Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: In Retrospect

As I look back, I can honestly say that 2011 was a good year for me. We had our ups and downs like anybody else, but overall, I'd say that we had more ups than downs. No one was deathly ill or seriously injured. We took some fun day trips; had a blast in Yosemite; and this Christmas was as close to normal as any we've ever had. Sure, both of our cars died, but we replaced them with new-to-us old VW Bugs. And sure, my husband changed jobs midyear which was a little stressful, but it's working now. Oh, and I lost over 50lbs.

I started off the year being mad and discouraged with just enough hope to say, "OK, I'll try it. What have I got to lose?" I had over 50lbs to lose and I lost it. I'm still not at my goal weight, but I am thrilled that I am not where I was last December 31st! Praise the Lord and pass the carrots!

I know that 2011 was not a good year for everyone, so I won't go on and on about how good it was for me. I learned many things this year, but the one important thing I learned is this: if your situation seems hopeless and bleak then turn to God first. Don't wait 20 years like I did concerning my weight loss. Wishing you many blessings in 2012.

Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Update WLJ

I updated the Weight Loss Journal with the latest photo. I've added some holiday pounds and the scale reflected that: 157lbs. Am I worried? No. I did relax and enjoy the holiday goodies. Truth be told, on Christmas Day the scale read 161.5lbs. I'm sure that most of what I gained and subsequently lost was water weight. It's amazing what excess sodium can do to a body.

So how did I get rid of it? On December 26th, I stuck to my guns and got back on plan. Because we had leftovers (i.e. turducken) that I didn't want to waste, I decided to weigh and measure food and count calories. I came in at just under 1500. Yesterday, I resumed the Eat to Live plan. I'm convinced that my body absolutely does not need processed food, bread, pasta, and dairy. Well, OK, I do need 1 Tablespoon of half and half in my morning coffee, and an occasional bread/pastry product is fine. Pasta? I love pasta, but I've come to realize that it just doesn't fill me up and I'm always left wanting more. I've come to think of pasta as a topping for a spinach salad.

All in all, a wonderful holiday season. Just one more holiday to get through, oh, and my birthday, too. Onward and downward.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

May the peace and love of Christ be with you now and always! Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Of Blow Torches and Bonfires

Without naming names or pointing fingers, let's just say that sometimes teens and preteens get the idea in their head that rules don't apply to them. Or that, yes the rules do apply, but there are always exceptions...exceptions that happen daily. In my opinion, if an exception happens daily then it's an excuse. You might remember a couple of posts ago when I said that it's an unfortunate truth that sometimes the best lessons learned are those which are a natural consequence to our actions. It's a truth that someone in our household is still learning.

You see, sometimes some teens and preteens need the proverbial blow torch under their ass in order to motivate them to fulfill their responsibilities. Someone, who shall remain nameless, needs a bonfire not a blow torch. A bonfire in the form of mom (a.k.a. me who is no longer Minivan Mom) going to school and sitting in the back of the classroom to observe said preteen in order to scare and/or embarrass the living crap out of him. Either one works for me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why I Don't Get Offended Over "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings"

Warning: A Little Bit of Sarcasm Ahead

It seems that the latest fad among American Christians who want to feel victimized and have nothing better to do is to get their undies in a bundle over the phrase, "Happy Holidays". (For the record, I am an Evangelical Christian.) I, for one, don't get offended when someone wishes me "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" and here's why.

1. Because I'm a Christian, my Christian friends wish me "Merry Christmas." Most people who wish me "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" usually do so because they don't know me - people like store clerks or waiters and waitresses. Many years ago while I was in college I worked in retail. I usually had no idea if a customer practiced a particular faith or celebrated a particular holiday. This was in Berkeley and there were Jews, Christians, Muslims, pagans, name it we had it. Unless a customer specifically wished me a "Merry Christmas" I usually said something like "Thanks for shopping with us. Enjoy your holidays!" Why? Please reread the sentence "I usually had no idea if..." and see #2.

2. Did anyone ever notice that the phrase "Happy Holidays" is in the plural? The holiday season in the United States begins with Thanksgiving in November and ends with New Year's Day on January 1st. During this time, pagans celebrate the winter solstice, Christians celebrate Christmas, Jews celebrate Hanukkah, and I think that Muslims also have a holiday, but I'm not sure. My point is that there are many holidays celebrated during this time of year. By all means, Christians should wish each other a Merry Christmas. But don't expect non-Christians to do so. How about this: if someone wishes you "Happy Holidays" just say, "Thank you." If you respond with a snide "I only say Merry Christmas so 'Merry Christmas' ", then I hate to tell you, but you sound like a bitch and you're not spreading the Gospel. And I guarantee you that the store clerk or waiter will be thinking, "You know where you can shove your Merry Christmas."

3. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ: if you believe that Jesus is the Messiah then no one can take that away from you. Furthermore, why do you expect a secular world to acknowledge that Christmas is to celebrate the birth of the Savior? If you really want to get offended, then get offended over the obnoxious display of greedy consumerism during the Christmas season. Get offended over the apathy and lack of compassion while children around the world are sold into slavery, while people go hungry and starve, while people are cold and homeless. But, don't just get offended: put the Christ back in Christmas by allowing the Holy Spirit to work through you and put your faith into action:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

May the love and peace of Christ be with you this holiday season and every season.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Junk Food Hangover

It's an unfortunate truth that sometimes the best lessons we learn are a result of experiencing the natural consequences of our actions. Sad, but true. It's a lesson that my 12yo is learning today. You see, last night we went to our church's Christmas party for special needs families. There were cookie decorating stations, a craft station, and plenty of goodies. Of course, he did not overindulge in the grapes, or the mandarins, or the cucumber or bell pepper slices...oh no. He had plenty of cookies and a large slice of cheesecake. He ate like he was never going to see this stuff again. Yeah.

