are a myriad of work out programs I should try: P90 or P90X, Jillian Michaels, Turbos, Insanity, Focus25... And God tells me, "Nope."  As clear as He let me know He didn't want me to be a Beach Body Coach at this time.  But I feel God telling me to a) Run (and I hated running as a teenager) b) Lift weights (really?! Ok I guess...) c) stretch it out with yoga.  Pilates and Zumba I do for a "break" and for enjoyment but they are not the focus of what God wants me to do with my body.

And then here is where I go, "Really? Does God speak to something this mundane? I'm not doing drugs or having extramarital sex so why would He really care exactly what work out program I do?!" 

And then for the longest I felt like I had nothing to blog about because... Every day... Same ol' same ol'...

Then yesterday I met with a physical therapist because I was having TMJ symptoms for the past 2 weeks. She is the only physical therapist that works with lock-jaw or mandibular conditions.  She is also the most inspiring woman I've ever met. In the exam room we're just talking about our lives and I find out she's raced in the Iditarod, won marathons, and beat breast cancer.  She has rebuilt her body to ultimate fitness 3 times in her life - even after a season of chemotherapy. I'm inspired.  And she's a doctor.  So I'm listening.  As she gets my medical history, how I got diagnosed for Rheumatoid Arthritis, what I've been doing for exercise and how I manage pain daily, why I stopped working full-time... She speaks life and confirmation into me.  She tells me, "All you need to do is run - I only run 2 to 3 miles, 3 times a week - consistently.  And then some weight training, heavy but slow and controlled movements, building it up gradually.  That way you will burn fat and lose weight, but more importantly, you will build the muscle around your joints and be pain free and active much longer.  I've been able to win marathons for my age group just doing this kind of training after chemo, and none of the joints I've injured during my accidents on the Iditarod have bothered me.  You'll be running a 5K in no time! But don't forget to stretch it all out so you can recover faster between runs."  I had not mentioned to her that I want to run a 5K before snow hits the ground.  I had not mentioned to her that what she was instructing me to do was exactly what God was instructing me to do - nothing more, nothing less. Then she fixed my jaw, which was the reason I went in the first place.  But it was one of those moments where God was showing me, "Yes! I am speaking to you. It seems mundane.  But I care about you, and nothing is mundane or average in My hands."

*Insert Holy Ghost Happy Dance Here*

Then today, it feels like all the Bible/praying/worshiping finally poured into our home with results.  Our family Bible Study this week was on certain disciplines that believers should have: 1) Fasting.  I taught the kids what it means and how to do it.  They practiced it on the short term; Brielle said she would go to her room and pray whenever her brothers were eating chocolate.  Anakin said he would pray and read the Bible instead of playing with legos during free-time.  And Caleb said he would fast the Xbox - and this week he has not played on it.  The kids have seen me fast my morning cup of coffee and have Jasmine tea instead. 2) Meditation.  Teaching them to think about what they think about.  Learning how David meditated on God's Word and wrote songs about it.  Going deeper than just reading the Bible but thinking about it until it changes your point of view and your way of life.  The kids said they want to learn more about this. 3) Bible Study: Focusing on learning what God's Word says and learning who God is and, consequently, who we are.

Now up until this point I will add that I know a lot of church-attending adults who have not mastered these skills, and as a woman in my 30s that has been saved half my life now, I'm still working on it.  So up until now I didn't know how all of these concepts were going to apply to my 4, 6, and 8 year old.  But I know that at the very least, they would see this as a family tradition, that "this is how we roll", and I was hoping that when they're older they would understand.

I had no idea how much they understood right now until today.

I ask them, "What are the benefits of studying God's Word?"

Brielle: That's how it spreads.  When you learn God's Word, then you can share it with others who don't hear it, and more people learn about God.

Anakin: Yeah, like for example, Phillip.  In Acts, he walked next to an Egyptian who was trying to read from Isaiah but he understand it. This is what he was reading *flips to the appropriate text in Isaiah and reads that whole chapter* - but Phillip was ready to answer the Egyptian, because like 1 Peter 3:15 says, "Always be ready to give an answer for the hope you have in Christ Jesus."  Phillip had studied God's Word, and he knew that Isaiah was prophesying about Jesus, so he shared the gospel with the Egyptian and the Egyptian got baptized right there on the spot!  And you know what? That Egyptian probably went home and shared the gospel with his family and friends too!

