Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Weight Management

It's that time of year again. Woman around the country, maybe even the world, are making their new year's resolutions to loose a few pounds, tone this area up or get back to the exercise routine so long ago abandoned. I'm no expert, and I've got a few things to work on in this area but I'll share with you my two cents on the matter.

I don't have any real new year's resolutions about weight loss or fitness... ever since Eden was born, I've been trying to keep exercising regularly and eat sensibly. My goal has not been weight oriented but simply being in better shape and in healthier habits by the time another pregnancy comes around, in hopes that I won't be quite so miserable as I was while expecting Eden. I've fallen off the band wagon here and there (like the most of the month of December) but EXCEPT for that... have done fairly well. I have an elliptical machine right smack dab in my living room... it's not very pretty and decoratively speaking, it's an eye sore, but that is where it fits so that is where it shall stay. I *try* to run on it every other day for 15- 20 minutes. During the warm months, I completely neglect the elliptical on purpose. The girls on I take long walks virtually every day in the summer so that breaks up the monotony of the the exercise machine and keeps it from becoming quite so mind numbingly boring. I also started Pilate's in September and did that every Monday night for 45 minutes. Pilate's is right up my alley because while it really does work (and you do feel the burn! Burn baby burn!) there isn't a lot of sweating involved, which this prissy girl doesn't care for! ;) It's a good solution for those who need strength training but aren't interested in lifting weights. Your own body weight is your resistance. And it's not yoga, which some people I know have aversions to due to the spiritual connections. No cow worship necessary! ;)

Although I have been at a weight I like for about 5 1/2 yrs., I had major struggles with my weight the entire 4 1/2 years I was in college. As a barely 16 year old freshman, I went to college fairly thin and packed on the pounds in record breaking speed. The "Freshman Fifteen" quickly turned into the "Freshman 25" in one semester. Yup. It only took me 4 months. What can I say? I've always been an over achiever! I was oblivious to my rising weight until one day I caught my reflection in the full length mirror while I was getting dressed. If I had just a couple more rolls around my abdomen, I could have opened up my own bakery. Horrified, I quickly found a scale in the clinic. It was not pretty.

When I returned home after that very first semester for the summer vacation, eye balls bulged out of my friends and family member's faces. I got some not so nice remarks about "filling out". During that summer, I lost about 10 lbs., only to return to school in the fall to gain that 10 back plus another 10 lbs. for good measure. At this point, Seth and I met and began dating. I was a good 30 -35 pounds heavier than I am today. And I had really crooked teeth. Can you beleive he still asked me out!?! Poor blind man. I began a dieting and binging trend that continued until graduation day. I tried everything: the Adkins, diet pills (highly do not recommend to anyone ever!), slim fast, plain white rice for every meal, laxatives and lemon water diets, grapefruit diets, etc etc. Honestly, I've tried just about every diet idea in the world. I tend to have an "all or nothing" personality so dieting is a very bad practice for me. When I fell off my diet, I would binge on everything in sight, knowing that come Monday (that ever present beginning of the new diet date), I would be back on some strict regiment. One binge consisted of eating an entire dozen donuts in one day. I would eat until I got sick. Then, when Monday came, I would punish myself with a diet even stricter than the previous one. I spend a lot of money on "special" food, since most dining hall fare didn't fit into any diet.

While engaged, I was terrified of being chubby on my wedding day. I really got serious about exercise and made it a high priority in my very packed schedule. During my senior year, while student teaching and planning a wedding across the country, I would wake up at 4am, after going to bed between midnight and 1 am the night before, to work out for 45 min.s, then get ready and on the bus to go teach. I remember running my lap around the campus in the dead of winter, running in lake effect snow, early in the morning despite having bronchitis. I would come back to my dorm bright red from head to toe with my lungs burning in pain. I would. not. be. a chubby bride. A half dead one... but not chubby!

My resolve is to never officially diet again. And I haven't dieted in over 5 yrs. Occasionally, I have "watched it" when knowing that I've been overdoing the sweets (like say, around Christmas) or a few months after having a baby, but dieting is not something I intend to do ever again. People who do things all the way or not at all, who continually diet end up as anorexics, or maybe even morbidly obese as the pendulum swings the other way. Dieting, for me, means constantly thinking about what you're eating... what and when you're going to eat next. All that thinking about food makes me hungry. Being hungry makes me grouchy! These days, I keep it pretty simple. When I'm hungry, I eat. If I am not hungry, I don't eat. Rocket science, huh!

By the time I got married, I was about 10 pounds more than my current weight. After marrying Seth and moving to New York, the next 10 just melted off effortlessly. Our life style was the reason. I was no longer eating dining hall fare, or relying on caffeinated drinks to give me energy, or being tempted to visit the vending machine to make it through the night during those long hours at work. I was also a terrible cook and half of my dinners were not suitable for human consumption. I wish I were joking.

The life styles changes that helped me, specifically, were:

**Sleep. It's a good thing. So much of my college life, I was in a sleep deprived blur. My head was foggy and my energy was rock bottom. A snack or soda or coffee was almost a requirement to get through the day. After getting married, I was allowed to blissfully get the right amount of sleep. I think this is helpful is post-partum weight loss too, but we all know that it's hard to get at that particular stage in life!

**Protein. Beef! Beautiful beef! Okay, not just beef, but any meat or poultry. Growing up, I wasn't a meat eater. Then going to college where the food served was... well, I don't want to complain, but if I didn't like meat at home, I sure didn't like the meat like substances served in the dining hall! I was a borderline vegetarian when I got married. I only ate white meat chicken. At restaurants, I ordered things like "turkey burgers" or "soy burgers" and gross things like that. But my new husband wanted some real meat for dinner every night. After a long, grueling learning process, I learned how to cook meat and by George, I like it! Eating meals at my mother in laws also helped acquaint me with the deliciousness of meat. I still don't eat a TON of meat but have learned that protein is important to me in maintaining even energy, thus not relying on caffeine and sweets for the mid day pick-me-up. Some people crave meat all day and probably eat TOO much. My point is that meat in moderation helped me establish better eating habits.

