Monday, March 31, 2014

On the fence...

Today was a lovely spring day.  At fifty seven degrees with full sun it was almost downright hot.  My neighbors probably think I'm a weirdo but at one point I was laying on the pavers just soaking up the sun heat...long sleeve shirt and pants of course but it got me excited for summer. Then I had to go in to make dinner.  But the kids were all outside and since our bug count right now is one (some freak early mosquito someone killed on the sink), I left the back door open.  I was chopping cooked chicken when I heard Cheetah  squealing, "doggie, doggie".  Marilyn the dog was barking a lot.  I decided to peak out the door to see what was causing the commotion.  At the top of the 3 1/2 foot chain link fence separating our houses I saw Cheetah getting ready to throw her leg over to climb down into Marilyn's yard and Marilyn jauntily barking to welcome her. "Cheetah, put that leg down and crawl back down into our yard THIS MINUTE!" I yelled from the porch.  "Ok momma," she sweetly replied as she quickly scaled back down.  Guess our fenced in back yard isn't quite the barrier I thought it was.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jury Duty on a Murder Trial

A few months ago I got called in to jury duty.  To say I was stressed about it would be an understatement.  Living away from your family while raising small children stinks.  Sure you have friends who you can sometimes rely on or you can pay babysitters when you can get them but child care when you don't have parents around, especially inconveniently timed child care becomes a real hassle.  I have a friend who is going out of town for ten days and she was telling me that in order to replace her (the stay at home mom) they had to get five people to do various parts of her job.  I believe her.  As a stay at home mom your whole life is devoted to running your kids around.  Everyone else have other things they have to do and trying to fit your kids into their lives is not always easy.  For example, in order to serve on Jury duty I would need to be downtown by 8:00 am.  So I would need someone who could come to my house to get my kids up and out of bed so they would catch their 8:20 bus because I would be leaving at 7:30 and Dr. J is long gone by 6:30.  I would need someone to then drive Peach to preschool.  Then I would need someone who could watch Cheetah for two hours.  Someone then has to pick Peach up and bring her home.  Then someone needs to watch Peach and Cheetah, and be home for the kids when they got off the bus at 4:20 to let them in, start dinner, and get them started on homework and then stay until Dr. J finally pulled in hopefully by seven.  Friends who have other kids and other obligations can't just be running around doing all your chores.  Babysitters either have day jobs or school or and the ones that are in school usually don't drive making them not the ideal choice.  Dr. J getting off work so I could do jury duty was not an option.  Only family do you feel comfortable inconveniencing to this degree and family is something I'm seriously lacking here.  I tried to figure out a schedule of friends that could do various parts of my job while they were doing their own thing but I just could not get it figured out.  Finally I called the jury office in sort of a panic.  "OH," they tell me, "We can schedule it anytime within the year."  And so that is how I ended up with jury duty during spring break, also known as the only time in four months my husband had off.  Originally I was hoping to go home and see my sister bless her baby or do a short trip with the kids, but civic duty called and there was no other time in the next year I could do it with Dr. J's help.

Monday I had to go in for my first day.  I was positive I wouldn't get called in.  I pointed out on my form that my brother in law had been in jail as well as my step father.  I mentioned my uncle that was a corrections office.  I actually put on the back, "I don't want to be here.  My kids are home on spring break.  This probably doesn't make me impartial, it just exacerbates the general bad attitude I already harbor."  I sat in a room with a bunch of other potential jurors  They split us into two groups of fifty and walked us over to a courthouse.  The bailiff called off fourteen names.  "Please go sit in the juror seats," she instructed.  I got a numb feeling when I entered the room.  Sitting right across from us was a baby faced young man in a button down shirt and tie.  "We are hear to pick a jury for a murder case," the judge instructed us.  If you are chosen you will be here for the next three days.  If not we need you to report back to the jury pool until all the juries are filled for the day.  Both lawyers walked back and forth asking us questions.  At one point one of the attorney's said.  "I notice that you have a family member who was a victim of a crime.  Do you think that will affect your ability to be impartial?"  "Well I don't think so," I say, "but obviously is there any way really for me to know that for sure?"  They asked us a few more questions and then went back to their tables to write down their picks and their strikes.  The bailiff took the papers up to the judge and then she announced, "If I read your name please go back to the jury room.  If not please report back to the jury pool."  And like that I found myself as a juror on a murder case.

It was, to be honest, one of the worst experiences of my life.  At times it was tedious and boring.  I submit for example watching a fingerprint expert look over 57 cards of evidence to tell us they were all her work and had not been altered, to hear that she had worked on this case exclusively for six months, and then to realize the fingerprints didn't mean a single thing to the case.  At some points it was informative.  When the ballistics expert explained how a bullet works, I actually learned something new.  It was taxing.  For hours each day I took meticulous notes while listening to testimony and in the end my checks hurt with effort of holding my face so long in a blank look.  It was annoying being trapped in a jury room during breaks and meals with one of the most obnoxious, inappropriate people I've ever met in my entire life.  During times when I feared I would lose it and throttle her there was an older gentleman that would give me a little wink and a turn of his head and he always calmed me down but she was extremely grating.  After the trial one of the other jurors caught up to me on the street and asked if I'd have wanted this young lady on a jury deciding my fate.  The answer was a resounding no, but in the end it didn't mater because we came up with a unanimous vote.  It was heart wrenching to be faced down each day by both the victim and the defendant's families, both in states of agony.  It was frustrating to watch the almost limitless resources of the state in comparison to the poor showing of the defense and it was frustrating to be forced to swallow what to me just felt like overcharging.  Murder was not enough but we also had to decide on a robbery charge and a felony murder charge, both of which I never felt good about but was forced to concede to my other jurors because it was just an inkling of doubt not enough to be classified as reasonable doubt.  It was alienating to be placed with this burden and to not be able to discuss the case or the possible outcomes or my decisions with my husband, the sounding board I usually utilize when making any big life decisions.  There was security video of the incident and it was horrifying to be forced to repeatedly watch the death of a young man and the undoing of the lives of three more young men.  It was misery to see the victims brother break down in the witness box and to walk out minutes later, running in to him still upset in the hallway and to not be able to say anything.  It was a little fearful.  We were deciding the fate of a young man who had killed someone with a gun and everyday we had to walk right past his family and friends including after we delivered our verdict.  