Brielle: Yeah, and by the way, reading the Bible is the only way you get faith. Because it says it in Romans I think? I can't remember exactly where it but says that faith comes by hearing the message of Christ, and we can't expect people to have faith in Christ if they've never heard it.  So our faith grows when we study the Bible and we can help build other people's faith with what we've studied.

*Insert jaw dropping*

Anakin: And it also helps us do the right thing. It's like it says in James. *turns to James chapter 1*. I think it's verse 5 *reads verse 5* Wow that's a good one! That's not the one I was thinking of, but give me a minute I'm going to highlight it. It reminds me that God can give me wisdom just by asking, and He won't be mean to me about it... but hold on, that's not the one I was looking for. *skims through*, here it is! Verse 24 and 25 *reads from verse 23 to about 25* studying God's Word helps us to put it to practice so we can be doers of the Word, and not just people who hear it.

Caleb: And reading the Bible we'll learn to be nicer to each other.

Brielle: Like Jonathan was to David, or Ruth was to Naomi... those are my favorite Bible stories so far, because they show each other kindness. Or how David knows NOT to kill Saul, even though he could, but because David knew God he made a good choice...

Caleb: Can we pray now? I wanna pray first.

And then they prayed. They prayed that God would cover the Christians in Iraq with a cloud by day and fire by night so that the Muslims (ISIS) cannot find them and hunt them down in the wilderness, and that God would pour water from the rock for them, and that they would find shelter and freedom.  And for God to continue helping Israel. Unprompted.

In fact, up until this point I have not opened my mouth at all.

What are they doing now? I am not making this up: They have called their friends over - there are about 2 boys, one of them I don't know - and they are talking about their favorite Bible verses and teaching these boys to highlight the verses in their Bible. Caleb is writing all over himself.  Brielle is asking these older boys to help her read these verses.  I'm blogging in tears.

Does God speak in the average? In the mundane? To the stay at home moms, or the families who don't have ministry titles or important jobs within the church?  Who do "nothing but stay home all day"?

Yes. Yes! Hallelujah YES!

Now I have to go get ready for work.  And I need to introduce myself to this crowd of kids sitting on my porch with their bikes all over our parking lot.  But wow. Yes! YES!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's Taking All of Me

I was a little panicky with the homeschooling this school year at first.  I didn't think I'd have enough time, or that I'd be able to meet everyone's needs.  But now I feel much more at ease about it.

For one thing, I'm no longer feeling the pressure of falling behind. The kids catch on so quickly I can leave a lot of independent, self-directed tasks on their "to-do" list.  I alternate between Brielle and Anakin. Poor Caleb, wants to participate, I just don't have anything for him so I try to give him some measure of Brielle's work - he definitely participates in stories, art, Bible, and I know he can do math. I didn't have the funds to get curriculum for him out of pocket and he's too young per the public school system to get anything from the charter school. So anything that he does I have to get from and ask Paul to print it or figure it out manually.  But he's already made it clear that he feels left out because I don't sit with him to work on math problems like I do with the older two.

He even sat in on a live demo of the lunar phases and he got it! He has a basic concept of the moon going around the sun, going from a full moon to a new moon (where it's dark and you can't see it), every month.  He drew it for me.

And last year, he hated "school work". He wanted to play with legos or play-doh all day. He really wanted to play on the xbox or his DS all day. He would huff and puff if I gave him a worksheet or told him we were going to read a story together.  Somewhere I must've hit a switch....

If anything, it's probably his sibling's excitement.  Brielle was not excited about homeschooling until she saw all the books she's going to read, and how she's going to learn to play the recorder, and it made her happier.  Part of her hesitation too is that she wasn't a very fluent reader. But then again, she is just now entering 1st grade.  I don't think she's expected to read at all yet - so she's ahead of the curve.  With that in mind, we just breeze through it, I help her with the words she doesn't quite know, and it's no pressure.  So she's enjoying this more because she finds she can read a lot more words and isn't afraid of the task.  Same thing with spelling.

Icing on the cake: Brielle will start dance lessons, Lord willing, end of August. Once a week.  So the thought of her in a tutu in front of a mirror has her ecstatic.  She'll do anything at home for dance lessons!

Anakin was excited about the books too, and he's learning a lot.  He's making spyrographs out of the time tables. He's learning a little bit of Hebrew and the Hebrew alphabet.  He is reading some pretty amazing books, and he is understanding a bit more how the universe works.

