Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Will I Ever Exercise Again?

This past week has kicked my butt. Actually, I guess it hasn't kicked my butt which is the real problem. Between a holiday last week, a snow storm, me being sick, and alternating sick kids, I haven't exercised in a week. The week before that was also pretty weak. Some days I've had the best of intentions with alarms set but have either woken up feeling like death warmed over or been up with a sick kid all night. Either way at that point you can be sure that the alarm was immediately turned off at 4:45am and I rolled back over. Now lots of people exercise at all different times of the day but I know that if I don't get up for boot camp then I will not work out that day. It's just how I am. I've tried to change it but it doesn't work. For me, it's first thing in the morning or never. So there have been a lot of "nevers" lately. I also find it hard to be motivated in the winter just to get in activity during the day. There's generally no trips to the park and outside time involves snow pants and icicles (shudder!). I'm longing for spring already.

BUT tomorrow is my day. We are all feeling good here, there's no snow in the forecast, and I am out of excuses. So tomorrow I will get up and work out. I'm declaring it here so that if I don't you can all call me out on it. You could even come by and beat me up. I'm weak from inactivity so I'm sure you'll all be able to take me.
My workout clothes have been on the couch for a week - longing to be used and abused.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tiny Talkers: Baby Sign Language (Giveaway!)

Sometimes wouldn't it make your life easier if you could just know what your baby/toddler was trying to tell you? My Daniel didn't have any words until he was twenty months old (of course, now you can't shut him up!) and it would have been helpful if we had an easier way to communicate with him. I know several of my friends have opted to learn baby sign language as a way to communicate better with their children. That's why I was excited to learn about Tiny Talkers which is an award winning sign language class in Portland, Oregon created by Shira Fogel. Since the class has been highly successful, Shira has now created a webcast and online support for others across the country/world who want to teach their children the art of sign language. 

Why Should You Consider Sign Language with your Baby? Teaching your babies to sign enables THEM to ask YOU a question, tell you their needs and desires or initiate a conversation about something that interests them. Using sign language with your baby lessens frustration, crying, and tantrums, is scientifically proven to build more brain function and raise your child’s IQ and increases your baby's ability to pay attention and listen by teaching them in infancy to stop, look, and listen to what is being said or shown. Many people are amazed that babies as young as 6 months old can learn sign language when they aren’t even capable of talking yet. Over 30 years of research has proven that using sign language can help fill in the gap between comprehension and speech production. This is possible because babies can acquire the ability to understand language well before their muscles in their mouths enable them to actually form words and speak to you.

The Nitty Gritty about Tiny Talkers: The 2.5 hour webcast filled with solid information that parents/caregivers can watch at their own leisure covers everything they need to learn in order to help their child be a successful signer using American Sign Language.  Plus, Tiny Talkers is the ONLY sign language webcast that offers PERSONALIZED email support to answer any follow up questions that they may have after completing the course at NO EXTRA CHARGE. All this is offered for just $35 including 55 pages of downloadable PDF’s of materials reviewed in the webcast!

One lucky Dollops reader is going to win a copy of the webcast, associated literature, and personalized support from Tiny Talkers. Pretty gosh darn cool, huh? Enter using the Rafflecopter below and share with all the other baby mammas you know!
  a Rafflecopter giveaway 

Monday, January 20, 2014

My Ten Easy, Health Food Subsitutions

Over the past few months, I've done a couple of different healthy eating/drinking challenges with different groups of friends. I've tried gluten free, sugar free, and have loaded up on water. I've found that generally each challenge is a little easier than before since it's not a huge shock to my system anymore. I've also found that I could never live "{Fill in the Blank} free" at all times. I like pizza. I like desserts. I like lots of things. I've found the key is to eat in moderation and then switch back to a challenge when I've fallen too far off the wagon.

I've also made a few substitutions to my everyday eating habits that I believe are keeping me more healthy than before. The best part is that they are not huge changes and I honestly don't even notice them anymore. So here are some of the top, easy, healthy food changes that I've made:

(1) Bread - I would never be able to permanently give up bread. I like sandwiches and I love how easy they are to prepare. However, I've switched to Sprouted Grain Ezekiel Bread. It's made with whole sprouted grains, is flour free, and has no refined sugars. It is a little drier than a normal, hearty bread but you get used to it. I keep it in the freezer to prolong the life of it.