In the end we were forced to give guilty pleas on all three counts.  At least in talk the rest of the jurors didn't seemed to be too bothered by it.  Multiple jurors said, "You make bad choices and you have to suffer the consequences."  But inside my heart hurt with those guilty convictions.  Over a 1/2 ounce of weed a group of people got into an altercation.  One lost his life to death.  If the two other juries find the way we did and it's hard to imagine they won't because there is a video of the act, three more will lose their whole lives to prison.  To be honest if those were my options I would rather be dead.  There is a logical part of my brain that knows those young men made wrong decisions that led them to where they are now but there is another part that says to me that some people are raised in an environment that makes bad choices a lot more likely and that sending a barely twenty year old to jail for the rest of his entire life doesn't just say that we want to punish you but it also says that there is nothing of value that you can possible have.  How is that possible?  We aren't talking about someone who kidnapped and raped small children, or tortured a multitude of people.  We aren't talking about a Charles Manson or a Ted Bundy, someone completely full of evil.  We are talking about someone who made some wrong choices, many of which were driven by being a part of our society that doesn't follow the same rules the rest of us do, who got themselves in an altercation and now has no hope, no chance, no future ever.  He will never leave prison again.  He will never not be surrounded by violence and coldness and misery.  He is twenty years old.  It could be the next twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years we are talking about.  I watched his teenage sister break down with the verdict and start sucking her thumb.  I was forced to walk past his wailing mother as I left the court house.  I know it wasn't my fault, and I know that there are some people that feel like that was the fate he deserved, obviously the prosecutors, but to be part of that judgement damaged something deep inside me.  

I will never sit on a jury again.  I will absolutely refuse.  If ever asked again I will tell the lawyer about this case and then I will flatly refuse to ever be asked to bear the burden of judging anyone again.  I will tell them feel free to put me on a jury if you want but I will hang it because I do not ever want to feel this darkness again.  I remember hearing a story after the 10 Amish girls were shot by the milk man who then killed himself, five who died about how their parents forgave him and ministered to his family.  It put me back a little.  How could they do that, I thought.  He was a murderer.  He took something so precious from them.  I now realize that the burden of being asked to hold that hate and that judgement is too much.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not some anarchist who thinks that people should never be punished for crimes or be separated out from the rest of the population if they pose a danger.  I don't care to live in a world of complete chaos.  But the idea of throwing someone away for the rest of their lives, of putting them in a prison system that to be honest I consider inhumane, it is painful to me.  We are a prison nation.  We have a judicial system that in my opinion is barely functional.  I can't see an alternative at this point but to hold it up as some model of greatness would be a mistake, and to be honest, I never want to be part of it again.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Beautiful Mess

 As the weather has warmed up, the kids are spending more and more time outside.  I love it because they are running and being creative and our TV is on a heck of a lot less.  A favorite activity for them is writing on our patio with a huge bucket of chalk I bought that was on clearance at the end of last summer.  They also really enjoy filling a watering can and watering all our dirt.  Yesterday I went out and the patio was a disaster.  There was paint and chalk puddles everywhere and almost all the chalk had been ground down and was covered in splashes.  I was feeling sort of annoyed with the kids thinking that they'd really "wasted" all this good chalk and then I took a closer look and realized that what they'd been doing was making paint.  They had ground up the chalk, poured in water, and then when they had a nice thick paint they had made colorful hand and foot prints all over the patio.  I don't know what it was but seeing their colorful little hand prints touched something deep inside me.  I guess they reminded me of cave paintings like these in Spain which scientist think are over 40,000 years old.  Just like those ancient hunters my children were marking they were here, that they existed.  Our mops theme for this year has been "A Beautiful Mess" and every time I hear it I just groan inwardly because I always think, "Who honestly thinks there is anything beautiful about a mess?  I mean really people, who?"  Yesterday I was folding up the last bits of my laundry and while I was glad to finally have the stack put away the realization that today was laundry day was extremely demoralizing.  Messes are messes.  They often involve time consuming, monotonous work that falls on me to take care of and they are rarely gone for long.  That is how I feel about messes right now in this raising young children part of my life, but yesterday I saw the beauty in the mess.  It was hidden among puddles, ground up chalk, and a dirty kitchen floor, but it was there.  It is the existence of my children.  Sometimes demanding and dirty but also colorful and full of vitality and life.  Long after I leave this world they will carry me on, generation after generation, putting out their hands to prove their existence.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Is Finally Here

I can't be the only person on the planet who is happy for spring, but I wanted to add in my two cents....THANK GOODNESS!  Seriously though.  We've lived in the Midwest for 11 winters.  This was my least favorite by FAR!  But now the snow if finally melted and the sun is out longer.  Our grass is starting to green up and the kids are spending a lot more time outside.  I am loving it!  Here is just a whole bunch of pictures of the girls playing on our swing set.  There are a lot of Peach.  It is hard not to want to take her picture because face is so expressive, she is just fun to watch.  There are even a couple of Peach holding onto a new worm friend.  The girl is a friend to all bugs so far.  There are also a couple of Gigi reading to Peach.  That is one of my favorite things about the kids learning to read, when they share that joy with their younger siblings.  Love it!