Because I shop on a tight budget, I almost always plan my dinners based on what meat or poultry is on sale that week. I buy a big package and divide it up into meal sized portions. I firmly believe that most Americans eat way more meat than their bodies need. A palm size portion is my rule of thumb. It is healthier and economical. This way, my portion (and Seth's and the girls') is decided well before dinner time. It's rare that I set out a big platter of meat and just dig in and take as much as I feel like at that moment. I have it already decided well before sitting down with a hungry belly. Examples: the big chicken breast is for Seth, and the middle one is mine...or the big pork chop is Seth's and I'm sharing the other big one with the girls. I try to give Seth a hearty portion since he is quit thin and that fact doesn't seem to be changing any time soon! Most of the time, I can estimate perfectly how much will stuff him. And then there is always a veggie to fill up on if we are still hungry!

** Moderation. Mo-der-a-tion. Hmmm. Not always the easiest thing for us! I kinda have a goal of 90/10 in my head about junk food. Meaning that I aim for 90% of my food to be real, healthful, good for ya food. And I allow 10% of the other stuff. It's not a perfect system, I know. Humans aren't perfect. Not sure if you've noticed.

If I want a piece of apple pie once in a while, I'm gonna eat it and enjoy and not feel bad about it all. If you see me at a party or holiday gathering, you can bet your biscuits I'm indulging in some yummy treat. But every day is not a holiday. Most days, apple pie is not in my menu. For me, my will power concerning sweets is so bad, that I can't have them in the house. If it's in the house, I'll eventually cave in... and dig in! What works for my advantage is the fact that I'm a bit of a junk food snob. By that I mean that I'm not interested in just any ol' treat. I want the good stuff... no generic knock off... I want homemade, or fancy Pepperidge Farms cookies, or none at all. However, Seth is glorious happy with the generic Oreo imitations and the cheap store brand chips. So typically, I buy one package of each a week all for Seth and I'm not the least bit tempted by them. And because I've been a good girl all week long, if I happened to be offered a piece of my sister in laws heavenly cheese cake, I gladly accept. No guilt involved. Um, Tara, it's been a while since you made that cheese cake. Like alomst a month. *hint hint*

I also take the moderate approach to low fat or low calorie substitutes. Some items, like low fat sour cream, I'm totally fine with. Tastes pretty good. Others, like low fat cheese,... yuck. No thanks. For us, we eat whole wheat bread, vegetable spread instead of butter (except for baking), and non-fat milk (the girls drink whole). I also make our salad dressings with olive oil, so at least it's a "good fat". Do you ever notice that the consumers who always buy diet everything still have a weight problem? It just makes more sense to me just just go ahead and have a little bit of the real thing, enjoy, feel satisfied and stop... then to have the poor tasting diet version, not be satisfied and thus eat more of them. I'd rather have one regular oreo than two low fat ones. And those diet products can be deceiving; many are only very slightly less fattening than the original.

I read an article a while ago about Americans and vegetables. It stated that since Americans became so widely anti-fat, our vegetable consumption has plummeted. Back in the good ol' days, we made veggies yummy by adding a bit of cheese or butter. But when the outcry against fat began, we ditched the cheese and butter and now eat no veggies. Kinda like throwing the baby out with the bath water. With that thought in mind, I'm totally fine with Maddie eating her carrot sticks with ranch dip... because she is eating carrot sticks. Better than french fries and ketchup! Which she does eat occassionally, too. My point is that the ranch is worth it. And if I want a salad with dressing on it, I'm okay with that because it's still salad. I know the dressing is loaded with bad stuff... but the salad is loaded with good stuff. I don't really like it to be swimming in dressing anyway. Veggies are the best thing for us. And if a tad bit of butter or salt makes them appetizing, so be it.

If serious weight loss is on your mind, there is one officially "diet" that I found helpful to me. This what what actually got me to a good size for my wedding. The Body Type Diet helps you understand your specific body and it's individual propensities in weight gain and loss. It identifies what foods are the worst for your particular body, and what foods are best for getting your body in it's best shape. I know there are quite a few similar kinds of books; I haven't read them all. All I can say is that the information in this book was right on the money for my body type and my mom, who is the same body type as me. She has many health problems and the parts of this book discussing health problems typical to our body type was almost like reading her medical chart. So as far as I can tell, this book was accurate and helpful, in theory and in practice. Although I haven't gone on the official weight loss plan detailed in the book since being engaged, I still own it and have referred back to it because a lot of the book is about lifestyle choices... the foods than on a long term should be limited (for my body type, sweets and caffeine... which of course are my two favorite things in the world), and foods that are particularly good for my body type (lean proteins and eggs, a particular tea, etc.). I struggled with my energy levels so much and this book helped me solve much of that problem.

At the heart of any success weight loss endeavor, the scientific fact is this:

Less calories in + more calories burned = pounds lost.

One pound equals about 3,500 calories. Most people don't realize how many calories they consume in a day. A handy pocket sized book like this can help educate you on how many calories are in the foods you eat. Before long, you'll just have your common foods memorized. A banana is 105 calories. That is just a fact I will know until I die! The correct name for an eskimo is an Inuit. Okay that has nothing to do with weight loss but it's another fact that my brain will just not let go.

When my father in law had cancer last year, he wanted to see an exclusive doctor at the Mayo clinic because the procedure this doctor did was the best route for his cancer. But this doctor required his patients to be an their ideal weight. I guess exclusive doctors can do that! My father in law had quite a bit of weight to lose, and my mother in law wanted to do it with it, to support him, and hey who wants a husband to get all in shape if you're not, right?! They kept a food log in their kitchen and wrote down every single calorie that went into their mouth. Just a plain notebook with his name on one side, and hers on the other. Every drink, snack, meal, cracker... everything was written down and the calorie content looked up in the book and recorded. Most people who try this are alarmed by how many empty calories they consume. Empty meaning calories without significant nutritional content. My in laws limited themselves to 1200 a day, which is pretty small, especially for a man. If 1200 makes you feel like you are starving to death, 1400 might be a better place to start, then try 1200 for a week to get over a plateau.

