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After celebrating her daddy’s birthday all day on Monday with our family, Katie and I were having a quiet moment later that evening when she told me that she had written a poem in her head and wanted me to hear it. I grabbed a pen and wrote it down.

KATIE’S POEM:

“It doesn’t matter how slowly you go,

If they tease.

It doesn’t matter how fast.

It is all in front of you.”

~Katie June, 6/25/12

Her childlike purity is a wisdom of all its own. Her words ring so true to me; I hope she always keeps this knowledge in sight. It doesn’t matter how slowly we go, or if we’re teased for it. We don’t have to race against anyone or anything and go fast. Her poem implies that there is no point to either pace: we just have to be in the moment, present with our true selves. Everything that is to be, is all in front of us right at the moment or even in the future—I love her ending line, because she completely collapses time. Everything that is to be, already is. Her words take us right through the illusion of linear time.

It is all in front of us:

Yesterday, Katie and I went on a mother-daughter date to see the new Disney movie Brave. Following the lead from my friend Erin Brady, we wore our festive plaid to celebrate the Scottish setting of the film. Erin is one of the most festive, radiant people I know. She loves to make life special and good. We loved this idea, Erin, thank you!

We both enjoyed the movie, though the ending was a bit intense for both of us! Brave is essentially a mother and daughter story, and we had such a great conversation about it and each other after the film. Definitely buying this one when it comes out!

We love having Bill’s family over for his birthday party every year!

Uncle Pat, Katie, Uncle Chet enjoying angel food cake, strawberries, Cool Whip (25 cals for 2 TB—how rocking’ is that? Bill said it was like ice cream), and a drizzle of 60% cacao.

Uncle Seth and Bill…and Aunt Irma was around somewhere, too! We had a great time chatting and re-watching some of the track and field Olympic trials (track and field was the sport of all the McGaugh brothers and a big passion in our family—I knew nothing about track and field until I married in)! I love Bill’s side of our family so much, always easy going and companionable people.

We also had our last day of Music Together class for the year since I last wrote. Bill took our last day of school picture, a tradition for us. Katie has now completed all three years (9 quarters worth) of the Music Together program in Fallbrook. She will come with Eric and me next year, though, as he completes his last year of the program. Thank goodness, because otherwise I would have been in tears last Friday. I remember our first day of class like yesterday. So next year at this time, I will be bawling…As a teacher and as a mother, I am extremely susceptible to end-of-school-year-and-graduation melancholy! Anyway, one of our friends Elaine hosted a small get together for some of the long-time music class members and her daughter Sadie. What a beautiful afternoon watching the children all play together and visiting with adult friends. Elaine put on a beautiful, child-friendly spread. Such a thoughtful way to end the year for all of us! Thanks again, Elaine, for the best afternoon!

The kiddos have also been enjoying our yard as we looked for signs of summer this week (not hard to find, where we live!):

Boppa brought pump water guns. These are so great! Katie and Eric have been having a ball with them.

Relaxing

On Saturday (and yes, I do have pics, but I forgot to share them with my Mac), we drove to Nana’s house to visit with her and Aunt Jenny (who was staying for a week). Katie and Aunt Jenny were organizing the back bedroom, and I loved watching them talk and work together. Aunt Jenny and I have a very special bond, and we used to write letters to each other when she was in law school and I was in elementary school. Those letters from her are some of my most prized possessions and always will be. To see my children making memories with people I love is the greatest treasure…

I’ve continued with my running, biking, weight lifting, and here-and-there yoga this week. I am down seven pounds now, counting calories and embracing a heavily plant-based diet. My best time for 1.2 miles so far is 12:46 (on the morning of Bill’s birthday), but today I had a difficult run. Not sure why, but my legs just felt like lead stones. My progress has been linear so far, but I slipped back to 12:59 this morning for 1.2 miles. Oh well. As Katie says…the pace doesn’t matter, but being in the moment does.

Although my new way of eating (mainly vegetarian-in-training) at first mystified me, as I probe more deeply and put together a recipe collection, I am feeling a renewed love of cooking and the joy of creativity again. Today we made spinach, pineapple, soy milk, banana, and honey smoothies. The kiddos gobbled them, and yes, I stuffed them full of spinach. I’ve been seeing this recipe lately—the new trendy smoothie, to be sure—and I had to try it for myself before becoming a true believer. My mom tried it this morning with spinach and kale, and that was finally the push I needed. It is delicious.

I find myself so inspired now by the produce section and healthy, body-nourishing foods. I am amazed at how vibrant everything tastes to me now that I embrace hunger before meals and have tuned up my system a little.

In my quest to take us off (as much as possible) of cow’s milk, I have been researching and fielding opinions about the milk alternatives. Readers, I’d love for you to weigh in… We’re on soy right now for daily needs, but I’ve been hearing that almond milk or coconut milk might be better. Thoughts?