Monday, March 24, 2014

St. Patrick's Day

So I mentioned before that we don't really do characters for holidays but I do like to do a little something to celebrate the holiday.  My parents were always like that.  When I was a kid we'd always get a rose and a tiny box of chocolates from our parents on Valentine's Day.  It always made me feel special and I told my husband even before we had kids that traditions were part of what makes families great and I hold to that!  I love our traditions.  I love our Fancy Family Valentine's Day Dinner.  I love our Birthday Cake  Anniversary.  I love our Saturday Easter. I love reading a story before bed.  I love our Sunday walks in the summer.  I love our movie and game nights.  I love our Dance Dance parties.  Traditions are the things you do over and over that join you as a team.  They make you feel special and while not all efforts are equal or even need to be equal I think some effort goes a long way in building a happy family.
I like to do a little something on St. Patrick's Day.  I don't dye the whole house green or play a lot of tricks but I do try to make sure the kids are wearing green before I send them out of the house and I think it is fun to give them a little treat on the table.  This year Captain E requested a licorice rainbow I first did after finding it pinned two years ago.  I bag of rainbow licorice and a bag of Rolos and I was set.  Two years ago I bought cute bags.  This year I stuck them in ziplocks I already had.  There was enough candy to make five.  The kids loved it.  Cheetah ate every piece of candy she had on the spot, even throwing her Rolos in her breakfast, yum?  Peach ate most of her candy.  Captain E, Gigi, and Dr. J took theirs to school to enjoy at lunch.  We also painted our nails green and had crock pot corned beef and cabbage for dinner.  That is one of Gigi's favorite meals but it is so salty I try and limit it to just once a year.  

Crock Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage
Wash 5-8 potatoes and cut into wedges.  Throw into crock pot with a bag of baby carrots.  Add 1 cup of water.  Put corned beef on top.  Cook on high for 8 hours. One hour before serving stir in some cabbage leaves.  Enjoy.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cleaning The Church

 I don't know if I've mentioned this before but I seriously dislike cleaning the church.  It isn't the actually cleaning, I mean really when you spend your life picking up messes what is two extra hours a couple of times a year?  It isn't the idea of it.  I get it.  We have church buildings that we use and I can see how potentially cleaning them may give you a sense of ownership, something akin to the ownership people use to feel when they actually had to provide the labor, money, and materials to build their buildings as opposed to the sort of disconnect of just writing out your tithing checks and not really knowing specifically where the money is going.  I can see how having members clean leaves more money available for other things like proselyting and humanitarian efforts.  I get it.  That being said with a husband who works all the time I usually don't have the option of only having one of us go without the kids to get the job done or two of us for extra eyes and hands.  While theoretically the idea of bringing the kids to help them gain a sense of respect for the building sounds great, the practice of taking a 2,4, 7, and 9 year old to the church to help me clean,  keep them busy, out of trouble, and from making more messes is a lot more stress than I usually want to undertake.  The truth is even with our tight budget, I'd be totally willing to kick in an extra 10 or 20 dollars of tithing a month to help pay for a cleaning person just to avoid that stress.  But since that isn't an option I go and try and at least not be a hindrance to the other families also assigned to clean with us on our day.  This last month Dr. J was actually with us.  It cut my stress level significantly and while the kids did eventually bore and start to scatter, before that point our family got all the floors vacuumed and mopped and Cheetah took out most of the trash, a task that was ALMOST worth the stress level just to have the opportunity to watch.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Weight Loss Challenge - 27lbs Lighter, $140 Richer

Sometime before the holidays my friend Stephanie (who has a degree in exercise science, runs marathons, last year completed a triathlon, and "for fun" just started doing body building competitions) sent out an e-mail telling a bunch of us she was going to do a clean eating challenge.  The participants would throw $30 each in a pot, work out and eat according to a plan that could gain you points and at the end of the eight weeks the one who lost the highest percentage of body weight would win 80% of the pot and the person with the highest amount of points would win 20%.  I wanted to join but I'd just found out I was pregnant so I barely loosely followed.  Basically I did three weeks of paleo and wanted to go nuts.  I was super stressed out.  Being pregnant with a fifth child due after you are suppose to have left for a trip to Africa is not relaxing.  Then we lost the pregnancy and I was depressed eating.  Then it was just the holidays.  My whole life I've been chubby.  Sometimes I try really hard to keep my weight under control, sometimes I sort of just throw up my hands.  This winter I threw up my hands.  With all the stress and trauma going on we ate out more than we should.  With the holidays we had treats all over.  With the month long miscarriage, Christmas break, and all the illness in our house I didn't go to the gym for months.  As that original challenge was coming to an end I was heading to the beginning...the beginning of weighing the most I've ever weighed in my whole life!  I mean seriously, more than I'd ever weighed, even when nine months pregnant.  I couldn't fit into a single pair of jeans I owned.  I pretty much lived in sweat pants and way too tight clothing.  I couldn't button my pea coat or zip up my winter coat.  I couldn't get my leather dress boats zipped up.  It was BAD NEWS!

When Stephanie said she was starting another challenge I jumped in full force.  From day one weekly point sheets were like my religion.  If Stephanie said drink 86 ounces of water, I did.  If she said drop all sugar, I did.  If she said eat more veggies, I did.  Whatever that sheet said, I did.  I also recommitted to going to the gym, and the two weeks when Cheetah was sick and I couldn't go I did exercise at home.  It has been ten weeks and the results are in.  I didn't win the challenge.  I was just three pounds off from that, but I did win the points challenge.  Today Stephanie brought me the points money.  I'm now $140 dollars richer and 27 lbs lighter.  I also saved myself some money by being able to fit into everything in my closet again (much of it even fitting loose).  I still would like to lose 30 more lbs or so but right now I'm  happy with my progress and am planning on sticking with the plan for as long as it takes.

 Lots of Water
Feeling hungry, get a drink of water.  Stephanie asked us to drink a lot of water.  Lots and lots.  No soda (even diet), no alcohol, no crystal light, no juice.  The sweet stuff and alcohol was easy for me to avoid.  We almost never drink soda and we don't drink alcohol.  The extra water was a little harder.  We started out at 64oz a day.  We ended at 86.  I feel like I always had a water bottle with me.  Some of it was easy.  I would drink 24oz of water during my workouts and easily another 8oz after.  Some of it was a little harder, but I tried to sneak sips in all day and also drink a big glass before I'd eat.  I also tried to always know where a bathroom was because I was peeing ALL THE TIME!