Some of the diets I tried in college were focused on counting fat grams or carbs. Both were utterly ineffective. Counting fat grams is not the way to go because foods like meat and cheese may have high fat content, but they also have protein and calcium- important nutrients to have. Again, I'm not talking about eating a whole side of beef in one meal. A slice or two of roast beef is nothing to feel bad about though! Meanwhile, jelly beans are fat free, so you can guess what Kayte ate for a solid week! Of-course jelly beans are purely sugar, and highly caloric so all that I earned myself was a tummy ache... and probably a cavity. Eliminating, or drastically reducing carbs was 1. very expensive as a dorm girl and 2. made me feel really really bad. No carbs means no fruit and no breads... that means no fiber. Fiber is our friend!! 'Nuf said! It seems that people who do have great success with low carb dieting have a different body structure than me. And many only maintain the weight loss so long as they exile carbs. The Adkins was so popular at the time that I followed it strictly for an entire month. I did not lose one pound. I've never wanted to pick up a scale and smash it into a million pieces so badly in my life.

I mention my love for dessert quite frequently on my blog, which is what prompted me to write a new year's weight loss post. I do have a sweet tooth... several in fact. There is no denying that. But I really don't eat nothing but Little Debbie's all day. Although that does sound great to me. Little Debbie is awesome. The truth is that people like to hear a thin person talk about eating junk food. They like to see me getting a nice fat slice of cake. For some reason, when I mention watching what I eat or even exercise, I usually get a "Like you need to worry about it" type of reaction. In reality, exercise is good for everyone, and sugar is bad for everyone regardless of what the scale says. And as much as I would love to be one of those rare women who are thin irregardless of their eating or exercises habits, I am not. I have less than desirable genetics in that arena. I hope that doesn't hurt any of my relatives feelings but I think most would readily agree than weight problems, and the health concerns than accompany them, are rampant in my family. They are still beautiful, of course. Big and beautiful... sounds like a reality TV show.

Dieting and weight loss is one of those things than can easily consume a person. I'm the first to admit than when I'm over weight, I feel bad about myself. We all want to look our best. But sometimes I wonder, what is our best? The world would have us think that unless our ribs are protruding and you can clearly see every ab muscle chiseled out, we not in shape. Do you ever wonder what Eve looked like? Maybe she had some birthing hips on her?? I'm almost certain she wasn't blond haired and blue eyed. Maybe she had a big nose. I hope so. We would get along just fine if she did! ;) I like to read about the subcutaneous layer of fat that all women have. It strangely makes me feel better! God made us softer than men. It's part of the wonder of our child bearing. The air brushed images of super models give us an impossible standard. The only way I'll ever have that kind of physique is if I start popping some testosterone supplements and I'm pretty sure the beard I'd grow would make my rock hard body not so attractive! Ew. Gross to think about!

So if anyone is gearing up for getting in shape in 2010, I wish you great success! There is something good about denying our flesh what it craves and being disciplined enough to take good care of this earthly temple. How good does it feel to start the day taking care of our spirits and our body with devotions and exercise. It just makes you that much more revved up about what the rest of the day holds. These bodies are so temporary, however. We aren't taking them with us when this life is over. We'll get our real "perfect bods" when Christ gives us our glorified bodies. While on this earth, everything I've come to understand about the male species (which isn't much!) tells me that a cheerful pleasant wife is so much more important to a husband than a skinny one. Personally, I just want to stay in the same range as Seth. The day he gets fat, I'm gonna join him! But thus far, he's staying trim. Ah, shucks! (Joking people!)

I hope to keep the physical side of my life in proper perspective... I think it actually helps us succeed in our weight loss goals when we put our physical self in it's right place on our priority list.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Maddie's Request

Today, Madison approached Seth and made an unusual request:

"I want Mommy to have a baby brother for me. You know... just Eden was my baby sister. That way, he and Eden can play together and I can watch them and take care of the babies".

I'm sure the fact that she has a newborn cousin, a cutie pie baby boy, is what got her thinking in this direction. She occasionally asks me if I have a baby in my belly because she knows that when I do, that's when she will get to sit in the very back on the van (a coveted privilege) so the new baby can sit in the middle seat. But up until now, I had no idea she was willing to take care of a new little one for me! What a deal! ;)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Illness Denial

Have you ever been sick but in denial that you were sick? I mean you acknowledged that you had a fever and other symptoms but when you acted sick, you were in denial that illness could be the cause of your sleepiness, grouchiness, laziness or whatever?

I think I've been in sickness denial today.

About a month ago, I had the flu... like the real flu where you have a low fever for days, your body hurts all over and you seriously think the walk to the bathroom is just so so far and wish you could just have a bed pan or better yet a catheter... flu. And to make it extra fun, I had an ear infection too. I went to the urgent care and got an antibiotic that I knew didn't work well on me but the effort to even just tell the nice doctor to give me something else just was too much so I silently accepted the prescription and shuffled out the door. Although I got better, I don't think ever truly got 100% better. For weeks I've had about 5 pounds of yuckiness lodged in my chest and my little girls have been imitating me hacking and spitting gunk into the sink. No matter how many times I've explained that mommy only does that because she has to get the nasty stuff out, they think it's a wonderful new hobby around here. My ears and throat still have ached and those tell tale little glands on my throat swell every so often. But by Christmas, I thought I was surely almost recovered... like 92% all better.