This morning he experienced what I would only describe as a junk food hangover. I told him to remember this feeling because if he ever drank too much alcohol, he would feel even worse than he did at that moment. I felt sorry for him, I really did. I remember plenty of parties where I overindulged and felt the effects the next morning. But you know what? I still had to go to work. Today on this fine Monday, he still had to go to school. I sent an email to the teacher letting her know the situation. I hope he makes it through the day; but even if he comes home early I'm still proud of him for making the effort to fulfill his obligation in spite of feeling lousy.

As I was cleaning the bathroom this morning I said to myself, "It's better to smell bleach than barf." If you say that enough times, you actually start to believe it. Happy Monday!!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

In Moderation

A year ago I posted a somewhat sarcastic entry railing against those joyless people who complain about the calories in holiday goodies. I still stand by that sarcasm. If you don't want the calories, then don't eat the goodies; but shut up about it already. Sheesh.

So far this holiday season, I have been enjoying coffee cake, pumpkin spice lattes, peppermint mochas, hot buttered rums, candy cane cookies, a piece of See's Candies here and there...all in moderation of course. Actually, on some days, I haven't been eating in moderation. The difference between this year and last year, though, is that I get right back on plan starting with the next meal. Even a year ago, this would not have occurred to me. I would have chalked up my overindulgence to the holiday season and would have given up even trying to moderate my food intake.

This year, however, I am more conscious of my food intake and that moderation means I don't have to eat everything that comes my way. For example, on a day like today I am refraining from all Christmas goodies (except maybe a hot buttered rum later on) because I know that tomorrow I will be indulging in yummy goodies at our church's Christmas party for special needs families.

Another motivating factor is the fact that I can look back at my Weight Loss Journal and actually see my progress. Do I want to blow all of my hard work and go back to how I was last Christmas? No. No I don't. I enjoy going to stores knowing that I can find the style of clothing that I want in my size. On Thursday, I went to Kohl's because I had one of their coupons and I bought myself a new T-shirt and a size Small! Do I want to go back to how I was last year? No. No I don't. Moderation does not equal deprivation, but it does require some self-control. It's not easy and some days I blow it. But I remember that getting back on track right away is the key to long-term success.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Countdown to Christmas

So, in yesterday's post, I probably gave the impression that I don't like to have any fun at Christmas. Nothing could be further from the truth. I do, however, believe that a religious holiday should have some religious expression and that its meaning should be impressed upon the a fun way, of course!

This year we're doing a countdown to Christmas. I've never had an Advent calendar, but I made one of my own sort of. Technically, Advent started on Sunday, November 27th, so I can't exactly call my calendar an Advent calendar. I got the idea from one of those crafty magazines that I can't remember the name of. (As an aside, the hubs and I often have a cheap date night at Barnes & Noble where he reads his comics and I read my magazines. No comments, please.) In the picture you can see or at least imagine 24 little red and green bags each of which have a number on it. When each number is unrolled, there is a Bible verse for the day. Inside each bag are two treats - one for each of my boys. I can't pass up an opportunity for sweets. See, I know how to have fun. (cough)

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  Luke 1:30-32

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Putting the Christ Back in Christmas and Why I Drink Egg Nog From a Shot Glass

Last year, the commercialism surrounding Christmas really bothered me. It still bothers me. This feeling is nothing new. Charlie Brown lamented about the holiday commercialism over 45 years ago. I wonder if Jews feel the same about Hanukkah, or maybe Hanukkah isn't so commercial like Christmas. I don't know.

Anyway, this year I've been thinking about Christmas traditions and how they (should) fit in with the overall religious/spiritual significance of the holiday. I'm going to start a new tradition: instead of an Advent calendar (which I never do), I'm going to do a Scripture verse a day leading up to Christmas. Today's verse is John 3:16. Speaking of Scripture verses, I was in Kmart a few days ago and I found Scripture Candy. You can see the tin in the picture. I rolled my eyes and thought it was kind of cheese ball, but then I thought, "What the heck!" and I bought some. Just because a holiday is religious doesn't mean it can't be fun. Reflection.

My other latest Christmas tradition - which is not spiritual in nature -  is to drink egg nog from a shot glass. Yes, a shot glass. If the shot glass is dirty, then I use a liqueur glass. Each holds 1oz of liquid. You see, when it comes to egg nog, moderation is even more important than it is for alcohol, in my opinion. The particular brand that I buy is 190 calories per 4oz. I can easily drink an 8oz glass of egg nog sans brandy and think,  "Holy Toledo, I just inhaled 380 calories! Can I have some fudge with that?" Moderation.

May the peace and love of Christ be with you this holiday season and always.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James1:27

Monday, November 28, 2011

Update WLJ

I've updated the Weight Loss Journal with the latest photo. November has been an interesting month. I've been ranging between 153 and 154 all month. This morning, the scale read 154.5lbs. The one bright spot is I went to Target to buy some sweat pants and you'll never guess what size I bought. That's right a size Small. Yeah, I know, they're only sweat pants but still. Considering the fact that at the beginning of this year, I wore an XL in sweats, I'd say that by the grace of God, I've come a long way. Now that's something to be thankful for. Onward and downward.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I know, I know: Thanksgiving was yesterday. A day late and a dollar short. Still, hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and hope you all are blessed in the coming year with more to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fairly Fair-Weather Fan

It's safe to say that I'm an apathetic sports fan. I'm not even sure that I can call myself a fair-weather fan because that implies that I'm a fan only when my favorite team is winning - which in turn implies that I actually have a favorite team and that I pay attention to it. Despite this, every so often something reminds me that I do have a team preference. Like last year when the SF Giants were in the World Series. Or when November rolls around and I'm reminded of the Big Game: that century-old football rivalry between Cal and Stanford.

