Monday, June 25, 2012

Nebraska...the good life.

I can't believe that one week from today will be July 1.  Who gave summer permission to fly by so quickly?

Bryan just had an unexpected long weekend...the first REAL WEEKEND he's had since starting his job in we took advantage of it and headed up to Nebraska for some camping.  You know, since it IS the good life.


We'd heard great things about their state parks, and the parks did not disappoint.

We tented, of course.

At Louisville State Recreation Area.  It was packed.  Only 10 spots left in the entire campground when we made our reservations online five days prior.

We had a shady spot, close to air-conditioned restrooms and shower house.  And close to the river.  There were people everywhere - floating down the river, fishing, swimming, playing tag, riding bikes...  And a dude driving the Mystery Machine.

Our spot was gorgeous.  In the back of the park - tents only, no RV's.  I don't know that our kids had ever seen so many fireflies or stars.  And we saw the space station fly overhead as we turned off the lantern for bed on the last night.

We played Uno in the tent every night.  And roasted marshmallows and enjoyed lots of s'mores.  We landed on good radio stations - oldies and some classic rock.  Oldies as in REAL oldies, not the 70's, 80's and 90's stuff stations are passing off as "oldies".  Each morning we had delicious pancakes and biscuits and gravy in a downtown cafe - one that serves homemade pies and malts.  While waiting for breakfast, we played Dominoes.  I won once.  In the car, we listened to the iPod, and I read Harry Potter to the family.  Good thing I don't get carsick while reading in the car.

We visited the Strategic Air and Space Museum.  It would have been really fun and fascinating five years ago when Zach was obsessed with space, but it was still a very fun learning experience.  So many awesome planes and interactive games and activities.

But I was so tired that I actually fell asleep for a few minutes...gasp!  I did NOT sleep the night before.

After the air and space museum, we broke for a late lunch and then headed over to the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari.  We saw a lot of animals and gorgeous land as we drove through the park, and enjoyed a mile hike around the bears and wolves.  We were only able to catch glimpses of the wolves as they ran through the brush, but a bear came out as I made kissing sounds at it.  I would never have thought that a crazy bear would respond to this silly mom entertaining her youngest child, but evidently he finds my kisses irresistible too.  Luke thinks I'm a bear whisperer [kisser] now.

Did I mention that we tented through a horrible downpour on our first night?  This is why I was so tired at the museum...  And some water pooled under our tent in spots, so the rest of the weekend it felt like we were walking on a waterbed.  But the pooled up water was nothing compared to the lightening and thunder...  Why must it always storm when we camp?  One of these days Bryan is going to mean it when he declares it his LAST time tenting.

Thankfully, it was perfectly smooth sailing after that stormy night.  Clear skies.  Blue by day, starry by night.

I forgot to mention that we went to an Omaha Storm Chasers game on Friday night too.  It was a beautiful night for baseball.  And we enjoyed a Storm Chasers win!

On our final day, we stopped by the Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium at Schramm SRA.  It cost us all of $2.50 in admission fees and we learned a lot and had a great time.  A must see, for sure.  Our favorite thing there is the classroom with interactive games and an awesome touch table - AWESOME!  And...  As our final bit of vacation fun, we opted for a swim at the water park at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in lieu of showers.  Yea, that's how we roll.  We surfed, slid, swam and splashed till our hearts content...  No pictures though, as the camera battery died last night. 

On the drive home we were already brainstorming plans for our next Nebraska camping trip.  Good times.  Nebraska is ... the good life.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rapidly growing

To my youngest son,

Lots of tears have been shed and protests made as your older brother goes off to events that you can't attend...  School field trips, field day, sports camps, overnights, birthday parties, etc.  "He gets to do everything and I get to do nothing."  You are so sad sometimes....but this just comes with the territory of being the younger brother, and not even a kindergartner yet.  But, your time is rapidly approaching.


Until then, I want you to know that you have something he doesn't have.  You have more grown-up alone time with me and I absolutely love it!  When he was your age, I was pretty busy chasing around his high-maintenance, strong-willed, not-quite-three-year-old brother.  When he was your age, we were bound to the house more.  He still watched Go Diego Go and Bob the Builder - imagine the horror.  We did not operate then like you and I do now.  You'd call it, well, baby'ish.

You are my super handy helpmate.  I love when you help me with chores.  When you rinse dishes.  Or clear the table.  Or take out the trash.  Or vacuum.  Or scrub the bathrooms.  Or help me sweep the floor.  Or fetch things under furniture.  I love when you help me with laundry, schlepping clothes from the the laundry table (also known as our dining room table) up to your closet or dresser.  And I love when you help me make the beds.  You are also great help in the yard - pulling weeds, digging holes, watering, raking leaves, planting.  Never, ever, complaining or asking what your brother has done to help.  You are HAPPY to be helping - with your head high and your chest sticking out like the man you fancy yourself being.  You are an incredible help to me around the house, and I will fondly hold these memories in my heart forever. 