Then this morning I woke up and felt like Mr. Flu was back with a vengeance. I helped the girls get ready for church, then crawled back into back and slept until 1 pm. Yup. 1pm. Please don't tell anyone. I'm embarrassed.

I'm also embarrassed by all this talk of health issues. Ugh. I hope I'm not turning into someone who gives a run down of my anatomy and all it's ailments when an innocent person asks "How are you?" Someone please tell me if I turn into that person! But really, this has been some flu season around here!!

After sleeping most of the day away, I woke up feeling guilty. I think my college days forever instilled in me the motto"Don't call in, CRAWL in". But I think everyone at church is tired of passing illnesses around so I'm sure I made the right choice to stay home. However illogical, laziness still makes me feel bad. See? Illness denial.

While still in a groggy state, my beloved called to ask if I wanted him to come get me so I could eat lunch at his parents with the family. I looked down at my PJs, ankle socks and sweater... none of which matched, and felt my matted, in desperate need of a washing, hair. Um... Seth must have been in illness denial too... denial of MY illness. I declined and have survived just fine on leftover spinach dip from Christmas. I lived on spinach dip for a good portion of my pregnancy with Eden. For some reason, it just sounds so good when I nauseated! Weird, I know.

After lying around more, only in the living room instead of my bed, I was thoroughly disgusted with my misuse of all the "free" time. I decided to play around with my new Photoshop Elements Program that Seth so generously bought me for Christmas. Um... I'm not getting the hang of it as quickly as I thought I would! Man, I wish I was smart. It must be so convenient to be smart. *sigh* After a half an hour, I was full of regret that Seth bought me this gift... a gift I've asked for for a long time, a gift he was so happy to give me.... And then I realize, Kayte you dunce. Why are you trying to learn something new when you're sick. Again, illness denial.

So now I'm restricting my activities to orange juice drinking, light reading and movie watching. "The Sound of Music" is on right now. I think that song could work well with my name inserted... "How do you solve a problem like Kay-teeeeee!?" I also think I could sing like those nuns. How come falsetto shrill, high voices are popular anymore? I really think I could bust out some serious nun-like singing when I my throat gets better.

I am feeling better and looking forward to seeing my girls when they come home from church. They had on really cute outfits - Christmas gifts- today. They are so cute. Sometimes you forget how cute your own kids are. While shopping yesterday, so many people commented on one or both the girls. They are so stinkin' adorable, if I do say so myself. What wasn't so adorable about shopping: wearing high heeled boots while walking around the mall pushing a stroller. What was I thinking? Ouch!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Did you all have a great Christmas? I hope you did!!

We had a great holiday season, I would say. Maddie, for the first time, was old enough to enjoy the Christmas lights and decorations, and made some ornaments and proudly hung them on the tree... she waved to Santa at the mall, got a candy cane from the Santa who drove by the fire truck and heard the true meaning of Christmas about a bazillion times. (Just for the record, we don't get really into Santa here... we don't think he's evil- we just enjoy him as we enjoy any make believe character). We all ate lots of cookies and drank lots of hot chocolate out of snowman shaped mugs. I refrained from stressing out over the details and kept my gift giving simple and within budget. A great Christmas season.

Christmas day, however, was a mixture of good, bad and ugly.

The good: We slept in a little bit... not as much as Seth and I could have used! The girls, whether from the excitement of dinner at husband's aunt's the night before or just a fluke, had a rough night and woke up with wet beds or some other issue four times during the night.

"T'was the night before Christmas and all through the house,

not a person was sleeping, not husband nor spouse!!"

After taking our time getting up and dressed, we read the Christmas story from the Bible. Actually, Seth read, while I whispered to Maddie that it was almost over and Eden fluttered about the room in her usual first thing in the morning cheerfulness. We had my mom over for a late breakfast of cinnamon rolls, bacon and fruit. Add coffee and orange Julius and we were stuffed and well on our way to stomach aches! Truthfully, the girls, who are always hungry straight out of bed, ate shredded mini wheats before my mom even came, so they mostly had fruit by the time breakfast was served. We opened gifts and was each spoiled rotten!

We then headed to my in laws to open gifts with them before one branch of the family departed. Again, lots of wonderful gifts. I have no idea where I am going to fit all the fun toys the girls got!! And I got a few great things myself!! I will shortly be strutting around the shopping mall, my arm adorned with a Coach purse from my brother and sister in law who swear they got it for cheap (crazy right? I'm a bit embarrassed to even wear it, it's so nice! Maybe I should just leave it home and pet the soft leather instead of actually use it!), and smelling fabulous thanks to my delicious bath set from my other brother and sister in law!

Maddie spend the afternoon playing with cousins (ie. stealing their new Nerf guns) while Seth and I took Eden home for a nap so that she'd hopefully be pleasant for the party that evening. I finished my contributions to the food spread for the party (best ever corn chowder recipe found here) and we went back up the in laws to relax and play board games and finish getting ready for the extended family to come over.

The bad: By the time 5:30 rolled around, Maddie was getting tired and whiny. Eden was also on the brink of being all "Christmas-ed out". The party was just getting started.

The ugly: By 7pm, Maddie was downright hysterical over everything from what kind of chips were on her plate to the pajamas I had packed for her to wear. After trying every trick we know, Seth and I left. Maddie cried the entire ride home, cried every step into the house, and continued until her eyelids closed in sleep on her bed. Eden perked up when we came up, remembering the tea set she had received earlier. But shortly, she too, let it be known that she. was. tired. So to bed she went. By 7:45, with both girls making Zzzz's, I convinced Seth that I really would like him to return to the party, eat, drink (coffee!) and be merry. No need for us both to be home. So I'm getting a head start on laundry and clean up... and enjoying the quiet. Seth is hopefully enjoying the company of his siblings and cousins and their families and will hopefully bring me back a sample of the dessert offerings!