Now, make no mistake, I actually don't give a rip about football. However, since I'm a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (aka "Cal", "Berkeley", or "UC Berkeley"), I almost feel compelled to shout, "GO BEARS!" at this time of year. It's not like I go crazy and paint my face or decorate our house and front yard with Cal's school colors. Sure, I have the obligatory Cal T-shirt (as do my children), but good grief, I'm not a freakin' cheerleader. It's enough for me to know that tomorrow is the Big Game and to remind myself to check the score every so often...if I remember. Or at least, to check the news on Sunday morning to get the final score. In spite of this apathy, I will say:

GOOOOOOOOOO BEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

BFD - November '11

This month is nearly over and I realized that I hadn't done BFD yet. So, just because I love pumpkin and I've been dying to use my bundt pan, I decided to make a pumpkin coffee cake.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Streusel and Caramel Glaze
Apples Au Gratin

So why three links for one coffee cake? Well, I liked the pumpkin coffee cake recipe, but I wanted more streusel than the recipe called for. This coffee cake was moist and not too sweet, which is just how I like my coffee cake. Next, I wanted a glaze, so when I did a search for caramel glaze and found the one that I linked to, I knew it was perfect. Yum! If you don't have a bundt pan, you might try using two round cake pans. I'm just guessing, so don't quote me on that.
Streusel Center

The apples au gratin? You mean like apples and cheese? Well, if you've ever had apple pie with cheddar cheese then you know how good it can be. Seriously. If you've never had this, then you'll have to try it; or just trust me. My only problem was I didn't have Granny Smith apples; however I did have some Cortland apples which are also good for baking. If you don't know already, it's worth your time to learn which apples are good for baking and which apples are good for eating. Here is a good place to start. Because I only had three apples, which yielded a little over a pound, I cut the recipe in half. I still had enough apple slices to fill a pie pan.
Apples Au Gratin

All in all, a good BFD. I will definitely look for other coffee cake recipes using a bundt pan. And finally, here is a picture of my nosey little cat wanting attention after being ignored for all of 3 minutes. I was trying to take a second picture of the coffee cake when she jumped up on the table to investigate. Dude, this little diva has a mind of her own; I couldn't have staged this even if I'd wanted to.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Standing Still

It was 9 years and 3 months ago that my husband and I were at Seattle Children's Hospital sitting in a room with various doctors, nurses, a social worker, and a chaplain. I soon discovered that if a chaplain is there, the news is seldom good. We were told that nothing more could be done for our youngest son. Based on their prior experience, the doctors told us that most infants who experienced a severe Grade IV intraventricular hemorrhage like our son usually died. In the gentlest way possible, we were advised to take our son home and enjoy what family time was left. Palliative care services would be provided to ensure that he was comfortable and in no pain.

After the meeting, my husband and I both numb and in shock decided that we needed to go somewhere, anywhere but home. We went to a little mall near the University of Washington. We had a mission: we needed to find a teddy bear for our son to be buried with. It was so surreal. College students were there doing last minute shopping. Other people were meeting for lunch. No one had any idea that the 30-something couple with the glazed look on their faces had just been told that their newborn son was dying. I remember thinking, "Our world is falling apart and everyone else is pressing on with their day." That one experience taught me how wrong it is to judge other people because we have no idea of all of the things going on in their lives. It also taught me the sometimes painful truth that life really does go on.

This past weekend reminded me of this. A friend who I don't get to see very often has had her world come to a standstill. She is grieving at the recent passing of her 20 year-old son whom she had to bury this weekend. I can only imagine that time is standing still for her. And I'm painfully aware that life moves along for everyone else around her. Yet I also know that when we take time out of our busy lives, when we stop and stand still with our grieving friends even for a few moments to give them help and comfort, that's what gives them the strength to eventually go on. We can't take away their pain, but we can provide help, a comforting presence, and hope.

I can't exactly say that my situation turned out all right, but our lives did move on. My son did beat the odds and he survived albeit with moderate disabilities. I'm grateful that he did not die and that I did not have to bury my child; but I have to say that we do grieve the loss of what could have been. Each year that grief becomes a little less but it never completely goes away. I also have to say that I am grateful for the people who took the time out of their busy lives in those early days to stand still with us - to bring us meals or to offer hugs, prayers and comforting words. And that is my prayer for everyone whose world has come to a standstill:

May the God of all strength and hope give you peace and comfort as you treasure your memories and continue on your journey. May God provide you with family and friends who lift you up and carry you for part of the way. Amen.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Romans 12:15

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thumbs Up - Tales of a Clueless VW Club Member

Maybe it's because I actually drive one now, but I'm noticing more of the older VWs on the road. I find myself checking out their paint job and trying to see what the interior looks like, you know, just to see what if any cool accessories they have that I don't. By no means am I a car geek. I really don't give a rat's rump about cars. As long as the car that I drive gets me from point A to point B with relatively few problems, I'm good. Just don't ask me to park on a hill.

I've also noticed that these older VWs get alot of attention, which is funny to me because they are such basic cars. They don't have the latest and greatest anything. They have no AC, no power anything, a death-wish rear engine - they're basically one step up from a golf cart. Basic. Simple. I think part of the attraction to these cars is their simplicity - they are easy to work on and they are easy to modify, not by me of course.

They're also different. There's no denying that their cartoonish shape stands out from the crowd. Kids yell, "Slug Bug!" when I drive by. Other drivers give me the thumbs up and smile. (I'm sure some drivers are giving me The Bird, too, since I pretty much drive the speed limit now.) They're also a conversation starter. People routinely ask, "What year is your Bug?" It's a 1969. "What kind of engine is in it?" F--- if I know. I'm not sure; it's got the original engine. It's fascinating. I'm almost expected to know these things. I'm feeling a little bit of pressure to pick up the VW lingo just so I can be conversant. Here's what I've picked up so far:

I have a 1969 VW Beetle with the original stock 1500cc engine. It's got the rear pop-out windows, which were an optional upgrade. And yes, that's the original color - Savannah Beige. 