Don't Eat Late
We got points for either not eating after seven or stopping eating 3 hours before bed.  There were times when this was rough for me.  Name that last time you went to a book group or a ladies night out where they didn't serve something but after awhile I just got used to avoiding the snack table all together.  I spent a lot more time talking since I wasn't doing any munching.  There were a few things I just skipped because I knew the temptation to eat would just be too hard (a couple birthday parties).  I also realized that at home I pretty much never ate anything after dinner that was healthy.  My favorite late night snack, sugary cereal.  I also realize that I would survive if I didn't eat anytime or if I had to go to bed hungry.  Most nights after the kids went to bed I'd just get a drink of water and curl up in bed with a book.  It was a lot easier to not think about eating when I stayed away from the kitchen downstairs.  The only negative here...a certain husband sometimes would still get his late night cereal snack.  There were times when the smell coming off that bowl almost drove me to jump over the couch and attack him.  Did you realize cereal smelled so strong?  Neither did I.  Just one more reason to stay away from the kitchen after dinner.

No Added Sugar
Stephanie gave us a cheat day so if you wanted to eat something sweet one day a week you could without taking a hit in points but every other day she asked you not to eat anything made with sugar, honey, maple syrup, fake sugars, corn syrup, even dates (there went my Larabars).  Cutting out sugar cut so many foods.  I really had not realized how many products had sugar in them.  Check out your bottle of soy sauce, your salsa, every cereal product you have, your bread, most canned goods.  I couldn't believe how many things had sugar in them.  I learned to make Paleo ketchup in my crock-pot here.  I learned how to make homemade Paleo mayo here.  Just so you know I had zero luck making it by hand.  Buy or barrow and immersion blender!  I started making my own salsa every week.  It was hard to give up sugar but I noticed that while I still love sugar (I really enjoyed my shared banana split victory sundae), avoiding most of it helps me not crave it as much.  I also drank a smoothie almost every morning to help hit that sweet craving.  I alternated between a green smoothie and a chocolate almond smoothie.  The chocolate almond smoothie really hit the spot for me, especially after I'd gone a few weeks without sugar.

Chocolate Almond Smoothie
1 ripe frozen banana (I also would just use a banana and ice if I didn't have a frozen one, but I liked the consistency better when I didn't have to use ice).
1 cup non sweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter (You can make your own or get it at the store.  I like the brand at Costco.  It is just peanuts and salt and it taste delicious!)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder

Blend.  This was my "Paleo Shakeology" drink.  I drank one of these shakes almost every morning before I worked out and it always gave me the energy I needed.  Plus it cost a heck of a lot less than Shakeology.  If I felt like I needed a little extra kick I'd throw a tablespoon of canned coconut milk it.  That definitely kept me full!

The only way to lose weight is to use more calories than you bring in.  One way is to cut calories.  One way is to add activity.  The best way is to do both.  We got points for exercising at least an hour five days a week.  This is when my Y membership really came in handy.  I'd drop Peach off at preschool, walk Cheetah to child watch and have two hours to sweet it out.  I spent an hours each day doing cardio, trading off between the bike, the elliptical, the stair master, and the rowing machine.  I liked to shake it up so that my body didn't get too content.  It was also a great time to catch up on my reading.  Seriously I probably got through ten books in those ten weeks at the gym alone.  After I'd been sweating for an hour I'd switch over to weights.  Weights are a great way to build muscle, increasing metabolism.  I'd trade off between arms and legs, keeping track of how much weight I was lifting each day so I could slowly increase my numbers.

A couple of weeks in the challenge my kids were sick so I couldn't go to the gym.  On those days we satisfied ourselves with walks and bike rides in the neighborhood, and exercise videos that I found on youtube.  We did aerobics, indoor walking videos, zumba, and kickboxing.  I say WE because the girls were always with me and in one super unfortunate event I actually threw Cheetah across the room when she walked into my hand while I was doing a zumba move.  Otherwise they were pretty good and they always enjoyed throwing themselves on my back for a little extra weight when doing push ups. I also have some weights at home that I could use along with my exercise ball in place of a bench.  It wasn't as effective but it was better than nothing.  The funny thing about the kickboxing is the last couple of weeks I started to do a little ten minute kick boxing routine every night before I went to bed, just long enough to heat my body up but before I started sweating.  It was embarrassing, especially if Dr. J was watching me but I figured it couldn't hurt to kick up my metabolism right before I went to bed.

The great thing about being in the group is we got credit for talking and supporting each other each day.  We also got points for keeping a food diary.  To make it easier on me and Stephanie I started using the myfitnesspal app my sister had told me to download a year before. Because it was on my phone I could easily add my food and exercise right as it was happening.  It allowed me to add friends for support and let Stephanie see my diary so she could look over my food journal.  It also gave me a good idea of where I should be trying to hit calorie wise and when I lost weight it readjusted my allowed calories.  I seriously love this app and I think one of the greatest parts of this challenge is that after ten weeks it is like second nature to me to use it daily.

The Food Part
Stephanie eats Paleo so a lot of our food points came from trying out pieces of the Paleo diet.  For almost the entire challenge we didn't eat gluten and for the last couple weeks of the challenge we didn't eat any grains at all.  It was a hard adjustment for me because before those weeks I was really enjoying an almost daily snack of air popped popcorn but I think coming out I'm going to continue to limit my grain consumption.  I'm not going to say completely goodbye to grains but I do know that for me that when I planned meals really high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and lean meats I could hit my calorie goals with little thought, feeling full.  Wheat makes that hard for me to do.  I just eat and eat and eat and never feel full.  So I think from here on out I'll just be careful to not let grains be too big a part of my meal.  Honestly by cutting cereal I was able to cut about 80% of my grain consumption :)  Most of my other favorite grain meals could either be eaten as a salad or on some type of vegetable.  Here are some of my favorite grain free meals that I ate all the time during the challenge.