Seems like I talk about dessert a lot on my blog. You probably all think I'm a glutten. Oh well. I do like sweets, there's no denying that, but really I don't eat them all day every day. Sometimes I eat other things... like chips. Okay okay, I really am joking. I'm going to write a post soon about my two cents on food and dieting and all that business, But for tonight... Christmas night... I'm gonna have me some dessert and I am not ashamed to say so! =)

For a minute or two, as we were gathering our bags and coats and shoes and whining girls and leaving the happy company of relatives, I felt like we surely are the worst parents ever. But really... we did what we could... we made nap time a priority, limited the sugar intake in the little ones, etc. But this is just life with toddlers sometimes. No big deal. I'm going to enjoy the time alone and look forward to shopping tomorrow. I much prefer shopping the day after Christmas than the day after Thanksgiving. I need to stock up a few Christmas items, like gift tags and ribbon, for next year, and can usually get a few gifts for the upcoming year for half price or less.

Thank you Jesus for coming to earth in such a humble way, to be treated so badly, to do so much good. Born to die. Thank you for coming!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Our Year in Photos

Our year in photos. Many photos are poor quality due to my hard drive's untimely death. I'm grateful to have them at all, even if they are grainy! It's about 7 minutes long. Enjoy!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Faith

Like most of us, my mind has been on the Christmas story in recent days. Maybe more this year than any other year, because I'm determined to have Madison know that Christmas is about Jesus birthday... not the chubby guy in the red suit, or the presents wrapped and sitting on top on my kitchen cabinets. It's a weird place for presents, I know! No room elsewhere, there are cute up there, no little hands can mess them up, etc. And it is a painful reminder of how badly I need to dust up there!.

When I was reading through Luke 1 & 2, for some reason, Zacharias and Elisabeth kept grabbing my attention.

Luke 1: 6 "And they (referring to Zacharias and Elisabeth) were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless."

Wowzers. What a way to be described! Can you think of any Christian of whom it can be said is "righteous before God" and "walking in all the commandments and ordinances"? That's incredible. I can think of one person maybe... and they would be embarrassed if I mentioned their name so I won't. If you think I'm thinking of you, you're wrong. ;) You also just lost the Most Humble Christian award. ;)

But really, they had pretty amazing testimonies. I think it's safe to say that they were "good Christians"... I put that in parenthesis because I don't really like that term. But you know what I mean by it, hopefully. The Bible says that they served God with all their lives.

And yet, despite being "good Christians", there is something about them so relatable. We read in verse 18 that Zacharias did not initially believe the angel when he was told that in his old age, he would have a son. This good, godly man had a temporarily lapse in faith.

I don't why we are happy when we see the faults in people we admire! It's kind of a sick way about us, isn't it!? I suppose we just like knowing that they are indeed human... just like us. The truth is we're not supposed to compare ourselves to each other but only to Christ. However, seems like we are usually just a little glad when "Mr. Punctuality" occasionally shows up 30 seconds late, or when Martha Stewart burns the cookies or something like that!

Probably most of us would doubt that such a thing as having a baby in post-childbearing years, after a lifetime of infertility. But then again, I've never had a conversation with an angel.

Faith seems to be one those things that needs constant maintenance. At times in my life, I thought my faith was pretty solid... unshakable, even. Maybe it sounds prideful to say, but there were times when I thought if there was one thing I had down in this Christianity thing, it was believing God. For me, the realization that my faith was not all that I thought it to be was becoming a mother. Well, to be more exact, in my journey to becoming a mother. That would be big long post on a completely different subject, but in a nutshell we lost our first two babies and it was hard. Hard physically, hard emotionally and hard spiritually. I honestly did not get mad at God or even demand to know why... like I said, it would be a very long post to convey what made that particular experience a spiritually turbulent time. My point in bringing it up is that I became aware of the fact that faith was not something I could obtain once and then just have all my life. The faith that was in abundance as a teenager and as a college student was not sufficient for my entire adult life. I need new faith for every day. And the good news is that God is all to happy to supply what we need, for each stage of life, for each day and each hour.

I'm sure that Zacharias really was a man of great faith. I believe that because a person does not live as he did... blameless and righteous before God... without the faith to know that God is good, and right, and real. At that particular moment when Gabriel told him that his prayer for a child would be granted, the faith that had held him close to the Lord and His ways for so many years wasn't enough. He needed new faith for that very day.

And the story continues with Zacharias being mute until after John's birth. I shared this story with my Sunday School class yesterday and I told them that I bet Zacharias never doubted another thing that an angel of God told him ever again! My lesson for my class was actually about the fact that Zacharias and Elisabeth did what was unpopular and against the norm at the time in order to obey what God wanted. They named their baby boy John instead of a family name, as was tradition. It's hard for people, especially teens, to do what isn't socially typical and be frowned by friends and even family in order to obey God. But this couple did right no matter what people thought of them. Since we had two visitors in class, I took my lesson to the reason WHY Jesus was born in the first place: to die on Calvary. Two young ladies accepted Christ as Saviour!! Praise the Lord!

So as we edge closer and closer to Christmas day, I'm thankful for so many things, not the least of which is a God in whom I can rest my faith in completely.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Maddie had lots of fun with these stickers as we went over the Christmas story again. She traced the word, "Jesus". The red line by the wise men is Eden's contribution.
And Eden just looked so cute for church today, I HAD to take her picture! It's perfect... except for the bright green mint hanging out of her mouth! : P
Currently, the girls are napping/resting while Seth gets a few things ready for our church Christmas festivities this evening. We're singing quite a bit tonight and I still have major congestion going on... so hopefully no one ends up with a wad of phlem flying at them in the middle of "O Holy Night!" That would not exactly foster the Christmas spirit!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Youth Group Christmas Party '09

Well the last paper plates have been tossed, the remaining pizza sent home with kids, and icing wiped off of light switches and door knobs. Another year's Christmas party is over. The house seems mighty quiet now!