How did I do?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

As you can see from the picture, we still have some pumpkins to carve in anticipation of tonight's candyfest celebration. However, this year for me the real celebration is the small victory that for the first time in dare I say "ever" I have not opened the Halloween candy prior to October 31st. Those bags of candy will remain unopened until tonight...when all bets are off. : )   HaPpY hAlLoWeEn!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Update WLJ

I updated the Weight Loss Journal with the latest picture. Since I obviously didn't make my goal of reaching my goal weight by the end of October, I'm going to remove that verbiage from the countdown counter. It's going to take as long as it takes. Right now, I have two health goals: 1) reach my goal weight of 145 and 2) reduce sodium intake in order to control my blood pressure. The bright side? I'm still wearing size 8 jeans! The even brighter side? I'm wearing Medium shirts! This time last year, I was wearing size 18 jeans and size XL (bordering 1X) shirts. I'd say I've made some progress. Onward and downward.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Did the Hundred Push Ups

I finished the One Hundred Push Ups program and on my final challenge I managed to do 101 push ups. I'm not going to go so far as to say that it feels good; but I will say that it is a good feeling of accomplishment knowing that I couldn't do this 6 weeks ago. Sure, as my FB friends know, it took me 7 weeks because I had to do over Week 5. And yes, I did girl push ups not "real" push ups. And yes, while doing the last 10 push ups I nearly fell on my face. But by the grace and strength of God, I completed the goal. Time to move on.

Since I'm still a little flabtastic around the middle, I think I'll try the Two Hundred Sit Ups challenge starting today. Also, after doing the hundred push ups and working out my biceps, I noticed just how flabby my triceps are, so I'm going to do the One Fifty Dips. At least that's what I keep telling myself. Seriously, though, 6 weeks does go by fairly quickly. So, if you're like me and you're looking for a cheap, I mean frugal, alternative to the gym then the One Hundred Push Ups training program is worth checking out.

"The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. " Psalm 145:13b-14

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Slightly Shifting Focus

Although I'm still counting calories and keeping track of how many miles I walk each day, I'm shifting my focus ever so slightly away from this and concentrating on the food and nutrients that make up my calories. Last month, I went to the doctor to check on my blood pressure. After losing 50lbs, I was so sure that it would have improved and would be below 140/90. Unfortunately, it was above 140/90. I should back up and say that over the summer I stopped taking my medication. I know, it wasn't the smartest thing to do, but I had to know for sure if losing weight helped. It did, sort of, but it wasn't enough. The one piece of good news, however, was that my lipid panels and fasting glucose test results were all within normal range. Woo hoo!

When I got home I was annoyed, but I was even more determined to control my bp through diet. I remembered reading about the Eat to Live program, so I searched for it on Amazon and ordered it. In a nutshell, the premise of this program is that the standard American diet is too high in fat and sodium and too low in nutrients. In other words, we need to increase the fruits, veggies, beans, seeds, and nuts to the point where those foods comprise the bulk of our diet. It has to be a permanent lifestyle change not a temporary fix. I got it. I'm now using Calorie Count's food analysis feature to determine if I'm getting enough protein, vitamins, and minerals as well as if I'm keeping my sodium and fats in check. Last Friday, I was able to stay on target for each area.

Let's face it folks: sodium is found in just about every processed food whether it's canned, bagged, or packaged. The less processed food I eat the better. If you're curious about what this new eating regime looks like, you can click on the picture at the left. It's a summary of what I ate last Friday. Onward and downward.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

BFD - October '11

Apples or pumpkins? It's hard to choose, so why not have both. For this month's BFD we had:

Apple Cinnamon Rolls
Pumpkin Smoothie
Assorted Fresh Fruit

I've done cinnamon rolls before and nothing beats homemade cinnamon rolls. But, I wanted something a little different this time around. When I found the recipe for Apple Cinnamon Rolls I thought, "Perfect!" We have tons of apples from our visit to semi-local orchards a couple of weeks ago and I've been dying to bake something with apples.

The instructions are pretty self-explanatory. I did not have RapidRise yeast, so I used regular yeast and had the dough sit for an hour. My apple cinnamon rolls don't look as soft and gooey because I use 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 white flour. Also, I only made half of the recipe and this yielded 12 rolls. Well, I should clarify that I cut the dough portion in half but kept the same amount of apples. You should generously grease the baking pan as these are sticky. IMO, these cinnamon rolls should be called "Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls". Seriously. In fact, that's what I told my kids they were called.

I considered the pumpkin smoothie recipe to be a starting point. I did make some modifications, so here is my version:

Pumpkin Banana Smoothie  (Serves 4)

1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 banana
1 cup light vanilla soy milk
1 cup 1% milk
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger ( husband requested this)
A handful of ice cubes
Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth.

First, while I love pumpkin I didn't want it to be the overwhelming taste, so I reduced it. Second, since I wasn't adding alot of additional sweetener, I decided to add a banana and substitute light vanilla soy milk for 1/2 of the milk. (Vanilla almond milk works, too.) If it's too thick, then add a little more milk or soy milk until you get the right consistency. Third, I did not freeze the pumpkin puree so I added a handful of ice cubes to make it frosty. This was my favorite. Yum!

Monday, October 10, 2011

H.I.P. Update

Well, another home improvement project has come and gone and I must say that the boys' rooms look brand new. Even without a fresh coat of paint on the walls. Seriously. Maybe I'm just saying that because I hate carpet - that nasty, hard-to-care-for, dirt-attracting carpet. Sure, it comes in a wide variety of colors and textures to match the room's decor. And sure, it's nice to feel the warm, soft carpet under your feet in the winter. But none of this is worth the long-term hassle of carpet in my opinion - especially carpet in kids' rooms.

The one thing that I do appreciate about carpet is that it does act as a sound dampener. Oh well, I'm willing to live without it. The laminate flooring lives up to its promise of looking good, being easy to clean, and relatively easy to install. (Thanks to my hardworking hubby.) It does look like real hardwood, sort of, but any claims of it sounding like real hardwood...I'm sorry, but it doesn't. I had real hardwood floors in my 1918 house in Seattle. Still, I'm not going to rain on my own parade because did I mention that it still looks good and is easy to clean?