You are also a most awesome shopping companion.  Reading the list, ticking things off, checking prices, and even scanning items at self check.  You are a great help loading and unloading the van.  And you sometimes help put things away at home.  I love to have you around when I shop.

And carpooling...  How many times have I interrupted your play time with, "C'mon, Buddy.  It's time to go get the kids."?  You promptly meet me at the door asking where we're going and who we might be giving a ride to.  Somehow it never feels like you're the little bro tagging along, but, rather, a second chaperone who just happens to still ride in a booster seat.  Perhaps this is why you are always telling Zach what to do..."Don't forget your water bottle.  Put that in the trash.  Buckle your seat belt.  Don't run in the parking lot."

And there are all the priceless conversations we've had along the way.  Endless listings of rides you're going to conquer this summer at Worlds of Fun, or ideas you have for your 6th birthday party, or school supplies you want to buy for kindergarten.  Questions about nature, animals, God, space, etc..  Stories you tell me about outings with Grandpa, playtime with friends, and games you play with Zach.  When you confide in me things you're afraid of or want to learn.  Questions you have about school or sports.  You even ask about family history.  I like talking to you.

I can't even imagine what these mundane, daily activities are going to look like when you're away at school next year.  Time has flown by.  Rapidly.

This is probably little consolation, for who wouldn't rather be at a birthday party than scrubbing a toilet?  But, for me, this time in your life...when you're simply not old enough to be on the go all the time...has been precious.  I've loved having you all to myself and will miss you when you go off to school.  I'm so glad God gave you to me.  Love you, Buddy.

PS:  Before you get the wrong impression and think I only had you so you could help me around the house...  Know that I love ALL the things we do - and the majority is crafts, board games, books, library days, museum trips, parks, sports, playdates, etc.  I just want you to know how special it is to me that - at this time in your life - we fit very well into each others lives.  I'm guessing that once you start school, I'll take care of all of "my" things while you're at school and our family schedule and activities will pretty much revolve around you and your brother.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What's your secret?

People keep asking me that...  What's your secret?  How have you lost the weight?

The truth is, the only secret I've kept about my weight loss is what I weighed on the day I decided to make a change.


No more secrets.

I weighed one pound MORE than I did the day I delivered each of my children.  I was miserable.  Stomach aches.  Discomfort sitting.  Shirts embarrassingly snug.  Pants quickly becoming too small - and already four sizes bigger than what I'd been most of my life.

I weighed MORE on March 1, 2012 than I did at NINE MONTHS AND FOUR DAYS PREGNANT.  How was the even possible?

PCOS.  That's how.

I had been running off and on for three years, and very regularly for a year.  And I picked up triathlons last summer...  And I was still GAINING weight.  Exercise was not doing the trick, and one more pound would officially put me in the "over-weight" column.  At 161, I was at the highest possible weight within the "normal" range for a woman my age and height.

My friend casually mentioned feeling cranky because she'd started a new "diet" and I inquired about it.  I had lots of questions, she had lots of answers...  I discussed it with Bryan, and we decided to give it a shot.  Yea, that's how we roll...  You hate your diet?  We think we'll try it!  After all, at the time, they were waiving membership fees and the monthly online fee is only $15/month.

So, we joined Weight Watchers.

Within the first two days, my dietary pitfalls were overwhelmingly obvious.  I was a carbivore.  I snacked and dined on carbs all day, every day.  Dairy too.  And my veggie and protein intake was minimal.

As you read the following, keep in mind that I'm only allowed 26 WW points per day.

Obvious bad choice #1:  One cup of Kashi GoLean cereal with half a cup of skim milk is SEVEN points, and it was not filling.  I quickly discovered that two eggs, with four ounces of ham and a sprinkle of reduced fat cheese is only SIX points and sometimes more than I can eat.  Added bonus - the protein kick at the start of the day does a body GREAT.  My body, anyway...

Obvious bad choice #2:  Beverages.  My favorite smoothie and my favorite Starbucks Chai Tea Latte are each SEVEN points.  I used to feel proud that I could be satisfied with simply drinking my breakfast in the form of a yummy latte; after all, how can a beverage be bad for you?  But, it's really just a lot of carbs with a dash of milk.  These days, lattes are saved for special treats.  (My wallet AND my waist line thank me.)

Obvious bad choice #3:  Portion size.  A portion of chicken should be the size of a deck of cards - about 3 ounces.  I'm guessing that a chicken breast these days is about double that...  Weigh, weigh, weigh.  I weigh food as I prepare plates.  