(2) Peanut Butter and Jelly - I switched to natural peanut butter made of just roasted peanuts and salt. You can also get the salt free kind but I like it salty. I'm a peanut butter junky and never thought I'd be able to make the switch to natural but I have! I've also switched from grape jelly to spreadable fruit. I like grape and strawberry which can be easily found in your grocery store or Trader Joe's. Oh, and yes, PB&J is a staple of my diet. I'm kind of like a 4 year old kid.

(3) Tea - I used to drink my tea with 1 (or sometimes 2!) Splendas. For the last month, I've switched to drinking it black. There was a little adjustment time needed on that one but now I'm used to it and don't miss it too much. I did try adding honey and also lemon but found I like black better.

(4) Iced Coffee - I don't drink hot coffee but occasionally I like to treat myself to an iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts. I used to simply order a medium iced coffee with skim milk and sugar. When you order it that way they add 3 sugars. I started dropping it down to 2 sugars and now I'm down to 1. There's definitely no (super delicious) crunchy sugar on the bottom but it's still good.

(5) Diet Soda - I've stopped purchasing it at the store so we don't keep it in the house. I do still occasionally have it while out but my consumption of it has dropped considerably. I find that the soda is actually the thing that I crave and miss the most :(

(6) Water - I drink at least 80 ounces of water a day. For me, that's a totally attainable number since I'm always drinking. However, it is more challenging on freezing days so I often heat up water and drink it warm/hot. It keeps me warm and tricks my body into thinking I'm drinking something else. I know lots of people add lemon to it as well but I'm not a huge flavored water fan.

(7) Easy Personal Dinners - My go to, easy meal for myself at night used to be a Healthy Choice frozen pizza. Now instead I make a minute brown rice (in an individual container) and frozen veggies. It takes the same time to cook, is super easy, and is healthier.

(8) Condiments - Instead of honey mustard on my turkey sandwiches I've switched to hummus. It's sugar free and has some added nutrients. I've also been cutting back on my excessive use of ketchup (sadness).

(9) Flaxseed - I've started adding ground Flaxseed to lots of things for added nutrition and fiber. I use it in my greek yogurt, bread mixes, sauces, and even on my PB&Js!

(10) Snacks - I've ditched the Cheez Its, Pretzels, and other crackery type snacks and switched them for nuts and cheeses. I do make sure to measure out the nuts otherwise I find I'll easily eat more than a serving.

So there you have it - some of the changes that I've made to my diet to help keep me on track. I find that keeping in check on day to day stuff helps to let me splurge on other days and have treats.

These substitutions work best for me. What works best for you? I love new ideas!

This is my "I was bad all weekend" Monday morning smoothie

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My First Eye Exam: Am I Going Blind?

On Sunday I started seeing random, black, squiggly lines (also known as "floaters") in my line of vision. They actually came on pretty quickly and frequently while I was at church with the boys. Of course, I immediately started thinking things like "What is wrong with me?" and "Am I going to pass out?" Luckily, they subsided long enough for my rational brain to assume I was fine.

However, I've been continuing to see them pretty frequently since then. They happen most often when the light changes like from outside to inside or walking in to a bright room. So like all people who are deeply concerned with their health, I took to the internet for a comprehensive diagnosis. The conclusion from the internet was that I was just getting old and my eyes aren't as good as they used to be. However, there was a tiny chance that my retina was detaching so I decided to make an appointment with the eye doctor. I mean the last thing I needed was to wake up blind one morning, right?

I've actually never had an eye exam before in my life. My vision and eyes have always been great so I've never needed one. Well I went this morning and the verdict is I'm totally fine. I guess the jelly in your eye can clump up and that's what causes the appearance of floaters. Yes, that's my official medical description! It's not going to go away but I'm told I'll get used to it.

While I was there for the exam I had my eyes dilated. Now I know that this is a common occurrence and people get it done all the time but HOLY SMOKES. I had no idea how blurry my eyes would be. I literally couldn't (and still can't really) see anything. I got a text message in the office and couldn't even make out the name of the person it was from never mind the actual message. Hours later my phone still looks like it's been taken over by hieroglyphics. I don't know if because my eyes have never had anything done to them before they are even more like "WHOA! What is going on?!" or if this is what everyone's eyes are like. If so, why aren't more people talking about this? Is it because people are smarter than I am and assume that no one cares about their blurry vision? Well let me tell you - I can't see a thing and I am SHOUTING it from the rooftops. Seriously, it's insane.