Friday, October 7, 2011


Once a month I am blessed to be able to go out for an evening and visit with some wonderful women who just also happen to be moms with special needs children - this is Mom's Night Out. There are the regulars (of which I am one) who try to make it every month. Then there are others who make it less frequently.

Sometimes the evening is filled with so much laughter that I have tears in my eyes. Other times, the mood might be a little heavy. Sometimes one or two or three or more of us are going through a rough patch either at home or at school. No matter what the situation is we all know that we can share our struggles without fear of being judged or misunderstood. These moms "get it". They've been there. They've done that. There is nothing you could say that would shock us. They know that normal is just a setting on the dryer so to speak.

At the risk of sounding like a 1960's folk song, I will say that everyone needs to feel as though someone understands them. Loneliness, confusion, and frustration stem from thinking that you are the only one experiencing this - whether it's an autistic child with behaviors or a child with global delays who struggles to hit the developmental milestones. That's not to say that we don't have friends with typical children. We do. But honestly, sometimes it's hard to relate particularly when things are rough at home. Speaking from experience, I was ecstatic to find others like me. This didn't change my situation; however, it did give me a powerful sense of knowing that I am not alone. That my friends, is priceless. So to all of my MNO buddies: I hope you know just how much you all mean to me.

"Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice."  Proverbs 27:9

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Home Improvement Projects Suck Tainted Egg Rolls

Once again, we find ourselves in the middle of a home improvement project. This time we are ripping out the carpeting in the boys' rooms and replacing it with wood laminate flooring. The carpet in my youngest son's room has endured several accidents and was in dire need of replacing. The carpet in my oldest son's room was the original white carpet from when we first bought the house. Needless to say, it was no longer white and it needed to go. And no, we did not choose the white carpet just in case you were wondering.

This particular project has been in the works for a while. We knew we didn't want to replace carpet with carpet and wood laminate was our first choice. It was just a matter of  the right time and the right price. Well the right price occurred, which automatically dictated that it was the right time even though it really wasn't. Costco has wood laminate flooring on sale for $8.00 off per box. That's a good chunk of savings.

Quite frankly, it's never a good time for a home improvement project. The chaos and general upheaval that goes with it always grates on my nerves. I'm not complaining mind you; I feel fortunate that we're able to do this. It's simply that for at least one of us, our time is divided between supervising our youngest son and doing the project at hand. And no, we can't always hire someone to watch him. Consequently, projects take a little longer than usual. I know in the end that it will all be worth it - that's why I'm not complaining...too much.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Update WLJ

I updated the Weight Loss Journal with the latest photo. The scale read 155.5, which means I have 10lbs to lose to reach my goal. Yay! Hoping I can do that by the end of next month, or at the very least, by Thanksgiving. Onward and downward.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Bath" is a Four-Letter Word

It was time for my little Chi to have a bath because he was stinky and I do not like that dog smell. I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

"Bath" is a four-letter word.

How come you never do this to the cats?

If I was a Rottweiler you wouldn't be doing this.

I don't need a blow dryer - just let me roll around in the dirt.

Can I have a treat now?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Unsolicited Weight Loss Advice

As I mentioned before, I enjoy reading weight loss success stories and advice. Even if the advice tips aren't something I would do, I still enjoy reading about what has worked for others. Most of the advice that I've found helpful has centered on changing my habits and attitudes. So today I thought I would share with you some unsolicited advice that I've found to be helpful if you're on a weight loss journey.

Don't diet
With the possible exception of a supervised medical weight loss program, honestly, don't try the latest diet unless you're willing to do it for the rest of your life. Find a weight loss approach that you can adopt as a permanent lifestyle change not a temporary fix.

Our bodies were made to move, so get moving.

Don't be afraid to ask for help
Whether you ask your doctor, a family member, a friend, or God, having another person to encourage you will be a great motivator.

Don't compare yourself to others
Is your friend or co-worker losing weight faster than you are? Are there more fit and trim people at the gym? So what. You're not competing in a race; you're on a journey to better health. Your road to better health will have different bumps, detours, and straightaways.

Look forward not backward
Were you 50lbs lighter in college? Did you overindulge in your previous meal? The past is the past. It's done. It's over with. Forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes and move on. Get right back on plan starting with the next meal. Keep your end goal in focus.

Motivate yourself continually
Other people or ideas may inspire you, but only you can motivate yourself. Having a goal weight or a dress size in mind is a good motivator. However, I'm also talking about the little things like a star on the calendar every time you lose 5lbs, or monthly pictures or measurements of your progress. Whatever. You will need lots of little motivators to help you along the way, because I guarantee that you will encounter setbacks.

Good luck with your journey!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Do you have the courage to repost this on your blog or on Facebook? Courtney did. Spread the word to end the R-word.

BFD - September '11

I know, Fall isn't here yet but it's still apple season in my book. Since it's not OK to serve apple pie for breakfast (ahem), I decided on apple turnovers to welcome fall and melon smoothies to say good-bye to summer.

Apple Turnovers
Melon Smoothie (or Melon Slushie)
Crispy Hash Browns

I love apple pie and since apple turnovers are basically like mini apple pies, I knew I couldn't go wrong. In preparing the apples, I did not add honey or lemon juice. I sauteed the apple chunks in a pat of butter and cinnamon sugar. It took less than 10 minutes to get them tender. I then put them in a covered bowl and put them in the refrigerator until I needed them. Since I didn't use puff pastry I guess I can't complain that they weren't tender and flaky. They were still good, just not what I wanted. Next time I'll splurge and get puff pastry.

OK, let's be honest: the melon smoothie sounds gross because no one thinks of putting melons in a smoothie. At least I don't. And truth be told, I didn't exactly make a smoothie. I used the ingredients from this recipe to make a melon slushie. Bear with me. I have a Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt/Ice Cream maker. I thought it would be a good idea to puree the melon with the sugar and lime juice and then pour the puree into the ice cream maker to make a slushie. And you know what? It was a darn good idea. It was cool and refreshing. I think a frozen watermelon puree would be good also.