My mom also turned me on to ancient grains, such as kamut. I’d like to experiment with amaranth, as well. Tonight I made a huge bowl of a kamut, chickpea, kalamata olive, golden raisin, and dried cranberry salad. Oh yum. Eric liked it more than Katie, but both of them tried it. Eric mainly went for the chickpeas.

I roasted beautiful orange, red, and yellow bell peppers yesterday for use in egg white, goat cheese, and spinach omelettes this week.

We’re also brewing Stash’s Moroccan Mint tea in the sun and chilling it in our fridge. Eric and Katie both enjoy it, too.

Sweet dreams, everyone!

 

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As we all know, I love to eat. Cook and eat. Bake and eat. I love unusual ingredients, classic old world dishes, French technique, and vibrant colors. Special occasions, for me, have often centered around food. Food is beautiful, comforting, magical, memorable, nostalgic, and satisfying.

And someday, when I have my body back to where I want it, I will get to play with high-risk food again. Sugar and fat, smears of mascarpone, French nursery desserts… By then, I may not want to play with that kind of food as much. Right now, I am teaching myself to cook, bake, and eat in a new way, and I know I cannot go near my old recipes for the moment.

I am choosing not to look at these choices as deprivation or sacrifice. Every moment is hard work, but I love the challenge of navigating through a new realm of food. If I aim to eat between 1200 and 1500 cals a day, then what is the most I can make out of a little? How can I put the right fuel into my body, satiate my need for strong tastes, and let my creative side have fun at the same time? So much of my cooking and baking has been a form of relaxation for me and an outlet for creativity. But why not put that creativity into designing healthier food? Or into shaping my body and my health and my strength?

This journey is still new to me, though not so new. I’ve lost 6.5 pounds, and during the past two mornings, I’ve seen the scale flirt with a number even lower than that, like it wants to land on the new weight, but not quite. I am shooting for my 7th pound this week. A change in diet is only one component; I went for another run this morning and followed it up with the bike.

Everyone I know has a different way of changing his or her diet when losing weight. Some people suggest this, some suggest that. I don’t know if what I am doing is the best plan for everyone; all I know is, it is working for me. I count calories, every calorie. I try to eat a variety of foods, focusing on high protein yields, plants, and beans. I will say that when I decided to embark on this journey, 1200-1500 calories of food seemed like it would be nothing. Well, it turns out that it is practically nothing, if I want to eat high fat, high sugar foods. With eating the way I do now, though, I sometimes find it challenge to eat all of my allotted calories in a day.

Other days, I feel like I am hungry all day—I won’t lie about that. But those are phases, and just to be borne. Hunger is nothing to fear. The time between meals really isn’t that long.

Today I have been having a great day, feeling full most of the day and eating what I consider to be a tremendous amount of food. Funny how that works, after the food detox takes place. My eyes and stomach and mind have healthy portions back into perspective now. In fact, this morning I was marveling to myself how much I truly used to eat. I guess being on my feet all day with the kiddos (I truly hardly ever sit down—I like to be busy!) is the only thing that even remotely kept my weight in check, and even then, it was creeping up on the average.

This is what I have eaten today:

BREAKFAST:

1 slice of toasted Ezekiel bread (complete protein): 80 cals

1 TB almond butter: 90 cals

1/2 c soy milk: 55 cals

1 c. puffed rice cereal: 10 cals (with liberal cinnamon on top)

1/2 c. locally picked blueberries: 42 cals

A spot of milk in my tea: 7 cals

Total calories for breakfast: 284 calories

LUNCH

3/4 c Texas Caviar (from Costco—beans, jicama, corn, red peppers, herbs): 70 cals

2 TB cilantro jalapeño hummus: 50 cals

10 pita chips: 130 cals (splurge!)

1/2 c. 0% Greek yogurt: 65 cals

2 small tomatoes: 13 cals

1 persian cucumber, about 1/2 cup diced: 7 cals

1 slice of roasted turkey: 45 cals

Total for lunch: 380 cals

TOTAL FOR THE DAY SO FAR: 664 calories

I might go ahead and have an afternoon protein bar for 200 cals. It’s a long time until dinner right now, and I ran today. I usually account for a protein bar on days when I run, knowing I am rebuilding muscle. That will put me at 864 cals going into dinner. I am not sure if I want to be that splurgy or not—if not, I can play more with what I have for dinner. Maybe I will just have some mint or rooibos tea instead.

My favorite item of the day (besides the hummus, which I adore, and the blueberries) was the Greek yogurt with the tomatoes and cucumber cut up on top and dressed just with salt and pepper. I’ve been having some cottage cheese with tomatoes every day (it tastes like dessert to me, it’s soooooooo good!), but I ran out of cottage cheese. Just as well, because cottage cheese is over 100 cals for 1/2 cup. The Greek yogurt is a much better calorie/protein value. The tomatoes sweeten it enough—I do not find sugar or even honey to be necessary in this dish.

Dinner will likely include a sweet potato Thai soup with something alongside it.

Time to go make some more tea!!