What absolutely has me in love with this process is how... wholesome the material is.  I feel like it's restoring a bit of the innocence and the child-like wonder in our home. It's older stories and folk tales with morals, that get your imagination going... with a little bit of magic and fairy tale creatures but still wholesome.  Stories about heroes, about courage, about facing difficult odds and overcoming them.  It's bringing back some of my innocence!  Making my heart softer.

And I need a softer heart.  You read one news report online and your heart just gets more and more callous.  I enjoy reading stories to my children, albeit fictional, that paint beautiful images in our heads.  Specially with all that's going on in the world today.

In a world where, just on the other side, children are beheaded because their families are Christian, I just feel so thankful and blessed to be home with my 3, teaching them to the best of my ability.  Not just basic math, reading, science and social studies.  Not just our Biblical world view.  But teaching them to hunger for information and find the answers themselves, to be responsible for their own growth.  And I'm so thankful for the peace to do so - that we can take the time (all day, if need be), just seeking out these answers.  As I pray, I am aware I have this blessing for a purpose - and it weighs heavy on me - because NOW is the time that God has ordained in my family for them to know the Lord, and know His Word, and build their character.  It feels like it's my one mission, and it's of utmost importance.  Nothing else right now matters.

I don't know what our home life will look like next year or 2 years from now.  I don't know at this moment if I'll ever send the kids back to public school and move on to anything else. I don't know if I'll ever get a college degree or a career.  I don't know if I'll ever have a ministry at church.  I just know that right now, what I'm doing at home is the most important thing I could be doing right now.  It is requiring all of my praying, all of my focus, all of my creativity, and all of my energy.

And my exercising and getting healthy matters here too.  I realize the kids are learning discipline from me. They see that I do what needs to get done without being told to and it matters to them.  It helps me keep up with them.  It inspires them to put in 100% of their effort into whatever they are doing. 

It's been suggested that I write a book about my experience with the kiddos... and though my Facebook is loaded with stories that could definitely fill a book, I don't think I have yet the material to write.  It feels like the book is coming - through out this year, I have a certain level of anticipation on how this whole process is going to affect our family.  It has already drastically changed the environment in our home, so much so, that it's my favorite place to be.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Eating, the larger half of the equation

I confess here is my weakness. Because I love to eat. I could totally qualify for a T-Shirt that says, "I run so I can eat more".  I love tasting food.

And I'm a carb-aholic.  Seriously, I can eat a bowl of rice (serving size is half a cup!). With bread and butter on the side. I don't need chocolate or donuts, but I can't say no to carbs.

Or at least, I couldn't. I've learned to budget my eating better.

Enter "My Fitness Pal". I've used it to log everything I eat.  And when in doubt, I measure everything I put on my plate by tablespoons, half cups, or full cups.  Or slices. I try to be as accurate as possible.

The truth is, we all only burn a number of calories a day.  We only need to eat a certain amount to keep our bodies operating.  The more we move, the more we need.  Food is fuel, much like gas to our gas cans.  However, I think the largest contributor to me being overweight and undernourished was that I wasn't operating with calories as if on a "cash only" basis; I was eating on credit.

We all love spending on credit. It's not very wise, but it helps us to spend money we haven't earned on things we desire right that moment, and then we worry about paying it off in the future.  Or we act like there's no limit and until the card says, "No!", we assume it's ok to keep going.  Being someone who at times has a hard time budgeting her finances, that's also how I ATE.

I never counted calories or thought about what I ate. I ate what I wanted when I wanted.  And when I felt like I ate too much, I just said, "Oh well. I'll just eat a little less tomorrow".  Unfortunately, eating with the same mentality as spending on credit means just as we'll get weighed down with debt that may take YEARS to pay off, we'll get weighed down with FAT and health issues that will take us just as long to slim down from.

I'm also a recovering emotional eater.  I felt a false sense of control being able to eat whatever, whenever, when it felt like the rest of my life was spinning out of control.

So after 21 Day Fix where I measured all my food, I was a little cranky. Four ounces of rice for the day as the only amount of carbs I was to have made me feel like I was rejecting my Hispanic identity.  We fill half our large plates with rice.  The other half with black beans. Top it off with shredded beef on top (about the size of a third of the plate) and some fried plantains (cuz we need our veggies!).  That was a meal!  Then we all seemed disappointed that a relative developed heart disease or diabetes somehow...