  • Spaghetti squash with meat sauce.  They aren't wheat noodles but it still tastes pretty good. 
  • Tuna fish salad on cut in half sweet peppers
  • Taco Soup
  • Taco Salad
  • Chicken soup with carrots, celery, and potatoes
  • Chicken Lettuce Wraps
  • Beef Roast
  • Steak and baked potatoes
  • Salmon
  • Roasted Chicken
  • Lettuce Tacos
  • Chicken Salad on Lettuce wraps
  • Deconstructed Hamburger-This was pretty much my favorite meal ever.  I'd chop up 3 cups of lettuce, throw in some cucumbers and chopped or sliced tomatoes, cover the salad in a tablespoon of Paleo mayo, ketchup and mustard and then toss a warm hamburger or cheeseburger on top.  Dr. J gave me a hard time saying it looked weird but I'm telling you it was delicious.  Just think how much you enjoy a big juicy hamburger.  Getting rid of that bun doesn't make a whole lot of difference.  
  • Sweet Potato fries with pretty much anything.
  • Lots of black beans.   
  • A sweet potato (baked in the microwave) with two easy over eggs on top.  It was warm and delicious and I loved it.
  • Humus and veggies
  • Potato bar
I used a lot of unsweetened almond milk in place of cows milk but I still ate cheese most weeks although I kept it in moderation and I ate unsweetened yogurt occasionally with bananas and blueberries in it.  Super yum!  As far as oils were concerned I stuck to olive, coconut, avocado, and butter but I tried not to be too heavy handed. I would never go completely Paleo because I could never say goodbye to legumes or grains and sugar completely but I have definitely seen the light on limiting my grains and sugar.  Just easier to stay full when they don't make up most of your calories.  This is totally a true story but one day I made four pieces of cinnamon sugar toast and was totally still hungry.  That is just how I roll.  It is easier now for me to say, just grab a handful of nuts and stay full for longer.  As part of the challenge we had to eat 3 fresh veggie servings a day (1 cup each) and 2 fruit (1/2 cup).  I've always been good about eating my fruits and veggies but this just kept me on track.

We also got points for menu planning and eliminating all processed foods (anything with more than five ingredients on the label).  My mom taught me how to make pretty much everything from scratch but I think it was good for me to be grounded again in staying more connected with my food.  Sometimes I get swept up in convenience.  It was a good reminder for me to make a little more effort on the front end before food actually passes into my mouth.  I also started carrying snacks with me everywhere.  A little bag of nuts here, an apple there.  It helped when I was hungry and running around if I had a snack from home already prepared to keep me from getting sucked into a fast food line.  If I was going somewhere I knew I wouldn't be able to eat without breaking the rules I would eat ahead of time or actually pack my meal in.  During the challenge I had two mom's nights out dinners and a couple of restaurant dinners with my in-laws who were in town.  I would look for a steak or chicken dish without a sauce or a salad with the dressing on the side.  It was hard not to eat the bread, or try a piece of the appetizer, or desert, but every Sunday at weigh in I'd be grateful for that choice.

Finally my last two piece of advice from the challenge, one, hide the scale and only bring it out once a week.  I actually had to have Dr. J hide it from me.  I'd get so obsessed with each rise and fall I was driving myself and everyone in the house crazy.  Only weighing in once a week made me a lot happier.  Two, ladies don't diet with guys.  No seriously!  It is demoralizing.  After seven weeks I was so excited about losing 20lbs.  Then I was talking to my good friend and she told me her husband had lost 20lbs in two weeks by cutting his calories to 1,300 and running five miles a day.  Haha!!!  I wanted to scratch his eyes out.  Well not quite, but almost.  Girls we just don't lose weight as quickly.  Guys have more muscle, faster metabolism and don't seem to be saddled with the hormones that try to hold onto weight so strongly.  In the words of my friend Amanda, "My husband just has to say weight loss and he will lose three pounds that day."  It is nice to have your hubby on board as far as food and exercise goes, but when it comes to competition and support other ladies (in my opinion) are the way to go.  At the end of our challenge I was edged out from being the second highest percentage weight loss by .2% to third by a guy who had half the points me and the winner had.  Basically he had not been participating and then in the last three weeks really threw down.  Oh man was I so glad then that Kelly had won.  It would have just killed me to lose to a guy in that way!  So that's the story of how I lost 27lbs and net myself 140 dollars.  Now to see if I can budge any more of this stubborn weight!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pulling Teeth - Our Tooth Fairy Is A Bum

As an extended breast feeder I've always thought it was a blessing that none of my kids got any teeth before they turned a year old.  A blessing for me that is, when my two oldest went to kindergarten and neither of them lost a tooth and got to be put on the lost tooth chart they were both pretty upset about it.  Luckily by first grade they finally started to make some progress.  I say luckily because most of my sister's teeth never got loose and she'd have to go to the dentist to have them pulled when the new ones would grow in behind.  Yikes!  But these kids get loose teeth.  Last week one of Gigi's top front teeth started to get really wiggly.  Now there are two schools of thought in this house.  My husband was the kid who the second a tooth was loose would start wiggling that thing as hard as he could and then have a parent yank it out.  I was the complete opposite.  I would wait forever, until the tooth was barely hanging on by a thread, the rest of the gum had completely healed, every bite was painful as that sharp end would poke back up into the gum and then, maybe then I would finally twist it out.  I think I let my parents pull just one tooth and was like, "NEVER AGAIN!"  So far the kids fall somewhere in the middle.  They've let teeth be pulled although they aren't huge fans of it, so usually they just eat lots of apples and wiggle it out themselves, but in a much timelier manner than I ever did.  This tooth though was getting pretty loose and Gigi seemed a little reluctant to touch it.  Finally I said to her, "Hey how about you let dad look at it, and if we get it out you'll get that dollar even sooner."  One thing my kids are obsessed with is hording money, so she reluctantly agreed.  Dad got some dental floss, made a little loop and then tried to flip it out by tightening it by pulling on the ends.  The first time, it slipped off.  I said, "Just let him try one more time and then if you don't want it he'll stop."  Slipped off again.  The third time as she started to get a little wiggly about it and said, "You promised."  I totally threw Dr. J under the bus and said, "you promised just one more time."  Even though it was obviously me.  Somehow he convinced her to do it and that fourth time was a charm, the tooth went flying.  And then she starts bleeding and crying.  I felt a little bad about that, but a minute later she was all smiles so I guess it was ok.   She told me later she wanted to keep the tooth. I was like, "Sure" because here is the honest truth, what do I need with a whole bunch of baby teeth.  Then I completely forgot to put the money under her pillow.  And here is our family secret: Our Tooth Fairy is a total bum.  For whatever reason I just cannot for the life of me remember to sneak in after the kids are asleep and put the money under their pillow.  So in the morning I went in and said, "Hey have you checked under your pillow?  I think there might be something under there," and then I shoved the money under.  I'm not entirely sure why we keep up this facade.  Before Christmas I forgot so many days in a row I finally just handed the dollar over and said sorry.  Why don't I just do every transition like this?  I mean after all we are the family who does not hype up pretend home invader holiday friends.  We don't do Santa although 3/4 of our kids still totally believe in Santa.  They get presents on Christmas and they never think to distinguish who they come from.  We do Easter baskets on Saturday but we never say they are from the Easter bunny and if they ask we say they are from us.  We give small threats at Valentine's Day and on St. Patrick's Day but the kids also totally know they are from us.  So in some ways I think, wouldn't it just be easier to say, look you are going to lose 20 teeth, here is a 20 dollar bill.  Just chuck those things in the garbage when you are done, or let them pick out their Christmas or Easter gifts or set up their own holiday treats, but then I think there is just something sort of fun about the surprise of it all and so maybe that is why we still put the money under the least when we remember to.  Oh and just on a side note on this video, I love that Peach was cheering Gigi on so much because as soon as the whole thing was done she said, "I am NEVER GOING TO LET YOU PULL A SINGLE ONE OF MY TEETH!"