What makes happiness?

A family date night…

We started off at a concert (free) put on by the city and featuring a girl group called the 5LP.

Since the front row turned out to be reserved for people with orange wrist bands (we thought it might be, since there were hardly any people sitting in it!!), we eventually moved to the grass. This put us behind five speakers. We’ve been on the grass before for the CRC concerts, and it is usually a great place to be; last night, the speakers were turned very much to high. The kiddos and I had fun dancing for awhile, but the fogey in me (she’s a wizened old thing of 302 years) started fretting about their eardrums. Bill and I are (or used to be, before the kiddos) avid concert goers and don’t usually mind loud concert noise—but the volume truly rivaled our experience with Journey a few years ago (and Journey is LOUD)! We asked Katie how she felt about leaving a bit early and getting some Golden Spoon frozen yogurt and playing at her favorite park—she was game!

Golden Spoon at the park

The important part was making memories and being all together. I credit my friend Noreen with getting us out on this date last night—and we were so GLAD we did! She reminded me about the concert (which I’d read about months ago but forgot to put on my calendar), and the kiddos loved going out spontaneously for an adventure together after dinner. My big FQ (fogey quotient) aside, we had a great time together in the late summer light. The 6:00-8:00 PM hours are a beautiful time to experience life in the summer.

What makes happiness? 

Father’s Day…

Katie and Eric were so excited to see their grandparents for our Father’s Day dinner on Sunday!

 

 

The two best men in my life…

Following our plan of cleanlier eating, I served roasted turkey sandwiches, baked kale chips, quinoa with golden raisins and pine nuts and Romano cheese, watermelon and for dessert something I made up. I normally make my dad peach pie for Father’s Day, but I wanted something healthier. In a nod to the pie, I layered 0% Greek yogurt mixed with some mascarpone cheese, diced peaches, a drizzle of honey, and a drizzle of 60% cacao. I added a couple of thin almond wafer cookies for a bit of an unusual (these days) treat. Oh my.

What makes happiness? 

Reunions with longtime friends…

On Saturday, my friend Linda threw a 30th birthday party for her son, my other friend Jeremy. We haven’t had a party at the “Mock Trial” house for over 14 years. Although Linda and I have been in touch, I loved seeing her and other friends whom I haven’t seen in person for awhile. I took Katie as my date, since Eric was sick with a cold. Katie had a great time! Linda is always so warm and comfortable a hostess. Truly lucky to have her as a friend in my life.

What makes happiness? 

Brother and Sister tea parties…

I made them some chamomile tea (we call it “Peter Rabbit tea”), put some milk in their pitcher, and a bit of sugar in their sugar bowl. They even got to have a couple of the leftover almond biscuits from Father’s Day. So sweet… they could play “tea party” all day long. The tea table is Katie’s…but that particular tea set and tea cart is Eric’s. He had some Christmas money and I let him choose anything—anything—he wanted with it. When he saw this tea cart (which was assembled as a model in the store) he was very clear that he wanted to buy it. He plays with it every day. I strongly believe children ought to be allowed to follow their interests. Sister loves it, too!

What makes happiness? 

Running.

I’ve been running every other day in the morning. I go 1.2 miles, and have seen my time drop from 13:30 to 13:05. I should probably dedicate a blog entry just to the trials of being a new (or would it be lapsed, since I used to run?) runner, but I am digging in and not giving up. Bill has been an awesome support, especially in helping watch Eric who was wakeful early this week with his cold. I normally try to get up and exercise every day before the kiddos wake up. On running days, I supplement my run with more biking. Exercise is happiness, even though sometimes it is difficult to get going!

What makes happiness? 

Mad Men.

I am late to the party here (so what else is new??), but I am streaming Season 1 and I love it completely. I want all of Betty Draper’s clothes.

Life is busy and full at the McGaugh house! Happy mid-June! Summer officially starts tomorrow!

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment.” 

-Georgia O’Keeffe

After spending a couple of days learning about Georgia O’Keeffe (we watched an instructional video on BrainPop Jr., took a look at an interview with O’Keeffe on YouTube, looked at several pieces of her work, and discussed her philosophy of art/painting), we were ready to begin our art project. (Of course, a study of O’Keeffe naturally encompasses science, too, and we reviewed the parts of a flower—which Katie originally learned during our Apple A Day unit in September).

Yesterday, the kiddos and I used the iPhone to take pictures of some flowers and plants and textures around our yard. I love that this technology comes easily to this generation.

We sorted through all of our photos, and while Eric was napping yesterday, Katie helped me choose our eight favorite pictures. We printed them out last night and had them ready for this morning.

Making our Georgia O’Keeffe art posters with examples of her work (free printables from Montessori Printshop—at least, they were free a month ago!)