We had a fun time and ate a lot of really unhealthy food. Remember that "I'm limiting myself to only one cookie" line from yesterday? Um... well... that didn't last long!

The girls didn't appreciate having their picture taken while eating.
The boys couldn't have cared less.
We always have a gingerbread house contest. The three teams are given their own area of the house so that no one can steal ideas. The teams are judged on 4 elements: curb appeal, structural soundness, team spirit and neatness. That last one is solely for my benefit! =)

This team, though all boys and we didn't think they had a prayer, won!

This team... uh... well they didn't win! But they ate lots of icing and seemed pleased enough with that!

We played Christmas Bible Jeopardy. We've also used this board for Ladies' bible Jeopardy on the bus ride out to a ladies' conference. Those categories were "Bible Wives", "Bible Mothers, "Bible Babes" and "Bible Bad Girls." Tonight we had "Christmas Characters", "Christmas Danger" (pertaining to Herod), "Christmas Joy" and "Christmas Birthday".

And for those who doubt the effects on sugar: (Or maybe this kid has rabies?)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Cookie Exchange

I'm just home from a fantastic evening at a friend's annual Christmas cookie exchange. Knowing that some of my friends are ministry wives who are always looking for fun activities, I thought I'd share the concept with you in case anyone would like to "steal" the idea for their own party.

My friend Lisa has held this party at her home for... oh maybe 4 or 5 yrs? She invites every lady at church plus some of her other relatives and friends. The first year, we all got really into the "Most Festively Dressed" contest. That elf is me in 2005. The lady dressed as a present is my husband's aunt, who also had two huge Christmas stockings on her legs, and battery operated lights wrapped around herself. This photo is cracking me up because those two young girls are so grown up now! One in college and one a strikingly beautiful 15 yr. old.

This year I just wore my Christmas socks.

Okay, that's not ALL I wore; I mean I had regular clothes on and funky Christmas socks to add the festive touch. You knew what I meant, right!

The way Lisa set the exchange up is that everyone brings 6 dozen homemade cookies. All the cookies are set on her big dinning room table and we, with a platter in hand, walk around the table a few times, each time taking 3 cookies (as they dwindle down we lower the amount) of each kind. With the invitation, she attaches some guidelines, such as no breakable delicate cookies and she asks as many of us as possible to let her know in advance what cookie we are bringing to reduce duplicates. We take the same amount of every cookie- no pickin'' favorites! The result is a platter overflowing with 6 dozen variety of delicious cookies! Some take them home and freeze until Christmas day, others start munching before they are out the door. I try to give away as many as possible to neighbors and acquaintances.

Another idea for a simpler exchange is found at Mrs. Julie Fink's site, which has lots of great ideas pertaining to ladies' ministries.

Along with the cookie exchange, Lisa serves a scrumptious ham dinner and we play a game. This year, she had a fun simple game, which was terrific since there were LOTS of woman and we can be hard to quiet down and organize into a game!

She had bought 7 adorable gifts such as cute Christmas pillows or beautiful nativity wall hangings and wrapped them up. We divided into 7 groups and each group had a pair of over sized fuzzy dice. She set the timer for I think 4 minutes, and during that time we went around and around taking turns rolling the dice. Whenever you roll a 7 or 11, you get the gift... until someone else rolls a 7 or 11, then they snag it! Whoever has the gift in hand when the timer goes off, keeps it! It was fun and easy and a great game for a huge crowd. Sadly, I did not win. It was a really lovely gift, too. Good thing I have 6 dozen cookies to console myself! Just kidding... I limited myself to one cookie only... and it was broken anyway. Can't give a broken cookie away! ;)

Tomorrow is our youth group Christmas party, which I will no doubt share with you. I hope I'm not boring you, but I love to get ideas from other people because frankly, sometimes I just can not think of creative activities on my own! I love to copy other's games so I am trying to be fair and share the ones I know!

Can you beleive Christmas is only a week away!?!! YEAH!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Our trip to the Zoo

Baby, it's cold outside. Real cold. Minus 1 to be exact.

I currently have on several layers of clothing, none matching and some that actually belong to my husband. I look like a homeless woman. But boy am I glad to not actually be a homeless woman on a night like tonight! The furnace is going and I've had all the hot tea a girl can take in one day! I know it's only the beginning of winter for us New Yorkers, but this California girl is already looking back at the warm flip flip wearing days of summer with longing. But I'm only going to tell you about it... Seth has a no complaining about the weather policy!

So while perusing our photos of 2009 to select some for the 2010 photo calenders I give to a few family members as Christmas gifts, I thought I'd share some memories of warmer days with you.

Our girls had such a blast at the zoo, the little petting zoo being the favorite of-course!

(Sorry for the small size of these photos... my hard drive died a few months ago and these had to be retrieved from my facebook page and apparently it's only possible in a smaller size.)

Look at Eden's hair in the sun light!
Me and my Maddie... she's my buddy. We're so alike sometimes it's scary!
Notice that tiger in the background? He kept doing laps in in the same exact path over and over... I almost felt bad for him. He seemed so bored.

I really should have felt more sorry for the baby goats. They were sticking their mouths out for food and kept getting whacked by Eden... she thought it was a wonderful game!
Seriously, is there anything better than seeing your husband with your kids like this? My heart turns to butter.
Maddie did a great job feeding the goats!

And she did a great job guzzling MY diet Pepsi! "HEY! I said 'A SIP'!!!"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mommy Guilt

I am conducting a survey.