For the potatoes, I decided that it was time to make some good old fashioned pan-fried hash browns. I love pan-fried hash browns, I really do. It's just that they are a pain to make. I think what I need is a large electric skillet just for these hash browns. All in all, a little disappointment mixed with a pleasant surprise.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Speaking of Scales and Diets

I use a kitchen food scale to weigh my food. It's nothing fancy; it weighs to the nearest eighth of an ounce or full gram (stop smirking). Since I'm terrible at gauging portion sizes, the food scale has proved to be invaluable to me. However, I don't want to give the impression that I got the food scale specifically for my weight loss program. I've had this scale for years albeit for a different diet.

Once upon a time, when my youngest son was a baby, he used to have atonic seizures (aka "drop seizures"). The first two antiepileptic meds did not control these seizures, so the pediatric neurologist suggested two options: (1) continue down the list of antiepileptic meds or (2) try the ketogenic diet. We opted to try the ketogenic diet because we reasoned that we could always go back to trying different meds. I won't go into a long description of the ketogenic diet; if you're interested, you can follow the link. However, I will say that in describing the diet, the words "restrictive" and "laborious" are too kind.

Truth be told, had we not seen its effects during our son's hospital stay, we would have quit. Even when we did see immediate positive results - and by 'positive results' I mean no seizures - I still wanted to quit within those first two weeks. Every component of every meal had to be weighed and the liquids had to be measured. In addition, while my son was adjusting to the reduced calories and reduced liquids, he was miserable and acted accordingly. It took about a month for him to fully adjust. And don't get me started about checking his urine for ketones using the Ketostix. I don't want to scare anyone who is considering this diet because it can be a Godsend for some. But I do want to make clear that it requires total commitment. My son was on the diet for two years before he was weaned off. Praise the Lord, he has been seizure free ever since. If I had to do it all over again I would. And if I had to continue the diet in order for him to be seizure free or to reduce the number of seizures, I would. But honestly, I'm glad it's over.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rushing into Fall

I do this every year. The minute September 1st rolls around I immediately go into Fall mode. I don't fall into Fall, I run into Fall. Out come all of the crock pot recipes, pumpkin recipes, bread, coffee cake, muffin recipes...and summer's not even over with. In my mind, when September is here it's Fall, baby! And that means planning visits to pumpkin farms, apple orchards and all that good stuff.

Unfortunately, summer usually goes out with a bang around here: this week it's supposed to be in the high 90s/low 100s. So much for a cooling trend. I guess the Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice lattes will have to wait a while. Although it is getting a little cooler in the early morning and in the evening; maybe I could slip away to Starbuck's then.

This fall I'm actually going to plant some daffodil and tulip bulbs. I've wanted to do this for at least 10 years and I finally bought the bulbs at Costco a few weeks ago. I might decide to plant some fall blooming crocus, but if I do I better get on that ASAP.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What Was I Thinking?

Sometimes I get these brilliant ideas (not) and I get all excited until I actually have to follow through on these ideas. When it's time to follow through I inevitably think, What was I thinking? It's moments like this when I realize that sometimes my head is somewhere other than on my shoulders.

My latest brainstorm is to do the One Hundred Push Ups challenge. You see, walking is the only exercise that I've been doing and while that's not necessarily bad, I know that I should be working other muscle groups. I also don't want to commit the money to going to a gym because I'm trying to find inexpensive ways to improve my overall health and fitness. Is it because I'm too cheap? Yes and no. I'm doing this primarily because I don't want to have any excuses to fall back on. For example, if money suddenly became extremely tight and I had to drop Weight Watchers and a gym membership, where would that leave me? Counting calories and exercising at home are things that I can do in good times and bad times for the rest of my life. Besides, why go to a gym to lift weights when I can lift my body weight? Um, yeah.

Anyway, after getting this brilliant idea, I posted it on Facebook and invited my friends to join me. Some of them actually said they would do it. The fools. (Just kidding! LOVE you all!!!!!!!) Now I actually have to follow through. Yesterday was Day 1 of Week 1 and I survived. It's gonna be a long six weeks but even if I don't make it to 100 push ups, I know that I'm doing something good for my health and fitness. Wish me luck.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Minus 50 and Counting

Today, I finally reached the milestone of losing 50lbs. Yay!! Happy dance, happy dance! To celebrate this occasion, I've added a weight loss badge to this post. If you want one for your very own, you can go to Eclipsed No More and find them there. And now, I'm going to go celebrate with a cup of coffee.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weights and Measures

The weight is coming off more slowly now. Although I can't say that I'm happy about it, I know that it's to be expected. So, along with the scale I've added a tape measure to my motivational tools arsenal. Now I have two sets of numbers to motivate me: one in pounds the other in inches.

I love reading weight loss success stories and advice tips. Somewhere along the line I read that it's a good idea to take body measurements. The reason for this is that as you build muscle your body becomes leaner even though your body weight may not change...or it may increase. I've only lost 8lbs all summer, but I've lost about 2+ inches overall. I suspect that's the reason why I can now wear a size 10 (cough) even if it's still a little snug around the middle. So if the scale is not moving fast enough for you, then break out the old tape measure. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Update WLJ

I updated the Weight Loss Journal with this month's photo. I'm wearing my latest Goodwill find - size 10 jeans. Woo hoo! I know, I know, vanity sizing. Strangely enough they don't look that much different from my size 12 jeans, but I'll take it anyway. The numbers are still proof that I've lost weight. Onward and downward.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Short Bus

It's that wonderful time of year called Back to School. Besides the back-to-school sale flyers nothing symbolizes Back to School like the yellow school bus in its iconic shade of School Bus Yellow. (Technically, the color is called National School Bus Glossy Yellow. Who knew?) The yellow school bus, it seems, is as American as apple pie. I guess.