This morning, after a good breakfast and putting on our paint clothes, we set up a project with canvas and acrylics:

Picking out paints…

A morning of painting in the beautiful air

Artist at work

Graham cracker break and thinking about his work

Eric’s inspiration

Eric’s painting

Katie used this as an inspiration…

…and this pansy, also…

Katie’s painting

My inspiration…

My flower abstract… (I hardly need say that I am a little intimidated to put this up here, since I have friends and family who are legitimate, really-and-truly visual artists…but I did have fun, and painting was so relaxing. I wish I could take an art class someday)!

Afterwards, we talked about how we used shape and color to evoke mood. Katie wanted to guess everyone’s mood, and she said that she sees a “calm mood” in my painting. She says hers was a “happy mood” and Brother’s is a “stormy mood.”

Maybe as we travel through New Mexico we’ll take some pictures of the landscape or collect things, just as O’Keeffe did. I would love to revisit this type of project with inspiration from New Mexico.

To extend this project for Katie tomorrow, I might lead her through a “tints and shades” lesson—and then maybe look at O’Keeffe’s paintings again to talk about how tinting and shading help to give the flowers depth and emotion.

In preparation for our road trip across the U.S. to Shil’s wedding this summer, the kiddos and I have been following a relaxed pace through our “On the Road” unit. I am behind on posting what we’ve done, including a great morning lesson with the Bergon family emphasizing “left and right.” Katie and Eric and I have been working on the U.S. map, the compass rose, map reading, and so much more. We’re also working our way through some lesson plans pertaining to each state (or as many as we can fit in before we leave, anyway!!)  through which we plan to drive.

Recently we finished our lessons on Arizona (I had posted about our southwest stencil work, study of kachina dolls, and our map work). We watched videos from YouTube and BrainPop Jr. on the desert and, in particular, the growth of saguaro cacti. We also worked on a saguaro craft, and we enlisted my dad for a practical lesson. Dad has been growing cacti for years.

I pre-cut cactus shapes, and then the kiddos made saguaro blossoms from tissue paper and glued them on.

We had, at this point, watched several small instructional videos about saguaros. We used our craft time to review everything we knew about them.

A couple of days later, my dad came over and offered a very well prepared lesson about growing and caring for cacti. We talked about what they needed to grow, did a test to see how water runs down them, cut one open, discussed how they reproduce, looked at one that had dried up, and transplanted them into the stenciled pots we made earlier in our Arizona studies.

Boppa teaches the kiddos. He was so prepared, which I very much appreciate!

Transplanting part of a cactus…my parents have had that cactus since before I was born!! It has bloomed only once, which I remember from when I was little. It used to sit on the front porch of our Yorba Linda house.

As a bonus, my dad brought his compass and helped to map out directions in our yard.

We’ve had a busy social calendar lately and the kiddos both caught a cold late last week. The cold really had Eric in a state, so we just took it easy and, I have to admit, watched a lot of TV. Katie and I spent time reading Island of the Blue Dolphins whenever we could (we’re finished, and she LOVED it). As of today, though, we’re back into our unit with New Mexico. For New Mexico, we’ll continue to talk about maps and legends and the desert, but our emphasis is Georgia O’Keeffe. Although she was born in Wisconsin, she really is known for the paintings she did while living in New Mexico. We’ve been working on our O’Keeffe plans today, in fact, but the kiddos are currently taking a break to build a fort.

Time for lunch, now!

On May 18th, after 536 days of dieting and exercise Bill reached the weight of 169.3 pounds. He last weighed 169.3 pounds when he was 23-years-old. Even since then, he has lost more weight.

On November 29, 2010, he weighed in at 246.5 and decided to make a change. His approach has been to count calories every day to achieve a negative energy balance, and he exercises on the stationary bike for an hour a day. Even on holidays. I think he has only ever missed bike time during our Disneyland trips (recouped by walking) and our trip to Hawaii.

Bill is essentially eating vegan most of the year. I think I can count on both hands the number of times he has consumed meat this year.

His absolute mental and physical discipline has been inspirational. Even in weeks and days when he saw little to no change, he never relented, flagged, or gave up. On average, he has lost a pound a week.

I also have friends who check in daily (sometimes twice a day, Ms. N.B.!) at the gym, friends who have young children and go running (either on a treadmill or with their kiddos in the stroller), and friends who are running the TVHS bleachers at 6AM on Saturday morning. Both of my parents, also, exercise every day. My mom has been in charge of her health for as long as I have known her, and my dad made a significant change in his fitness right before Katie was born. He is now a runner, training for a 5K in September.

I decided to take control of my physical health and energy. I’ve always been one of those people who say, “Okay, now I will ‘be good’ for awhile with respect to eating and maybe lose some weight.” That worked for me last year, and according to my OB in January, I had lost ten pounds last year. But I wasn’t truly in control, and I knew it. During this past winter, in the height of my sugar and caffeine addiction—yes, addiction—I am sure I gained most of it back.