Do you mommies feel a sense of mommy guilt? Why do you think this is and what is the cure?
I shall explain:

When I was expecting Eden, I was completely happy about the idea of having another baby... especially another girl. Along with just adding to our family and life, I was happy for Maddie to be having a close in age sibling, and a sister to boot. I felt that it was in her best interest that she not remain an only child for long (not saying it would be wrong... just my opinion as I noticed her attitude of "It's all about ME!", which just about every toddler develops, right?). There were many things I did not anticipate that happened when Eden arrived and the biggest surprise to me to the strong feeling of guilt that I had. It's difficult to explain, but I will try.
I felt overwhelmed at the idea that now three people (my two children and my husband) were relying on me so heavily. Each of them wanted ALL of me. I felt like I was being stretched farther than possible. I could not give myself totally to each of them all at the same time. Failing one, if not all of them seemed inevitable. I wanted to be teaching and training Maddie to obey better and just spend time playing with her and engaging her. I wanted to give Eden all the loving and cuddling that a newborn should have, plus nurse her as long as possible. And maybe the hardest of all was trying to give Seth all the attention and priority a husband should have and trying to be careful to not let babies consume our marriage. Further complicating my situation is the fact that Eden was born in May. Why is that significant? I'm a youth pastor's wife. The late spring and summer is a very very busy time for us. Tiny little Eden came along to youth conferences and outings, and was just fine. If you've ever nursed a baby while standing up in a bathroom stall on the thru way rest stop, you MIGHT be a youth pastor's wife! ; ) Honestly though, it all felt like trying to divide up a raisin into three servings that would fill each person. I knew in my head that this feeling of guilt and not being able to satisfy every need presented to me was illogical and unnecessary but I could not shake the guilty feeling, which I have dubbed "Mommy Guilt". It plagued me strongly for about 3 months, during which time I muddled through and did my best to be everything each of these three special people needed of me. The guilt subsided a great deal as Eden got older and I felt that we were adjusted to our new family size. I was back to giving Maddie one on one time, and was able to lavish more attention on Seth. I still did have some guilt about not having the time to cuddle and snuggle with Eden as much as did with Maddie. The guilt is not overwhelming any more but it still does arise periodically.

This subject has been on my mind recently because in conversation with other moms, I have gotten the impression that they too feel Mommy Guilt, especially as new members are added to their family. It makes me wonder if mommies of large families feel this way when bringing in their 8th, 9th and so on child. I hope to have a big family as well and I wonder if I will feel this way when I have our 3rd, 4th and more, Lord willing. If I felt so guilt ridden with just two kiddos, I certinaly hope not!

While in the hospital waiting room yesterday as I tried to sneak at peek at my brand new nephew, I had a conversation about Mommy Guilt with my father in law, who is also my pastor. He knew exactly to what I was referring because my sister in law had just been in tears about how she would be able to care for her three older boys, one of whom is still a baby, and her newborn. My father in law is old school in every way.... common sense practicality oozes out of him, and sometimes that is just foreign to my female, "touchy feely" brain! ; ) He told me that he is baffled by the young mothers today who seem to all struggle with this nagging guilt. When my in laws were bringing up their house full of children, guilt had never occurred to him, and not to his wife either because they've discussed this trend as they observed it in young moms. They just hunkered down and did right by them. Period. What's to feel guilty about?

Sitting in that maternity ward as we talked on this subject and others concerning family life, I thought "I do not believe this man has an ounce of estrogen in him." *sigh*

This evening I brought it up to my husband and... well. He doesn't get it either. It's not his fault. Again, serious void of estrogen.

Do you think estrogen promotes guilt like it promotes breast cancer? Hmmm. Someone should do a clinical study on that!

So please, give me your in-put. Is this a generational thing? Is it a wrong philosophy thing? Is hormone therapy the only cure? Maybe you do not experience the guilt that I'm referring to? Why do you think that is?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Birthday!!!

Today is my beloved's 28th birthday! Happy Birthday, Seth!

To celebrate, we welcomed a new nephew into the world! =)

My sister in law delivered her fourth son via c-section. Noah was 7 lbs. 1 ounce and 19 1/2 inches long. He has a bunch of dark hair and is a real cutie pie. This picture isn't the greatest but due to the swine flu, they are not allowing any visitors. This was a cell phone shot my brother in law sent out. My sister in law, Suzanne, had to have this c-section vertically (as opposed to the usual horizontal incision) so please pray for her recovery. With 3 older boys, one of which is only 14 months old, you can imagine that rest and relaxation don't come easy! Happy birthday, Noah!!
And here is a fun picture of Noah's older brother who spent the day with us... this was early in the morning when they were still tramping around in jammies.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I love this...

I clipped this from a magazine a long time ago. I wish I had the software to make it look clearer.
Isn't that sweet?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Working on being the mommy I want to be

Dr. Hyles would say that the Christian life is like steering a car; a series of small constant adjustments to keep ourselves going straight. Not big jerks one direction, then the other- just a little tweak this way, then a little tweak that way. I feel that this illustration could also be applied to parenting as well. Continually evaluating and adjusting, all the while knowing that perfection will never be attained but hoping that if we keep tweaking we will eventually arrive at our destination and be able to look back at a generally straight trail behind us.

When Maddie was a baby and young toddler, I was constantly asking my friends for advice on just about every subject. Partially this was a sincere desire to glean from their knowledge, but part of my constant advice seeking was just insecurity and laziness to figure things out for myself. I still do seek wisdom from more experience moms, but have realized that no one person has all the answers. One mom may have a good idea on one subject; another has a great method for a certain thing and so forth. I am really glad to have “stolen” some ideas from wiser moms… I just could not have come up some of the good thoughts others have learned over the course of many years (and sometimes, many children). I have become more selective about where I glean knowledge from…. and am getting better at figuring out which tid-bits could actually be practical and suitable for MY family. And it is true that some things we just have to figure out for ourselves, the hard way!

I came across this blog because of the HP TouchSmart giveaway (which you can enter as well… good until Christmas Eve) and started poking around some older posts. She has some helpful ideas about managing with her four little ones. Reading through this list of ideas, I knew where I had been going wrong lately.