After the 21 Day Fix I just ate whatever I wanted.  But I logged it. So I put as much rice as I wanted into a measuring cup and then onto my plate.  As well as with everything else I ate.  This is when it hit me hard: I was habitually eating much more than my body was using.  And it was all sitting on my hips and on my joints.

The problem with eating like this is not just your waist size; it's the sluggishness, the caffeine addiction just to function from the food coma you want to go into mid-afternoon, the lack of strength or endurance, the irritability, the feeling like you may actually kill someone for a chocolate bar. All a very mental/emotional/physical unhealthy way to live. And very ungodly, I dare say.  I needed a coke more than I needed prayer or Jesus because Christianity, peace, faith, love, perseverance, and faithfulness went out the window if I wasn't meeting the demands of the sugar withdrawal.  It really put into perspective the phrase "their idols are their stomach"...

And the thing is, this is AFTER 21 Day Fix. This is AFTER starting my weight loss journey. And it's not that I was rebelling against the system, I just needed the eye opener to see how I got to this point in the first place.  And to see how that scale wasn't going to show me 20 lbs lighter in 2 weeks of working out.  And I desperately needed to see how every excruciating work out was completely useless if I didn't eat to support my body.

So I set up my caloric intake goal to be my BMR rate, and then I decided to spend each day like cash.  I don't get to roll-over calories to the next day either.  And I budget my day with the meals I want to eat.  It may be that I really want pancakes for breakfast. Which means I may have a grilled chicken salad for lunch and no rice with dinner.  I exercise to expand my daily allowance and I get to eat more through out the day.

It's not as miserable as it sounds either.  I've learned portion control - I can taste how good the rice is with only a half-cup serving. Really.  I realize I want to fill as much of my calories with as many healthy options as I can so that it's worth my meal and I am NOT HUNGRY. I can eat a donut in the morning, 1000 calories, and starve the whole day.  Or I can have fruit and yogurt in the morning, crackers for snack, salad for lunch, and a cup of coffee with milk for about that same amount of calories... and I've eaten about every 3 hours, and I'm not going hungry at all.  It's all about getting "the most bang for your buck".  I can eat to my heart's content when it comes to fruit and vegetables, and eat more often.  Once I mastered this - condemnation free and with JOY - I really saw the weight start to come off.

Eating this way makes me feel more active, I have more energy, I have a much better attitude too.  The kids enjoy my presence more.  I've managed the rheumatoid arthritis with minimum medication and I'm rarely achy.

And I feel less GUILTY. Less DEFEATED.  Because I don't deny myself of anything. I can take a piece of cheesecake or a pizza on Sunday.  Specially if I plan for these treats and eat real light my meals before and after.  Or even if I splurge and I go over my calorie budget one day, it's not a routine or a habit.  And I feel more control over my health and my appetite than I ever have before.  We have a group of friends that plan for "cheat days".  Mainly after church service.  We know what we want to cheat on.  We know we're going to walk 4 miles after the cheat. We also know that we're not going to eat that way all through out the week.  It makes food much more enjoyable when you are in control and not your cravings or your moods.

So this is what my diet, overall for the week, looks like:

And this is what my weight loss progression looks like:

As you can see, it's not a straight slope, and it won't be. But I don't worry too much about the number on the scale because I know I'm making the right choices to get myself there eventually.  I didn't gain 30+ lbs in less than a year, I may not lose it in less than a year either.  But progress is progress!  Wearing skinny jeans on my period is progress.  Running 5 consecutive minutes is progress.  Feeling full on a smaller, healthier meal is progress.  Turning away from the cookies because I didn't feel like it today is progress.  Victory!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Homeschooling Perks

I've taken the time to slow down and enjoy this homeschooling, stay-at-home Mom thing.  I can't say that was always the case; I always had the nagging feeling that "I'm a modern woman in the 21st century... I should be DOING more!"  And in that sense I belittled other stay-at-home Moms.  Truth is, I don't personally know any other Moms who just stay at home and raise their children.  They are "stay at home moms" who are getting college degrees, or work part-time, or run a business from home, so it seemed to me that staying home and raising children was not enough.  And in that regard I was frustrated that I couldn't DO more.  Everything other than homeschooling and my health has been put on hold, so to speak.

Even though I work retail part-time, I even cut that down drastically so I could have more energy for my duties around the home.