Four months ago, I made my first change: I broke my coffee habit. I have had one slip, one coffee, in all of that time. That’s huge for me, because coffee and I were very bonded. Why this change? I was noticing that I was fighting off my tiredness with all the wrong tools: coffee, sugar, snacks, coffee, sugar, coffee. It is my belief, based only on my anecdotal feeling, that sugar and coffee do the following: 1) lead to worse sleep at night; 2) promote their own usage in amounts I don’t need; 3) contribute to higher levels of anxiety, less patience, and cloudier thinking. So I axed the coffee first. A grande latte at my favorite coffee place is 390 calories. That is currently more than I allot myself for my whole breakfast (more on that, hopefully, in a post to come). I am also saving money. I still have fantasies about pumpkin spice lattes, and I know I might have to fight that battle in myself this autumn.

Now I drink tea, mostly herbals. I do allow myself Earl Grey or Yorkshire (they do have some caffeine), but only one at most a day. I drink rooibos, mint, lemon, and ginger. I crave different strong tastes, and tea is one calorie-free way to indulge that part of me.

A few weeks ago, I decided to take control of my diet. My husband’s success and self-discipline have been amazingly inspiring. Around this time, also, my dad recommended a film called Forks Over Knives—which presents some really significant questions about the food I typically consume. I don’t want to get all preachy about healthy eating in my blog, but I will say that this film is kind of a big deal to me right now. There may, in fact, be some flaws with the way the correlation-causality structure is set up in some of the studies cited in the film; still, I find myself gravitating toward a whole foods, plant-based diet. I’ve been leaning that way for several months now. I’m not there yet, though we do eat vegetarian now most of the time. Is veganism in my future? I need to do some more research, for sure. I am not by nature an all-or-nothing type: there are always grey areas in my world and room to change as the evidence builds. Still, some of the health research is very compelling. Again, not preaching here… Just sharing what has been on my mind the past couple of months. I am in the process of collecting vegan (primarily, since I have hardly any) and vegetarian recipes. I’m a phase-it-in-and-try-it kind of girl.

I have lost 6 pounds so far. As of this morning, I met my first weight goal. I picked that goal a bit arbitrarily, but now my next goal is to shed two more pounds to be what I think I weighed when I got pregnant with Katie. After that, another three… Beyond that, I don’t want to articulate it yet. I know one important aspect for me is to keep myself from feeling overwhelmed.

What is working for me?

1. I am exercising every morning on the bike (30 to 45 minutes). I lift weights every other day and do sit-ups. I lead the kiddos through stretches and yoga. I try to fit in walking as much as possible, too. My friends Rosa and Dan are also working out, and all of us are training for the 5K Zombie Run in October. Dan is already running, and I am super motivated to try to start that up, too… Might need to run a bit before a 5K, huh? Yeah.

2. I aim to eat between 1200-1500 cals a day. I know I am lowballing myself a bit, but I want results. I also want to establish control. At first it seemed like almost no food at all. But then I found out: if I eat plants and other healthy things, it really can be quite a bit of food. I have had some friends ask me about my protein calories, and I am making a concerted effort to prioritize those. Quinoa and Ezekial bread are both complete proteins. My 0% Greek yogurt also gives me a dose. Now and then (not everyday) I have a 200 cal protein bar that gives me 15g of protein. I am definitely trying to be smart about it, and I know I need about 40g. Although my focus right now is plant protein, I do occasionally have a bit of turkey. Snacks include soy nuts and I made a delicious batch of roasted garam masala chickpeas (my mom gave me the recipe after cutting the oil down from a greasy 6T to 2T for four cans of the garbanzos).

3. I drink tea like it is going out of style. Seriously. Hungry? Time for more tea. It helps. You know what also helps? Yoga. And sitting inside of the hunger, not fearing it.

4. I am cleaning up my food with respect to sugar. I’m a few weeks in to limiting sugar. I find that I do not really crave it. I sometimes have oatmeal as part of my breakfast. I used to put brown sugar on it always (and let’s admit it, when I was really feeling zing-zang out of control, a bit of butter). Now I have it topped only with a big dusting of cinnamon. Delicious. Tastes like a cookie. I find the lack of refined sugar in my body to be freeing. Everything, everything tastes so much better to me. Berries are like candy!! I have always eaten fairly healthily—not a lot of prepackaged food, no fast food (okay, maybe In-N-Out once in awhile), lots of things from scratch. We have never buttered our carrots or veggies, I don’t keep soda or boxed cookies in the house. We don’t buy chips. Outside of coffee, the only other thing I was drinking was water (no extra calories coming from juice or alcohol). The problem is, I love food…so healthy food or not, I was eating way too much of it and using butter, sugar, and other dairy very liberally.

7. I now weigh myself daily. I have never ever ever weighed myself. I didn’t think it would help. It helps. Bill bought an awesome scale that transmits data wirelessly to a personal website that graphs our weight. I am accountable to it. I want the number to decrease. It is on my mind constantly.

8. I try to drink a big glass of water before and after every meal. Between this and the tea, well, that’s quite a bit of water.