Keen observers such as small children will notice that there are big yellow buses and short yellow buses. (As a side note: did you know that the plural of bus can also be spelled busses? Hmmm.) A curious child might ask, "Why are there two bus sizes?" How to answer this question. Let's see. Well, let's start with what the short yellow bus is not. The short bus is not The Retard Rocket. It is not the SpEd Sled. It is not the Tart Cart. (If you're curious about these terms, then visit Urban Dictionary. If you're easily offended then don't.) The short bus is a hard-working bus equipped with a wheelchair lift because some children cannot walk and must use wheelchairs. Some children may have difficulty sitting because of low muscle tone and may require support from a seat belt found on the short bus.

The short yellow bus is a hard-working bus that transports equally hard-working students. You see, many of these students struggle to master basic tasks and skills that come so much easier to the students on the big bus. Whether it's walking, talking, eating, reading, writing, or simply understanding, the students on the short bus have had difficulty learning to do some of these basics. Yet, despite all of this, these courageous students go off to school - sometimes happily - never knowing that the words "short bus" have become a disparaging term.

I don't want to paint an idyllic picture of life on the short bus. It's not all fun and games and yes, sometimes there are behavioral challenges. However, it's not all fun and games on the big bus either. But then again, the kids on the big bus should know better. So the next time you see a short yellow school bus just know that it carries students like my son. Just know that it carries students whose parents are so grateful that their children have an opportunity to go to school.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ " Matthew 25:40

Thursday, August 18, 2011

BFD - August '11

I wanted something chocolatey. Last week, I made a chocolate banana bread and it was pretty darn good. For BFD, however, I wanted something a little more delicate. Fancy even. But what? Pain au chocolat, that's what! For this month's BFD we had:

Pain au Chocolat
Fruit, Yogurt & Granola Parfait

I purposely waited to have BFD on a night when the kids had already gone back to school so that I would have time to prepare this. Although the recipe is not that complicated it does require time. Most of the time is spent chilling the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes at a time, which you have to do four times. Don't let that scare you. This pain au chocolat is worth the time.

The instructions and pictures are very thorough, so if you have a rolling pin and some time, you're good to go. I made only two alterations to the recipe: (1) I used a combination of white flour and whole wheat flour; (2) I did not have "good quality chocolate" like Callebaut as the recipe called for, but I did have lots of leftover Hershey bars from our camping trip. I just couldn't let those go to waste. In spite of those alterations, this pastry was beyond yummy. Delicate flaky layers? Yes. Buttery? Yes. A must to try if you've been craving a pastry but don't want to spend money at the bakery. The recipe said that it made 3 dozen, but the author specified that she made them small. I got 16 of them and that was perfect for me.

I had also been craving a yogurt and granola parfait. Don't ask me why. The recipe I found called for Greek yogurt, which I use anyway. Personally, I like the texture and thickness of Greek yogurt especially Zoi - it's almost as thick as sour cream. Sadly, I used store-bought granola. In the past I have made my own granola, but honestly, it's a bit of work. I decided to save my effort for the pastry. All in all, I'm proud of my effort. If you want to impress your family and friends then try making some pain au chocolat.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Commitment and Follow-Through

8/15 Morning Walk
We've all heard some variation of this theme: the gyms are packed in January and by February they're empty again. Why is that? Why do some people start off strong and then fizzle out? If I were to play amateur psychologist, I would say that some people secretly don't want to change their habits, or at least they're not ready to. But, everyone berates themselves for carrying extra pounds and makes a New Year's resolution to lose weight, right? Guilt. It seems like the thing to do. I would also say that many people have yet to realize that lasting change doesn't happen overnight; it takes time. Many people want results and they want them NOW. So, they exercise every day for an hour. When they don't get the results they want when they want, they quit. Impatience.

I'm sure there are other reasons and I'm just guessing, of course, because after all I am an amateur. When I started my weight loss program, I approached it with the attitude that it was time to take charge and show my body who was boss. I had the diet mindset. I drastically reduced my calories to about 1000 - 1200 per day. Stop beating yourself up. I had it all wrong. All I needed to do was to gradually decrease the amount that I had been eating and move more than I had been doing. I had to make the commitment to change my habits. I had to make the commitment to eat sensibly and to exercise for a lifetime. Then I had to follow through on those commitments.

In an older entry, "Motivation and Accountability" I posted a picture of my pedometer that read 2.89 miles. I now walk between 5.0 and 5.5 miles. When I started walking, I committed to 3 days per week. Now, I walk 5 days per week. Enthusiasm is great; but if you lose motivation and become discouraged because you are overdoing it and not seeing the results that you want, you will be more likely to quit. Start by making a commitment that you know you can keep for at least a month. Can you easily exercise 3 days a week? Do it. Only 15 minutes a day? Do it. After a month, you will feel so much better about yourself for having kept your commitment. Then you can work on gradually increasing your time. Commitment and follow-through are the building blocks to lasting change. If you're on a similar journey, I wish you the very best.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

When to Spend

I don't like spending any more than I have to. Well, that's not entirely true; I do make plenty of exceptions to that rule. Sometimes I spend more for the sake of convenience - often this is the worst reason to spend more. Sometimes I spend more because the quality or service is often superior to the cheaper option. Sometimes I spend more in order to teach a life lesson. That's what I did today.

Today, I decided that I had to do something with those brown-spotted bananas in the cupboard. I got the brilliant idea to make chocolate banana bread. Yum. But honestly, what's banana bread without cream cheese? I suppose you could slather butter on it, but I prefer cream cheese. Of course, I didn't have cream cheese. Did I really need it? No. However, I did have a 5 dollar bill just burning a hole in my wallet, and I have an almost 12 year-old. What's the point of having an almost 12 year-old with a bike if you can't put him to work? I sent him on his way up the street to the big name grocery store that I rarely go to. I could have just as easily gotten into my car to go to Winco because I knew that the cream cheese at the big name store would be $1 - $2 more. Sure enough, I was right.