My latest tweaks:

- Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child. The Bible states this fact, and while I won’t be so presumptuous to declare why God puts certain passages in his Word, it occurred to me that perhaps God was saying “It’s a fact that children are foolish. Your kids won’t be immune. Expect it and deal with it in the way which I told you.” It seems that sometimes I act like I am caught off guard by the fact that my children are behaving *gasp* childishly. Why should I be surprised? It’s what children do. Just acknowledging that fact helps me to have a better frame of mind and to be ready and waiting when that foolishness rears its ugly head. I somewhat humorously will reference I Peter 4:12, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” Okay, okay, I’m not really sure the misbehavior of a 3 yr. old and 19 mo. old were what this passage was intended to cover, but the principle applies, I think!

- Deal with misbehavior quickly. When we ignore it and keep issuing warnings without actually handling the problem, and let our frustration build, we do much damage. Our kids believe us to be liars for our failure to follow through, and we become increasingly upset, to the point where even rage can settle in. I don’t think I have ever exactly gone into RAGE. Mostly what happens around here is frustration and lots of sighing and a sour disposition. Watching my little girls mimic me sighing is most humbling.

- Give them my full attention. There are some things I just cannot do while the girls are awake. Blogging would be one of them. Trying to do balance my checkbook or work on church projects… basically anything involving the computer, is just a frustrating futile effort. The project and the girls suffer from trying to spread myself between them. So I’m just going to stop trying!! I need to work on developing a scheduled time for my church endeavors. So far, between 10pm and midnight is it. Hmmm. Must work on this.

- Move on from bad parts of the day. A tendency around here is that once the day is spoiled by oh I don’t know, a certain little girl helping herself to some paint and spilling it on the carpet or something along those lines, the day holds the tone of that bad deed and the resulting consequence. Maddie is a pretty emotional little creature. I don’t know if it’s just her, or if it’s a girl thing, or what, but she can carry on and on about the smallest thing all day. I have been thinking that I am pretty much teaching her to keep carrying on and on by allowing the discipline session to cast a grumpy mood for hours. This is on my part more than anyone’s. Especially if it’s something involving a big mess. I would hate for her to learn to hold a grudge from her mom. So we’re going to deal with misbehavior, talk about it, hug and kiss and move on.

I must be feeling recovered from this horrible flu and ear infection because I feel like tackling everything… along with this resolutions, I’ve been cleaning like a mad woman and have organized some of those nooks and crannies that have been neglected far too long. I love a tidy house… but just like these parenting adjustments, it’ll all need to be done again in the near future. A woman’s work is never done, as they say!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

S.S. Room: Take Two

This is our primary Sunday School room... I also used to teach the kindergarteners at the academy in this room, too.

It's been about a year and a half since I painted this and I'm starting to think about adding some more colors and depths to the grass and tree... maybe some flying creatures in the sky.

The furry little critter was supposed to be a chipmunk. But as it became clear that he was way too big, I thought I would say he's a squirrel. But he's still out of proportion to be a squirrel. So I guess now he is a puppy? Whatever.The mutant puppy-chipmunk didn't come out so great but I do like this little worm... he's got a little personality about him, huh?
And here's some on the french memo board in progress in case anyone is interested. I'm sure there are more precise instructions online somewhere, but really it's not hard. Just use whatever scrap board you've got around. The cute red head is not required.

Sunday School Room Makeover

I recently started teaching the teen girls' class and we decided to give the room a makeover.

Before... you'll just have to imagine to furniture in there since we removed it before thinking of "before" pictures... the chairs were a weird peach color (been there a looooong time):

After... I let the teen girls choose what theme to decorate in and they picked the beach. They helped me paint the walls... which was fun and MESSY. The carpet bears the evidence! We will never be hired as professional painters, that's for sure!! But it was a good time and I'm so glad they helped. Thanks Jasmine and Cassidy!! The blue color was not intended to be so bright... Pastor McCoy just about had a heart attack! Hopefully having some things on the walls has toned it down:
This french memo board was made with a piece of laminate board. I used a staple gun to fasten quilting batting, then the fabric. The ribbons were the hardest part, and to be honest, Seth did all the work on that! My technique was going to be to eye ball it and Seth cringed at the thought. He got out the tape measure and sent me out for additional supplies. He did a great job getting them perfectly spaced out. It took a lot more ribbon that I anticipated! Each one was stapled to the back, then upholstery pins at the intersections in a pattern which probably only makes sense to me!!

I'll be sticking my various visual aids for the lessons, and any stop shots of the class, etc on this. Should be cute soon!

My attendance chart... it's not actually crooked- that's just my lousy camera work!

These frames were originally plain wooden ones that mom had no use for and gave to me for this purpose. I sanded, painted and glues on some shells.

The verse printed on each one ties into the beach theme and relates to the picture:

That shelf will soon be decorated with shells, a star fish, etc. I'm just taking a break from spending any. more. money.!!! That bag hanging contains the much sought after S.S. prizes!!
I also painted that little cupboard...it was dark blue. I did a crackle finish because I've been curious to try that! It was easy and I'm completely amused by the fact that if it had been crackled beforehand, I wouldn't have liked it and would have thought it was worn and old but because I crackled it on purpose, it's suddenly just want I wanted.
The little girl in the pink dress was not painted. She is not crackled either.

The freshly painted chairs... my great husband did all that work because I really do not like to work with spray paint. It's just not my favorite at all. He did a wonderful job with them.... it took quite some time because all those spindles had to be sanded. I'd like to get chair pads for them soon.
The curtain was actually a full length one that i cut at the appropriate length and used the rest for the tablecloth. My mom helped me out by running it through her machine to hem each piece. I love having my mom close by... and I think she actually enjoyed being able to help me in this little way.

And that is it, folks!! I think I'll show you the S.S. room I painted last year... it's quirky! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!!

We've got Christmas cookies....and Christmas cookie batter.....
And presents wrapped....

We even have sleigh rides! (They hooked a monkey on the car for Maddie to pull Eden around with!)

Hope the season is warming your home, too!!