This has been a hard change, in part because I love to cook and bake. But why not become really, really skilled at cooking and baking the fuel my body really needs?

One of the most difficult changes (the last one I made, actually) was to start exercising. Caloric restriction is one thing, but hauling myself out of bed was another. My main excuse for so long has been, “I am too tired.” I knew I wouldn’t exercise at night, so I had to start the day with it. I kept thinking, “But I am too tired to get out of bed and do physical activity before my children wake up. I’ll be so busy with them. I need to rest more.”

Boy, was I surprised to find that I actually have MORE energy and am less tired when I get my exercise (haven’t missed a day since starting two weeks ago). My workout was hard today, because I did not discipline myself to go to sleep last night when I should have. Oh well, I was up and at it. I know now that I feel better when I am pursuing my physical health. I feel more alert and in tune with the universe when I am managing my energy in a natural way: more exercise, less sugar, no coffee. I am sleeping better and deeper than I have, too, in a long time.

I have so much further to go, really. This is still a new journey for me. I feel like I am actually working at it everyday. I have had to watch myself at recent family events and make good choices. Yesterday, I celebrated not having a single French fry at our restaurant meal. I didn’t order any, and the kiddos had tons left over (and as we know, fries don’t keep or reheat well). A few months ago, my reasoning would have included: 1) I paid for this food, so I need to eat some; and 2) it’s a party at a restaurant, so eating it won’t hurt me. It was a small, but big, victory for me. I know I am changing the way I think about food.

And it’s time. A few years ago, Bill was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. With his diet and weight loss, he has completely reversed this and is off his diabetes medications. I am sure I might have been heading that way myself, maybe not now, but maybe in 30 years. I don’t want to be there.

Most of all, I am liking how I feel about myself much more. Yes, part of this is about how I look, but honestly? Not the biggest part. This is all (mostly) mental for me. For many years now I have known that I was not the best steward of my body and my health—and there is massive guilt that goes with that knowledge. I would look back to how healthy and fit I was when I had so many other passions, goals, physical activities (soccer, dance, tennis) and hobbies that food naturally took its proper moderate ranking on my priority list.

It is tempting to feel deprived at 4 PM before dinner. I’ve had some hard battles recently, with myself. But the biggest trick I have up my sleeve is making a choice to view this journey not as one of deprivation. If I think about my journey only as what I cannot have, I will fail.  Heck, this is pretty much my life philosophy, too. I never choose to see myself as being deprived, or as a victim, or as a passive agent. That’s the big secret, I think, to happiness. I do think it is a choice that we all need to make. We can choose to whine and complain about what life brings to us as a challenge, or we can turn it around and find something to grab onto to celebrate. I am choosing to be thankful and celebratory of that which I am gaining in return: my self-discipline and self-control. I knew those feelings well in the academic world; it is time to quest for them in this sphere. If I work hard and keep committed, what is the best I can do? I keep this question in my mind constantly. I want to find out what my best is. It’s time.

Our Nana, Katie June’s namesake, turned 87 years old yesterday on June 11th. Katie has celebrated every birthday with Nana since she has been born. In fact, that first year that Katie was here, I went to work for part of the day (finishing out my commitment to my Class of ’08 after maternity leave and not breaking my contract) to hear Curious Project presentations and then took a sub for the rest of the day so I could take Katie to Nana’s birthday party. In deciding to stay at home with my children (initially I was a bit torn after returning to work—I really, really loved my career and teaching), one of the biggest priorities I had in making my decision was that staying home would give me more opportunities to foster Katie’s (and eventually Eric’s) relationship with their great-grandparents, many of whom were still living at the time in 2008 when I decided. Great-Grandpa Don passed away in May of that year, but it is to my everlasting thankfulness that Katie got to know, and make memories with, her Great-Grandpa Yoder. Eric was still almost newborn when he passed and only saw him twice.

Both children, though, are filling up their hearts and minds with memories of their Nana.

My mom and Aunt Debbie thought it would be fun to take Nana out this year to the Seafare Inn in Whittier.  It is not open on Mondays, which is why we celebrated Nana’s birthday today.The Seafare Inn opened its doors in 1961; my mom was last there when she was fifteen. Over the years, I have heard Nana talk about how much she loves the Seafare Inn, and she and her neighbor Mrs. Shelly occasionally have lunch there together. Nana especially loves their scallops, which I would have ordered today for sentimental reasons were I not allergic to shellfish. I’ve never been to the Seafare Inn, and I love that now I can picture this place that Nana enjoys and that my kiddos have a memory there, too. So much of family history and connection is a deliberate layering process. This intentional building of ties, I believe, keeps us connected to our ancestors through time and space always.

I asked Eric if he wanted to carry our present into the house and give it to Nana. He responded, “I know” which is his way of saying “Yes.” (Actually, he uses it in a way that means, “Yes, I am in harmony with you.” It’s his expression of understanding—he uses it for more than just “yes.” In Eric-speak, “I know” means agreement of purpose).