Monday, March 17, 2014

ADD - How we came to decide medication was the right choice for our child.

When my eldest son was born he changed my life.  He was a delightful baby.  He would lay on the floor happy as a clam while his father was writing papers for school and give him giggles and smiles whenever he would turn his eyes toward him.  As he grew to be a toddler he just got better.  His head was a mass of golden ringlets.  He was exceptionally loving and obedient.  He would sit for hours looking through books.  He would reach for you with dimpled hands and his laughter was magic.  As he reached school age though we started to notice that things were maybe not as magical as they had once been.  He was exceptionally shy, to the point that it took him weeks to speak in class.  He was withdrawn.  His teacher complained about his lack of muscle strength in his hands and complained that he would do things like drop his pencil on the floor.  When we went to our first parent teacher conference she told us that we should hold him back.  Dr. J and I were shocked.  We knew him to be a bright boy and her complaints about him seemed knit picky.  My mother had been a k-2 grade teacher since I was in kindergarten.  We called her up and talked about it with her.  We spent days looking for and reading through studies about the pros and cons of holding children back.  We took a good hard look at our child and my brother who he most closely resembled in looks and behavior.  The quirks my brother had in kindergarten, he had in fifth grade, he had in high school, he still has today.  Some things people grow out of, but some things are just part of who you are and you just have to learn to work around them.  We realized there was a good chance that is what we were looking at.  When it came time to meet with the principal we were prepared with literature and our decision.  I cried through the whole meeting.  The teacher talked for awhile and then Dr. J said the one word that made the difference, "No!"  Everything changed after that.  Suddenly it became "what can we do to support him in his learning?"  The next year when the kids tested for gifted and he did well enough that they would need to let him go to enrichment if we chose to leave him at that school we felt vindicated in our choice...but even with that school has not been a picnic.

Captain E has always struggled with spelling.  We've tried a multitude of different things to help but it almost seemed random.  Sometimes he'd miss words that I knew he knew how to spell.  He struggles with his handwriting.  He struggles with his writing assignments.  When he is trying to write something that has a time limit his handwriting and spelling get exponentially worse.  He struggles with staying on task, with being organized, and he still struggles socially. He is very quiet and does not interact with the other kids as freely as I'd like.  Even though his grades have continued to stay decent, A's and B's, it just seemed like school was becoming something of a nightmare.  I'd come to class and peers would be trying to talk with him and he'd barely acknowledge they were there.  Homework became a major battle.  As expectations were getting greater the spelling and handwriting thing was really starting to worry me.  Last year his third grade teacher and I got together and then we had a big meeting at school.  They evaluated him, gave him an IEP that gave him time and half on test when he needed it, they put him in a social skills group once a week, and they gave him time with an occupational therapist to work on his handwriting.

While I was happy to have some extra support on the school front at the home front things were getting worse and worse.  Everyday after school homework was a battle.  It would take an hour just to get a pencil, get is sharpened, get the homework out, even get started.  He would yell and scream.  Most days he ended up grounded and homework was taking up all his after school to bedtime time.  Dr. J and I were at our wits end.  We were fairly certain he had ADD but for years had been hesitant about moving toward medication.  Does it seem weird that we feel that way?  I mean my husband is a pediatrician and I studied human biology so we both are fully aware of the amazing things medications can do but we also wanted to wait until we knew it was necessary.  Then one day it happened.  Captain E turned to me and said, "Mom I just can't concentrate the way the other kids can."  It broke my heart.  So I got him hooked up with a local mental health clinic in town.  It took months and at the beginning of the school year he missed a lot of days being hauled up there.  He meet with a counselor, did a bunch of testing, had all his school testing looked over.  Finally after the psychologist and the psychiatrist had had time to confer they gave me a firm diagnosis of ADD.  They suggested medication to accompany organization life skills.  

I had mixed feelings. I'd been so worried about "over medicating" him in the beginning.  I didn't really know what I meant by that necessarily but I was worried about him turning into just some compliant lump on a log kid.  I wanted to have my kid, just one that could move past distractions a little more easily.  I worried about what medication said about me and what it said about him.  I had a worry about the history of medication in my family.  My brother who is most like Captain E had hated medication as a child and had been pretty angry at my mother for forcing him to take it.  I worried about side effects.  I was scared but I was also feeling a little desperate.  He was asking for my help and I knew something had to change.  So Dr. J and I talked about it we agreed to try.  The first medication they gave us was a total dud.  We didn't notice any difference in his behavior although we were never able to get to full strength because it made him so nauseous that he would puke at school if he took it in the morning or he couldn't sleep if he took it at night because he had an upset stomach.  