When I was doing around four shifts a week, I was physically tired the next day, had no time or energy to plan lessons, so the end result is that during break the kids got a lot of TV time.  Keeping them entertained without the use of electronics takes mental fortitude, let alone teaching them.  But now that my job load has lightened up I decided to start getting the kids back to a homeschooling schedule today.

They don't really need to start their lessons 'till mid-August.  But Anakin was already half way through one of his books for the year, "Charlotte's Web", and I figured that if I just started now - even though the whole family is not fully in the swing of things and we're moving really slow at it - it would be a lot easier once we "get serious about it".

So the first perk I have to share is staying in PJs.  Having "circle time" in pjs, where the kids and I begin our day with a Bible devotional while I get breakfast together and enjoy a cup of coffee... It doesn't get better than that.  In the curriculum from Oak Meadow, they start each morning with circle time, which involves a poem or rhyme, usually reflected as a prayer or positive for thought for the day.  I insert my own Bible devotionals because... I can.  2nd perk of being a homeschooling mom for me.  I've been using material from Focus on the Family or LifeChurch Kids for the whole family, usually based on a topic that I then have the kids discuss calmly over breakfast. 

Then I do my work-out (or go for a run) while the kids have those 30-45 minutes to do their chores.  Perk #3 - I don't have to clean up after my kids.  It's not excessive and you'd be surprised at all they can do. Caleb, my 4 year old, can sort his own dirty laundry, fold and put away his clean laundry, pick up his toys and organize the shoes in the closet.  The older two also clean up their rooms and sort their laundry (I make them give me what they need me to wash for the week.  It's their job to make sure they have clean socks, underwear, etc.  They need to tell me when they're running low.  If they want to wear something for Church, they need to give it to me so it's clean for Sunday. I do not sort through their dirty laundry!).  They all help me with the pets (taking the dog outside and cleaning up after him, feeding dogs and cats, scooping the litter box) and the older two help me with vacuuming and sweeping.  The kitchen and bathroom are all mine, and I usually sweep after the kids if I want to mop the floor.  But this help, even if it's not perfect, goes a long way to maintaining my mental sanity.

After the chores, we do a block (about an hour or less of a lesson subject), a break (30 minutes of free time, not for any electronic devices, but for legos, art, playing outside, pretend play - whatever they want), another block, lunch, last block and a snack.  Except this week, starting out, the kids are having "writer's block" so to speak, and a hard time staying in their seat and focusing on their assignment (specially when the other sibling is doing something else, because I have to plan something for my 8 year old, my 6 year old, and my 4 year old), so we did a total of 2 blocks today instead of 3.  I didn't rush them to finish their work or focus, I didn't force the whole curriculum for the day in there.  Today all we had time to do was read the story of Job from the Bible and do artwork on it, and work on some language arts.  Anakin did a book report on Charlotte's Web and Brielle and I read "The Magic Spindle" to Caleb - where Brielle had a writing assignment on what she read and Caleb focused on the letter "A".

I guess the fourth perk in all this is seeing the light-bulb come on in their heads; I'm constantly surprised by the connections and associations they make!  For example, Caleb had a blank sheet of paper where I asked him to write an upper case and lower case A, then draw pictures of words that start with an A.  He drew his brother Anakin (and wrote his name), "acting" on a stage (and wrote the word "act"), with an apple and an alligator.  While he's thinking of what words to use, he's going, "Cow? No that starts with a C. Cat? No, that has an 'a' sound in it, but it starts with a C."  He's not 5 years old yet, but I'm pretty sure he'll be an early reader.

Brielle did something today that about blew my socks off.  Before she went to bed, she pulled out her Bible story book and read tomorrow's story.  When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "I'm working on sounding out all the words I'm going to read tomorrow.  That way, when we have circle time tomorrow, I can read it more smoothly."  That was all her own initiative.  That's an independent learner!  I know that in the future, if she takes that approach to college, she'll be golden!  Most high school students would groan if they are asked to read ahead in their text books and come prepared for the lesson the next day. 

Anakin mentioned during our study on how faith gives us peace, that his faith has grown even recently, because he said he was silently and secretly praying to go to the zoo.  He didn't want to share that prayer request out loud because it didn't seem as important as praying for Israel or asking God for our protection, but when he was in bed, he'd silently tell God that he hoped we would have enough money to take the kids to the zoo because he loves animals and wanted to learn more about the animals in Alaska's habitat.  I did not know this at all when I suggested to my husband last Saturday, spur of the moment, for us to take the kids to the zoo to celebrate the zoo's 45th birthday.  But God knew, and He's working in all of our hearts and lives to build our faith - in the mundane, average, every day things.  And Anakin is learning to have a relationship with God, and he's encouraging his siblings to talk to God about everything because ... you can!