Nana and Katie have a good time while Nana opens her presents.

Eric and Amie Nani at Seafare Inn. Eric sat in a booster seat for the first time, and he wanted his own place setting and menu. He was clear about that. Big boy!

Katie wanted to sit next to Aunt Debbie. She loves Aunt Debbie!

Aunt Debbie and Nana.

A nice man took a picture of all of us…He offered, so we said “yes!”

And then began the sweetest thing I think I’ve ever seen… My mom and Aunt Debbie ordered Nana a big ice cream as a birthday dessert. Nana wanted to share it with Katie and Eric, and they were happy to oblige:

Laughing with Nana… Eric doesn’t like sticky hands (he always lets me know!), and Nana was making him laugh while cleaning them off and saying “Bleh!”

Spumoni!

Then Eric let Nana feed him, which was really, really sweet. Eric never, never lets me feed him anymore. I try every once in awhile, sometimes when I am hoping to avoid a spillage of some kind (water, yogurt as a snack on the couch, etc.). He always is clear about wanting to feed himself or take a drink on his own. I haven’t fed him for months, and he is quite good with his utensils. So it was incredibly  endearing to watch him accept food from his Nana. He is eager for that connection between them. Very magical, really. Even later, when we were visiting Great-Great Uncle Ross (Nana’s brother), Nana needed a seat to sit down after organizing some things in his room, and when I told Eric that “Nana would like to sit in that chair” he immediately climbed down, no fussing. He is pretty sweet to her… We talk about her every night. He is a kind-hearted little boy, that’s for sure.

P.S. There’s the man (in the back behind the pillars) who offered to take our group picture.

And finally, here is Eric’s view of events…I let him use the iPhone (I still don’t have a cell phone—8 months and counting without, it can still be done in our culture, yay!!!!—but Bill has been letting me use an old iPhone of his that he dropped a year and a half ago. The glass is busted, but the camera works fine, and it’s good enough for now!) to take some pictures. It is amazing to watch Eric turn it on and then slide the slider bar…and then aim and tap. Digital natives, these kiddos. The iPhone and iPad are part of them.

A couple of Eric’s pictures:

Nana

Peekaboo, Sister!!

I am so fortunate to have this time with Nana, but more importantly, I am so thankful that my children have this time with Nana. They both have deep memories now and stories to tell. A long time ago, my AP US History teacher Mr. C (one of my favorites of all time, actually, because he worked us hard and expected much of us) gave us a project after our AP test in seminar. We had to interview one of our grandparents and write a report or a narrative about our family history—I think we had some choices, but I don’t remember all the parameters of the project now. I still have my project about Nana, kept in my hope chest. What a treasure to have so much of her young life recorded that way. I tended to like most of my schoolwork and homework assignments anyway, but this one was really special. I’ve always been so glad Mr. C assigned us that project. Someday I will read it to my children.

Happy 87th birthday, Nana. We love you and are so grateful we had time with you today.

 

My mom is Amie Nani now, officially. Usually the firstborn grandchild does the naming of the grandparents, but Eric chose his own name for my mom. So Amie Nani it is. My mom is the only grandparent I know with a first and middle “grandparent” name. I love them both.

About a month ago, Amie Nani found a deal online for half price tickets to Safari Park. I’m considering a membership again, having enjoyed one previously with Katie, but for now we still pay for tickets when we go. We recently enjoyed Safari Park with Uncle Chet, Aunt Irma, and Carly in April, and we were eager to return.

A few magical moments from our day:

Those who have been reading for awhile will remember that our family received the most joyous news last Thanksgiving: my cousin Bethany, after years of hoping, told us she was pregnant with her first baby. Little Chelsea Rae will make her appearance in the next few weeks, and today we celebrated her and her mama at Beth’s family baby shower. She will have a second shower in a few days with friends from church—I heard that it will be huge, and I hope she posts pictures of all the cute presents she gets!

With my youngest, who was a bit doleful that I wouldn’t let him put all of the chocolate covered pineapple skewers from the fruit bouquet onto his plate. He and cousin Kd LOVE the fruit bouquet!

Amie-Nani and her grandchildren. (Eric calls her Nani, so now she has a hyphenated name)!

Beth is in the light orange dress

Katie and Gracie. They played together the whole time. Katie tells me that they played princess.

Follow the leader! Pretty soon, another little cousin will be joining us!

Aunt Diane (Beth’s mom) and Beth feed each other baby food—blindfolded!

My second eldest cousin (on my dad’s side) is such a cute preggo!

Sister and brother

Laughing with cousin Kd

Two diaper cakes!

Beth opening the baby blanket I made for her…

Happy ladies

Presents

Estimate-the-circumference-of-the-preggo game!

Most of the time, Eric wanted to dig: “Boppa.” “I see pipe.”  (He digs).”See more pipe.” Eric was working on trying to figure out Uncle Rich’s sprinkler system and knew there were more pipes under the dirt. He also showed me as many sprinklers in the yard as he could find. That was cute, because he helps Boppa with sprinklers in our yard often.