Next they decided to try Daytrana, something they had originally shied away from since he is super skinny, and two has a tendency to be a little anxious.  Daytrana is basically Ritalin in a patch form.  I put the patch on him in the morning.  He eats breakfast with a normal appetite.  The patch kicks in by the time he gets to school.  He isn't so hungry at lunch time.  He pulls the patch when he gets home from school and then the medication is still in his system long enough for him to get to his homework but should be out by dinner so he has a normal appetite them.  I don't put it on him on the weekends and I don't put plan on putting it on him during the summer.  Sort of an interesting little side note he general eats his packed lunch sometime after dinner when he wants a little after dinner snack.

The results have been amazing but I had to really think about them because it just so easily slipped into the way it was that I almost forgot it used to be different.  We have not had a fight over homework in over a month.  He comes home, sits down at the table, gets to work and is almost always done way before dinner.  The loss of homework fights has gotten rid of probably 95% of our negative interactions.  I'm not going to pretend that we never fight because he's nine years old and sometimes he has a difference of opinion on how his life should go, but the biggest fight in our life almost with the snap of a finger is gone.  His writing responses have gotten much longer.  At the beginning of the year when he'd have a test with a writing section we'd be lucky to get one or two incoherent sentences from him.  Now he can fill out a whole page with a well organized paragraph.  His teacher has noticed a difference in him socially as well.  This last week we meet for his IEP renewal and she said in the last month he's been coming to the front of the classroom to join in with more of the group work, he's been volunteering to answer questions, he's been defending his answers.  On the home front I've noticed him talking about more kids from school.  One of the biggest light bulb moments, my goodness this thing is working, was his sudden interest in reading.  This month he pulled down the first Harry Potter Book, then the second, now he's on the third.  I'd been trying to entice him into them for years and he just was never interested.  I had to fill his shelves with Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, Graphic Novels, Believe it or Not books and then beg him just to get him to read anything.  Every time he'd picked up the Harry Potter Books before he'd always quite after the first few chapters.  I now realize the poor kid just couldn't get his mind to focus.

So when is medication the answer?  That is such a hard choice because really it is so deeply personal.  Every medication runs the risk of side effects.  There is potential social stigma.  There is the opportunity for medication abuse.  These are things parents have to weigh against possible potential improvements.  I think back to when our Kindergarten teacher asked us to medicate him and wonder, should I have done it then?  But even though our results have been so good I'm still glad we waited a few more years.  I definitely think teacher input is important, but some behaviors may improve over time.  We wanted to wait and see and in doing so we gave his body and mind four more years to grow without having to worry about his growth being stunted.  It was that continued inability for him to harness what multiple intelligence test had told us was there, it was the anger that lack of concentration was leading to, it was the fact that he could now vocalize for us what he did and did not need that lead us to think it was maybe now the time to explore this avenue.  I like now that he was able to be part of the choice with us, that he is old enough to be aware of the fact the there is a difference for him when he is on the medication and that he can see it's value. Medication does still make me a little nervous so I'm glad that we have the opportunity to dose him with just the amount he needs for just the time he needs it.  The thing about ADD is that when you're home playing computer games, are at the pool, or riding bikes with your friends you might not need that extra little help.  

Suggestions from me, just some mom of a kid with add, to someone else who may be a parent trying to decide what to do with a child who appears to have add or adhd. 

There are really two ways to approach this issue, both of which usually end up at the same place because once you start one they will most likely suggest you get the other one started as well.  Ultimate we jumped right in both routes and we ended up with a very well thought out plan of attack.  

If you suspect your child had ADD or ADHD 

1) It is time to buddy up with your pediatrician and your child's teacher.  Depending on how comfortable your pediatrician is with the issue they may be willing to make a formal diagnosis and possibly prescribe medication themselves or they may want to refer you out to a child psychiatrist.  Regardless of which route you end up going they are going to give you questionnaires about your child that you and the teacher will need to fill out so get in contact with that teacher and be on your nicest behavior because you are going to need them a lot.  Be honest with them about your concerns and what avenues you are looking in to.  Tell them you are sending paperwork in and ask them kindly if they will fill it out and return it for you.  Make sure to put it in a big manila envelope or hand deliver it because if your child's backpack is anything like mine just thrown in papers may never find their way to the right hands.  Be aware that physicians are probably going to want to go the medication route (ultimately in our case that was where we wanted to go) but if your physician can direct you toward a mental health clinic like the one we ultimately had Captain E diagnosed at there is a good chance they will have counselors, some of whom can help with things like learning how to get organized.

2) Get in contact with the school.  Public schools are required by law to address learning disabilities.  Depending on how exactly your child is affected the school will either need to write up an IEP or a 504 plan for you child.  Most will even, without much push, provide the testing.  My school was incredibly helpful with this.  All I had to do was talk to Captain E's third grade teacher and she got the ball rolling but if your school is resistant send a letter to the school addressed to the Director of Special Education Services.  If they are exceptionally resistant send it by certified mail.  By law the school must reply to your request within 30 days so that is usually all you have to do to get them to respond.  

3) Know that getting a formal diagnosis is exceptionally important.  Sometimes as parents I think we worry about negatively labeling our children but without that diagnosis neither your school or your physician will have much they can do to help your child.  If your school won't give you access to testing, get it on your own.  Call your insurance company, look in the phone book, look up mental health offices online.  When we originally were looking at this issue I don't know if our pediatrician just wasn't comfortable at the time or I wasn't insistent enough about how severe the problem was but she basically just told me, "Mental health issues are self referred".  She has since gotten a lot more helpful but in those first few months when I had no idea what she was talking about I cold called any office I could find with the word psychiatrist or psychologist.  Many were a total waste of time and I got uncomfortable having to tell my story over and over again but I finally got to the office that ultimately helped lead me to the path we are on today.  Once they'd done all the testing and sent it to our pediatrician she jumped on board with us.  Be more direct than me.  Ask your pediatrician for a referral or your child's school but if they don't give you one get ready to search until you find the right place yourself.  That formal diagnosis is the key to getting your child any help that is available. 