Obvious bad choice #4:  Fish and shrimp are such low point foods, they might as well be free!  And we NEVER cooked with either before.  Now, we eat fish or shrimp a couple times a week.

Obvious bad choice #5:  Breads.  A slice of bread is 3 points.  A whole bagel is about 7 points.  A pb&j - brace yourself - ELEVEN points.  And who's full after eating a pb&j?  Instead of sandwiches, these days I make wraps.  A Mama Lupe Low-Carb tortilla is TWO points, or THREE points for 2 tortillas.  So, I often have two chicken wraps with a total of 3oz chicken (and lettuce, mustard, a sprinkle of reduced fat cheese and tomatoes) for a SIX point meal.  Tasty and filling, without all the bread.

Obvious bad choice #6:  Crackers.  On day two, I made this enormous salad.  Green leaf lettuce, red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, cauliflower - so far, all ZERO points.  I added 3 oz of chicken breast for protein at THREE points.  I topped it with Target's Market Pantry brand Fat-Free Raspberry Vinaigrette at 2 TBS for ONE point.  My enormous dinner-plate sized salad came to a whopping FOUR points.  I wanted to add a little crunch, so I reached for my favorite Multi-Grain Club Crackers.  Multi-grain is good, right?  Ten crackers were FIVE points.  MORE THAN THE ENTIRE SALAD WITH CHICKEN AND DRESSING!!!  I quickly nixed the crackers.....and the future dinner plans I had for an entire sleeve of crackers and half a cheeseball.

Obvious bad choice #7:  Dining out.  This is a no-brainer.  But dining out really doesn't have to blow your healthy eating.  Check out the nutritional information before you order.  For most larger chains, you can find the info online, and even sometimes on the menu.  Most restaurants will even have a hard-copy print-out that you can read through while browsing the menu.  The Weight Watchers website even has point values for a lot of restaurant menu items.  Don't ever go in blind.  You'll kick yourself later when you log in that Olive Garden salad at 5 points and breadsticks at 4 points each.  (Does anyone stop at just one breadstick?)

Obvious bad choice #8:  Desserts.  I have a sweet tooth.  I love fancy cakes, thick fudge brownies, lemon bars, cherry pies, carrot cake, candy...  There's this one dark chocolate cake at Costco that I love.  One slice is TWENTY SEVEN points.  Yea, that's more than I'm allowed in an entire day.  So...  I've found that I can snack on a few bites of dessert or candy, but then I've got to move on.  Or eat angel food cake with Cool Whip Lite and strawberries.  Or Weight Watchers ice cream treats.  They're anywhere from 1-4 points and delicious!

Obvious bad choice #9:  Full fat dips, dressings, cheeses, etc.  I had NEVER purchased a low-fat or fat free item other than milk in my entire life.  After seeing the point values for full-fat vs reduced or no fat alternatives, making the switch was a no brainer.

I love that Weight Watchers has a simple points system.  I like math.  And it's easy to compare two meals - one at 7 points and another at 23 - and see the obvious wiser choice.  And I love that Weight Watchers gives you a daily allowance, and then bonus extra points to use throughout the week.  I have 49 extra points per week, so - should I splurge on that awesome Costco 27 point cake - I don't completely blow it.  And you can earn points through exercise too.  Weight Watchers is not restrictive in what you can or cannot eat, and they even allow cushion in your points allowance for a soda, dessert, fried chicken, or spaghetti...

The bottom line for me...  Exercise alone was never going to be my ticket to weight loss.  I had to change the way I was eating, and the Weight Watchers plan of loads of fruits and veggies, and good protein choices is just what I needed.

As of this week, I've lost exactly 20 pounds.  I am down to 141, and am feeling better than I have in years.  I would like to lose another 5-8 pounds, but would honestly be thrilled just to fall back down into the 130's.  Who am I kidding?  I'm thrilled to be at 141!  I never thought I'd lose all that weight that PCOS had caused me to gain.  Or rather, PCOS provided me with a malfunctioning pancreas....and I chose all the wrong foods to eat.  I had resigned myself to being on Metformin and birth control to manage my weight gain as well as possible, while accepting 5 added pounds per year as a fact of life. 

No more...

I don't want to speak for my hottie husband, but I will say that he's lost about 45 pounds and is going strong!  He looks amazing and feels better and is more active than he's been since college.  He's a new man!  I firmly believe that changing over to a Weight Watchers lifestyle has been made easier because we've done it as a team.  I could not be more proud of my man for his dedication to healthier living.  I look forward to growing VERY OLD with him.  After all, he is totally H.O.T.