Baby Chelsea is due in early July. So excited to meet her and so excited for Beth!

Ah, June, you are a lovely month! The air is soft and gently warming, the jasmine is in full bloom and perfuming the walkways, the evenings are long and full of adventure, and the days are filled with festivity (birthdays of family and friends, Father’s Day, Midsummer’s Eve, and more). We delight in the blissful days of June.

Always in June in Temecula, we celebrate the opening of the Balloon and Wine Festival. For those who do not live here, Temecula is known for its wine country. Hot air balloons launch most mornings, though especially on the weekends, from wineries and open land leading out to the lake. It is tradition that on the first weekend of June, dozens and dozens of balloons launch on Saturday morning. Our house, which sits right on the edge of wine country, is a perfect vantage point for seeing hot air balloons; however, on the first Saturday of June, the kiddos and I pile into the car in our jammies and drive out to see the launches. Last year, we saw several launch, and then we spent an hour driving around and following all of the dozens of balloons in the air. All year, Katie has been talking about seeing them again this year. Today was the day!

Alas, the fog had rolled in thick and heavy into wine country—too heavy to launch. Several of the dedicated were out on the open field at 7 AM, but eventually we all dispersed. The kiddos and I came back home for a quick breakfast and went back out at 8 AM. By the time, the fog had mostly burned off, but the air had become too warm to launch. One balloon was still trying, but as we drove on, we could see way in the distance toward the south side of town that about half a dozen balloons had launched over there. We drove way out and around wine country, but we did end up seeing them up close, and we also saw a couple which had just landed. It wasn’t nearly like last year, but life comes down to what you make of it, right? So I really played up how neat it was that we had hunted until we found these balloons and how lucky we were to see them. It still felt like magic for the kiddos, and that’s the important part.

Some of the balloons we saw…

Then it was back home again, and time to get dressed. I left Eric with Bill, and I Katie and I headed to the sports park near 10 AM to sign her up for a recreational soccer team for this fall. Practices will start in late August. She will be playing on the same fields on which my brother and I played, which is pretty awesome to think about. I can’t wait to watch her games, to bundle up in the cold morning air, to smell that October grass wafting on the evening air during practice. Soccer is autumn to me. I love it. Some of my best memories of Temecula are centered around playing rec soccer. Katie seems eager, too. I hope she really likes playing soccer on a team.

After registering, we zipped back home, gathered the items we needed for our next event and headed to an 11 AM party for our friend Madeleine, who turned three years old today! I still remember the night Lauren was in labor with her. Lauren delivered at home, and I remember looking out our bedroom window toward her house and checking for her husband’s Facebook updates constantly. It seems not that long ago…

Katie and Eric walking to the party (from our car, I should say… We do actually live within walking distance to the Bergon house, but we drove today).

Lauren had everything set up beautifully. Especially as a mom, I completely noticed and appreciated her attention to detail. The theme was “cat party” and Lauren had two craft stations set up for young guests as they arrived. The kiddos got to decorate cat ears (which were made from felt and headbands) and then—this was really a great idea—they made cat collars from an office tag, a bell, and a ribbon. Oh my. This was a HIT. Katie loved hers, and wore it pretty much all day (with the exception of her rest time) when she got home. Very cute.

Also to fit the theme, Lauren had all the cold cuts and cheese cut into the shapes of cat and mice (from cookie cutters). The watermelon was also cut into cat shapes. Fun idea! (As I was busily taking notes!!!!!) It may be a function of spending waaaaaay too much personal time on Pinterest, but I found myself thinking, “Oh, I wish I could pin that on one of my boards!” I always walk away with great party ideas from Lauren. Last year, it was the bunting.

As party favors, Lauren had bubbles and Kit-Kat (get it?) bars.

Going home, Katie said, “I think I want a dog party like that.” I will need to pick Lauren’s brain for ideas!

Meow. And oh yes, cats do need to snack on fishies.

Playing in the sandbox

Meeting the other kidlets. I love being in the kiddo-party phase of my life. Let’s face it: kiddo parties are pretty much the most awesome thing! More fun for me than many adult parties!

A cat-themed game: hunting for mice (toys). Even we adults got involved in this one. Treasure hunt!

Getting ready for cake and presents.

Watching Miss Mads open her gifts.

Eric and I played “jungle” for a bit after the presents.

Katie and Mads, the big three year old!

Even though my last pictures are out of order, Lauren did a smart thing: she served the cake before the presents. I always have done it the other way, but I may change the order in the future. After being satiated with cake, all of the children seemed more patient with the present opening. The rhythm really worked.

Brother and Sister. I have to say, watching them attend parties together truly delights me. It is pretty special to witness them sitting together and keeping an eye out for each other, just of their own free will. It is when they are out and about together that I truly get a sense for how bonded they really are, because I can see them choosing each other. I love that.

Happy Birthday, Madeleine!!