PS- Please excuse typos in this post because well I can only see half the letters.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Finding A New Faith

I was born and raised Catholic. Although we didn't regularly attend church on Sundays, I did make all my Sacraments. I then went on to a Catholic college and even taught CCD to first graders while I was there. I married another Catholic and we had our three children baptized Catholic. Of note, that was also the last time we've been to a Catholic mass (with the exception of weddings/funerals).

About a year before my mom passed away, she randomly started attending a non-Catholic church. At the time we joked that she had joined a cult because she had no idea what the religion even was. Her main reason for going? The church was easily handicapped accessible. Her reason for staying? The people. She ended up regularly attending and even volunteering at the church. When she was dying her Pastor visited us daily and we even had her funeral there. It was where she belonged.

Although she loved the church, my mother struggled with making the actual switch to a new religion and not being Catholic anymore. I always told her that if she was happy there then what did it matter what religion she technically was? Fast forward several years and I totally understand how she felt. Four years ago, an opportunity came up for me to babysit at a local non-Catholic church. It was convenient, gave me a little extra cash, and was a good social opportunity for my (then) two kids. That was the beginning of our involvement with the Bethany Church and I'm so thankful that I took that opportunity. Three years later, all of our children attend(ed) the preschool there, we attend playtime, the children go to summer bible camp there, and a whole bunch of other smaller things. We love everything about the church. The message is great and the people are welcoming and amazing.

However, up until a couple of months ago, we had never actually attended church there. I mean, we're (non practicing) Catholics after all. Catholics don't go to church there - or do they? I had reached a point that I felt like the kids were getting older and should have some form of formalized religion in their lives. So one Sunday morning I bit the bullet and took the kids to the non-Catholic Sunday service. It turned into the beginning of us regularly attending church there . It is warm, welcoming, casual, and a real community. The kids attend Sunday school while I get to sit with the adults and listen to the service. That alone is magical.

So now I find myself right where my mother was - attending and loving a church that is not the religion that I was raised. I am also now making choices that will shape my children's lives and faith. It appears I'm raising non-Catholics which is something I never imagined. Although I haven't been a practicing Catholic for a while and was the first to tell my mother it didn't matter what religion the church was if it made her happy, it's an odd spot to be in. I have no doubt that the kids and I are right where we belong - I think it will just take a little while for my head to fully wrap around it. I mean after all if a church's message is mainly about love and helping each other, how could it not be right for us?

PS - My mother is totally in Heaven laughing at me for joining a cult of my own :)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Chores and Allowances

Daniel recently moved from his crib to a new big boy bed. He's been doing great in it and hasn't gotten out of bed at all during the night. As if moving to a new bunk bed isn't exciting enough, he's also pumped that he now gets to participate in chores and get an allowance.

Each morning the kids are responsible for making their beds. Sunday is pay day when they earn their whopping quarter for a hard week's work. Yup, twenty five cents is the going rate for bed making in this house. Isabelle is also in charge of organizing the shoes by the door each night. For that task she rakes in an extra dime on top of the quarter.

That's how we roll here - train them young and train them cheap. Just think how excited they'll be to earn minimum wage someday!

Daniel's bed - Technique could use improvement but his friends sure look happy

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Bunk Beds!

I've been putting off moving Daniel (3) out of his crib for a while now. Like my other kids, he's always been content in his crib and would probably stay there until college if we let him. I was also dreading it since we have had two twin beds in that room before when Isabelle and Henry shared it and it's a tight fit. I never thought bunk beds were an option since we have low ceilings upstairs. However, my friend (Hi, Erika!) recently got bunk beds that are a loft style on the bottom for her house and I fell in love. So one trip (well, two trips actually) to Ikea and a day of building later - we have new bunk beds for the boys!

They are SO excited. The kids spent the day bouncing and jumping while we spent the day yelling at them to stop. So wish us luck in our new endeavor of avoiding broken bones. Oh, and this will be Daniel's first night not in a crib in his life so...send some extra luck our way for peaceful slumbers tonight!
The new digs!

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