I love these moments! I don't want to miss them.  These are my perks, the reason why I can live with doing nothing more than homeschooling my kids and staying home with them.  And I've learned to be ok with not doing more because I feel that doing this - to the absolute best of my ability and with utmost excellence - is the most important purpose of my life.  If this is what I'm going to do, then I cannot screw it up or half-ass it, I have to give it my all and do it well.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Beginner's Exercise on a Budget

I have to share a little bit more about my journey before this blog in order to be completely transparent with you.

I started in March using Beach Body's "21 Day Fix". Which is an awesome first step to start! It cost about $140 and I got a bag of Shakeology and the DVDs and a whole bunch of color-coded containers and the guide.  Then my coach gifted me 3 lb weights. Then I went and bought 8 lb weights too.

I like it! You work out every day for 30 minutes. You can modify the intensity as needed depending on where you are physically. And you eat according to the plan, which limits your carbs and has you consume them earlier in the day (none after 5pm!).  And you eat a lot, because when you calculate your calories and all the containers you're supposed to eat through out the day, you are eating every 2 hours.  But the guide helps you plan your day, even if you "cheat", so that you stay on target for the most fat-burning you can get for your buck.

I did 3 rounds with a week "break" in between where I stayed active but did whatever I wanted.  And then I was done with it. Not because it was bad (I can never get used to surrenders! It still hurts!), but I felt ready to try something different.  For one thing, the snow had melted and the roads were clear and for the first time in MY LIFE I wanted to run.  And I love Zumba.  And I had the Kinnect Nike Training game I wanted to try. And a few apps on my phone... and I felt like I couldn't DO all of it + 21 Day Fix.  I also didn't want to continue eating like the program suggests because it was time consuming; plan and prep meals the day before. Eat. Clean up. Prep. Eat. Clean up. 6 repetitions of that. Doesn't quite work with homeschooling kids. Although I did learn what an appropriate portion of rice should look like and what my plate should look like.

So if you are brand, spankin' new to fitness and have upfront $160 or so to invest in changing your life, I'd say go for 21 Day Fix (as opposed to something like T25 or P90X because that would be highly intimidating and discouraging).  I don't regret the investment and on my off-days from running, I'll do Pilates, or Upper Body, or Yoga from that work-out program - after my Zumba fix, of course!

But I'm presenting option B if you need to start from ground 0, don't have a dime in your pocket, to build you up to working out 30 minutes a day - and from March until now, I can say I work out about an hour a day, and before March I did not work out AT ALL.

** Apps by Runtastic**
Under the assusmption that you have a smart phone and some sort of wifi or data connection, these apps are amazing to start with.  The free versions are best for beginners, and I recommend the pedometer if you're walking, Runtastic for running, Six Pack by Runtastic for a core workout, and Push-up trainer.  They all link with MyFitnessPal.  And if you want to advance past a beginner stage with this app, you can purchase the pro version of the app for only about $1.99 each (cheaper than a Starbucks cup of coffee!) and keep building up.
- The Pedometer and Runtastic do not have built in "training".  And in the free version you can only do one activity with each app a day.  But Runtastic has interval training and story mode training which are fun - now that I have the Pro version, I honestly don't know what all comes in the free one.  Interval training is where I began running, because even on a "low impact" training, you can reasonably start there: 25 minute work out. Walk 10 minutes. Alternate jogging one minute with walking one minute. End with a 5 minute walking cool-down.  You can do that. Anyone not wheelchair bound can do that.  It's a good place to start pushing yourself - you can jog for a minute straight! It may not be fast. It may not be pretty.  But you can!  That's where I started with arthritic knees when I was NOT a runner, and the most I ran was the mandatory presidential fitness test my sophomore year in High school, where I barely scratched a 16 minute mile. If I started there in March of this year, and today I'm running 3 minute and 5 minute intervals at a time, you can totally start there too.
- The Push Up trainer will take you from doing 0 push ups at a time to doing 20 consecutive push ups. Confession: I do all my push ups on my knees. My planks too. My wrists cannot support my weight on my toes.  It starts you off with a handful of push ups, then a minute-and-a-half rest, then another handful.  After about 20 sessions (usually spaced every other day), you should be able to do 20 consecutive push ups. It counts your reps too; you put the phone under your face, and touch the screen with your nose. Along comes my dog and taps at the screen, or the cat walks over it, and then I have to do those push ups during my "rest time", but it counts for you.  If you get the Sit Up trainer, it works the same way - it counts your full sit ups by the movement of the phone as you hold it against your chest when you go up to your knees.
- Six Pack varies your core work outs. But it starts at a beginning level. Still counts your reps using sensor control.  But it's totally do-able. You can even add 30 seconds to your breaks if you're still winded, or skip seconds in your breaks if you are ready for the next set.  And you can choose bonus extra work outs or not.