The extra $2 was an investment in building my son's confidence, demonstrating to him that I trust and believe that he is capable of being responsible. I firmly believe that one of the most important things that parents can do is to show that they trust their children by giving them responsibilities and carefully measured independence as they get older - yes, even kids with Asperger's need this. I also believe that parents set the example. I tried to demonstrate generosity by letting him keep the change. I hope he repeats this when it's his turn to leave a tip. If he does learn this then that, my friends, will be worth every penny.

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Colossians 3:21

Monday, August 8, 2011

Yosemite Again Along with Bodie

Olmsted Point
Yosemite never disappoints me. Even with all of the tourists in the Valley, the view of El Capitan and Half Dome is spectacular. We did the open air tram tour of the Yosemite Valley floor and even though we did this last year, I still learned something new.

This year, however, we weren't content to stay in the valley floor. This year we decided to drive through the northern part of Yosemite on Hwy 120 aka Tioga Road. We got to see Half Dome from Olmsted Point. We got to see the beautiful Tuolumne River and Tuolumne Meadows. While standing in the middle of the meadow, we got to see five deer on the other side of the river just grazing in the grass. 

Barber Shop in Bodie
As astonishing as all of this beauty was, this was not our final destination. We were really on our way to visit Bodie, a real California ghost town. We continued on the Tioga Pass to Hwy 395 and had lunch at Bodie Mike's Barbecue in a little town called Lee Vining, which overlooks Mono Lake. I had the tri-tip sandwich and I have to say that it was pretty darn good. The most memorable part of lunch, however, was the fact that we were surrounded by French families on vacation. Imagine being in a teeny tiny eastern California town surrounded by French speakers. OK, maybe only I find that amusing. On to Bodie.

General Store in Bodie
The last few miles to Bodie is nothing but dirt road; thank goodness we had a rental car. (You didn't actually think I'd take the Bug to Yosemite did you?) I have to say that if you're a history buff or you just like California history, then visit Bodie. The kids might act bored or they might actually be bored; but who cares. This will give them a chance to actually see a wild west town. The town itself is in a state of "arrested decay", which means that it won't be restored but rather it will be preserved. This is very cool. All in all, a very fun trip. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Busy Busy

I don't have alot of time to blog today. I'm getting ready for our camping trip to Yosemite. For the record, we don't do "real" camping - I need a campground with facilities, because I'm sorry but I don't sh*t in the woods. Also, when you have a child who needs to be watched constantly because he still puts everything into his mouth, it's not in our best interest to be around alot of poison oak.

So, it's off to Yosemite we go for a few days of rest and relaxation. I'm looking forward to the beautiful scenery, the family time, and of course the S'mores. Seriously, what's a camping trip without S'mores? Until next week.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Update WLJ

I updated the Weight Loss Journal with my latest picture. The scale said 165 today. I'll take it. And, I'm wearing size 10 shorts (cough). Yes, I'm being snarky and if you want to know why then read this. Onward and downward.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stickin' It

No, I'm not telling anyone to do anything rude, I'm talking about driving a car with a stick shift. Up until now, I've never had to drive a stick because all of my cars have been automatic. I learned to drive a car using an automatic and it never occurred to me to learn to drive a stick because (1) I lived in a city environment and (2) I later got a job commuting 45 minutes each way and who wants to drive a stick in rush hour traffic?

My husband, however, learned to drive both and so I asked him to teach me to drive the Bug. He graciously agreed. As there is no "power" anything in this car, all I can say is it's a "raw driving experience" to quote my husband. And when I'm behind the wheel and shifting the stick, that's a scary thought. Actually, in fairness to myself I can shift just fine from 1st to 2nd to 3rd to 4th. It's the shifting from a dead stop to 1st that I have the most trouble. In fact, over at Car Talk, they mention that moving from stop to 1st gear is the most difficult. Yeah, no kidding.

Like learning any new skill, practice makes perfect (tell that to my kids when they're in the backseat.) There will be moments of frustration and times you will want to quit. And believe me, I have had moments where I would like to tell this car where to...stick it. Shifting is getting a little easier everyday as long as I avoid stopping on a hill; or congested streets; or pedestrians.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fab and 42

No, I'm not talking about myself because I'm not 42. I'm talking about the "new" car that we just bought: a 1969 VW Bug. If you're one of my FB friends then you know that I actually said "#@%$ it", learned to drive a stick, and now bought a Bug. What in the world is wrong with me? Throughout this whole experience, the most traumatic part has been learning to drive a stick a Bug. Honestly, I felt like I've needed my inhaler every time I've gotten behind the wheel. All I can say is thank goodness I already know the rules of the road so I only had to concentrate on shifting. The second most traumatic part has been searching for a Bug that is in decent driveable condition with minimal to no rust. We weren't searching for perfection, but we didn't want a project either. It can be a tiring and disappointing process.

Sometimes, however, all of that frustration is really just preparation to help you recognize an opportunity when it comes your way. That's what happened to us. Last Saturday evening I was out doing a 5k run (more like walk) with some friends. My husband took the boys to church and in the process he lost his sunglasses. He lingered a little longer than usual in order to look for them. (Had I been there, I would have hurried him along.) Giving up, he piled the boys in the car when my oldest son said, "Daddy, look! There's a Bug and it has a For Sale sign on it!" He pulled up alongside the other Bug and noticed what good condition it was in. He wrote down the information and made arrangements to go see it and test drive it.

While it's not in mint condition, it's in pretty darn good condition for being 42 years old. And get this: it still has the original engine with only 28,000 original miles. Maybe I'm easily impressed, but our 11 year old van had 148,000 miles. The person we bought it from was the second owner. He said that the first owner was literally the little old lady next door who mainly drove the Bug around town. He gave us the original manual with the salesperson's business card from the VW dealership in San Francisco in 1969. Niiice. So there you have it. Our car dilemma is over, for now.


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