4) Be open and honest with your child about what is going on.  If your child is anything like mine they are probably acutely aware of the fact that they are not the same as everyone else.  Kids with ADD and ADHD are over three times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than their peers.  They know they are struggling and may be frustrated as to why they feel they are being left behind.  They may get down on themselves thinking they are stupid or lazy.  How much better is it to tell them the truth than have them thinking those ugly lies about themselves!  We let our son know that his brain works a little different, gets a little more distracted by outside influences.  We told him the medications we were trying were to hopefully help him to be able to tune out the distractions.  We asked him to be really honest with us about how they were working and encouraged him to be reflective and self aware of what was happening inside his own mind and also how he was doing overall.  We asked him to look for things that helped him stay on task and for things that distracted him.  We let him know that this was a special challenge that he had but that we, his teachers, the school, and his doctor were all going to work with him if he would work with us so that he could help unlock his potential.

5) Find either a school thing or an extra curricular that your child really enjoys doing and encourage them to take joy in that thing; making art, playing sports, playing music, scouting, martial arts, weekend camps, debate, drama, photography, learning something new, just something.  All kids need a sphere where they can relax, expel energy, and feel good about themselves.  Our son loves classical music so we've encourage him by getting him into piano lessons.  He also loves camping so we've put him into scouts.  It's nice for him to have a place where he can have achievement without the pressure of grades, test, and time limits.

6) Stay Positive and Realistic.  Easier said then done for me sometimes, but when dealing with your child about school expectations it is important to stay neutral. This diagnosis is not an excuse for your child to just slack off but it does mean your child is working with special circumstances.  Be helpful.  Cheer on the accomplishments.  When disappointments happen, stay neutral.  Help them to make adjustments.  Be clear on expectations, rewards, and punishments, but also keep in mind that children with ADD and ADHD struggle with inconsistency.  Stay buddy/buddy with the teacher so that when you get home a bad test or a bad assignment you can find out if this is something everyone struggled with (this happened recently in my son's class...he came home with a 59% on a math test that it turned out the whole grade had bombed, this was a case of poor test writing and I was sure glad I hadn't yelled at him over it), if there was something particularly to the assignment that made it difficult for you child, or if your child was choosing to maybe not do their best.  Then work from there.  We want to build positive relationships with our children.  We don't just want to give them a free pass but we do want to make sure that we are their best advocate and their best teacher.  I hope if anyone else is reading this and wondering "What the heck am I going to do with this child?" that they can see that there is help available out there for you.  Never in any other time in history have we expected our children to sit for such long amounts of time and learn as much information.  It is a challenge for a lot of kids.  But also never in any other time in history have we had some many different resources and paths available.  In our case we took a school/medicine approach.  Right now we are seeing great results.  Maybe in a different time or a different year we will look at home schooling, or just working with a therapist, but  for now we are happy.  Take hope parents though and explore all your options.  Call for help from those who can give it to you and give your child extra long hugs because they need to know that you are there to fight for them, not with them.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Traveling With Kids - Getting Passport Photos

Dr J woke up this morning and insisted on putting together a list of things to do today.  Then he went to work to play catch up so most of the list was inherited by me.  I'm not going to lie, I was a little annoyed by this.  Mainly because it was Saturday and all I wanted to do was sit and read books but since sometimes you have to be adult I figured I should do the things on the list that had to get done.  One that is an absolute most is getting the passports for the kids, but before we can submit the forms (did you know you all had to go...kid, mom, dad or in this case kid x's 4, mom, and dad).  So I figured getting the pictures taken today seemed like a good way to go.  Since I was on my own and I just didn't want to spend a ton of time trying to make sure the dimensions of the heads were right I just headed over to Walgreens.  When Captain E  was one I took him to a professional photographer to get his photos done.  They did a great job putting to what I like to call his baby prison photo.  The quality was great but there was a wait time and seeing as this trip is racing toward us the need to get these applications in is now!  Even though the quality is so/so they are fast, relatively cheap, they have a little program that lines up the eyes and head for you so the size will be right, and if by chance the government rejects them they'll take them over for free.  Oh they also happen to have a coupon out right if by chance you need a passport photo and are going to Walgreen get two dollars off.  

Getting passports photos with four kids was a little crazy.  They had a little screen that they sat them in front of and then said, okay don't smile and hold your head still.  Captain E did the best at once again looking like someone rehearsing for a prison photo.  I have no doubt his photo will be accepted although every time I look at it I feel like I'm looking at a cloudy day.  This kid can not keep his eyes open when he knows a photo is going to be taken.  They start watering and her starts looking miserable.  WE ARE INSIDE!  Does not matter.  Just bring the camera out and it always happens  On the other hand I think Gigi's photo was the best in the group as far as acceptable passport photos go.  Her head is not tilted, her eyes are open, she isn't smiling but she's got a little hint of a smile there.
These are the pictures I'm not entirely sure on.  Peach could not keep her head straight.  She just kept tilting it back and forth, giving a mischievous little smile and doing her crazy eyes where one is opened twice as big as the other one.  The lady took a bunch of different photos and this was the best one we could get.  I kept straightening her head and telling her this was suppose to be a serious picture but she is four.  If we were in the UK I know they would take them.  Their head straight no smile rule doesn't come into play until 6.  Here I think it is up to the person filing and accepting the paperwork.  Then there is Cheetah.  Oh my gosh I love that little smile of hers.  She definitely doesn't look like a baby going to jail.  I just hope they will take it.

Same photographer, same seat, same backdrop.  Two years difference...once girl can follow directions, one just can't hide her exuberance.

Here is that nice little program they have, makes sure the the head is in the right place, is the right size, and the eyes are where they should be.  Apparently it makes it easier for them to run the facial recognition software, because you know there are lots of criminal masterminds under the age of ten ;)  Oh well, let's check this errand off the list.  Next step, headed to the post office to turn their passport paperwork in.  


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...