** Couch to 5 K **
Running is such a good, cheap, easily available whole body exercise.  You spend money on a good pair of running shoes, which is a must to start. I got my cross-trainers on for $26 something and I'm due for a new pair, but they're still holding up.  But if you can head outside, you can run.  I run rain or sunshine.  In Alaska, as long as I am not in danger of slipping and breaking a bone, I run.  And that's why I love this app.

It does exactly what it advertises it'll do.  For free.

You'll start out with a 5 minute warm up, jog 1 minute, walk 90 seconds, and cool down for 5 minutes, for a total of 30 minutes. 3 times a week.  Every week it increases intensity.  You can stay on the same week until you master it.  Just plug in headphones, walk when it tells you to walk, jog/run when it tells you to run.  I'm still amazed that I jogged for 5 consecutive minutes - I've never ran that long in my life! But I've been using this app specifically since the end of June.  If you push yourself to do what the app tells you to do, you will run a 5K straight (3.2 miles or so?) at the end of 8 weeks. Everyone has to start somewhere.  The point is, you can start. Right now.

** Yoga **
As much as I don't practice the spiritual concepts in Yoga, stretching is soooooo crucial to your recovery that I've accepted I can't do without.  I can tell you first hand there is a world of difference (usually distinguished by PAIN and CRAMPING) when I do yoga in between my runs and when I don't.  So I downloaded this app, and I'm pretty happy with it. I can choose a "workout" based on purpose, duration, or level of expertise. It talks me through it, there's a video to show me what the pose looks like, it also shows me what muscles it works on.  If the thought of going to a class intimidates you (financially, emotionally, or spiritually), the app is a good alternative to ease into it.  Provided that you do things within reason and don't hurt yourself trying to bend in a way your body has never bent before.

Yoga is also a light, compact, any time work out because even just 15 minutes can have tremendous results.  And you DO sweat.  It's more than just trying to reach your toes, some poses engage your thighs and your abs, makes you work out your core and get stronger, while getting a little bit more flexible at the same time. In a slow, steady, do what you can, no pressure way.

I've never been flexible.  And personally I've never cared if I can do a split or touch my toes. But when my joints hurt, downward facing dog cracks every joint, lengthens my muscles, reduces inflammation, clears the circulation to my feet, invites the dog to lick my face and the cat to sit on my head, and overall improves my day.  Breathe, stretch, Namaste! (which is simply Indian for "thank you", in essence).

I know there are people who are somewhat iffy about yoga as they would be about martial arts because it originates in a culture very different to Judeo-Christianity and sometimes has the implication of being "pagan".  I'm no theologist so I'll just let that go.  I look at it this way:  The pose is called "downward facing dog". It looks just like what my dog, Sherlock, does when he gets up from a nap and stretches his back. It gives me a mental image of what my stretching should look/feel like. I do not worship my dog when I do the pose.  Plain and simple. I will not get into a more theological conversation than that.

Of course, all of this needs to be combined with a healthier way of eating. I'll cover my thoughts on that some other time.  But I think with this here the most unathletic, beginner person can start moving.  You don't have to do all the workout apps on the same day - you can do them all 3 times a week, or alternate running with strength training for 5 days a week, or alternate running with strength training every day and work out 7 days a week.  You can do some in the morning and some at night.  Whatever works for you, make an appointment with yourself, and get it done!  Even simple goals like, "I'm not watching my favorite TV show until I've done my push ups" can go a LONG way.  Or do your sit ups during the commercials of your favorite show.  If you have the time to watch a favorite show, you have the time to invest in your health and your body - and YOU are so necessary!  I cannot over-emphasize how much YOU are needed.  So take care of YOU!